You Earned a Ticket!

Which school do you want to support?

Lesson 8.11

Volunteers:
Stealth Wealth for Schools

Schools need something money can’t buy. It’s…

hero image

If you can get things without paying for them, are they less valuable?

Of course not. Value is value, whether paid for in cash, barter or psychic rewards.

Money is only valuable for what it can buy

The "wealth" of a school depends deeply on the skills, energy and time that moms, dads, students, and community members can bring to bear. From athletics and school events to school committees and tax campaigns, volunteers are essential to the fabric of most schools. Their contributions of time and expertise are sometimes celebrated, but rarely if ever systematically recorded on a school's financial statements.

Volunteers are stealth wealth. The California State PTA, which keeps a record for all its members, estimates that in a single year PTA volunteers alone donated more than 20 million volunteer hours. Using IRS guidelines, in California this is roughly the equivalent of $500 million.

Like all wealth, volunteer value is unequally distributed and frequently squandered.

Unequal

In California's wealthiest communities, schools are blessed with the help of college-educated parents with the freedom to commit significant time in support of their children's schools. In schools that do a good job of corralling this free talent, parents provide all manner of assistance to their schools, including financial and legal help, organizational and technical consulting, and more.

They help arrange community events for the school. They run fundraisers, converting local good will into dollars. As "room parents" they amplify teachers' and administrators' ability to communicate effectively with the whole school community, setting up complex lines of communication. They arrange school partnerships with local businesses. They organize local bond campaigns or parcel tax measures. At elementary schools they also often help out in classrooms, sometimes reducing the ratio of students to adults in a significant way.

Stealth Wealth
Budgets rarely
count the hours /
that parents volunteer: /
Stealth wealth.
Hidden help /
when school
is too austere.

In communities that are struggling, by contrast, parents are far less able to help their schools. In the scheme of things, volunteering in support of the school is a luxury if more basic needs are not met, like keeping a roof over one's head, food on the table, and shoes on your children's feet.

How big is the difference? An annual survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on differences in volunteering activity by ethnicity, marital status, and educational attainment, which correlates with income. Some communities and schools are in a better position than others to recruit moms and dads and put their skills to work for kids. Addressing this disadvantage is part of the reason why California established the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which allocates extra funds to schools where there are concentrations of students in poverty and with limited English skills.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics "Volunteering in the United States, 2012"

Often Squandered

There is nothing easy about corralling volunteers. It's hard to know what to ask of them. People come with different skills, time constraints, and commitments. Language barriers can be an obstacle. Even with the best intentions, some do not follow through because...well... life gets in the way.

Some of the highest-value volunteers in education are parent leaders. The PTA and other parent organizations help school leaders make the most of the available volunteer time. They convert goodwill and good intentions into action, and mitigate the flakiness that threatens any volunteer endeavor.

Oh, and they also learn, and teach. It is not an accident that Ed100 was, itself, substantially built by volunteers! (We're proud of that, but not foolishly so: please click the Donate button if you can!)

Updated September 2017

Review

True or false: Parents in higher-income communities tend to volunteer in schools more frequently and intensively than those in lower-income communities.

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
Learn More

Questions & Comments

To comment or reply, please sign in .

user avatar
Brandi Galasso April 18, 2015 at 6:54 pm
The problem is that the parents who care and volunteer are missing something, the information, Correct information. There is a certain group of parents, who come to every meeting school has. They volunteer in their child's class or past classes. But they still can't figure out how to help their child succeed. It's because our school doesn't inform us all correctly. The school tells us what they want, they mold their information to us to their advantage but can say we discussed that topic with parents. Our parents are unaware of Title I real meaning and laws that are supposed to make school and Teachers and parents the key to our students success. And parents like myself stand up for our students and fight for our Teachers and our kids and all I have received is retaliation to a written complaint I filled and harassed. They saw the law protects from that but it doesn't. So when other parents see what I have gone through just to help the kids, they are scared and don't want the harassment. I have had to fight the hardest fight just to volunteer at my child's school. Because of the front office who liked a failing school because failing means not busy. Its unfortunate and completely unbelievable that they can have such a affect on our children, and no matter how many laws they break, the district, makes it harder for me. Superintendent is up for an award but never in 3 years stepped foot on our campus to even pretend to care. So parents who see this just believe we have no say so or rights. And its sad because it affects our whole community. We are being brought down as a community by people who don't care because they don't live here.
user avatar
Steven N September 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm
The strongest legal platforms that Title 1 parents (Economicallly Disadvantaged) have is through the new state Target Student input mechanism of LCAP. First - get yourselves 'elected' to the ELAC (DELAC) and / or the SSC. You must learn what these are!

The Title 1 federal requirements (ConAp) require affected parent input. Always be sure this is done in writting! Get together in a parent study group (junta) and do this homework! Be very specific - want Title 1 dollars for parent-chosen small tutor groups? Then specificly ask for this in writting. Insist that your written input be taken (at a formal meeting) and that it is formally recognized. (The Minutes or a receipt)

Want LCFF "supplementary grant" money for summer learning? Get together the parents in the ELAC and SSC (junta again) and discuss and put this in writting. It is entirely permissable and legal to do this - outside of administrative control. [Greene Act for parent advisory groups]. Government 'by the people' is not the same as governance by the administration.

There are only small portions of a school district/school budget that parents have a strong say in [Title 1 & 3 and LCFF Supplemental]. so you need to be "very clear and many" to have even a chance. These funds should be be about 30% of the budget for a CA school "in Title 1" and with a "Target Student" population of over 40%.

best in your hard work (for this has nothing to do with luck)
©2003-2017 Jeff Camp
design by SimpleSend, build by modern interface

Sharing is caring!

Password Reset

Change your mind? Sign In.

Search all lesson and blog content here.

Sign In

Not a member? Join now.

or via email

Share via Email

Join Ed100

Already Joined Ed100? Sign In.

or via email