Knowing your family’s rights: Students have rights, too

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kathleen Fay

As events and programs for the new school year get underway, your PTA will be more successful and your plans will go more smoothly if your leaders have a solid understanding of some basic laws that govern schools in California. It’s particularly helpful to be familiar with fairly recent laws related to student rights.

Sharing this information with parents generally also makes sense. Parents who understand students’ rights can be more effective advocates for their children.  

A safe, secure environment conducive to learning

 Students have a right not to be subjected to harassment, sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination, indignity, injury, or violence.  California students are protected from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identification, according to state law.  California law further states that everyone in public schools should have “equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state.” (California Education Code Section 200.)

 Since 2014, California law has also specified that “a pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.” (California Education Code Section 221.5(f) )

No student fees to participate in educational activities

The California Constitution provides for a free school system. Based on California Education Code that means a pupil enrolled in a public school shall not be required to pay a pupil fee for participation in an educational activity.  What does this rule include?

…even for extracurriculars – 

Schools cannot require students (or their parents) to pay a fee to participate in an educational activity that is a fundamental part of their education, including both curricular and extracurricular activities, and regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit.  

…even for materials/equipment – 

Pupils cannot be required to pay a security deposit, or other payment, to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment; nor may a pupil be required to make a purchase to obtain materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an educational activity.  A fee waiver policy shall not make a pupil fee permissible. 

…even for supplies – 

All school supplies, materials, and equipment needed to participate in educational activities shall be provided to pupils free of charge.  This includes materials for art classes, cloth for sewing classes, wood for carpentry, gym suits for physical education, and any bluebooks or special paper used for exams or reports.  A fee cannot be charged for a cap and gown to participate in the high school graduation ceremony.

In short, parents cannot be required to pay a fee or perform service hours as a condition of their child’s participation in educational activities.

Some charges are allowed

The law does allow schools to charge fees for some activities, which are specifically defined: 

  • Reimbursement for direct costs of materials provided to a pupil for property the pupil has fabricated from such materials to take home for his/her own possession and use, such as wood shop, art, or sewing projects kept by the pupil (although materials necessary for class participation must be provided)
  • Charges for safety glasses, for a pupil to keep (except those used in specified courses or activities involving the use of hazardous substances likely to cause injury to the eyes)
  • Certain technology equipment not used as an essential part of the educational program
  • Food that is not part of the free and reduced-price meal program
  • Replacement costs for school district property that is lost or willfully damaged
  • Field trips, so long as no pupil is prevented from making the field trip or excursion because of lack of sufficient funds
  • After-school education and safety program fees, so long as fees are waived for homeless youth, foster youth, or pupils eligible for free or reduced-price meals
  • Fees for outdoor science school camp programs, so long as no pupil is denied the opportunity to participate because of non-payment of the fee
  • Athletic team insurance, so long as there is a waiver for financial hardship
  • Test fees for certain specialized examinations
  • Adult education class fees, as specified

A number of federal laws also protect students’ rights

  • Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the assignment of students to schools or classes.  It also prohibits discrimination in ability grouping or tracking students.
  • Title IX protects against discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment). In addition, Title IX protects transgender students and students who do not conform to gender stereotypes. State law also prohibits discrimination based on gender (sex), gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The Federal civil rights laws that the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, including Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and Title II, make it unlawful to interfere with any right or privilege secured by these laws. This means that a school or school district must not retaliate against someone who has brought civil rights concerns to a school’s attention, including by making a formal or informal complaint, testifying, or participating in an OCR investigation.

Knowing students’ rights, and making sure families know them as well, is an important way PTA can help to ensure that every child obtains a free and fair public education in California. It’s part of the PTA mission and supports the well-being of all children and families.

Learn, Share Grow: Ideas for Family/Caregiver Elementary School Events

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Elementary school is many families’ first interaction with the school system. When your PTA finds ways to engage families early in the year it can have lasting impacts on your campus, your PTA, and those families. Engaged parents not only help their own children to succeed, but they often volunteer with the PTA to help all children have an amazing school experience.  

More than 100 participants from across the state shared their best family engagement tips, tricks, and ideas at the 2022 California State PTA Convention, during a workshop called “Learn, Share, Grow.”  

