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Should Parent Volunteering be Mandatory at Schools?

mandatory_volunteeringI think we can all agree that public schools are underfunded, and that volunteer parents are an invaluable part of what helps out kids’ education system. But what if volunteering were made mandatory? In San Jose, CA, the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District is working on a proposal to require the families of its 13,000 to commit to at least 30 hours of volunteering each school year.

Proponents of the required volunteering say that parents helping out the school system creates a strong “culture of parent-guardian-family participation.” The effect is greater than the work itself; it encourages student achievement, and gets parents actively involved in their kids’ lives.

But on the other hand, do we want to force help from parents who have no interest in being there? Would it even be feasible to ask 30 hours from parents? Also, I guess we wouldn’t necessarily call it “volunteering” anymore.

What do you think — is mandatory parental involvement at schools a good idea?

From the New York Times. Photo by Writing Program PTW.

22 Responses to “Should Parent Volunteering be Mandatory at Schools?”

  1. shen

    wow- mandatory 'volunteering' is a contradiction of terms, if i ever did hear one. and, what a way to create resentful families, who would then be less willing to help, should the opportunity arise. as a teacher (and currently sahm), i realize that not all families are equipped to volunteer in their child's (children's) class(es), and not for the lack of wanting. obviously strong family-school connections create an even better, enriched classroom environment for the children. but families can stay involved without having to volunteer. for many of the families i serve, volunteering is not an option. there are multiple siblings at home and/or at schools, no available transportation, language barriers which create discomfort, full-time jobs, and other obligations. forcing 'volunteering' could really cause a hardship for families. and, frankly, i would not appreciate certain parents presence in the classroom. some of my students in the past have had verbally abusive parents, parents who use/abuse drugs/alcohol, parents who are just ridiculously inappropriate, etc.
    this is NOT a good idea. encouraging family involvement can happen on several levels, but forcing it would not be effective or beneficial to the children.

    • Chris Hulls

      Maybe "Volunteering" isn't the right word, but beyond just the raw labor a parent can provide, I think in general getting people involved will foster a healthy community and is a good thing. Yes, there will be some bad eggs but overall it seems like a reasonable idea.

  2. paschott

    Gotta agree with Shen. There are some parents who should NOT volunteer around kids. There's also the factor that anyone forced to volunteer will generally not appreciate it nor tend to care about the job they're doing. They'll do it grudgingly and that's a poor example to set for kids. Besides, some parents really can't manage to "volunteer" for 30 hours each school year – they have work or other concerns that prevent them from doing so. I understand the school needs people to help, but encouraging it rather than mandating it seems a better approach. Perhaps coming up with some way to reward volunteers and to show the value of doing it would make more sense.

  3. Claudia

    No, because for parents that work during school hours are not always able to volunteer. There's so many single parents that can't afford to miss work to volunteer. It should only be open for parents that have a background check and have the time to do it.

  4. Denise Bigley

    I think it is great when parents can give time to their childs school, but I am afraid if it is mandatory,then you have parents with guilt and resentments. I would rather have less volunteers than a bunch of irritated parents who dont want to be there and make everyone around them including the children uncomfortable. I have seen this situation and would rather not have certain people around the kids

  5. scott

    I could not disagree with this more. Some parents do not have 30 hours a year to donate. What about those single parents working three jobs just to pay the bills? I think its great when parents get invested in their child's school and education, but it needs to be voluntary. It is not the parents fault that the schools are underfunded and they should not be "punished" for it by being forced to comply with mandatory obligations.

  6. angie

    I am truly torn about this. On the one hand, I feel that all parents should WANT to do this and making it mandatory SHOULD be unnecessary. On the other hand, I realize that reality proves that all parents do not want to to this or are unable to do this for various reasons. Overall though, making things mandatory is always going to tick people off. No one likes to be told what to do.

  7. Haidy

    I have a full time job which makes it so hard for me to volunteer, I just wish I can more often.
    Making it mandatory should not be an option, however, there are other ways to encourage parents to volunteer and donate to their schools.

