Kiddo’s school is contracting with a company called Booster to raise $78,000 for new technology for the school. U.S. schools are, of course, underfunded, and I’m generally in favor of getting more money into their bank accounts. I have a number of concerns about this fundraiser, though, and it’s making me grumpy.
I have a PhD in educational technology, which means two things in this context. First, I’m very aware of the fundamental—and often useful—role that technology plays in learning, so I’m not opposed to updating the tech in kiddo’s school. Second, and in contrast, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading critiques of educational technology. Consider this observation from Larry Cuban’s 2003 book Oversold and Underused, which is describing attitudes toward educational technology in the 1990s:
Although it would be preferable to attribute expenditures for technologies to rational deliberations among public officials and corporate leaders, the broad support for new technologies in schools across all sectors of society suggests that more was involved than rational decision making. The reasons given for wiring schools and investing in equipment reveal less concern over whether the computer was effective in raising achievement or transforming learning and teaching than over the perceived imperative of simply getting machines into schools. Decisions to purchase hardware and software or wire schools were as much symbolic political gestures as they were attempts to actually acquire the right tool to get a job done well.
I’d like to know what technologies that this school is investing in. There are purchases that I would think are legitimate, but if it’s more ClassDojo? Heck no, I don’t want to raise a penny for that. Also, is this investment in technology about a kind of posturing, or is it something that’s actually going to help the class out?
As far as I can tell, the Booster company takes at least a 5% cut (more likely, at least a 7% cut) of the money raised for the school. I get that any private company that supports school fundraising has to pay its bills, but I don’t love the idea of a company whose whole business model is making money by offering “exciting, high energy event[s] to get students excited and motivated to participate.
If fun run participants or their parent/legal guardian (if child is less than 13 years old) opt to allow us to use or share Business Information and other data with trusted affiliates, independent contractors and other businesses for marketing and business purposes, we may choose to do so.
“Business Information” refers to:
information that tells [Booster] specifically who a visitor is and their contact information, including their name, email address, street address and telephone number.
To its credit, Booster claims that they
do not rent, lease or sell Business Information or Google or Gmail information or contacts to any marketeer.
Yet, “data is oil” or whatever, and if Booster is reserving the right to share our data with “trusted affiliates, independent contractors and other businesses,” it’s because they know they can squeeze some value out of it on top of the cut that they take from the money we’re trying to donate to our schools. Don’t love that.
What’s more, to register kiddo with Booster for the purposes of the activity, the company also benefits from my decision to:
assume all risks associated with Participant participating in the Events including, but not limited to, personal injury and fatality, which may be caused by, without limitation, falls, contact with other participants, weather related conditions (including high heat and/or humidity), and other conditions at the site(s) of the Events, all such risks being known and appreciated by me. Having read this waiver and knowing these facts and in consideration of your accepting Participant’s entry, I, for myself, and for Participant, Participant’s heirs, executors, administrators and anyone else entitled to act on Participant’s behalf, to the full extent permitted by law, waive and release the organizers of the Events, Booster and all other sponsors, suppliers, agents and independent contractors of the Events, and each of their employees, officers, agents, volunteers, representatives and successors (collectively, “Booster’s Representatives”) from all claims, demands, actions, causes of action and liabilities of any kind arising out of Participant’s participation in any of the Events. This release includes claims based on the negligence of any type whatsoever of Booster and Booster’s Representatives, but expressly does not include claims based on their intentional misconduct or recklessness. I understand that by agreeing to the release and waiver herein, I am assuming full responsibility for any and all risk of injury, fatality, or property damage suffered by Participant while participating in any of the Events, and I am releasing claims and giving up substantial rights, including any right to sue.
I mean, really?
why not taxes?
The thing that kills me most about all of this is that it’s coming at the same time that the local board of education is announcing lower tax rates for the current school year:
The Fayette County Board of Education is continuously committed to being a good steward of the community’s investments in our public schools. These decisions will mean lower tax rates for 2023-24—good news for all property owners in Lexington. Combining this fiscal stewardship with sound academic and strategic goals, Superintendent Demetrus Liggins brought to the board a way that helps to keep tax rates steady for personal property and motor vehicles, with a decrease in the real estate tax. The real estate tax rate approved Monday night results in a decrease of 2.3 cents—$23 in taxes for real property assessed at $100,000. This plan will benefit not only taxpayers but also our students. Given the growth of our community, these changes will still lead to an estimated $316.1 million increase in revenues to help fund the strategic investments of our district to support our students and staff.
I’m not a public policy expert, so I’m not fully equipped to evaluate all of the claims being made in that announcement. If schools still don’t have the money to get all the equipment they need, though, shouldn’t we be raising taxes instead of lowering them? (Alternatively, if the technology isn’t necessary, why are we raising money for it?) What’s more, I live in a relatively wealthy part of town with one of the nicer schools in the area for kiddo’s age. Using fundraising as a mechanism of school improvement (again, if indeed this technology investment will improve the school) is going to benefit some schools at the implicit expense of others.
So, charge me all the money in taxes you want, schools. Heck, I won’t even blame you for being in the crappy situation that makes you turn to fundraising instead of being able to ask for more taxes from the local population. But please understand why I’m grumpy about this creepy fundraising parternship—and why I’m not going to participate.
In the meantime, now I have to explain to kiddo why she doesn’t get a cool keychain like the other kids in her class, because this whole thing is based on a petty behaviorism instead of the kind of sense of public duty that could help us build adequate funding for schools. Ugh.
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