A new school year is dawning, and with it comes sign-ups for all the activities. Adjusting to a real schedule and actual commitments again can be difficult for any family. So why, oh why am I trying to convince you to add one more thing and join your school’s parent organization???
In the words of one of my dear friends: It’s for the children, y’all!
What Exactly Is the Parent Organization?
Most of the public schools in our area have adopted a parent teacher association (PTA), a parent teacher organization (PTO), a parent teacher student association (PTSA), or some other play on a similar acronym. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to call them all a PTA, however, PTAs and PTOs are actually each tied to a completely different type of national organization.
The main goal of each PTA or PTO is to help parents support their school, teachers, and students.
In Texas, districts finish the year with barely enough money to cover day-to-day operations. In my own school district, 88 percent of the budget goes to faculty salaries alone, and then add facilities and maintenance, means very little is left for stuff the schools really want like new curriculum, staff development resources, or PE equipment.
More often than not, it falls on the PTA to cover the extras like carnivals, dances, programs, guest speakers, and even extra class supplies or materials not covered by the school’s budget. Add in the things you probably already knew they did like staff appreciation luncheons and class parties and you have one very busy group of volunteers — who need your help and support!
“But I Don’t Have Time . . .”
I recently finished up my term as the PTA president for our elementary school. I’ve served on our board in one form or another for nearly a decade. All but one of those years I did so with a very demanding, full-time job. I started with smaller roles and eventually found that I could balance the officer positions. Your PTA needs you in whatever capacity you can give to them!
Not every job takes a lot of time to complete. I tell parents who say they don’t have time: If we had more of us to help with the smaller tasks, all of our loads would be lighter. We would all be able to invest less time!
Some easy volunteer roles include things like managing social media, putting together packets, signing up to send supplies for events, putting together the monthly newsletter, or serving on a committee for an event or program without being the one in charge.
What’s another way you can help? Offer words of encouragement to those you see doing the heavy lifting. All of us need to be lifted up from time to time!
“I Don’t Like to Fundraise!”
If you don’t have a background that requires you to ask people for money (i.e. sales), then fundraising can be very uncomfortable for you. The good news is that there are so many other ways you can support the PTA outside of the world of money — and they’ll love you just the same!
Find some of the non-money roles or committees you can serve on. One of my favorite “getting started” roles was hospitality chair. All I had to do was show up at a handful of events, manage the snacks table, and point people in the right direction. It was a great way to get to know everyone and learn about other opportunities to help.
A good, general rule of thumb for PTAs to follow is to hold at least two to three non-fundraising programs or events for every one fundraiser. That means there should be plenty of opportunities for you to help that don’t require asking your family and friends for money.
Some great, non-fundraising events and programs include Red Ribbon Week, environmental club, STEM or STEAM fair, talent show, or diversity awareness.
Not Your Mama’s PTA
When we were growing up, the PTA revolved around bake sales and class parties. It was usually (unofficially) exclusive to stay-at-home moms, and grew a bit of a rep for being a clique. Thankfully, the PTA has evolved, and the organizations that stand today are not those of our past!
Something commonly overlooked is that the PTA is actually one of the largest children’s advocacy groups in the United States! Parents get together at the local, state, and national levels to advocate for changes in our public education system, for desperately needed school funding, and to be a voice for each child. If you have a child with any kind of special needs, learning disability, or simply care about where your tax dollars go, you may find that the advocacy piece will become your “why.”
Thanks to my kids’ PTA, I have found a group of women and men with diverse backgrounds, who have united under the common goal of promoting our children’s education. Many of these people have become some of my closest friends and the village that rallies around us when we need a helping hand. We laugh and cry together, we support each other through this journey of parenthood, and we build up our school for all of the children.