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Is it Education or Charity that Starts at Home?

Is it Education or Charity that Starts at Home?

There was a time when society believed that education started at home. That parents were the first line in the drive to achieve each child’s potential. But, those beliefs and objectives have been thwarted by another more insidious problem - a lack of funding in public education.

I was recently talking to a parent regarding the apparent apathy of parents in public schools. This rather sage parent pointed out to me that it’s not really apathy at work – it’s a lack of information. Parents are not informed because they are either working to support the household, or they are so busy volunteering to “save the schools” that they are unable to see what is going on in their own child’s life and in their own child’s classroom. Non-working parents are made to feel as though they are selfish and therefore must give back – sometimes in amounts well in excess of a normal work week.

Hours and hours are spent on fundraising so that every child can have a chance, but at what cost? That volunteer’s child suffers the consequences. No matter how much cache saying, “My mom ran the auction this year,” might have for the fifteen minutes during which it was relevant, it doesn’t make up for the fact that that child ate TV dinners for two weeks and had no help with her homework. It doesn’t make up for the fact that instead of watching her softball game, mom was putting labels on place cards and wearing wrinkled clothing because, “someone has to do it.” It doesn’t change the fact that that child was allowed to watch TV and play computer games because mom was too busy trying to raise enough money to save physical education, something that used to be a given in every school. It doesn’t change the fact that mom’s actions have actually been antithetical to her goal – what started out as an opportunity to help her child grow and succeed and be a part of an all-too short childhood has become nothing more than a quest to put a band aid on a gaping hole.

It seems as though the days of Beaver Cleaver and a true stay-at-home mom with nothing more to do than bake, iron and watch soap operas is a thing of the past. It yielded to the career mom who placed her child in daycare so as to ensure she could live the fullest life possible, which yielded to women who have tried to have the best of both worlds.

Now we have the career mom with management level skills running our auctions and bake sales and bringing in more dollars than ever. But at what price? And what about the schools who don’t have parents who are able to volunteer and fund raise? What happens to the kids who don’t have parent volunteers to teach PE or to run the school auction? Maybe that’s the next great business model – figuring out a way to outsource volunteer hours and fundraising.

This treadmill that leads to nowhere can’t go on forever. Education is an obligation and a promise made to future generations and it is up to us to ensure that that promise is fulfilled. Teachers, not parents, should be teaching our children so as to ensure a fair chance for all.

And, the State, not the parents, should be raising the funds to meet this task. The time is upon us. Wake up, California.


Article by Educate Our State Leaders, Teri Levy and Beth Chagonjian

Teri Levy is the mother of four daughters ages 2 to 12 and a founding leader of Educate Our State. Teri is a public school parent, was President of the PTA at her children’s school, and is responsible for the “Say No to Cuts” Campaign, which produced the successful public service announcement (PSA) video “Hot For Teachers”.
Beth Chagonjian is the daughter of a teacher and was educated in the California public school system through college.  She is the married mother of two children currently attending California schools.