In case you needed a reminder that schools shouldn't have to depend on fundraisers.
Photo by VegaTeam/Flickr.
Back-to-school season is just around the corner, which means the nation’s cash-strapped campuses will soon be asking moms and dads to help out with fundraisers. And in turn, parents who want their kids to have the resources and supplies they need at school will shamelessly harass their family members, friends, and coworkers, asking them to buy candy bars and wrapping paper. One year I even asked folks to buy whole cheesecakes and Christmas trees. (C’mon, forget your diet and that you don’t celebrate Christmas — do it for the kids!)
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Schools can’t depend on handouts.[/quote]
It’s no wonder then that some folks are burned out from having to ask people to buy things just so their kids’ schools can still have art class or purchase reading materials. But if you need another reminder that fully funding public education really is the best policy, look no further than the controversy sparked on Facebook by a mom’s claim that she used her own breast milk to make brownies for a school bake sale. Seriously.
“I made brownies for my school bake sale that had breast milk in them. I didn’t have time to run to the store, and didn’t think it was a big deal (some of those kids could use the nutrition to be honest),” wrote the mom. “One of the other moms found out and are blowing it way out of proportion. Idk what to do!”
It’s unclear where exactly this alleged incident happened since only a screenshot of the mom’s confession — in which her name was redacted — was shared on the popular Facebook page Sanctimommy. But the post, which has thousands of Facebook reactions, shares, and comments, has struck a nerve.
Some of the comments poke fun at the outrage by suggesting that the real problem is that this mom used milk in a brownie recipe. Another commenter snarked that, “Clearly the other moms are upset because you baked brownies with sugar and flour. Next time try a sugar-free, gluten-free recipe and you should be fine. Pro-tip: make them soy-free as well. And obviously, sneak in some spinach and quinoa.”
One of the most popular comments brought up the dangers of consuming human breast milk: “Breast milk, like blood or semen, can carry diseases, which is why legit donation services screen the milk before passing it along to moms and their babies.”
Indeed, according to the Food and Drug Administration, human milk is rife with “possible health and safety risks.” Feeding human milk to a baby can expose it to “infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants, such as some illegal drugs, and to a limited number of prescription drugs that might be in the human milk, if the donor has not been adequately screened. In addition, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could, like any type of milk, become contaminated and unsafe to drink.”
However, in this instance, the concerns about recipes and health risks would have been a nonissue if parents didn’t feel the pressure to whip up items to peddle at a bake sale in the first place. As a recent report from the think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found, at least 31 states provided “less state funding per student in the 2014 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2014) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.” Complete data wasn’t available for 2016-2017, but the center found that preliminary information shows cuts in at least half of the states during that school year.
Some schools turn to professional companies for help, but those efforts often end up earning plenty of cash for the companies that supply items to sell. Jon Krueger, the executive director of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers told the Chicago Tribune in 2015 that the fundraising industry has annual sales of $3.3 billion. However, only $1.4 billion — less than half — of the revenue from selling items actually goes to schools or other organizations that are trying to raise money.
Given that, it’s easy to see why parents might turn to bake sales. Sure, you pony up cash for the items needed to actually bake the brownies, but at least schools can potentially hold onto a larger percentage of the profits than if they’re partnering up with fundraising companies. At the same time, well-off parents might opt to skip the baking session and just write a check. This past spring, some public schools in New York City were auctioning off tickets to a Yankee game and LASIK eye surgery services — all donated by parents.
“Schools can’t depend on handouts, whether it’s handouts from private foundations or from parents, to make up the shortfalls in what public funding is required to provide them,” Jessica Wolff, the policy director at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City told NBC 4 about the controversy.
But as long as broke schools send home letters asking parents to help out with fundraising efforts, moms and dads are going to make the decision to bake some brownies. And some of those brownies might just have ingredients you don’t want to eat.