Inequalities of Parent-Led School Fundraising / By: Tess Buchsbaum
In recent years, the growth of parent-led fundraising groups has facilitated the increasing gap between funding at schools in high-income neighborhoods and at schools in low-income neighborhoods. In the past year, “58% of school-specific fundraising groups are associated with schools serving the wealthiest 25% of students.” ( Mackevicius , 2022 ). Due to this disparity, schools in low-income areas are not receiving the resources they need to ensure all students have access to equal opportunities within education. Lucy Owen, a current Lane Tech student who studied the impact parent-led fundraising has on resources for CPS elementary schools, finds that schools in higher socioeconomic areas are able to fundraise money for increased resources electives that stray from core subjects such as art, music, dance, drama etc. compared to schools in lower socioeconomic areas. Owen states “low income CPS elementary schools raised about $3,000 annually, whereas higher income schools raised somewhere around $450,000 annually. As you can tell, there is a huge gap between these numbers.” Owen notes that although this gap is large and only widening, it’s challenging to restrict well-meaning parents who want to offer their kids more opportunities at their schools despite the fact that it contributes to these disparities. In Chicago specifically, “CPS only has 68% of what it needs in state and local dollars to properly fund its schools.” ( Karp & Moore , 2022 ). Since CPS is unable to properly fund their schools solely on state dollars, the rest of the money needed to get adequate resources for their schools is raised through parent-led fundraising groups. Lisa Borelli, the former president of Lane Tech's parent-led fundraising group, discusses how Lane continuously receives donations. Borelli states “Lane Tech is the largest high school in Chicago with roughly 4,500 students and with them, plenty of eager parents looking to give back to their child's school. We have a very involved parent network with different family incomes, and just the size of this parent group allows Lane to easily fundraise and gain these extra resources.” It is unreasonable to restrict parents from donating to their children’s schools; however, ensuring there is a baseline for standard quality resources at all schools regardless of income level is necessary to mitigate the effects of this fundraising gap.