Below are their best suggestions for elementary school engagement (be sure to read our previous post for more ideas on general Family Engagement Events to bring to your school community):

(Reminder: approve all events with your membership and check with your school and the PTA insurance guide before you start planning.)

  • Family Fridays– Family members come to class for the first 15 minutes of the day to read with children or play games on the yard before school.  If appropriate, invite families to a regular event such as the morning assembly at the flagpole once a week so that families can see some of the morning routines their students do. If weekly is too much, try it once a month. Wrap up the event with coffee and a PTA meet and greet (or your association meeting) to begin building relationships with these families.   
  • Have a monthly photo stop– Every month on a specified day set up a photo spot for families to take pictures in. This is a great PR thing for your PTA, because you can brand it and remind families to share with you on your social media accounts (note that if your PTA wishes to post directly, they need to have a photo release).  Families can help fill your yearbook pages with these photos– and who doesn’t love getting photos of their child? 
  • Bike rodeo– This is a great event to help students and families understand bike safety. Ask your local police or fire department to help you host the event to collaborate with your community. Students can bring their bikes and helmets to school to share, but you could also have tire filling stations or safety checks.  You could even extend the event with a BMX bike assembly!
  • Author visits– Many bookstores or libraries have author visits or find a local author who is willing to share their book with the families at a family literacy event. If their book is meant for older audiences, they could read their favorite book from when they were in elementary school. If you do this multiple times in a year, have the students make autograph books that they can fill with the authors’ signatures. 
  • Drive-in movies– In last month’s blog post we already talked a little about movie nights but this spin on it is fun, especially if your school district is nervous about having lots of people on campus. Families drive onto campus and stay in their cars for a movie night. You will need to have a large screen and good sound system, but most families enjoy this old-timey experience. Offer families the chance to pre-purchase snack packs that are then bundled and delivered to the cars by volunteers.  
  • STEAM night– STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. California State PTA has a STEAM night program already available for you to adapt as you need it. Families greatly enjoy coming together for a night of exploration together. There are also different assembly companies, local colleges, or museums who would be happy to work with you on your very own STEAM night.  
  • Multicultural night– Having families share their culture with others is a fantastic way to grow community within our schools. Sharing food, music, dance, photographs, stories, and sports with children helps them to see the world without ever leaving your campus. Your PTA could create a passport that students can get stamped or signed at each booth to encourage them to visit as many booths as they are able. It’s also a fun item for the scrapbook!  

We want to share your great family engagement ideas with other PTAs across California. Please take a moment to fill out this simple form and share your family events with us.

Knowing your family’s rights helps to protect them

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kathleen Fay

Family Engagement September 2022 Banner

Decades of research back up what we know and value: Family involvement is the real key to our kids’ success. California State PTA wants to make sure you know your family’s rights. 

At a minimum, schooling is a government service children are entitled to and a legal obligation for every family. At the optimum, schooling is a partnership, with educators and families working together to motivate students to learn and succeed. That’s where PTAs come in. Our collective commitment to family school partnerships, and our experience, can make the difference in how well families and schools work together.

That’s why it’s helpful for PTA leaders to know something about what California law sets up as expectations for how schools and families ought to partner effectively. The start of school is a great time for everyone to review those rules and renew their commitment to working together for kids.

To realize the many benefits of effective family-school partnerships, schools must embrace families as equal partners and recognize that parents and adult caregivers are experts on their children and communities. Outlined here are some fundamental rights that adult caregivers have in California to ensure no parent is left behind.

Parents’ rights

California law acknowledges and protects the rights of parents (family members, adult caregivers) to participate in their children’s education. The California State Legislature declared that “all participants in the education process benefit when schools genuinely welcome, encourage and guide families into establishing equal partnerships with schools to support pupil learning.”

These rights are spelled out in Education Code sections 51100-51102; parents/guardians have the right to…

  • meet with their child’s teacher(s) or principal,
  • volunteer at the school/classroom [Note: conditions may be impacted by the pandemic],
  • be notified of student absences,
  • receive their child’s standardized test results,
  • have a safe environment for their child that is supportive of learning,
  • examine curriculum materials,
  • be informed of their child’s progress,
  • have access to the school records of their child and question their accuracy,
  • receive information concerning the academic performance standards, proficiencies, or skills their child is expected to accomplish,
  • be informed in advance about school rules, including disciplinary rules and procedures, attendance policies, dress codes, and procedures for visiting the school,
  • receive information about psychological testing and deny permission for testing,
  • participate in parent advisory committees, school site councils, or site-based management leadership teams,
  • be informed of the appropriate school personnel to contact if problems arise, and
  • observe classrooms in which their child is enrolled or, for school selection or transfer purposes, to request a particular school for their child and receive a response from the school district.

