In a time when budgets are tight and resources limited, donations from Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and high school booster clubs can be a lifeline for school districts.
At Community Unit School District 200, that lifeline is more like a rescue boat.
Between its combined PTAs and booster clubs, the district received about $250,000 in donations and capital expenditures for the 2013-14 school year, according to PTA President Chris Crabtree.
In addition, she said, another estimated $250,000 was donated in time, outside educational opportunities, such as author visits, and consumable expenses.
Considering that several schools hadn’t reported yearly donation totals as of last week, Crabtree said, that number could be even higher.
“We’re not the cupcake moms that a lot of people have the perception of,” she said. “We are much more. We are people who take professional development classes, meet collaboratively with leaders from other school districts like Glen Ellyn 41 and Naperville 204 and we share ideas.”
Gone is the time when the PTA simply baked cookies for a Halloween party or volunteered on picture day, Crabtree said.
“It is so different than what the PTA was 30 years ago – the PTA today is almost like a business,” she said.
While Crabtree is part of the governing board, each elementary and middle school in the district has its own separate PTA. Those positions, while unpaid, are often 30- to 40-hour-a-week jobs, she said.
Bob Barista, the president of Wheaton Warrenville South High School’s Tiger Parent Association Working for Students (PAWS), said that the booster club has raised about $170,000 in the last two years. That money has translated into scholarships, iPads, LCD projectors, SMART boards, a pommel horse for the boys gymnastics program and warm-up outfits for several teams.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want kids going off to college and feel like they missed something because their school couldn’t afford a broadcast media classroom or media in the classroom that helps them test better,” he said.
Aside from donations and fundraisers, he said, parents work at events selling concessions or merchandise.
Tiger PAWS recently received its triannual request fund and is in the process of determining where this year’s money will go. PAWS tries to distribute at least $60,000 a year, Barista said.
Board of Education President Barbara Intihar said that the district is “so blessed to have such an active, wonderful and supportive” PTA and booster group.
“It means everything to us,” she said.
Crabtree said that all the work done by the parents and community members is “on behalf of the children of our district.”
“PTA in a building know the teachers, know all the staff in the building, know exactly what’s going on with your child because that’s who you’re constantly running in to,” she said. “It’s great to have that level of connection.”
But it is not an example of helicopter parenting, she said.
“When I hear hyper-involvement, that’s doing too much homework with your kid,” she said. “Education is a group effort, it really is, it’s not just what happens when the kids are in the classroom.”