Trump Budget: A Bad Deal for Kids

On May 24, 2017, President Donald Trump released his budget proposal for the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 which included a proposed cut of $9.2 billion to the U.S. Department of Education from last year’s funding level. This proposed cut to education programs comes on the heels of Congress cutting funding for federal education programs in FY 2017.

The President’s budget would maintain the same level of funding from FY 2017 for Title I, which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families, special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs)—centers that provide information and services to families to help support students with disabilities. Additionally, the President’s budget does not include investments for family engagement in education through the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program and eliminates more than 20 education programs including: educator professional development; after school programs; preschool grants and grants that aim to ensure students receive well-rounded educational opportunities, learn in healthy and safe school environments and have opportunities to use technology in the classroom.

On top of these cuts, the President’s budget includes a new $250 million grant program that would allow public dollars to be used for private and religious school tuition. National PTA has a long standing position opposing private school choice systems that would divert public school resources. National PTA is also concerned about a new grant program in Title I that would allocate $1 billion to “follow” a child to any public school which would significantly impact the distribution of funds across and within Title I districts and create division and separation within communities.

Federal funding for education programs has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades, despite continuous growth in public school enrollment and the increased cost of education resources and services. The President’s budget would decrease the federal investment in education below 2%. Such devastating cuts to education at the federal level are combined with state and local cuts to education that further lessen the opportunities for every child to reach their full potential.

It is important to remember that the President’s budget proposal is exactly that, a proposal to Congress outlining the Trump Administration’s priorities. The funding power lies with Congress to decide what federal programs will be funded and at what levels each year. There is a need to invest more in education programs at the federal level. Federal funding for education at, or below, 2% of the federal budget is a cut to classrooms.

If you agree that 2% of federal funding for public education is not enough and future cuts to education would be catastrophic for the future of our children, Take Action today and tell your member of Congress to increase investments for public education so that every child’s potential becomes a reality.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @National PTA and sign up for the National PTA’s Takes Action Newsletter to participate in the advocacy campaign and receive the latest information on PTA’s advocacy efforts.

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

The Power and Peril of Myth for Today’s College Students

Originally published on GatesFoundation.org. 

We are now entering what is perhaps my favorite time of the year: graduation season. As a veteran faculty member and administrator, I have fond memories of commencement ceremonies, seeing the joy and pride in the faces of graduates and their families and knowing many of the stories behind those smiles.

While graduation season is filled with inspiring stories of persistence, sacrifice, and accomplishment, it also gives rise to some lingering myths about our students and what it takes for them to get to graduation. These myths hurt students because they help preserve a status quo in which not enough of them succeed. We can and must bust these myths.

MYTH 1: College is not for everyone, and too many people are going to college. When many people hear the word “college,” they think only of four-year universities and rightly argue that not everyone needs a four-year degree.

But in today’s world, it is important to define college as a meaningful credential after high school – everything from short-term certificates in areas such as information technology to doctorates that can take up to a decade to complete. By that standard, we don’t have enough people going to college. Leading labor market projections show that our economy could face a shortfall of up to 11 million credentialed workers by 2025. And the data are clear that today’s labor market clearly favors those with post-high school education, with nearly all of the post-recession jobs going to those with more than a high school diploma. Additionally, it is becoming more difficult to earn a family-supporting wage with a high school diploma or less.

It is time to stop arguing over whether everyone needs college and instead focus on the kind of college that different people need. Otherwise we have no hope of reaching a national attainment goal of 60 percent of adults with a credential of value – or coming anywhere close to it.

MYTH 2: Students don’t make it through college because they are not college material. I’ve had the opportunity to observe and be part of conversations with policymakers and opinion leaders, and the discussion of why students drop out nearly always ends up in some version of the film Animal House…students weren’t motivated to study and/or partied too much. It’s a convenient and time-honored narrative.

Unfortunately, the facts indicate otherwise. Four in 10 of today’s college students are 25 or older, more than one-quarter of them have children, nearly two-thirds of them are working while enrolled, and one-third of them come from households earning $20,000 or less per year. These students are plenty motivated. But they are also juggling work, family, and studies with little margin for error, and are trying to navigate institutions that are not prepared to teach when they are ready to learn and not equipped to help them plot a course. And the story of students being able to work their way through college is heartwarming but hopelessly outdated.

Institutions like Sinclair Community College saw that, and began to develop tools that helped students understand and take ownership of their path to a degree, no matter where it started. And they got results. Students participating in their technology assisted advising program graduate at twice the rate of students who do not.

