Faced with belt-tightening from state and local coffers, Arizona’s public schools are relying more and more on parent-teacher groups to pay for items they say they need, but can’t afford.
No longer content to simply hold bake sales and stand on the sidelines, these parents are taking the lead in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for items that can directly impact classroom instruction.
Computers and other classroom technology. Rock-climbing walls. Mandarin Chinese lessons. Playground shade structures.
While at some East Valley schools, primarily those in lower-income neighborhoods, principals struggle to even get PTOs off the ground, parents at other more well-off schools use sharp business acumen to help fund what they say are needed educational tools.
“The money just isn’t there. When you look at the way the schools are funded compared to 48 other states in the country, they just don’t have the money,” said Marjorie Desmond, PTO president at Scottsdale’s Cheyenne Traditional School, which raises more than $60,000 annually. “Legislation moves very slowly and the kids grow up very quickly. The parents want to have what’s best for their own kids, and that’s how they make an impact most quickly, is getting involved at the grass-roots level.”