View Full Version : My "Edu-rant" For the New Year
01-04-2010, 04:33 PM
I have to go off on an edu-rant here. In Kentucky, our Governor has just announced that he will "spare" education in the next round of budget cuts. Spare education? Excuse my ignorance, but doesn't the term imply a magnamous gesture of sorts, a "I will spare you from execution, but..." So I am concerned. What will be expected of us now? I don't know about the rest of you, and where you reside, but as a PTA district president, time and time again, our parents and teachers are being asked to suppliment educational materials. There are never enough pencils or glue sticks, there are never enough extra books to read, there is never enough of anything. Some classrooms in some schools are state of the art, with laptops for each child and a smart board too boot. Some classrooms, well...not so much. I just blogged about this at length at my Blog from the Bluegrass and on the local Moms Like Me website, because I am miffed. I have been a parent for just over eleven years, and education has not gotten any better. I have taught as an adjunct faculty member in a community college, and education did not prepare those kids for college. I have watched as families struggle to buy food and school supplies, coming up short time and time again, I have watched countless PTA volunteers and advocates spend their time as classroom assistants, as mentors, as fundraiser organizers to feel as if they are Sisiphus pushing that rather large boulder up that very steep hill. When 2010 arrived I thought, maybe it's time for a kinder, gentler PTAPEEP, one without grey hair and migraines, one who can say, I've fought the good fight, I can rest. But sadly, nope. Not gonna happen. I know that there has got to be a change. That I am not the lone voice in the night. I know that others are as perplexed about the state of education as I am. That we are challenged to prepare our children for a global economy, yet they are dropping out of school at 16 and being a burden on our local economy. I know that my children would either be behind or ahead if they moved across country depending on the location and the state of that budget for education (perhaps they weren't as fortunate to be spared...California comes to mind...). So while we are asked to do more, our government does...less? While we champion the cause of children in whatever parent group you belong too, and I hope you belong to something, and ask for more arts education (sorry no funding), more physical activity in school (sorry, no funding), the drop out rate to change from 16 to 18 (sorry, no funding)...our children are left behind. As parents, do you supplement the lack of arts by sending your kids to an after school art class? Do you sign your kids up for soccer, basketball, anything, to get them moving? Do you shake your head when you go into a fast food restaurant and the manager is young enough to be your teenage son or daughter? I don't have an immediate solution to the frustration you must feel, but I do want to reassure you that you are not alone. That we must unite and take back our schools. It is time to be engaged and involved. It is time to say "everychild.onevoice" (the National PTA motto) and actually mean it. To put those words into action.
Whew. Maybe I should have resolved to cut back on the coffee and not read the paper. then again...
01-04-2010, 09:43 PM
I totally share your frustration. I have been a teacher for almost 20 years now, in 5 different countries. There are a lot of similarities in other countries but let me tell you, things here in the United States are sometimes really worrying. Education is really not take seriously by our leaders and then we expect kids to go to school and think highly of it when every penny that can be "spared" gets taken out of the education budgets into God knows what is "more important".
Despite this, we still need to instill in our kids some form of passion for learning so that they see the value of school... and still see it as a privilege despite everything!
Keep at it!
01-05-2010, 12:00 PM
I know that balancing a budget, any budget is difficult. What worries me is the "promise" of Race to the Top funds, or SEEK formulas. Every state is eligible for those funds, it is a big grant process. We all have filled out grant applications. No matter how great your application is or how worthwhile you think your program is there is no guarantee that you will receive that grant. So what do you do? Budget as if the grant doesn't exist. Yet it seems as if our states are thinking that the grant is part of the budget. Sure, here in KY our district (Jefferson County) may not be as heavily impacted as another county, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be concerned. I worry about the school district that needs new facilities desperately but will have to wait. Or the district that needs books but will have to wait. How long do they wait? What happens when there are more cuts? What happens when the money doesn't come thru the RTT? I know I don't have answers, but there have to be better solutions.
02-19-2010, 12:47 AM
My husband's brother is a teacher in the public school system, so I've heard some about all of these frustrations. The district and the board have to deal with the budget cuts, and it creates such a problem. I know that a moratorium was placed on getting new books for my husband's brother's school. It's a shame.
