PTAs and PTOs
Not All Parents Are Fools
by Chester E. Finn, Jr. Excerpt:
"...Like so many other once-useful organizations (the League of Women Voters
comes to mind, along with the American Civil Liberties Union), [the PTA has] been
politicized, ideologized, bureaucratized and, at least in the PTA's case,
has become part of the public-education establishment, more interested in
propping up institutional claims and employee interests than advancing
the interests of parents and kids. 'All T and no P' is how I've come
to describe the National PTA and its state affiliates. ...
I can't name a single policy issue of consequence at the state or national
level where the PTA's testimony doesn't mirror that of the NEA and/or AFT.
Taking the Parent out of the National PTA
by George A. Clowes, School Reform News, February 2003.
Excerpt: "Charlene K. Haar made what she thought was a routine request
to the National PTA, the reaction she received was so surprising it
piqued the former public school teacher's curiosity to learn more
about the century-old Parent-Teacher Association.
Instead of a parent organization dedicated to the enhancement
of the nation's schools, Haar discovered a group dominated by
teacher unions and little attuned to the interests of parents and their children."
"The Politics of the PTA"
by Charlene K. Haar: Read more about "The organization you thought you knew."
The Role of the PTA, in "Teacher Unions and Parent Involvement" by Charlene K. Haar,
Education Policy Institute. Excerpts:
"...What is the PTA's position on union contracts that ignore or severely limit parent rights?
The answer is that the PTA has no position on bargaining issues that affect parents.
Instead, the PTA has adopted a policy of neutrality on teacher bargaining issues,
no matter how much they affect parent rights and concerns. ...
Significantly, PTA policy does not address parental concerns over items
on which school boards are required to bargain. Several, such as the following,
would be high priority issues in any organization claiming to represent parent
and pupil interests in collective bargaining..." The article then lists 21 such issues of concern.
"Furthermore, by its own admission, the PTA has never disagreed with the NEA on any significant,
substantive issue. This is an astonishing admission in view of the conflicts of
interest between parents as consumers of educational services and teachers as producers of them."
- What Next For The PTA? Parents Turn Away From The Century-Old Group
by Mary Lord, U. S. News and World Report, May 31, 1999:
"... When it comes to tackling the larger issues that affect the quality of education,
parents are stuck on the sidelines. How do they get to influence the debate over academic standards and school choice?
Who speaks for [them]?
Not, it seems, the country's most venerated parent group - the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, or PTA.
... [One] reason the PTA is playing hooky on education reform ... may be its cozy relationship with the teachers unions."
The Plight of the PTA by Thomas Toch, Guest Scholar, The Brookings Institution,
The New York Times, January 7, 2001. Subhead:
"...Critics say that unless the National PTA relinquishes its defense of the educational status quo,
and unless local chapters define parent involvement far more ambitiously,
the century-old cultural icon is likely to continue its decline..."
PTA Members Challenge Leaders at Annual Convention by by Charlene K. Haar, President, Education Policy Institute
National PTA faces a dropout problem by Rosa Maria Santana, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23, 2002:
"...As the national PTA gathers in San Antonio this weekend for its annual convention,
it faces plummeting membership and mounting criticism that it is irrelevant.
Its harshest critics say it has transformed from a wholesome and progressive force
into a tool for teachers unions and groups pushing gay rights, sex education and
other controversial agendas. ...
Nationally, reasons [given by local groups to] secede range from keeping more membership dues
in local coffers to disapproval over the association's stand against
school vouchers and charter schools and its support of sex education."
Parents or politics? The National PTA may soon have to decide whether
it will be a parents' group or just another liberal lobby
by Jennifer A. Marshall, World magazine, October 19, 2002.
P is for Politically Correct: Think Parent Teacher Associations uphold family values in the public schools? Think again
by Heather Koerner, Focus on the Family.
National PTA's Liberal Politics Cost Parental Support, February 2003.
This report from the Capital Research Center (CRC) concludes,
"The national Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
lost a significant number of members in the last 40 years because
of its focus on politics rather than education."
Rethinking Parent-Teacher Ties, editorial in Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 2001:
"By its own admission, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) says
membership has been 'static' for the past decade.
This fact alone should send a signal to this more than 100-year-old
organization that it would do well to stick to bettering relations
between parents and teachers, and leave the pursuit of a social agenda alone. ...
Tim Sullivan, who publishes [PTO Today] gets 10 to 20 calls a week from parents wanting to leave the PTA and form a PTO."
PTA Politics Blamed for Organization's Low Membership
By Jon Du Pre, Fox News, June 09, 2001: "Teachers and parents:
Two of the biggest influences in a child's life. It seems natural
that they would work together for young people's welfare.
