Thursday, February 02, 2006

One of these things is not like the other...

(Pictured: PTA crap/chair information for the two schools I currently serve)

The Parent Torture Assoc---I mean--the Parent TEACHER'S Association is driving me to drink, people. I am marinating in a dangerous combination of cheap chardonnay and my own misery and it's all because I send my kids to public school.

It's not about the learning, because my kids do very well. They're all on the Honor's track and I've got no complaints about grades. They inherited their dad's academic brilliance, and I made my peace with the fact my genetics have little to do with it. No one's setting fires or taking drugs...yet. Okay, the oldest one has started dating, but I'm trying not to think too much about that right now.'s just the PTA. Today's public schools are in terrible trouble. I know that's not news to you, internet. Problem is, the only solution people can come up with is to turn the PTA into a business that makes money and funnels it back into the school, given that our government doesn't give a rat's ass about taking a hard stand on funding them (and the teachers) adequately. Oh yes...that....and creating a veritable armada of parent volunteers who do everything except teach the classes. And sometimes...they do that, too.

So where do they get the money? From you, silly! First you join the PTA (write a check)and then you get a position on the board (whether you have a real job or excuses...unless you're a man, of course.) whereupon you're assigned or elected to a post that you keep all year (more checks). Not only are you in charge of your department, but you must also volunteer to keep everyone else's department running, too (even more checks to write).

The summary for how your year will go can be boiled down the following scenario: Purchase and donate an item to the school auction and then write a check to buy raffle tickets to win the item back while you're volunteering two hours out of your day to work the table that sells those raffle tickets. Multiply this about 50 times. See how it works?

So, do you want a Book Fair at your school? You'll need a parent to organize it and staff it. UIL competition? Same answer. School auction, carnival, a volunteer to assemble the volunteers, playground monitors, school t-shirts? Hospitality, science lab volunteers, Field Day, accelerated reader program, yearbook, talent show? School directory, someone to type, copy and mail the school newsletter, Computer Lab volunteers and techs, RIF (Reading is Fundamental)? What about someone to decide what greenery will grow in the new planters or who will make sure that kids don't get run down by aggravated parents driving their Hummers in the carpool line? Parents helping answer phones in the office. Parents shelving books in the library (no paid aides anymore) and working the cafeteria helping kindergarten kids open their milk cartons and wiping down the tables after every class leaves. WIPING. THE TABLES!!! Oh...and there's also someone who works making copies for the teachers. No, I'm not drunk....this is how it really is. Someone helps the teachers by doing all their xeroxing for them.

Here's an eye-opener: In our pyramid of schools you're not really wanted as the Treasurer of the PTA unless you have a degree in accounting or banking. I AM NOT KIDDING. It's a big, big business. At our elementary school the PTA Board consisted of 10 executive positions (President, etc) and 36 department chairs. It's nothing like the PTA my mother belonged to where meetings consisted of housewives with teased hair balancing plates of cookies and a cups of coffee on thier laps while politely voting on how high the new flagpole should be.

I've worked on Habitat for Humanity crews where the prospective homeowner didn't have to put in that much sweat equity into the construction before being allowed to live in the house.

Okay you can say it now, because I know you're thinking it. "Bitter--Party of one? Your table is ready!"

Don't bother offering up private school. And if you suggest homeschooling I'll have you keelhauled. In our state you don't even have to have a 2nd grade education to declare your home a private school and call yourself a homeschool teacher for the eleventy-five kids you cranked out of your tired uterus and now have to dress them in matching outfits by using people's castoff living room drapes. I have no desire to share a political bed with these folks. So. Just. Don't. Even....

I just don't think it's too much to ask that the public schools get funded properly. I think it's wrong for a politician to call himself/herself an education advocate and then cut every program that helps schools limp along even as well as they do. Teachers are just about the only degreed professionals out there who, unless they marry someone with a better job, will struggle just to send their own kids to college or buy a decent house. My son's former middle school football coach retired last year. He's gotta be about 55 years old. I saw him the other day. He sacked my groceries. SACKED MY GROCERIES!!!. Does anyone see how wrong that is? Think you'd see a retired architect doing that?