02-22-2010, 07:53 AM
This nation needs a huge wake up call! Education is a worthwhile investment!
PTAPeep - keep fighting. We need more voices like yourself. I'm frustrated that so many people feel like you and myself but very few step up and get their hands dirty.
02-23-2010, 07:39 AM
Linda, it can be extremely frustrating no doubt. Here in KY we just had a rally at the capitol "Children's Advocacy Day" many, many, many, groups (including but not limited to PTA) were there to let our elected officials know that we need to put our children first, in health initiatives, in education, in family support...I was able to bring my son (11) and three other students went along. We met with our Senator, other officials, the Lt. Gov and the Gov. My son was so jazzed! He interviewed and talked with all of these "big guys" about what he and his friends need. WOW! Then THE VERY NEXT DAY, it was announced that due to the budget issues, 2 days will be cut from the school calendar. WHAT? KY has one of the shortest education cycles in the nation, we only have 177 academic days to start with, and this year, due to severe weather, there are some counties that have already lost 30 days of academic instruction. We cannot compromise education. In this state we have proposed legislation that will increase the drop out age from 16 to 18 (I know, you are shocked that it is even acceptable for kids to quit school at 16....), our First Lady has initiated a Drop Out Prevention program, we have increased support for pre k education (support, not funds), and then this? and although even our own Superintendent of Education has spoken against this two day cut, we all know once those words have been spoken it is easier to go with it instead of against it, to let that idea roll around in your head....I have literally built a playground, filling holes with dirt so children can have physical activity, I have run bookfairs so children can have books to read to increase literacy efforts, I fold and wash donated clothing so children can have garments to wear to school so they will not miss educational opportunities, I write op ed pieces, trudge through snow to talk to elected officials, host spelling bees, workshops, and I do it because my children, Seth, Jonah, and Finn are not statistics, they and their friends and classmates deserve the very best that we adults have to offer. Our children are not an afterthought and they need to be respected and valued. whew. another edurant....boy, won't DC be a pip in two weeks....
02-23-2010, 01:02 PM
Okay, so it gets even better. Sure the Governor is sparing education, but not the rest of our Legislature!
I'm not sure where they are getting their information, but KY has one of the shortest school calendars in the nation. In fact, in other countries the average is 200 days of academic instruction. When I balance my personal/family budget my children's needs are always taken into consideration first and we do not sacrifice them ever. Why is it then acceptable for our elected officials to do so?
02-25-2010, 05:30 PM
I started to respond to your post but it's content isn't appropriate for a public forum. Our state of Florida could care less too because the elderly here have already paid for their children's education in New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.... Why should they pay taxes for children here? SELFISH! I wish I knew how to shift the minds of those who don't recognize the value of investing in education.
BTW - I'm considering a bid for PTA President and I'm not even on the board.
02-25-2010, 08:06 PM
I hear ya! Linda, sounds like you need to sign up to go to MomCongress!
02-27-2010, 06:53 AM
I did sign up for MOMCongress!
Oh and I let the powers that be know I want to be PTA Prez next year. I was basically told it's mine but we have to wait and see if someone else shows interest? Now I need to figure out what I'm in for. lol
I'd love to pick your brain. I've been scouring PTA websites from across the nation seeing what they do and noting what stands out. My biggest hurdle will be officers and parent involvement. It's a very loose crew right now with all of the same people. This is the 1st year our school is a "neighborhood school" so it's really like we're starting from scratch. I was thinking I really need to nab the support of incoming K parents (beyond buying membership cards) and get some follow through as far as physical support.
What I'm asking is....any tested and approved ways to successfully recruit?
02-27-2010, 07:13 AM
Oh and I'm going to our capitol at the end of March with our district to rally for restoring education funds and making sure they think about next year. Why oh why would government ever consider cuts to education? It should either stay status quo or add to it!!!!!!!!!
02-27-2010, 08:05 AM
argh, I just wrote this huge response and it disappeared into cyberspace, crud!
Okay, here we go again, and it was cool and witty, but this will be just the facts. contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll make a connection.
