by Cheryl Jackson Tuesday January 6, 2009

When school starts in September, my kids come home and we talk about their first day. Who's in their classes? Which teachers do they have? Do they like them? Do they have any homework yet?  

After the chat, they leave, and I take out my chequebook. I spend the next hour or so filling out forms and writing cheques. There are Home and School fees, sports fees, art class fees, agenda fees, yearbook fees. And these are just the beginning. Later in the year, there will be requests for field trip fees, scientists in the classroom fees, theatre troupe fees, magazine fundraisers, cookie dough and gift wrap sales, pizza lunches, and the biggie - the May Fair, which at our school can rake in $30,000 on a good day.

Most of the money raised, of course, comes from parents. I've heard some parents say they'd rather just write a cheque for a few hundred dollars at the beginning of the year and get rid of all the fundraisers. They don't mind giving, if it means their child will benefit. They just hate the nickel and diming.

But in a public school system, why are we asked to raise money in the first place? What is the money used for? What about schools where parents don't have a lot of money left over at the end of the month, and who can't raise thousands of dollars to "enrich" their schools? 

We've got a great group of people who have thought long and hard about these questions. Join us on Your Voice to hear what they have to say about this controversial issue of private money in public education.