Time off for parents to engage in kids’ schools

The Family-School Partnership Act encourages parents and caregivers to get involved in children’s school activities by providing rights to time off work. If you work in a business with 25 employees or more at the same location, you have the legal right to request and take off up to 40 hours per year to participate in school- or preschool-sponsored activities like classroom volunteering, back-to-school events, and field trips. Hours off are provided through vacation usage, personal leave, compensated time off, or unpaid time.

The public has a role in local funding decisions

Your school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) outlines goals, action plans, and resources to improve student outcomes. The LCAP must specifically address the needs of low performing student groups as well as those of English language learners, students in poverty, and foster youth. Overall, it identifies a school district’s priorities as evidenced through funding for those priorities.

The LCAP is reviewed and updated each year – a process that necessitates transparency and collaboration with the community. Local stakeholders (including students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, school personnel, and bargaining units) possess valuable perspectives and insights about school district programs and services. Effective district planning will incorporate these perspectives and insights to identify potential goals and actions to be included in the LCAP. In addition to consultations with stakeholders and advisory committees, districts must give members of the public the opportunity to submit written comments, and to conduct both a public hearing for input and a public meeting for adoption of their LCAP.

Learn, Share, Grow: Ideas for Creating Successful Family Events

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Family Engagement Friday August 2022

Creating family-oriented events, and making sure every family feels welcome, is a great way to strengthen the engagement of families with school and their kids’ education. 

More than  100 participants from across the state shared their best family engagement tips, tricks, and ideas at the 2022 California State PTA Convention, during a workshop called “Learn, Share, Grow.”  

Here are some top ideas about events your PTA can bring to your school:

Remember to approve all events with your membership and check with your school, and the PTA insurance guide before you start planning. 

Seasonal events:

  • Fall Festival– Have game booths run by grade levels or invite community partners to join the fun and create their own game booths.  Sell carnival type foods (hot dogs, tamales, pizza, etc.) or invite food trucks.  Ask for parent volunteers to work short shifts (30 minutes to one hour) so that they volunteer AND explore the event with their family.  Some PTAs utilize a volunteer swap so volunteers from one school volunteer at another school and vice versa.
  • Boo Grams/ Valo-grams/ Candy Grams– Create a simple card that students, parents, teachers can fill out for the recipient.  Purchase candy, flowers or toys in bulk then attach the cards to the items and deliver them to classrooms on a specified day.  This low-cost activity allows for families, students and teachers to show appreciation for each other in a fun way.
  • Trunk or Treat– Ask for families or staff to decorate their vehicle trunks in creative ways.  They can either use Halloween decor or select a theme (Pinterest has some great ideas for this) to make their trunks a showplace.  Students then walk from car to car and trick or treat.  Make sure you have enough candy by asking for donations of candy from the entire school and/or community partners.  You can extend this activity by having food, music, and allowing students to wear costumes if you so choose.
  • Winter Holiday shop – Give the students a space to purchase gifts for their families at a reduced cost or have them make crafts or art projects that can be used as family gifts.

General family fun:

