KCUR report shines light on disparities in PTA-raised funds at Shawnee Mission schools

Corinth Elementary’s PTA raised more than any other school in the district.

A report from KCUR’s Elle Moxley released Thursday shows a wide disparity among Shawnee Mission elementary schools in the amount of funds their PTAs are able to raise — and what resources those funds end up providing.

Through tax records filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Moxley discovered that PTAs at 33 of Shawnee Mission’s 44 schools raised less than $50,000 in 2016, the last year for which records are available. Of the 11 schools that raised more — thus triggering the need to file more detailed reports with the IRS — five brought in more than $100,000 in 2016.

They are:

  • Corinth Elementary, whose PTA raised $165,000 (the KCUR story reported that Corinth raised more than $300,000 in 2016. The Corinth PTA contests that figure and says it was $165,000).
  • Belinder Elementary, whose PTA raised $161,959
  • Briarwood Elementary, whose PTA raised $131,050
  • Brookwood Elementary, whose PTA raised $115,598
  • Prairie Elementary, whose PTA raised $100,158

Corinth, Belinder, Briarwood and Prairie are all in the SM East feeder area. Brookwood is in the SM South feeder area, but had been in the SM East feeder area prior to boundary realignment associated with the closing of Mission Valley back in 2010.

Of the remaining schools whose PTAs raised more than $50,000, just two — Ray Marsh Elementary and Christa McAuliffe Elementary — are west of I-35.

Disparity between school communities within Shawnee Mission

The fundraising disparity is of note because in Shawnee Mission, PTAs can use the funds they raise to pay for supplemental staff positions. At Belinder, for example, the salary of the school’s part-time guidance counselor is paid for through the PTA funds, as well as the salaries for a full-time reading aide and full-time math aide. Corinth Elementary has added a full-time math aide and a part-time social worker to its staff with PTA money. It also pays for field trips, the school’s maker space and teacher grants with its PTA funds.

In Blue Valley and Olathe, school PTAs are not permitted to allocate the funds they raise to pay for the salaries of staff members.

The report highlights a growing concern among some parents that the fundraising abilities of wealthier neighborhoods for their Shawnee Mission school PTAs is creating an uneven playing field.

In September, for example, parent leaders at Apache Innovate School set out to raise $6,000 to pay for a two-year subscription to a math program that wasn’t covered in the school’s operating budget. Apache is a Title school, so it does receive additional funding for staff that less economically challenged schools don’t get. But they still struggle to pay for the kind of classroom materials that other PTAs can purchase for their schools.

“Our Parent-Teacher Association is stretched thin and our students desperately need a proven program to gain fact fluency in math,” read the appeal posted on the group’s on the fundraising page. “Our school is unable to generate money the way affluent schools do across the district, so we are asking for your help. Those schools, along with their Parent-Teacher Associations and school foundations, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. This is simply out of reach for us unless we spread our message beyond our community.”

Through the Facebook fundraiser, Apache’s parents raised $6,370 to pay for the program. But that total pales in comparison to the fundraising totals that PTAs in some of the more affluent pockets of the Shawnee Mission area have been producing in recent years. And those PTA fundraising totals don’t even take into account the well-endowed private foundations that some of the schools in the eastern part of the district have as well.

Check out Moxley’s full report here, as well as her appearance on Thursday’s Central Standard, which also features Education First Shawnee Mission member and Rosehill Elementary parent Megan Peters.