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|NUMBER 173||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JUNE 2000|
'P' in PTA is for Politics, Not Parents|
National PTA leaders are urging delegates to its annual convention in Chicago this month to approve a 100% increase in membership dues. The hike is only from $1 to $2 but, if approved, National PTA revenues will increase by more than $6 million.
According to the treasurer's report, National PTA revenues totaled $8.4 million for fiscal year 1998, but leaders say that amount is insufficient. What they don't mention is that the increase is needed for lobbying. "With this increase, PTA can be everywhere you would like to be," leaders say.
The call for a dues increase coincides with PTA's major push for new federal funding for public schools. While its stated goal of increasing parental involvement in education is good, PTA's concept of parental involvement would increase the power of teachers unions and strengthen the hand of the public school establishment. Its leaders avoid mentioning that earlier PTA-backed legislation - the federal Goals 2000 program - failed to achieve PTA's objective.
In the National Education Goals Panel's most recent report dated December 1999, 44 states and the District of Columbia reported no change in parent involvement, one of its eight failed goals. Six states reported less involvement than in the previous year. Still, the panel claimed that its "bold venture" worked because the goals had "helped stimulate reforms" in some states.
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PARENT would allow schools to use federal funds to increase parental involvement as outlined in PTA guidelines, but the ESEA already allows funds for parent involvement activities. Currently-funded activities include family literacy programs, parent meetings and training, transportation and child care so that parents can visit schools, and even the purchase of materials for parents who help their children study at home.
Most parents don't need Goals 2000 or the PARENT Act to be involved in their children's education. Research suggests that parents would more likely become involved in their children's education if they were consulted on substantive issues such as teacher evaluation procedures and criteria, teacher absences and curriculum basics.
Not for Parents
Like teacher unions, the PTA feels threatened by policies that give parents a choice among schools, such as charter schools, vouchers and tax credits. The group even opposes home schooling - the ultimate in parent involvement in education!
Estimates indicate that only 10% of K-12 parents pay dues to the PTA - and the majority of those are unaware of its extensive lobbying activities and the positions it takes that are unfriendly to parents. Nevertheless, National PTA has clout. If its leaders succeed in increasing member dues and expanding the organization's lobbying efforts, PTA could significantly damage parents' interests while increasing taxpayer funds for the public school establishment.
Affiliated with PTA? Break Away!
Alternatives to National PTA
National Network of Partnership Schools, 3303 N. Charles St., Suite 200, Baltimore, MD 21218, phone 410/516-8800, argues that successful education programs "will not come from Washington." Instead, "parents at the local level must be motivated and activated."
National Coalition of Parent Involvement in Education, 3929 Old Lee Highway, Suite 91-A, Fairfax, VA 22030, phone 703/359-8973, is a coalition of 61 education associations and advocacy groups that support public education. They share information, work together on projects and serve as an advisory group.
Charlene Haar is a research associate for the Social Philosophy & Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and president of the Education Policy Institute in Washington, DC, website www.education policy.org This article is excerpted from Organization Trends, May 2000, Capital Research Center, 202/483-6900.