Federal Legislative Highlights by Derby Pattengill


National PTA has taken a positions on a number of bills currently being debated in the 116th Congress. Click here for the complete list. Some notable bills include:

HR5 Equality Act (SUPPORT)
This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

HR 2021 Investing For The People Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill increases discretionary spending limits, modifies the procedures for enforcing the limits and establishes budget enforcement procedures in the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill increases both the defense and nondefense discretionary spending limits for FY2020 and FY2021. It also modifies the procedures for enforcing the spending limits to limit adjustments for funding designated for Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism, allow specified adjustments for Internal Revenue Service enforcement activities and the 2020 Census and modify the sequestration process.

HR8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill, along with a similar Senate bill (S42), seek to close a loophole in the background check process. This bill has already passed the House.

California State PTA

California State PTA has also taken positions on some federal legislation this term. Click here for the complete list.Some highlights include:

HR 330 The Climate Solutions Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill encourages strong renewable energy standards by requiring that 100 percent of electricity sold in the United States be generated from renewable sources by 2035. It will also aggressively target greenhouse gases by requiring such emissions to be 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also creates a national energy efficiency standard. Rep. Lieu has long been active in fighting climate change, having introduced versions of the Climate Solutions Act in both the 114th and 115th Congress.

HR 1395 Youth Mental Health Services Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve mental health services for students. Specifically, it identifies and disseminates best practices for mental health first aid, assists in the establishment and implementation of emergency planning and establishes or identifies agreements with local agencies to improve coordination of services.


On March 12-14, 14 PTA leaders from California attended the 2019 National PTA Leg. Con. We had a total of 12 meetings at the capitol, including the offices of both of our senators as well as the Department of Education. It is a great experience advocating in Washington DC. Please consider attending the conference next year. Our asks at the meetings included:

  • Pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (HR 865/S.266). These bills seek to include public schools in any infrastructure package. Infrastructure is a bi-partisan issue with it being a priority for both the Speaker of the House as well as the President.
  • Oppose S.634 (Cruz) and similar Congressional bills. This bill provides tax credits for school choice. The Parent Teacher Association advocates for the improvement of public education for all children and to guarantee public funds are not diverted to any private school choice proposal and/or voucher system. PTA also opposes tax credits and deductions for elementary and secondary school tuition and other education-related expenses for public and nonpublic school students.

Our association believes that private school choice systems have detrimental effects on our public school systems. Public dollars must remain invested in public schools for the benefit of all students and the future of our nation.

  • Fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. When Congress originally passed IDEA, they promised to cover 40% of the extra cost of special education. In other words, they would pay for nearly half of the additional cost required to educate students with disabilities (when compared to the cost per student without disabilities). Unfortunately, Congress has never come close to fulfilling that promise. The number of students with disabilities served under IDEA has increased by 25 percent in the past two decades. Yet, the IDEA state grant program is currently only funded at around $13 billion. The federal government is only covering 14.6% of the additional cost.

Support HR. 330(Lieu) The Climate Solutions Act of 2019.  The California State  PTA recently took a support position on this bill that seeks to move toward 100% renewable energy sources and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.


Learn more about California State PTA’s advocacy efforts and how we take positions on legislation at www.capta.org/advocacy.

Questions? If you have any federal legislation or federal advocacy questions, please do not hesitate to contact California State PTA Legislative Advocate Derby Pattengill at DP9@CAPTA.org


Protecting Our Children from Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking of youth has been escalating over the past decade and is prevalent in all major California cities. Sexual and labor exploitation are problems that touch our schools, as victims can be students or their family members. Recruiters can be people they know, relatives or people they meet online. Youth can also be trafficked while attending school and recruitment can happen on campus, making this a critical school safety issue.

Youth from the foster care systems and those who are fleeing abuse are at the greatest risk of commercial sexual exploitation, but young people of any background can meet a sex trafficker online, on a bus or at the mall. The trauma can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help.

Human trafficking education is now a required component of the health education framework for California public schools. The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act of 2018 mandate specifies that human trafficking education is provided at least once in middle and at least once in high school. But it is equally important to discuss this issue at home.

Technology Enables Sex Trafficking

Traffickers can use social media and gaming sites to recruit unsuspecting youth. Predators can learn about our kids through their social feeds then manipulate them through fake profiles. Pedophiles and sex buyers have their own social media site in the dark web to share photos and tips on how to go undetected when buying children for sex.

