Sunday, May 22, 2016

Washington State PTA to Members: Not Qualified to Talk about Money for Education

There was a speech that was delivered by Duncan Taylor, the interim Legislative Director, at this weekend's PTSA convention in Yakima.  I heard about it from several PTA people who told me they were quite surprised at what he said.  He skipped going over what happened at the last legislative session in Olympia which is surprising.

So the lessons learned from this past legislative session were not so important to talk about for Mr. Duncan. Unfortunately, there was one key thing that it would behoove all ed groups to understand - bring the kids.  It certainly was the tipping point for some Democratic legislators for charter law legislation. 

What did he say?

Basically, Mr. Duncan is saying PTSA shouldn't advocate for money for public education for two reasons.

One, all those numbers are too big and complex for parents to understand.

Two, it's not their mission as a group.

 He said that for the last 30 years that the issue of full-funding for public ed has been on their list and why was that?

I'll bite; that education keeps costing more money because of mandates from the state and the need for more student supports? Let's look at the PTA website; here's their mission statement:

Our Mission:
PTA is

  • a powerful voice for children,
  • a relevant resource for families, schools and communities, and
  • an advocate for the well-being and education of all children.
 Mr. Duncan apparently said that PTA isn't a org that works on tax issues.  He said that kind of work wasn't part of their mission.  And, that parents don't have the expertise to talk about it to legislators.
He's probably right on that exact point - taxing"  but under "History" they say, "here are some specific examples of PTA successes right here in Washington" (partial)
  •  When local levies failed in the 1950s and kindergartens went unfunded, Washington State PTAs first organized kindergarten "co-ops," then worked to secure state funding for universal kindergarten. 
  • Thousands of volunteers from Washington State PTA helped secure the passage of the "simple majority" amendment to the state constitution in 2007.
Those certainly dealt with funding and to pass them, it would have been important to understand state education funding. 

So he advocated for members to work for issues that "transcend what happens in the classroom." He also said the phrase "whole child" which seems to be a new push from PTA to go away from the classroom.

But Mr. Duncan cannot deny the deep ties to education that is PTSA.  I have to wonder if PTA would be in so many schools if their main goal isn't education.  If it's not, why does PTSA get to be the only parent advocacy group directly linked with the overwhelming majority of schools?

Maybe if we are talking about issues around children and schooling in Seattle Public Schools, maybe Soup for Teachers should be the group representing parents, not PTSA.


Catherine said...

Duncan Taylor - go to his LInkedIn Profile - it doesn't take long to have a good idea of why he's saying that.

Anonymous said...

That is an absolutely baffling choice. It sounds as though he is suggesting that PTSA families just continue to work backfilling holes in our ever-deepening education chasm? Personally, I am tired of doing so.

I guess Washington's Paramount Duty IS the only game in town willing to advocate on this issue?


mirmac1 said...

Sounds like some "man-splaining" going on there....

Anonymous said...

So if public schools want $$, they should pull the kids from school, head down to Olympia, and use the kids as political lobbying leverage like the charter schools did? And even use public money to do so, like Success Charters in NY does?
It'll take all of 10 minutes before the legislators are calling foul, complaining about how public schools are wasting public money, using kids for political purposes, even though a double standard exists for charter schools (which also got double funding).
Whatever. WSPTA is no better than the majority of the ed deform astroturf groups like Stand on Children.


seattle citizen said...

Catherine, I couldn't find him on LinkedIn - could you provide a link? Or copy and paste the pertinent info?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Please be sure of any link you provide at LinkedIn. People have similar names and you could get the wrong person.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, so I see the guy at LinkedIn does have this under volunteer experience.

Catherine said...

Seattle Citizen - look for Duncan Taylor
Director of Operations at Washington Bankers Association

I've never had success sending LinkedIn links.

The bit that jumped out - besides the general tenor of jobs and corporations:
Product Specialist Apex Learning

Cassandra said...

There was an audible gasp when Duncan made his statement to the 300+ PTA leaders gathered at Convention. And while I agree that PTA does not need to outline "how" we fully fund basic education, it is ABSOLUTELY our responsibility to continue advocate for full funding for each and every student in our State! Duncan's comments were also in stark contrast to this morning's comments by WA State Teacher of the Year, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, who urged PTA to continue our advocacy and to make our voices heard. "If not you, then who?" I believe were his exact words. I hope the WSPTAs board will continue to lead this important work.

Ramona H said...

This is so sad. WSPTA was a lead advocate for an income tax going back decades. The association has a very formal process of longterm and short term positions, and securing funds for education most certainly has been front and center on both. And going back ... I don't know, close to 10 years ... it has been a top 5 issue on the short term platform as well as part of the resolutions (that's like PTA law). And yes, I am not just talking about calling for full funding but for advocating for revenues to support children's wellbeing and education. (I was the staff policy/gov relations person for about 3 years as well as a former president of the Seattle Council PTSA). I left PTA a few years ago. I know it means a lot to many I hold in high regard. But I just can't. So sad

Ramona H said...

Also ... yes, parents damn well DO have the expertise to discuss budget, revenue and policy. It's called learning, and sharing, and discussing options. It's called democracy. Don't let anyone ever tell you budget and revenue is just too complicated for you. And considering most PTA members are female, those comments are even more offensive, disheartening... and sad.

Ramona H said...
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Ramona H said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Ramona, that's how it feels to me as well.

Mr.Taylor has reached out to me and I'll listen to what he says and report back.

Maureen said...

Any formal response from the Seattle Council Board?

RosieReader said...

Wow. When Ingraham was discussing whether or not to leave the PTA and becomes a PTO, one of the strongest argument arguments in favor of staying was the importance of being part of a collective voice in state and national lobbying. And now, the PTA is rejecting that, wanting PTA's to just be eye candy, and to stay out of the hard work of, for example, getting adequate funding for education state wide. I am appalled.

I wonder why anyone would see value in remaining as part of PTA as a result of this.


Brian Duncan said...

This new WSPTA leg director, Duncan Taylor, is entitled to express his opinion, wrong as it sounds to me. Not sure, though, if his view on role of PTA, and even of parents broadly, in not properly lobbying for state tax reform is the prevailing view within the board, or, moreover, within the statewide membership as a whole. Has there been a debate and vote on this at any level within PTA?

My own view is that WSPTA should be exactly focused on lobbying for state tax reform, i.e., a progressive income tax/regressive sales tax swap, with significant net increased revenue to fund McCleary mandate, while causing a net decrease in overall tax burden for most WA taxpayers. Not the only scope of PTA, but should be a major one at this time in our state, given the funding crisis.

My opinion is that if the PTA leadership is dead set against the historical mission of the PTA as a child advocacy organization to lobby our state government to amply fund public education, then (1) new leadership should be voted in that will, and (2) outside organizations like WPD could step in to fill the void in the meantime.

Brian Duncan, parent at Ballard HS and Salmon Bay K8

Anonymous said...

"My own view is that WSPTA should be exactly focused on lobbying for state tax reform, i.e., a progressive income tax/regressive sales tax swap, with significant net increased revenue to fund McCleary mandate, while causing a net decrease in overall tax burden for most WA taxpayers. Not the only scope of PTA, but should be a major one at this time in our state, given the funding crisis".

Agree with you Brian.

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