When I started out in my role as PAC Chair in September 2007 our parent team was immediately confronted with a huge issue. The province had determined that many play structures around British Columbia were no longer compliant with safety regulations and had to be replaced within short order. Of course, our school fell into that unlucky group and we were asked to ensure that the non-compliant playground was replaced sooner rather than later. And no, there were no funds so it was up to us to finance it. And, we were told, most schools take years to get the funding together and given the price of modern play structures, bake sales wouldn't really cut it.
Thanks to a great PAC team and very supportive community we pulled it off and a new playground was unveiled at the Lions Bay School on the first day of school in September 2008. This ironically was the day that the big financial meltdown got underway and I always wondered if we would have been able to raise the funds if we had started our playground campaign a year later.
Although a great success, I remained puzzled by the funding mechanisms that underpin our public schools. On the one hand it is great to give certain fundraising efforts to parents to get them involved and give them a sense of ownership in schools. But on the other hand this works only in so many school districts. Many areas will not have the luxury of being able to repeatedly access a community for funds or corporate gifts. And more pressingly, what if provincial coffers dry up further and PAC fundraising is required to buy basic necessities or help maintain facilities? And will a relationship between parents and schools that is increasingly built around money and budgets not become strained over time?
Food for thought and time to have an open debate about the funding structures on which our public schools are built.