What Does a PTA Do?
Most Americans have heard about Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) since their elementary school days. But many of us reach adulthood without being able to clearly answer the question, “What does a PTA do?” The short answer is: A PTA brings together parents, teachers and other community members to advocate for the interests of children, particularly in an educational context. PTAs exist at the local, state and national level, all working together toward a shared set of goals.
Your Local PTA
Your local PTA is a volunteer advocacy association designed to serve the interests of a specific educational community. Local PTAs hold regular meetings to inform community members about issues relevant to the education and welfare of children, decide on positions and actions that impact children, and organize events and programs. Local PTAs may help a school to buy laptops, organize after-school programs and events for teacher-appreciation week, and much more. PTAs may also play an important role in questions of local educational policy, such as the priority of funding arts programs or renovating a local school building.
State and National PTAs
Local PTAs coordinate with state and national PTAs in order to work towards long-term goals and large-scale projects. By joining your local PTA, you automatically become a member of state and national PTAs. These organizations engage in broadly based research, lobbying and public relations work. They also work with local PTAs to run programs such as Reflections, a national arts contest for children, and MORE, a campaign to increase the engagement of men in children’s lives. You can learn more about what the National PTA is doing by reading about its 2010 to 2013 Strategic Plan.
Your school community probably hosts one or more PTAs, such as a school-specific PTA, a Parent-Teacher-Student Association and/or a special needs PTA. Each of these PTAs will hold regular general meetings for all members, as well as committee meetings where decisions are made and actions are taken on more specific issues. The first step to getting involved is to attend general meetings, which will help you to become acquainted with the organization’s function. Volunteering with your PTA is a great way to demonstrate your commitment and become more involved. Once you start getting to know your PTA, you can become more involved with the association’s work by joining a committee.
Perhaps the most profound aspect of the PTA’s work is that, ultimately, it does what its members decide is best. As the nation’s largest volunteer advocacy organization, PTA members determine, to a large extent, the association’s goals and methods. As you become more deeply involved with your PTA, you will realize that the members who contribute the most to the organization are also the members who emerge as leaders. In this respect, the answer to the question, “What does a PTA do?”, is that it does what you want to do for your community’s children and what the nation wants to do for its children.