This series about current issues in education, Notes from the Playground gives a nod to the very early beginnings of SOS Alberta and where we first organized, as citizens talking to each other about one of the most powerful influences on our daily lives, our kids’ education. These are my thoughts on education matters this week, as always we welcome yours!
Carolyn Blasetti – Executive Director
Since Support Our Students Alberta began we have been concerned with the way schools consistently need to fill funding gaps through fundraising. There are few other issues more top of mind for Alberta parents than fundraising. Visit any school council or parent fundraising society meeting and you’ll hear both parents and administrators discussing how to raise money for basic resources, supplies and even infrastructure for their school. Often the conversation about fundraising hijacks discussions about other school issues and concerns. No longer are parents talking about building their school community or what’s happening in the school’s classrooms this month, they are talking about running coupon sales, deciding how to spend thousands of dollars on school furniture, flooring or computers or books. Schools find themselves becoming dependent on the rise and fall of fundraising dollars. And this is only if they are a school lucky enough to have the capacity within their school community to have a fundraising society.
Last year we highlighted concerns around schools competing in corporate contests for basic educational resources like books. Our concerns went unheard by decision makers in both government and school boards. We shared these concerns again this year. This year again, schools in lower income neighbourhoods pleaded their case in corporate competitions so that their kids, in their schools, could have books. No one, not city councillors, not trustees, not MLA‘s, expressed any concern for the inequity and injustice of having to compete for resources.
Thankfully, Eva Ferguson of the Herald expressed an interest in this issue. What followed has been some engaged discussions around schools needing books and schools needing playgrounds. Our goal of starting a dialogue around fundraising as being a way to absolve the government of its responsibility to properly fund public schools was finally playing out in public discourse.
We subsequently pointed out that St. Peter Elementary School in Calgary is also currently competing in a national corporate contest for funds to build a playground because they do not have any playground at all. We were pleased that Minister Eggen responded to this situation by providing much needed funding to St. Peter Elementary School. However, the reality remains for many schools across this province that they do not receive enough funding for books, playgrounds, technology or other resources.
We find ourselves in the same position as four years ago when we began our advocacy, wondering why schools must fundraise for the most basic of resources? Knowing that schools in affluent high income neighbourhoods will not experience the same hardships and challenges of lower income communities. This dependency on fundraising and corporate donations creates have and have not schools, winner and losers.
Our goal as public education advocates has always been and will always be to build a system on UNIVERSALITY. Every Alberta child deserves a safe playground to play, every community deserves a place to build relationships with their neighbours, every child deserves books to read and every child deserves access to the same technology. We are very happy St. Peter Elementary School received funding for their playground from the Alberta government. But they are not alone. Since the announcement came out we have heard from multiple people about the need for a playground in their community public school. There is no reason that roughly $275 million a year should fund private schools when public schools go without. So while we are very thankful this particular story has had a happy ending, we know there is more work to do and we will reiterate our calls yet again for a review of the Alberta education funding model so that no student, no school and no parent must plead or compete with a corporation for basic educational resources.
Please feel free to share your experience with fundraising at your school! Comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org