  • Movie Nights– Whether you do this on your playground as an outdoor event or in your multi-purpose room- families greatly enjoy this!  Be sure that you obtain a license to show the movie, so you are not in violation of copyright.  This event can be free or low-cost. You can provide popcorn or snacks, families can purchase them for a small fee, or they can bring their own treats from home.  If you want to take it to the next level you can have a “drive-in” where students create their own cars to sit in out of cardboard boxes.  This would add a fun arts component to the night!
  • Book Fair– Many schools have a book fair at some time during the year.  One way to turn it into a bigger family event is to have it in the evening and ask  teachers or volunteers to read some of the books that can be purchased.  You can also have a table full of books teachers are requesting for their classrooms or that the library would like for families to purchase.  You can also time Family Literacy Night to coincide with your book fair so that families can purchase books as part of that event.
  • Muffins in the Morning– After morning drop-off invite families to join your PTA for muffins in the morning.  Have coffee and some pastries, highlight upcoming events and the benefits of joining PTA, or invite a special guest to speak to families.  These kinds of opportunities give families a chance to get to know each other and feel more comfortable with the PTA and volunteering. You can simplify with just coffee and juice and include a chat with the principal if available.  
  • Family Campfire– This event can either be around a real fire at a local park or beach or you can create your own “fire” with flashlights and colored tissue paper.  Whether you are using a real or fake fire, the concept remains the same– let’s get families outside to enjoy some time in nature.  Tell campfire stories, sing songs, go on a flashlight hike to see what insects or animals you can find.  You can end the night giving everyone a s’mores kit to make once they get home- filled with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. 
  • Glow Night– Head on over to the dollar store or bulk catalog shop and purchase glow sticks, glow necklaces and rings.  Make posters using neon paint and put some black lights around.  Encourage families to wear neon or white clothes so that they glow too!  Have music and games to complete the event. 
  • Family Art Night–  The arts are a great way to have the entire family participate in activities.  Grandparents, siblings, or aunts/uncles or a favorite neighbor or caregiver- everyone can do art!  Some PTAs have partnered with local ceramics studios or paint-night shops for this event while others have simply purchased simple supplies like paper, brushes and paint or construction paper and scissors.   Many PTAs also use this as the kick-off for their Reflections program by adding a table explaining the rules of the program to families.
  • Touch a Truck Event– This event is an outstanding way to partner with businesses in your community as well as local emergency agencies.  Invite various vehicles including dump trucks, construction vehicles, a city bus, garbage truck, police, fire, tree climber, etc. to park at your school and allow students and families to get up-close and personal with these cool forms of transportation.  This can be a ticketed event or free- but it’s a well-loved event for elementary school families. Be sure to follow PTA procedures and clear this with the principal ahead of time.
  • Western Roundup– Families come to campus in their western best to learn some line dancing and show off their best country dancing.  Line dancing not interesting to your community? What other types of group dancing would be?  Learn and do together activities are a wonderful way to include families who might not regularly attend events. 
  • Family Picnic- Invite families to bring a picnic dinner and a blanket to your school’s playground for this event.  Have some music playing, allow children to play on the yard, and maybe invite a food truck or two for dessert or shaved ice to cool off.  Families love a  free event and the chance to get to know their student’s friends. 
  • Board Game Night– Families bring their favorite games to school and teach them to other families.  Make sure to have some decks of cards on hand too– there are lots of games you can play using cards. 
  • Talent Show– Ask students or families to create their own acts for your show.  Singing, dancing, magic tricks, playing an instrument, telling jokes– families have so many talents to share.  Many schools have a theme for their talent show, but it’s not necessary.  Sell tickets and/or concessions or have a free community event depending on your PTAs goals.  Talent shows can be very simple or more elaborate, but the most important thing is to have fun. 

We want to share your great family engagement ideas with other PTAs across California.  Please take a moment to fill out this simple form and share your family events with us.

Explaining the “WHY” for Family Engagement

By California State PTA Vice President for Family Engagement, Heather Ippolito, and California State PTA Family Engagement Consultant, Kathleen Fay

Family Engagement Friday August 2022

Experienced PTA leaders know that effective family engagement is key to student success. Yet, it can be challenging to briefly explain the importance of this idea to those unfamiliar with the concept.                

We’re sharing a menu of suggestions so you can create your own family engagement elevator speech*. Select from each section and customize it to make an authentic summary for you. Then share it in LCAP meetings, school board meetings, advocacy days, etc., and spread the message about why family engagement is so meaningful!


* Reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time of an elevator ride, or between 30 seconds and two minutes.

Part 1- Family Engagement Facts (select 1 or 2). Here are a few family engagement facts to begin your elevator speech:

