What is a parent cooperative?
A parent cooperative is a democratically controlled business organized to meet the mutual needs of parent members. It is organized by a group of families with similar philosophies who hire a trained teacher to provide their children with a quality school experience. The school is administered and maintained by the parents on a non-profit, non-sectarian basis. The focus of the business is service rather than a generation of profit. The services include child-focused enrichment, education, and child care programs.
Even though the focus of the cooperative is on the provision of services rather than profit, it is still a business. The most distinctive features of a cooperative are its ownership structure and democratic decision making. Cooperative members are fundamentally the business owners, and each co-owner is entitled to one vote.
What kind of involvement is required?
Parent involvement is inherent to the parent cooperative. As cooperative members, all parents are involved with making key policy decisions that affect their child's out-of-home child care experiences. The program director and teachers, who are trained in early childhood education, run the day-to-day operations of the center. Parent participation and fundraising activities cut overhead costs and bring in sources of revenue. Even parents with schedules that don't allow workday participation are involved with voting, participating in fundraising, attending evening parenting education and related meetings, and contributing support to the program.
The involvement of parents in cooperative child care programs varies from program to program. The board of directors of the cooperative usually sets parent-involvement requirements. Involvement usually includes participating in the classroom in some capacity. Parents who are unable to contribute time to the classroom may be offered alternatives, including contributing administrative or service roles or having a relative or other caregiver contribute classroom participation.
What are the benefits?
Parent involvement in the cooperative encourages communication between the parent and teacher that focuses on the child. The ongoing, simultaneous interaction of parent, child, and teacher has something to offer each member of the triad.
Parents are exposed to knowledge about how children develop, problem prevention and discipline strategies, and age-appropriate behavior expectations that encourage more effective parenting. The parent has the opportunity to see how these principles and strategies are implemented by observing the teacher.
The arrangement allows parents to ask questions and to "try out" new strategies in a supportive environment.
Teachers benefit because they are able to see the practical elements of their own education and develop "hands-on" approaches to sharing this knowledge and experience. They are also able to more fully know each child and his/her individual needs by sharing information with the parent.
At the center of the triad is the child, who benefits from the supportive linkages of home and preschool and shares important life experiences with his/her parent.