Your unit has to send a delegate to vote at the Convention. The Convention costs $190 per delegate. The Legislative Session in October is $140. (You can request a scholarship or work as a volunteer to waive this fee.) That's a lot of money for a PTA to give up and yet decisions are being made in the name of PTA and that name carries a lot of weight with legislators.
Region 6 that includes Seattle as well as Shoreline, Northshore, and Vashon Island has a large WSPTA membership (about 75 PTAs) and yet a fraction of eligible delegates attend.
What this means is that it is possible for the Convention to be controlled by one small group. Consider asking your PTA to sponsor at least one delegate (or share the one delegate vote among a couple of people) to the Convention.
There are some good resolutions like supporting Arts Education, Alignment of Sleep Requirements for Optimum Health with School Start Times, and not funding additional staff (that PTAs fund educational experiences outside of the regular school day). I think except for the arts plank (which I think most people would easily agree on), that the other two are worthy of discussion at the Convention. But then there is the Equitable Educational Opportunities resolution.
One major issue continues to be the 2-year plank in support of charter schools that passed in Oct. 2011 at the Legislative Session. No matter the protests of the Washington State PTA leadership that all was done according to bylaws, many people continue to feel blindsided and suspicious.
Within this resolution is this:
Resolved, Washington State PTA will promote expansion of choice by supporting innovative schools -- in- cluding non-profit charter schools -- where they are supported by the local community and when they reflect the positions and principles of National and Washington State PTA, and when they adhere to and comply with applicable laws and guidelines set forth for other public elementary and secondary educational institutions.
Understand that resolutions passed become "a permanent statement of policy adopted by the WSPTA at its annual meeting." But the procedure also says that resolutions "must not be in conflict with WSPTA and policies."
Here's where this gets murky for me. I called the National PTA and asked about their "positions and principles" as stated above. The press officer was pretty frank that he didn't even know what that was referencing in terms of charter schools and would let me know. He wrote me back and listed items like:
- be open to all students
- comply with federal and state laws governing public schools
- include parents in meaningful decision-making role
He also stated:
By the way, I would also note that National PTA only supports the creation of public and non-profit charter schools. We do not support for-profit charters.
When I let him know about what the Washington legislation had allowed - only non-profits to open charters but then for-profits to run them - he said I should ask Washington PTA for their thoughts.
I wrote to Bill Williams, the Executive Director for Washington PTA, and frankly was baffled by his answer.
First, the language you quoted is one part of a multi-part resolution that will be considered by delegates at the Washington State PTA Convention, which will be held on May 4-6, 2012 at the Doubletree Hotel near SeaTac Airport. It is a “PTA stance” only in the sense that the Board of Directors adopted it as a legislative position during the recently concluded legislative sessions.
Only in the sense? It is a resolution on the agenda at their Convention. That's a lot more than a stance. There must be some nuance I am missing or, as is my belief, people are being disingenuous about the words they are using.
He also sent the language around parents:
“Standard 5: Sharing power—Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.”
This sounds great but in my research, I have seen virtually no charters that involve parents that deeply in any way, shape or form. It doesn't mean they don't exist but that they are hard to find at all says something.
He then goes on to say about any future charter legislation:
For example, Washington State PTA had and expressed serious concerns about both aspects of the bill I mentioned above because neither section provided for any meaningful parental or community involvement in the decisions that would have been authorized.
So to be clear.
The National PTA says they do not support for-profit charters. To me it is a very slippery slope between law that allows only non-profits to open the schools but then can contract out all the running of the school to a for-profit group. The PTA - National and Washington State - need to be clear on this issue and they aren't.
As well, if parent involvement in charter schools is key to supporting charter school legislation then the Washington PTA has a responsibility to stand up and be counted and refuse to support - and loudly - any charter school legislation that barely mentions parents at all (as this one this session did).
The PTAs - national, state, and local - have to stand with one voice on the key issues around charter school legislation and the policies that the PTA stands for.
Here's a parent letter that your PTA can use to get out the vote.
First personalize it. For example:
* Change “your” to “our” if contacting your own leadership, or “school name”,
* Include your association, past or present, with the school,
* Be sure to sign it
Dear PTA/PTSA President/Legislative Chair,
I have a heads-up about the Washington State PTA Convention that's happening on May 4-6. You probably already know a lot of this, but basically…
Delegates from PTA units all around the state will gather to vote on important resolutions, bylaws and candidates. This is when the PTA defines itself and its positions on things like equity, funding, etc. that will affect your school and students.
* Schools have to pay for a vote.
* Schools can send two or more delegates, depending on size.
* It costs $190 for a PTA to send somebody (as of April 9th). Scholarships may be available through the Seattle Council PTSA and also people can "earn" a one day registration fee by volunteering.
I hope your PTA(PTSA) will attend so your voice is counted. Please send your full contingent of delegates, but even sending one would be great; which may be one more than last year!
The risk of not attending is that decisions will be made by other PTA's that could have a (radically) different opinion than you.
Please check out the conference information.
And here is a link to the voters guide and the four permanent resolutions.