MYTH 3: Income might be a barrier to a college degree, but race isn’t. I wish more than anything that this statement was true. But it simply is not. Our colleges and universities have made great strides in expanding access in the last generation – the share of non-white students has doubled. At the same time, attainment gaps between white and black students and white and Hispanic students have stubbornly persisted and even worsened over the same period.

The good news is that an increasing number of institutions are taking action to close those gaps, and some, like Georgia State University, already have. And they will tell you that they didn’t get there through big pronouncements or massive infusions of funding (in fact, many did in situations of declining funding), but by doing the small things right, like helping students correct course registration mistakes that, left unchanged, would have eventually led to dropout.

Myths aren’t in and of themselves bad things – some of the richest stories of all time trace their roots back to ancient Greece and Rome. But when it comes to our students and what they can bring to our communities and our economy, mythology needs to give way to reality.

Dan Greenstein is the director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Moms Speak Out for More Recess

The following blog was originally published on SHAPE America. 

Across the country, advocates are calling for schools and school districts to make recess a priority as a way to boost academic performance, improve behavior, enhance emotional well-being, and contribute to physical literacy among students.

Read how two moms have taken on this fight in their school district and learn what steps you can take to get involved.

BARBARA LARRIMORE
Prince William County School District, Virginia

I first noticed a problem when my son started coming home from kindergarten with holes bitten into his collars and shirts. He had never exhibited any nervous behaviors before, but I did not put the pieces together until much later.

When he started first grade, I listened to the teacher say how wonderful it was to have recess at 3:00 in the afternoon. I was horrified, but did nothing because I just assumed this was how schools operate. I thought, what hope do I have to change them?

However, then I discovered that very successful school districts in our area had much better policies on PE and recess, and from that moment forward I have not paused in the pursuit of a more balanced schedule for our elementary school children that takes into account their basic needs as well as their academic needs.

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Barbara Larrimore speaking at school board meeting.

I am currently working on a plan for an agenda item to be voted on by the school board that would allow 30 minutes of recess a day for all grades at the elementary school level.

Here are my tips for other parents who want to advocate for more recess:

  • Talk to other parents. You will be surprised how many people share the same thoughts! Exchange stories and experiences, and form groups to speak at school board meetings.
  • Speak to your school board representatives and your local delegates. They are elected to listen to the wants and needs of their constituents. Find out if there are barriers to overcome or more avenues to explore at the local and state level.
  • Create a way for people to “plug in,” whether it’s a hashtag or Facebook page with a memorable name like “More Recess in PWC” so people can find out more information and sign petitions.

Read more about Barbara Larrimore’s advocacy efforts in her school district.

CHRISTINE DAVIS
Madison School District, Arizona

I organized Madison Parents for Recess (now Arizonans for Recess) last school year when our K-4 school went from two recesses a day to one — and made the kids sit quietly in the library during that one recess on high-heat days in August and September.

When I asked why the students couldn’t go to the gym for recess, school administrators said it was “because the kids would feel free to run around in the gym.” The shock of that answer, indicating a presumption against movement/physical activity, compelled my action, as did a few calls confirming that most large/urban schools in Arizona had gone to one short daily recess, combined with a hurried lunch.

Word of the Facebook group spread quickly and I learned many parents had been wanting to gather around the recess issue. As we began advocating with school and district officials, and ultimately our school board, teachers and administrators (both active and retired) began joining the group, and we started adding stakeholders from the health, education and business sectors.

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Christine Davis (left) advocating at a school board
meeting with her former fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Adams.

Ultimately, we were unsuccessful at the local level last year. Despite the multidisciplinary consensus concerning the benefits of recess, test anxiety still trumps best practices, and it is very hard to restore something once it has been lost. So now we are at the legislature, asserting that local control has been local neglect when it comes to kids and recess. We are also pressing our districts to create robust wellness policies and functioning site-level school wellness committees. It is a multi-layered effort.

My advice to other advocates would be:

  • Use social media to educate and gather parents, educators and health professionals.
  • Use the media and all available policy, administrative and legislative processes to improve school recess.
  • Share the work and be respectful, but bold. Don’t stop. Our kids truly need us here.
  • Feel free to join Arizonans for Recess to share resources.

Read more about how Christine Davis started advocating for recess in her school district.

Michelle Carter is the Senior Program Manager at SHAPE America. 