  • Families who are engaged and offer a home environment that encourages learning are a bigger factor in student achievement than parental income, educational level, or cultural background.
  • Family engagement is the concept of schools and families partnering to support children’s learning and development. 
  • Effective family–school partnerships offer a high return on investment that has been proven to benefit students, parents, teachers, and schools.
  • Family engagement is equity work at its core, serving as a powerful lever for addressing inequities in schools and communities.  It assures that educators embrace families as equal partners and are recognized as experts on their children and communities.
  • Strong family engagement practices bridge the gap between home and school to help families access information and resources to support their children’s learning and advocate for their needs.
  • Families possess a wealth of knowledge that should be drawn on to support students’ learning and development, helping educators to learn about each child’s learning styles, strengths, interests, and values.
  • Well-informed, engaged parents make a difference in student success in school and beyond.  A home environment that encourages learning is a bigger factor in student achievement than a parent’s income, education level, or cultural background.  Decades of research indicate that students with involved parents are more likely to attend school regularly, perform better in school, develop better social skills, and go on to post-secondary education.
  • Collaborative family and community engagement practices acknowledge that families are the greatest strengths in their children’s lives, that families have the right to be involved in their children’s education, that adult caregivers have expertise about what’s right for kids, and ensure that those directly impacted by decisions have meaningful decision-making power.  Practices, systems, and structures are set up to recognize adult caregivers as full partners in education.
  • PTA focuses on transformative family engagement because it represents a shared effort of families, schools, and community partners to advance programs, practices, and policies that promote children’s learning and empower every parent to make their child’s potential a reality.

Part 2- Tell your personal story (select 1). A personal connection to family engagement will make your elevator speech much more persuasive.  Here are a few examples to get you thinking of your own story:

  • As a parent, I remember how excited my daughter was to see me on campus.  She loved that I knew her friends, that her teachers knew my name, and that I was asked to serve on committees or chaperone classroom events.  
  • Our PTA family engagement events, including our family art night, have helped families to feel welcomed on our campus.  The number of smiles we see during these events makes all the hard work of planning worth it!
  • When I moved into our new school, my child and I were so nervous, but seeing the smiling face of the PTA volunteer made us feel at ease.  They explained to us about upcoming family events and shared with me the different volunteer opportunities I could participate in.  That short interaction made all the difference in our day.  

Part 3- The Ask (select 1).  Finish up by inviting the person to learn more and get involved.  Here are some examples of how to welcome others: 

  • Join us at the Welcome Tea to see how engaged our parent community is in our school.
  • I hope to see you next week when we’ll be allowing families to offer their feedback on the proposed bell schedule changes.
  • You’re welcome to participate in our next forum, where we’ll learn more about how parents can more effectively advocate on behalf of their children.
  • If you want to hear some ideas about what parents can do to build/support/oppose [this matter], we’ll be getting together [day/time/place] and would appreciate your input.
  • As a school board member, I think you’d be pleased to observe this partnership.  We’d love to see you at our Meet the Administrators event so you can show your support for our school community.
  • Improving our school’s family engagement practices would offer so many benefits to students that I think it’s worth our time to consider bringing School Smarts to our campus.
  • I’m sure your kids would love to see you here with us when they hold their science fair.  It’ll be fun for everyone!

To show that you are open to continuing the conversation, we recommend sharing your contact information so they can get in touch with you with any follow-up questions or suggestions.  Now THAT’S being PTA-friendly!

Summer Break Learning and Activities for Families

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

California PTA leaders’ top recommendations for summer break learning activities and adventures you can discover together with your child.

Check out the Resource Library–  The California State PTA’s Resource Library is full of activities you can do while school is out.  There are online activities you can use during computer time, suggestions for local museums and events across the state, as well as activities you can do in your home or around your neighborhood. 

Read– Choose a book to read together as a family and have lots of options for the kids to read on their own. Visit your library often, not only do they have books to check out but they often have summer programming for children of all ages from preschool to high school.  

Jen Moore, 16th District President, also suggests having a family audiobook to make the hours speed by when traveling or for use at home to quell squabbles (because everyone is immediately silent when the book is turned on)!  Their family favorites are the Children of the Lamp series, Harry Potter, and anything by Gordon Korman. Most libraries offer Overdrive or Libby, apps which allow you to download an audiobook to your device with your library card.

Visit California Historical Landmarks– Do you know that there are over 1,000 historical landmarks across our state?  California State PTA Vice President for Family Engagement Heather Ippolito and her family have actually been to all of them.  While it took three years for them to visit all the landmarks, you can take a look and see what sites there are close to your home.  According to Heather, “Our family loved spending time exploring the state we live in.  Many of the sites were free to visit, but they all helped us to learn more about the diverse history of our state.”

