A new policy for the PTA finally shows more “P” than “T”

The National PTA has taken a step that should help it dispel the criticism that it’s always in lockstep with the teacher unions: In its new policy platform, the parent-teacher association has taken the bold step of supporting giving groups other than local school boards the right to authorize charter schools.

For seventeen years, the National PTA, which has five million members, has urged state governments to give only school boards the authority to grant or deny charter applications. That changed this month, when the PTA’s board struck that restriction from its platform and extended its support, as the group’s president put it, to “all authorizing bodies.”

Sean Cavanagh at Education Week this week reported that the group says it wants to be more relevant in charter school policy, and its old position was at odds with the fact that local PTAs are increasingly working with charters authorized by universities or independent commissions. This is a big leap for a group that education analyst Thomas Toch once accused of being “out of step with many parents’ demands for change in public education today” and that has lobbied alongside teacher unions for decades. It’s also a change that collides with the high-profile efforts of state chapters that have taken contradictory positions. Georgia and Washington PTAs, for instance, have opposed recent efforts to create state-level commissions that would have the power to authorize charters in order to keep oversight (i.e., power) over all charters “local.” That has been the more predictable stance from the PTA, one that the national organization now says it wants to change so that it may treat all of its public school parents—finally—equally.

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