Public Schools Are the True Land of Opportunity

Did you know that nine out of every 10 children in the United States attend a public school? Or that there are almost 51 million students in those public schools, being taught by just 3.2 million full-time teachers? It’s hard to grapple with numbers that massive. How is it possible that our public schools offer so many different opportunities for so many different children, all with their own hopes, dreams and goals? I look back on my own public-school education with these numbers in mind and I am amazed at the education I received.

I grew up in South Bend, Ind. My school district didn’t have the most resources, but I remember my school had everything from cooking and sewing classes, shop class, automotive class, computer classes, debate and discussion classes, as well as every sport and musical group you could ever desire to join. Even as my teachers supported and guided me towards my ultimate goal of becoming an attorney, they encouraged me to explore and test out other micro-career paths through those classes. I look back so fondly on those experiences and I know that they helped me become a well-rounded adult.

When I grew up, got married and had children of my own, the question of where they should be educated was a no-brainer. Though we had moved to Colorado, of course our children would be educated in Aurora Public Schools. When we toured the school and met with the teachers and principal before they enrolled, I was struck again with admiration for the sheer amount of choice public schools offer each and every day for each and every child.

Public schools must be a jack of all trades. In addition to the usual classes most people think of, public schools also deliver language services, food pantry services, before and after school care, IB and AP programs, arts programs, concurrent enrollment, along with mental health and counseling services. We so often take public schools for granted, forgetting how amazing it is that every student in this country has the undeniable right to a high-quality, equitable education that provides them the opportunity to grow to their full potential.

And while our public schools educate our children, they also have a profound impact on the people they grow up to be. It is our public schools that will prepare the entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, lawyers, artists and political leaders who will ensure that our nation will flourish in an increasingly competitive global economy. It is our public schools that provide opportunities and experiences they would never otherwise encounter, and they have done this for over 200 years.

That’s why I’m #PublicSchoolProud. How about you? Read more about Public Schools Week and ways you can support our nation’s public schools.


Marques Ivey is the vice president of advocacy and chair of the legislation committee for National PTA.

 

 

Why I’m #PublicSchoolProud

My youngest son is truly my special gift. Tyler is a bright light, who makes our family and our world complete. He is smart, funny, warm, kind-hearted and autistic. He is enthusiastic about learning new things and inspires all who know him every single day. But he was also non-verbal until the age of six. I see the amazing person he is today and often wonder if Tyler would have made the same great strides without a quality public education.

What if his public school didn’t offer an outstanding program for students with special needs? Would he still be the thriving and productive young man that he has become? Would all of his unique emotional, cognitive, mental and emotional needs have been met in any other setting? As I ponder these questions, the only answer I can come up with is no, absolutely not!

His public school provided him with exceptional educational services and opportunities and opened doors to a wide variety of possibilities and inclusivity. We were blessed with a multitude of extraordinary educators and specialists who nurtured and shaped Tyler, who taught and guided him and who showed their complete devotion and commitment to his progress. They supported him, encouraged him, boosted him and helped him to achieve his full potential, as they helped him navigate through and overcome any obstacles that may have crossed his path along the way.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a team of educators, administrators and family members to mold that child into his or her very best self. Our team, in our Sachem Public Schools village on Long Island, is second to none! Tyler graduated from high school in 2018 with a New York State local diploma and I will be forever grateful for all they have done to ensure that his future is full of hope and promise.

Public education is our nation’s greatest hope. It is the promise that all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, learning abilities or disabilities, have a right to a free and appropriate education that will meet their diverse needs. It is public school that gives every child an equal chance to grow into a successful and flourishing member of society. A public education lays the foundation for a lifetime of opportunity and accomplishment.

Tyler is my reason to be #PublicSchoolProud. What’s yours? Read more about Public Schools Week and ways you can support our nation’s public schools.


Dana Platin is the vice president of New York State PTA.

Nominate a Teacher for a Computer Science Professional Development Scholarship!

Computer literacy is quickly becoming a crucial skill for students to succeed in an increasingly competitive workplace, but many schools are not adequately equipped to teach this skill. For most schools, the lack of a trained computer science teacher is the biggest barrier to offering computer science.

