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students in florida participating in a pta-sponsored event Fifth graders at Air Base Elementary School in Homestead, Florida, participate in a program called Colonial Depot, an event that requires extra funds and time and could be threatened by budget cuts. (Photo Courtesy Kiera Fobb)

PTA Funds Help School

Florida parents sue to get more state funds

By Kiera Fobb | December 10 , 2009

Chocolate sales, car washes, and after-school stores—these are just some of the ways Air Base Elementary in Homestead, Florida, is raising funds to help save jobs and pay for programs hurt by the downturn in the economy.

Because of economic woes, Florida, like many states, has slashed how much money it gives to schools. Florida's portion of school funding fell from 62 percent in 2000 to 44 percent this year. This has prompted a group of parents and lawyers to sue the state for violating its legal commitment to "adequately fund" education. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 45 states.

At Air Base Elementary, the PTA has stepped in to help close the funding gap.

The magnet school has been educating pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade for 50 years. It was recognized in 2008 for its academic excellence by winning the Magnet School of Excellence Award.

PTA president Patricia Porter said the parent-teacher organization has been called on several times to help fill the gaps caused by reduced state funding.

"When we developed our proposed budget for the PTA to fundraise, we were actually trying to overcome what the budget cuts have done to the school each year," she said. "We try to donate as much as we can, to each entity, whether it be a regular class or a special class."

Shannon Lucas, another member of the PTA, said the organization has been asked to help with reading programs and attendance incentives.

The PTA is also paying for the field trip T-shirts given to students in the gifted and talented program, said Petra Proskova, a teacher in the gifted and talented program.

"I know the PTA is helping to get everybody their fair share," she said.

Students are most concerned about the loss of favorite teachers and aides. One aide, who handled all the paperwork for the gifted team and helped plan activities and field trips, was recently laid off because of budget cuts.

"We lost a lot of my favorite people at the school, and it's not fair," said Jocey E, 10. "It makes me feel mad!"

PTA's contributions are critical to the school's budget, especially this year, said Principal Raul Calzadilla Jr. He is expecting even more budget cuts, meaning bigger classes with less supplies and teachers. Although he said it will be at least a year before he thinks the school will feel any benefit from an economic recovery, he has not changed his goals for the year.

"I want this school to be an excellent choice for parents in the community," he said. "And I want to continue to get the resources that we need to maintain an excellent school."

For now, the PTA is more than ever an essential part of helping achieve those goals.

To learn more about the PTA, check out the national PTA website. Or ask about the PTA at your school!

Kids and the Economy

Kid Reporters take a look at the economy and how it is affecting kids and their communities during this holiday season in the Kids and the Economy Special Report.

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