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PTO vs. PTA: What's the Difference?

The vast majority of parent-teacher groups are actually independents rather than formally affiliated PTAs.

Because PTA is the only national school-parent membership organization, PTA representatives are often used as the default spokespeople for parents in education debates. In March 2009, for example, PTA CEO Byron Garrett provided testimony at a Congressional hearing on federal school lunch nutrition standards.

And National PTA maintains a high profile. The new century has seen the group spending more time (and money) than ever on national public relations efforts. A paid advertising campaign earlier this decade garnered a good deal of attention. More recently, the PTA has benefited from Ad Council support for a national print, TV, and radio parent involvement ad campaign.  Additionally, several celebrities have signed on with PTA as PTA "Ambassadors for Youth." (Well-known NASCAR driver Carl Edwards was among them, although he no longer participates.)

Interestingly, PTA membership numbers nationally have dropped since these campaigns kicked off.

At a more basic level, the group certainly provides a host of resources to affiliated groups that want to take advantage. From a carefully crafted Reflections arts campaign that PTA schools can take part in to state and national resource manuals (virtual how-to books on running a parent group) and an active website, PTA member groups are offered many benefits in exchange for group dues.

The Rise of PTOs

Obviously, the trouble for the National PTA is not evidenced in its long list of high-profile affiliations. Instead, the problem is at the local level, where groups struggle to justify the rising expense and sometimes-questionable practical benefits of belonging to the PTA.

The average local PTA forwards nearly $1,000 to its county, state, and national organizations in dues alone. Increasingly, groups are looking at those dollars in terms of what the money could buy for the local school—an extra field trip, perhaps, or maybe a new color printer for each grade. Other groups would prefer to charge no dues (not an option for PTAs), preferring instead to consider all parents automatic members of the parent group at their children's school. While PTA leaders are quick to point out that many parent group purchases should actually be part of a school budget, local parent groups—both PTAs and PTOs—often step in and provide extras for their schools when school budgets run dry. When measured in purely economic (cost-benefit) terms, local groups often ask, "Are we getting enough value for the hundreds of dollars we pay in dues?"

"Our dues are $5 per member," points out Sue Greenleaf of the Norris Road PTO in Tyngsboro, Mass. "We use that money for buses for field trips and all kinds of other things. If we had to send half our dues to the PTA, we'd have to do a lot more fundraising. For what we use the funds for, I don't see how the PTA can help us in our individual school."

That math only becomes more difficult as PTA dues increase. National PTA per-member dues increased again in the summer of 2011 to $2.25 per member, up from the $1.75 per member dues that had been in effect since 2002. States (and sometimes PTA county councils, too) also charge per-member dues, ranging from a couple of dollars all the way up to $7 per member in Oregon. 

The 21st Century PTA

While some PTAers see the membership decline as cause for concern, National PTA leaders are actually moving in a different direction. A recently completed long-term strategic plan has PTA leaders focused on maintaining a core group of parent leaders committed to the PTA agenda, according to former PTA Director of Public Relations Patty Yoxall. It's a wholesale shift from a philosophy of wanting all parent groups to associate with the PTA.

"If we get a bit more focused, people may leave us," says Yoxall. "We want people who are committed to this agenda, and if they're not, that's fine. Go be a PTO and have a nice life."

Yoxall talks of a PTA in which every member is a trained advocate for children. She speaks of a PTA down the road that is the voice for families and for children. The PTA's wide-ranging advertising campaign has been a first step in this effort. Creating a new leadership structure—through a reshuffling of its board, through the creation of a highly paid CEO position for the group, and through a broad expansion of headquarters staff and payroll—is another move aimed at repositioning the PTA as an important player with a voice in national issues. Critics say it's an expensive and risky bet on the future of the PTA.

It's here, in the debate over what the PTA voice should say, that the PTO vs. PTA argument has become most heated in recent years. The PTA takes strong public stands on some controversial issues (opposing school vouchers and supporting a gay/lesbian PTA unit, for example), and those stances have led some groups to disassociate from the PTA. Headlines in Utah—a heavily PTA state where PTA political stances have only recently come under scrutiny—have highlighted groups choosing to leave the PTA rather than support locally unpopular political stances. While the PTA says that its political role is central to its mission and has been for more than a century, many local units don't see the value.

