Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Who Should Pay?

It was the final meeting of this year's PTA executive board, and we were trying to decide what to give the school as our annual end-of-year gift. (As a non-profit organization, PTA can't carry over more than the minimum necessary cassh from one year to another, so we rid ourselves of any excess funds by buying the school something it can really use.)

One of the board members, a parent and teacher at the school, told us that what the teachers could really use was to have funds dedicated to buying all the office supplies that the school's budget can no longer afford--simple things like pencils and white-out and tissues--espeically after the paltry initial supplies run out.

And so a motion was made, and discussion opened up.

Which is when it got interesting.

The debate centered on whether or not a PTA/fundraising entity like ours should be put in the position of having to buy teachers the basics--things that are, in reality, what they need to do their jobs. "Pencils, pens, textbooks...those should be the district's responsibility," one parent, who also works at the school, noted.

"Absolutely," came the reply. "But they're not providing these things. And we can."

"We can, but should we? It's a bad precedent to set. We take responsibility for what the district should provide, and they'll never feel pressured to correct things. We do this this year, and we'll have to do it every year from now on. Do we really want to take on that responsiblity?"

There was a beat, a slight pause. "Do we really have a choice?"

It went on in that way for quite some time, with the ideal--in which the school district does what it is supposed to do for its teachers, giving them the supplies they should give them, and us being there to provide the extras, the special stuff, the things that make a school unique and interesting (past PTAs have bought the school a kiln and clay supplies, for instance)--being put up against the sad reality--in which the school district isn't doing its job, doesn't have the money to do its job without firing teachers, and that if we want our kids to have even the most basic, decent education, we need to make sure their classrooms are stocked with the basics, the essentials.

I yearned to see things idealistically, to put my foot down and send a message that the people in charge (that would be you, Mr. Girly Man Sham of a Governor) need to do right by our kids. But I see things realistically--maybe pessimistically--and am just not ready to put my faith in the concept that the message would be received and acted upon. And I'm not willing to sacrifice my kids' education to a principle.

I was not alone. In the end, we voted 10 to 1 in favor of providing office supply money to individual teachers as our end-of-year gift.

I've never felt so sad about a gift in my life.

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