It’s the start of a new school year, and PTAs are in full force recruiting members. But they might not need to campaign quite so much this year.
Richard White, father of 6-year-old Meeya, wasn’t that involved at his daughter’s school last year. But after being laid off from his job because of cut backs, he’s seeing it as an opportunity to spend more time with his daughter. He’s stepped up to serve as the school’s PTA treasurer this year. Already he’s seeing more parents volunteering their services.
“If the number was 10 last year, it’s 25 this year,” White said.
An online poll commissioned by Great Schools, a non-profit organization aiming “to improve education by inspiring parents to be involved,” found that nearly 2 in 3 parents surveyed feel that because of the recession, it’s more important for them to volunteer in the classroom.
The greatest increase was found among African-American parents. Of those surveyed, Great Schools found there was a 37 percent increase in the number of parents saying they plan to volunteer this year.
Mother of two Sonya Hampton spends much of her day at her sons’ school trying to help out where she can.
“Us as black folks, we’re used to not having,” Hampton said. “We know how to survive when we don’t have anything and right now in the times that we have now, we are not leaving our children at stake.”
The survey also found that African-American parents, on average, plan on spending more time volunteering this year.
“What we’re seeing is that it’s not just yes we are going to be doing it, but that we are going to be spending more time doing it,” Regina Corso, Vice President of Harris Poll Solutions said. Great Schools commissioned Corso’s department to conduct the online survey.
The president and his family are also a motivating factor.
“They see also, here’s Obama, the president, who goes to his daughter’s soccer games, who goes to the daughters’ schools for events,” Corso said. “Well, if he can do it, I guess I can do it for an hour as well.”
The important role parents play in their children’s lives is one of Obama’s favorite topics to address.
“And the last point that i always make — so i’ll make this again — is we’ve got to do our jobs as parents,” Obama said in March at a California town hall meeting. “You can’t put all the burden on a teacher. If you’re not making sure your child does their homework, if you’re not reading to them, instilling a sense of excellence and a thirst for knowledge in them, then they’re not going to do very well, no matter how good your teacher is.”
A job that parents, especially African-American parents, are taking to heart.
“It’s creating time, it’s time management, it’s wanting to get involved,” White said. “And I see an increase of that especially from the African community and I applaud it. I welcome it. It is my hope that the schools that these people are participating in are welcoming it as well.”