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Raise Money for Your SoCal Elementary School: A Diatribe

October 4th, 2011

 

Booger on the left (I’d like to explain the headband, but nonsensical kid fashion knows no logic nor bounds), and Toots on the right. This is Toots’ first day of kindergarten. Two years ago. And also when I was still only 40. Such halcyon days.

 

I remember the first time I gave serious thought to the budget cuts affecting California’s public education — it was when my oldest daughter entered kindergarten two years ago. I know, care much? I did in theory, but unfortunately the impact of the cuts in education spending didn’t hit home, until it hit my daughter’s school. Hard.

 

Arrogantly, I thought I was impervious to budget cuts. Prior to enrolling Toots in the elementary school she attends now, I considered several different schools — mostly private — so I could get my daughter the best possible education available within reason and within our resources. I was impressed by the small class sizes at the Catholic schools I visited (12 kids to a class? Be still my parental heart) and even registered Toots for a few of these schools, despite the financial burden. But then, my husband and I decided to move to a town about 20 miles north of where we lived so we’d reside in the Poway School District, a community of public schools recognized for providing an outstanding education.

 

And so that’s what we did. I assumed that because we were in a renowned school district, we’d be immune to budget cuts and their impact. But entering Toots’ kindergarten class that first day, and milling about among the 22 other registered children and their parents, I realized no one in the public school system would be unaffected. Toot’s kindergarten teacher practically begged for volunteers that first day, because the school couldn’t afford a teaching aide, and she was quite on her own for teaching all 22 children to read, learn math, make art projects, tell time, tie shoes, and in general, provide an excellent educational experience.

 

Without volunteers, she was up the creek. Without a paddle (those cost extra).

 

The year went on. I volunteered every Friday, and did my best to help, and thankfully, so did plenty of other parents. And before I knew it, my daughter was ready for the first grade. And that school year? School started a week later than usual (because the teachers salaries were cut) and the class sizes measured 26 to a classroom (because there wasn’t enough money to pay more teachers for smaller class sizes). Art was in danger of an axing, and forget about PE (PE is when kids are encouraged to run around the track before school and at recess).

 

Again? Volunteers to the rescue. We had a hearty crew at this school. Us parents weren’t going to let our kids suffer for California’s fiscal crisis, no sir. We united and but good. Art was saved! One-on-one learning time was achieved! Kids had reading tutors! Math skills would not lie down and die! (PE? Still working on that one.)

 

And so Toots graduated to second grade, and my five-year-old, Booger, got ready to start kindergarten. And this August, tears in eyes and lump in throat, I took my youngest to her first class. Booger ended up with the same teacher Toots had and so the classroom look comfortingly familiar and recognizable. The only thing? This year, there were 29 children in the class. TWENTY-NINE children. And one teacher. By God, this was the year our kids learned to read! And it’d also be real nice if they could actually ambulate about the classroom without tripping over one of the 28 other students.

 

I dropped Booger off and caught her teacher’s eye. “I know,” is all she said.

 

So again we volunteer and we help and we fundraise and we donate and we do this and we do that. (But what of the schools with a working-parent majority? With a smaller volunteer pool? In another school district with less resources? What then?)

 

Because with three years of California budget cuts measuring a loss of $18 billion to our public schools, it’s the schools in lower-income communities that suffer the most. And I’m by NO MEANS in a wealthy community, but I am in one where there’s usually only one working parent, leaving the other available to volunteer. And yes, there’s some disposable income to donate to the PTA or the school’s foundation for educational field trips or new books or to keep the librarian.

 

Many schools had to fire their librarians.

 

All this is to say: Sometimes I feel helpless. And sad. And wonder what to do. And think about what other people do. And worry about next year and the year after that and so on and so on.

