The Seattle Public Schools District has a huge opportunity gap between white students and students of color: the worst in the state, and the fifth worst in the nation. Despite the District’s efforts to address these gaps, they persist, and in many cases are actually widening.
This is not a problem of a few bad actors or malicious intent; it is a systemic issue. We have to transform the systems that continually reinforce unequal access to opportunity.
While many historical and continuing factors contribute to this gaping disparity, one growing factor is parent-led fundraising. National studies consistently show that parent-led funds increasingly contribute to student opportunity gaps because “the concentration of these dollars in affluent schools results in considerable advantages for a small portion of already advantaged students.”
Wealthy PTAs in Seattle raise and spend upwards of $1000 per student. These funds are completely flexible and are used to pay the salaries of teachers, counselors, specialists, and support staff. Meanwhile, some parent-teacher orgs are able to raise a only small fraction of these dollars. Some schools have no PTA.
Understanding the opportunity gap between white students and BIPOC students in Seattle
- Achievement gaps between white and Black students at SPS
- PTA Subsidies to School Budgets in SPS
- “10 years of work hasn’t closed the racial opportunity gap in Seattle schools.” Crosscut, 2019.
- “After Busing Ended, Seattle’s Racial Achievement Gaps Worsened.” Economic Opportunity Institute, 2018.
The root cause: segregation
- “Segregated Seattle.” The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington
- “Since 1990, Seattle’s schools have become more segregated, even as neighborhoods integrated.” KNKX, 2018.
How private, parent-led fundraising contributes to the problem
- “Here’s why rich Seattle schools can afford extra teachers and fancy gadgets.” KUOW, 2018.
- “Contributing to Inequity: White Parents Must Act to Change Seattle Public Schools’ Opportunity Gap,” South Seattle Emerald 2017.
- “Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance.” The Center for American Progress, 2017.