Why Parents Don't Care About School Policy

What are the barriers to getting involved in school policy?. Jonathan Fernstrom/ Stone Collection/Getty images

Do you know what one thing about the way US schools are organized that stands out from other developed nations in the world?  Our entire nation's school system was founded at the local grassroots level.  

The national governments of other countries declared all communities would have schools, and how the schools were run.  Here in the US local communities came together and opened schools for their children long before the national Department of Education was created.

 American schools were - and primarily still are- run by local school boards.  

The entire US school system is based on individual people giving voice in their local communities.  It is a uniquely American approach stemming from our ideas of democracy and representing each citizen.

There are plenty of parents who just don't see themselves as involved in their local schools policy - similar to the way some people do not vote.  All too often, parents who are really concerned about their local schools don't do anything to improve them.  Why Is That?

 They  Don't Think They Have The Time

Parents are busy.  After all, they are raising children.  When people think about getting involved in policy, they picture themselves going to lots of meetings, attending speeches, and reading massive tomes of data reports.  

Honestly, if you get elected to the local school board, that's probably what it will be like.

 You will learn about and vote on all sorts of school administration details.  

Not everyone needs to be an elected leader to make their voice heard.  Leaders need input from community members.  It is not only the school board who needs to hear from the community but any elected official who will be voting on issues important to the school.

 Keep reading for some quick tips on how you can make your voice heard.

They Don't Know About The Issues 

You can't do something if you don't know what to do, or even where to begin.  You need to have some background with what questions and issues your local schools are facing so that you can form an opinion or idea of what your community should do.

Just knowing what the issues themselves are is really all that is missing for these school parents.  School parents are the community members that see the homework, talk with teachers, and raise the children that are currently going to the schools.  School parents have the ability to understand school policy issues better than almost anyone else.

Local news media often cover local schools and the issues they face, since schools are such an important part of any community.  Local school news rarely makes headline stories since it is rarely exciting, even though it is important. Go beyond headlines and look or listen for school media coverage.  It only takes a few minutes of reading a week to get up to speed on the local school issues.

You can also find out more about issues affecting your local schools from your school's PTA or PTO.  The National PTA website has a wealth of information on school policy issues that affect the whole nation.  Many state and local PTA's also have information tailored to their level.  Not all PTO's have policy positions, but those that do often have materials that quickly explain what the local issues are.

You Don't Understand How To Make Your Voice Heard

Once parents have an opinion, they need to know how to be heard.

Generally speaking, parents can take their concerns and ideas to whichever group sets that policy or makes a particular decision.  Often this information is included in the news media coverage of the schools, or in the policy information available through school policy groups.

If you have something you want to share about schools, you can make a difference by contacting whatever group will be making the decision related to your concern.  This could be as simple as sending an email or making a phone call to your local school board members.  Email and letters are also effective with state and federal representatives.

Not every school policy and rule are created strictly through policy groups.  Many schools today welcome parent input through a variety of parent committees. One option is school site council, which oversees the school budget and ways to improve student learning.  There may also be  positions for parent representatives to be on a hiring committee for new school staff, or to help select new school curriculum.  Each school district is different, and will offer different opportunities.

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