I see the future and it's ugly. Pretty soon, even the PTA won't be able to salvage what's left. The government will continue to rape and pillage the grand tradition of public schools and we'll be left with only one way to fund our kids' education . We'll have to cater to the people with the most money and get them to adopt our schools. Anyone for Smirnoff Elementary School? How about Phillip Morris Middle School? Cingular High? It could happen.


Blogger Arabella said...

I am tired just reading this. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to tell me something with all these fertility shenanigans.

How long until your youngest goes to college?

11:25 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Youngest one is in the sixth grade. The two oldest are a sophomore and a junior in high school. I've got a ways to go.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Kurt said...

Former teacher rep on the PTA Board, and all you say is true. Without the PTA, there'd be very little art, music, dance, etc at our school, as well as no celebrations or events.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mao also said "I never bathe, my genitals are washed in my women."

12:20 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Uh...yeah...thanks for sharing that, anonymous. I've got to go bleach my brain now.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Who is this "anonymous" person? He/she has been wreaking havoc on my site too...

Wordgirl, we already have Coca-Cola Products High here in Missoula. I'm sure it's happened elsewhere. Schools are giving in to exclusivity contracts with soft drink companies for millions of dollars, and who can blame them? I want my daughter to have the same extracurricular advantages I did, with or without rotten teeth.

I applaud your efforts and resign myself to a similar life of servitude in a couple years...

2:30 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

We have soda-sponsered schools here, too.

Mignon, I didn't like anonymous on your site, but this one's pretty funny. Do you think it's someone who visits random blogs and just types in sentences pulled out of the middle of a book? In this case, a dirty book?

Fun. I may have to try it! ;)

2:50 PM  
Anonymous johnnabeth said...

Ah, Wordgirl, if only the angst 40 years ago had been over trying to keep the schools solvent thru the blood, sweat and Chardonney-soaked tears of moms like you. My comment isn't about the financial death-throes of the public schools, although I agree with you totally, but your rant triggered a memory of another ugly time in our history. I was prez of the local PTA in Orange Texas, circa 1966, when the schools integrated for the first time (and that's a story worthy of a novel.) All those Anglo moms who just the year before had been sitting at koffee-klatches politely debating the height of the school flag-pole were suddenly faced with Guess Who's Coming for Coffee? When I walked into the school auditorium for our first meeting of the year, arm in arm with two black moms whose kids were in my kid's 2nd grade, the collective gasp was audible -- then came the collective silence. No one welcomed these mothers, no one even spoke to them. And I became persona-non-grata faster than it took the double doors to shut behind us. The PTA v-p's husband was head of the local White Citizen's Council (read KKK) and our mail box was soon filled with anonoymous threats from the Klan. I fear that if the Orange PTA that year had been in the business of selling goodies to raise money, the choices would have been between bedsheets and pre-cut, ready-to-assemble crosses. Needless to say, that about ended my association with the PTA. From what you're going thru, Wordgirl, I don't think I've missed a thing.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous johnnabeth said...

I meant Chardonnay. I hate it when I do that. I'm a writer for gawd's sake. But not, obviously, a speller.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

Testify sister.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Good lord what a mess we have made. And of course there's also the issue of public schools not being able to pay good teachers what they are worth. The whole thing is a disaster and it is completely unacceptable that the only kids who get a good education in some areas are the ones whose parents can afford private school.
And Mignon, are you serious?! Coca cola high school really exists. This blows my mind.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

Actually, if it makes you feel any better, I sent my kids to private school and I had to do the same things. I taught classes, xeroxed organized part of our wine auction, read to the kids, all of the items you mentioned.

The schools are sad and the other nations that invest in education will begin to eclipse our child, if we don't figure this out.

Not to mention how much teachers buy out of their own pockets.

My other pet peeve - daycare. Rat infested sewer holes that they are.....

8:45 PM  
Blogger mrtl said...

