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How To Start Your Own Parent Teacher Group

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Ask yourself, is there anything that you’d like to change in your child’s school system? Maybe you want them to have access to broader cultural arts opportunities, more social events, 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 where you can 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 as well. But don’t worry if your school or locality doesn’t have one, because PTAs and PTOs are an initiative that can be started by you today. This article will tell you how.

PTA, PTO – Is it One and the Same?

Before you even think about the practicalities and process of starting a PTA or PTO, it is important to know just what the two are. Often, people use these two words interchangeably, but there is 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 that decide to join the PTA must do so by formal membership. Member PTAs must pay dues to the national organization as well as to 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

The most defining feature of Parent Teacher Organizations, on the other hand, is their operation as an independent group. PTOs are governed by the rules and regulations they themselves 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.

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 really 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-curriculars, college applications, social issues, or really anything you can think of, 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 talking about 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 what is a joint effort.

3. Networking

PTAs and PTOs are a great place 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 go a long way to providing parents, and students, with a support system.

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

Source: (PTA parent)

The Intricacies of starting your Very Own PTA or PTO

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 to get other interested parents involved. Once you have a handful of dedicated parents on board, you’re good to go. And remember, it’s the work ethic and enthusiasm that matters 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 both 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. If you are forming a PTA, you will want to look at 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 now time to move onto the organization's flesh: your ideas. Members should sit together and discuss what the future of their organization holds 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, or better physical education programs, as well as 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 be a big boost to the integrity and potential success of your PTA or PTO. This is because principals are well-versed with the functioning of their school, and 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, as well as 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 you can start on that. The first step is to get your Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the International Revenue Service (IRS). All you need to do is to fill out the EIN application, which can be found here, and you’ll be good to go.

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, whether big or small, so it is a smart decision to take out an insurance cover. Not only will this protect your organization, its funds, and its people, but it will also 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 clearly 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 make note of what went wrong and what worked.

9. PTA Registration

This step is exclusively for PTAs. To become members of a national association, you will need to get your PTA registered with the national and state PTA. This is a relatively simple step, and the national PTA will even help you get on your feet.

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

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

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

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

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