Advertisement
spending

Should Parents' Donations to Public Schools Be Limited?

Private donations could lead to educational inequality.

Q. For many years, the PTA at my children’s public elementary school has raised money from parents, in tax-deductible donations, to supplement the school budget. The PTA’s foundation pays for teachers’ aides, field trips, music lessons, playground equipment and other things. Now our school district is proposing that these expenditures be severely limited because they put students at less-affluent schools at a disadvantage. Do you think a ban is fair?

Advertisement - Article continues below

A. This is a hot issue all over America, and there is no easy answer. The libertarian side of my brain says government has no right to tell parents how they may use their own money to benefit their children’s school, so an outright ban strikes me as unethical. But the socially progressive side of my brain (or my heart) acknowledges that this private funding exacerbates educational inequality to the detriment of our nation (in ill-prepared workers, welfare dependency and other problems).

School districts are dealing with this dilemma in many ways. Some have no restrictions on private gifts from parents, businesses and foundations. Some, such as affluent Montgomery County, Md., disallow gifts to pay for staff, classes and basic facilities that should be covered by public funds, but do allow gifts to pay for amenities such as a new scoreboard, landscaping, artificial-turf fields and playground equipment. (Some projects there cost as much as $1 million.) The county has a review panel that approves such projects, with a vague guideline that the amenity may not “foster or exacerbate inequity.”

A compromise I find appealing—now used in a number of places and being considered in many others—is allowing parents to raise money for their own school’s use (staffing included), but encouraging or requiring them to share some of what they raise with the PTAs of poorer schools nearby.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement
happy retirement

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement

If you want a long and fulfilling retirement, you need more than money. Here are the most valuable retirement assets to have (besides money), and how …
August 3, 2020
Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits
Coronavirus and Your Money

Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits

When you file for Social Security, the amount you receive may be lower.
July 30, 2020
How a Second Stimulus Check Could Differ from Your First One
Tax Breaks

How a Second Stimulus Check Could Differ from Your First One

The HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in May, would authorize a second round of stimulus checks. While the new payments would be similar to th…
July 22, 2020

Recommended

Tax-Free Weekend Dates, States and Savings for Back-to-School Shopping
Tax Breaks

Tax-Free Weekend Dates, States and Savings for Back-to-School Shopping

Sales tax holidays are a great way to save money on clothes, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, and other back-to-school necessities.
August 4, 2020
Sales Tax Holidays in 2020
Tax Breaks

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020

Sixteen states are having sales tax holidays this year. If you plan your shopping around these tax-free periods, you can save big on back-to-school cl…
August 4, 2020
6 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Stimulus Check
Tax Breaks

6 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Stimulus Check

If you don't have to use your stimulus check for basic necessities, consider putting the money to work for you. You'll thank yourself later.
July 30, 2020
Emergency Funds: How to Get Started
Making Your Money Last

Emergency Funds: How to Get Started

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how much you’ll need.
July 30, 2020