With state aid becoming less than reliable, school districts can look to a more localized source for funding.
In most school districts, a conglomerate of parents and teachers work together to raise funds for specific programs, capital projects or technology upgrades. As separate entities from the districts they serve, these groups maintain their own accounts and distribute their money accordingly to their respective districts.
While some area districts are members of the National Parent-Teacher Association, which requires membership dues, most have an equivalent program known as a "parent-teacher organization." Regardless of name or affiliation, these groups provide monetary support for districts throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, including: Jamestown Public Schools, Falconer, Frewsburg, Chautauqua Lake, Randolph, Bemus Point, Clymer, Sherman and Southwestern.
According to Amy Woods, vice president of Clymer's PTO, the purpose of the organization is to provide supplementary funding and materials for the district.
"Our 100 percent goal is to support the school, kids and staff in any way that we can to enhance stuff that, because of budget cuts, the school may not be able to do right now," she said. "(We try to) supplement and enhance programs that are going on (at Clymer). One of our goals this year was to help (the district) with whatever they may need to help them enhance the reading program."
These organizations are able to provide this assistance through fundraising efforts. According to Barb Cooper, president of Sherman's PTO, her organization votes on which companies it will use for fundraisers.
"That's fun because we only do it once every three years," said Cooper. "We vote according to value and service, and we do try to use local companies from Erie, Buffalo and our (immediate) area."
Regarding specific services her organization has provided, Cooper added: "We've done things in the past like (donate) a scoreboard that (Sherman) needed, which was expensive. We did a big playground, and that was a big item. On an annual basis, we give a scholarship to a deserving high school senior through an essay-writing contest. We also give money to Red Ribbon week, which is through the fire department, as well as after-prom."
According to Woods, the PTO's job is to provide the district with whatever it deems to be a good fit for the school without stepping on any toes.
"We don't want to compete with any of the fundraisers that are already going on for the school," said Woods. "We try to find ones that are appropriate for our school, and also would not compete with ones that have been in place for years. We've tried to touch all areas of the school in some ways, and we want to benefit all of the schools."
Local PTOs subscribe to the motto of "the more, the merrier," and are always looking for new members. According to Cooper, Sherman's PTO does do some community outreach, but joining the organization is as simple as attending a meeting and signing up.
"We're a small but mighty group," said Cooper. "I would say we have about 20 (members) but, in this area, parents are very busy. We send out an invitation in the fall, and (parents) can respond to the invitation or come to the first meeting. We really only ask pre-K to third-grade (parents)."
Woods said that anybody interested in the Clymer PTO can contact her or the school district for more information.