Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hot topic: Preschool fund-raising expectations

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic:

"I'd love to hear about people's experiences with the fund-raising expectations at their preschools. Two questions here:
(1) What did people give, annually (outside of tuition) for extras, whether fundraising dinners/events or field trips/kid projects...

(2) To what extent did they feel their giving was required to secure a good recommendation from the preschool director when private school kindergarten application time rolled around?"


  1. Yow. In our co-op preschool, bribes were not on the radar. Is that the way it operates in other preschools? That's kind of horrifying.

  2. 150 Parker asks you to buy 2 gala tickets at $150 and donate to the silent auction.

    What are other preschool requirements?

  3. Coops require you to donate your soul, but not a lot of money. I don't think coop directors do a lot of schmoozing with private school admissions officers, so that really doesn't come in to play at all.

    My child's director gave me a copy of her evaluation, and it was brutally honest -- included the good and the more difficult (she wasn't a kid to roll with the punches.) I had done a lot for the school and had and still have a great relationship with the director. But I don't think they will compromise their integrity when it comes to recommendations. Admissions directors won't trust future recommendations if they directors stretch the truth as a payback for donations. I'm sure directors can manage to work in "good family bonus points" as long as they are honest about the kid.

  4. There is no fundraising at all at our preschool. parent involvement is welcome but not at all required or expected. its not a coop. Cost is $1175 a month for 5 days full time (no half day options), but you can choose 3,4 or 5 days a week. Upon registering, each family (not each child) pays an additional $500 facility fee.

  5. We are required to raise a certain amount at our coop preschool (in addition to donating time), but there's definitely no pressure to donate more in order to secure a good recommendation. I would run screaming for the door with my child in tow if it worked that way.

  6. I've only been in co-ops, so I can't tell you any other expectations, but our preschool director is awesome and honest and even though there are some parents who totally do most of the fundraising, she doesn't seem to play favorites.

    We are however expected to buy tix to the fundraiser (150 X 2), and donate at least one item for the auction. But I personally know people who had no money and didn't go to the fundraiser and as far as I know, their children continue to be allowed to attend the school (at a time when there is limited sibling spots).

    But its a pretty wealthy group of parents, and I think there is some super above and beyond trust fund donations going on there--no one talks about it.

  7. Our full time preschool is geared towards working parents, no part time option. We are asked to contribute $400 for the annual fundraiser through event tickets, raffle tickets, donations in kind, cash donations etc. This is an increase from last year and it is a hardship for some families. At least they are upfront about the expectations. Parent volunteering at the fundraiser and in general is also highly encouraged.

    There is nothing in the school atmosphere that indicates there is any tie between how much you donate and school recs. That really seems pretty unethical to me. Then again, it could be happening and I just don't realize it.

  8. to 8:10
    150 Parker invites you to come to the gala and donate, but it is not a 'requirement'. This is not any different than any school that has a fundraiser. The private K-8 schools have the same fundraisers as you will see, but not everyone attends. Remember, these fundraiser are for tuition assistance and for faculty training.

  9. The recommendation letters are sent in December and most of the fundraisers are in March and April so can't really see the connection.

  10. Our preschool does nothing in the way of fundraising. It is full days, 2,3,4 or 5 per week. Cost is comparable to most preschools, there is a $300 "supply" cost at the beginning of each year per child. No parent involvement except to voluntarily chaperone field trips. There are always too many volunteers and often the parents are turned away. The only thing the parents raise money for is the holiday gift for the teachers.

  11. If you don't contribute to fundraising, it won't hurt you in the admissions game.

    But if you gave an enormous sum, your preschool director might mention it and it *could* help your chances of admission. But it would have to be a gigantic amount of money to be worth mentioning.

    A lot of people play that game. They know they can't tell admissions directors that if admitted, they would be able to make substantial financial contributions. THat would seem like a bribe. But the preschool director can mention that the family gave a significant sum and is likely to contribute.

    Same is true with volunteering. If you don't volunteer it probably won't hurt you. But if you made an important contribution (chairing a fundraising event, serving on the board, etc) the preschool director can mention it and it can help.

  12. As the parent of two children in private school, I can say that I was blissfully unaware that my own actions, or lack thereof, could affect their admissions outcomes. I wouldn't worry about it.

