Smearing, Belittling and Besmirching the PTA in Florida

The presence of at least a half-dozen independent PTA members at Monday’s senate hearing on Parent Trigger was enough to demonstrate the clout of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA/PTSA) across Florida. Their voice used to matter until the education for profit gravy train came to town and politicians realized the advantage to be had by jumping on. But what to do about those pesky naysayers – like those loathsome PTA members – when they don’t just get out of the way when they are told what’s best for them?

In politics, you smear, belittle and besmirch. Such a campaign is underway in Florida.

House sponsor of Parent Trigger, Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Dade) responded during floor question and answer yesterday the PTA “parents are in charge of the bakes sales and the teachers are in charge of the policy.”

Advocating on behalf of your public schools now comes at a cost when what you is subject to belittlement on the floor of a state legislature. But where do ambitious politicians like Turjillo get the notion that slamming the PTA is somehow a good idea. Why it’s the corporate financed education reform movement.

The website, redefinED, includes the following about it’s blog:

Readers should know that our editors represent professionally the interests of a nonprofit organization in Florida, Step Up For Students, that administers a scholarship for 35,000 low-income children. But redefinED won’t be a platform merely for school vouchers and won’t be a promotional vehicle for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Rather, we will use our collective experiences to speak more broadly about learning options. Our editors have more than 40 combined years of experience in journalism, most of it covering educational policy. Our key contributing writers are leaders in the education reform movement, whether they’ve presided over a local teachers union or launched the largest tax-credit scholarship of its kind in the nation. Our posts will be frequent and respectful, and we hope the responses will be the same.

One of those “contributing writers” touting credentials as one of those “leaders in the education reform movement” is Catherine Robinson. According to her bio Robinson came to Step Up for Students from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst. She now is  “organizing parents for Step Up For Students.” In her space at redifED, she’s  being critical of the PTA/PTSA.  Robinson wrote this in a post titled Why is a Parenting Organization Working Against So Many Parents:

Over the years, though, I sadly watched the PTSA take positions that alienated moms like me, moms who choose. Sure, the organization is a presence at my sons’ middle school – they sell magnets for cars and snacks at sporting events. The PTSA agrees that magnets are a valid choice, but parents who choose other options are not represented by the PTSA and, worse yet, are regularly dismissed in alerts and agendas. I would often read PTSA literature and wonder out loud:

“Why is a parenting organization working against so many parents?”

But I’m not one to give up easily.

Last year, I ran for and was elected VP of Ways and Means of the PTSA at my sons’ school. At the time, I worked as an organizer for StudentsFirst. I knew the PTSA agenda aligned with teachers’ unions and school districts, but I also knew members of the PTSA who considered themselves choice parents, who valued an environment where all parents could be actively involved and choose the best options for their kids. The PTSA has a diverse and varied membership, with all kinds of views and opinions. So I decided to get elected and learn why their leadership resisted such diversity.

In the course of a year, I’ve read countless PTSA talking points, emails and legislative alerts. I’ve talked to parents who feel like they are invited to raise money, but not participate in issues and decisions that might truly impact their children’s learning. At the PTSA Florida Conference, I found myself surrounded by people wearing anti-parent trigger buttons who judged education reform policies based on the political parties of the adults, rather than the best interests of the kids.

Obviously lumping the PTA/PTSA into a box as “traditional parenting groups” which  “sometimes say they represent Florida parents in all educational matters,” Step Up for Students through it’s employee, Robinson, is providing  Trujillo with talking points to slam a group who has been testifying in opposition to his bill.  In it’s zeal to  support it’s version of school choice, Step Up for Students has become part of the campaign to smear, belittle and besmirch parents who are choosing and supporting public schools.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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5 Responses to Smearing, Belittling and Besmirching the PTA in Florida

  1. Don’t forget, Bob. Robinson just might have got a chance to win a gift card for writing as she did!!!

  2. Sandra says:

    Folks like Robinson are paid lobbyists. She did not “join” a grassroots organization as a volunteer. We all know that. The patheically weak narrative that parents who oppose ed reforms, common core, high stakes assessment, Florida’s runaway charter boom are incapable of in depth understanding of misguided public policy is a clear sign that proponents of the Parent Trigger are feeling too much heat. The proponents cannot speak to and defend the the contents of the bill, so the insult opponents to deflect answering questions. Georgia, Colorado, and Oklahoma legislators turned away from parent trigger legislation. Florida does not need this bill.

  3. Have they lost their minds? Have lawmakers just besmirched the largest volunteer service group in Florida? PTA comprises scores of thousands of servant-hearted volunteers who work countless hours to improve our schools. The parental involvement and the enrichment programming that PTAs work hard to bring to schools can easily make the difference in the school’s grade.

    It is the height of hypocrisy for lobbying organizations disguised as nonprofits to pay petition organizers to hijack our public schools, while looking down their noses at the people who make a difference every day, the true parent empowerers in our PTAs. You will not find a more democratic organization, nor one with a truer spirit of generosity, than the truly grassroots volunteers of Florida’s PTAs. I am a former PTA President, and have not been paid a dime to write this.

  4. For those who think PTA’s prefer Baking over Advocating, pls take 7 minutes and watch LEARN the truth about PTA and why it champions for ALL children!

  5. Even going back in time when PTAs did more often have bake sales….from which to raise money to make a difference by helping with other needs at a school, this is some of the early accomplishments that have set standards of education today….PTA has been a child advocate organization from it’s inception, but Mr. Trujillo is incompetently ignorant and showed just how much so with his rude and disparaging remarks on Tuesday.

    Reducing class size
    This was an immediate concern of the National Congress and the Minnesota PTA.
    Promoting the teaching of the arts
    In 1924 Minnesota advocated for the observance of Music Week.
    In 1969 the National Reflections Arts Program was started by Mary Lou Anderson to showcase the importance of arts in education.
    Increased funding for public education
    In 1905 the National Congress passed a landmark resolution calling for federal assistance for the education of children in kindergarten classes and elementary schools.
    Early childhood education for all children
    At the first meeting of the National Congress in 1897 a resolution was passed recommending the establishment of public school kindergarten.
    Minnesota is now on the threshold of financing early childhood education as well as all day kindergarten.
    Concern for the health and nutrition of all children
    As early as 1898 PTA pushed for sex education to reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
    In 1912 the PTA began providing hot lunches to children in many schools.
    September, 1924 Minnesota PTA calls for school health programs and stressed the importance of physical education for children.
    In Minnesota the PTA began the school milk program in 1925 and Child Health Day.
    National began “Summer Round-up” in 1925, known today as “Kindergarten Round-Up”.
    During 1926 PTA began promoting the elimination of smoking by minors.
    Parent Involvement
    At the first meeting of the National Congress in 1897, one of three fundamental initiatives adopted by the membership that has lasted 103 years is as follows: Home-school cooperation as represented by the partnership of parents and teachers.
    Parent involvement is now the law in regards to No Child Left Behind.
    Juvenile Justice
    In 1900 the National Congress pushed for legislation to form the juvenile court and probation system. It resulted in legislative action the following year.
    Child Labor
    After Congress failed to secure adequate child labor laws in the 1920’s, PTA turned to the state branches to work for child labor standards beginning in 1933. By 1954 most states had passed provisions, thanks to the persistent efforts of the PTA.

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