Bake/Cook– Summer is a great chance to spend some time in the kitchen making treats, lunches, or dinners for the family.  Once your child finds some favorite recipes to make, they can help you during busy weeks by making the family dinner or packing lunches for the entire family.  Remember that recipes are a great way to combine science and math skills– in a fun and tasty way!

Walk– Take time for family walks during the cooler early morning hours or in the evening.  Not only is it good exercise, but it is time to explore the world around you.  As you walk, try some of these activities:

  • look for interesting plants or trees
  • do a photo scavenger hunt (you can find some fun, free ones online)
  • try to find things in every color of the rainbow
  • leave notes for your neighbors written and/or drawn by your family
  • count the number of cars, dogs, or other items you see

Our Family Engagement Fridays are taking a hiatus during the summer months of June and July. You can always reach us at: familyengagement@capta.orgWe hope that you also take some time to rest, recharge, and spend time with your family. 

California PTA Program Grant Helps Dunsmore Elementary Present Anti-Racism Series

By Colleen Hervey, Family Engagement Commission Member and Chair of Scholarship and Grants Committee

This week, we’re highlighting Dunsmore Elementary School PTA which received a $2,000 Parent Education program grant from California State PTA in fall 2021. 

After the racial reckoning in 2020, parents, caregivers, and teachers at Dunsmore Elementary realized that they needed the language to be able to talk to their children about important discrimination issues. PTA helped make it happen.

Dunsmore Elementary, with a student population of more than 500, offers both a traditional track and a Japanese Dual-Immersion program. It is located in the Glendale School District, First District PTA. In an effort to help parents gain more understanding and compassion for others’ perspectives, teachers and families formed an Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) at the school and presented a speaker series. The ARC and the school PTA joined forces and applied to California State PTA for a $2,000 parent engagement program grant to help make their vision possible.

The school’s experiences provide inspiration and practical advice for other PTAs.

Azusa Oda, ARC founding member and chair of the PTA Family Engagement Committee, and Becky French, ARC founding member and PTA VP of Volunteers, described how the program was developed and what they’ve learned in the process. Becky shared the mission statement of the ARC: “to engage and educate our school community to recognize racism and discrimination in all forms (including, but not limited to gender, sexuality, culture, class, religion, and ability) and possess the tools and confidence to confront it productively.” She added, ”If you’re not talking about it, someone else is.”

The committee used the grant money to sponsor its speaker series designed to inform and engage the diverse population at their school. The ARC researched and selected experienced and knowledgeable speakers on the following topics (click to see their flier for each event):

These events have been held over Zoom and the attendance has been high, ranging from 20 to 85 attendees. Holding the series virtually allows Dunsmore Elementary PTA access to speakers outside their geographic location and provides a way for more parents to join the events. The result has been more meaningful and productive conversations, more understanding and compassion, and more tools to help parents and teachers advocate for those who are marginalized. 

 Valuable tips for other PTAs who would like to follow Dunsmore Elementary’s lead:

  • When forming a new committee or program, understand that it takes a while to build trust even when parents have similar passions and ideas. Don’t expect that the energy and trust will happen right from the start, it needs to be a safe space for everyone.
  • Talk to people about their interests (survey).
  • Be flexible. Change of plans is inevitable!
  • Have a deep pool of speakers to draw from.
  • Establish a set of expectations or group norms. (A trained staff member assisted the committee in developing norms for the group as well as for post-presentation discussions and then the group voted on them.) 

Dunsmore Elementary Established Norms for their Difficult Discussions

   Group Norms:

    • Value Differences
    • Be Honest and Open
    • Expect Discomfort
    • Assume Good Intentions
    • Listen for Understanding
    • Respect One Another

   Discussion Norms:

    • Step Up and Step Back
    • Speak Only for Yourself and Your Experiences
  • Don’t be afraid to invite difficult conversations.
  • Work with school and/or district administration.
  • Understand that there will most likely be a need to dive deeper into the topics. It’s unrealistic to cover everything at once. Affinity groups might form with those who share particular needs or interests.

We’d like to thank Dunsmore Elementary PTA for sharing their ideas and feedback with us and congratulate them on a job well done! The fliers from their events a re linked above. For more information or questions contact the Dunsmore ARC at

More info on California State PTA Program Grants:

Golden State PTA memberships and the Honorary Service Awards program help fund California State PTA program grants and scholarships. In 2022, with your donations, we were able to award $115,406 to provide amazing PTA programs and help members and volunteers further their education. 