That’s why National PTA has a partnered with Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.

Code.org offers professional development programs for current teachers who want to begin teaching computer science. Out of the nearly 100,000 educators who have taken these workshops, 98% say they would recommend the program to another teacher.

This year, Code.org is offering scholarships for thousands of eligible K-12 teachers to attend their professional learning workshops. This is a great chance for your PTA to advocate for teachers and share this awesome opportunity!

We’re encouraging everyone to nominate a favorite teacher for a scholarship. If your PTA knows of a passionate educator who would make an amazing computer science teacher, we encourage you to recognize that teacher’s impact and help them get started teaching computer science!

Make sure your PTA nominates your teachers by the end of April, as workshops range from early June to late August, depending on geographic location.

After you nominate your own teachers, you can help spread the word about this scholarship opportunity by:

  • Sending an email to your PTA members to encourage them to nominate a teacher.
  • Promoting Code.org’s “nominate a teacher” campaign on social media.

And, you don’t have to start from scratch! Here’s some suggested language for the email and social media posts.


Rachel Fishman is a programs and partnerships specialist for National PTA.

 

National PTA is #PublicSchoolProud March 25-29, 2019

Public Schools Week is a time to celebrate our nation’s public schools, our students and the professionals who work each day to make every child’s potential a reality. This year, Public Schools Week will take place March 25-29, 2019 with a broad group of education associations hosting events on the importance of public education. On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington D.C. will also speak on the need for a strong public education system for the future of our country’s economic strength. National PTA is proud to join our organizational partners in the week’s events and encourages everyone to get involved.

Public schools serve as the foundation of our nation’s democracy. It is our public schools that will provide the educated, innovative and creative workforce of tomorrow—the entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, artists and political leaders who will ensure that our nation will flourish in an increasingly competitive global economy. Nine out of every 10 students in the United States attend a public school. By strengthening the public-school system, we strengthen the democracy of our country.

Public schools welcome every child—regardless of ability, race, wealth, language, country of origin or needs. Despite the mounting challenges facing the public education system, public schools continue to provide opportunities for the more than 50 million students who are learning and growing inside our nation’s school buildings. There is no better time than now to speak out about the value of public education. #PublicSchoolProud creates a platform for Americans to join together and express their support for public education. We encourage everyone to use this hashtag to ask our policymakers to invest in our students and families to help ensure every child’s potential becomes a reality.

National PTA recognizes that when our public schools succeed, so too do our communities. The success of our children and the future leaders of our nation is critically dependent on the support we give to public education. That’s why National PTA has long advocated for the strengthening of the public education system and will continue to do so with the new 116th Congress. We urge policymakers to support a public schools week resolution, increase federal investments in public education and prioritize family engagement in federal education legislation and programs.

Every child deserves to learn in an environment that is safe and to have the opportunity to grow into a happy and healthy adult. We need public school champions in government to support Public Schools Week and to solidify that support through appropriate policies. Read more about National PTA’s legislative priorities and how they support public schools.  

So, what can you do to show your support for our students, teachers, principals, and all the educators and support staff that serve in our public schools during Public Schools Week? First, read more about Public Schools Week 2019 on the Learning First Alliance’s website. Then, use the tools on the Public Schools Week webpage. You’ll find easy-to-use templates to write op-ed pieces on public schools, tips on advocating for public education with local or state lawmakers, and more. You can also find ideas on how to engage local businesses and community organizations in your Public Schools Week events. Finally, make sure to use the social media toolkit before and during Public Schools Week to publicly highlight your support for public education with your friends and family.

We also want to hear from you! Share your story about the impact public education has had on your life.  It will help us continue to advocate for investments in quality public education for all children. Join us in celebrating our public education system March 25-29, 2019 and beyond—We are #PublicSchoolProud!

The Best Recipe for Creating Healthy Schools

Are you hungry…for school health? Well, we have a recipe that’s sure to satiate you.

For best results, where all students at your school have equal access to education and opportunities for practicing healthy behaviors, combine two or more of the following ingredients. This recipe is ideal for those who understand that healthy students are better prepared to learn.

