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Parents or politics?

"Parents or politics?" Continued...

Issue: "GOP: No room for error," Oct. 19, 2002

As for its education agenda, the National PTA takes an expansive view of the public-school mission. Elementary counseling, mental health initiatives, and comprehensive health education, which has been known to include explicit sex education for elementary school children, are all on the agenda, as well as support for programs that "teach respect for diversity." For the National PTA, like the NEA, diversity includes differences in sexual preferences.

That is all very distant from local PTA activities, where parents are elbow-deep in spaghetti dinners and raffle tickets. Freddie Johnson, president of the John Adams Elementary School PTA in Alexandria, Va., says his chapter tries to stay away from lobbying efforts. They would detract from the fundraising and booster activities that are more central to the chapter's mission, in Mr. Johnson's words, "to assure that schools are provided with qualified teachers and to make sure they are provided with the tools to do their job."

Local PTAs frequently go to bat in budget negotiations to keep teachers and educational resources at their schools. Where funding falls short, PTAs sometimes make up the difference-a practice the National PTA discourages since it runs counter to lobbying efforts for more tax funding.

The National PTA joins the chorus that proclaims parents as children's "first teachers," but fails to clamor for their place at the education decision-making table. And it adamantly opposes the policy that would give parents the most say-parental choice in education.

What do parents want from the PTA? National PTA leaders seem to be paying little heed. A century after the Mothers' Congress, what parents want is an issue the National PTA would do well to consider.

-Jennifer A. Marshall is a policy analyst for Empower America in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall

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