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The Value of Volunteering

For many of us with school-aged children, school fundraisers and volunteer opportunities are a lot more than just doing our part to help out the school. Some fundraisers that are put together for specific events can help children and their families cover the costs for otherwise unaffordable field trips, camps or other events.

Yes, scholarships are available for many of these kinds of things, but many times the paperwork, competition or ridiculous financial standards are not feasible.

Things like selling cookie dough can cover a 5th graders entire 5th grade science camp trip. Where my kids go to school we even have the option to help volunteer at our Bingo night to earn money to go towards specific field trips. This is a fabulous option for moms like me, who are on a budget and have more than one child. This year alone the cost of field trips for both of my kids was certainly more than I could afford. Spending a few hours helping run Bingo night was more than worth it.

But the word on the blacktop is that this will no longer be an option. Time donated will go to the school as a whole instead of individual kids/families. And any fundraising done will no longer go towards an individual child but to that child’s entire grade level.

Last year AB 165 was a bill introduced here in California which was a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the State of California which claimed that some California school districts were denying students a free public education by charging fees for certain classes or extracurricular activities. This piece of legislation, a very hot topic in California, would have prohibited schools from collecting fees from students for books, art supplies, lab equipment or mandatory school-related activities, subjected schools to annual audits and required all schools to post notices in each classroom about the no-fee policy. But Governor Brown vetoed the legislation in October.

Brown said that while all schools should be compliant in providing students with their right to a free public education, the bill takes the “wrong approach” and “goes too far.”

Reading up on this rejected bill and the possible changes facing my own school has me wondering, what is fair?

Should parents be able to volunteer and fundraise as much as they are able in order to benefit their own child or should the money raised go towards the grade or group as a whole? Personally I am on the fence. I do appreciate the option to volunteer a few hours to pay for a field trip or two. I also like being able to (attempt anyway) fundraise to pay for things like camp. I’m not sure how fair it is to be the parent working extra hard to volunteer or fundraise, yet only see the same benefits as the parent who hates to volunteer therefore never does.

What are the rules where your child goes to school?

22 Responses to “The Value of Volunteering”

  1. Peter Schott

    To my knowledge, we don't even have the option to volunteer to drive down costs for field trips and such. We've always had the fundraiser option at higher grades, but it goes towards just that student (which I feel is fair). The concern I have with the volunteering is that some parents work – no time to really volunteer when it's most needed. I'll agree that this does tend to favor those who have parents who can either take time off work or who stay at home. I don't agree with the legislation, but I can see how some would view it as unfair. Of course, seeing that these tend to be extra activities, I'd also tend to think that education is the main thing over whatever costs are incurred. I'd also wonder whether it might make sense to limit field trips in order to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate.

    As for the whole "don't collect fees for mandatory activities", I'd actually lean towards being okay with that. If something's mandatory at a public school, but you have to pay extra for it, there's a larger problem. What do you do when someone says "not going to pay that fee"? Do you kick their kid out of school? Do you find the money somewhere? Do you take the parents to court? What if the parents really don't have that money?

  2. Lorri Jeanne

    I don't know how it is at the schools around me, but I think the fundraisers benefits should be just for those doing it, not everyone. I don't think parents should have to pay fees for mandatory activities either.

  3. Ann Fudge Cluck

    I would love to volunteer at the local schools, however, I have no school age children.

  4. veronica hay

    When i was in school, I don't think parents were even able to volunteer at our school. If we had to sell candy or chocolate or anything like that to win a contest, the parents were not suppose to help us at all. When my son gets school age, i really hope I'm able to volunteer

  5. rebeka deleon

    My children do not go to school yet but when they do, I will make sure where we are is a good area and a good school. I do not think any school should make people pay for younger kids to get an education or we will have more people in the US with none.

  6. Jennifer

    It's great to get children started early volunteering. It is such a good feeling to help others. I have run into some problems with age requirements though, and quite a few will not let children help around here, which is a shame, but I understand insurance rules too.

  7. abdoggett

    My sons and I volunteer. We started volunteering to satisfy requirements for Boy Scouts and for National Honor Society but we found that we enjoyed helping others so much that we have continued to volunteer.

  8. evans s

    I don't have time to volunteer right now since my days are pretty full and any spare time is spent on family get togethers. I think if the parent is doing the volunteering then they should have the option of where their time should be allocated (class or a specific child). However if parents participate then how do the schools pay for the activities/supplies? Time volunteered is not going to pay the bills.

