Approximately 200 delegates representing 134,000 members from across the state recently attended the Washington State Parent Teacher Association (WSPTA) 39th annual Legislative Assembly in Tacoma, Washington. The body adopted several positions for their existing legislative and public policy platform.
Same event, new focus – WSPTA Legislative Director Nancy Chamberlain, who organized the assembly, said she wanted to make this event different from past years. In addition to passing resolutions which guide advocacy work, Chamberlain also sought to “educate the delegates on all the issues.” This way delegates would be better informed voters during the assembly as well as knowledgeable advocates when they return to their respective schools.
In the morning assembly, delegates attended brief presentations to learn about the issues up for consideration. This was followed by class offerings with panel members from outside of PTA leadership, including Washington state legislators, school board members and leaders from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. All offered advice on how to be better advocates or inform members about new laws.
Resolutions and issues – What makes the WSPTA process unique is that issues and resolutions are brought forward by members themselves, so the final product reflects a bottom-up, grassroots effort.
“It gives the PTAs at the local level a little more clout when the individual school districts, principals, school administrator or building realizes that the PTA is not just popping popcorn for a carnival but that are actually advocating for the same things that the principal needs, the school district needs and the superintendent of the school district needs,” said Teri Davis, WSPTA Vice-President. “We are all working together for the same things.”
- Mental Health Needs for Children
- Trauma Informed Care
- Increasing Access and Affordability of Post-secondary/Higher Education Degrees and Certificates
- LGBTQ+ Inclusion
Legislative issues adopted (in alphabetical order):
- Addressing the Teacher Shortage
- Best Practices for School Meal Policies
- Career Connected Learning, CTE and STEM
- Dual Credit Equality and Support
- Equity for Highly Capable
- Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Gender-based Violence
- School Construction and Class-Size Reduction
From Chamberlain: “A few of our issues that we are looking at … are already bills in the pipeline and we are excited to be able to take a position on.” These include best practices for lunch policy, as well teacher shortages.
See 2018 WSPTA Supported Issues for entire positions on issues.
What happens next? – Delegates will return their schools to share information about the newly-adopted legislative platform and resolutions with their local PTA chapter. This helps PTA members advocate effectively for students not only in their district but across the entire state of Washington. For example, members often testify in Olympia during the legislative session in support of bills furthering the aims of the voter-approved platform.
“People think of PTA as the local PTA at your school and you might have 100 members or so. They don’t realize that as a statewide association we have over 134,00 members,” Davis said. “We represent the voices of those members and the children across the state. It is a different perspective when you put it into the big picture overall to see how we are working and what we can do.”
Cami Brix is a junior at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, where she is a writer and editor for the Nordic News student newspaper. As an EEN contributor, Ms. Brix shares the student perspective along with research and writing support for ongoing EEN projects. On October 20-21 she attended the Washington State PTA Legislative Assembly in Tacoma and filed this report.