Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Kids are Going Back to School. Now Show Me the Money!

As one of her "Talent Development" classes last year, my Betty (then a 2nd grader) chose a course called "Money Savvy Kids" where she had to, among other things, create a business and write a business/marketing plan, research the characteristics of a reputable charity, and define financial terms like "interest" and "APR." (Second freaking grade, folks!) This photo was taken during a Talent Development Fair where the kids did displays and interactive exhibits about what they learned.
According to an article in our local paper, a nearby school district is proposing to pay parents for attending events like Open Houses, Back to School Nights, and Parent-Teacher Conferences at their kid's school.

This would, of course, be paid for by federal funds - thanks to our state receiving a nice chunk o' change from a competitive federal grant.  Total cost for this little incentive program is a mere $15,000. 

Hey, whatever works, right? 

Tomorrow is Back to School Night at Betty and Boo's school, which means that we learn who has what teacher, which friends are (and are not) in their class, dropping off our bags of school supplies, etc.

It's an exciting night that generally pushes my kids' already high anxiety levels up to 11.  (That's a reference to the brilliant and classic movie This is Spinal Tap for those readers - hiya, Mom! - who might not get it.) 

So, we're planning to be at Back to School Night from 4:30-6:30 p.m., and I'm sitting here wondering how much cash I could potentially earn from this.

Let's see ... two elementary school aged kids.  Two Back to School Nights.  Two Open Houses.  Two sets of Parent Teacher Conferences, twice a year.  Award assemblies.  Talent Development Fair assemblies (see photo above).  Family Reading Night.  Book Fairs. 

This could be akin to winning the lottery.  Maybe one of us can quit our job now that we have a golden opportunity to rake in the dough by doing something we would be doing anyway. 

Now, to be fair, the money that parents would "earn" by attending such activities in support of their kids' education would not be given to them directly.  No, it would be deposited into a college savings account.  So, you see, you'd be helping your kid's education by going to Back to School Nights and Parent-Teacher Conferences.

Maybe I've been mistaken all along, but I kind of thought that was kind of the point to begin with?

And you know, maybe I was thinking that showing up and taking an interest in your kid's educational endeavors was part of the deal when one decides to bring them into the world in the first place?

I know, I know.  I know there are plenty of parents who NEED such a financial incentive to pull themselves away from the likes of America Ain't Got Talent or People You Never Heard Of Dancing with Other People You've Never Heard Of.  (My Reciprocal Blog Fodder Agreement with The Husband allowed me to borrow these terms from him.) 

On a more serious note, I fully understand and recognize that not every parent has the type of proactive, flexible, supportive, family-focused employer that I have (truly), and that taking time to go to such school events or needing to address one's child's needs can have the punitive effect of a diminished paycheck.  That's wrong.  That's a crime.  That needs to be changed.  (That would be a way of investing in a child's future, thank you very much.) 

I get all that.  But isn't it kind of a sad commentary on the state of our society and the state of parenting in general when we have to even consider the idea of paying parents to attend their kid's school activities? 

Have we really gotten to the point (and I'm thinking we've been there for awhile, actually) where we need an incentive, a reward, a what's-in-it-for-me payday for everything that we do?  Even when it is the right thing to do?  The responsible thing?

We shouldn't have to spend federal dollars to pay parents to attend their kid's school events under the guise of "investing in their child's future."

Because when we need to resort to these types of bribes (and really, that's what it is, folks) in order to take our kids' education seriously and to play an active role in such, that doesn't add up to an investment in a child's future no matter how you count it.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Niksmom said...

I saw that article and was appalled that such an idea was even considered. And, well, what about those families who may not have children able to attend college? What happens to those funds? Doesn't seem to be well thought out.

My idea would be to actually FINE families for not participating fully in their child's education. That would NOT include attendance at arbitrary events but either volunteering in their child's class or making sure their homework is done and turned in in a timely manner, etc. Oh, wait, that' just plain ol' good parenting, huh? ;-)

Zee said...

As a future teacher posts like this make me happy (yay for you being such a great parent) and sad (why do they even come up with these ideas?) I hope your kids have a great year. Also I loved Betty's class :D

Thanks for the list of books for my niece!

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

A very good point indeed, Niksmom. What about the kids who aren't going to college or who are seeking a career in the trades or what have you?

I like your idea of the fines.

Zee - thanks! Glad you liked the class. I was pretty impressed. As I clean up papers from last year around the house, I keep finding different activities from that class. (I didn't know about the business plan until yesterday.) It was a really cute exhibit they had, too.

Trisha said...

That is horrifying. I think I would be insulted as a parent by a program like this. I like Niksmom's idea of fining parents for not being involved. I'm a fan of punitive measures rather than our country's current reward system - rewarding people for crap they should do already annoys me to no end.

How about we use that money to give our kids a better education by hiring better teachers, adding books to the library, supporting extracurricular activities, etc.? Let's get them educated enough to attend and succeed in college first.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I have taught in a low socioeconomic school, and I can't imagine offering something like that. I know we do many different activities to raise extra money for teaching supplies, etc. However, paying parents is completely different. I wonder how it is going.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Hi Cara ~ From my understanding, it hasn't been implemented yet. It's part of a federal grant that our state received, and I guess they are finalizing the ways in which to spend the money.