Sunday, October 21, 2012

Schools as charities

With funding cuts across North America, schools and school districts are turning to fundraising more and more as a source of income. There is a long history of parent committees raising funds for extra-curricular activities, but the type of fundraising now gaining traction goes beyond paying for some extras. Is public education gradually moving towards a charity rather than a public service? Here are a few of the fundraising developments taking place...

Some BC School Districts have put a "donate" page or button directly on their web sites. For example, here is the link to the Delta School District "Charitable Giving" page:

The District describes their program: "The Delta School District is a registered charitable trust through the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency. Although the Provincial Government provides funding for the district's core education programs and services, there are additional programs and services that greatly benefit from donor support! Donations received help us to deliver the best possible education to our 16,000 students."  Of note is that the donations are for "programs and services".

Langley School District has set up a Foundation: The web site indicates the type of items that are funded: 

"Funding Interests Include:
  • Literacy in all its forms
  • Enriched performing and visual arts initiatives
  • Special education programs and needs
  • Purchase library books and technology equipment
  • Developing learning enhancement projects"
They also describe the purpose of the Foundation, "The Foundation was established in May 2003 to enhance and enrich educational opportunities for 19,952 students in the Langley School District. We support the Langley School District in providing programs of excellence not funded by the Ministry."

In the US, charitable giving to schools has taken an even more aggressive and pervasive turn. The web site allows donations to hundreds of classrooms across the US. The site is supported by a variety of large corporations and private interests, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Disneyland, Facebook, Starbucks and Chevron, to name just a few. Donors can choose particular projects and types of schools, such as Charters. Donors can also choose which type of teacher they want to support, such as screening for only "Teach for America" teachers.

The irony is that while the web site claims to "ensure integrity" with an aim of "giving people a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational inequity", the entire project actually undermines the inequity they claim to want to address.

Only taxation and fair distribution of tax revenues can provide genuinely equitable funding for schools across communities. Any system of charity will be rife with inequity and also lack stability. It is simply no way to pay for schooling. It is tragic that public education is eroding to the point where such charity is so widespread. Now more than ever we need to reverse the trend by forcing our governments to provide full and stable funding through our taxes.


  1. I'm amazed the Ministry of Ed hasn't ordered Delta and Langley to remove the "donate buttons" from their websites. What an insidious insult to the notion of "public" education.

  2. It isn't even just schools. I spent a lot of time in hospitals last summer and the fundraising there is just appalling. Education and health care need to be adequately funded. Period.