  • 1 helping of school grant funds: Apply for a parent-led school grant for $1,000 to help implement nutrition or physical activity programs at your school. Have you always wanted to build a school garden or start a cooking club? Or maybe you want to create an active indoor recess kit or institute regular family fitness nights? Here’s your chance to improve your school’s learning environment through health and wellness. Apply by April 5, 2019.
  • A couple pinches of Every Kid Healthy Week celebrations: Every Kid Healthy Week (April 22-26, 2019) is an annual observance that celebrates school health and wellness achievements. Start planning your school’s Every Kid Healthy Week events with our helpful resources and recommendations. From field days to health fairs to fun runs, thousands of schools across the country plan events that get the whole community involved, so join the healthy fun!
  • 1 whole school health team: One of the strongest ways to implement lasting school health programs is by joining or creating a school health team. Parent voices matter when it comes to creating a plan and leading projects that impact students’ bodies and minds for the better, so find out how to get started.
  • Several dashes of change: Whether it’s your school’s food culture or fundraising techniques, some things may need to change. Determine your goals for feasible school health improvements that you’d like to see, and then take action. There’s no time like the present to make sure kids are growing healthy and thriving.

The best recipes are made with passion, so channel yours into getting every kid healthy and ready to learn.


Action for Healthy Kids mobilizes school professionals, families, and communities to come together to take actions that lead to building healthier school environments where kids thrive.  We give kids the keys to health and academic success by improving physical activity opportunities and nutrition education throughout the school.

5 Proven, Hassle-Free Elementary School Fundraising Ideas

 

Let’s face it: most schools don’t like fundraising. But no matter what elementary school community you’re a part of, nearly every school needs help raising funds. And if you’ve ever served on a volunteer parent group, you’re always on the lookout for elementary school fundraising ideas that line up with your school’s priorities.

We didn’t like fundraising either, so we reimagined something completely different and schools LOVED it.  In fact, thousands of schools have trusted Boosterthon to increase funds and inspire students through our remarkable fitness and character program. But we didn’t just stop there. Over the years we’ve developed a number of fundraising programs that are proven to get results. Here are five proven, must-try school fundraising ideas.

School Fundraising Ideas
Boosterthon Fun Run

The Boosterthon Fun Run is our signature nine-day program that consists of four main parts: Pep Rally, Team Huddles, Fun Run, and Collection. Over the past 16 years, we’ve completed over 10,000 programs and helped our elementary school partners profit more than $200,000,000. In the process, we’ve perfected a fundraiser that’s been proven to raise our partners 60% more funds (on avg.) than their best previous fundraiser. It’s one of the many reasons why 3,000+ schools happily choose Booster year after year. But we know that every school has unique needs. That’s why we offer the Boosterthon Fun Run at four different service levels.

School Fundraising Ideas #1
Boosterthon LIVE

Boosterthon LIVE is our full-service, all-in-one fundraising program. Our enthusiastic team visits your campus daily, handling every aspect of the program. This hassle-free experience is the same Boosterthon program that thousands of principals and PTA leaders all across the country are RAVING about.

Boosterthon LIVE is perfect for schools that…

  • Love in-person customer service
  • Value a fun, professional team leading every program and collection detail
  • Want a magical student experience at every turn—from the Pep Rally, to character lessons, to the Fun Run

School Fundraising Ideas #2
Boosterthon EVENT

Boosterthon EVENT unites the enthusiastic Boosterthon team with your energetic school volunteers! Our team is on campus for the Pep Rally and Fun Run events, allowing you the freedom to uniquely customize the lessons and rewards in between.

Boosterthon EVENT is perfect for schools that…

  • Want a greater level of flexibility
  • Are willing to put in some work to receive higher profit
  • Want the energy, fun, and showmanship of the Boosterthon team for the Pep Rally and Fun Run

School Fundraising Ideas #3
Fun Run YOU

A favorite of many schools, Fun Run YOU is perfect for schools that want the benefits of Boosterthon’s expertise, technology, and reporting, with the perks of a self-run event.

