Friday night football is in full swing, with the crashing football helmets, cheerleaders leading the crowd, and the high school marching bands entertaining at half time. Parent-volunteers also are busy, selling tickets to games, and raffle tickets and concessions to raise much-needed funds to pay for the “extras” that the schools can’t afford.
Most of the time those “extras” are for additional coaching and music staff, fancy costumes and props for the musical productions or trips to camps and festivals. But lately I’ve heard about school booster clubs asked to raise money for basics like helmets. When I spoke recently to Alaska school officials and booster club volunteers I learned that many Alaskan school districts “don’t pay for cloth”. I was shocked and starting wondering if there shouldn’t be some “rules” regarding for what volunteer fundraising groups are asked to raise money.
Public schools are not required to field a football team but it seems to me that if the school fields a team, the school budget ought to cover at least the basics – required uniforms and safety equipment like helmets. I learned in Alaska that a school’s basketball coach asked the parent fundraising group to sign a contract for new basketball uniforms in August; a contract for thousands of dollars that the boosters had not yet raised. The coach’s argument was that the school couldn’t take on the contract and the liability to buy the uniforms because the school might not have the money when the bill came due. Apparently it’s ok to ask the parent volunteers to take on the same liability with no guarantee that that will be able to raise the money to pay the bill.
So what should volunteer-led school booster groups be asked to raise money for, and what should be the responsibility of the school? School fundraising groups are similar to foundations; they raise money to make grants to the schools that they support to pay for the “extras” that are not in the tax-funded school budget.
Schools have staff and procedures in place to handle contracting with vendors to buy products – like uniforms and helmets – and pay for services – such as transportation to away-games and the like. When volunteer groups go beyond making grants and start contracting for products and services, the responsibilities of the volunteers start to blur.
What do you think? Should schools expect booster clubs to buy helmets and uniforms? What is your school booster club raising money for this year.