New rules on fund raising proposed by a school system committee came under sharp fire Monday night from delegates to the PTA Council of Howard County.
Representatives of school PTAs expressed fears that proposed regulations will discourage individual schools' fund-raising efforts in the name of equity and will transfer control from local organizations to the county school board.
Fund raising is big business in Howard County schools, said James R.
McGowan, associate superintendent for instruction and administration and chairman of the fund raising study committee.
The committee surveyed PTAs, booster clubs and student organizations on their fund-raising activities, and estimated that the organizations raise between $1 million and $2 million a year.
McGowan said that as Howard County's population has grown, school officials saw a need to replace the fund-raising guidelines, first issued by former associate superintendent Noel T. Farmer, with a policy and regulations.
"This equity issue will destroy all the incentives in the PTA," said Jordan Alpert, president of the Stevens Forest Elementary School PTA. He said school spirit and pride grows as parents work to raise money for their children's schools.
Dasher Green Elementary School PTA President Melodi Smith said parents she spoke with feared that the efforts to promote equity would restrict their ability to raise money to meet their school's needs.
"You're tearing down the one way some people can participate in school activities, and that is fund raising," Smith said. She added that inequities are automatic because principals ask different "wish lists" of their PTAs.
Criticisms of how the draft policy dealt with equity were focused on a statement that endorsed it as a board goal. Two proposed regulations relating to the issue also came under criticism.
One regulation would establish a local review committee to approve planned fund-raisers and be sure that each had a declared purpose and that financial records would be open to any interested citizen. The committee would include the school principal, PTA president, one community member and other members mutually selected.
The draft policy states that periodic reports on fund-raising activity will go to the school board to allow board members to study the equity issue.
A proposal to ban individual incentives such as watches or radios awarded for highest sales also came under attack.
Representatives of the committee that drew up the draft policy said further revisions will be made before it is introduced to the school board at the Nov. 20 meeting. A public hearing will be scheduled before the board votes on the policy.
The idea was not to restrict fund raising, said Wallace "Gene" Shipp Jr., a Wilde Lake Middle School parent and committee member.
"The most important thing I have heard here tonight is that there are a lot of good-hearted, dedicated people who want to help their school, and the purpose of the fund-raising committee is not to interfere with that," he said.