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How To Start Your Own Parent Teacher Group

Updated: May 26, 2023

How Ask yourself if you want to change anything in your child’s school system. Maybe you want them to have access to broader cultural arts opportunities, more social events, and spirit wear, or perhaps you want to ensure your school has a larger voice in child advocacy. What’s the easiest way to make this happen, you ask? By joining a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO)! Not only will it provide a great outlet to make your ideas a reality, but it’ll also give you a platform to make your voice heard.

PTAs and PTOs can be immensely enriching to the school experience – and not just for students, but for the teachers and parents. But don’t worry if your school or locality doesn’t have one because PTAs and PTOs are an initiative you can start today. This article will tell you how.

Before you even think about the practicalities and process of starting a PTA or PTO, it is important to know the two. Often, people use these two words interchangeably, but there is a significant difference in their organizational structure.

  • Parent Teacher Associations

Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) fall under the umbrella of a national organization--the National PTA headquartered in Alexandria, Va. Individual schools or localities joining the PTA must do so by formal membership. Member PTAs must pay dues to the national organization and operate under the rules and regulations set out by them. In turn, members get certain benefits and a say in the workings of the national PTA.

  • Parent Teacher Organizations

On the other hand, the most defining feature of Parent Teacher Organizations is their operation as an independent group. PTOs are governed by the rules and regulations they come up with and are primarily concerned with the matters of their school or district only. While sometimes PTOs may join together to host larger events, all of their operations are autonomous, with the interests of their own school or locality at the forefront.

Parents inside a classroom talking.
PTA Parents Meeting

Source: (Unsplash)

Why Should We Start a PTA or PTO?

Let’s back it up a little. The question is bound to have crossed your mind: “Do I need to start a PTA or PTO?” Here’s why you should start up a PTA or PTO:

1. Representation

Let’s face it; it’s pretty tough to ensure that all children get equal amounts of attention and guidance within a classroom setting. Some children naturally take up more time, while others work independently, warranting less attention from the teacher.

PTAs and PTOs solve this issue by providing a voice for each child. Whether it’s academics, extra-curricular, college applications, social issues, or anything, a PTA or PTO is the forum to talk about it. Is it a small matter? Does it affect only a few students? Maybe only one? Perfect, that means it’s worth discussing for the PTA or PTO!

2. Funding, Funding, and Funding

PTAs and PTOs are a great source of fundraising. Is there a new program or initiative that you want your students to benefit from, but you’re short of the monetary resources needed to make it a reality? Your PTA or PTO can be an additional source of support for the event. And the best part? The PTO and PTA fundraising mechanism means that the burden isn’t put on any one student. Instead, everyone pitches in according to their affordability and contributes to a joint effort.

3. Networking

PTAs and PTOs are great places to network! They’re essentially a community of students, teachers, parents, supportive educational staff, and those who run the schools, the school districts and occupy key positions in the educational sector. Of course, the larger the PTA or PTO, the more extensive this network will be. But even groups that are just a gathering of teachers and parents can provide parents and students with a support system.

Now that we have discussed the “why,” let’s move on to the “how.”

Teacher in classroom, standing against the wall, smiling.
Smiling Teacher

Source: (PTA parent)

1. Gather the Parents

Whether it’s a PTA or a PTO, neither can operate without having a strong network of parents. So, the first thing to do is involve other interested parents. You're good to go once you have a handful of dedicated parents on board. And remember, it’s the work ethic and enthusiasm matter more than the numbers or influence, so pick your core members carefully.

2. Come up with a Mission Statement

It is important that your organization have a guiding light, and the first step in this direction is coming up with a mission statement. Your statement doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should sum up why the organization exists, what it strives to do, what problems it will overcome, and how it aims to benefit the students and the wider school network. Your mission statement is what your members will refer back to in times of confusion, and it is what will draw in new members over time. When forming a PTA, you must examine the National PTA’s mission statement first.

3. Put Pen to Paper

With your initial membership and mission statement out of the way, it is time to move on to the organization's flesh: your ideas. Members should sit together and discuss their organization's future at length. By the end of this stage, your PTA or PTO should have a rough set of goals that it wants to accomplish, such as fundraising, more internship opportunities, better physical education programs, and a list of potential events and activities that it will host. After all, having a plan for the future makes it that much closer to reality.

4. Get the Principal on Board

Any school’s principal is an essential part of its framework, and having your principal on board will greatly boost the integrity and potential success of your PTA or PTO. This is because principals are well-versed with their school's functioning, so they would be best able to guide you on the journey you are about to take.

5. Create the Bylaws

Bylaws provide guidance and structure to your PTA or PTO’s body. Typically, bylaws should cover the following areas:

  • Policies

  • Elections

  • Bylaw Amendment Proceedings

  • Key Officer Duties

  • Committees

  • Meetings

  • Fundraising

For a bylaw to be considered official, it is necessary for it to have passed with a two-thirds majority vote. Of course, as your membership increases and your PTA or PTO progresses, your bylaws will change, but having an initial guiding set is of the essence. Again, if you are starting a PTA, start with the national and your state PTA for by-laws. They have certain requirements and can offer great templates.

6. EIN Application

We mentioned how essential fundraising is to any organization, but you’ll require a bank account before starting. The first step is to get your Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the International Revenue Service (IRS). All you need to do is fill out the EIN application, which can be found here, and you’ll be ready.

An EIN will help you get a bank account, qualify for tax exemptions, and receive permits.

7. Insurance

There’s no denying that every organization messes up, big or small, so taking out an insurance cover is smart. This will protect your organization, funds, and people and let you work without the constant fear of messing up.

8. Elections

You should have decided on your election bylaws by this stage, and now it is time to go ahead with the actual elections. All PTA or PTO members should be allowed to stand for elections, and each individual should be informed of the duties their position requires.

Since this will be your PTA or PTO’s first electoral process, you should take this as a learning process and note what went wrong and what worked.

9. PTA Registration

This step is exclusively for PTAs. To become a national association member, you must register your PTA with the national and state PTA. This is a relatively simple step; the national PTA will help you get on your feet.

10. Apply for 501(c)(3) Status

The last step in this process is making your organization a non-profit. This essentially means that you will have tax-exempt status. Applying for 501(c)(3) status involves completing Form 1023. Once you’ve successfully completed and submitted this form, you will have to wait until you receive a determination letter, marking the beginning of your status as a non-profit organization!

But that’s not all; each year, you’ll have to file Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-N, depending on the number of receipts your organization accumulates.

And that’s how it is done. Now that your PTA or PTO is running, you can start with recruitment, first meetings, and events. Best of luck!


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