 

And in the midst of all this frustration, I received a request to share the word about a way for California elementary schools to win some much needed resources for their classrooms and some good old-fashioned money for the school itself. And I said YES. I will share**. And so here it is:

 

Please to know the Real Seal Appeal! Sweepstakes:

 

If you’d like to help your child’s elementary school with funding, consider this: The California Milk Advisory Board is supporting Southern California schools with up to $2 million in cash, books and other prizes. The top prizes are $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 for three schools each (I seriously breathe heavy just thinking about it) and 2,595 other schools will win $500. This is what you can do:

 

1. Collect Real California Milk seals from the dairy products you buy (you buy like 82,000 packages of cheese too, right?).

 

 

(Look for seals like these above…)

 

2. Turn the seals into the teachers*. (You might want to tell them about this sweepstakes first, so they don’t go all wha–? on you.)

 

3. The teachers send in the seals to win.

 

One very cool thing about this is that for the first entry, the classroom receives a Scholastic book, with plenty more opportunities to win additional books.

 

Also, EACH seal is a sweepstakes entry, and the sweepstakes runs from October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Please find out more at scholastic.com/sealappeal. That link will take you to every thing you need and want to know.

 

*Participating elementary schools in Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. (I sent the info to my school’s PTA president so we could get going schoolwide on this…but even if your school doesn’t participate officially, teachers can send in dairy seals to enter.)

 

**This post was sponsored*** by Real California Milk. But all thoughts, opinions, and angst are mine.

 

***The money I was compensated for writing this post is going directly to my school’s PTA fund. It’s the exact amount they request as a donation to pay for art classes and teacher’s aides and so many more necessary things.

 

****Could I ADD any more stars? Man oh man. Star overload.

 

*****HA HA! Just a little sponsored post humor.

 

On October 5th, 2011, tinsenpup said:

It’s the same all over. Some other people homeschool or choose private schools if they feel able, and sadly, government schools get worse and worse as a consequence.

On October 5th, 2011, Raise Money for Your SoCal Elementary School – San Diego Momma | IT Cookies said:

[…] More: Raise Money for Your SoCal Elementary School – San Diego Momma […]

On October 5th, 2011, green girl in wisconsin said:

Ouch. I just learned our pre-K which just switched to an all day program has 27 of those little dumplings with NO aid. But it looks different on paper when you factor in the special needs class only 6 kids into the student/teacher ratio average. It’s positively criminal what some states are doing to our children. We spend magnificent sums on police/prisons/roads/hospitals/wooing large corporations with tax breaks for JOBS, but we toss CRUMBS at the kids. Shame.
And like you, I live in an area with moms at home and low unemployment.

On October 5th, 2011, Aunt Snow said:

Wow. Sing it, sister!

My kid went to 3 elementary schools – one here in CA, from 3 – 5th grade. Very active local parent community, lots of volunteers, including me, small school population. One of his friends’ parent was the school librarian.

1st – 2nd grade he was bussed to a school in north Seattle, also very active parent community, lots of volunteers – not so much me, it was pretty far away, but sometimes.

Kindergarten – he went to our neighborhood school, very high proverty neighborhood, very little parent involvement due to 2-job and swing shift parents. I volunteered a couple days a week in his class. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, tooo! That teacher was incredible, but it was her final year before retirement. Those kids needed so much – one little girl had seen her nine-year old sister killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting. The school had no PTA because the families coudln’t afford to pay dues, but the principal held a monthly Spaghetti Dinner for families, just to get people to the school to interact.

I can only imagine now how his first school must be, with the cutbacks.

On October 5th, 2011, aaryn b. said:

Education in America in general and in California specifically, is a wreck. I understand how the promise of sweepstakes money can make our eyes swirl as parents. We all need it so desperately. But this is just adding to the problem of inequity (of course the milk advisory board wants people buying it’s product, but there are many in lower socioeconomic stations who cannot afford milk, so which schools win out again?). Education needs to be properly and equitably funded at the local, state and federal levels, and not further imbalanced by contests and the clipping of product labels.

