Contending with PTAs from across the nation, Davis Elementary PTA has stood out for their actions to protect, support and educate Texas children, and the organization has now received recognition on the national level.
National PTA is presenting the group with its 2020 Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award today, March 11, at the association’s national conference in Virginia.
Davis PTA President Daphne Hoffacker and PTA member Claudia Ullrich represent their school as Advocacy Co Chairs. Hoffacker said their goal was to get parents to look at the big picture of state and federal funding.
“We need parents to look up and see that it’s a lack of funding that’s causing these issues [in education],” Hoffacker said. “We want parents to understand that our district is not getting paid enough to support the teachers, to support the counselors, that we really should have way smaller class sizes—but we don’t have funding to support that.
Claudia Ullrich said, “By winning this award, we’re saying to the state that we do care and we’re not happy with the status quo.”
Ullrich had a large role in getting organizations such as Just Fund It Texas and Raise Your Hand Texas involved in their advocacy efforts.
The Davis PTA raised awareness of the lack of funding on campus by building relationships with parents and legislators. They called legislators at PTA meetings and even in the hallways.
“I would get with groups of parents in the hallways, get my cell phone and call our representative and have a little speakerphone conversation so that they could say, ‘I support public education, I support HB3,’” Hoffacker said.
After meeting state representatives during Texas PTA Rally Day, Hoffacker spent the rest of the session at the Capitol sharing her concerns about funding and accountability and becoming a familiar face to representatives involved in public education policy-making.
“It wasn’t long before we would be in a hearing and representatives would come up to me and say, ‘what did you think of this bill?’” she said. “They saw me as someone who cared deeply about public education.”
Davis PTA members encouraged parents, students and teachers to write to their representatives. They collected over a 100 letters written by Davis students and parents and put them on representatives’ desks.
“Our representatives said that’s meaningful to them,” Ullrich said. “When they’re fighting the fight in the legislature for public education, they can pull examples and say, ‘I have a story from so and so at Davis Elementary in Austin, Texas.’”
This is the second year in a row that Austin ISD’s PTAs have won a national advocacy award. Last year, Austin Council of PTAs won the Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award for raising awareness about the free summer transportation provided to AISD students by a Capital Metro and Austin ISD partnership.
According to Lynn Boswell, president of Austin Council of PTAs for 2019-20, a deep commitment to advocacy sets Austin ISD’s parent organizations apart.
“The way our legislature funds public education is immensely important,” Boswell said. “And the Davis PTA got people excited about it by making a complex issue easy to understand, and by giving people concrete ways to take action.”
Davis PTA's goals for this year include continuing to build relationships and encouraging their school community to use their voices to fight for, not only better education funding, but a better system.