As a strong supporter of education, I am appalled at the covert and subversive tactics the PTA has engaged in so as to mislead and bias the voting electorate regarding the tax limitation initiatives.Having been elected as a local PTA legislative vice president, I received a 40-page packet which outlines the calculated procedures that the PTA is employing to defeat the initiatives.
This packet, dated August 1988, came from the State PTA Executive Committee under the letterhead of Mrs. Darlene Gubler. I wish to point out seven disturbing points to this letter:
1. To defeat the tax limitation initiatives, the PTA is encouraging every PTA unit to hold local meetings. The instructions say the "PTA does not have to have people in opposition to our stand represented at our meetings."
Of course, the PTA does not have to have opposition to their stand. But, for an organization that advocates education, it is revolting to find that the PTA is opposed to educating the electorate to both sides of the tax limitation issue. Although the PTA policy is to oppose the initiatives, to fear educating citizens to both sides of the issue is to fear truth itself.
2. As the letter instructs, "PTA members who disagree with the official PTA positions may not use PTA titles or meetings to fight against the initiatives."
In other words, a gag-order has been issued on any PTA officer who has a differing point of view. I was elected to inform and advise the PTA board and members concerning political issues, but, on this issue I am being encouraged to step aside.
3. To defeat the initiatives, the PTA will line up "Human interest stories from people such as teachers, local law enforcement officers, firemen, government representatives, recipients of social or health services, someone from higher education, someone who receives government aid, . . . etc."
These stories are designed to be sensationalized. Those in favor of tax limitation call them "scare tactics." It is interesting that the PTA does not suggest using the small business man, the father who was laid off work, the home owner whose house is worth less today than it was when he bought it, or any of the 60,000 people who have had to leave this state because of our poor economy.
4. To help defeat the tax limitation initiatives, the PTA is encouraging all parents and students to write letters about what a teacher has done for them and what a difference that teacher made in their lives and then send all letters to the editors of the local and state newspapers to be printed."
This is fine to create a positive campaign for teachers. I will be one of the first parents to write. But, to equate support for tax limitation as a vote against good teachers is to draw wrong conclusions.
5. The PTA is encouraging school principals to "give extra credit (a child's grades should not depend on this) to students who come to any of these meetings and/or if their parents also come and listen."
Would someone tell me how you can give extra credit to students without having it affect their grades? Who's kidding whom?
6. The PTA has "been advised that they can send any of their materials home with the students legally."
I have grave reservations about using our school children as mailmen to deliver political information concerning an issue that represents only one point of view.
7. Enclosed in the packet was a copy of a letter that the PTA sent to all the school superintendents throughout the state, expressing concern "that as school districts fight the tax initiatives that we do not give one scenario. We hope that each district would paint two or three scenarios."
They continue, "we are also fearful that if we continue to use kindergarten and career ladders as areas where cuts might take place, that we will our effect with the grassroots people because many of them are becoming immune to that scenario, and, reply . . . so what."
I am aghast, to say the least. Those in favor of tax limitation have suspected a plot. As evidenced, there is a plot, it is calculated and subversive, and filled with scare tactics and misinformation. I am ashamed that the PTA has joined the tactics of other government organizations, and their support groups, in using such actions to defeat the tax limitation initiatives.
As a strong advocate of education, I believe the only way to educate our communities regarding the initiatives is to allow equal time and representation to all. Although the PTA may with to disavow me as a PTA leader, I believe that the PTA's credibility concerning this issue is in serious doubt.
(Glen Parker Davis is legislative vice president of Crestview Elementary PTA.)