Ingraham's PTA vs PTO Vote (Fleshed Out)

I've gotten way behind on threads and I did want to flesh out the discussion leading to Ingraham High School's decision to leave PTA and have a Parent Teacher Organization.

By my count, there were about 60+ people at the meeting.  It was a regular PTA meeting so they did their business meeting first.  (They did their Golden Acorn awards and I really love hearing these stories about such hard-working and positive people.)

The PTA President, Keiki Kehoe, gave some background to the issue saying the PTA had felt increasingly distant from the state PTA.  She said that it was a unanimous vote of the Ingraham Board to bring it to the membership for consideration.  She spoke of the common bond of all to work for the students, teachers and staff of the school.

The PTO side was Rosemary Daszkiewicz.  She laid out the issues:
- costs of giving money to the state/national PTA.  At their school, this is about $2k per year.  They feel they need every penny as they have number of F/RL students and they struggle (as do most PTAs) to raise funds.
- control over what they do.  She said they feel that the PTA's bylaws and requirements restrict what the local unit can do and are not necessarily aligned with what the school community itself wants. 
- culture of their school - one community, many voices.  She said, "I want my PTA to focus on what is common to us and not what divides us."  She said the Seattle Council PTA had not supported them on their MAP stand nor on their support when Principal Floe's job was under fire.  The state PTA's support of charter schools at last year's convention was also a turning point for their PTA as well as convention rules that she felt thwarted discussion.

Heidi Bennett was the PTA side.  She offered this:
- that the core of PTA is their motto "Every Child, One Voice."
- PTA helps with a school having a 501c3 designation. 
- PTA is the nation's oldest parent advocacy group
- that $2k is "a drop in the bucket" for what a school receives in support.  She also stated they hadn't spent all their grant money for this year anyway.
- McCleary came through with PTA support and work
- She said there were some issues at the convention but that there was a new WA State PTA president who was aware of them and considering action.
- She said it was their duty to model behavior and not be a school unto themselves.

Input from parents: (they had a pro/con back and forth):

  • a former Salmon Bay parent said that one thing that bothers her about PTA is that you have to pay to join.  She asked why, as a parent at the school, she would not have a vote on school matters?  (Salmon Bay has a PTO.)
  • another parent stated that she liked how the PTA worked for legislation across the state.  
  • another parent offered that she felt that PTA was very geared towards elementary schools and offered less to middle/high schools
  • another parent asked if teachers felt supported and valued by state PTA?  Mr. Thomas, a teacher at Ingraham in attendance, said he thought many teachers were concerned over the direction of the state PTA.  
  • another parent said he felt ambivalent about the situation.  He said that he "feared promises" from either side.  He said that members could be lost either way but that their own PTA had lost members since the state PTA had seemingly sided with having charters.
  • a former TOPS parent also concurred on the point of having an organization that any parent could join without paying
  • another mom said that she felt that the ability for PTA to speak with one voice was a good thing and more important than smaller issues like dues.  
  • a parent after that mom said that she felt PTA was a huge organization that did NOT always speak for all schools and their concerns.  She said she felt like lobbying for bigger education issues should be separate from what each school needs to run itself.
  • another parent said it was nice to have someone to "someone to call."  I don't know if I think, from my own experience, that I ever got a lot of help if I did call SCPTA or the state PTA.
  • another parent said he went to the PTA convention and was dissatisfied with the workshops, couldn't figure out the voting system and felt it was not organized well.  
  • Principal Floe spoke up, very quietly and simply.  He said he felt leaving PTA would be best for the school given the issues before the group. 
One question that got cleared up along the way was around the ability for any parent to join PTA if their school didn't have a unit.  The answer is that yes, you can join any PTA you like and that makes you a voting member of that unit. 

I also note that a couple of people spoke about "modeling behavior" for students.  I thought that having an open and democratic discussion would BE the best kind of modeling you could do for students, no matter the outcome (but maybe I am wrong).

