Some parent teacher associations are raking in big bucks, while hundreds of others collect nothing at all.
New York City’s Education Department has for the first time compiled and released data on the financial standing of PTAs around the city. City Councilman Mark Treyger, a former teacher who wrote the legislation requiring the report, says it's confirmed his fears about inequity in the city's public schools.
"How many times have we heard the DOE and the chancellor and the mayor talk about, your zip code should not determine the opportunities your families receive,” Treyger said. “Well, look at the data."
According to the report, 46 PTAs raised more than $500 thousand in the most recent school year. Of those 46 PTAs, 24 raised at least a million dollars.”
The numbers were self-reported by the PTAs, and the city did not audit them. The report appears to contain some obvious errors. The PTA for PS 133 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn is listed as raising $76 million, which would require a whole lot of bake sales.
In general, the numbers show that PTAs in comfortable neighborhoods, like Brownstone Brooklyn and Greenwich Village, are raising lots of money, while the 373 schools reporting no PTA income are mainly in poorer communities.
PTA funds can be used for after-school programs, field trips, and music and art teachers. Critics say that means these lopsided figures are unfair to students.
"Schools that can raise over a million dollars, they are using those resources to add art and music teachers,” said Treyger. “When you're in a school with a tight budget in an under-resourced community, you don't have the money to hire a full-time art and music teacher."
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says the city is thankful for the contributions, but that they can unintentionally perpetuate disparities in opportunities for students. Treyger wants the city to provide a base level of funding to PTAs to level the playing field.
As for that PTA in Boerum Hill, a desirable neighborhood, its co-president says two decimal places were misplaced, suggesting it raised $760 thousand, not $76 million. Still, that is well above the average.