  13. One of the usual suspects.

  14. totally off topic- when do preschool acceptance letters come out. I have a friend applying and feel funny asking if she has heard yet

  15. Time and attitude were more valuable at our school than cash. Be nice to the teachers.

    Show them you apprecaite their work.


    They took care of us when recommendation time came around.

    We got our #1 private choice.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. *boggle*

    When I applied to French American, the admissions director had never even *heard* of our preschool (a co-op, since closed.) We were offered a place in FAIS which we chose not to take (great school, not right for us.)

  18. Where did you end up instead?

  19. Now I know why I did not apply to private schools, sounds like a mini fraternity.

  20. Yes, an arbitrary lottery is much better.

  21. "Yes, an arbitrary lottery is much better."
    What a snotty comment. It is not ideal, but it is also not $20,000 a year.

  22. At least with private school admissions you can influence the process to some extent. It at least gives you something to do with your angst and worry ;-)

    And yes, I'd rather have my kid be in a class of 15-18 children with 2 teachers than in a classroom with 22 kids and a single teacher, doing worksheet after worksheet just because it helps the teacher control the kids.

  23. doing worksheet after worksheet just because it helps the teacher control the kids

    has not been my child's experience. we've had good teachers with extraordinary, artful abilities to run a classroom with kids doing multiple and interesting projects. not saying it's perfect, but a lot of us have experiences that are far from this stereotype. how many hours have you spent in a public school classroom lately?

  24. Do you know of ANY top tier private school that sends kindergarteners home with worksheets as homework?

  25. Don't know what you mean by "top-tier" (is that an exclusive set within the gated community? lol) but, yes, I have heard of this happening....though perhaps not as much.

    My kid never had more than 10 minutes of "homework" in kindergarten. Usually this got done during afterschool or while I was making supper. The biggest difference between private and public schools is the presence of low-income kids--they exist in public, they are basically absent from private (by design). These kids tend to be behind the other kids who already know their letters and numbers. They don't have the reading and vocab experience. There is already an achievement gap before school even starts. With me so far?

    So, the homework sheets in kindergarten, plus the reading logs some teachers send home as well, which I personally found extraneous, are designed to bring those kids up to speed. They are also designed to engage the families at home in reading and learning along with the kids. Yes, they can be a little easy for kids like mine. But 10 minutes is not onerous. My kids both enjoyed the coloring and drawing component--draw an item that starts with the letter "D"--or draw a picture of the story you just read/had read to you.

    The point is, you come to realize that other kids don't have the advantages your kids have, and you are willing to put up with some stuff, in not unreasonable amounts, that is more directed at them. In other words, it's not all about ME and MY kid.

    That is the biggest lesson of public school, in my opinion. And not a bad lesson, either. We learn to get along and help each other and care for other people's kids and even (the horror!) put up with a little bit of time spent on worksheets to bring all the kids to a base level. And we don't have to spend $20,000 or more/year for the privilege of separating our kids from the ones who are low-income and need that help.

  26. The exact same lesson can be learned in any school, whether public or private. We certainly have learned that lesson at our school, and it is not a public school. And yes, it is a good lesson to learn.

    To those who make comments about families paying $20,000 per year for school, I have only this to say: it's not as though we're paying $20,000 (or some fraction thereof, if we're lucky enough to receive tuition assistance) for some kind of frivolous membership to a gated community, as some comments both here and out in the world would suggest. We are instead paying for teacher and secretary and administrative salaries, school building mortgage payments, library books, pencils, carpeting, utilities, band-aids, and the list goes on and on. Almost every independent school in the Bay Area was started by parents or teachers who, once upon a time, said, "Hey, let's get together and put a lot of energy into building a school that's really great."

  27. Yet there are social costs to your removing yourselves from the public sphere. However great your school is, and no doubt it is, you are choosing (whether or not that is your overt intention) to separate yourselves from people of lower income, for the most part, and also from many people of color. Oh, you may have a few folks who contribute to "diversity" but nothing like what San Francisco or California really looks like and sounds like. Private schools select for success, and that means a certain set of people.

    Your individual decision, taken together with the many other families like yours, contributes to our public system being poorer and browner and less politically connected than it would be if you and your cohort didn't make this choice.