There was also a brief discussion about how wealthier PTAs could fund more members (and therefore send more voting members) to state conventions.  This idea of having to pay to vote - either at the school unit or the convention - seemed to weigh on some people.  (It is also quite the time investment to go to a convention as well and you cannot vote unless you are physically there.)

There was also a bit of confusion over whether a speaker from the state PTA was allowed to speak but one woman did identify herself as the WA State PTA Secretary and she did speak.

This was a calm, civil and evenhanded discussion.  It was noted that no matter the vote, they would all accept the outcome and work for the betterment of Ingraham.   It was also acknowledged that yes, some advocacy strength might be lost going from a part of a larger group to an individual group.  It was also acknowledged that if the PTO did not work out, the parents always had the option of going back to PTA.

As I previously reported, the vote was 44-29 to disaffiliate.  

It will be interesting to see what other Seattle schools might do, if the state PTA does make changes and how this will work out for Ingraham.  


Take Responsibility said…
Bennet's pro-charter push bit her in the butt.
Unknown said…
1. The motto of the PTA is not One Child, Every Voice, it is the opposite.
2. I am rather new to the PTA. I will say as a special education parent, I got help from Ramona Hattendorf when I was trying to get my legislation regarding seclusion and restraint through the legislature. Additionally, Ramona has been on point on the issue of the WA ESEA waiver for special education and helped organized testimony in front of the State Board of Education.
3. Traditionally, PTA's and PTSA's are one of the few ways parents can organize and be heard when it comes to national issues such as the upcoming issue of InBloom.
4. For parents of special education students, it may be one of the few ways to organize district-wide and interface with the special education leadership.
So there you go.
*Please note, I am the president-elect of the Special Education PTSA.
Anonymous said…
Pre the latest charter election, I got to hear Ms. Bennett trash unions with right wing talking points at school board member meeting.

If figures she'd have some shut-down-debate rhetorical tricks!

IF you don't agree with me, THEN you're not modeling good behavior and you're bad for kids!

The PTA influence is as much as con game as the WEA's influence - NEITHER can reliably and regularly turn out hundreds or thousands to actively get rid of a legislator who craps on kids and parents - sometimes union "leaders" run to the front of a parade (SEE MAP, SEA/WEA) to claim success.

IF the PTA was really really getting out the bodies and really scaring the liars like Rodney and, more importantly, his cowardly enablers in the Democratic Party, then Ingrham's peeps can join the other PTA peeps. Is there somethign tricky and magical and secret about joining petitions signings, protests, election events?

(HINT! there is something tricky and magical and secret - when you're incompetent, or, your organization's claims to be democratic are a sham !!)


Maureen said…
When I was on the board of the TOPS PTO, we designated money in our budget to pay the dues for TOPS parents who wanted to join the Seattle Council of the Special Ed PTSA because we didn't want them to have to pay to be represented. I'm not sure if they are still doing that (guessing they would if anyone asked).
Eric B said…
About halfway through the meeting (and unfortunately after I spoke), I suddenly realized what really bothered me about the whole "pay to vote" system.

Poll tax. Those words weren't said, but I can't square any example I want to set for my children with a system that purports to represent all students where you have to have means to vote. I think that was the tipping point for several parents.

It would be different if PTA only says that they represent their members, or if scholarships were available to go to the annual meeting, or if voting was possible online with no fee.
Tami said…
I've worked with Heidi Bennett on 2 different PTSA's and I've always appreciated her work as legislative rep. She's organized phone banking for the levies, and made sure the PTSA members knew about opportunities to testify/lobby/demonstrate in Olympia and been a good liaison to the state organization. I think she does a good job, and it isn't a particularly popular volunteer slot: I know there are several schools where that position is unfilled.

I was disappointed by the PTSA/PTO vote; I would have preferred Ingraham to stay affiliated with the PTSA. I worry that Ingraham may be less aware of state issues. I did appreciate the civility that both sides displayed at the meeting. I am dismayed by the tone and anonymity of HeidiCallBillG's comment.

