Pint-size peddlers and teenage touts.
Most school neighbors recognize them when they march on the community in search of money to finance their activities. Their causes are many and - in most instances - compelling.They want to go to athletic camp, debate camp, drama camp. They want to buy uniforms. They want to buy lab or sports equipment. They want to take trips to exotic places. They want to take trips to places not so exotic but still expensive. They want to compete in events that are always elsewhere. They want to finance club activities or throw a year-end party. There is, seemingly, no end to what they want.
To get it, they sell candy, popcorn, pizza, discount books or cards, stationery and greeting cards, photographs, address markings for sidewalks and curbs, wrapping paper, car washes, and nuts and cookies. They sell and sell and sell. The person answering the door is likely to dig deep in response to a cute little person barely out of kindergarten with a fist full of over-priced chocolate bars. Or even for the teenager who seems admirably willing to work for what he wants.
But there is some feeling that the school fund-raiser is getting out of hand. A recent unidentified caller to the Deseret News, obviously exasperated, said that she was going to do bodily harm to the next child who showed up on her doorstep with palm upraised. She was kidding - but barely. Such calls to schools and district administrative offices appear to be increasing, more in some than others.
Some school districts have responded by restricting fund raising. Murray, for instance, has instituted a strict policy at its elementary schools, discouraging fund-raisers at that level unless the cause is really exceptional.
"Our biggest concern was the position that it put the children in - the pressure being put on them. We don't want our kids to have to be salesmen," said Superintendent Ronald L. Stephens. The district's high school, however, "probably does as much fund raising as anyone."
His district has tried to shift some of the fund-raising pressure to its foundation. Most districts have a foundation to try to generate money from outside sources to supplement tax income to their schools.
Several large districts have combined student fund raising with the foundation effort. Students provide a ready-made workforce for scouring a district. Granite is one of a number of districts that have effectively used a joint foundation/student effort to raise money through the School Checks campaign.
Granite's schools realized more than $300,000 last year through this route, when several significant prizes were thrown in by businesses, said Scott Whipple, foundation director. Each participating school received $6 for each $10 book of "discount checks" sold, and the foundation received $1.
Policies guiding fund raising differ greatly from district to district (See chart on B2).
But since fund raising is a fact of public-school life in most districts, the obligation is to be certain that the public is not gouged and that children who go marketing get a fair return on their effort, said Kent Gardner, spokesman for Granite District.
His district's Advertising and Fund-Raising Screening Committee must approve all products that are sold through schools. The array of products offered for sale is great, and the potential return to the school varies widely, Gardner said. The committee doesn't set a limit on profit but screens every suggested sale item. Some are turned down.
Fund raising may not be popular with school leaders, but there is no other source of money to pay for activities, said Principal William Christopulos of Cyprus High School in Granite District. Even though students are charged up-front fees for participation in many activities, that money doesn't cover anything beyond the basics.
For instance, he said, the costs of operating his school's athletic events - such items as police security, ticket-takers and officials (for varsity, junior varsity and sophomore teams and for both men's and women's teams) mounts up to about $30,000 a year. The money, in his case, comes from yet another, more subtle, type of fund-raiser - vending machines.
The fund-raiser as a source of income has become intertwined with the related issue of school fees. Last summer, 3rd District Judge John Rokich issued an order that Utah's schools comply with rules mandating waivers for students who could not afford to pay fees. The mandate covered not only academic necessities, but extracurricular activities as well. Any activity sponsored by a school carries the requirement that it be open to every student, regardless of ability to pay.
Faced with a loss of income as more waivers were granted, some schools have increased fund raising to offset the loss.
In just one district - Nebo - school leaders expect to lose nearly $60,000 this year in fees because of waivers (up from approximately $12,000 in 1991-92).
However, Larry Kimball, the district's director of secondary education, said Nebo has not cancelled any field trips and does not believe any of Nebo's six high schools and junior highs have cancelled trips of their own accord.
Kimball said he has not noticed an appreciable difference in the number of fund-raising and sales activities throughout the district this year, despite schools scheduling approximately the same number of trips and programs.
Many school officials are holding off on any significant changes in programs that require fees and fund-raisers until they see what the Legislature may or may not do to help clarify the problems.
Some school leaders see the perpetual fund-raiser as a symptom of "a generally underfunded school system." Eileen Rencher, spokeswoman for the State Office of Education, said she believes there would be fewer children-turned-salesmen if schools had more money to provide programs.
From another viewpoint, there are those who are becoming increasingly critical of what they see as "frills" in the public school system.
