A recent news story reported on a Mississippi school district getting publicly peeved at parent groups that had not submitted their quarterly fundraising reports on time. One school board member went as far as to suggest the district seize the funds of the tardy groups.

Oh, just another little dust-up with local officials and parents. Or maybe it signals something more.

A quick scan of our Ask A Question section indicates there’s a trend of an increasing number of school districts exerting control over parent groups. In recent weeks, we’ve had parents wanting to know such things as: Does their district control Box Top money, can it demand they re-write their bylaws, or is it able to prevent them from going forward with a 501c(3) application.

The more districts try to control these groups, the more they risk diminishing the groups’ effectiveness. A key appeal to parent groups is their independence and sense of community that they foster.  In our experience, when districts try to micromanage parent groups, parent involvement disappears.

If parent groups become an extension of the district, the independence and sense of community go out the window. Parents will become far less enthused about pitching in and helping out.

Districts would be better off opening lines of communication with parent groups. This should be a two-way dialogue to find the best situation that addresses district concerns without snuffing out the parent group’s ability to make a real difference for the school.

If your group is caught in this situation, it’s important to compromise on measures that you can accept but strongly point out the consequences of ones you can’t. District administrators, in particular, don’t necessarily understand the nuances of what makes a parent group successful. But you do, and you should communicate that to them.

And let’s remember, parent groups are made up of volunteers. In most cases, they are doing their best (during their free moments when they are not working, taking care of kids, and running their own households) to pitch in and help the schools. Do we really need to layer lots more paperwork and deadlines on these folks?