Tami Oki
Sheri said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheri said…
While the PTA vs PTO discussion and subsequent vote at Ingraham was quite civilized, I am disappointed that some of these comments are personal attacks on one individual. Heidi and Rosemary may not agree on some (or even many) issues, but they did not attack each other personally and they treat each other with respect - that is the kind of behavior our kids, and all of us can learn from.
Sheri Feld, Ingraham Parent
Ebenezer said…
Eric B, I agree - I've thought of the "Poll Tax" analogy for some time - it's incredibly undemocratic. Paying to vote at the state convention is one of the things that's destroyed the credibility of the organization. I'm excited to think that there will be many more schools to drop out after Ingraham, and hopeful we can eventually get a new state organization that represents us instead of an insiders' group.
Heidi b said…
Eric, the seattle council PTSA has grant money for any local unit that wants to go to convention or legislative assembly. Many PTAs have taken advantage of this, including Ingraham high school.
Anonymous said…
from HeidiCallBillG

How is it a personal attack to say what I heard? I've heard Heidi use right wing talking points when talking about unions.

Heidi is pro charter. Have either of the critics of my comments skimmed Diane Ravitch's blog for a few months? Ms. Ravitch's blog has plenty of well written diaries detainling how charters are frequently just employment agencies for the connected, while the working people at the school are treated like disposable whatevers.

Where does this censorship meme of 'model behavior' come from? The pro charter crowd does wonders with coming up with talking points which insure that the debate is on their terms, and, if you oppose their ideas then you oppose ... the flag, apple pie and mom.

Those who imply or call me uncivil - are you intentionally attempting to censor debate, or, did you not know what you're doing?

Anonymous said…
Nathan Hale is voting later in June on whether to leave the PTA. Reasons for leaving are very similar to Ingraham's reason for leaving. I believe that the vote will be a yes for leaving the PTA.

Eric B said…
Thank you Heidi, I stand corrected.
Maureen said…
Heidi (or whoever can answer), is there a way for poor/FRL parents to get their PTSA dues waived (but still have their vote count)? I know you said at the Ingraham meeting that IHS could choose to set their dues lower (you said charge $10 instead of $20 for an individual membership), but about $10 of the dues would still have to go to the Seattle, WA and national PTSA, correct? And then the number of votes the school PTSA gets at the state level is determined by how many members pay dues, so even if poor schools can get a grant to go to the convention, they probably won't have many votes. IHS PTSA paid about $2000 to the PTSA, I expect whatever grant they received was more on the order of $200. Is it common for very poor schools to receive more in grants than they pay in dues? (That is what I would hope to see--some revenue sharing on the state level.)

I agree with Tami that Heidi has shown tremendous dedication to a position that can be very difficult to fill.
RosieReader said…
Responding to Maureen - the WSPTA ByLaws actively prevent any form of scholarship for member dues, nor is there any provision for a waiver. You can get some scholarships to attend various meetings or conventions, these are offered mostly by the Seatle council. But there's no way to subsidize membership fees.

Here are the details: Art. 5. Sec 3(f) states that "only members of a local unit who have paid membership service fees for the current membership year shall be entitled to a voice and one (1) vote on each matter in the business of the local unit." The Bylaws expressly prohibit a unit from providing memership scholarships. Art. 5 Sec. 4(b) states "A local unit may NOT [capitalized in original] use their own funds to pay for or purchase PTA/PTSA memberships. This includes using PTA funds for partial or full membership scholarships."
Thank you, Rosie. That is what I recalled as well because I remember asking about giving subsidies for poorer parents.
Eric B said…
"only members of a local unit who have paid membership service fees for the current membership year shall be entitled to a voice and one (1) vote on each matter in the business of the local unit." (bold mine)

This implies that only members may even speak at meetings?
Jet City mom said…
I was @ Summit for six years with the PTO, several years on the board-& four years at Garfield with a PTA.

I much preferred the PTO, but Garfields position may have been compromised in my mind because of the dominance of parents who had multiple children through the years at Garfield.

The same was true at Summit- but I felt the parents there were much more inclusive of new families and ideas than the parents who came en masse from Washington APP.

I think a PTO that is responsive to the needs of THAT school, is preferable to an organization which has broader concerns.

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