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?