Beauty and the Schools Beast

In many parts of the city, parents of public-school students are looking for new ways to raise money for their children's educations, knowing that Harrisburg is likely to continue cutting funds.

At Bache-Martin Elementary, parents are hoping beauty will send a few dollars their way. The Home and School Association there has partnered with neighborhood beauty salons, which have agreed to donate a portion of their March proceeds to help Bache-Martin keep art, music, recess and afterschool programming.

Participating salons include the Beehive, Emerald Cutz, Shear Excellence Barber/Beauty Shop, Sulimay's Hair Design, and SNIP. To see their specific offers, go here.

Of course, community fundraising has been around at least as long as the bake sale, but as a new generation of parents tries to figure out how to raise children and stay in the city, efforts like this one seem to be cropping up everywhere.

"We are definitely reaching out more now than in the past, as these events are fun, easy and raise awareness of the local business and the school," said Merle Becker, a parent at McCall Elementary in Society Hill.

Last month, McCall Elementary sponsored a "Milk & Cupcakes event. Children went to Kids on 12th, a local gym, for a pajama pizza party with crafts, games and cupcakes. Their parents had a night out at MilkBoy Bar and Restaurant. Both businesses donated proceeds. Total take: $850.

In February, Chester A. Arthur Elementary, in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, raised $4,000 by putting on a show with the Walnut Street Theatre. Last fall, supporters of Henry C. Lea in West Philadelphia contributed $400 in school supplies, many of them purchased at University Dollar Plus, which kicked in some free goodies.

Last year, an auction featuring donations from  local businesses helped Greenfield Elementary bring in $26,000 to renovate its auditorium.

The Philadelphia School district recently began working with a new parents' group, the Greater Center City Neighborhood School Coalition, which aims to raise funds for and market the 12 elementaries in Center City.

At Bache, which serves the Francisville and Fairmount neighborhoods, parents say partnerships like the one with local salons show that businesses understand the importance of strong local schools.

"What is interesting, I think, is that I know for a fact that none of the participating businesses have a vested interest in the school itself, i.e. none of them have children there," Bache-Martin parent Nina Liou said in an e-mail. "They are doing this because they recognize that schools are an integral part of a community and that stronger schools translate to stronger communities which in turn impact their business in the short and long-term."