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Schools Can’t Live on Cupcakes Alone: The Case Against School Fundraising


New York City Public Schools teacher Jose Vilson is outspoken about fundraising in public schools. Fundraising, he says, “perpetuates inequity in our schools.” He makes some controversial points:

Schools aren’t fundraising for the same things
In some schools, fundraising exists to support extracurricular activities or class trips. In other schools, kids might not have textbooks in core academic subjects if they can’t raise enough money.

Is it acceptable that students in wealthier school districts can count on textbooks each year because public funding provides them, while students in poorer districts have to fundraise for them? Vilson says it’s not:

“…what’s “extra” to one school can often be a given for another. Textbooks for every child sounds rudimentary for the general public, but we have schools in this country that either have the teacher buy a set of books or have to fund-raise to get them.” (Source)

Fundraising for basic academic needs means accepting the status quo
When parents allow their kids to fundraise for basic educational supplies or teacher salaries, Vilson argues, those families are essentially telling lawmakers that it’s okay not to invest tax money into public education.

Vilson told The New York Times:

“When fund-raising is about more than buying new cheerleading uniforms or helping to defray the cost of a class trip, and instead plays an outsized role in funding your school, then you are perpetuating the idea that local and federal government should not be investing in public education; and that's wrong.” (Source)

Fundraising for education sends the wrong message to kids
When schools pay for basic educational needs like teachers and textbooks through fundraising instead of through public funding, Vilson says that students get the wrong message. Taxpayers and lawmakers should value education enough to fund educational necessities without kids having ask friends and neighbors for donations:

“By making this tax investment in education, we are showing our children that education matters, not as a write-off or a favor for a friend, but as part of the way we operate as a city.” (Source)

“Schools cannot live on cupcakes alone,” says Vilson. Do you agree? Leave a comment on the Missouri Parent Facebook Page or tweet with us about your perspectives on school fundraising.

Learn More: Your School's Most Successful Fundraiser?

When Vilson isn’t in the classroom teaching math, he’s blogging, speaking, and advocating for public schools. His writing has been published in The New York Times, Education Week, Al Jazeera America, Huffington Post, Edutopia, and others. You can read the piece we quote here on The New York Times Opinion Pages.

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