PTA, PTO and Other Groups
Parents have always made such a difference in the health and vitality of
schools. I have such fond memories of PTA ice-cream socials and bake sales. It
was a great way to meet people when you moved to a new neighborhood, too.
What's the latest with parents' groups?
They're still going strong, claiming millions of
members and status as among the largest volunteer child advocacy organizations
in the world. There are Home and School Associations, Community Clubs and many
other names of parent groups, but the two best-known ones are the Parent
Teacher Association (PTA) and its newer cousin, the Parent Teacher Organization
Both have many important and worthwhile
programs. Both, too, are undergoing struggles that match our nation's changing
demographics, such as the increase in working mothers, which renders many
parents' groups understaffed for volunteers, and the polarization of many
schools into low-income inner cities and small towns vs. well-off suburbs.
The PTA and PTO both offer publications,
conventions, workshops and parent idea exchanges. On their websites, there are
good articles on effective parent group management, fund-raising, teacher
appreciation, child development, home management and many more.
As the schools have become vastly more
politicized since the 1960s, when collective bargaining was allowed for
teachers, so have the parents' groups been swept into some controversies and
The PTA was blasted in the book, The Politics of the PTA by Charlene K.
Haar for acting as a sort of rubber-stamp for school administrations and
teachers' unions, aligning its stands on educational issues with the National
Education Association and the federal government, rather than representing
local teachers and parents.
Its chief rival is the Parent Teacher
Organization, or PTO, noted for how it sticks to school issues and does not
venture into the political arena with stands on matters such as international
Other parent groups have sprung up in support of
school choice, special-needs students, math education, and so forth. These
organizations are more focused on academics and policy issues than on
fund-raising and politics.
Homework: The PTA's website is www.pta.org and the PTO's is www.ptotoday.com