With school starting, I'm getting solicited to join the Parent-Teacher Association. What's in it for me and my child?

"The importance of being a member of the PTA is to support your child," says Patricia Powell, former president of the Smith Street Elementary School PTA in Uniondale. "Especially when they start kindergarten, they've left home for a full day. Being a member of the PTA gives you a lot more access to what is going on in the school environment."

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The dues - usually $6 to $15 for the year, depending on the school and whether you join as an individual or a family - are shared between your school's PTA and the state and national PTAs, which lobby government officials in support of schoolchildren, Powell says. While local PTAs do fundraising, that's not their primary purpose.

The PTAs organize events children wouldn't otherwise have, Powell says. At her school, the PTA sponsored a talent show. The students practiced under supervision of parents, Powell says. Teachers also join the PTA and get involved outside of classrooms. Other programs often include book fairs and assemblies on topics such as character development, says Francine Schnabel, president of the Lindenhurst Council of PTAs, an umbrella organization for PTAs at the nine Lindenhurst public schools. PTAs also run programs for parents such as using the Internet to help kids with homework, she says. Districts don't have funds to pay for such programs or manpower to run them without help, she says.