PTA fades

Nationwide, the Parent-Teacher Association is losing membership rapidly, reports the Washington Post. Instead of sending a share of dues to a national organization, parents prefer to start locally controlled parent groups.

The PTA echoes the teachers’ unions, writes Chester Finn.

I can’t name a single policy issue of consequence at the state or national level where the PTA’s testimony doesn’t mirror that of the NEA and/or AFT. This is true on No Child Left Behind. On school finance lawsuits and appropriations. And especially, and most reprehensibly, on issues of school choice of every sort. One might think an organization purporting to look after the parents of school children would do all it could to maximize their education options, to close down bad schools, to assure families the right and the means to leave for better schools, be they district schools, inter-district schools, charter schools, private schools, home schools, virtual schools, or whatever.

But one would be wrong. The PTA is at the state legislature or Congress, along with the unions (and the rest of what Bill Bennett terms “the blob”), lobbying against the rights of parents and children and in favor of the interests of institutions and their adult employees.

The PTA is “all T and no P.”

About Joanne


  1. Bluemount says:

    I liked Chester Finn’s title better: Not all parents are fools
    A friend became the secretary of the PTA at my son’s middle school. I attended once. Less than 10 parents filled the auditorium and the principal lectured to the masses from the podium. He didn’t have time to take question and made a beeline for the door when he completed his speach.
    The teachers note at parent-teacher conference if BOTH parents didn’t attend open house. At open house parents are herded into line where they pay 6$ each for PTA membership. I suppose the money goes for something, someone wants. What can you do, they have your child.

  2. The PTA has been losing ground to locally-controlled groups for a very long time, at least in small towns. My kids have been in six school districts in five states – but I haven’t seen a PTA since I graduated from high school in ’71. They’ve all had a local group called “PTO” (Parent Teacher Organization) or something similar.

    These local PTO’s still often have the same problem of too much “T” and not enough “P” control, but at least they aren’t lobbying state legislatures and Congress for what the teachers want while pretending to represent parents.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I lost interest when I was told that PTA was for parents to be told what to do to assist the school, NOT for any parental criticism of the school.
    Sit down, shut up, pay up.

  4. Tim from Texas says:

    Parents complaining of no power/leverage over the schools and the PTA is tiresome at best. Parents have continually relinquished the power by not making it a priority. Let’s face it, most have something better to do or more important to do. If there is no P in the PTA or PTO, then who’s to blame for that?

  5. Tim from Texas says:

    If parents are herded or if parents sit down pay up and shut up, and do as they are told when they are not in agreement with such policies, then how can they expect change.

  6. Tim from Texas wrote:

    Parents complaining of no power/leverage over the schools and the PTA is tiresome at best.

    Only in the sense that the complainers haven’t tumbled to the facts everyone else is aware of: the PTA has no influence over the school, it exists to do fund-raising and not much else. In other words, sit down, shut up, pay up.

  7. Mad Scientist says:

    I think we need more T and A in the PTA!

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  8. Tim from Texas says:

    Parents don’t have to sit down, shut up, and pay up. If they do,they should complain to themselves. Any PTA can have influence over the schools. What happens in most instances, since most parents don’t want to take the time and effort to have an influence, the PTA committees are loaded by the school principal with lackeyed teachers and parents. The principal and hiser lackeys then take over and run-ram-rod the show.

    If a PTA exists to do fund raising and not much else, the parents just don’t care. In additiion, there are other possibilities and avenues for influence as well. However, parents, of course not all, don’t deem it worthy to get involved, really involved.

  9. Tim from Texas says:

    A little T and A in the PTA is a good idea. It could keep the male principals and the coaches mesmorized during crucial discussions. There are just so many ways for parents to achieve influence.

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The Mad Scientist will sit in the corner for the rest of the day.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    > If parents are herded or if parents sit down pay up and shut up, and do as they are told when they are not in agreement with such policies, then how can they expect change.

    If I’m unhappy with a store, I don’t shop there and it doesn’t get my money. If enough other people agree, the store either changes or goes out of biz. No one thinks that I have an obligation to help in order to get change.

    Why should public schools be any different?

  12. Bluemount says:

    Andy, It’s a pendulum that eventually gravitates to the middle. Parents have to choose their battles and this one ranks on the bottom. Some parents can’t afford to wage the war and some parents don’t see the problem. Schools have masses of numbers to play to. Just like an election they are playing statistics, an individual doesn’t stand a chance.

  13. We were informed this year that any teacher who failed to join the PTA would be required to meet with an assistant principal regarding the matter, and that if we could not justify our non-membership and prove that we were somehow “improving school performance and community relations” outside of classroom time we would be evaluated down on our annual evaluation — which could, of course, impact the renewal of our contracts (we have no tenure in Texas).

  14. Tim from Texas wrote:

    Parents don’t have to sit down, shut up, and pay up.

    They don’t have to but doing anything else is an uphill battle.

    The PTA doesn’t have any legal standing; if an administrator or a principle is annoyed enough and arrogant enough they can simply tell the PTA to get lost.

    Principles, administrators and teachers are all learned professionals who have years of education and experience. What possible input could an ignorant parent have to a process that’s overseen by such august personages? Who knows what unanticipated havoc could occur if the naive suggestions of an ignorant parent were implemented?

    Finally, the principle is there for the long pull. After the apple of some particularly forceful, confident and unflappable mommy’s eye has graduated things can get back to normal and that churning in the stomach that preceeded so many PTA meetings can finally subside.