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EDUCATION REPORT – October 23, 2003: Parent-Teacher Associations - 2003-10-22

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Six-million people in the United States belong to parent-teacher associations, or PTA's. PTA's work to help schools and students in their communities.

Members give their time to serve on committees. They plan school projects and special activities, such as sales and other events to assist schools. Members also serve as activists for children’s issues before government agencies and other organizations.

There are national, state and local PTA organizations. PTA groups exist in the fifty American states and the District of Columbia. The PTA also operates in the United States Virgin Islands and in Department of Defense schools in the Pacific and Europe. These are schools for children of American military families.

Three women are responsible for establishing the Parent-Teacher Association. Two of them, Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, established the Congress of Mothers in eighteen-ninety-seven. Both women lived in Washington, D.C.

Alice Birney proposed the plan for the group in eighteen-ninety-five. Two years later, she met Phoebe Hearst who provided the money to start the organization. Later, fathers, educators and other interested citizens joined the group. It then changed its name to the National Congress of Parent-Teacher Associations.

Selena Sloan Butler is considered the third founder of the PTA. She established and served as the first president of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers. In nineteen-seventy, the congress united with the National PTA.

The National PTA provides members with, among other things, information online about educational issues. It publishes a free newsletter called “This Week in Washington” on its Web site, p-t-a dot o-r-g. It tells about developments that affect education.

There are critics of the National PTA. In a recent book, education researcher Charlene Haar says the positions of the group mainly serve the interests of teachers unions. PTA spokeswoman Jenni Sopko says the group speaks for parents, students and teachers, and is not influenced by the unions. She also notes that other countries have used the PTA in the United States as an example to develop their own parent-teacher associations.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.