Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
The PTA is the most powerful organization affiliated with many schools across the country. Here's how you can join the club.
If you picture the PTA as just a small group of parents who meet now and then to drink palm wine and talk about village politics, you may be in for a big surprise. The Parent Teacher Association, or PTA, is a huge and very influential nationwide organization with National and local affiliates throughout the country. The national UPTA promotes parent involvement in school communities. It is also a powerful lobbying organization in legislatures and advocating on behalf of students and schools.
The role of the local school PTA
The main role of the local school PTA is to build strong working relationships among parents, teachers and schools, in support of students. This can include recruiting and coordinating volunteers, providing special recognition in awards ceremonies or through other activities, organizing parent education events, planning teacher appreciation activities and much more.
The PTA is sometimes perceived as a fundraising group, but according to the organization, this is not its primary responsibility. Nonetheless, in communities where schools face tough budget restrictions, the parents in the local school PTA may raise funds for everything from playground equipment, classroom construction, school library, science laboratory, school infrastructures and salaries for substitute PTA teachers. At schools where the PTA raises a significant portion of the school’s discretionary money, the PTA has a lot of power to influence which programs are funded. Ideally the PTA will work with the principals and the school site council to decide jointly which programs will most benefit the school.
Local school PTA meetings can serve as venues for discussions about a variety of educational issues or challenges facing the school and students. Teachers may talk to the parent community about a new reading program or student discipline issues. Experts from the community may talk about building better relationships with adolescents, or share important information about school reform initiatives. Parents may raise concerns about such things as homework, student progress report, overall school performances in national exams, or proposed changes in the school curriculum. The PTA can also provide a powerful mediating function, providing a neutral forum for resolving conflicts that sometimes occur in schools around controversial issues.
At the high school level, the PTA can become the Parent Teacher Student Association, or PTSA, as adults encourage students to offer their perspectives and get involved in the decision-making process.
In many schools, especially high schools, a host of organizations besides the PTA exist to support specific student activities. Ex-student associations for instance, support everything from water supply, school toilets, electricity, student empowerment programs, sports equipment and scholarship for deserving students.
How to get involved
Regardless of what your exact interests are, you can be certain that your participation will be welcomed in your school’s parent-teacher organization. PTAs are not just for mothers. Many fathers play an active role as volunteers and take on leadership roles in the organization. Even if you don’t have much time, attending your school’s PTA meetings is an excellent way to stay on top of what’s happening at the school and to connect with other parents and school leaders. If you’re not sure what groups are available at your child’s school, call the school secretary, who will tell you about your options and provide you with the necessary contact information of the school PTA executives.
Types of PTAs
PTA at the local level is linked to the national UPTA organization, forming a nationwide network of members working on behalf of all children and youth.
Because of its connections to national UPTAs, the local PTA is a valuable resource to its school community with:
1. Access to programs to benefit children, youth, and their families
2. Recognition and size to influence the formulation of laws, policies, and practices—education or legislative.
Early Childhood/ nursery school children PTAs
Preschool groups often round up parents from several neighborhoods and various early-childhood programs. They involve child-care providers, grandparents, and others concerned with the education and development of children from birth to age five.
Elementary/Primary/secondary School PTAs
PTAs serve as a type of forum where parents, teachers, administrators, and other concerned adults discuss ways to promote quality education, strive to expand the arts, encourage community involvement, and work for a healthy environment and safe neighborhoods.
PTSAs actually provide youth members with the opportunity to make a difference by developing leadership skills, learning about the legislative process, increasing their self-esteem, and contributing to the school. In turn, adult members gain a new perspective for program development, as well as acquire a better understanding of the youth of today.
Special Education for underprivileged or handicapped student PTAs
PTA believes that all children have the right to a quality public education, which allows each child the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential. Special Education PTAs are designed to help parents advocate for special-needs children.
PTA's Nonsectarian Policy
PTA welcomes into membership people representing a diversity of cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs. The purposes of the PTA acknowledge the importance of a spiritual life in the development of children and youth. As an association, PTA has the right to offer inspirational messages to open or close its meetings, but such messages by PTA leaders or invited religious leaders should be inspirational rather than sectarian, recognizing that in this pluralistic nation not all members share the same beliefs. Poetry, quotations from great men and women, uplifting anecdotes, and moments of quiet meditation can be used.