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National PTA Honors Outstanding Efforts in Advocating for Children and Education

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Heidi May Wilson, Media Relations Manager

Parent and youth honorees to be recognized at 2017 National PTA Legislative Conference

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Feb. 9, 2017)—National PTA is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2017 Outstanding Advocacy Awards, which honor parents and youth from across the country for their commitment to being a powerful voice for all children and a strong advocate for public education. The honorees will be recognized at the 2017 National PTA Legislative Conference, Wednesday, March 8, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

This year’s recipients are:

Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award—Georgia PTA
Georgia PTA dedicated its efforts over the past year to advocating against the Opportunity School District ballot initiative, which would have put a state political appointee in charge of public schools with few accountability measures and removed control from locally elected school boards and families. Georgia PTA members traveled the state, creating and participating in town hall meetings to educate and empower voters. The association also partnered with other organizations to produce television commercials, a social media campaign and a direct mail campaign. During its annual Georgia PTA Advocacy Day at the state capitol building, the association organized a training session on the ballot initiative, an advocacy walk and a rally with a press conference. Due to the advocacy efforts of Georgia PTA, the proposed ballot initiative failed—with 60% of the voters in the state voting “no”—effectively ensuring that families and local elected officials continue to have control over their students’ education. 

Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award—Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA (Texas)
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District was facing funding challenges because of outdated state school finance laws in Texas. Members of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA came together to advocate for using the only available means of raising additional funds locally—a Tax Ratification Election (TRE). The Council PTA used its network of PTAs to register voters and educate the community on the TRE. The association also invited elected officials to meetings, wrote letters to the editors of newspapers and had PTA members speak at school board and city council meetings. Despite having no budget and facing a $50,000 opposition campaign, the Tax Ratification Election advocated by Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA passed, successfully saving critical academic, athletic and arts programs from being cut in their schools.

Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award—Rose Acerra (New Jersey)  
Rose Acerra has been a dedicated PTA advocate since her children entered school. As president of New Jersey PTA, Acerra led efforts to include cameras on school bus extension arms to deter cars from speeding past; create a fairer state education funding formula; and require higher academic standards for all students across the state. Additionally, after the signing of the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the federal law that governs K-12 education, Acerra worked to get parents a seat at the table where the New Jersey Department of Education was developing the state education plan. Now, New Jersey PTA is a critical resource and partner for the New Jersey Department of Education in the planning and implementation process of ESSA and is helping to ensure that students receive the education they deserve.

Outstanding Youth Advocacy Award—Christian Ranieri (New York)
Christian Ranieri has long been an advocate for children with special needs. Since age 13, Ranieri has fought to get his school district to recognize the need for positive behavior goals, including through the teaching of social skills and the inclusion of students with disabilities in extracurricular activities. Through his efforts, Ranieri has not only influenced his school community to embrace better practices in recognizing and educating students with disabilities, but also his state, as a Youth Ambassador for Self-Advocacy in New York and a member of the New York Department of Education's Youth Advisory Panel. Ranieri continues to work hard to dispel the "mystery" of autism and students with disabilities among his peers by proposing and collaborating on awareness programs.

“Advocacy is critical to improving education and the lives and futures of our nation’s children. We are pleased to recognize Georgia PTA, Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA, Rose Acerra and Christian Ranieri with the 2017 Outstanding Advocacy Awards,” said Laura Bay, president of National PTA. “Georgia PTA, Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA, Rose and Christian exemplify what it means to speak up and take action, and their efforts and leadership have truly made a difference for children, families, schools and communities.”

Every year, the National PTA Legislative Conference brings together PTA leaders and advocates from across the country to explore the association’s public policy priorities and actively advocate to make every child’s potential a reality.

During the 2017 conference—themed, “Celebrating 120 Years of Changing Children’s Lives”—attendees will celebrate milestones and honor PTA members and policymakers whose efforts have made a difference for the education, health and well-being of every child. Attendees will also hear from speakers and participate in workshops on key education issues facing the new Congress. Additionally, attendees will amplify their voices by meeting with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 9.

“Over the last century, PTA members have been instrumental in improving the lives of millions of children by advocating for the creation of universal kindergarten classes, child labor laws, a juvenile justice system and a healthy school meals program,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “In the 21st century, PTA advocacy means providing our children with nutritious meal options, keeping them safe from gun violence, protecting students’ personal and academic information and ensuring that kids are college and career-ready upon graduation from high school. At its core, PTA advocacy is still about speaking for every child with one voice.”

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.