Nobody Wants Another Bake Sale: Texas PTA’s Funny Letter Goes Viral
Magazines, chocolate, cheesecake, scented pencils, poinsettias, gift wrap, and Christmas trees are just some of the items I’ve been asked to purchase—and help my two sons sell—over the past few years in order to raise money for their cash-strapped Los Angeles public schools. And I’m not alone. Across the nation, back-to-school time is the official start of the campus fund-raising season.
But this week a savvy parent-teacher organization in Rockland, Texas, sent home a request that seems to recognize just how burned out parents are from all the appeals for help. On Tuesday, mom of three Dee Heinz posted a picture on her Facebook page of a letter from the PTA of her children’s Dallas-area school. Instead of asking parents to get involved in yet another fund-raiser, the PTA simply asked parents to donate cash.
“This fundraiser is in lieu of sending students home with the task of selling door-to-door, collecting money, and delivering goods,” reads the letter. “Please help us avoid that by supporting our PTA with your donations and helping us achieve our goals to support our students and faculty.”
The PTA then gives parents options such as donating $15 in order to skip selling cupcakes and $100 if they don’t want to be bothered again about fund-raising. “I really wouldn’t have helped anyway, so here’s $100 to forget my name,” reads that option.
Heinz was a big fan of the letter. “I love that our school PTA has a great sense of humor. This form came home with our 7th grader yesterday,” she captioned the photo. The image, which has the name of the school blocked out to protect it, has since gone viral. It has been shared more than 165,000 times on Facebook, with many people writing that they’ve received fund-raising appeals from their children’s schools and wished they’d gotten a letter like this one instead.
Maria Guido, who runs the popular mom blog Scary Mommy, is one parent who applauded the Texas PTA’s letter. “The fundraising ‘business’ is out of hand. And it’s really hard as a working parent to keep up with these extra events that are required to show your support,” wrote Guido on her blog. The photo going viral “is an indication that there are plenty of parents fed-up with the whole fundraiser charade,” added Guido.
School fund-raisers have become a $1.4 billion industry as parent organizations try to fill in the gaps left by education budget cuts. Once used to pay for extras, such as an annual culmination ceremony or a class field trip, the appeals for cash are now being used to pay for essentials such as computers, printers, science equipment, art and music programs, and academic materials.
Although the U.S. Department of Education prohibits PTAs from raising cash to pay for classroom educators in core subjects, such as math and English, some public schools that serve kids from wealthier families are raising funds to finance the salaries of assistants, aides, or technology teachers. In New York City, some PTAs have raised as much as $1 million a year to pay for supplies and staff, reported The New York Times.
Children enrolled in these “public-privates,” as the Times called them, have an advantage over kids whose families can’t afford to contribute to a fund-raiser designed to help pay for academic materials, tablet computers, or teacher’s assistants to work with struggling students. And most families can’t pay for food and rent and pick up the cost of a computer or art teacher too. Just over half of children enrolled in public school live below the poverty line—$24,250 per year for a family of four—according to a 2014 study by the Southern Education Foundation.
For middle-class moms and dads who have more than one child, school fund-raising can still break the bank—and exhaust time-crunched parents. “I’m all about helping out at the schools and supporting my children but when you have 3 kids in school who are also doing extra-curricular activities as well, sometimes even one ‘simple’ fundraiser is just more than I can tackle,” Heinz commented on Facebook. “I loved their sense of humor, obviously coming from parents who’ve been there-done that, and they understand.”