    Them's the facts. I have many, many friends whose kids attend school in the private sphere, often for good reasons. I appreciate the ones who at least recognize the above facts and don't try to paper them over when they talk about their decisions. No doubt you have good reasons too, but these facts are still there. I say that knowing that there are no perfect schools and no perfect decisions in this life, and no perfect people making the decisions about many like issues. Including myself. But I don't pretend I'm doing the world a favor if I make a world-unfriendly decision like buy an SUV or whatever.

    It's just hard not to notice whose faces are NOT in our schools, and to realize how much better our--yes OUR--public schools would be if the private schools were outlawed, or--okay, less draconian!--at least if more advantaged families chose them for their kids, who will do well in almost any setting anyway.

    Sorry to be harsh, but I'm pretty passionate about this, and I'm not the only one. There's very little that's carbon-neutral---or school-neutral.....we could really use you guys' efforts to build these great schools that are accessible to all our kids.

  28. To the poster at 5:16 and 8:58 pm (quite possibly one and the same):

    I'm curious to know whether you send or sent your child to preschool? If so, which preschool? Given your convictions and finger-pointing, I sincerely hope you sent your child to a public or Headstart preschool, unlike the majority of the posters here who send their children to private preschools.

    I completely respect your perspective(s), but also find that you are narrow-minded in assuming that all parents at privately funded schools are selfish consumers.

    By the way, if you're missing some faces it's partly because SFUSD didn't give us schools. Please remember the dreadful pre and post sibling 0 /7 statistics provided by District this year and last, and know that a great many San Francisco applicant families received none of their seven choices. When faces with an SFUSD letter saying "Sorry, but at this time we cannot offer you any of your seven choices," and an acceptance letter from a school which will happily offer a spot to our child, we chose the latter.

  29. P.S. The number this year will be even tougher. I have many friends applying to public school, and even though we are not in the public school system, I am 100% supportive of them, and know that I will undoubtedly be providing moral support to some of them for the next 6 months, through summer lotteries and the ten day count, as they try to get a school that works for their family. Are you supportive of friends who choose paths which are different than yours?

  30. P.P.S. My child is browner than all get out, so I'm having a good laugh over your post as I re-read it, 8:58 pm, and wondering what your child's skin color is.

  31. IF only there were research to show that those kids actually learn anything from doing worksheets at age 5.

  32. There is now actual research showing quite the contrary:

    • Harris Cooper reviewed research on homework and shows almost no correlation between homework and achievement for elementary school students. There is only a .7 correlation for middle school students for the first 60 minutes; if middle school students do more than that, he finds little or no correlation.

    Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., Patall, E.A. (2006). Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76I, 1-62.

    • Research presented at a 1996 national Head Start conference demonstrated that kids attending developmentally appropriate K-2 classes scored higher in reading and math than those in academically oriented classes.

    Sherman, C.W., Mueller, D.P. (1996). Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Student Achievement in Inner-City Elementary Schools. Head Start National Research Conference, June 1996.

    • According to a study of children at more than 60 schools, by the end of 4th grade, those kids who had attended academically oriented preschools earned significantly lower grades than those who had attended more progressive “child-initiated” preschool classes, where the emphasis was on play.

    Marcon, R.A., (2002). Moving Up the Grades: Relationship Between Preschool Model and Later School Success. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 4 (1).

    I copied all of these off of which is a great organization.

  33. I would have sent my child to a public preschool if we had qualified. But we don't have universal preschool, do we. We are just a little too middle class to make the cut for CDCs and Headstart (five figure income). We did get some state support to send our kids to a non-profit, private preschool.

    It seems a little to compare shades of brown, but my kids turned out dark-skinned like their dad. And what color are you ;-).

    Yes, I support my friends, but I asked them all to *consider* the social impact of avoiding public. We have lost our way in this country--lots of people don't think about the commons at all as a factor in decision-making. I support the private sector as an economic engine, but a decent society provides some basic supports in the arena of the commons--to my mind, this includes education, health care, support for the elderly, and minimum supports for the poor. Not a cushy life, but the basics. I do not see how we make a democratic society for our kids if we do not provide these basics. And, too, public school is one of the few places where we can all meet each other and learn from each other.

    I understand about 0/7 and 0/15. Some people got screwed because there aren't good-enough schools to go around. I wish some parents would look beyond the top 15-20 schools though, because there are decent ones below the radar. Your kids will be okay, really. But ultimately, like I said, it's not a perfect set of decisions. Lots of my friends go private and I don't talk trash to them about it. I get it.