Apps and sites like KIK, Instagram and Snapchat and video games like Fortnite make it easy for predators to target youth while hiding behind a wall of anonymity. By sharing and chatting with strangers, youth can come in contact with the wrong person who says just the right thing to ensnare them. Teen Safe publishes a blacklist of potentially problematic apps that can put children in danger.

What Parents Can Do…

Ask “What if” Questions

Role playing is a powerful way to teach kids how to handle difficult situations.  Discuss potential situations that could occur in different scenarios like sports practice, walking to a friend’s house, outdoor festivals, Halloween, the movie theater, etc. These “what would you do” conversations can take place at the dinner table or on the drive to school, and may help ease apprehension about the topic.

Ask questions like:

  • “What would you do if a good-looking older guy came up to you and said he thought you were pretty enough to be a model? Would you give him your phone number?”
  • “Is it okay for a stranger to take pictures of you?”
  • “Do you know anyone at school that has an older boyfriend?”
  • “Have any of your friends ever talked about getting paid to go on dates?”
  • “Has anyone ever sent you a picture that made you feel uncomfortable?”
  • “What would you do if someone sent you an inappropriate picture or asked you for one?

The conversation can also continue with a talk about internet safety and “stranger danger”.

Know the Signs

Traffickers often pose as friends or boyfriends and groom their victims prior to commercially sexually exploiting them. By informing children about the commonly tactics used by traffickers to recruit victims, such as dating “Romeo pimps”, peer recruiting and fake modeling or acting jobs, we can help reduce their vulnerability.

Know your Child’s Friends and Whereabouts

Install a safety app on your phones. There are many safety apps available for IOS and Android phones. Here are some apps to consider.

Educate Yourself

Know How to Respond

What Schools Can Do…

  1. Trauma-informed training on commercial sexual exploitation of children for school staff
  2. Referral protocols for school staff
  3. Human trafficking education for students and supports groups for high-risk youth
  4. Abuse education for elementary schools
  5. Family information nights
  6. Posters and awareness campaigns to encourage youth to seek help

Learn more from the U.S. Department of Education: Human Trafficking in America’s Schools

Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation: Training Tool for School Administrators




2019 Legislation Conference Recap

2019 has just begun and the California State PTA Legislation Team is gearing up for a busy season. California State PTA hosted its annual Legislation Conference in Sacramento in January. PTA members came from across the state to learn and advocate. After two jam-packed days, attendees left full of new information and feeling empowered.

Attendees got a chance to see the big PTA picture behind the slogan “every child. one voice“. ONE voice for educating our elected officials the value of increasing school funding… ONE voice speaking loud and clear about the data behind later school start movement… ONE voice about mental health and support services. ONE VOICE for all of California’s children.

Panel discussions at the Legislation Conference highlighted how our low per pupil funding puts California at the bottom of the nation in counselors, health professional, school nurses, learning specialists, librarians and administrators to student ratios. This directly impacts our students and their ability to learn and be socially connected.

First time attendees to the conference realized that they are part of a nationwide organization. Federal advocate Derby Pattengill (President of Ninth District PTA, which serves San Diego and Imperial county) addressed school climate and how it impacts not just students, but the school community overall. He spoke about how to identify issues within school communities and once issues are identified, how to go about working on those issues.

Twenty-Third District PTA (Riverside county) brought 12 students to the conference! After the first day of the conference, these students were engaged and definitely empowered for conversations the next day when they met with legislators and their staff in our State Capitol.

The goal of the Legislation Team was to create an atmosphere where both first-time and experienced attendees all learned something new and left empowered, engaged and inspired. If you missed the conference this year, be sure to talk with your PTA / PTSA to include attending in the budget for next year, and don’t forget to include students… they are our future!

Mid-Year Membership Campaign Tips

WOW, we are hearing great things about how easy mid-year membership campaigns are using electronic membership linksHere are some tips from our experts (leaders like you):

  • Send out a designated email about PTA membership to your whole school community. Share what your PTA/PTSA has done and what you plan to do and include a link to join
  • Add a join button to all your electronic newsletters
  • Ask your principal to include the PTA/PTSA membership link in your schools communications
  • Create a great poster sharing what your PTA does and include a QR code so everyone can easily join when they see the poster
  • Remind your community at every PTA event that they can join — then follow that up with a membership table in the room or a link or QR code so they can join
  • Include your join link on all e-blasts, fliers and other electronic communication and include a QR code on paper programs, flyers and posters.

