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I’ll Volunteer, But I’ve Had Enough Of School Fundraisers

Sep 17, 2018

You know the first-day-of-school afterglow your kids have when they race home, tell you about which friend is in their class, which friend isn’t and how they think the year is going to go — before dropping a stack of papers asking for so much money for extras it gives your mortgage payment a run for its money? I hate that day.

I secretly loathe pizza days where my kids plead with me to shell out $16 for cold pizza that they eat in the hallway while racing back to their classroom.

I hate that day because I know that I’m about to crush my kids by saying "no" to all the extras I won’t pay for. No, they can’t have that super expensive catered lunch once a week that amounts to nearly 20 per cent of our family’s weekly grocery bill. No, they can’t sell magazine subscriptions to our neighbours, the grandparents, their aunts, uncles or our family in the U.S. so that they can get that new bike on display during a school assembly or, worse, a hard plastic toy that will end up in the dark corner of our basement and that I will step on as I’m carrying a large heavy load of laundry. Yes, I will pay for their agendas (they’ve already written in them so I guess I have no choice).

When it comes to my kids’ school, I’m happy to volunteer on field trips, in the class or even fold all the clothes in the lost and found bin to put out for parents before the Christmas concerts. Just don’t ask me for money.


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It’s not that our family isn’t generous — we have charities that we regularly support — and instead of birthday parties with gifts from their school friends, our son donates cash to a different charity every year. But I resent the guilt that comes with school fundraising. Don’t get me wrong — the parent council at our kids’ school has done great stuff with the cash. They’ve purchased books for the library and commissioned a buddy bench where lonely kids can turn. They’ve put on amazing math nights with prizes for the kids as well as family game nights. They’ve even helped pay for some field trips. All good stuff to be sure.

But the rolling requests for cash throughout the year, multiplied by three children, gets tiresome.

When it comes to my kids’ school, I’m happy to volunteer on field trips.... Just don’t ask me for money.

I hate the look on my kids’ faces when they come home excited thinking of all the prizes they’ll get if they’re the top seller of magazine subscriptions. Or listening to them beg us to buy different popcorn flavours.

“Can we please buy the caramel corn? Or this one with the bright colours? Please? PLEASE?” they squeal while waving a brochure in my face.

I secretly loathe pizza days where my kids plead with me to shell out $16 for cold pizza that they eat in the hallway while racing back to their classroom. I hate those days because I still have to pack them something to eat for the second nutrition break. I know the pizza lunches help pay for grade 6 camp, but still. If I’m going to pay $16 a week for a pizza lunch for three kids I should at least get a full day off from making lunches.


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It’s not that I don’t participate in my kids’ school. I volunteer to go on a lot of field trips. Like, a lot. When my youngest was in kindergarten, I helped out in the classroom one morning a week. And yes, one year, when there was no room left in the gym during the Christmas concert and I had to stand and listen from the hallway outside, I folded all the clothes from the lost and found bins and organized them on tables so that parents could find the boots or jacket or sweater that their kids’ swore up and down was not in the lost and found bin.

Fundraising has become big business in schools, but it also raises the issue of inequality among schools. While some schools struggle with providing their students the basics, others can fundraise thousands of dollars to outfit every classroom with the latest technology.

The issue goes deeper than fundraising — schools need to be properly funded. And when they’re not, parents fundraise to fill the gap. But should parents really be paying for this stuff? What’s a parent to do?

In our house, it’s tough to say no sometimes, but we hold firm: I happily check the box that I can volunteer and toss the multiple requests for cash in the recycling bin.

Article Author Kelly Pedro
Kelly Pedro

Kelly Pedro is a former journalist turned freelance writer who specializes in writing about education, health and literacy. Her work has appeared in several publications including The London Free Press, The Toronto Star and Today’s Parent. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her husband, three children and Juno, the Bernese mountain dog. Connect with Kelly on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn or Alignable.

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