Proposal would mandate parent volunteering

In a Charleston, S.C. community, a proposal is before the school board that would require parents to put in eight hours of volunteering each school year.

by Rose Hamilton


For anyone who has every run a school event or fundraiser, you understand the importance of parent involvement. Chances are, you’ve felt the pain of not having enough volunteers. But, would it ever make sense to require parents to help out?

That question was just put before the School Board in Charleston County, S.C., by a group of parents who want the school district to require that parents and guardians volunteer eight hours of their time each school year. The School Board has no decision yet. The proposal goes as far as to suggest that parents be rated for having met their obligation as “highly engaged,’’ and, if they have not done their volunteering, to be labeled as "emerging.'' In Charleston County, reaction has been understandably mixed. The Parent Roundtable – the group promoting this concept – says the idea is to help parents understand how to get involved and it isn’t intended to be judgmental or punitive. That might be hard for some parents to swallow, giving the ratings system. Some parents questioned why the school district would want to create more work by establishing a volunteer tracking system. One parent went as far as to say schools “can not legislate morality.’’

While we’ve heard this mandatory approach has been successful in such environments as private and charter schools (parents opt in when they join the school) it also raises questions about the purpose of volunteers and it underscores how challenging it is to recruit and retain them.

Hey, we all wish we could get a 100% volunteer response like the folks in South Carolina want. But in the meantime, here’s a suggestion for a more down-to-earth alternative from PTO Today. It’s called 2 Hour Power, a free volunteer pledge program where you ask parents to each volunteer for two hours per year. The idea is that it's a manageable amount so it's easy to get people to agree. And if they have a positive experience, they're likely to volunteer a lot more.


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