Fundraising for Toronto, Ontario's Public Schools

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:06
Oral Presentation
Sue WINTON, York University, Canada
Fundraising by parents to augment school budgets is commonplace in Toronto’s public schools. Why are families asked to fundraise for public schools? Why do some parents who oppose school fundraising nevertheless participate? To answer these questions, I turned to institutional ethnography (IE) because IE offers a way to examine the everyday world and determine how things happen as they do. My investigation began from the standpoint of parents engaged in fundraising activities (i.e., their fundraising work). To understand how this work is socially organized I conducted interviews with parents, school council members, teachers, and educational leaders. I also analyzed texts produced by schools and school councils in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the TDSB, Ontario’s Ministry of Education, and the media; and I drew on my knowledge as a parent, teacher, and researcher.

My findings highlight four Ontario policies introduced in the past two decades that play key roles in organizing parents’ experience of fundraising today: school councils, parent involvement, fundraising, and school funding policies. These policies reflect, contain, and mobilize neoliberal discourses that advocate greater individual responsibility, a new role for government (i.e., to facilitate market conditions, attitudes, and behaviour), and increased involvement of private actors in public program delivery. A new funding policy introduced in 1997 resulted in major funding cuts to the TDSB. School councils, also introduced in 1997 and mandated in every Ontario public school, are parent-majority organizations that are permitted to fundraise; most spend the majority of their time doing so. Participating in fundraising provides a means for parents to support their children’s schools and academic success (as they are called to do in government, TDSB, school, and media texts), to create ‘better’ schools that may help give their children competitive advantages in the global marketplace, and thus enact “good parenting” under neoliberal rationality.