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February 2020

Issaquah Highlands Connections


Why do Public Schools Need to Raise Money? Aren’t my Tax Dollars Enough?

by Carrie Mount, Grand Ridge Elementary School PTSA, Grand View Park Resident It is a question that I am asked relatively often, and a good one at that: “Why do public schools have to raise money?” The question flows from the reasonable assumption public schools are funded by tax dollars, whether state or federal, and if we pay our taxes, we should be all set. The economic reality for Issaquah and many other areas around the country is public schools cannot sustain their programs, support, and enrichment without private fundraising. Until I became involved with the Grand Ridge Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), I assumed that my tax dollars and other government allocations paid for many of the things my children did at school each day like art lessons, participate in computer time, recess equipment, and read appropriateleveled books. My assumption was wrong. I remember my first PTSA meeting. Volunteers were discussing whether we had money in our budget to buy flashlights for each classroom in case of an emergency at school. Surely, I thought, the school must pay for flashlights! But in the current school-funding climate, as I have since learned, every choice a school makes may take away from another equally or more important program. No excess of funds sits in a particular school’s budget; rather, most schools have a PTSA that serves in large part to raise funds for the school in order to buy flashlights, pay for clay and paint, fund a part-time recess enrichment coach, and provide the students with access to current technology. In addition, our community is luckily served by the Issaquah Schools Foundation, a non-profit fundraising organization that supports all schools in Issaquah. But why is such fundraising necessary? Three main sources fund the school district: 71.2% from the State of Washington, 2.3% from the federal government, and 26.3% from local levies. Washington State has had difficulty providing its schools with enough money for decades. Issaquah has felt the lack of funds more than others in the state: out of 313 districts in Washington, Issaquah ranks 286th ̶ the near-bottom of total state revenue per student. Changes to the levy rules have created concerns that a district like Issaquah, with higherthan-average property values, will face a levy “cap” and

Without the GRE PTSA, students' access to current technology would be limited. The PTSA funds online learning tools like RazKids and BrainPOP! as well as laptop and iPad carts to ensure classrooms have computer coverage.

leave districts unable to use funds their own voters have approved. While the intricacies of the McCleary decision are beyond the scope of this article, all three branches of Washington’s government have been working in the past two years to fulfill the Washington Supreme Court’s mandate to “fully fund” education. Such increased funding has come largely in the form of staff salaries and may not be as available for schools’ immediate needs as levy and fundraising dollars are. Against this backdrop, PTSAs across Washington take up the task of raising funds through events like Orange Ruler or other walk-a-thons, by selling merchandise, and at community events like auctions (Grand Ridge will host a Grizzlies Night Out this year at Pickering Barn in April 2020). I don’t know when or how I can affect systemic change to Washington’s funding of education, but I know that I can work as part of the PTSA to raise money. That is why I choose to help organize PTSA events and why I donate money to both PTSAs and the Issaquah Schools Foundation whenever I can, funds that go directly to my kids’ schools.

Chart duplicated from “Understanding the 2019-2020 Budget; Issaquah School District.

I encourage all families of the Issaquah Highlands to contribute to PTSA fundraisers to support their students’ education and development, even when it might

be easier to ask, “But why aren’t my tax dollars enough?” The bottom line is: right now, public funds are not enough to support Issaquah’s schools; it is our choice how we act when equipped with that knowledge. I hope you will join me in donating through PTSA fundraisers in whatever way it fits into your family’s budget. For me, the return on investment is unparalleled and will be reflected in the continued and future success of Issaquah’s children.

PTSAs Provide Local Funding for: Art lessons Clay and paint Emergency Flashlights Recess enrichment coaches Recess equipment Access to current technology Appropriate-leveled books

See GrandRidgeptsa.org for more information

Profile for Issaquah Highlands Connections

February 2020  

February 2020