Last week, the Pleasanton PTA Council celebrated PTA Founder's Day, marking the 115th anniversary of the national organization and also honoring its three founders that included Phoebe Apperson Hearst, whose Castlewood estate still overlooks Pleasanton and Hearst Elementary School which was named for her.
The celebration also served as a reminder of the substantial role that the PTA has played locally, regionally and nationally in supporting parent involvement and working on behalf of children and families
For Jodie Vashistha, Pleasanton PTA Council president, Founders Day was a perfect time to renew her organization's dedication to the purposes of the PTA that was defined by its founders more than a century ago. As she said at the celebration, it is a time to reflect and take pride in the PTA's many accomplishments and to renew PTA members' commitment to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for parents, and a strong advocate for public education.
Locally, celebrating the PTA and renewing the commitment of its supporters comes at a time of urgent financial needs by the Pleasanton school district. Just last Tuesday, the school board painfully acknowledged the growing crisis by voting to cut 75 full-time positions from the district's payroll as it faces a $5.4 million shortfall in the 2012-13 school year budget.
With the PTA's mission to represent its members and to empower and support them with skills in advocacy, leadership and communication to positively impact the lives of all children and families, the organization's work here and throughout California must include finding the financial resources needed to keep our schools and education programs strong and effective.
The Pleasanton PTA Council began in 2003 as an umbrella group for all PTAs in Pleasanton. Besides the local and regional chapters, the state PTA plays a major role in lobbying legislators for funding increases and statewide improvements in education programs.
PTA members have long been in the forefront of working to resolve those challenges. The organization has been instrumental in the passage of important laws and guidelines that we sometimes take for granted today, such as creating a separate criminal justice system for juvenile offenders, enforcing child labor laws, building kindergarten into the public school system, and supplying federally funded hot lunches that now feed more than 26 million children a day across the country.
PTA has never been shy to tackle tough issues, from talking about sex education as early as 1916 to supporting HIV/AIDS education programs in the 1980s. The organization has been there to help parents and teachers be partners in children's education.
Now, with state funding for education woefully inadequate and the Legislature's inability to come together on ways to fix that, the PTA, the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in California, needs to tackle an even tougher issue. Phoebe Apperson Hearst was a recognized national advocate for a financially sound public school system. Following in her steps, the Pleasanton PTA Council, with other advocacy groups at its side, can continue the PTA's 115-year history of ensuring a quality education in financially beleaguered school districts like Pleasanton's with a strong voice in Sacramento and among voters on Nov. 6.
If Phoebe Hearst were with us today, she'd be leading the campaign.