Haar surveys the organization's history and demonstrates its longstanding tendency to involve itself in issues of little or no relevance to education policy. Throughout its formative years, the PTA pursued legislative goals on issues such as prohibition, cigarette smoking, and international relations -- topics that had little to do with educating students. In more recent years, Haar contends, when the PTA did address important educational issues, its positions merely reflected the policies of the powerful teacher unions: the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. The modern PTA at the national and state levels rarely speaks with a truly independent voice, depriving parents of what could have been a constructive force for reform in public education.
Haar criticizes the PTA for defining meaningful parental involvement in education as fundraising, lobbying, and volunteering at schools in roles defined by teachers. Parental involvement should be viewed, Haar contends, primarily as activities that parents undertake to improve their children's academic performance. Ineffect, the PTA relegates parents to being little more than boosters of the educational status quo. With this dubious mission, it is not surprising that the organization's membership has dwindled, and with its tightly controlled governance structure, reform of the PTA is very improbable. Unable to stand up to the teacher unions or to represent parents' interests, the PTA seems destined for irrelevance, as its base in the schools is challenged by local parent organizations that choose not to be affiliated with the National PTA.