If you’ve got kids, at some point you’ll be asked to fundraise for their school. There’s no avoiding it. Whether your kids attend public, private, or parochial schools, no matter what you pay in tuition or taxes, it’s never going to be enough to fully fund all the things that schools should provide for its students.
Parents to the rescue! During the course of the dozen + years that your kids will be in school, from Pre-K to High School Graduation, you’ll be asked to support the school and students many times over, from buying wrapping paper to bidding at a silent auction, and everything in between.
Once upon a time, parents held bake sales in order to raise extra money for schools, but times have changed, costs have risen, and school fundraising has entered the digital age. Today, there are dozens and dozens of ways to fundraise, and millions of dollars are being raised every year.
Learn more about School Fundraising at Bake Sale and Beyond.
Does Every School Fundraise?
The short answer is yes. Every school, even Private schools in Los Angeles with tuition of $40,000/year or more, have to fundraise. Because the truth is that educating children is expensive.
For many schools, tuition or taxes cover the basics, but they don’t cover the extras that most people feel students need. In fact, most people feel that these “extras” are actually necessities.
Things like Art and Music programs, Physical Education, Field Trips, Libraries, Athletic Fields, Computer Labs, Instructional Support for Teachers, even facilities improvements – these are some of the things parents are asked to fundraise for at SoCal schools.
Find Public and Private Schools in our Los Angeles Education Guide
How Are Public Schools Funded?
Let’s take a little civics lesson and look at how schools are basically funded. The short answer is: Your Tax Dollars are the source of the funding, but of course it can be a complicated formula. In California, public schools receive money from the County, State, and Federal governments.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the 2nd largest in the US, serves nearly 600,000 students at over 1000 school campuses. The primary source of funding is from the State of California, a smaller percentage coming from the Federal Government, and a small percentage from the County.
And the State money has historically come via the collection of Property Taxes.
Proposition 13 – a Short History
In 1978, California voters passed Prop 13, which has had lasting consequences for how well schools have been funded in our State. Prop 13 capped property taxes, limiting the amount of money collected each year, and therefore limiting the amount of money set aside to fund public education. Severely limiting.
Prior to the passing of Prop 13, California schools were among the most well-funded in the nation, but according to EducationData.org, in 2021 California ranked Number 21 out of 50 States in per-pupil spending, at $12,728. Compare that to the State ranked Number 1, New York, which spent $23,321 per pupil.
New York State spent $10,593 more per student than California did that year. When you look at numbers like that, you start to see why school fundraising is necessary.
How Much Money Do Our Schools Need?
This is one of those “well, it depends” kind of answers, but a few factors come into play. First of all, the school community has to decide what they want to raise money for. Paying for all the kids in elementary school to visit the Natural History Museum may cost less than sending the High School Robotics team to a competition in Washington, D.C., but they each cost a lot.
Some schools opt for funding lots of programs and their parent groups work hard to raise the money, while others know their fundraising power is lower, so they opt to fund fewer and less expensive programs.
Overall it comes out to a lot of money. LAist and KPCC published a database of school fundraising in LAUSD schools and they found in the 2018-19 school year, over $36 Million dollars was raised.
And that doesn’t include Private or Parochial schools, nor the Independent Charter schools in Southern California. They all engage in fundraising efforts, too. Sometimes private schools are working on a long-term capital campaign, designed to fund investments in buildings and fields, as opposed to paying for a Gym Teacher or new Math Books, but they’re still raising money.
What Does the Money Pay For?
We asked parents in Los Angeles what their schools are raising money for and we got a list, which is not exhaustive, but paints a picture:
- Field Trips – admission to the destination as well as transportation
- Librarians, Art Teachers, Teacher Aides, Assistant Principals – additional staffing
- Library, Computer Lab, Language lab – facilities and equipment
- Teacher Resources – materials, trainings, etc.
- Supplemental Resources for Students – books beyond what’s provided by the State, materials and supplies, computers
- Beautification and Maintenance/Upgrades – of both buildings and the grounds
- Extras – Things that make school fun, which were the first things to be cut when money got tight
Fundraiser Ideas for Los Angeles Schools
There are literally hundreds of school fundraiser ideas, so it’s really a matter of choosing what makes the most sense for your school to take on – and how much money you need to raise to achieve your goals. Some fundraisers require a lot of work, while others are more passive.
- Silent Auction
- Amazon Smile
- School Carnival
- Local Business Saver Card
- Popcorn or Popsicle Sales
- Wrapping Paper Catalog Sales
- Candy Sales
- Direct Appeal
- Donors Choose
- Car Wash
- Spirit Wear Sales
- Local Business Sponsorships
- In-Kind Donations
- Box Tops for Education
- Ralphs Community Contributions
- Book Fair
- Coin Donation
- Restaurant Fundraisers
- Holiday Wreath Sales
- And so much more!
School Fundraising is a Fact of Life
Since you now know fundraising is part of parenting, it’s a smart idea to set up a family budget as each school year begins, and decide how much you can donate to your child’s school. Maybe you can donate on a monthly basis, or just wait until the wrapping paper catalog comes home in your kid’s backpack. Or if money’s tight, maybe you have time to donate instead, to help run the fundraisers. Volunteers are a valuable asset, after all.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder and Managing Editor of MomsLA.com.