National PTA Joins 11 Other Child Welfare Groups Calling Out State Bills Attacking Trans Youth

This week, the National PTA joined 11 other child welfare organizations to call out state bills that would discriminate against transgender children.

“We, as organizations committed to serving the best interests of all youth, are deeply alarmed at the flurry of bills introduced in state legislatures around the country this year that would directly harm transgender people, and particularly transgender students,” the letter states. “These appalling proposals would compromise the safety and wellbeing of the young people we all have the duty and obligation to support and protect.”

HRC is currently tracking more than 130 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 30 states. For more information on state legislation, visit http://hrc.im/2017legislature.

Transgender young people face significant discrimination and bullying. Last year, North Carolina adopted the infamous HB2, legislation that required discrimination against transgender people, including in public schools. Seventy-five percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school, and, tragically, more than 50 percent of transgender youth report attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime.

The American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the American Counseling Association; the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO; the American School Counselor Association; the Association of Title IX Administrators; the Child Welfare League of America; the National Association of School Psychologists; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; the National Association of Social Workers; and the National Education Association have all signed the letter.

Read the full letter here.

Hayley Miller is the senior digital media manager for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.

Federal Funding for Education Programs At Risk in Fiscal Year 2018

Education advocates work hard to increase funding for federal education programs to ensure all children receive a quality education. During tough political climates and hard economic times, these education advocates have always been able to at least maintain the current level of funding for education programs at 2% of the federal budget.

However, much of our progress to increase investments in education—or at a minimum maintain current levels of funding for education—have been put at-risk due to the release of President Trump’s “skinny budget” or “blueprint” for funding priorities in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. President Trump’s proposal would cut funding for public education programs by $9.2 billion.

From the information that is available in the skinny budget, National PTA has concerns about the following proposals:

  • An overall $9.2 billion cut to program under the U.S. Department of Education (13% cut)
  • New $250 million investment to expand private school choice options
  • Eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers—also known as afterschool programs
  • Eliminate Title II state grants to support effective instruction for teachers, principals and other school leaders
  • Eliminate or reduce over 20 programs at the U.S. Department of Education (the full list of programs is not available)

National PTA hopes President Trump’s full budget request (to be released in May) will propose funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers, Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act state grants, Parent Training and Information Centers and Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.

It’s important to note that the President’s budget request is simply that—a “request” outlining the President’s funding priorities. It is Congress that determines how much funding each federal agency and program will receive each year.

Members of Congress take the President’s budget request into consideration when they are making funding decisions, but constituent requests for certain programs to receive funding almost always take precedent in appropriations bills.

Here are two steps for PTA advocates to take to ensure that Congress adequately invests in public education programs:

  1. Take Action and send a letter to your members of Congress requesting for them to invest in public education and Statewide Family Engagement Centers.
  1. Sign up for National PTA’s Takes Action Newsletter and get the latest information on PTA’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and ways you can get involved.

While National PTA is disappointed that the budget proposal cuts vital funding for public education overall, the association is pleased to see the president maintain funding of $13 billion for special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

President Trump’s blue print proposes to designate an additional $1 billion for Title I—which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. However, it is still unclear as to how the proposed increase in Title I funding would be used as the skinny budget mentions that the increase in Title I funding would be used to encourage Title I portability, which National PTA would not support.

As PTA advocates, we encourage you and all parents and families to call, meet and email your member of Congress and request them to support robust investments in public education and Statewide Family Engagement Centers and oppose funding for any private school choice or voucher system that would divert funding from public schools.

Joshua Westfall is the Government Affairs Manager at National PTA.

Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practices

This post was originally published on the blog for the Learning First Alliance.

With the transition to a new presidential administration, change abounds in the federal education policy world. As we await action from a new Secretary of Education, we’ve also seen President Trump issue an executive order pausing the accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), followed by a move by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to overturn them. Those rules, finalized last November by the Obama administration, were intended to guide states in submitting their accountability plans to the federal government.

Despite the uncertainty that states are facing, work on these plans continues. And a key part of that work comes in the form of stakeholder engagement.

The stakeholder consultative process outlined in ESSA (and unimpacted by the president’s executive order) presents an important opportunity to fundamentally change how education policy is made. If implemented as intended, it will ensure that the expertise of the parents, educators and other leaders working with, and on behalf of, students every day informs the development of state and local policies and practices. In support of this process, we at the Learning First Alliance issued guiding principles to help states and districts as they began this important work.

