PTOC Advocacy group begins an all-district postcard campaign

From AAPSNews Service

Members of the Ann Arbor PTO Council Advocacy Committee are organizing a postcard campaign, offering parents in the district a chance to voice their concerns to elected state officials about the issue of school funding.

The group, now 35 parents strong and growing, will have a presence at end-of-year school events where families will have the opportunity to write notes to state legislators that members will hand deliver to the capitol in future weeks.

Chairwoman Donna Lasinski stressed that the group is not suggesting a specific message – just allowing parents a way to have their say individually, in their own words.

“It’s to give them the opportunity to say things that are important to them,” she said. “We offer an opportunity for parent voice, a path for parents to express their concerns.”

The group formed this year to advocate for changes in the way schools are funded at the state level. Public school districts receive the bulk of their funding from per pupil state aid, which has been decreased in recent years due to declining state budget dollars. Ann Arbor is trimming $20 million from its budget for the 2010-11 school year, which begins July 1.

“We are trying to represent the broadest possible views of parents,” Lasinski added.

Ann Arbor PTOC Advocacy Committee members will have materials on hand for students to draw pictures and for both students and parents to write notes. All will be passed along the appropriate legislators.

Lasinski said the group has already begun meeting one-on-one with both legislators and candidates for offices that represent residents of the Ann Arbor district to ask for four key things:
• Guarantee school funding levels are set prior to the start of the school fiscal year, which begins July 1.
• Support schools at a level that provides for a quality education based on program cost, not current dollars available.
• Develop a stable, sustainable funding model for school funding.
• Prioritize education funding as the top state priority against other funding needs.

The group has a leave-behind piece that details its mission as well as some information from education studies. Some of the studies’ findings point out that increases in school quality yield higher home values in local neighborhoods.

Most of the Ann Arbor district is represented by state Senate District 18 and state House District 53, with smaller constituencies in house Districts 52 and 55. Lasinski said feedback the group has received from legislators indicates that hearing individually from constituents goes a long way in making the case for education funding reform in the legislature. She said the group is pleased to see that a number of candidates are making funding education a campaign issue.

Group members stress that they will not endorse candidates or support specific legislation. “It’s the legislature’s job to figure out the nuts and bolts,” said Andy Thomas, an at-large member of the PTOC who also has been active in the advocacy effort; Thomas also was recently appointed to a vacancy on the Ann Arbor school board.

In addition to the postcard-writing campaign, the group has also launched a Web page specific to their advocacy cause. Click here for a link to the site. They can also be found on the social networking site Facebook. (Search for “Ann Arbor PTO Council Advocacy Committee.”)

Group literature points out that the district serves 16,458 students representing about 30,000 voting parents.

To join the Ann Arbor PTOC Advocacy Committee or to become part of their activities, e-mail Lasinski at

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