Cameras flashed in my eyes as I stopped to pose on the red carpet, my husband reluctantly playing along at my side. This is a little silly, I laughed to myself, looking around the reception area of my son’s elementary school PTA auction. This year’s theme was a “Red Carpet Gala,” and the venue was filling up with middle aged parents dressed in formal wear.
We made our way through the silent auction section and found our table in the main room. The room was alive with the roar of people chatting and laughing against the backdrop of donating money towards their children’s education. I laughed and chatted along with them, but inside I was torn. This just isn’t fair, kept popping into my head as I thought about my own school where I work.
The night progressed with a delicious dinner, speeches from the PTA president and principal, a live auction, and a “raise the paddle” to specifically fund STEM curriculum and equipment. I had a great time and am so thankful that my son can attend a school that provides him with an excellent, well-rounded education. But at the same time, I felt angry at the fact that so much of what makes a great public school has to come from the parents.
I felt angry because the parents of my students can’t afford a $75 ticket to a fundraiser or to take off 5 hours to attend a fundraising even. The parents of my students can’t afford a $2,000 Adirondak chair painted by a class of kindergarteners or a $4,500 trip to South Africa. But my students deserve the same educational opportunities that my son and his classmates receive. The quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be dependent on how much his parents can pay.
And so I spent the night in conflict as I contemplated the inequities of our public school system, trying to figure out what to do about it, but in the end, just feeling torn.