Thursday, September 13, 2012

PTA socialism? Not in CMS

I keep seeing comments on this blog suggesting that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools forces its affluent PTAs or booster clubs to put part of their fund-raising proceeds into a pool for poorer schools.

That's not true.

I've been covering CMS for 10 years and they've never had such a policy.  Harold Dixon, current president of the Mecklenburg PTA Council, has been active in such groups for 15 years and says he has never encountered a mandate to redistribute money.  CMS says those rumors are false.

CMS does have a SchoolMates program  --  thanks to reader Bill Stevens for sharing this link -- that pairs stronger PTAs with weaker ones.  That program, which is voluntary,  involves sharing volunteers, doing joint activities and helping the less affluent schools develop parent leadership.  It's not about a wealthy PTA writing a check to a poorer school.

In a recent comment, Stevens talked about "an aggressive plan that any non urban school PTA that raised money had to submit a portion of it back to CMS for the so called effort of redistributing it to the urban schools."

I'm not sure where that's coming from.  The board has had vigorous discussions about per-pupil spending,  and I recall that some individual members have suggested pooling PTA and booster club money for equal distribution.  I don't have notes and names in front of me,  but I can say that it's not uncommon for members to air ideas that don't get much support,  and this was one of them. To my knowledge,  and in the memory of the folks I checked with,  there has never even been a formal motion.

"I think that's an urban legend," said board member Eric Davis, who joined the board in 2009.

When I asked Davis about the persistent  "forced to share the wealth"  rumors,  he repeated an argument he has made in board talks:  Even if you believe it's the right thing to do,  it doesn't make sense.  A really strong PTA might raise $120,000 a year,  enough money to make a difference for an individual school,  Davis said.  But if you divide it among all schools,  it's not even $1 per student.

CMS provides much more significant help to high-poverty schools,  which tend to have little or no PTA money,  through the federal Title I program and local spending decisions.  Forcing parents to put all their PTA money into one pot would generate a lot of ill will while bringing little benefit,  Davis said.

"My prediction is people would stop giving,"  he said.


Anonymous said...

Davis is right.

In our elementary school PTA, parents voluntarily gave a portion of their capital campaign donations to our partner school. It was usually 8 - 12% of the total raised.

Anonymous said...

SchoolMates is a great idea but it is and should always remain voluntary.

Anonymous said...

I was a PTA president at an elementary school, and on PTA board at middle and high school in CMS. Granted it goes back 17 years.

The the elementary level we partnered with another school and provided some support.

At the middle and high school levels - even though it was much the same parents, the levels of support dropped signifcantly with barely enough to make any difference in our school, and not enough to even consider helping another school.

As with so many facets of education - parents start highly involved and motivated, only to become disconnected over time.

Shame, because together involved for 12 years we could make a huge difference in our schools and the future of our students.

Ghoul said...

Back in the Eighties, the independence PTA and sports booster club raised $40,000 to buy an activity bus for the school. Had it painted in school colors. Less than a year later, CMS confiscated the bus, with no compensation, and repainted it so other schools, namely Garinger, could use it because it wasn't fair that a rural middle class school had something the poor urban school did not.

Oh, and let's not forget the school supply socialism where each student is given a list of supplies: paper, pencils, tissues, Clorox wipes, etc to bring to school each year. But, whatever you buy is not for your kid, it is gathered the first day and redistributed to the whole class, especially to the ones whose parents bought nothing. Because the 1 cent paper and pencils at Walmart might break them.

Anonymous said...

I would agree to equally spreading PTA funds across the system if CMS would agree to spend the same amount per student, across the system, in an equal manner. Take the first step CMS, and stop spending 9X as much on some students as you do on others.
You want to see a magic trick? Force affluent schools to pool their PTA monies, and watch the donations disappear.

Anonymous said...

The difference is not the amount of money that some of the more "affluent" schools gather in their PTA coffers but rather in the TIME spent by many of the parents both at school and at home. Just because you don't have the money to donate doesn't mean you can't volunteer. Until decision makers understand that it's not about the money and it's all about the home environment nothing will ever change.

Anonymous said...

it appears conservative radio is to blame - if you tell a lie so many times, people start believing it

Anonymous said...

Actually, 10:05, for a long time the lie was spread the other way. We continually heard that suburban schools were at an advantage because of their huge fund raising capabilities. Never any mention made of donations those schools made to their partner schools. And never mind that if an 800 student school raised $80,000 that only amounted to an additional $100 per pupil spending for the school, while the spread in per pupil spending between urban and suburban schools was usually in the thousands of dollars.

