Schools Pay Parents in Gift Cards to Show Up at School Conferences

kidsAnd we wonder why our nation’s schools are failing. In a story that is truly heartbreaking, schools in Chicago are so desperate to increase parental participation in their child’s education that they’re resorting to bribing them.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Walgreen Co. has partnered with 70 schools in the area to provide $25 gift cards to parents. Not for working in the lunchroom or going into the classroom to help the teacher, but rather just for showing up to pick up their child’s report card and sitting down with their child’s teacher for a conference. It’s unfathomable to me that anyone needs any incentive for doing so. Sure there’s work and other commitments that may make such meetings challenging, but if you’re not committed to your child’s education, how can you expect him or her to be?


The mayor, Rahm Emanuel, deserves credit for trying to address the issue uniquely and says it’s his way to attempt “incentivizing responsible parenting.” But it’s beyond sad that it’s such a big problem that needs to be addressed and that parents need to be incentivized.

In a press conference, he said: “If you don’t come to parent-teacher conference, if you don’t come to pick up a report card, our kids are smart. Then, they know there’s a gap between a parent and a teacher, a gap between the parent and the principal. We need to close those gaps and have a united front investing in our kids’ education.”

I absolutely agree. But will people who come just because of a gift card really engage the way people need to do so to ensure a good education for their child? I have my doubts. Optimistically, perhaps some parents are intimidated by coming into the school and talking to their children’s teachers. Perhaps they’ll go there to get their gift card and come away with a new interest and appreciation for their child’s school life. I hope so.

The fact is, teachers can’t do it alone. They may be the ones running the classrooms, but it takes parents to make sure their kids are getting enough sleep, going to school, and that they’re on top of their work. Most importantly, it’s important that parents let their kids know that they value education and they think it’s important, and if they have to be given a gift card in order to do so, then it’s a muddled message at best.

What do you think of the idea of bribing parents to attend parent-teacher conferences?

Image woodleywonderworks/Flickr

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