Texas PTA Council President Sharon Goldblatt quotes one of her members when it comes to their advocacy to preserve school funding this session.“We hope that they use a scalpel and not a buzz saw,” Goldblatt quipped.The Texas PTA has a legislative agenda you might predict from a parents group this year: preserving school funding, including the 22-to-1 class-size ratio; returning the health education credit to the high school diploma; supporting the clean school bus program; and strengthening anti-bullying statute to include cyber-bullying.A noon rally in the Capitol Extension auditorium included a number of lawmakers, including both chairs of the education committees. Comments from Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) about the stress his young son faced taking the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills drew the biggest applause from the parents in the audience.“I’m a pretty mellow guy, and I don’t lose my temper very often, but when my 8-year-old son told me he didn’t want to get up and take the test because he was scared he might fail it and not pass third grade… “ Menendez said. “I went and found Rob (Eissler) and told him, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’”Test-day stress is not on the list of the Texas PTA’s legislative priorities. The current debate over class-size ratios across all grades, however, is a top priority.“Not only do we care about K-4, we’re also looking at the other grades,” said Goldblatt, who comes out of the Lewisville school district. “If you think about taking away funds, then it’s not just going to impact the early grades. You’re also going to be impacting grades 5-12, putting more students in the classroom with a single teacher. We also have no class-ratio caps on pre-kindergarten.”The Texas PTA often is viewed as the “nice” group, one that is rarely pushy and always politically correct in advocating its agenda. Today’s rally did have a bit of a harder edge, however, because of the presence of Austin ISD parents, who are in a contentious fight to stop the school district from closing a number of campuses.A cluster of parents, many who are advocating for the use of rainy day funds to minimize funding cuts, gathered around Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) after the rally to get their questions answered about state funding issues.Goldblatt said the Texas PTA had been a significant force in passing a number of
recent bills. Last session, the group advocated to get school supplies added to the tax-free holiday and worked to get a significant bullying bill passed.