Christine Mast said...

I hope this blog wasn't partly a result of my comments at the BOE meeting on Tuesday. I was asking about the "strategic plan" behind the BYOT that's being piloted somewhere across CMS this month.

I asked a question about how CMS was going to deal with the PTA's across the district, some of whom have begun direct giving campaigns at their schools. Part of the drive behind these campaigns is to purchase iPad carts.

Why are PTA's buying iPad carts? Because some schools that are NOT Title 1 and are in the suburbs, have received NO funding from CMS for technology purchases. These schools did NOT win any of the iPad grants from last year, nor do they have enough funding to purchase their own. So who's trying to pay for it now? PARENTS.

From an accounting and logistics standpoint, does CMS Central Office even know which schools have these iPad carts (purchased by the PTA's)? Kind of hard to keep tabs on those pieces of "inventory" when the goods weren't purchased with "CMS" money. And doesn't it make it difficult to budget for more technology purchases at the top level, when Central Office has no idea which schools have what kind of technology?

I wasn't trying to make the point that PTA's need to "share" their money with other PTA's. My point was that CMS needs to start funding ALL schools with the appropriate technology.

Anonymous said...

If a PTA raises what Davis qoutes as $120,000 then CMS WOULD not let that school use all that money "in house". This has been proven when numerous parents/alumni stepped up to fund improvements. Davis knows this he is just playing DUMB again. I can afford to give my PTA $10,000 this year and I WONT , because I dont trust CMS that the money will stay in my kids schools. Its bad enough parents have to provide all the technology devices that CMS does not know how they are going to use in the coming years. The equity issue does exsist dont beleive the Cheat that is ERIC DAVIS.

Anonymous said...

Christine Mast said... "My point was that CMS needs to start funding ALL schools with the appropriate technology."

Good luck with that. I'm willing to bet most of the bureaucrats in the education building who make all the decisions haven't been in an actual classroom since the Reagan administration, and wouldn't know an iPad from a slab of wood.

Nameless said...

It is true that PTAs "voluntarily" give money to other schools. However, parents cannot control how the PTA spends their money. So, many stop giving to the PTA.

PTAs in the south side raise more money, so CMS directs its distribution of money to poorer schools. CMS staff make assumptions that some school PTAs will make up the difference. For those parents who are committed to making sure their kids have new stuff, this is like double taxation.

Problem is, I live in a nice zip code, but my wallet doesn't fit their profile of 'wealthy'. Time I have; money I don't. So we've put in over 3,000 hours volunteering in the last couple years.

I can't afford the latest stuff for all of my kids and also provide them for other schools.

There is so much waste and unnecessary purchasing, it is frustating. There is no need for PTAs to have to foot the bill for what should be provided already.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ghoul, back in the 80's Garinger was not a "poor urban school." I know because I was there. Back then, Garinger was a middle class high school just like Independence. I don't remember anything being said about getting Independence's activity bus.

Nameless said...

In response to post at Sept 13 9:16am.
It's natural for parents to be more involved with elementary kids. Young kids are more fun. Plus where else do they invest 6 years of their lives?

In middle and high school there are many more expenses and fees for classes, clubs, sports, music,supplies, yearbooks, pictures, etc. that are charged individually. Plus kids get more expensive at home (food, clothes, cars) over time!
So the drop in general PTA donations may go down, but parent spending goes WAY UP.

Anonymous said...

Our government practices Marxism in many ways. (Karl Marx famous quote "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs) is a slogan popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. In the Marxist view, such an arrangement will be made possible by the abundance of goods and services that a developed communist society will produce; the idea is that, with the full development of scientific socialism and unfettered productive forces, there will be enough to satisfy everyone's needs."[2][3]

This is precisely how our governments work at every level-they tax the income of working individuals are redistribute according to how the government officials see fit.

South and North Charlotte pays most of the taxes, which are then redistributed to uptown, West and East Charlotte.

In CMS, in 2011, Ballantyne Elementary students were funded at approx $4,000 per pupil, while Thomasboro was funded at more than $10,000 per pupil (Morgan School at $26,000 per pupil.) This scenario is repeated in middle and high schools-South and North Meck schools receive funding around $4500, while uptown, West and East receive closer to $10,000 per pupil. This is Marxism at its best, and very unfair to students who are treated with inequality of funding, while their parents pay the highest taxes. Not surprisingly, I could not find per pupil funding by CMS for 2012- except for the extremely deceptive figures around $8,000 per pupil- which is AVERAGE of least and most.

