The New York Times has a story out today about the amazing fundraising efforts of parents and community members in several Long Island school districts. After cuts to the districts' budgets threatened schools' extracurricular activities and sports teams, the Long Island communities rallied in support of their schools and raised upwards of $1 million dollars to save the threatened programs from the chopping block.
But in these gloomy economic times, such success stories are tempered with a heavy dose of pessimism. The Times piece is replete with takes on the sustainability of private donations to schools, with quotes from school officials warning that "given the difficulty and magnitude [of the fundraising campaigns], they can only be substantiated for one year and are unrealistic as a recurring source of revenue." So, the story concludes, fundraisers and foundations cannot replace government cash in private schools.
On the obviousness scale, the notion that "public schools rely on public money" ranks somewhere between "if you eat fewer calories, you will lose weight" and "living with grizzly bears is a bad idea." And, although The Generation Project seeks to expand community involvement in public schools, nobody here thinks that private donations can be systematically relied upon to make up for massive budgetary shortfalls. But let's not minimize the positive impact these Long Island parents had. It's inspiring to see community members rally behind schools and children to protect the types of experiences that change kids' lives year after year.
Of course, the fundraisers in Long Island were...well, Long Island parents. Parents from socioeconomically depressed neighborhoods--which are facing severe budgetary shorfalls themselves--might not have the time or resources to raise $1 million at the drop of a hat. But if providing a quality edcation for all Americans is a national priority, the plight of students in schools facing severe budgetary shortfalls affects us all. That's why The Generation Project wants to connect donors with schools and kids that need their money the most. No, private money is not going to make all the difference. Still, it can make a huge difference, and it can do so even if it doesn't go to the school in your own backyard.