Every year, tons of donations are made to the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). Parents and community members donate through Partners in Education (PiE) and other groups to contribute to the quality of their child’s education.
There are many people involved with deciding where these funds go, but few of them are actually students at Palo Alto schools. The main adults responsible for deciding where money is spent within Paly are Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson and Budget Secretary Lisa Stone.
A major improvement to the way that money is spent within Paly would be allowing a greater student voice into the system.
According to Stone, she and Berkson create a budget once they find out from the district how much they can spend for the year.
The administration is key to the order and stability of the funding for the school and its organization. However, student input is important, since it directly affects the future of their Paly education. This would have many benefits, including allowing students to express their opinion on how to spend the budget.
The school needs money for school supplies, including technology, books, office supplies and employees, according to Stone.
Most of these things, such as technology and supplies, are used by students on a daily basis, so it makes sense that students should have the chance to be included in these decisions.
As shown on the PAUSD Business Services website, there are different types of money that the school receives. There is the money that the state allocates to Paly, because it is a public school. However, PiE actually gathers more money for PAUSD than the state funding provides, according to Stone.
There are also PiE and PTSA grants that teachers can apply for separately to fund their department or a specific project.
In addition, other donations and matching programs take place that can go towards a specific project or can be placed under general discretionary use. The general money is used to help departments stay in budget or is saved for unexpected expenses.
While this does not especially concern students, there is still a value in students knowing where money, some of which may be from their parents, is being spent. They also should be able to learn more about where school expenses are needed to appreciate the value of the school’s funding.
As budget secretary, Stone makes recommendations based on where money is needed, and Berkson has final say on what gets spent where.
If students could be a part of the recommendation making process, or vote on the recommendations by Stone, it would be a great way to teach students about both responsibility and money management.
According to Stone, it’s pretty much decided where the money goes when they create and finalize the budget. Both Berkson and Stone work on finalizing the budget in the beginning of the year and then send it off to business services at the District office to be approved.
That is what they are currently in the process of.
ASB also has a voice in where money goes each year. The members of ASB get to vote on where they think funds are needed, essentially representing the student body. While this is important, and much better than students having no say at all, the students who are directly affected by the distribution of money in their school should have more of a say in where it goes.
One idea for reformation would be a voting system. A simple Google Form sent to students would do the trick. Students who have attended Paly for at least one full year should be able to submit ideas for the administration to view.
The purpose of including students with over a year of experience at Paly is to get more opinions from those who are using the funded materials everyday. Students should get a year to adjust to Paly, and then decide the year after where they observed money being needed.
Then, students submit their spending ideas. The administration can narrow down these ideas to a few options which students will ultimately vote on. This system would allow more student involvement while also ensuring order with help from the administration, ASB and anyone else involved.
An additional benefit would be that this process would teach students the importance and value or their vote, as well as provide an opportunity for students to make responsible decisions and see their effect.
Students are the ones who use the materials and resources that the school provides and can see where improvement would be beneficial to their education. Therefore, they should have a say in where the money goes to improve their high school experience.
However, this is not to say that the voice of teachers and administration are not important. The teachers are the ones who try and provide their students with proper materials to further the understanding of certain topics.
The administrators ensure that money is held responsibly, and they are responsible for every extra learning opportunity a student has.
It could also be the duty of the administration to ensure that students are exposed to the budget process, teaching students some of the most lifelong important lessons that teenagers can learn.
It is time that parents, students, administration and faculty work together to make Paly the optimal high school experience for everyone. Every vote can count to better the school and teach young students the importance of financial responsibility as they enter their independent lives.