Role Parents Play in Public Education


Parents have always played an important role in early education. Helping out with homework, projects and even lending a hand in the classroom. Those who have the time (and those that don’t), volunteer above and beyond by going on field trips, joining the PTA or attending fundraising events. I am a proud parent of a 4th grader at a 4J Elementary School in Eugene. I also work a full-time corporate job that keeps me very busy during the day. As a result, I rely heavily on the school system (school bus, school nurse, counselor and teachers ) to care for my child during school hours.

Lately, more parents are getting involved in their child’s school, not because they have the time, but out of necessity. It’s no secret that 4J schools are suffering….greatly. Schools are facing the deepest reductions in school district history. Reducing staff, budget, services and closing four public schools. As necessary as these changes may be, they will put more stress on already struggling schools….and parents. It wasn’t too far into this school year, when I realized parents would be expected to play a much larger role.

It started with the constant flow of forms asking for my time and money. It really hit home one day when I received a phone call from the school office. My 4th grader had fallen while at recess, and they wanted me to come down and take a look at her knee. Did I mention I work a full-time job? After asking the adult on the phone how bad the injury was, the phone was passed to my crying child without an answer. Needless to say, asking a hurt child to determine how bad their injury is pretty fruitless. After calming her down and getting the details, I convinced her to finish off the school day. I hung up the phone, stunned that I was expected to leave work, drive across town and look at what turned out to be nothing more than a tiny bruise. Wasn’t that the role of the school nurse? The school nurse, who is only there one day a week, was not in that day.

It’s easy to get drawn into a debate about budgets, teachers, regulations and overall expectations. I’ve since gotten over the shock of that call and the role parents are expected to play in the classroom. The average 4J student to teacher ratio for grades K-3 is 24 to 1 and 26 to 1 for grades 4-12. With budget cuts, those ratios are expected to increase by three to four students across the board next year. This will put extra strain on the teachers and the schools in general. If kids are going to have a future, it’s going to be up to parents to find a way to stand the gap.

Here are some things that you do to help ease the burden on our schools.

  • Attend as many school meetings and activities as possible
  • Attend parent conferences requested by the school
  • Read all newsletters that are sent home from school
  • Talk to other parents about their perceptions of school
  • Support your children’s learning by helping them complete their homework
  • Start a homework club after school with other kids from your child’s class or grade

If you have the time:

  • Volunteer at your child’s school. The help is always welcome.
  • Get involved with your schools’ PTA/PTO, Site Council, or School Improvement Team.
  • Attend school board meetings to find out about the kinds of issues the schools are facing and who is making the decisions.
  • Offer to be a driver for a field trip (buses aren’t always an option)
  • Talk to your child’s teacher to see where he/she could use the most help.
  • Participate in fundraising events for your school. The more the merrier.

There are also several outside resources to help your child keep up in school, should they need it. Such as the  Sylvain Learning Center, Start Making A Reader Today (S.M.A.R.T), and Lane Tutoring Service, Inc., to name a few. No matter your job description, or constraints on your time…..our children’s future is what matters most. If you have the time and/or resources to help, please do. Your community school and your child, will thank you.

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