Great Parent Engagement Idea — Not So Good Execution

I think it’s great that the California PTA wants to be a political leader in getting more funds for schools. In California, they’re a major backer of a tax initiative that’s hoping to be on November ballot.

Unfortunately, they are competing with two other efforts — one led by Governor Jerry Brown (with support from The California Teachers Association) and the other by the California Federation of Teachers — that want to also place tax measures for schools on the same ballot. And the one supported by the PTA is polling substantially worse than the other two.

There’s a community organizer axiom that says you never try a ballot measure unless you’re pretty darn sure you’re going to win. That’s because if you try and lose, you end up considerably weaker politically.

I am not aware of The PTA being this explicitly political in the past, and I think moving in that direction is excellent. However, since it is relatively new to the organization, if I were them I’d want to make sure that members had a very positive experience — defeat is not the most energizing experience for people new to the political process, and is not the result that is going to generate long-term enthusiasm for parent engagement in schools.

Plus, if all three get on the ballot, that dramatically increases the odds of them all failing and schools getting nothing.

I hope that the PTA decides, instead, to make a deal with Governor Brown and the CTA — the PTA drops support for their own initiative in return for something (perhaps earmarking some funds for increased parent engagement support). That would be “half a loaf” and not “half a baby” — and then everyone wins, including our students.

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