Education

PTAs Help Create School Inequalities: Post

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The Post reported over the weekend that PTAs of certain public schools have raised almost $2 million dollars this year through fundraisers, which they have used to hire 227 teaching aides in their schools.

At the top of the list is the Upper West Side’s Sarah Anderson School, which has raised enough money to hire 33 teacher aides.

In 2008, the Post first reported on the controversial practice of wealthy PTAs raising money to directly hire their own teaching aides. In the article “Elite PTAs’ Shadowy Funds,” the Post said PTAs would “advertise on Craigslist or at colleges and put $12-an-hour assistant teachers on their own payrolls — violating DOE policies and skirting union pay and benefit scales.”

The 2008 Post story shows that “the comparisons with other schools can be stark” when a wealthy PTA raises money in the same building as another school. Looking at the same two schools, Lower Lab and Straus, that we examined in our cover story “Separate and Unequal” last month, the Post says that “Lower Lab’s PTA pays for 12 PTA-hired teaching assistants, plus a psychologist and enrichment programs in art and music.” Meanwhile, “It shares its Third Avenue building with PS 198 [Straus], where up to 80 percent of families received public assistance in 2006-07.” The Post reported that the principal of Straus believed “assistant teachers would make a huge difference” in her school,” but “her PTA doesn’t raise enough to hire any.”

Following publication of the Post‘s 2008 story, the United Federation of
Teachers (which represents New York City teachers) and District Council 37
(which represents teaching aides) complained to the Department of Education
about the practice. In July of 2009, the Daily News reported that parents of these PTAs were “frustrated after learning — that they would no longer be able to use fund-raising dollars to hire the aides.”

The DOE had “said the practice was a violation of labor and state law and the UFT had complained,” reported the Daily News, as “their pay is significantly lower than the teachers aides and paraprofessionals who perform similar duties at other schools.”

But the Daily News went on to report that a deal was struck, which ” would allow the [PTAs] to hire the assistants through an existing job title, a substitute aide, who are paid a starting rate of $12.30 an hour.

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