Saturday, February 21, 2009

Senator Bramble's PTA Revenge Bill

SB-199, which seeks to provide equal access to school resources for all parent groups and prohibits access to school resources by groups that charge dues (and won't waive upon request), has a number of problems.

The bill isn't long, so take a minute to read it here.

  1. The definition of "parent group" is recursive. In other words, it says that a "Parent group" is a legally organized parent or parent/teacher group, association, or organization. You can't define something in terms of itself. What constitutes a parent group?
  2. So what is a parent group? Is a group that has parents in it a parent group? Does it have to have "parent" in the name of the group? Would booster clubs be parent groups? Can anyone create a "parent group" and demand equal access? What about "Utah County Republican Women"? Is that a parent group? It's composed of parents? What about "Parents for Legalization of Marijuana"? Is that a parent group because it has "Parents" in the name?
  3. This bill likely has unintended consequences. It seeks to provide equal access for all parent groups to the following: general meetings, school facilities, resources, and staff members, opportunities and invitations to serve on school committees, school goods and services, volunteer opportunities, leadership opportunities, voting privileges. What this means is that any parent group (whatever that is) can demand the same access to any of the resources as any other group. So if one organization has the principal on their board, then he would have to serve on the board for all parent committees. If one group has a fund-raising table, all parent groups get one. If one group gets to address parents of incoming students, all groups would get that opportunity.
  4. So what would happen if a bunch of different parent groups get organized? They all get equal access, no matter what they may or may not bring to the school. An group that has 2 members and brings little of value to the school would get the same access as a group that has 500 members and brings great value. What would happen if there were 5 parent groups, or 10, or 20?
  5. Among the equal access provisions is that if a school accepts invitations to participate in one parent group, it HAS to accept invitations to all parent groups. If a large number of parent groups decide to descend on the school, this could be extremely burdensome to the school, having to participate in all parent groups if it participates in one.
  6. This bill prohibits schools from working with any group that requires dues as a condition for participation in the group (including access to leadership positions and ability to vote in the group). He added an amendment that said groups that asked for dues would be permitted if they would waive the dues upon request of a person. Senator Bramble, during his introduction of this bill at the Senate Education Committee, equated this to the waiving of school fees. What??? Those fees are only waived upon meeting strict financial guidelines as set by the legislature. You can't just ask for them to be waived. Yet he seems to think that a private organization should be required to waive dues for any person that requests it.
The PTA's funding mechanism is primarily through member dues. That is not just at the local level, but is the funding mechanism at the state and national level. Even if Utah PTA decided to change their funding mechanism (which is not as simple as it sounds), they still have to pay dues to National PTA for each member. Utah PTA would have rely on donations to fund the dues required for people who request their dues be waived. I call upon Senator Bramble to make the first donation to PTA if his bill passes.

Senator Bramble, you and your colleagues often complain about Washington not giving local control on a variety of issues. You don't seem to extend the same courtesy to local school boards. Why not let them decide what groups serve the needs of their schools best? Or let a school decide? Schools are not required to have a PTA. If they decide another organization is best for them, fine. But let them decide. If the PTA isn't meeting a school's needs, the school won't have a PTA.

Despite what you say it seems obvious that this is an attempt to get rid of PTA. Talk about unintended consequences.


BenJoe said...

I spoke to a PTA president today about this bill, she told me they keep all of their dues and then raise money through out the year to make sure the right amount of dues go to the State and National PTAs.

Great points you make in your post.

alisonwonderland said...

nice job, 007, outlining some of the problems with SB199. even if it weren't a mean-spirited attack on PTA, this bill would make a bad law - vague, ambiguous, and lacking enforcement!

alisonwonderland said...

007, what's your take on the substitute bill? i don't see that anything other than dues issue has been resolved in the new version. for me, your concerns are still a concern.

007 said...

I agree. And the more I thought about it, the more I think that the schools should decide for themselves which groups give them the most value. If that's PTA, so be it, and if it's not, then so be it. The groups that best meet the school's needs will be the ones that the school will want to associate with.