The Beaumont Unified School Board authorized the district this year to begin charging parents and other community members $49 to be fingerprinted and $15 for TB testing before they can volunteer in the classroom or at many PTA events. This will save the district about $40,000 a year (0.09% of the annual budget) and it will result in far fewer volunteers.
The volunteers in Beaumont have helped to fill the holes created by budget cuts over the last few years and are a big reason our schools continue to perform well on the STAR tests. $64 a year, $128 for two parents, may not seem like a lot to some but for many, it is enough to discourage them from volunteering to go on a field trip or help out at a PTA event or two. Many of the district’s current volunteers are stay-at-home parents from families trying to make it on a single income.
I don’t believe this is sending the right message to parents who have helped reduce the burden of larger class sizes and fewer paid support staff, conditions other budget cuts by the district have created. I believe it's saying "we don't appreciate your support and we can do without you".
Following are comments from our board members I wrote about on April 26th:
- De Longchamp – “I’m fine with that.”
- Lara – “I can’t see making parents pay so they can volunteer in the classroom.”
- Hackney – “I wouldn’t think, myself, that it would be worth it to pay $52 to go on one field trip”
- Hackney – “I can’t see…to expect volunteers to volunteer all those hours then to have to pay for it”
- De Longchamp – “I know the kids sporting things in town…(volunteers) have to pay for their own background checks”
- De Longchamp – “I did it for them to play sports and I would have done it to volunteer in the classroom.”
- Orozco – “Parents have to pay for it for baseball”
I give Mrs. Lara and Mr. Hackney credit for their comments but actions speak louder than words. When it came time to vote for the budget cuts recommended by the administration, they both supported charging volunteers.
Mr. Orozco and Mrs. De Longchamp justified charging volunteers by arguing that parents already pay for this through community sports teams. I think it would have shown more leadership for Mr. Orozco or Mrs. De Longchamp to work with the city and the community sports teams to design a system where parents already paying for background checks through other programs could use those background checks for the schools and vice a versa. Who knows? That might even increase parent involvement in the schools which is what I think should be the goal.
I personally believe the district should be willing to pay $64 a year for every parent willing to volunteer at their kids' schools no matter how many volunteer. We need to work to encourage more parents to get involved, not discourage the ones who already are.