Everyone’s heard of the PTA, but do you know what it does as the nation’s largest child advocacy organization? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:
What is PTA?
Given the longevity and universal name recognition of our organization, it’s easy to understand how “PTA” is commonly used to describe all parent groups, whether or not they are actually affiliated with PTA. Parents, teachers, and even administrators are frequently confused or even unaware of the differences between PTA and other parent organizations.
Simply put, PTA is the nation’s original parent group in schools, influencing millions of parents, past and present, to get involved in their children’s education. We are a national, nonprofit organization; neither the organization nor its leaders receive any financial benefit from PTA activities. We are composed of 6 million volunteers in 23,000 local units. We are run by volunteers and led by volunteers, and we are accountable to parents and schools. We give parents what they want—a way to help their children succeed.
Aren’t all parent groups the same?
All parent groups have a local component—a way for passionate, dedicated parents to get involved in K–12 schools. Many of the other groups, however, focus solely on fundraising. In fact, some parent organizations are actually owned and operated by privately held for-profit businesses, making these organizations driven more by profits than children.
While fundraising for items not covered by school budgets is an important component for school groups, we know that parents are interested and concerned in other school issues as well. In contrast to other parent groups, PTA parents have a broader role to play beyond fundraising in the education of their children.
Parents who are knowledgeable about the issues that impact schools and student achievement can more effectively participate in local and district school decisions, and can speak up that our legislators need to allocate more funds for public schools.
We at PTA know that advocacy works. If our members choose to get involved by working on issues that impact their children and schools, they receive the information and training they need to work effectively at the local, state, and national levels for school funding, school construction, school safety, high-quality teachers, high nutrition standards in school lunch programs, after-school programs, and more. These efforts benefit all children, including those whose parents are members of non-PTA parent groups.
PTA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Other independent parent groups must either complete a complicated process to file for tax-exempt status on their own, or must file taxes on all revenues received.
Do local PTAs make their own decisions?
Each of the 23,000 local units selects the programs and activities that it will undertake to address the needs of its local school and children. While PTA’s national and state offices create many successful programs for local units to use, there are no PTA-mandated programs.
State and National PTA provide support to help the local PTAs succeed. For example, when working on local issues such as changing an intersection to make it safer, upgrading school water taps to remove the threat of lead contamination, enhancing reading standards, or other school or district concerns, PTA is a welcome resource. In most cases, we have probably seen the same challenges elsewhere in the country. We therefore can advise local PTAs on the best practices observed, issues surrounding the problem and the outcome, as well as provide them contact information for additional details.
What does PTA offer for schools and communities?
PTA programs are created to encourage and support parent involvement in children’s education. Our programs are created with leading expert organizations on topics of importance to our members, at the members’ request. The programs are user-friendly and are free to local PTAs. Within each of the programs offered, there are interesting activities, helpful evaluation tools, and tips to involve all the key players in a school community. No other parent group offers such credible and comprehensive programs to successfully engage families and communities.
Our programs help connect parents to schools and help them recognize their achievements.
Who can join a PTA?
PTA is an inclusive organization that is open to all adults who care about children and schools.
We have learned that the main thing parents want from schools is to help their child succeed academically, emotionally, and personally. PTA bridges the connection between homes and schools. By getting involved with PTA, the child who benefits most is one’s own.
We reach out to diverse communities to allow parents to more fully integrate their children into the life of a school. We actively invite all parents to be involved in their children’s education through participation in PTA. We work hard to bring mothers, fathers, teachers, school administrators, grandparents, mentors, foster parents, other caregivers, and community leaders into the association.
What about fundraising?
PTA believes the core value of a parent is more important than only serving as a fundraiser. Fundraising is a means to carry out the goals and work of PTA. Fundraising events provide a valuable service and involve more parents in the school.
PTA Fundraising Essentials is a guide we produce and distribute to every local PTA leader and public school principal across the country. It’s filled with ideas, suggestions, success stories, resources, and more to help PTAs organize fundraising activities, and at the same time, to support parent involvement initiatives.
What do my dues pay for?
Our members pay dues that include a small portion for the state and national offices. In return, local PTAs and members receive access to many valuable resources, information, and training programs.
As a local affiliate of a national organization, local PTAs may be eligible for discounted insurance for special events that are not covered by the school insurance. Non-PTA parent groups usually must purchase more expensive insurance policies to cover special events and liabilities or leave their members at risk.
Numerous benefits are available to dues-paying units and members. For dues payments, local units have access to financial, legislative, membership, leadership, marketing and public relations resources (also available online), subscription to Our Children magazine which includes a legislative section and reproducible newsletter in English and Spanish; electronic newsletters containing leadership tips; professionally designed public service announcements (PSAs) to aid in membership recruitment; leadership training workshops and e-learning opportunities; back-to-school kit containing recruitment ideas, and other materials to get the year started; Teacher Appreciation Week ideas; numerous mailings on parent involvement programs, fundraising, and working collaboratively; and much more.
When PTA gets involved, children benefit. When a member gets involved in PTA, his/her child benefits most. Great benefits of PTA membership for individual members include online resources including Our Children magazine that are full of parenting tips; electronic newsletters to keep you informed on parenting and legislative issues; special discounts and offers from FedEx/Kinko’s, Barnes & Noble, and many more; leadership training, such as electronic courses, annual convention, and leadership workshops; and much more.