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Mailbag: Apodoca raises good point about school equality

March 15, 2012

Re "Disparity grows in school gifts," March 4, by Patrice Apodoca:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our public schools received enough money to hire extra teachers, to lower the class size, to have art and physical education and music and science teachers for every grade, and for extra coaches and trainers and counselors at every school?

Until then, at least in this district, we will be the schools of the "haves and super-have nots," because many schools have parents that "buy" these extra personnel, as Apodaca noted in her column. She raised an important issue of disparity in funding in this district, which was reinforced in her last column, with the discrepancies of test scores, with the schools with the lowest scores not surprisingly also coming from the highest poverty area ("It's time to reform No Child Left Behind act," March 11).

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My children have been lucky to go to schools in Newport Beach, where the foundations raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplant what the school does not receive in the way of state or federal funds. I know how hardworking and generous parents are in these schools, since I was once the Newport Elementary School Foundation president and also president of the PTA.

But I also know that not all parents contribute, because not all parents are able. Parents generously try to give what they can to the betterment of all of the kids at their school, not just their "own" kids. Many others give their time instead of donations. And at least in Newport El, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High schools, there are many parents who are working two jobs to make ends meet and can't afford to help. How lucky they are, then, to be part of these schools, where they can benefit from the generosity of the foundations.

But what about the kids in the other schools? The kids in Costa Mesa schools, some of whom end up at Newport Harbor, but during their elementary days, at least, don't have the benefit of wealthier parents contributing to the school. And many go on to Costa Mesa or Estancia high schools, where the PTAs or foundations raise a fraction of what is raised at Corona del Mar High School and Newport Coast or Lincoln elementary schools.

What can be done? Patrice mentioned that some districts suggest pooling their parent donations, and many parents are threatening to pull out.

What about a volunteer donation effort?

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