The PTA: More Than Bake Sales
You might remember the PTA from your own childhood as moms selling cookies and chaperoning class trips, and chances are your local PTA still does those things. But the PTA is also a great way to share opinions and information with other parents and your child's teachers, to learn about what's going on in school, and to be part of a strong voice speaking for children's welfare.
What is a PTA?
The PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) is a grassroots organization that brings parents and teachers together so they can work towards improving the lives and education of students. Over 6.5 million people belong to PTAs nationwide, making it the largest child-advocacy volunteer association. Simply, a PTA is a group of adults, both men and women, affiliated with a school that have organized to work to help children thrive and learn — whether that means fundraising for school supplies, educating parents, helping teachers, or fighting for legislation to ensure every child gets a high-quality education.
What's the difference between a PTA and a PTO?
The technical difference between a PTA and a PTO is that PTAs are part of a national association headquartered in Chicago, which has lobbyists working at national, state, and local levels to advocate for children's issues. Groups calling themselves PTAs pay dues to state and national organizations and abide by national group rules. PTOs, on the other hand, are independent groups that have their own rules and keep their efforts concentrated on their particular school district or town.
Is there a big time/monetary commitment?
Many parents are hesitant to join the PTA because they fear it will cut into their already overscheduled lives and stretched budgets. But not to worry! First of all, dues to join the PTA are often as low as $5 a year and rarely go above $25. Meetings usually occur one evening a month, but may only happen quarterly — and you're encouraged but not required to attend. As for additional volunteering requirements, you will probably be asked to help with fundraising efforts, but your involvement is ultimately up to you. It's important to keep in mind that a meaningful contribution to a PTA project does not have to be time-consuming.
What do PTAs actually do?
Activities and roles vary from group to group, but you can probably expect to be involved with:
Fundraising: At meetings, members bring up things the school needs help buying, from art supplies to computers, and decide how to raise funds.
Book Fairs: A special kind of fundraiser, PTAs are often called in to help manage and promote this event that offers students reasonably priced books, stocks classroom libraries, and raises money for the school. Find out more about Book Fairs here.
Teacher Appreciation: The PTA takes charge of showing that teachers are valued through end-of-school luncheons, Teacher Appreciation Week events, finding classroom volunteers, and other morale builders.
Back-to-School Night: Most PTAs run this important get-to-know-your-teachers event that allows all parents to find out more about what's in store for their children. Read more about this event in this article.
Scholarships: Many PTAs maintain a scholarship fund for children of PTA parents.
Parent Classes/Workshops/Seminars: Some PTAs offer classes in practical subjects like Internet safety, have experts come and discuss issues such as homework, or hold workshops on good health habits.
- Newsletters: Find out what's going on in your school and in your PTA through its newsletter, which often also introduces a teacher each edition, reports on past successes, and offers parenting tips.
- Fundraising: At meetings, members bring up things the school needs help buying, from art supplies to computers, and decide how to raise funds.
How do I join?
That's the easiest part! Anyone can join the PTA. Call your child's school, and ask for the name or email of the PTA president, or simply show up at the next meeting. You'll be welcomed with open arms.
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