But many families are giving a failing grade to the
Parent Teacher Association, claiming they are focusing more on politics than pupils."
National PTA Positions Make Parent Involvement Useless
In Issues which Challenge the Teacher Unions
by Charlene Haar, April 1, 1999. Excerpt:
"Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members and officials often bristle at the
suggestion that the PTA is dominated by the teacher unions. ... In practice, however,
teacher union domination is subtle but highly effective.
It shows up in the selection of speakers and convention programs,
the issues that are voted upon and the ones shoved under the rug,
the avoidance of union identification among delegates to PTA conventions,
the immediate put-downs of any effort to raise union issues,
the similarity between PTA and teacher union legislative agendas,
and the PTA's leading role in union- funded coalitions.
Furthermore, by its own admission, the PTA has never disagreed
with the National Education Association (NEA) on any significant, substantive issue.
This is an astonishing admission in view of the conflicts of interest
between parents as consumers of educational services and teachers as producers of them."
PTOtoday links parent-teacher groups with other independents
by Jill Lerner, Boston Business Journal, February 2, 2001:
"Tim Sullivan was peddling school fund-raising services in 1996, when he conceived of the idea for PTOtoday magazine.
... Sullivan struck on the idea of creating a venue by which such groups could share ideas with each other,
and importantly, could themselves become the targets of ideas from school-related advertisers. ...
Sullivan ... says fewer than 10 percent of parent groups in Massachusetts are affiliated
with the nationally organized PTA. The remainder are independent PTOs.
Nationally, he claims, fewer than 25 percent of parent groups are affiliated with the PTA."
- Website for
PTO Today magazine
PTA vs. PTO
PTOs Lure Parents Sick of Split PTA Dues
by Amit R. Paley, Washington Post, October 19, 2004. Excerpt:
"...thousands of PTA groups ... have voted to leave the national association in recent years.
The PTA's national membership has declined steadily from a high of 12.1 million
in 1963 to 5.9 million last year. ... Parents
increasingly say that they do not see the benefit of sending dues to a national
organization when funds are urgently needed at their neighborhood schools ...
The dues issue is compounded in some areas by concerns that the national PTA is too liberal. ...
Disgruntled parents looking to leave the PTA are increasingly aided by web sites and
Internet message boards that give detailed instructions on how to dissolve their chapter,
write bylaws for their new PTO and register as a nonprofit group with the Internal Revenue Service.
'It used to be a scary prospect to leave the PTA even if you were dissatisfied ... Today it is much easier.'"
- "The [PTA's] refusal to stand with parents who want to take authority back
from the education establishment has created a breach with its constituents that
may be irreparable ... They say they represent children and parents but their money
is going to fight against parental choice. They think parents are unqualified to make
decisions about their children's education." -- Alise Dobrot, PTO member, Linden, Michigan
PTO vs. PTA: National PTA Faces Key Decisions As Local Groups Increasingly Turn To PTO,
PTO Today, August 2000.
"... Other critics claim that the general PTA membership is unaware of the PTA's major political bent.
'One of the basic problems with the PTA is that the membership is not aware of
what the lobbying efforts are,' says Charlene Haar, a vocal PTA critic and
president of the Education Policy Institute.
'The parent members who are financing the organization are unaware of the lobbying agenda at the state and national level.'"
Not Your Mom's PTA
by Jeanne Allen, Washington Times, July 9, 2001.
"The name 'PTA' may conjure up images of moms working closely with schools,
carnivals and other money-raising efforts, and of close relationships between
parents and those who teach their children.
Increasingly, that image comes not from PTA's, but from 'PTO's' or Parent Teacher Organizations,
independent parent groups that choose to organize at schools without any affiliation to
the national Parent Teacher Association.
Why the change? Parent activists are finding an increasing divide between
the purposes of their state and national PTA leaders and their own objectives.
And they're therefore withdrawing their memberships and forming PTO's."
Autonomy Key To Today's PTO by Rebecca Loda, Pantagraph, February 25, 2001.
"About a week ago, the venerable PTA quietly observed its 104th anniversary.
While its national membership is 6.5 million strong,
most Twin City schools just as quietly have dropped their PTA affiliations
over the years to form independent parent-teacher organizations."
This article also mentions that in Illinois, the PTA has 200,000 members, a third of
its 600,000 membership in the 1960s.
Schools, Teachers, Parents and the Community
For more information on the role, perspectives and involvement of teachers, parents and the community with schools, see these
other pages on our website:
- School Committees: Have you served on a school committee? Were you disappointed with the results? Read this!
- Public Relations: Your school may have hired professional help in selling a change to your community
- In-Service Workshops: What are the teachers doing when the kids have that day off?
- Parent Rights: What are your recourses when normal channels have let you down?