With increasing enrollment, school budgets are being tightened despite an overall funding increase from the Minnesota Legislature, which educators say is not enough to cover increasing costs. And instead of being outraged by program cuts, parents across the country are pulling out their wallets. Even Minnesota school districts are seeing a particular rise in this type of funding, with parents in the Orono School District shelling out more than $250,000 last year. Although financial support from parents says great things about community involvement, a different funding operation is necessary in order that fair, unbiased education is not jeopardized.
Parental contributions and fund-raising dollars were once limited to bake sales held for new sports equipment or extra money for the class trip. But now parents are opening their personal bank accounts to make sure students receive quintessential school supplies and teaching resources. In affluent districts capable of supporting waning school funds, this private funding trend does not appear to be a problem; however, not all school districts fit this description.
Parents are funding projects such as textbooks, bussing and computer labs that should be guaranteed to all students. Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan students now choose between paying $300 per year for private busing or finding alternative transportation after budget cuts. Parents are even paying out-of-pocket to keep teachers. Children should not receive a substandard education just because their parents cannot afford to subsidize such costs. Of the $350 billion annually spent on education in the United States, only $800 million are private donations, but many schools suffer from the resulting inequalities.
The question of control also arises. If parents are paying to keep teachers working, this pressures the teacher to keep parents happy and threatens teachers’ separation from parental control. It can cause teachers to have unfair bias, giving certain children special attention and can influence the entire curriculum. Dollars contributed by parents also haze the distinction between what is public and what is private in education, something protected in American schools since their conception. Although parents can afford to save programs or provide supplies, they should not be allowed to buy control of schools. Unbiased curricula and teachers are too essential to be protected only by administrators. Financial control is paramount.
Clearly it is necessary for states to step up with funding. Although many important issues demand attention and money, education is indispensable to the future of the United States. Every child deserves access to an equal knowledge base. It is the government’s duty to find ways to ensure that this is not threatened because of money or power. Through public schools, students of any background should get an equal education, whether or not their parents can foot the bill.