Etheridge: Hiring teachers shouldn't require fundraiser

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.comApril 18, 2012 

Bob Etheridge

LAUREN MANN

Some listeners raised their eyebrows when gubernatorial candidate Bob Etheridge mentioned in Monday’s debate that his grandchild’s first-grade class was being asked to raise $17 per child to pay for a new teacher.

Etheridge’s campaign later corrected the amount to $14 per child, but the thrust of the statement was clear: Parents shouldn’t be asked to ante up to add teachers to public schools. The candidate’s granddaughter attends Aldert Root Elementary, said his son, Brian Etheridge.

“That should not happen in North Carolina,” Bob Etheridge said during the debate.

Brian Etheridge said his family gave money to annual events at Root, which he likened to Parent Teacher Association fundraisers during his school days in Harnett County. Fundraising at public schools typically rely on larger contributions from parents with more resources, not equal amounts from all students.

“I think a community raising money for their school is a good thing, and I don’t want to speak against that,” said Christine Kushner, the Wake County school board member whose district includes Root, on Lassiter Mill Road. “I do agree with him that we need to have our state fully fund the teachers and the curriculum.”

Parents and supporters at several Wake County schools have raised money to pay for teachers in recent years. A News & Observer analysis before the current school year showed that foundations, parent-teacher groups, individuals and companies gave as much as $21 million annually to Wake County Public Schools. Schools with low-income populations got much smaller slices of the pie.

Critics of Wake County’s new student assignment plan, which is based on parental choice, have said it’s likely to create more “have and have not” schools.

The foundation that supports Root gave more than $68,000 to pay teacher salary supplements, federal tax records show. Also, the school’s PTA gave nearly $40,000 for classroom supplies, according to its 2011 federal filing.

Wake County records show that 26.7 percent of children at Root received free or reduced price meals in the past school year, a figure below the elementary school average of 35.4 percent. Efforts to reach a representative of the Root Foundation were unsuccessful.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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