I've been a "class parent" and have collected money like this for teachers' gifts a couple of times. Obviously, I have no problem with the concept in general
. However, I do have a BIG problem with trying to make it mandatory and with keeping track of how much each family gives. That's way beyond icky in my mind.
What I did was suggest that each family give between $10 and $20, if they could, but made it clear that the gift would be from everyone and that no one but me would have any idea who had contributed or how much. Some families gave $20; one gave $5; another gave $0. I gave $10. For the 8 kids in the class, I collected $110, which covered a $100 Visa gift card (with fees) and a nice card.
The teacher was thrilled with the gift, and none of the parents seemed offended. I hope that none of them thought that I kept any of the money, like the one of the pp suggested.
Maybe my method only worked well because it was a small school in which we all knew each other fairly well.