But we do what we have to do, parents continue to pick up the every-increasing slack. Parental involvement is not only mandatory, but is the key to future success of our kids. However, how far should we be expected to go? We fill in the holes with our money, our time, our connections, our skill sets, and more money, and the various boards of education and policy makers see needs being met without having to pay for it. What incentive do they have to right the situation? The more we do, the less they are apt to see a need. It’s a cycle of downsizing and I don’t see a way out.

My child goes to a school in which the same handful of families do all the work. Kids with only one working parent are a rarity at our school. There are, of course, those families who think you bus a kid to school and pick him up after and the educating is done(you cannot legislate good parenting). But there are so many more working multiple jobs, who are in careers that don’t afford them the freedom to be in the classroom, who would give anything to be able to be more present. And if we’re not vigilant, and attending board meetings and advocating for our schools, policies are made that make everything worse.

How is it that, when talking about funding cuts, nobody ever mentions the cost of fanatic testing? Our district has benchmark exams coming up in October, the first administration It’s n of three that will be given this year. My teacher is already in constant contact with me about my child’s progress, where she is now and where she needs to be. Teachers provide a benchmark. So I wonder: How can a district cut busing, cut field trips, cut teachers, cut art, cut music, cut PE and close schools, yet still afford to administer its benchmark tests three times in one year to all first through eighth graders? I offer my school board a benchmark of their performance, and it looks like a giant middle finger held up high in the air.

On October 5th, 2011, julie gardner said:

To answer Aaryn’s question: the public schools do not want to do so much standardized testing. Trust me. They are mandated to do so (and to beg for ever-increasing test scores) because if they do not, they will lose much of their government funding due to the (perhaps well-intentioned but in-actuality horrifying) No Child Left Behind legistlation.

And to answer Deb’s question, yes. I buy 82,000 pounds of cheese. Naturally.

XO

On October 6th, 2011, aaryn b. said:

@julie: I know what you’re talking about, and this is definitely part of the larger issue. NCLB is a disaster. But the tests I’m referring to in this example are not federally mandated. These are district mandated tests. There is no funding hinging on them as far as I can tell and they are just lobbed on top of the state and federal testing. My school district is making all kinds of other terrible cuts (I know of one first grade teacher who has asked parents to print out their own books at home because there aren’t enough for the class and she’s already over her allotted copies for the month). And yet, they prioritize funding of tests that are, in my view, generally useless and/or redundant.

What I think needs to happen is parents need to say NO to the testing and decide as a group to opt out of a particular test. That would be very powerful if you could get a majority of parents to refuse to subjugate their kids so the nonsense.

Ah, a girl can dream…

On October 6th, 2011, Ferd said:

Deb,

Your happy cows are famous, but I don’t know if I get their happy CA milk in NC. If I do, I’ll be on the lookout for those seals.

More importantly, that picture of the girls is PRICELESS!

I also remember those moments of joy/pain when my kids went off to school for the first time.

Just so you know, my kids went to Catholic grade schools and high schools. We ALWAYS had to support the schools with volunteerism, fund raising, etc. All sports participation cost extra. Everything cost extra. And the class size in the popular parish in which we lived was larger than what you describe. So, I think you’re doing alright. If it’s a good school, all those extra efforts are worth it.

Peace and love,
Ferd.

On October 17th, 2011, Troy said:

Good to know! We’ve been looking for tips on helping my kiddos school. Thanks for the post!

On October 17th, 2011, Kim Tracy Princw said:

This is such an evocative way to explain why programs like this are important. And kudos to you for pledging the sponsorship money to the school. I’m going to do the same thing.

On November 8th, 2011, Coleen said:

My kids also attend public school in an area where lots of parent help is available. We also have the time and/or resources to get help them with homework or get a tutor. I have to wonder about the kids in areas where this help just isn’t available.

On December 13th, 2012, donornation said:

What an insightful blog post. La Jolla Mom just shared how you can fundraise on autopilot with donornation. If you would like to find out more, read her post here: http://bit.ly/UUMdc4

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