Fun Run YOU is perfect for schools that…

  • Organize their own jog-a-thon but want to take it to the next level
  • Want to keep a higher percentage of funds
  • Have an involved volunteer team to help with daily logistics

School Fundraising Ideas #4
Boosterthon Color Run

One of our favorite school fundraising ideas, the Color Run is a fun way to boost your Fun Run experience for older grades. Students run laps around the Fun Run Speedway while getting periodically “colorized” with FDA/EPA-approved colored powder. The experience is safe, fun, and designed specifically for older students.

School Fundraising Ideas #5
Boosterthon Glow Run

If you live in a colder climate but you’re still looking for fun school fundraising idea, then look no further. The Glow Run transforms your gym into a pulsing neon celebration complete with rope lights, disco lights, and black lights. With Boosterthon’s Glow Run, rain, snow, and cold can’t hold back the fun—it rocks in any weather.

Interested in learning more about one of these school fundraising ideas? Click here to find out if Boosterthon is right for your school!

 

RECAP: 2019 PTA Reflections Showcase

For 50 years, the National PTA Reflections program has inspired millions of students to explore their talents and be involved in the arts by creating works for fun and recognition. Students are recognized each year for their artistic ingenuity to bring the annual theme to life in a way that is personal and meaningful.

On January 22, 2019 National PTA and the U.S. Department of Education recognized over 200 2017-2018 National PTA Reflections student honorees, who created original works of art using the theme “Within Reach.” The event kicked off the Reflections 50th Anniversary celebrations and included remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Over 200 individuals and 47 student artists registered for the event, representing 30 states across the nation.

This year, before the ceremony and in celebration of the program’s golden anniversary, student artists and their families were invited to an art-making activity to create fun 50th glasses, crowns and headbands. After creating they were encouraged to take fun photos at our pop-up photo station where balloons and big 5 and 0 signs adorned the area. They could share their photos using #PTAReflections and expand on their Reflections stories in a Pre-Show Facebook Live that friends and family could view from home. Students and their families could also enjoy a 50th-inspired snack bag filled with kid-friendly foods prior to the ceremony.

Then, as the auditorium doors opened, guests were greeted by a sampling of student work shown on the TVs. The hour-long ceremony consisted of guest speakers from National PTA and the U.S. Department of Education as well as four spotlight performances from our student artists. The ceremony concluded with our awardees on stage, listening to closing remarks from Secretary DeVos and participating in a ribbon cutting, officially opening the student art exhibit.

Guests then exited the auditorium to visit over 200 student works of art on display as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program, now in its 16th year. Students took pictures with their artwork which will remain in the exhibit hall through the end of the month. This exhibit will travel once more to National PTA’s Convention & Expo in Ohio.

Thank you to our wide Reflections network for supporting the Reflections program and our amazing student artists. Here’s to another 50 years! For more information about the National PTA Reflections program, visit PTA.org/Reflections.

David’s Law: A Texas PTA Story

Texas PTA first became involved in the work to reduce bullying in 2011, when we worked with legislators to pass a law strengthening guidelines for dealing with bullying in the schools. At that time, cell phones were still scarce in the schools, and administrators were reluctant to support laws that required schools to confront cyberbullying, but we saw where things were heading. We knew that while this legislation was a necessary first step, the issue was evolving, and we needed to stay on top of it. So, Texas PTA continued to monitor the prevalence of cyberbullying among students and developed programs to educate parents about the emerging phenomena and how to deal with it at home.

Then, in 2016, with suicide on the rise among victims of cyberbullying, Texas PTA began to plan a more focused bill. “David’s Law” honors the memory of David Molak, a 16-year-old student from San Antonio who committed suicide in January 2016 following relentless online harassment. David’s family was determined to do everything they could to eliminate cyberbullying. They formed David’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying by educating communities about the harmful effects of cyber abuse, providing support for victims, promoting kindness, and supporting legislation that prohibits cyberbullying of minors.

The Molaks led the charge to pass legislation strengthening the law passed in 2011, so that school leaders would have clarity on their responsibility in investigating allegations, informing both law enforcement and parents of suspected cyberbullying, and, when appropriate, disciplining the cyberbully. From nearly the beginning, Texas PTA joined forces with the Molaks—working side-by-side leading up to the legislative session to ensure passage of a new bill. This was no easy task. While it was clear that cyberbullying had become an epidemic, there was still opposition to the bill.