If your unit, council, or district PTA has a great idea for a program and you are looking for additional funds to support it, please consider applying for a California State PTA program grant. Grants are available in the areas of Cultural Arts, Healthy Lifestyles, Translation Outreach, and Parent Education and the due date for applications is October 15, 2022. For more information

How you can have a voice in developing your school district’s LCAP

by Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

At this time of year, California school districts  can demonstrate their commitment to family engagement in their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP).  National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships include two principles that have particular relevance during the spring season of the LCAP when districts are making their final decisions about their budgets and priorities. 

Do you know if these family engagement standards, from National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships Assessment Guide, are being met as part of your district’s LCAP process?

  • Principal 4 = Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.
  • Principle 3 – Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.

As part of their local accountability work, school districts have to report on  Priority #3: Parent Involvement, which requires school districts to seek parent input in making decisions for their schools and to promote family participation in education programs for all students.  But the way a district chooses to seek that input varies widely depending on how district leaders choose to handle it.  For example, some districts encourage families to come to open public input sessions held at each school site, while others (sadly) do little more than send parents a survey to rank their satisfaction with a shortlist of pre-selected issues.  

One of the most impactful ways families and caregivers  can offer input into the LCAP process is to participate in their school district’s Parent Advisory Committee, which provides advice to the governing board and superintendent regarding the development of the LCAP.  If school district enrollment includes at least 15 percent English learners and at least 50 pupils who are English learners, there should also be an English learner parent advisory committee established for the district.  You can ask your school principal how to sign up to participate.

What issues should you consider when offering your input?  What’s important to your family that the school should be doing better?  PTA and Ed100 have created an LCAP Checklist to help you think through what’s important.  It gives you the background you need and questions to ask.  PTA leaders can share it to get people engaged and use it as a tool to organize a public input session for your unit.  Here’s the link:  LCAP CHECKLIST

Other ways PTA leaders can support parent involvement in the LCAP process:

  • Find and download your district’s LCAP, then share it for easy access by parents.
  • Invite your school/district administrator to be a guest speaker at a PTA meeting or special forum held to explain the contents of your LCAP and suggest avenues for parent input.
  • Offer a presentation to review and then openly discuss what the California School Dashboard reveals about your school’s strengths, challenges, and areas in need of improvement.
  • Organize at least one open input session for your unit so that your school community’s recommendations can be collected, documented, and submitted to the LCAP Advisory Committee for further consideration.
  • Create a better climate for family-school partnerships by working through PTA’s Standards for Family-School Partnerships Assessment Guide.  Summary and full guide available in English and Spanish at:  
  • Work with your district to create a family-friendly summary of your LCAP that uses graphics and plain language to clarify who is being helped and how (student populations targeted and resources devoted to them).

The LCAP is a key tool for making certain that schools and districts are held accountable to the community for the education of its children.  Make sure that your PTA supports an engaged parent community to guide policy and make decisions that improve your school.  Remember, it begins with Local Control!

Brief Overview: Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP)

The LCAP uses a state-provided template as a tool to help districts set goals, plan actions, and leverage resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes.  Essentially, the LCAP is the document that spells out how the district plans to spend its limited resources to achieve what’s important.

The LCAP is adopted to be effective for three years and is updated each year as part of your district’s annual budget process (due each June).  LCAPs must explicitly address the needs of consistently low-performing student groups as well as low-performing schools within the district.  Meeting the needs of English language learners, students in poverty, and foster youth have a particularly high priority, established by state requirements.  As a parent, you have a right to contribute your input in this process.  

Want to know what’s in your LCAP?  School districts are required to post their LCAPs online to publicly disclose how they spend education funds.  But while some districts post a clear link to it on their homepage, others make it hard to find, so you may have to do some searching.  

Make your voice heard when your school district considers key decisions about its future through the development of its LCAP! For additional information about the LCAP process and ways for parents to get involved, go to


Family Engagement is an Education Priority for California

By Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

Springtime brings warmer weather, a week off, and preparations for the future. As school districts tackle budget planning to get ready for the next school year, families are a critical part of that decision-making process.  

Thanks to legislation sponsored by California State PTA and included in California law in 2018,  districts are also required to report on their meaningful Family Engagement efforts as part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This article briefly explains what the LCFF is and how it obliges school districts to reach out to parents and families for their input in decision-making and to strengthen participation in the education process.

