A group of Southeast Seattle parents and community members are working together to make fundraising for schools more equitable.

Seattle’s PTA fundraising efforts have been historically more robust in wealthier parts of Seattle Public Schools, sometimes raising hundreds of thousands more than schools in low-income neighborhoods. And not all Seattle schools have PTAs or Parent Teacher Organizations to raise funds. Typically, the money is used to supplement school supplies, books, and in some cases teacher and other employee salaries. 

So some groups are trying a different way.

“Why just fundraise for our school? Let’s do one for the entire Rainier Valley,” said Arlene Williams, who is on the PTA at Graham Hill Elementary and South Shore K-8 School. “The goal is equity and working together. The goal is collaboration and creative problem-solving.”

Changing the way money is raised is especially critical now because the pandemic stalled fundraising efforts and created a larger gap in resources in the southeast part of the district, Williams said. Last year, parents decided to band together for one large fundraising effort that would equally distribute money to the 12 schools that participated.

The parent group, which formed the Southeast Seattle Schools Fundraising Alliance, held a Move-A-Thon last year and raised about $190,000. The money was divided equally and each of the participating schools received $14,500.  

This year, 15 southeast schools are participating in the Move-A-Thon, in which students complete a variety of activities and raise money from sponsors. The fundraising alliance is trying a different way to distribute the money, one with a stronger focus on getting more money to schools that need it.


“This year we wanted to be sure to take into account populations furthest from educational equity,” said Kerry Ward, a member of SESSFA and a Seattle parent. 

Half of the money raised will be distributed equally, to ensure all participating schools receive funds, Ward said. The other half will be given out based on the race and ethnicity of student enrollment at each school, the number of students receiving special education services, the number who are English learners, and the number experiencing homelessness. Schools with greater needs will receive more money.

The goal is to fundraise about $60 per student, Williams said. And through this new fundraising model, she said, schools that don’t have PTAs or PTOs aren’t left out.

At Dearborn Park International Elementary School, the PTA was able to start a teacher’s fund using the money that was donated last year, said Evan Yang, PTA vice president and SESSFA member. Teachers can use the funds for supplies or snacks for students.

“Our mission is not to take away or eliminate the need for fundraising, but to enable the PTA and PTOs to focus less on fundraising so they can get back to advocacy,” Yang said.