The fundrais­ing merry-go-round

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - The fundrais­ing merry-go-round
Des­per­ate to build play­grounds on bar­ren school prop­er­ties, par­ents are in­creas­ingly suf­fer­ing from fundrais­ing ex­haus­tion and donor fa­tigue as the prov­ince still con­sid­ers fund­ing op­tions.“I love my com­mu­nity and I’m com­mit­ted to fundrais­ing be­cause I know how im­por­tant a play­ground is for all the kids in the area, not just at the school,” said Joy­lynn Mathe­son, who sits on the play­ground fundrais­ing com­mit­tee for Cop­per­field School, a K-5 ele­men­tary in the city’s deep south.“But it’s a lot. Es­pe­cially when you are work­ing a lot of fundrais­ers that take up so much time, but just don’t give you a lot of bang for your buck.”While a casino can raise as much as $65,000, Mathe­son said schools can only or­ga­nize one ev­ery two years, leav­ing them lim­ited to bake sales, bot­tle drives or choco­late al­mond sales, which take hours of plan­ning with only a few hun­dred dol­lars in re­turn.Mathe­son, who’s been fundrais­ing for Cop­per­field more than two years, says par­ents are only at the mid­way point of their $150,000 fundrais­ing goal which could be matched through a govern­ment grant to meet the $300,000 cost of a ba­sic play­ground.“It takes a lot of time, a lot of or­ga­niz­ing def­i­nitely,” she says. “But play­grounds are so im­por­tant. Kids these days just don’t get enough un­struc­tured play.”Play­ground fund­ing for schools has been con­tentious since last fall when St. Peter School in Pen­brooke Mead­ows re­ceived $200,000 only days af­ter me­dia at­ten­tion iden­ti­fied them as fi­nal­ists in the Kraft Heinz Project Play Con­test.While they did not win the con­test, Project Play pro­vided a na­tional spot­light on the in­ner-city school’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing prop­erty and lack of ba­sic play­ground equip­ment.Crit­ics asked why the NDP govern­ment sud­denly funded St. Peter, while par­ents at schools in both sub­ur­ban and ag­ing in­ner-city ar­eas had been fundrais­ing for years be­cause of their in­abil­ity to se­cure pro­vin­cial grants.But Barb Silva, spokes­woman for Sup­port Our Stu­dents ad­vo­cacy group, said it’s out­ra­geous par­ents con­tinue to be forced to fundraise at all, par­tic­u­larly for ba­sic learn­ing re­sources such as books, tech­nol­ogy and play­grounds.“It’s just as­sumed now that par­ents will al­ways fundraise for ba­sics. And we’ve be­come re­signed to the fact that it’s just part of our kids’ ed­u­ca­tion,” Silva said.“But the prov­ince con­tin­ues to ig­nore this is­sue, be­cause they know par­ents’ con­stant fundrais­ing al­lows them to.”Silva added that as par­ents put in in­creas­ing amounts of time to fundraise, they are los­ing qual­ity time with their own chil­dren.“All of their en­ergy is be­ing spent on fundrais­ing. But par­ents need to be en­gaged in their kids’ lives, they need the time to talk with them, with their teach­ers, and get in­volved in their school ac­tiv­i­ties.Since the fund­ing in­jec­tion to St. Peter School, the prov­ince has said it would roll out plans for more fund­ing in the com­ing weeks, but schools are still wait­ing.Silva said she reached out to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David Eggen be­fore Christ­mas but did not hear back for sev­eral weeks. When she did, Silva said there was es­sen­tially no new in­for­ma­tion and “it was re­ally just a whole lot of noth­ing.”Eggen’s of­fice con­firmed this week the prov­ince is re­view­ing about 80 sub­mis­sions for play­ground fund­ing from across the prov­ince, but no de­ci­sion has been made yet on how much may be avail­able head­ing into an elec­tion year.“Our govern­ment be­lieves play­grounds are ex­tremely im­por­tant to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and that is why we are fund­ing them to make life bet­ter and more af­ford­able for Al­ber­tans,” Eggen said in an emailed state­ment.Last June, the prov­ince an­nounced $20 mil­lion in fund­ing to en­sure all newly built K-6 schools would get play­grounds. Un­der the pro­gram, new ele­men­tary schools were el­i­gi­ble for grants of $250,000 retroac­tive to 2014.But schools an­nounced be­fore then were not el­i­gi­ble, mean­ing sev­eral new sub­ur­ban schools like Cop­per­field have not re­ceived any fund­ing and re­main without play­grounds.Silva ar­gues that as the prov­ince heads closer to an ex­pected spring elec­tion call, politi­cians need to con­sider a com­pletely new fund­ing model for schools, where fund­ing goes to all schools equally in­stead of each stu­dent on a per-capita ba­sis.“If we en­sure each school has what ev­ery other school has, we won’t need to fundraise,” Silva said, adding that while the idea may re­quire in­creased taxes, par­ent fundrais­ing is also a per­sonal cost.“Think of all the money par­ents put into school fundrais­ers over the 12 years their kids are in schools, and re­di­rect that into qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion across the board.“It would mean more re­sources to all schools, and to all schools equally.”

Joy­lynn Mathe­son and daugh­ter Is­abella near Cop­per­field School. Par­ents have been fundrais­ing for two years to get a play­ground built.

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