But it is not easy. This level of stakeholder engagement is an entirely new way of doing business for most policymakers, particularly at the state level. And expecting all states and districts to get it right immediately is unrealistic. As with all new programs and policies, there will be a learning curve. What’s critical is that we—the collective “we,” including those in the education community that this process engages, the state and local policymakers charged with implementing it and the federal policymakers who legislated it—work through the challenges that come along. To avoid going back to business as usual, we need to commit to continuously improving in this endeavor.

The National Association of State Boards of Education recently released a policy update to help in these efforts. Drawn from reviews of 51 state education agency (SEA) websites and in-depth interviews with representatives from 15 SEAs, ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practices identifies five common challenges that states are facing in this work:

  • Identifying diverse stakeholders and casting a wider net
  • Overcoming time and resource constraints
  • Communicating effectively with stakeholders
  • Maximizing meetings’ impact
  • Organizing and incorporating feedback into a state plan

One especially interesting finding: Parents are cited as a particularly difficult group to engage. Noting that SEAs have much more experience reaching out to teachers and administrators, the authors acknowledge that parent and family engagement is new to many state officials.

So how should SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs, which are typically school districts), when they begin this work, address this concern? The brief offers a few promising practices related to the overall challenge of identifying diverse stakeholders and casting a wider net, including utilizing existing networks to expand the pool and allowing for a dynamic process so new stakeholders can be engaged even after the process as begun.

Speaking specifically regarding parents, Laura Bay, president of National PTA, notes that there are multiple aspects of conducting effective parental stakeholder engagement—such as transparency, inclusion, information sharing and multiple opportunities for input—and achieving perfection in all areas is challenging for any one state.

To help overcome it, Bay encourages SEAs and LEAs to partner with their state and local PTAs.

“PTAs want to be a part of the solution. PTAs are a trusted messenger and a valuable resource to be able to reach all families, encourage families to get involved and provide input and ensure all parent voices are heard,” Bay said.

National PTA has identified the following best practices for engaging parents in ESSA:

  • Ensure there is at least one dedicated parent representative on any ESSA state- or local-level committee
  • Partner with PTA to:
    • Disseminate information on ESSA and any meetings, forums or webinars
    • Co-host ESSA-related forums
    • Leverage parent and community leaders to gather input from other parents and families in the community
  • Show how parent input has been considered and/or incorporated in state plans and policies
  • Ask for specific input and feedback on topics and in parent-friendly language
  • Build in structures and opportunities for ongoing engagement and feedback

The association has also created a wide variety of resources accessible at PTA.org/ESSA to support states, districts and schools in engaging families in ESSA.

Recap: Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Next Secretary of Education

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, an education advocate and philanthropist to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Members from both sides of the aisle had the opportunity to ask Ms. DeVos questions about her positions and plans for the Department of Education (the Department) should she be nominated.

In a statement regarding the announcement of the confirmation hearing, Laura Bay, President of National PTA stated that “we respect the confirmation process and pending her confirmation, we stand ready to work with Ms. DeVos to ensure that the priorities of National PTA are included in the new administration’s education agenda.”

National PTA also joined with other leading organizations to express concerns regarding several previous education positions of Ms. DeVos in letters to the committee on Jan. 9 and 13, 2017.

During the hearing, many Democrats expressed concern about Ms. DeVos’ previous advocacy efforts on behalf of private school vouchers in addition to her lack of formal experience in the public education sector. Republicans, on the other hand, largely praised Ms. DeVos’ work and were encouraged by the potential opportunity of having a representative outside of the traditional public education sphere to bring different ideas to the Department.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the HELP Committee is expected to call for a vote on Ms. DeVos’ nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The vote will likely fall along party lines with all Democrats voting against Ms. DeVos’ confirmation and all Republican Senators voting in favor. The vote will ironically coincide a week after National School Choice Week, which now in its seventh year of advocating for education options. National PTA has a longstanding history of opposing any private school choice system—vouchers, tax credits or deductions—that would divert public school resources.

In addition to the diversion of public resources to private schools, National PTA will continue to oppose private school choice systems because many of these programs do not have the same civil rights, protections and services for all students — particularly those with special needs. Furthermore, recent studies confirm that school vouchers do not help students achieve better in school, and in fact, they can lead to lower academic achievement.

Learn more about private school vouchers and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for federal education updates and advocacy efforts.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the Government Affairs Coordinator for National PTA.

The Value of a PTA Volunteer

This blog was originally posted on The Voice of NYS PTA.