Both perspectives have become part of the debate on school financing. A legislative task force will soon be empaneled to address the problem over the next eight months. It is expected to bring recommendations to the 1994 Legislature.
Fund raising by students and PTA groups to finance school and club activities and projects
What's allowed: The district has had a policy allowing one fund-raiser each year for each organization or club. This year the district abandoned the policy to allow groups to hold additional fund-raisers to compensate for an increase in fee waivers. However, Assistant Superintendent Jack Reid said there has been no significant increase in fund-raising activities as a result of the police change. Most fund raising is done by groups looking for a way to subsidize travel. To make up shortfalls caused by increased fee waivers, Alpine is considering encouraging schoolwide fund-raisers, such as selling coupon books.
What's not: Only schoolwide efforts can fund class or lab projects, the areas hardest hit by fee waivers.
Requirements: Approval of school administrators.
What's allowed: companies can donate products that carry their names like cups, T-shirts and hats. The district also allows limited advertising in schools scuh as Stalltalk, a popular feature in Woods Cross High School bathroom stalls. The school gets a percentage of gross revenues from Stalltalk.
What's not: Door-to-door selling by elementary students is prohibited.
Requirements: Any fund-raising plans must be approved by school principals and district superintendent. Some administrators have questioned the policy's istipulation that schools must write an annual fund-raising plan and submit it to the district for approval. They say it limits creativity in raising money for the schools.
What's allowed: The board allows one fund-raiser per year per school for a charity outside the school, all others must be approved. Organizations or causes not affiliated with United Way require sepcial approval. For elementary schools, the board allows up to three projects per year in each school. Exceptions must be approved by a deputy superintendent. One of the fundraisers my be the school picture project, one may be decided and sponsored by the school, a third may be sponsored by the PTA. In secondary schools, fund-raising decisions are left to the administration of each school.
Requirements: All products or services provided by commerical companies for fund-raisers must be screened and approved by the district's Advertising and Fund-RAising Screening Committee.
What's allowed: Based on a needs assessment, one fund-raising activity that involves students (sales or purchases) during the year sponsored by the school community group and the PTA is allowed. This activity must not involve door-to-door sales and must be conducted in less than two weeks and be approved by the area assistant superintendent. School organizations may be allowed to sell items on the school premises to raise funds for their organizations upon the recommendation of the principal and approval of area assistant superintendent.
What's not: Students are not allowed to be taken from class to participate in fund raising, and tickets for fund-raising events shall not be sold during class time. Students should not be responsible for or assigned to collect funds except for approved student activities in middle or senior high schools. Fund raising by students selling articles door-to-door or soliciting businesses for contributions or goods will not be endorsed by the district.
Requirements: Fund-raising projects must be submitted in writing to the area assistant superintendent for review and approval.
What's allowed: Students in grades 10-12 may act as sales agents only in exceptional cases as approved by the principal with an endorsement of the school community council. Cake sales, rag drives, etc., as school or class projects may be approved by the principal, if the money is to be used for school activities.
What's not: Students in grades K-9 shall not be involved in selling in any way as it relates to fund-raising activities.
Requirements: Approval of all projects by principals and often by the school community councils.
What's allowed: The policy allows for PTA organizations and other school groups to run carnivals and concession stands to raise money for trips or any other purposes. The district allows one charitable schoolwide fund-raising activity per year. Local businesses and interested individuals under programs such as Adopt-A-School.
What's not: All door-to-door sales for elementary students are prohibited. The district prohibits sales or solicitation of sales or pre-made products.
Requirements: Schoold organizations must buy the raw materials to make goods sold in fund-raising bake sales or pizza sales - so taht the groups aren't playing the middle man to companies with pre-made products.
What's allowed: No written policy, but the district encourages schools to limit fund raising. The district advises high scholls, middle schools and elementaries to hold only one major fund-raiser a year.
What's not: No written policy, but excessive fund raising is discouraged.
Requirements: Handled by individual schools.
What's allowed: Fund-raising projects to assist sutdents to pay for trips or tours if approved by principals. One fund-raising activity per school per year for charitable purposes. Additional fund-raising activities at high schools for procedure. Sales of U.S. Savings Stamps and Bonds is permitted. Regularly approved sutdent body fees may be collected and tickets to regularly authorized student body functions may be sold.
What's not: Make than one fund-raising activity per school for charity. Unauthorized fund-raising projects. Door-to-door sales are discouraged.
Requirements: Secondary-school student councils may approve one charity dirve each year to benefit a non-school health, welfare, recreational or other agency.