NEA President says inadequate parental involvement is major obstacle to education reform

National Education Association President Bob Chase today challenged teachers, education employees, families and community members to come together to overcome what he called the “sleeping tigers” getting in the way of ensuring a quality education to every child. Citing poor parental and family involvement in America’s public schools, Chase said that the emotionally-charged issues of race and diversity, the time crunch, and poor parenting must be addressed if educators are to truly help children succeed.

Returning to the National Press Club podium for the third time since becoming president of the nation’s largest union, Chase acknowledged that parent and family outreach efforts across the country are “still in the pioneering stage in many school districts,” and cited this lack of involvement as why “we are still coming up short” in education improvement. Chase noted that “racial, ethnic and class differences are a reality in our society,” saying that, ‘if we pretend they do not exist, and do not deal with them, we will never forge the powerful teacher-parent alliance that every child deserves.” He urged administrators to provide mentoring and professional development programs that help teachers better connect with students and parents of different- and often distant – cultures.

To help address the issue of busy parents and lack of time, Chase called for every employer to provide two additional hours per month paid leave to meet with their child’s teacher or volunteer at their child’s school. “It is not enough to tout family values,” he said. “We must value families.

And if that means higher labor costs, so be it.”
The NEA leader praised efforts of Encina High School in Sacramento, California, whose campus houses separate programs to assist families living in poverty Young children, teens, and parents have access to education and counseling services, and health care assistance is provided by members of the NEA local affiliate. “Public schools should be the hub of communities,” Chase said.

“Parent and family outreach is sometimes seen as only a feel-good program,” the NEA President said, “but it has real, measurable impact. Every school needs to rethink everything it does,” Chase said. “From parent-teacher conferences to homework. School must be a welcoming, helpful, and totally open place.”

President Chase challenged NEA members to take the lead in building parent and family involvement in America’s schools. “This is teacher’s work, it is the work of every school employee, and it is union work. It is what we must do if we are going to educate every child to the fullest extent of his or her abilities. f urge our local unions to make parent and family involvement one of their top priorities when bargaining their next contract.”

Remembering the terrible events of September 11, Chase closed his address by noting the vital role teachers played in helping students deal with their feelings and fears in the aftermath of the attacks, and praised parents for resolving to spend more time with their children, and less time on things that now seem far less important – like the office. Teachers and parents – we’re two peas from the same pod. And if we work together, there is no telling how much our children will achieve.”

The NEA is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 2.6 million elementary and secondary teachers, college faculty, educational support professionals, school administrators,, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.