I recently attended the Fall Luncheon in the Westchester-East Putnam Region and had the good fortune to hear the keynote speech delivered by Alisa Kesten, Executive Director of Volunteer New York. The mission of the organization is to inspire, mobilize and equip individuals and groups to take positive action to address pressing challenges, support nonprofits and strengthen the quality of life in the community.

Alisa specifically wanted to impress upon those present, the value of serving as a volunteer in the PTA. I would like to share an excerpt of her remarks:

I conducted a very unscientific Facebook poll hoping to illustrate the personal and professional growth each of you can and should expect as a direct result of your volunteer service for your PTA.

I asked my Facebook friends to give a one word answer to this question: Did you ever belong to a PTA? Then I sat back to see who said yes, because I know my friends. I know how active they are at work and in the community. I know their skills, and I suspected that there would be a strong correlation between those who are or had been deeply involved in PTA and their subsequent achievement. I wanted to illustrate how every friend who answered YES had developed a variety of skills – project management, communications, advocacy, financial management, event planning, negotiating, fundraising and more – all honed as PTA volunteers which so many of us have used those skills for positive achievement.

A few of the responses included the following:

  • Some were always attorneys but now have a different specialty as a result of their involvement in schools.
  • Some had been elected to PTA leadership positions. Now many have been elected to school boards, county legislatures, and I know that Congresswoman Nita Lowey always references her PTA roots in giving her the foundation to run for Congress.
  • Many gained confidence in speaking out at public budget hearings or in leading meetings. Now they are at the forefront of issues they care about, with well-practiced communications skills.
  • There was a group who had left the workforce to raise children. But they always volunteered for PTA. Now they are restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and small business owners whose clients or vendors may have first learned of their talent and character by serving side by side on a PTA committee.
  • So many are now Executive Directors of nonprofits, like me, or program directors or finance directors at nonprofits and foundations. We’ve taken so many hands-on experiences of leadership from PTA along with us every step of the way.
  • PTA members – former and current – are in large corporations and very comfortable in navigating deadlines, personalities, budgets and more because we navigated deadlines, personalities, budgets and more through PTA.
  • And a ton of us continue to volunteer and give back to nonprofits whose missions matter to us and the community.

So thank you for the time you give, the meetings you run, the funds you raise, the events you plan, the letters you write, the e-newsletters you create, the actions you take – but know that you are building a toolbox of experiences that you WILL take with you. Those experiences can help open doors, climb ladders, and be successful in whatever way you choose to define success.

Alisa’s comments are timely as there has been quite a bit of chatter with regard to a recent Facebook post by Lean In. Their post declared that by listing as a credential “member of PTA” on one’s resume, a woman was 79% less likely to be hired. This shocking statement should surely compel us to immediately amend our resumes and make the appropriate changes on our LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter sites.

Wait! Not so fast! The Lean In post was based on an article written in 2007 based on questionable research from 2001. If in fact someone with an agenda commissioned a survey 15 years ago to accomplish some unknown purpose, it probably wasn’t accurate then and certainly isn’t relevant today.

In fact, the actual opinions of the real people follow Lean In’s bold statement. Scroll down and the truth is embedded in the comments. The life experiences reflected by the comment section paint a different picture! PTA provides the opportunity to hone and widen the scope of one’s skills by working alongside men and women from all walks of life representing nearly every profession. The transferable skills an individual develops as a PTA member working for child advocacy are enumerated and extolled within the vast majority of comments made on Lean In’s Facebook post.

Take heart! PTA is well worth your time. Be proud! Hiring managers can use people that have strong skills and won’t be put off because you care about your family. Employers that would turn away a qualified candidate because they also possess strong family values are not the norm.

Remember not to let the words of uninformed individuals with an unknown agenda minimize in any way the great work and experience gained by being a member of PTA – your efforts ensure a better future for our greatest resource – OUR CHILDREN. Because of the hard work and advocacy efforts of PTA volunteers and members, there are seat belts on school buses, kindergarten in public schools, a federal school lunch program, strengthened child labor laws, and a ban on corporal punishment. These are just a few of the many accomplishments.

Gracemarie Rozea is the president of New York State PTA. 

Do You Know of a Great PTA Advocate?

As we approach National PTA’s 120 year anniversary, it is important to stop and celebrate some of our members’ accomplishments. PTA has been a leader in working to improve the lives of all children—advocating for everything from hot school lunches to universal kindergarten.

As the Vice President of Advocacy for National PTA, I have the pleasure of traveling across the country and hearing from PTA members about their advocacy efforts, challenges and successes. At National PTA’s 2017 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, we want to honor the incredible accomplishments of PTAs and their members.