How to recruit, once elected, get with your board and see what project you want to focus on, it might be one big fundraiser so the school can have new playground equipment, or several smaller things, but know what your focus is. Then speak about how, sure fundraising is one component of PTA, but truly it is an advocacy group for children. In fact, according to National PTA
"Florida PTA is being honored with the PTA Outstanding Advocacy Award for its work to prevent further education budget cuts in a state that already ranks near the bottom in the country in school funding. Florida PTA's initiatives, including an advocacy toolkit and regular conference calls with region and local PTAs, created sustained advocacy and generated newfound enthusiasm for parents and local PTAs to work together for education funding for Florida children. Advocates sent more than 3,000 letters of protest to the Florida governor and state legislators and held one of the largest rallies ever at the steps of the state Capitol. As a result of Florida PTA's efforts, Florida legislators did not reduce education funding as proposed" and are being recognized at this year's National Legislative Conference, in two weeks in DC. WHOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
So maybe your board asks itself, if we recruit new parents what do we want our vision/mission to be? Cookie Dough sales or more laptops, smart boards, quality instructors and quality education? If we want both, how do we balance? I know that some PTAs are really quite content having this fundraiser and that event, and happy to let me as the District Pres, champion the cause, but others are more advocacy minded. So make sure you have balance. Your board may want to sell those catalog items so they can help with the smart board purchases, you may want to go to the State PTA and ask how you can help advocate to elected officials (school board, legislators, fed govt.) about getting those smart boards without having to fundraise for them.
Glad you are attending the Rally! You should also plan on attending the 2009 M.E.N. (Mentoring, Engaging, Now) Summit scheduled for April 17th and 18th. Registration is now open, but hurry, space is limited. Our conference last year was very successful and the men left with knowledge and tools to become active and involved in the lives of their children at home, in school and in their communities. What a great way to strategize on how to get more dads, uncles, big brothers, grandfathers involved as well!
The National Convention is in Memphis this year, more details at June 10-13 -- Registration opens March 31 (http://www.pta.org), these are all budgeted, legitimate training expenses, where you meet with other leaders, ask them these questions, have workshops about these and other issues and understand you are not alone!
Once your board has it's vision, plan, etc, make sure to have a meeting with the principal to include him/her on these ideas and see what can be practically accomplished. You don't have to change the world overnight. Maybe the goal is all new incoming kindergarten families have one member. The class with the most members will get a new book for each student to be placed in the classroom library (then see if a local bookstore will donate books). I don't like to reward with food or toys, I like to reward with items that enhance learning. Then plan on being at the school's first orientation or open house, have a table, some photos in a scrapbook from last year to show events that occured, and be ready to talk about your experiences at the rally (yea!) and how membership helps support your efforts to get legislators to listen. Then make sure to publish a once a month newsletter, nothing fancy is needed, just back and front, celebrating parents as volunteers (shout out to Linda for helping Ms. Doe's class with the read a thon!) kids love to hear their names on the announcements "Thanks to Johnny Doe's mom for helping), keep a tally of membership numbers (as of x date we have x members , just shy of our x goal!) maybe a message from you as well. go to www.15thdistrictpta.org for copies of our district news and how to contact me.
Let your parents know that you understand that a $4 (or whatever the bylaws say the amount is) membership may be hard to come up with, but show a bulletin board of a $5 footlong or a $4 starbucks with an equal sign to an image of a membership card and a child holding it. Get it? Membership is more important than a sandwich! Bottom line, if you just recruit and encourage 5 new members, celebrate those five. You will be a champion for all the children regardless of whether their families join PTA (we have 98,000 students and only 51,000 pta members here in louisville, but I still champion for ALL the children regardless of their parent's involvement).
Welcome to the PTA, it's a bit like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, but we usually drink coffee and don't wear silly hats...well, some of us don't!
02-27-2010, 07:18 PM
WOW! Thank you very much! I have to say your response almost moved me to tears. 1) that you took the time to write this twice! 2) that the information is so tremendous! You are freaking fabulous for taking the time! I'm printing out your response as soon as I'm done typing! I'm also putting you in my email address book and firing another thank you to you immediately.
I can't express how grateful I am. Have you considered authoring a website or blog with helpful PTA tips? I'm shaking my head in amazement at the content of your post. You truly have passion. Our children are so fortunate, as I said before ..... now if we could clone you a 1,000 times over!
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