I have heard many times parents from the west and east sides say that it is not fair that south Charlotte PTAs raise so much money, and it should be put in a central pool to be redistributed. These same west side citizens make comments as though South Charlotte students will get what they need from their paretns, so they should be given less in taxpayer funded resources.

Wiley Coyote said...

The have and have not argument is alive and well and will continue for at least as long as there is an achievement gap - at least for another 15 to 20 years....

So much for eliminating "separate but equal".

How many years has that been now?

Anonymous said...

Parents- Agree to NOT fund any PTA in CMS. When the beg just let them know that CMS has the money just call downtown. Shut off their funding we do enough with our County/State/Federal. LET CMS figure it out that enough is enough. They may have to close some more schools. Heck I may go lobby the state to give us tax credits for sending our kids to private schools since CMS does such a poor job. STOP FUNDING THE PTA CUT THEM OFF. I have already been hit up by PTA at a SLT meeting this year and ignored them. I pay over $100,000 in taxes a year you fund my school !

Anonymous said...

Project LIFT is the equalizer it is effect a PTA. They need no money from the southside PTA .

Anonymous said...

Put Mary Wilson in charge of distributing iPads.

She'll even get them gift-wrapped.

For the right folks...

Anonymous said...


The "achievement gap" is a permanent feature of our society.

We're just not honest enough to admit it.

Anonymous said...

Wiley , some recent facts since CMS closed schools and "redistributed" some title 1's all around. Current scores as measured- EOG Reading White 94% / African American 72.5% , Math White 97.1% AA 77.5% , Science White 94.4% AA 53.3%. Those are 1 schools numbers so not district wide. This is what CMS wont show you about the results of closing schools.

Anonymous said...

This is why I don't support the PTA-I support my child's teacher. Teacher in the past who are too afraid to ask for paper since they used their $150 from the PTA already. Teachers who had teacher appreciation week cancelled by the PTA since they were considered not grateful enough. PTA that is having a contest between classes to 1. which class has the highest participation in the captial campaign and 2. which class raises the most money. Sorry, I'll hand my child's teacher a $50 Target gift card before I give a dime to the PTA.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:57 PM,

No you will not. Some parents - mainly the upper class - always says comments like that..."I'll give my teacher a $50 gift card before I ever help the PTA!" Oh whine. We've had too many schools to count try the 'ole "Donate as much as you can". The most a school brought in doing that that I worked at? About $400.00 No kidding. It was a ridiculous waste of time, very unproductive, and truth be told, we probably spent more than that on paper costs sending flyers home to remind parents - who never gave anyway!

Anonymous said...

At the recent Meck PTA meeting one speaker actually suggested that wealthier PTA's should be forced to "redistribute their wealth."

We're not required to, but I can see where that "urban legend" comes from.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @7:04, believe me there are people who donate to these campaigns. last year they school unsuccessfully aimed to raise 70k. didn't even hit 30k; this followed by the fun run where the company gets the majority of the money are why we don't contribute! believe that there are those we donate direct to the teachers. teachers are too afraid to confirm or deny this!

Gateway 25 said...

This article is interesting because this "rumor" was going on back when I served as a PTA President several years ago. PTA's (those associated with the National Organization) have strict guidelines as to how funds may be allocated and spent. Sharing them among PTA's is not one of them. Read the by laws if you care so much.It's pretty black and white. If some of you on here are complaining about how funds are spent, then get involved instead of complaining about it! Donate your time to serve on a board and make decisions. And for the person who commented they have no voice in how funds are spent? Totally untrue. That is why meetings happen three times a year by by laws so members can look at and review the budget, comment and vote. But let's face it, most are apathetic and don't care enough. So others will make those decisions for you. Another point: PTA's work in conjunction with their schools but they are a separate organization for a reason! It is not to do the school's bidding or CMS' is to provide support whether it is to teachers, curriculum materials and supplies, student enhancement projects, and yes technology.Our PTA always had a great working relationship with the school and listened to what the needs were. It's called doing what is best for the kids. Try lobbying your state representatives to allocate more money towards education rather than throwing your PTA's/PTO's under the bus.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing up this misinformation.

As a former CMS School Leadership Team member, I don't recall CMS ever taking money from a PTA/PTO for "redistribution".

