- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 5, 2019


Spreading Christmas cheer is what we do this time of year because, well, the spirit moves us.

Three D.C. Council members — David Grosso, Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau — hastened Tuesday to be the initial bearers of glad tidings by introducing the D.C. Public Schools Family and School Community Fundraising Equity Act of 2019.

At first blush, the measure appears to be a nice gift to children and parents at mostly low-income schools. You know, students whose families cannot always afford to cover the costs of field trips, extracurricular activities and such.

Encouraging and increasing parents’ school involvement are worthy goals.

As Mr. Grosso said, “Parent-teacher organizations are an important part of any school community. They build fellowship, support our students, and help facilitate parental engagement” — regardless of family income or where they live.

Indeed, the health, education and welfare of students are what Phoebe Hearst and Alice Birney had in mind when, in 1897, they established the National Congress of Mothers, the parent-teacher organization (PTO) we now call the National Parent Teacher Association.

But — bah, humbug — the intent of the Grosso legislation is riddled with leftist holes.

Here’s the gist of the legislation from Mr. Grosso’s statement to the press:

⦁ “[T]o collect equity fees from PTOs that expend over $10,000 in monetary and in-kind value.”

⦁ “These equity fees will then be distributed equitably to other DCPS PTOs.”

⦁ “Further, it restricts PTOs from expending funds to hire instructional staff members.”

He said much more in his statement. However, those are the fine points.

So, let’s take it from the top.

First, Mr. Grosso and the supporters of the measure want levy equity fees on PTOs. Then the legislation dictates how the equity would be spent once in city coffers: They would be “distributed” among the various PTOs.

Now to point three: Once the D.C. officials redistribute the wealth from the other PTOs, they cannot use their those funds to hire art, music or dance instructors. Or hire a French teacher. Or spend the money for special education instructors or assistant soccer coaches.

The council can mandate when and where children attend school. However, lawmakers cannot mandate how parents spend their.

But wait. There’s more.

Mr. Grosso also said PTOs “raised more than $5.5 million for only a quarter of DCPS elementary schools” in 2018.

“This revenue equates to almost an additional full-time teacher or three additional instructional aides for each DCPS elementary school,” he said.

What Mr. Grosso, et al., are proposing is a PTO/PTA for All, sans the costs of the “new bureaucracy” that will be needed to manufacture and staff it.

Parents, nonprofits and school choice advocates must not allow themselves to be fooled. When it comes to public education, few things are equitable, including per-pupil spending.

Don’t believe me? Ask the unions.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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