To gain the support necessary for the bill to pass, we spent many hours in meetings with legislators and advocacy groups and made a few changes to the bill’s language on their recommendations. Leadership within Texas PTA testified multiple times at committee hearings, prepared and distributed background information, participated in press conferences, and wrote op-eds and letters to legislators. Grassroot members participated in multiple action alerts to urge support for David’s Law. At Texas PTA’s Rally Day in February 2017, PTA members advocated for David’s Law in meetings and even on the steps of the state capitol.

The new law made many changes to how schools could and should operate:

  • Schools in Texas now have the authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus;
  • They must notify a victim’s parents of the incident within three business days after it has been reported and notify the parents of the aggressor within a reasonable amount of time;
  • They must create procedures for students to anonymously report incidents;
  • They may expel students who engage in serious bullying, including bullying that encourages a student to commit suicide, incites violence against another student, or involves releasing indecent photos of another student;
  • They have strong protections from civil or criminal liabilities when reporting criminal bullying to law enforcement officials;
  • They must provide mental health education;
  • They must expand the role of school counselors to include mediating conflicts among students.

We hope that other state PTAs will consider working to support similar legislation to protect our nation’s most valuable resource—our children. Texas PTA was proud to work with the Molaks to pass David’s Law and we have continued with this partnership. The Molaks regularly present at Texas PTA conferences and provide information about David’s Law through PTA communications.

Getting the Lead Out: An Illinois PTA Advocacy Story

 

When it comes to PTA advocacy, it’s important to remember a few things. First, pay close attention to what your state legislature is doing—it’s up to you to be a watchdog for all children. Next, finding an issue that resonates with your membership is important—making a difference requires a surprising amount of grunt work, so it’s important to stay passionate. And finally, even a handful of PTA advocates can make a big difference. Those are the lessons Illinois PTA learned in 2016.

Senate Bill 550 (SB 550) began as a technical change to the Nuclear Facility Safety Act and wandered through committees for over a year until an amendment in May 2016 completely changed the bill. The bill was now one that would require testing every unique drinking water source in all Illinois public, private, charter and parochial schools for lead. Illinois PTA noticed the change and filed online witness slips in support of the bill. SB 550 passed the Senate on May 31, the last day of the legislative session, and headed to the House where it was assigned to the Rules Committee—a place where bills languish and die from lack of support.

Advocacy Day 2016

Illinois PTA decided to reboot our Advocacy Day in 2016 by moving it to Nov. 16, the first day of the fall veto session. We focused our advocacy on three topics:

  • Adopting a state budget, as Illinois was in the second year without.
  • Supporting a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors based on a PTA resolution.
  • Supporting SB 550, now known as the Lead in Drinking Water Prevention Act.

About a dozen people showed up for Advocacy Day in Springfield, and few were able to get meetings with their actual legislators, so we visited as many legislative aides as possible. As we visited, it became apparent that just about every advocacy organization and lobbyist in Springfield that day was talking about the budget. Mention the budget, and the aide’s eyes would glaze over, and they would just nod along.

But when we mentioned SB 550 and testing for lead in school drinking water, they perked up. We shifted our pitch from focusing on the budget to advocating for SB 550, and by the end of the day, we had personally spoken with 79 legislators and staff. Something else happened that day as well—by that evening, SB 550 had suddenly picked up three new co-sponsors.

Leveraging Voter Voice

Illinois PTA knew that traveling to Springfield would be difficult for some people, so we had also run a “Virtual Advocacy Day” on Nov. 16 using Voter Voice to encourage those who were unable to attend to contact their legislators.

We followed up the next day on our blog, One Voice Illinois, encouraging members to continue to contact their legislators. Throughout the veto session, the bill continued to add co-sponsors, passed through committee with a “Do Pass” recommendation, and had its second reading in the House (all Illinois bills are required to be read on three separate days). There, the bill stalled at the end of the veto session. In a normal year, that would have been the end, but the legislature planned to come back for a lame duck session in January just before the legislators elected in 2016 were sworn in.