I suspect the confusion over this matter has to do with CMS's defunct Equity Committee which seemed hell-bent on pitting wealthier and less affluent schools against each other during the aftermath of CMS's fiasco called "The Choice Plan". Installing donated ballet barres on a cafe-gym-atorium suburban school stage shouldn't have required a near Act of Congress.

- Alicia Durand

Anonymous said...

Alicia, As i am sure your group never had large donors. If I go to a local company as I have and get a $50,000 donation for iPads for my kids specific school CMS would not allow this. They want the $50k to go downtown then they also want me to set up a lunch with said client so they can start a relationship with them. I am not talking about $100- I am talking about serious take over donors like LIFT. Your SLT experience has nothing to do with PTA. SLT goes for grants completely separate from PTA donations. GET A CLUE PRIOR TO SPOUTING THAT MOUTH !

Anonymous said...

For all my conservative friends screaming socialism, please note that the Teapublican charter school bill as originally written would have had the public schools having to share PTA collections, atheletic gate receipts, and student nuitrition and bus funding to the charter schools based the number of kids enrolled in them from their parent schools regardless of whether the charter school offered meals, buses, or athletic teams. You can repeat the urban legend that rich PTA's are forced to redistribute to poor schools, but this law would have taken money raised by and for students and sent it to schools run for by profit corporations

Anonymous said...

I'm a former PTO President AND School Leadership Team member. I beg to differ but my PTO and SLT experience had everything to do with each other.

Jeff Wise said...

Interesting the number of you with the ability to contribute would refuse simply because your perception of how the money would be spent.

When I give money to causes I always ask where the money goes and I generally follow up and sometimes even pull an organization's 990 form to make sure they're handling their money properly.

So much for wanting the best for our students.

Anonymous said...

Mea culpa in failing to mention my PTO President experience in addition to my SLT experience?

Since when were PTA's and SLT's completely independent of each other? Huh? Neither organization functions in a silo. PTA's go for separate grants from SLT's? Huh? Successful PTA's and SLT's have everything to do with each other.

Just food for thought before sprouting off your ill-informed mantra.

Anonymous said...

God I cant wait to get out of education. Will the last super and administrator with any common sense please take down the flag and turn out the lights.

Minority births now outnumber.In the next twenty years it will not even be called school.What will all the talking heads do then?

Wiley Coyote said...


Giving money to "causes" versus to a classroom teacher are two different issues as you well know.

Like others here, it didn't take my wife and I but one fundraiser to realize trying to be part of the PTA - for us - was not how we wanted to spend our time and resources.

Unending fundraising that returned little on time spent and investment.

So we gave directly to our son's teacher each year in elementary school and into middle school when needed.

We'd buy paper, pencils, tissues, etc. and when there was a field trip and a cost was involved, we always told the teacher that if any child could not go due to lack of funds, we would pay for it. That happened several times.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, If I give to my classroom teacher directly I know my child is benefiting. The teacher buys learning materials CMS wont provide her. If I give to PTA it might be spent this year or next on something my child would never use. So Wiley is correct that "funding our teachers needs" is a more effective way to use dollars. In small amounts its more direct. CMS does not provide these teachers the tools they want to grow education. Keith W. Hurley

Gateway 25 said...

PTA's are not suppose to carry funds over from year to year! I don't know about PTO's or other organizations only a PTA. The money donated by families are suppose to be used to benefit the children in that fiscal year. It's fine to want to support your child and their teacher, but where do you think the big ticket items are going to come from? Your children are certainly benefiting are they not by the parents willing to give to the PTA? I can only speak from my experience in our PTA and frankly I don't understand some of the comments on this thread. Obviously things are done differently in some of the schools. And Keith, if I am not mistaken, aren't you a parent at Beverly Woods? From what I understand, they are a strong, committed group of parents and parent leaders.

Anonymous said...

Gateway , correct I am a vocal parent at BW school and support the PTA. I also support the teachers in my direct kids classroom more. BW has a strong PTA group and from what I see its funded very strongly. A PTA should certainly use the funds given on a annual basis as well. Only issue with that is the PTA may buy things that CMS was planning to fund down the road and downtown is giving no credit for that so you lose as a school. Their are schools today trying to fund technology for schools. Thats a state or county item to be handled within budgets. Thats not a PTA $500,000 agenda item. It takes a lobbyist to achieve these items from Mrs. Perdue today and CMS fired their lobbyist 3 years ago. I trust the schools I dont trust downtown. Keith W. Hurley