The Parent Teacher Association of a Brooklyn elementary school made jaws drop earlier this week after they reported raising a whopping $76 million in 2018. But it turns out the actual number was significantly less—according to the PTA president at P.S. 133 William A. Butler, the real total was two decimal points to the left: $760,000. Still, the sum is still enormous compared to the hundreds of schools that reported no PTA income at all.

For the first time, the city's Department of Education released a tally of how much money parent associations collected in a year. The new numbers tell an old story: On one end of the spectrum there are PTAs that generate millions of dollars for supplies, arts programs and after-school activities, while, at the other end, many school PTAs struggled to raise just a few hundred dollars. Then, there are entire school districts where the total amount of money raised by PTAs is listed as zero.

The data dump is the result of City Council legislation requiring the school system to publish how much each PTA raises alongside school demographics. The move came amidst closer scrutiny of inequities among the more than 1,800 schools in the nation’s largest school system, and the acknowledgment that parent fundraising plays a role in widening the divide.

The data highlights enduring racial disparities in city schools. An analysis by the Daily News found the median black student went to a school that collected about $4 per pupil, while the median white student went to a school that raised $65 per pupil.

“We are thankful for and greatly value these contributions, but in some instances, and without clear intent, these systems can also perpetuate or exacerbate disparities in opportunities for students,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “We will continue to partner with parent leaders in order to generate innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities before us.”

But several associations said their numbers are wrong—in some cases wildly so.

Butler PTA President Jennifer Skoda called the $76 million-dollar sum a “significant error.”

“If the decimal point is moved two columns to the left, you have the numbers that we reported,” she said. “It must have been a clerical error when they were entered into the DOE system, and we are working on getting it corrected.”

According to the data, the PTA at Booker T. Washington on the Upper West Side took in $1.4 million last year. But parent leaders said the real number is less than a fifth of that, at around $240,000.

“We think it’s great to have the transparency in theory, and I think there’s every reason to think it’s good for folks to know what’s out there,” PTA president Jerome Kramer said. “But I don’t think [the education department has] the systems in place yet to make the theoretical transparency an actual reality.”

An Education Department spokesperson emphasized that the numbers are self-reported, meaning individual schools were responsible for submitting them. Officials did try to contact the associations to confirm the information, the spokesperson said, but “cannot guarantee all data is accurate.” Hundreds of schools did not submit the data.

City Council Member Mark Treyger, who chairs the education committee and authored the bill to make the information public, said the overall message is clear. “Even setting aside faulty data, the PTA and PA fundraising report discloses what so many of us have intuitively known: there are glaring disparities among schools, districts and city neighborhoods.” He noted that a majority of schools with the highest-earning PTAs come from just three school districts, District 2, 15 and 26.

PTAs are barred from paying salaries for “core subject” teachers, but associations flush with funds can make a big difference in their school communities—paying for librarians, coaches, art programs, air conditioning, even landscaping.

However, schools with wealthier parents are also less likely to receive federal Title I funds, which flow to schools where many students come from low-income families.

Treyger said the data should be a “wakeup call” to the DOE that it’s time to change policies. “We need to be very clear: fundraising levels are not reflective of the degree to which parents are committed to their children’s education. They are reflective of parental resources.”

Tazin Azad, the PTA president at MS 890, a Title I school in Brooklyn, said asking for money “over and over again” can be off-putting to parents struggling to get by. “It’s just not what we want to do in our specific community,” she said. Instead, the association favors encouraging parents to be active and engaged with the school. She noted that the inequity between PTAs go beyond fundraising. It’s also about who has the time and flexibility to serve.

Some parents have discussed strategies to even out some of the disparities, by centralizing PTA funds and distributing an equal amount throughout the system, or sharing funds between groups.