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[Susan notes: This is a super letter from a teacher who understands working parents' plight.]

Published in Washington Post

To the editor

While on the surface requiring parents to be involved in schools sounds like a win/win situation, the schools in Prince William County described in your article (Parents Mandatory Volunteering, 9/22/04) are actually setting up an exclusionary system. You see, if it's mandatory, it's a bar to enrollment for any child who has parents who cannot volunteer.

I teach in an inner city school in Memphis. Most of our parents are working, single parents, many of whom must work two jobs just to pay bills. While we have worked very hard to increase parental involvement, we have become aware that when parents are working for survival, just getting their children to school on time and dressed is a sign that the parent IS trying to be involved and active. Such things as having voice mail for teachers to leave assignments and messages and get them from parents after hours help these parents, as does e-mail for parents who have computer access. We stagger our events so that parents who can't make one may be able to make another one. We send ideas and activities home, and parents tell us that they do appreciate these.

I would hazard a guess that less than 10% of the children in my school have parents who could commit to the contract described in these allegedly public schools. And, I'm willing to extrapolate and state that MOST low income parents, and many middle income ones, do not have the flexibility in their work schedules required to make such a commitment.

Donna Metler

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