CLEARWATER, Florida -- Year after year, budget cuts force schools to look for ways to replace lost money. Fundraisers often begin as soon as classes resume. Now, one Bay area school district says parent teacher associations should make these fundraisers healthier.
Some Pinellas parents say healthier doesn't always sell. Several schools switched from selling entertainment coupon books and magazines last year to selling cookie dough and other baked goods this year. Parents say profits rocketed from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 or more, and it all benefits students.
"You need to raise money without burdening parents," said Tom Jamo, vice president for the Plumb Elementary PTA.
Fundraising is helping Plumb Elementary School students replace their chalk board with a smart board. "It's important to get technology in the hands of our students, so they have the resources to function in society," said Plumb Elementary Principal Seymour Brown.
Soon, five more classrooms will have high-tech, computer-run smart boards, and the school will purchase 18 iPads, thanks to a PTA fundraiser of mostly cookie dough. Jamo said the school sold $68,000 in cookie dough and baked items in September. The school's cut was 40 percent.
Jamo said, "We budgeted $10,000 in profit. To see it come in at $27,000 was just incredible. We were blown away."
The cookie dough sale may be in jeopardy, though, if principals take the Pinellas School District's new wellness guidelines as policy. It suggests healthier food alternatives for fundraisers such as fruit baskets and nuts items. Parents say they won't sell, and that means less money for schools.
"It means less technology. It means less resources the school has to further the education of children," said Jamo.
School district officials insist the district's wellness guidelines are just suggestions. "These guidelines are available for schools to review and see if it works for their area. There isn't a restriction on selling certain kinds of cookies, cakes, or things like that for fundraising purposes. These are to be reviewed and considered," said Melanie Marquez, spokesperson for the Pinellas School District.
Principal Brown said he's happy to see the district clarify these guidelines as suggestions, not mandates. He said, "It's a sigh of relief for me and the PTA."
Brown said the goal is to keep the number of fundraisers down but the profit margin up. This way, it's less of a distraction for students.
Parents like Jamo say the bottom line here is adults are the ones buying the cookie dough and baked goods, not kids. He said schools and parents should be teaching kids about moderation as a way to lead a healthy lifestyle.
"A 200-calorie cookie as part of a well balanced diet. I feel like the district is saying this is not what children should be eating. We feel that's an unhealthy policy."