PTAs losing policy influence, local president says

April 09, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Citizen Advisory Committees are usurping the role traditionally held by PTAs, said the president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, who has asked the state school superintendent to intervene.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, fears the days are gone -- or at least numbered -- when schools depended on Parent-Teacher Associations for input on policy decisions and other matters affecting children.

Increasingly, she said, schools are looking to Citizen Advisory Committees -- groups formed in the early 1970s to help funnel information between the Board of Education and parents -- to fill that role. PTAs have become little more than fund-raising groups, she said.

In letter to Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, Mrs. Roeding said she was concerned that CACs have become a group, controlled by the school system, making policy decisions for schools. PTAs, she complained, "have been relegated into fund-raising committees to supplement the Board of Education budget."

Every school in Anne Arundel County has a PTA or similar organization, but each school also has its own Citizens Advisory Committee, known more commonly as a CAC.

"To put it simply, the CAC appears to be turning into the PTA, but it's not independent," Mrs. Roeding said yesterday. "And most other jurisdictions who have them, have regional CACs. Baltimore County has about five. They don't have one for every school."

The PTAs' mission is to be an advocate for students and to provide a way to get information to parents, said Mrs. Roeding. PTAs also have traditionally raised money to supply schools with extras, she said.

But the CAC is considered by law to be an arm of the Board of Education. The committees are supposed to advise the Board of Education on policy matters and help encourage citizens to be involved in school activities. By law, they are prohibited from raising money.

CACs are organized with the help of school principals, while PTAs, volunteer groups not mandated by law, are organized by parents and teachers.

"Instead of advising the Board of Education on issues such as budget, the countywide CAC is conducting workshops for parents on the budget process," Mrs. Roeding wrote in the March 29 letter. "The CAC is no longer a voice of citizens advising the Board of Education, but rather the voice of the Board of Education advising citizens."

In the letter, Mrs. Roeding asked Dr. Grasmick to clarify that part of state law that gave authority for the creation of CACs, and the operation of CACs in Anne Arundel.

But Robert L. Pochet, secretary of the countywide CAC, said the group is already working on clarifying its role.

"The CAC is by direction . . . to be a citizens sounding board for issues facing the Board of Education and to bring issues facing ** more than one school to the attention of the Board of Education," said Mr. Pochet. "In the past, CACs would not take public positions as CACs, nor would they raise money. But between the two [PTAs or CACs], you can often get more done than if you just had one or the other."

The countywide CAC will later vote on the proposed changes.

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