Goodness. You know we had a few great parent vols when I was teaching. Then the school decided that the copy machine was being abused (by a few teachers who ran off boatloads of shit they never used). Solution? Code for each teacher that could not be shared. No more xeroxing by parents.

For the record, the school didn't harness the parents as yours apparently does. ("Harness" is an appropriate word, no?)

10:53 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I'm living all of this right now too. I will be President of the PTA at the middle school next year (already been at the elem.) but my youngest goes to Private.

For the amount I pay for private - they don't ask me to do a thing. Which is kinda nice.

The middle school uses us as strictly a fund raising organization. There is no Parent - Teacher part anymore. Its just parents. And, yes you need to be a CPA to be treasurer. We just got audited.

And, anonymous. I really don't care how you clean your genitals.

4:58 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

This makes my head hurt a, a lot. Perhaps I'll homeschool. ;)

5:14 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I am so WITH you on this. I know men volunteer too but honestly, moms are the new slave labor. Its freakin ridiculous. I completely resent that, down to my bones.

Does anyone else remember the old bumper sticker that read:

"Wouldn't it be great if the schools had all the money they needed and the Pentagon had to host bake sales to buy a B1 Bomber?"

Amen! Amen! Amen!

If men

7:10 AM  
Blogger Melanhead said...

This makes me depressed. I was thinking about joining the PTA to get a "head start" at my son's future school (he's 2). Now I'm not so sure.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Ohhhh, the PTA. I am a member of both my stepdaughters' PTAs, but after a few meetings spent watching parents jockeying for position, I puked on the floor and never came back. Okay. It was a figurative puke, but still.

I am lucky that our PTAs are incredibly active and pushy and full of "experts." So all we've had to do is give lots of money, bake things for teachers and intermissions, provide cool TV stuff for the auctions and keep our damn traps shut. And everybody's happy.

9:17 AM  
Blogger john boy said...

Good post. I, of course, will second the desire to pay teachers better. Everybody just remember to vote for any education bonds.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

Johnabeth - I'm sure you have an amazing story to tell. Our PTA experience can't even come close to what went on in the 60s in that area of the country. Would love to here more.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous johnnabeth said...

Shrinking Violet...maybe when there's more time I will expand on our experiences in those long-ago days. Looking back, it seems it all occured in a galaxy far, far away. I will tell you this, it was a heady time and a radicalizing one for a young mother who thought that my generation of Southerners would -- in spite of the Klan among us -- make King's dream come true. I was so sure that people of good will would make it happen, would overcome the racism, the hatred, the long years of Jim Crow, and that the coming together of the races would begin with our generation of children, for after all, who could hate a child. I was naive. I saw soon enough "who" could hate a child when I watched on tv (old black and white and pretty gritty) as white mothers my age spit on young balck children who were simply trying to walk with dignity into a New Orleans school. My heart still hurts at that memory. Thanks for wanting to know more. I will give it a shot one of these days. Stay tuned.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Nessa said...

whew! Same goes for our firefighters.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Wow. Just...WOW.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Daxohol said...


Our canadian schools are headed this way.

Bit by bit the parents are running the schools more and more. Only the clout of money isn't as obviously blunt. They are very creative up here with "language and policy" Then it's all shoulder shrugging while the poor kids get left in the dust.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

As a mother of three, an inactive PTA member, and a recovering English teacher who finally tired of living at poverty level even though I had a frickin' master's degree by damn, I can only echo shrinking violet with a resounding "Testify, sister!" And I mean TESTIFY. If this country really wants to fix the education system, they should take a long hard look at the main reason most good teachers leave they system: because buying clothes for our children and, you know, eating are IMPORTANT, yo? And because we CAN. And I ask you? Who does that leave behind to teach the future leaders of America?


Make teaching competitive with other professional jobs (financially speaking) and you will eventually get a higher quality of applicants in the teaching pool. Survival of the fittest and all that. It would be COMPETITIVE. It seems like such an easy concept.

Uh-oh. I appear to have crashed your dinner party... make that "Bitter-- party of two?"

So, yeah. Testify sister. Loud and strong.

*raises lighter above head and sways*

4:39 PM  

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