Parents asked to foot school bills 'being robbed’
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:55PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2013 9:09PM PST
A new survey obtained by CTV News shows nearly three-quarters of Parental Advisory Councils in Vancouver raised more than $10,000 last year for their schools, but some parents are saying they’re being “robbed” for essential services.
PAC’s routinely hold fundraisers for their respective school districts but parents are feeling increased pressure to donate their time and money, said Denise Ley, a James Cook Elementary PAC committee member.
“It’s been pretty challenging,” she said. “We have a lot of people from very diverse economic backgrounds and we have to do fundraisers every year.”
It’s not just for luxuries. Parents are being asked to raise money for essentials like team uniforms, up-to-date computers, playgrounds, “and things that the government has designated as essential for children to learn and be healthy,” Ley said. “We have to provide those because there’s just not enough money anywhere else.”
It took James Cook Elementary three years to raise $30,000 for a new playground, she said. In Vancouver, parents not only have to buy the playground but they must also pay unionized school board staff to install it. Ley said the installation bill at James Cook was $8,000.
Colin Redford, a district PAC Chair, said parents are increasingly shouldering financial burdens for their kids’ schools that they shouldn’t have to.
“It’s astronomical,” he said. “We’re being robbed. We’re being asked to pay fees that are way and above beyond what we should have to do.”
Vancouver School Board trustee Mike Lombardi said there’s simply no money for things like building playgrounds.
“We have no funding in our budget for the building, maintenance, or constructing of them,” he said.
The fundraising pressure on parents is a “crisis,” Lombardi said, and the district has launched a committee to investigate how much money is being raised and what it’s buying to come up with guidelines.
The survey, which was taken by the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, also revealed four schools raised less than $1,000 last year, while some affluent schools raised up to $60,000. Lombardi said the reliance on fundraising created inequity in the district.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Lombardi said. “I think what it does is it promotes inequity and takes away from the fairness in our system.”
Lombardi said the idea of a centralized fundraising for all schools has been discussed but was rejected because parents want equal distribution of funding from the provincial level, not at the local level. The Vancouver district faces a $20-million deficit this year.
Education minister Don McRae said school budgets are given by the province to districts, which then allocate their dollars.
“If there are extras that schools wish to pursue, fundraising has always been a part of schools,” McRae said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee