As I have said previously, I totally support the PTSA. Our PTAs do the frontline work at our schools and give support that makes many good schools great. I personally wish there was a way to organize a PTA in every school (I sure there is but how the Seattle Council approaches this I don't know). But I do have some dissatisfactions with PTA mainly in the fact that it operates more as a cheerleading group for the district/schools and is not really an advocate for parents. I pointed this out to the National PTA President during a recent visit to Seattle and she pointed me to a brochure about PTA and how schools should allow parents to advocate for what they want. But it's all words if districts don't take it seriously.
My last word on PTA is that it is the largest parent organization in the country. Certainly in Seattle we have some very strong PTAs and I'll bet the numbers are pretty strong overall. Could the PTA flex its muscle ever once in awhile to advocate for parents to the district? It could but it doesn't. Maybe it's Seattle Nice or maybe it's just how PTA operates in every state and city. But without PTA, many, many things would not get done in schools. They are a huge benefit to our district.
So if not PTA, what else is there? Choices include:
- CPPS. Here's a link to their website. CPPS was organized here in 2004 (but started in 1989 in another part of the country as Parents for Public Schools). Here's what PPS says:
PPS values public education as an important part of American life, as an essential element of a democracy, and for the richness in diversity it offers our children.
PPS values effective parent involvement as critical to strong public schools.
PPS values the constructive involvement of parents in the governance of schools and as a bridge between the schools and the community.
PPS values parents as committed owners of, rather than passive consumers in, public schools.PPS values the improvement of public education for every child, not just our own.
CPPS echos these views. I like this idea of being pro-active. It lays it out, for all to see, that CPPS is not going to be a booster group but parents who want to be part of the system.
The knock against CPPS was that they initially took Gates Foundation money and there was worry that there was an agenda there. I think that is not so now. Also, Venus Velázquez is their interim director and I haven't always found her to be the most effective person to get a message out. But I wouldn't hold that against CPPS as a whole.
They are a 503 c organization which means they cannot lobby for candidates.
- ESP Vision. This group was organized recently and here is their mission statement.
Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision of the Seattle Schools (ESP Vision) advocates for justice and equity in public school resources, smaller class sizes, individualized instruction, curricula that reflects all children and learning styles and an ongoing communitywide commitment to demand full mandated funding and close the resource gap in our district. ESP Vision is “Saving Seattle Schools” from decades of mismanagement and failed vision. We value children and educators first and oppose balancing school budgets through building closures, educator lay-offs and cuts to essential programs, services or facilities.
This group seems to be more militant in its stance, more holistic in what they want to achieve (curriculum that reflects the students), and more coalition building (not always a good thing from my experience - very hard to do well). If this is what you are looking for, this might be a good group. It is unclear to me if they are a non-profit group.
- Stand for Children. I was just recently introduced to this group by one of its local organizers. Started in 1996, it has chapters in 5 states. Here is its mission:
"Stand for Children builds power by training everyday people to be effective citizen leaders who join together in a unified, grassroots voice. We use that power strategically to win concrete, long-lasting improvements for children, at both state and local levels. State affiliates and local Chapters mobilize members, donors, and other supporters to hold leaders accountable for prioritizing children’s needs.
We improve children’s lives not by providing direct services to individual children or their families, but by making those services more broadly available and more effective through advocacy. Every dollar contributed to a direct service provider yields less than a dollar of service, after administrative costs are covered. Every dollar contributed to Stand for Children is multiplied more than one hundred times, yielding greater resources for services that help large numbers of children."
"On June 1, 1996, 300,000 citizens came to Washington, D.C., for Stand for Children Day, the largest rally for children in U.S. history. Mrs. Rosa Parks, civil rights movement icon, through a statement of support challenged the nation to commit themselves to improving the lives of children, saying, "If I can sit down for justice, you can stand up for children." From that event grew Stand for Children, a 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy organization, and Stand for Children Leadership Center, a 501(c)(3) leadership development and training organization."
That last sentence is key because this group because of the 501 c 4 means they can lobby for candidates in a way that other non-profits can't. I haven't made my mind up yet. I feel like CPPS has been around longer but I do like the broad abilities of Stand for Children. I have already tried a group like ESP Vision and it's not for me. Anyone a member of any of these groups? What can you add to to broaden the view about these groups?