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PTO's role in school politics

10 years 8 months ago #115183 by Critter
I've seen a few posts over the years questioning the PTO's role in local school politics such as bond issues and school board elections. But it only now has come to affect our own PTO, and I had to make a decision about whether our PTO Board should make a public statement about a school election issue.

After thinking about it, I came to a pretty basic realization.

PTO Officers do not run based on a political platform. The candidates don't debate their opinions on school funding or curriculum or district issues. We don't espouse our political viewpoints. We aren't elected based on our party affiliation. The elected PTO officers don't speak for the parent community in a political sense. By and large, PTO Officers are elected because they have a passion for increasing parent involvement in their child's school, and enhancing the education experience in the mean time. And often simply because no one else would run.

In our PTO, every parent is automatically a member. No dues. How could I, as president, or our Board as an entity, speak on a contenscious issue on behalf of the PTO -- that's ALL our parents?! Of course I don't speak for all our parents, or even for a known majority who share a specific opinion on an issue. That's not how we were elected. It would be extremely pretentious for the board to take a public position on a political issue. Even for an arguably noble battle like a bond or levy vote.

I'm very comfortable turning down the administrator's request that the PTO Board take a public position based on this explanation. Maybe this perspective can help you if you're ever in a similar situation. (And this doesn't even bring in the whole 501c3 restrictions on endorsements).

[ 04-27-2006, 11:12 PM: Message edited by: Critter ]
10 years 8 months ago #115184 by CrewChief
I think you've made a sound decision. The very first policy in our bylaws state:

The PTO shall be a non-commercial, non-sectarian, non-partisan entity. No commercial enterprise and no candidate shall be endorsed in their official capacities; shall be used in any connection with a commercial concern or with any partisan interest; or for any purpose other than the regular work of the organization.

The closest we ever get to a political event is hosting a Meet the Candidates night when new school board positions open up. This is merely a service we provide that allows all voters the opportunity to meet all candidates. Each candidate gets a time to speak and then everyone stays for an informal Q&A social.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."

"The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the true perfection of one's character."
10 years 8 months ago #115185 by Clara
Well stated. This really simplifies a tricky situation. Let's just hope the admistrator agrees!
10 years 8 months ago #115186 by mykidsmom
We are coming up on school board elections this fall and I have a feeling the PTO will host a debate and election only because we are dealing with a parent run school baord. But yeah, I wouldn't touch levy issues etc with a ten foot pole. Now what will be interesting this fall is our school is no longer a district school but still a public school recieving public/state funding. I mention this because many of our parents are active attendees of the school district board meetings and can't wait to vote the current Superintendent out but now he has "no power" over us.

To know me though, I'm not political and would rather just let someonelse worry but know that isn't the smartest thing I can do.

I miss being a much less to think about.
10 years 8 months ago #115187 by Renee S
We've boe elections & a couple of renewal millages that need to be passed. My principal asked me to tell 5 people about the election and whats on the ballot. Nothing about vote yes or no, just to remind them to vote & what they will be voting on. I thought this was o.k. since I wasn't telling them how to vote. After I emailed more than 5, I asked them to pass the word on to get out and vote.
10 years 1 month ago #115188 by Massachusetts
Help!!! - our PTO is being pressured by our town's override committe to fund and endorse their "Yes" campaign. We feel strongly that our mission is to serve as a non-partisan organization for the benefit of all our members.

Our PTO Bylaws provide no specific guidelines or protection on this matter, so I'm looking for support, particularly as other town-wide PTOs have endorsed the "Yes" platform.

Does anyone have helpful precedent, 501c3 data, support or other info/data that would be useful in making the right decision for our membership. Anything with a Massachusetts focus is especially helpful.

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