Area’s private schools increasingly turning to mandatory fundraising

Students work on their iPads at Blessed Sacrament School in Belleville.
Students work on their iPads at Blessed Sacrament School in Belleville.

All Saints Academy in Breese is joining a handful of other metro-east private schools that require families to participate in fundraisers.

Starting next year, families must buy 10 $25 raffle tickets, which they may keep or sell. Families who do not participate in the raffle will have up to $250 added to the tuition bill, according to a letter sent to parents last week from Principal Robin Booth. Families must also volunteer at the annual Hot Hoops Basketball Tournament for one three-hour shift during the four-day event. Repercussions of not volunteering in the tournament are not specified in the letter.

Booth said the idea came from parents.

“I think they want to do less fundraising. And if we get everybody involved, it would be less,” she said. The raffle means the silent auction, a “very busy” part of the previous fundraising efforts, would be done away with, Booth said.

She said no parents have complained to her about the requirements, which will take effect in the fall, and that the school offers other fundraisers.

“I think people come to what interests them, and we’re fortunate to have a variety. This weekend we have a golf tournament, so if that’s your thing you’ll be there,” she said.

Participating in fundraisers and activities encourages parental involvement, says Jeri Reuter, whose sons attend St. Elizabeth Elementary School in Granite City.

“It’s really not that big of a deal,” she said of the requirements at St. Elizabeth’s, which include the family volunteering 20 hours at the school through field trips, room parties or the school carnival.

“I think it’s a $100 fee for every hour you don’t complete,” she said, a requirement that was on the books when she graduated in 1998.

Reuter says she doesn’t know of many people who have not met the requirements.

“The people who send their kids (to St. Elizabeth) care about education. You don’t get families who don’t want to participate,” she said.

Reuter says some of the fundraisers offer ways for families to reduce the tuition costs, which she says is $2,350 per parish child.

Her family helps on the Wednesday bingo nights at the Knights of Columbus; the three hours, one day a month knocks $100 off the monthly tuition bill.

The other St. Elizabeth’s fundraising requirement is spending $2,200 a year through the Scrip program, where families buy face-value gift cards through the church office.

St. Elizabeth administrators were not available to comment Friday afternoon.

All Saints’ Booth said the school is “right in the middle of tuition for the diocese,” and hopes the raffle ticket sales help keep tuition down.

Families who sell more than the 10 tickets required will see a $5 per ticket tuition credit.

Administrators at schools that do not have such requirements, including Blessed Sacrament and Governor French, say parent participation is already high.

“The people who can participate do, and the ones who don’t, we understand,” said Principal Claire Hatch of Blessed Sacrament. She says the school gets strong support from parents and parishioners.

“You make the people happy and they’ll donate. I don’t have a whole lot of problems because of that; they like our school so they support it,” she said.

Hatch estimates about 90 percent of families participate in most fundraisers anyway.

Unity Lutheran Christian Elementary School in East St. Louis requires parents to raise $100 through fundraisers during the school year.

Principal Aaron Dickerson said all of the 180 students receive some kind of aid; none pay the full education cost of $6,000 a year. The school’s financial development director said there are a number of fundraising opportunities, but he estimates about 50 percent of the families choose instead to pay the fee.

“We have a much more involved funding model than most parochial schools because of the nature and community that we’re in,” he said, saying that 90 congregations of the Lutheran Church help support the school.

Headmaster Phillip Paeltz, of Governor French, says the only fundraisers his school has are those that support clubs or teams, and no one is required to participate.

“In our case, it’s straight tuition,” he said. Paeltz says that offers educational freedom.

“It’s financially difficult, but completely frees us up to we don’t have to deal with Common Core or other ridiculous requirements from government agencies and that sort of thing.

Paeltz said the school accepts donations, but it’s a very small part of the budget and unlikely to be more than $5,000 in a year.

Catholic and private schools have fundraisers and find financial support because tuition covers about 65 percent of a child’s education, said Susan Moreford, Althoff’s business manager. Tuition at Althoff is $7,100 per Catholic child, and students from outside of the diocese or who are not Catholic pay more.

Tuition and fundraisers

A survey of private schools in Madison and St. Clair counties shows a variety of funding models. Tuition costs listed are base costs, children not associated with the parish of a Catholic school may pay more; families with multiple children may be less.

School, tuition, fundraisers, mandatory participation

  • All Saints Academy, Breese: $3,480, starting mandatory participation with raffle tickets and volunteer activities
  • Althoff High School, Belleville: $7,100. Mandatory raffle sales of six tickets of $25
  • Blessed Sacrament, Belleville: $3,995 with fees, no mandatory fund raising
  • Governor French, Belleville: $5,900, no mandatory fund raising
  • Notre Dame Academy Cathedral Campus, Belleville: $3,750, no mandatory fund raising
  • St. Elizabeth’s Catholic School, Granite City: $2,350, Volunteer hours and participation in Scrip Card program
  • Unity Lutheran Christian Elementary School, East St. Louis: $6,000, Must raise $100 a year
  • Zion Lutheran School, Belleville: $3,400, no mandatory fundraiser