The Dec.18 deadline is fast approaching for nominations for the 2017 Advocacy Awards, so if you know of an outstanding youth or individual PTA advocate, or know of a local unit or state level PTA that has done great advocacy work, nominate them to receive an award for their efforts from National PTA.

As in previous years, advocates may also nominate themselves in the youth and individual categories. Local and state category-winning PTAs will receive a monetary award. Nominations must be for efforts made in the last year.

The 2016 advocacy award winners were some of the most impressive advocates I’ve seen in my years as a PTA member. Massachusetts PTA, the state PTA winner, advocated on behalf of LGBTQ youth. Their efforts led to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously passing a measure to update the school system’s policies related to LGBTQ youth, which hadn’t been updated since 1992.

The local PTA award winner, Rochester Community PTA Council, worked to educate all PTA members and families communitywide on the specifics of a $185 million bond issue to make much-needed renovations and upgrades to school facilities, technology and infrastructure. The improvements would ensure students in Rochester are provided a high-quality education and have a safe environment in which to thrive and learn. With the efforts and contributions of Rochester Community PTA Council, the bond issue passed with 73% support.

The individual award winners were equally impressive. The Youth Advocate of the Year, Brian Rodriguez, worked to promote civic engagement and increase community involvement among youth of all ages in the Miami area. Joy Grayson, the 2016 Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year, led South Carolina PTA to adopt an annual legislative platform; organized and moderated an annual state legislative conference; and revamped the state membership unit to become a state advocacy unit, which engaged community members in PTA who had no affiliation with a local unit.

These two individual advocates and two state PTAs are just some of many examples of the incredible work that PTA members and PTAs are doing across the country.

That’s why we’re excited to hear about other standout PTA advocates and celebrate their efforts to improve the lives of all children with a 2017 Advocacy Award. For more info on how to nominate a person, PTA or yourself, visit PTA.org/AdvocacyAwards or contact Lindsay Kubatzky. Deadline for submission is Dec. 18!


Shannon Sevier is the vice president of advocacy for National PTA.

All PTA Members Have an Obligation to Vote in Elections

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“The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we’ve got to use it.” –Congressman John Lewis

Every day, throughout this nation and overseas, PTA members are hard at work, striving to better the lives of all children. Collectively, our non-partisan voices have made a positive impact nationwide.

Just as we speak up for children through our advocacy work, we also need to exercise the privilege given to every U.S. citizen—the right to vote. Not only should we vote, we need to motivate the people in our schools and communities to vote.

As child advocates, we need to engage, inform and educate our membership on the issues facing our children and education on the ballot today. We need to provide them with the tools they need to vote intelligently at the ballot box.

Elections can have consequences to our mission and we need to make sure our elected officials will work to serve our children well.

So, how can PTA members get involved in non-partisan civic activities? There are a several ways for PTAs to engage their membership as Election Day approaches.

View the list of civic engagement activities your PTA can do as a nonprofit, non-partisan organization below and check out our Election Guide for more options.

  • Organize voter registration drives (check state and local laws)
  • Host candidate forums
  • Work with other organizations like the League of Women Voters to distribute information on state and local issues that may be on the ballot
  • Hold or participate in a Mock Student/Parent Election on Nov. 3
  • Encourage 18-year-old students to vote and help them register, and plan a trip to the polls together
  • Ask your membership to familiarize themselves with the candidates and issues
  • Help members identify the location of their polling place and its hours of operation
  • Inform parents and families of the proper identification and additional information they need to bring with them to the polls in order to vote in your state
  • Provide information to your school community about alternative ways to vote in your state (absentee, early voting, vote-by-mail)

Voter turnout in the United States has steadily declined. A Pew Research Center study shows that in 2012 the U.S. trailed most developed countries in voter turnout, coming in at number 27 with a 53.6% voter turnout. Often people do not vote because of time constraints, lack of information about the process or because they think that their vote will not matter.

Have your PTA members mentioned that they feel their vote does not make a difference? Remind them that elections have been won by just one vote—and in the not-too-distant past, 537 votes made the difference in a presidential election.

If we as PTA members do not speak up for all children, who will? Make a difference in the lives of children. VOTE on Nov. 8 and encourage all child advocates to cast their ballots.

 As you head to the polls, remember these wise words from the Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”


 

Latha Krishnaiyer is the past president of Florida PTA and a current National PTA bylaws and policy committee member.