School Fundraising Is Already Driving Me Crazy

I'm kind of a newbie at being a school mom, being as how my oldest just started kindergarten this year. We've had a lot to get used to in the last couple months—new morning routines, lunches, pickups and dropoffs, new friends, homework ... and happily, everything is going great. I love my kid's teacher, I love how excited my kid is to learn. So far, I'm really happy with his school.

Well, except for one little thing: the fundraising. My god, the ENDLESS, WALLET-SUCKING, VALUE-DESTROYING fundraising.


The first thing that came home was a donation request for the PTA, and I gladly wrote out a check. I also attended a meeting, and filled out at least four different forms volunteering for various things. I even volunteered to be room parent for my kid's class, which sounded about as appealing to me as eating a tub of paste.

No one ever took me up on my volunteering offers (which ... really? I volunteered to read! I volunteered to chaperone! I checked the box that indicated I was willing to collate school materials in the evening, for crying out loud!), but soon enough my son came home with another request for money—this time, it was for Entertainment books he was supposed to sell.

A few days later, his backpack contained a catalogue and order form for even more things he was supposed to fob off on our friends and relatives: wrapping paper (at $10 a roll, might I add), candle holders, cookie dough, magazines, boxed chocolates, and weirdly, a Paula Deen "Best Dishes" 16-month wall calendar.

Last week, it was the Schoolastic Book Fair announcement that included a flyer on which he'd been asked to circle the things he most wanted to purchase. Surprise! It turns out my 6-year-old is far more interested in the hardcover LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia than any of the classic children's literature options.

I realize I don't have to fundraise. Our school doesn't provide an official way to opt out, but I can send in a donation instead, which I've already done—I'm happy to donate directly to the school, after all, and my husband's work even matches our donations. I also pay tuition at our school, because in my area, full-time kindergarten is not free.

The thing that pisses me off, though, is how the school directly involves the kids. They get prizes for fundraising, with bigger and better prizes handed out for better sales. In class, in front of everyone. I mean, sales incentives ... for kindergartners? What are they, pint-sized Glengarry Glen Ross hucksters? Third prize is you're fired, kid! Chocolate milk's for closers!

I am all for helping public schools get the resources they need, but it seems like it's time to revamp the current methods for soliciting funds. Who can afford the overpriced, unnecessary crap they're offering, and who wants to be part of a system that rewards kids for guilting people into buying it? How is it fair to ask a little kid to make a "wish list" for books most of us would rather get from the library, if at all? Why is it acceptable to turn our children into door-to-door salespeople in order to send the majority of their solicited dollars to the fundraising company rather than the school?

Not everyone can donate, and for some families, fundraising may be the only way to raise cash for their school. Still, isn't there a better way to do this? A way that doesn't involve $10 wrapping paper?

What are your feelings on school fundraising?

Image via Flickr/goodncrazy

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