  9. miriama59

    There is always this worry about fairness. And often in our quest for it we lose it. I see both sides but I think that when I volunteered it was usually to benefit some broad plan rather than just something for my husband. My daughter is in high school now so my volunteering is usually helping with food, toiletry and toy drives.

    • Sally S.

      I'm tired of living with the "fairness" generation. My fifth graders seem to think that everything should be fair and handed to them. They get mad if 1 person gets an extra pencil, or a different colored eraser, than them.

  10. Tammy

    I am on the fence on that one too but I sure believe that they should be putting less money towards administration and more towards the kids. Our school district admins go to expensive dinners and have expensive cocktails all on the schools tab! Grrrrr

  11. Adcourvi

    I volunteer whenever possible and have been since I was in school. Children are so dear to me and volunteering is a wonderful way to help our children as well as raise money for their activities.

  12. Marcia Goss

    My kids got started volunteering when they were in high school and continue to do it. Now I have granddaughter, and we are trying to teach her how to be charitable and give back to our community.

  13. @ATweetMom

    Sometimes there just aren't enough parents that can be involved. Many students would like to fundraise for all the extra curricular events but aren't able to because their families can't commit for whatever reason. This was ultimately the reason for the above mentioned bill. To give equal opportunities to all students. Unfortunately the same parents are often the ones that do most of the volunteering and fundraising at our public schools. Their efforts are always for the benefit of the group. Students that are unable to participate off campus are often offered other opportunities to help on campus, like distribution of fundraising products and helping behind the scenes. This gives them the ability to participate in the process and help the group to earn the extra funds needed for these types of events. I think at the high school level a student can fundraise for certain things like athletics and dance and the funds are kept in the high school bank in their name. At the younger grade levels I have never seen that practice. Most students are excited about volunteering their time and fundraising for a purpose and that's a wonderful thing.

  14. Calli

    I work at a non-profit organization and we are lucky enough to be able to give out scholarships for field trips to our museum. I still greatly appreciate those parents who can and do take the time to chaperone these field trips; it makes a big difference in the overall experience if the ratio of chaperones to children is smaller rather than larger. I know all parents cannot afford to take the time, but be thankful towards those who do!

  15. Sally S.

    I'm a 5th grade teacher, and my students have spent the entire school year raising money for their 5th grade trip to Branson, MO. In my class of 17, I had 2 parents decide it would be best to simply pay the $55 fee for the field trip. The other 15 have worked at restaurants, sold fundraiser after fundraiser, and auctioned off donated items. Most of these fundraisers went into the general fund, so that everyone would have a chance to go. Any parents or siblings that want to go on the trip had to pay out-of-pocket.

    I believe that a quality education should be free, but additional classes, field trips, materials, etc. should not. After all, how much do we REALLY receive for free after we graduate from public school?

  16. Heather

    I remember in school (at various levels) having to either raise money for field trips, or shell out a reasonable fee to participate. None of the activities were required for our education, and there were lots of times that kids could apply for a "hardship" waiver for the fees–normally by having volunteer hours on the part of child or parent. I think it worked rather well having that option.

  17. Erica C.

    It's great to have a way to volunteer throughout life…I love that most schools have it as a mandatory part of curriculum.

  18. Stacy O'Connor

    What a way to discourage volunteering for fundraising! When you volunteer, do you earn what people donate, or do so many hours equal a particular dollar amount towards a trip? If it is the latter, I would say that the school is really hiring you to work their fundraiser, rather than having you volunteer. I still think it's a good idea–not everyone has indefinite disposable income to spare. And, if that is the scheme, it is a horrible idea to have the "volunteered" hours count to the whole grade–it would make me stop helping out with bingo night!

  19. Wendy Jacobson

    I believe that there is no common approach to assisting schools in meeting the costs of extra curricular activities. A multitude of approches often works better from fundraising to volunteering opportunities. Not all parents can afford the cost of fundraisers and not all parents have the time to volunteer. Offering a choice and actively working with parents to particiapte in one of these options is the best approach. I firmly believet that no school should require mandatory fees to particpate in the extra curricular activies, such as art, P.E., etc.. The schools should offer these choices to all students or not at all.


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