So, Illinois PTA decided to really push on SB 550. A blog post on the issue prior to the holidays also went out in our Weekend Update email blast. Contacting legislators in support of SB 550 was one of our four New Year’s resolutions for PTA leaders. A new call to action through Voter Voice had a huge response from our members, and a whopping 78% of our members responding to the call were first-timers.

During the lame duck session, SB 550 added over a dozen new co-sponsors, though an amendment that scaled back the lead testing to schools up through grade 5. The amended bill passed the House with only one no vote and one member voting present, and the Senate concurred with the amended version unanimously. The governor signed the bill into law on Jan. 17.

Results

So what has been the result of SB 550 becoming law? School districts across the state have been testing lead levels and begun dealing with those drinking water sources with dangerously high levels that have been harming children for decades. Illinois PTA highlighted news reports from just a few of the districts that were taking action.

There’s still more to be done—Illinois PTA would like to see mandated testing at the middle and high school levels as well—but with the passage of SB 550, families are being notified when high lead levels are found, and many school districts are already undertaking that testing in middle and high schools on their own.

New Resource to Support Children’s Learning and School Success!

Over the next few days, thousands of schools across the country will welcome parents, grandparents and other family members through their doors as part of the National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week. But our organizations wanted to give parents, PTA leaders — and anyone who works in partnership with families—a resource for making family engagement much more than a single event.

“Why Family Engagement Matters for Student and School Success ” is a new tool that we — Global Family Research Project (GFRP) and National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement — have jointly created to share what research says about how families contribute to students’ success. We also hope it will spark new and ongoing conversations about how families, PTA leaders, and schools can work together to support more equitable and effective approaches to family, school, and community partnerships.

For a little background, the Center for Family Engagement is the National PTA’s initiative to create a vision for the future of family engagement that addresses the needs of today’s diverse families in a fast-changing world. The Center for Family Engagement aims to elevate the voice of families as critical partners in family engagement policy and practice, build leadership among PTA leaders to advocate for transformative family engagement policies and practices, and raise awareness about innovative and evidence-based approaches to family, school, and community partnerships.

Leslie Boggs, National PTA’s President-Elect, shares, “We are excited to partner with Global Family Research Project on a tool that enables families to co-create more transformative approaches to family engagement in their homes, schools, and communities. This partnership has enabled us to make the latest research accessible and actionable for families and PTA leaders.”

“Sharing leading edge research and ways families, schools and communities can and are using it is at the center of our work,” says GFRP Director Heather Weiss, “so we jumped at this change to collaborate with the PTA to develop this new resource for their and other’s use.” This resource is based on a recent report commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which summarizes the many years of powerful research on why family members are so important to children’s learning and lays out all the valuable roles they play in creating schools and access to other learning opportunities so that all students can be successful. The report, and now this resource, lift up five areas where family engagement can have the greatest impact on children’s learning —attendance, sharing information on students’ progress, reinforcing children’s learning in areas such as literacy and STEM, using digital media, and during key transition periods in a child’s life.

“Why Collaborative Partnerships Matter for Student and School Success” presents this critical knowledge in simple, concise language and challenges families, PTAs—and others working with families—to consider what they have already accomplished in those five areas and to ask what more they can do to reach new families or build on existing efforts.

In addition to serving as a clearinghouse of innovative ways to partner with families, the Center for Family Engagement is also working to build local leadership for transformative family engagement through the National PTA Family Engagement Fellowship program. Four fellows from diverse communities across the country were the first to review and give feedback on this new tool, so we feel confident that parents and parent leaders will find it timely and useful.

Heather Losneck, a PTA leader from Berea City School District, Ohio, and a National PTA Family Engagement Fellow shared “My PTA at the middle school will be looking closer at how we can help support and promote a smoother transition into and out of middle school for our families. As a parent, these are great reminders to check myself and give me a chance to re-evaluate, reconnect and reinforce with my kids.”

The resource will also be available in Spanish and Mandarin to reach as many families as possible, and we are excited about the potential it has to spark new, exciting ideas for engaging families in their children’s learning.

We look forward to hearing—and sharing—examples of how families are using the tool to put that “bold vision” into action.