    What I appreciate is that they recognize and acknowledge the downside of their decision in terms of the social cost and the loss to their kids of being in a more diverse environment. They are honest about that. From there, we can have a conversation about how to support our own kids and the schools in general.

  34. 9:46, to what extent was that research controlled for socio-economic factors? Serious question.

  35. 8:58

    Whoever wrote this rocks, is right, and I wanna hang out witchu.

    Seriously though, it’s like I say again and again: Choices matter.

    There are big choices and small choices, and we all make the "wrong" choices sometimes(i.e., what is great for you is often very bad for society, but sometimes I just don't have the strength to clean out that glass baby food jar and throw it in the trash; I am an a--hole). But at least I know it.

    Similarly, we should all admit our bad choices. When you buy a SUV, I do think less of you--why do you think it’s okay?

    When you take the right of way with that SUV, when you know it’s wrong and grin through your huge sunglasses, I think less of you. At least admit it to yourself.

    And come on, Public versus Private? THATS A NO-BRAINER!!! Yes, our parents voted for Reagan, and they screwed up our infrastructure and the schools, and we have to pay the price, but it’s still a "bad" choice to send your child to private school. I know it, I feel bad about it, and it affects my attitude and other choices in life.

    Whether you're paying full fare or not, you may have a good reason for picking private school for your lily white chosen one (or your swarthy elites in waiting), but one less person with enough money and time and education to read this blog is one less asset to the public system.

    Just own it and move on and stop trying to rationalize it by say, "Oh, I'm not ponying up the full tuition", or "oh, I'm not going to enable the derelict public system with my presence" or "oh I have to do right by my kid." yeah, right. (Anti-social).

    I do have to say that parochial school is good for something: It teaches you all about GUILT--look into it.

  36. This thread is getting a bit evangelical, don't you think?

  37. It strikes me that some public school advocates use parents who choose private school as scapegoats for all of the problems with public schools. How exactly do you think things would improve in public schools if all of the kids now in private schools went there? And what problems would still remain?

  38. realize how much better our--yes OUR--public schools would be if the private schools were outlawed

    Can this person be serious? You think Republicans are bad, and now we have a Fascist on board. Sorry, but in this country, we have this little thing called freedom of choice, which requires options from which to choose as well as the exercising of those options to maintain it. That far outweighs any import of social do-goodyness around the type of school one chooses.

  39. um, hello 10:00am poster, that comment was clearly identified as somewhat tongue in cheek--no need to get your panties in a twist, eh, and go all godwin's law on us.....

    Anyway, no less a free marketeer and rich guy than Warren Buffett famously said awhile back that the best way to improve public schools would be to outlaw private ones. No, I'm pretty sure he didn't see it happening anytime soon,'s a rhetorical point, ok?

    It's a little like invoking single payer health care as the ideal plan--most people know it would be better for the majority of Americans than the hybrid plans floating out there now, and everyone also knows it won't fly because the wealthier among us don't want to return to marginal tax rates over 50%. So we invoke single payer, offer up laughter with an edge, and then return to the politics of the possible.

    The point is, although politically a non-starter, it's a no brainer that if all the politically connected and affluent and, yes, middle class folks who now send their kids to private school were to go to public, there would be a lot more funding and energy for the public sector. Not a one-for-one increase in funds, either; that line would go UP. There would be demands for real investment. Attention would be paid. ..... oh, well. So instead, we get calls for social solidarity.

    Yeah, freedom of choice. That's great for the few that have the choice. Most of us have "freedom of choice" in lots of small matters, like coke vs. pepsi, but not a lot in the things that matter, like where we can live and send our kids to school and what doctor we get. The majority of us just don't get a lot of choice in those arenas. As a nation we have tilted so far toward benefiting the wealthy in the name of preserving their "freedom of choice" that we have torn the social fabric of this country. We need to be a lot more balanced, and right now, that means moving back toward the common good. It's always about balance, not pure freedom. This is NOT a communist or fascist world view, by the way, whatever Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh might say.

    And our individual choices DO matter in terms of whether or not we can get there. Plus, government has to step in less often when we the people make choices that keep society--as a whole, not just my kid--humming toward the future. We don't always make good choices on our own, needless to say--look at the mess that happened on Wall Street when government backed away too much. But we can try, at least.