LCFF Overview

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is hallmark legislation that fundamentally changed how all local educational agencies (LEAs – usually school districts) in the state are funded, how they are held accountable for the services and supports they provide to enable all students to succeed to their greatest potential, and the assistance they receive from the state of California to do so. At the state level, these are the key components and their function:

  • Inform:  The California Accountability Model and School Dashboard provides the community, including families, with information about how LEAs and schools are meeting the needs of California’s diverse student population based on a concise set of measures.
  • Assist:  LCFF Support and Assistance is offered to local educational agencies at the level that they need – either general resources and assistance, differentiated assistance, or intensive intervention.
  • Plan:  The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is a tool for LEAs to use to set goals, plan actions, and leverage resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes. LEAs must explicitly address the needs of consistently low-performing student groups as well as low-performing schools within the LEA.
  • Fund:  Schools are funded through a combination of local property taxes and state funding. The  LCFF is the primary source of an LEA’s general-purpose funding. Funds are also allocated for   Special Education and several other programs. The “Principal Apportionment” is a series of calculations that adjust the flow of state funds throughout the fiscal year as further information becomes known. (Click here for more information.)

California’s Education Priorities 

The way that a school district plans to spend its funds to achieve its goals is documented in its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The governing board of each school district adopts their LCAP to be effective for three years, updated annually, to address these California education priorities:

  • Conditions of Learning – Basic Services, Implementation of State Standards, and Course Access
  • Pupil Outcomes – Student Achievement and Student Outcomes
  • Engagement – Parent Involvement, Student Engagement, and School Climate

Note:  County Offices of Education also address the needs of Expelled Pupils and Foster Youth.

(For further details, click here.)

Parent Involvement:  A State Priority 

Every school district’s local control and accountability plan (LCAP) must address Parent Involvement as a state priority. In California Law, Education Code (52060) states:

(3) (A) Parental involvement and family engagement, including efforts the school district makes to seek parent input in making decisions for the school district and each individual school site, and including how the school district will promote parental participation in programs for unduplicated pupils* and individuals with exceptional needs.

* “Unduplicated pupils” are counted only once (for purposes of additional funding) even if the pupil meets more than one of these criteria: English learner, foster youth, or qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunch.

(B) Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, efforts by the school district and each individual school site to apply research-based practices, such as welcoming all families into the school community, engaging in effective two-way communication, supporting pupil success, and empowering families to advocate for equity and access. Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, treating families as partners to inform, influence, and create practices and programs that support pupil success and collaboration with families and the broader community, expand pupil learning opportunities and community services, and promote civic participation.

Why is this a state priority?

Family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive.  Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner. Schools will be more effective at engaging families and communities when they move toward systemic, integrated, and sustained engagement. Thus, school districts must undertake efforts to seek parent input in decision-making and promote family participation in the education process for all students.

(Click here for more information on the importance of Family Engagement to student success.)

During this important time of year, make sure that YOUR family’s input becomes part of your school district’s budget planning and LCAP development process!

Apply now: California’s Parent Advisory Council

By California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

The California Department of Education is looking for parents and guardians of public-school students in Pre-K through 12th grade from a variety of communities throughout California, to serve on the new California Parent Advisory Council. Please share this opportunity with families, caregivers, and your extended school community so that the parent/guardian voice can be included in the conversation for equitable change in California education. (Applications are due by May 5, 2022.)

The Parent Advisory Council’s mission is to advise the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on issues of concern to families of public school students. Members are also expected to help organize and conduct community meetings, attend occasional meetings with the State Superintendent, and participate in parent outreach activities. This is a paid, two-year volunteer position.

The Parent Advisory Council works to: 

  • Actively conduct outreach to communicate with families across the state, to understand and represent parent perspectives about school programs, students’ services, and other policy issues
  • Present recommendations to California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to support academics, social emotional learning, and family engagement among all public-school children.
  • Ensure that the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s policy decisions are informed by the voices of parents and guardians who reflect California’s student populations

Eligibility: To be eligible for the Parent Advisory Council, you must be the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a California public school, including Early Education pre-kindergarten schools.

Membership Requirements: Members of the PAC are expected to attend quarterly Parent Advisory Council meetings.

More information can be found on the CDE website and on the Application form.