You can modify the ideas if you’re not using e-membership or you can connect your PTA to the TOTEM system and take advantage of the perks. Learn more at www.capta.org/join.


New Year’s Resolutions for Membership

The great thing about the new year is that you get a fresh start. No matter what you forgot to do, meant to do or thought you should do – now you can. Here are five resolutions that will increase PTA membership, and leave you less stressed in 2019.

  • Get some help. Everything is more fun with a friend (or several). If you don’t already have a membership committee, form one now. Ask your PTA president to appoint new committee members. More members equals more ideas and more people to share the fun (and work), plus a bigger pool of volunteers to spread the word
  • Ask again. January is the perfect time to revitalize your membership drive. Include PTA membership join links on your website, in social media posts and in your newsletter. Ask in person and remind your principal, teachers and other PTA volunteers to invite everyone to join. No one wants to be left out
  • Go electronic. If you are not yet on the e-membership system, powered by TOTEM, find out more and learn how you can get on-board. It’s really easy. If you are on, send out an e-blast reminding everyone in your community they are invited to join PTA. Ask your school site administrator to include your PTA join link in information sent to parents and the community
  • Let us help. We have great resources just waiting for you. Check out our customizable fliers (in 6 languages), goal setting worksheets, membership marketing templates and so much more at www.capta.org/building-membership

Learn about PTA. You are part of the largest, oldest, child advocacy association in the nation. Just by joining PTA, you are telling your children you value their education and well-being. You are doing great things at your school and you are a voice for children’s education, health and overall success. You are making a difference. To find our more about PTAs legacy and your part in it, visit www.capta.org/whatwestandfor.

Youth Mental Health Awareness

Mental health affects the way our children think, feel, relate to others and behave. Like physical health, mental health can and does evolve throughout life.

Symptoms of mental health conditions are often invisible and can be easy to miss.  It may be difficult to distinguish age-appropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviors from those that may be signs for concern and warrant professional intervention.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Intensity – How intense are your child’s behaviors, thoughts or emotions?
  • Frequency – How often does your child feel or behave this way?
  • Duration – How long do these individual episodes or periods last?
  • Functionality – Most of all, how well is your child functioning at home, at school or with friends?

Emotions or behaviors that are more intense, frequent or longer lasting than most other children your child’s age and that are causing difficulties in their daily functioning may be signs for concern and might warrant a discussion with your pediatrician or a mental health professional.

Teach your children that mental health is as important as physical health by modeling that there is nothing wrong with seeking help when there are signs for concern.  The earlier you intervene, the more likely your child can receive the help they need and prevent a larger issue down the road.

For more information on healthy developmental markers in children and youth and signs for concern, see the booklet from The Youth Mental Health Project at http://ymhproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Booklet_2018_updated.pdf.

Promoting Good Nutrition

Take a look around your school building or campus. How does your school promote good nutrition?

Take Action 

Nutrition promotion should happen in multiple settings throughout the school building. Reinforce nutrition messages to students by using these strategies from Action For Healthy Kids:

  • Hang posters in classrooms, hallways, the office and the cafeteria that promote healthy eating. Get approval from your school administration to ensure posters will not be removed
  • Host a taste test. A taste test is a great way to promote healthy options and garner enthusiasm around trying new foods
  • Plan a fun and interactive family event around nutrition promotion. Take advantage of events like parent-teacher conferences, when you have a built-in audience, to provide healthy snacks and nutrition tips
  • Plan a health & wellness fairto bring in community partners to provide nutrition resources
  • Infuse nutrition messages into all school communication channels when possible
  • If your school does not have a school newsletter, create a wellness-focused one to promote healthy eating and physical activity to families
  • Share short nutrition and physical activity tips during the morning announcements.
  • Allow students to visit the water fountain throughout the school day and to carry water bottles in class. Send a letter home to parents to encourage them to participate in this practice
  • Promote a healthy topic each month on a healthy bulletin board in the main office
  • Spruce up your cafeteria with murals, artwork, posters and table tents to promote good nutrition during breakfast and lunch.


