School PTA and PTO Groups

Back to School: Parent-Teacher Groups, Mixed Bag Designs

What comes to mind when the word “PTA” is mentioned? Some may picture a group of local moms who gather to plan bake sales now and then, but in truth, these organizations have a huge influence on students and the education system both locally and nationally throughout the country. Parents of students in school and members of these groups can get a fresh start this back-to-school season by remembering the vision, mission, and purposes that started PTA and PTO groups. Teachers, staff, and community members can spend this back-to-school season by reviewing the mission and goals of their PTO or PTA groups, including how they handle topics like education and school fundraising.

What is a PTA or PTO group’s mission and purpose?

Parent groups exist to facilitate students in reaching their learning potential by representing them as well as providing a source of support to parents and the community. They advocate for a child’s well-being, and their education. Historically, the PTA was founded to promote the welfare of children in the home, school, and community. It sought to make the home/school relationship stronger and help parents and teachers work together. These PTA goals are still relevant today. Parent groups advocate for students and solve problems, and often end up handling the many school fundraisers that help provide educational and extracurricular activities to students.

How do parent groups run?

Generally, a PTA group elects a board and set of officers for a term of office. Officers and members work together to write and approve budgets and are recognized by the government as a tax-exempt group. Any money raised through school fundraisers belongs to the PTA and can be used only for purposes approved by its members.It is important to remember that parent groups are not just a funding resource for the school. They do not replace government funding, and they don’t work for the school. They work on behalf of the children and families.

What is the difference between a PTO and PTA group?

Schools that do not have PTA affiliations often develop separate groups like booster clubs and parent groups that end up with many of the same responsibilities as a PTA group. They are often called PTO groups, or “parent teacher organizations.” They are considered independent groups not officially linked to the state. These groups might choose this  independence for monetary reasons, or to separate themselves from the rules and regulations set forth by the national PTA. There is now a National PTO Network (NPN) that provides benefits similar to those available to PTA groups.

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