Education

PTA asks 'Parent Teacher Alliance,' a charter school political group, to change its name

The Parent Teacher Alliance has already spent $550,000 on advertising, phone banking and door-knocking in hopes of influencing the L.A. Unified race. Leaders of the California Parent Teacher Association want them to find another name.
The Parent Teacher Alliance has already spent $550,000 on advertising, phone banking and door-knocking in hopes of influencing the L.A. Unified race. Leaders of the California Parent Teacher Association want them to find another name.
City of L.A. Ethics Commission / Photo Illustration

In the midst of a contentious race for Los Angeles Unified School Board, some voters have gotten knocks at their door from pro-charter school canvassers introducing themselves as "volunteers with the Parent Teacher Alliance."

They're not volunteers for the well-known parent-run school fundraising organization, but for a group funded by the political affiliate of the California Charter Schools Association. The Parent Teacher Alliance has already spent $550,000 on advertising, phone banking and door-knocking in hopes of influencing the L.A. Unified race.

Leaders of the California Parent Teacher Association – the aforementioned parent-run school fundraising organization – want them to find another name.

This week, leaders of the National Parent Teacher Association sent a cease-and-desist letter to the charter association's political arm, CCSA Advocates, saying the use of "Parent Teacher Alliance" in political advertising is muddying the PTA's non-partisan brand.

The letter accuses CCSA Advocates of "false advertising and deceptive practices," according to a written statement from National PTA president Laura Bay.

It's the second time the Parent Teacher Association has made such a request.

In the 2016 statewide primary elections, the Parent Teacher Alliance PAC and other pro-charter groups were huge sources of outside spending in legislative races. After the June vote, leaders of the National Parent Teacher Association sent their first cease-and-desist letter to CCSA, noting the national group holds trademarks on both their name and the "PTA" acronym.

The pro-charter group stopped using the acronym officially, but has continued to use the "Parent Teacher Alliance" name in political communications.

CCSA Advocates leaders have not yet decided how to respond to the letter, according to spokesman Richard Garcia.

"We understand the PTA’s concerns and CCSA Advocates’ leadership is interested in meeting with representatives from the PTA so that we may discuss these concerns in person," Garcia said in a written statement.

Garcia's statement continued: "As two organizations committed to assisting parents and families in expressing their voices concerning public education for their children, our sincere hope is that we can find a mutually agreeable solution."

Neither the National PTA nor its state affiliates endorse candidates or weigh in on ballot issues.

But California PTA executive director Sherry Skelly Griffin said the name has caused confusion even among her group's membership. In an effort to tamp down that confusion, the state PTA has sent emails to its members drawing distinctions between it and the Parent Teacher Alliance and accusing the group of operating "under the false banner of our trademarked name and renowned reputation."

"It’s clearly a problem, and it’s one that unfortunately continues to escalate," Skelly Griffin said in an interview.

"Our goal," she added, "both at the California state PTA level and at the national level is to quickly and efficiently eradicate this confusion and put to rest that the PTA has somehow become involved in difficult, contested elections both at the state and local level."