Opinion

MISF + PTA funds = better Island schools

Ellie Gittleman
Island Forum

As a Mercer Island Schools Foundation board member and a former PTA treasurer, it is clear to me that many people are confused about the difference between the Mercer Island Schools Foundation and their school PTAs. I would frequently receive checks made out to various garbled versions, such as “Mercer Island PTA” or “Mercer Island High School Foundation.” When I would contact these people to determine whether their check was meant for the foundation or the PTA, I frequently heard, “I just want to support the schools.”

Of course, I think that’s a fantastic sentiment! However, if I clarify the roles of the Mercer Island Schools Foundation and the individual school PTAs, I’m sure you will believe even more firmly that both deserve our enthusiastic and generous support during this flurry of fall fundraising.

Donations to the Mercer Island Schools Foundations fund all grade levels at all schools and touch all students throughout our school district. From a small start providing enrichment “extras,” it has grown to raising $840,000 a year to fund virtually all of the district’s curriculum needs and materials. Additionally, teachers are supported with training and professional development opportunities.

Working in collaboration with the School District, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation has identified $645,000 of prioritized critical needs for this school year. This year’s funding initiative ‘Score 100’ represents in-depth programs, new exciting curriculum and materials to help our teachers know and understand the learning needs of every student, every day. Without the funds raised by the Schools Foundation, the Mercer Island School District would be a very different place, forced to cut teaching positions and increase class size in order to provide these critically important materials and programs.

In contrast to the district-wide curriculum focus for all students in our district, each school’s PTA is dedicated to providing resources and support for each individual school beyond what the district and the Mercer Island Schools Foundation can fund. PTA funding at each school provides important enrichment programs, classroom equipment and materials, parent education, influences state legislation, and provides staff appreciation events and volunteer support. For example, at the elementary level, PTA fundraisers pay for field trips and artist-in-residence programs. At Islander Middle School, the PTSA’s magazine drive and ski swap fund after-school sports, clubs and classroom enrichment opportunities. The high school PTSA’s “Pass the Hat” fundraiser provides discretionary funds for each department. Each PTA also pays for and produces the school newsletter to connect parents to their school community. The results of this valuable PTA fundraising in our community make each of our individual schools a better place for kids to grow and learn.

PTA and the Mercer Island Schools Foundation fundraising efforts in our community compliment each other. Our students, teachers and their schools need you to support both. Together, the funds raised provide quality education and a learning environment that ensures the success of every student.

While school fundraising in our Mercer Island community is strong, state funding for education has languished terribly. In the past few decades, Washington state has fallen to 42nd in the nation in per-pupil spending and dropped this year to 47th in the nation in class size. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation and school PTAs help fill the gap between stagnant state funding and the excellent education we want for our children.

Phone-a-Thon is the Mercer Island Schools Foundation’s annual fundraising campaign. When your phone rings on Monday or Tuesday, Oct. 29 and 30, please give generously. We know that all students have the capacity to excel, and with your help they will.

Ellie Gittelman is a board member of the Mercer Island Schools Foundation. For more information, call (206) 275-2550. Donations can be sent to Mercer Island Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 23172, Seattle WA 98124-0172.

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