School board to debate controversial fund-raising limits

Proposal would restrict soliciting methods

December 16, 1990|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Next month's Super Bowl could be the last one in which Howard County football fans can have subs delivered by public school student and parent groups, if the school board restricts fund raising.

Controversial limitations -- such as a ban on door-to-door sales - are included in a policy proposal to restrict fund-raising methods and the recipients of money collected by PTAs, booster clubs and student organizations. The proposed policy, presented Thursday to the school board, would replace administrative memos that have guided fund raising over the last few years.

Comments and criticisms from students and PTA representatives are likely to fill the air at a hearing on the proposed fund-raising policy, set for the Jan. 10 board meeting. Board members agreed last week to have a workshop session on the policy before voting on it, probably in March.

Sub sales, in which students take advance orders and deliver sandwiches to customers' doors on Super Bowl Sunday, are popular fund-raisers that would have to stop under the proposed policy, said Charles E. Scott, school board student associate and a member of the committee that drafted the proposed policy.

James R. McGowan, associate superintendent for instruction and administration, has estimated that fund raising for the county's public schools is a $1 million - to $2 million-a-year business.

The proposed policy would prohibit all students from selling or soliciting door to door, a ban that grew out of committee members' concerns for children's safety. Student government leaders plan to lobby for an exemption for high school students.

Scott said high school students are also worried-about a proposed ban on sales incentives other than token rewards, such as ice cream, for members of the top-selling class. Fund-raising agencies have given such items as watches and radios to top-selling students.

"Middle school students seem to be tantalized by these flashy things (prizes) that cost, like, 3 cents. But in high school, it's different. You know what you're getting," Scott said.

Some high school students can reduce the cost of their prom tickets through fund-raisers, Scott reported.

He explained how it works: A school group contracts to sell an item for a fund-raising agency. The agency turns over the group's profits and a computer printout with the names of students who sold more than, for example, 100 items. Those students receive credits toward the price of prom tickets.

The proposed policy came to the school board with few changes in the draft version, which had drawn some sharp Criticism from delegates to the PTA Council of Howard County at the council's Nov. 5 meeting.

However, the committee took PTA presidents off a local committee that would be responsible for reviewing and approving fundraisers. Wallace "Gene" Shipp, president of the Wilde Lake High School PTSA and a committee member, said the action was taken after PTA Council representatives and several PTA members privately requested it.

"I was somewhat taken aback by it, but that's the way it is." Shipp said.

Council President Rosemary E.S. Mortimer said the request was not an official PTA Council action, "but we (four individuals) were concerned that it could splinter the entire school."

"This policy does not curtail fund raising per se. It simply puts some limitations on it," said Shipp.

Shipp said major points in the proposed policy that are likely to be topics at the public hearing are: Whether an exemption should be granted to allow high school students to go door to door.

Whether booster clubs, parent groups that support specific student activities, should be allowed to supplement school athletic budgets to make up "perceived shortfalls." For example, if the school board authorizes $10,000 for uniforms and the team needs $16,000, booster clubs would be allowed to raise the additional $6,000, Shipp said.

He said the question becomes one of where to stop: "What if the $6,000 shortfall is in textbooks?"

Incentives, in which committee opinions are divided between the view that incentives are bad for children and the view that middle school students, in particular, would not put much effort into fund-raisers without the prospect of a reward.

The committee was appointed to study fund raising in 1989 after two concerns surfaced. School officials worried that fund raising was taking up large chunks of class time, and individual school PTAs were being asked to raise money for items that many parents felt should be supplied by the Board of Education.

The proposed policy would subject planned fund-raisers to review by a local committee made up of the school principal and at least four community members.

Local committees would approve fund-raisers that had a stated purpose, did not interfere with class time, offered voluntary participation to students and teachers, and met such other requirements as liability insurance and registration with the Department of Education.

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