How we support public schools

Its World Water Day today. I know that because my son’s elementary school is using it as the pretext for a fund raiser.

Bill Clinton pioneered the continual political campaign — the idea that even after you win you need to keep seeking support.

The Parents Association of my son’s elementary school adopts the same sense of urgency and never-ending effort in its fund raising.

Long ago a bake sale used to be an event in itself. A way to raise a few extra dollars. Now we scour the calendar for events to turn into bake sales.

No event is too obscure. Hence, World Water Day.

When I arrived at school this morning I told the nice woman with the sign that I had never heard of World Water Day. I asked her if she made it up.

She assured me it was a real thing. And she encouraged me to celebrate by buying a water bottle with the logo of the school, PS 87. It was $10.

I asked if the bottle would handle hot liquids, like tea. She said no, but that that was a great idea. They could probably charge more for a thermos, she imagined. I had just given her a business idea.

The PTA at PS87 raises more than $1 million a year. There is an annual auction that generates a big chunk, but what really makes the difference is the small and steady effort to shake dollars from the trees.

For example, on election day the PTA mobilizes and sets up a table at 6 a.m. with coffee and donuts to sell to voters as they stream into the polls. The PTA also arranges with local banks to donate a tiny fraction of the amount you have in your account. There are countless similar deals with other retailers.

The PTA’s efforts are driven by the reality that school funding continues to be cut while expectations among parents continue to soar.

It underscores a basic reality for public schools, at least in New York, that we are under investing in kids and expecting parents to make up the difference.

In a wealthy district, such as the one PS 87 occupies on the Upper West Side, that is possible. The money pays for assistant teachers, enrichment and supplies.

For poorer schools its a different story. A number of years ago my son attended public preschool at PS 125 on 123rd street. At the time the PTA there had $450 in the bank.

**Published by Ted Merz Mar 21, 2016 **