A Free and Adequate Public Education

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In April I wrote a bit about the quilt I was working on for the school auction at my kids’ elementary school. While I was looking for some other pictures I found some pictures of the thing done, although not the high quality ones unfortunately.

I was pretty pleased with how it came out, all in all. There were some weird things about the binding, but nothing that made me wig out. I always enjoy looking at the patterns of fabric that have appeared in other quilts, like the purple and orange pieces I used in a quilt for the oldest child of a friend of my husband’s. Or the musical notes that went to friends’ baby in Alaska (bittersweet because the husband of that couple was killed in a plane crash about two years ago). There’s fabric I bought in Michigan, in Ohio, and at Schoolhouse Fabric’s in Floyd, Virginia. And the whales and jellyfish border at the bottom was designed by a highschool friend and I bought it at the hipster fabric shop on Alberta Street.

My husband and I took it to the auction venue the day before the event and hung it up using a combination of ropes and clips that he keeps around for such occasions. I went to the auction the next night with my oldest friend, since we couldn’t get a babysitter so we both could go.

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I’ve probably been to more charity auctions than I have fingers and toes in the last twenty years. There’s always the silent auction, the live auction with the excessively extroverted auctioneer, too much noise, food and drink of variable quantity and quality and lots of people who are there for duty and who might be trying to have fun.

My quilt went for $700. That money will be used to support the arts program at the school. The elementary is an “arts focus program.” (not a magnet school because apparently you’re not supposed to use that term in our school district or something). An “arts focus” program means they have an art teacher, a music teacher and a dance teacher. This is great. My children love it. But those three faculty salaries are heavily (and I do mean heavily) subsidized by the parent-funded foundation. So every year we have this auction (which I don’t enjoy), another major fundraiser in the form of an artists fair (that I enjoy but also help put on, which is an arse load of work), plus constant direct appeals for funds and miscellaneous minor fundraisers like sales of logo swag. And every year I remember that when I was in elementary school 35 years ago or so, we had gym twice a week (which I hated), music twice a week (which was okay), art once a week (which I loved) and library once a week (which I loved). And that was just normal. And starting in about fifth grade you got instrumental music in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. All of the middle and high schools had bands and orchestras and the only time we had to freak out about fundraising was when my orchestra went to Europe(!) after my senior year.

My kids’ school doesn’t have a gym teacher. They have a library, but not a full time school librarian. And by the way…the school district can’t afford paper for photocopying everything the kids need every year, so every year every parent has to show up with two reams of copy paper per child.

Each year in each class the kids (with heavy parent support) make a craft (or several) that gets sold at the auction. This year my son’s class made a collage of hot air balloons. So in addition to making the project for one kid’s class, I bought a project from my son’s class (from the silent auction). I took it back in before the end of school and all the adorable little first graders signed it. Then when I picked it up after school, along with my children, I set it briefly down on the playground and a Boston terrier belonging to one of the first graders peed on it (so everyone has signed it).

So basically the quality of my kids’ education is heavily dependent on how many of the parents have time, money and energy to spend on subsidizing the public education that the State of Oregon is required to provide, according to the State Constitution. And obviously kids in individual schools where the parents have fewer resources have less money for enrichment programs and basic supplies.

I was glad I made the quilt. Before I took it to the auction, I slept with it on my bed once. I’d never had a quilt I made on my own bed before. Perhaps some day I will again.

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One Response to A Free and Adequate Public Education

  1. Pingback: Patchwork ROI | rage. creation – joy

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