NYC councilman calls on city to let PTAs share funds

Amid massive parent fundraising disparities, Councilman Mark Treyger is asking the city to allow school PTAs to pool their money. 

Treyger’s requests could hit a nerve with parents who are not keen on sharing funds they’ve raised with schools that bring in significantly less money, or those who believe the main problem is inadequate state education funding. Parent fundraising can be used to boost school programs and pay for supplemental staff that the principal did not budget for.

Still, a recent release of unaudited and self-reported PTA fundraising data has fueled calls to relieve the disparities. For example, the Upper East Side’s P.S. 158 raised about $1.5 million, or $1,840 per student, last school year, while P.S. 194 in Manhattanville raised $391, or about $2 per student. Sharing PTA dollars means wealthier parent groups could help cover enrichment and support staff at schools with fewer resources.

In a letter sent Wednesday to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Treyger, who chairs the City Council’s Education Committee, asked the city to allow for collaboration between parent organizations. He also wants the education department to provide parent organizations with baseline funding for PTAs and PAs, something he’s advocated for in the past. 

“If DOE added a base-level of funding to PTAs and PAs and allowed schools that desired to share resources to do so, this could help move our schools in the right direction towards equity,” Treyger wrote. 

In the letter, Treyger, who sponsored the 2018 law that forced the department to compile and release school-by-school fundraising data, asked for a broader conversation about parent organizations and school funding, and for “all stakeholders come to the table to discuss the future of PTAs and PAs.”

The department’s release of fundraising numbers last month offered a window into how parent organizations raise vastly different amounts.

Katie O’Hanlon, a spokeswoman for the city education department, said they will review Treyger’s letter and are “looking forward to partnering with parent leaders to develop solutions to the inequities between parent organizations.”

Carranza has acknowledged the differences in fundraising and shown interest in tackling the issue, though it’s unclear what steps the city might take.

“We have schools in New York City that have a whole other funding system in play,” Carranza told his parent advisory board last week. “The privileged get even more privileged and the poor get even more poor […] That’s something I think we could make a lot of headway on.” 

The conversation is sure to stir up debate. Parent leaders in Manhattan’s District 3, where fundraising amounts can range between a few hundred dollars and up to $2 million, have floated a wide range of ideas to address the disparities, such as creating a central pool of money, starting a fund-sharing system, and capping donations at certain schools — a concept that’s going too far for some parents. 

“I have kids of my own, and it’s hard to be like, ‘All right, let me think about everyone else,’” said Dennis Morgan, a member of District 3’s Community Education Council, the local elected parent body that can approve rezoning, previously told Chalkbeat. “But this moment where we are in time, where we’re like, ‘Me, me, me, me,’ let’s figure out how we can lift everybody up.”

Read Treyger’s letter below.