  8. Meghan Shuster Harvey

    Wow. OK, throughout PreSchool and the year my son was in Kindergarten I was unable to commit to volunteering. I was running a daycare out of my home & volunteering meant taking all the kids (ranging from 3-9 ages 18mths to 3) which was not an option, getting someone to cover for me (not always easy) or simply closing the daycare down for the day or a few hours, which left an entire daycare full of working parents who all had to make other arrangements. I did do it from time to time, but by no means was able to on any regular basis. I no longer do daycare. I work as a freelance writer from home, so I can pretty much set my own schedule. So now I never miss a field trip or special assembly and every Friday I spend 25 minutes with my son's class in the library.
    That being said, there are moms at my son's school who practically live there. They volunteer almost everyday and every waking moment. Some people do well with kids, some don't. And some parents are active in the school and others are not. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.
    I think the schools are being unrealistic about this and the idea of forcing parents to volunteer is just not reasonable. Families, individuals, schedules and people are all different. Not every mom or dad is the volunteer at school type. And some of the ones that are that type, just don't have the schedule that allowed them to. That's not a bad thing.
    I do TOTALLY get the intention behind this though, and personally like being involved in my sons school because frankly, I know what's going on all the time. I know what kids are causing trouble, which ones aren't. I know what he's working on in class, what his relationship is with the other kids and his teacher. So yes, I get why volunteering is important and in a perfect world every parent would be able to. That's just not the way it is.

  9. Angela

    No, for parents who work it is hard getting out there. Plus, what if the parent has a bad police record and doesn't inform anyone, that is dangerous!

  10. Goog

    No. If there are not enough teachers to handle things, the gov't need to stop cutting schools' budgets. If I want to teach my kid, I'll homeschool them. If you want me to work at his school, hire me. You wouldn't pay me to be a teacher's aid without some kind of college degree, so you get around it by having me volunteer? No thanks.

  11. Jay

    Hmmm… I don't think parents should be required to volunteer at school. Many parents could not even make it, due to work. And those who can make it, but don't want to be there would be irritable and possible even angry. Volunteering is a great thing, but, as the name suggests, it should be voluntary.

  12. Lisa

    No, I don't think that parents should be required to volunteer at their children's schools. All the parents would have to undergo a fingerprint check and even with that I don't know that I would want certain parents volunteering with my child.

  13. judy s

    I know that in my school district, we have wonderful volunteers, and I truly believe that it is because of their desire to be there. As a Girl Scout leader, I am very involved also. I know some parents that I would NOT want in the school with my children. They may be great with their kids at home, but other kids are uncomfortable around. Also, we must keep the children safe. That is why schools have background checks.

  14. dvsweeper

    bad idea, the best help is provided by those who want to help not those who are forced to be there. Just think about how helpful your kids are when they don't want to help!

  15. Janice

    Gee, I gotta go with no here. There are a lot of good points brought up here, the parents' time issues, the appropriateness of some parents to be there, the kids feelings toward having a parent there. Plus, I can't help but think that these parents are paying school taxes, to insure that their children receive a quality education, what resentment might this bring up if they then have to "work" at the school to insure it too?

  16. Cathy B.

    Crazy talk! Every mom I know does what she can to support the school even if it does not mean volunteering their time in the classroom. Forcing people to volunteer means you can't call it volunteering. Working parents sell those raffle tickets and sponsor walkathons. That is no less valid than helping with an art project or lunch duty. Some parents volunteer more because they CAN! I think the point is asking for 100% school contribution meaning everybody should do something.

  17. Mari

    Parents should volunteer, but not because it is required. They should volunteer to be an active participant in their children's lives, and to support them in their academic and extraciricular activities.

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    You, my friend, ROCK! I found exactly the information I already searched all over the place and just could not locate it. What an ideal web-site.

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  20. Not Fond of

    My daughter's high school band requires parents to volunteer for the swapmeet 4x a year or pay $250. Can they do this?


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