  • Be a healthy role model for your kids
  • Be consistent. Make sure celebrations, rewards and family events promote healthy or non-food options
  • Children learn best when they receive information through multiple communication channels. At a minimum, promote nutrition in the classroom, cafeteria and at home
  • If displaying posters, make sure messages are age appropriate so all students can understand
  • Work with your school’s art teacher to create posters, signs and other artwork that reinforce healthy eating messages. Display the art all around your school building
  • Consider dedicating a student group to promoting healthy eating throughout the school.
  • If creating materials from scratch, contact local community artists, graphic designers and/or high school/college students to help design and develop materials.

Additional Resources

Free, printable healthy bulletin board templates (Iowa Department of Education)

Team Nutrition: Free nutrition curricula, posters and other resources (United States Department of Agriculture)

Tips for Teachers to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Nibbles for Health: A free nutrition newsletter than can be printed and mailed home to parents (United States Department of Agriculture)


Best Practices for Handling Phishing and Ransomware

Both email-phishing scams and crypto ransomware/malware are increasingly common and can have devastating impacts on businesses and non-profit associations of all sizes. As a non-profit association, PTA can be vulnerable to these types of cyber crimes at all levels and, in fact, we have heard reports of email-phishing scams happening to local leaders.

Email-phishing scams are typically fraudulent email messages appearing to come from legitimate enterprises (e.g., your PTA treasurer or president, your Internet service provider, your bank). These messages usually direct you to a spoofed website or otherwise get you to divulge private information such as bank account information or account passwords. The perpetrators then use this private information to commit identity theft or trick you to wire money.

Ransomware/malware is a virus that installs covertly on the victim’s computer system and encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. Often malware is triggered by downloading files or clicking links from untrustworthy sources which appear to be legitimate.

If you get an email from a fellow PTA officer asking to wire funds, do not send money.

Establish communication “backchannels” such as text message or phone calls to verify the authenticity of the request. Additionally, remember to keep your personal and PTA computer systems and firewalls up-to-date to minimize the potential for viruses to inflect your system with malware.

Additional Resources:

PTA Store Holiday Gift Guide

Check out the PTA Store’s special holiday gift shop with new items and old favorites, plus new holiday cards! Beat the crowds and get your holiday shopping done from the comfort of your own home.

Shop online for: 


Homework: How Much is Enough?

Is it fine for your kindergartener to spend an hour after school on homework? Does your high school student never crack a book or do an assignment at home?

As parents, we would likely find both of these scenarios concerning. But do you feel confident about how much homework your student should be doing? Luckily, there is some research-based guidance available and also some suggestions from California State PTA regarding how to have that conversation with teachers, principals and school district officials about the policies in your local schools.

First, here is a bit of research information, from a recent article in EdWeek.

“Studies by researchers including Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor who wrote The Battle Over Homework, have consistently shown that homework has minimal academic benefits for children in the early-elementary years.

“Instead, both the National Education Association and the National PTA endorse Cooper’s so-called 10-minute rule, which calls for roughly 10 minutes of homework a night per grade level beginning in 1st grade. So children in 2nd grade would have 20 minutes, those in 3rd grade would have 30 minutes, and so on. In high school, students may exceed that recommendation depending on the difficulty of the courses they choose.”

In 2014, California State PTA passed a resolution titled “Homework: Quality Over Quantity.” All of our resolutions (which are posted on the California State PTA website at www.capta.org/resolutions) include a research summary and a commitment to take action. This homework resolution acknowledges that homework can be “a valuable aid” to student learning, calls for assignments to be high quality, and spotlights that too much homework, too soon, can actually hurt students’ academic progress. It also raises concerns that it can create inequities and contribute to the achievement gap if it does not account for the diversity of family situations.

So what should you do if you are uneasy about the amount and/or quality of your child’s homework? You can start by finding out what your local school and district’s homework policies are (your school principal should be able to help). Do they address quality, quantity and equity concerns based on current research? Are they being followed at your school? Is this a worry other parents share?

If you see cause for concern, you can ask to have the issue on the agenda at your next PTA meeting. Your principal should be informed and invites, and perhaps invite teachers to specifically discuss their perspectives.