Other critics say that the general PTA membership is unaware of the PTA's major political bent. "One of the basic problems with the PTA is that the membership is not aware of what the lobbying efforts are," says Charlene Haar, author of The Politics of the PTA, a carefully researched look into PTA past and present. The parent members who are financing the organization are unaware of the lobbying agenda at the state and national level. Most PTA policy stances are voted on at the group's annual convention each June. Typically, fewer than 1,000 PTA members—of more than 5.7 million members nationwide—are certified to vote at that convention.

Societal shifts have played a part in the changing role of the PTA. Not long ago, the PTA could rightfully claim to be the only provider of parent group resources. If you wanted information on running a group or fundraising or Robert's Rules of Order, or if you wanted materials on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or bus safety or school bullying, the PTA was a valued clearinghouse. Today, with the advent of round-the-clock communication and the spread of the Internet, that PTA role takes on far less importance. There are dozens of sites on the web focused specifically on parent involvement, fundraising, or playgrounds. Want ADD info? Why not try www.chadd.org?

PTOs No Longer Alone

Even one of the PTA's most common selling points—"A PTO is not part of a national or state organization and therefore doesn't have a network to get information from" is the common refrain on most state PTA websites—is less true today than ever before. Since the establishment in 1999 of PTO Today Inc., a company focused on providing resources and services to parent-teacher groups, all parent groups now have access to the types of services once available only to PTAs. With a print magazine, an active website, a series of training events and conferences across the country, and a host of programs and tools designed specifically to help PTO and PTA leaders, PTO Today has established itself as a valuable resource for all parent groups.

Much as PTA officials are often looked to by national media for input on parent and parent involvement issues, PTO Today has quickly assumed a similar role. PTO Today experts and PTO Today parent involvement content have appeared on national and local television and radio and in newspapers around the country, including USA Today, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Child magazine, Martha Stewart Kids, and many more.

Similarly, the company's recent partnerships with consumer marketers like Symantec, Target, Tide, Best Buy, and more have made additional resources available (for free) to all PTOs and PTAs.

The vast majority of PTO Today's services are available and used by both PTOs and PTAs alike. At one time, it was thought that groups leaving the PTA desired isolation, but the strong grassroots response to PTO Today's offerings suggests that perhaps those groups were simply looking for a different model of assistance. Where once the only practical way for a parent group to get liability insurance or to attend a parent group training event was to affiliate with the PTA, now PTO Today offers more cafeteria-style access to insurance, conferences, and more. Groups can now rather easily compare the benefits and costs of PTA affiliation to the costs and benefits or remaining independent and make their own eyes-open decision on which model works best for them.

Now, more than ever, it seems that the PTA cannot be—nor does it need to be—everything to everybody.

The Years Ahead

Moving forward, PTA critic Haar and PTA spokeswoman Yoxall actually seem to have compatible hopes for the future of the PTA. Haar works toward a day when all PTA members know what is going on. If they then choose to be members, fine. But they should at least be informed. Yoxall similarly sees a PTA that says, "Instead of 'We want all groups,' maybe 'We want the groups that buy in.' "

Despite the ever-louder talk of differences and division, two important facts remain. Nearly all K-8 schools still have active parent groups, and nearly all active parent groups work toward the same goal: strong, nurturing schools. Even PTA-affiliated parent groups, which are part of the larger "all children" philosophy, spend the vast majority of their time working to improve their single school.

"When it really comes down to it, all of the groups do the same things," notes the Massachusetts PTA's Bailey. And Haar points out that the decline in PTA rolls doesn't represent a lack of parent involvement because where there is not a PTA, there is a PTO or another parent group.

There's little doubt that the PTA will continue to play an important part in the parent group world in years to come. There's equally little doubt that its future role will be different from the one it has held in the past. National PTA membership is down nearly 7 million members from its peak in the 1960s and down nearly 1 million members in the past decade alone. With more resource options available for parent groups (and parents) today, that trend is likely to continue.

But no matter what the numbers, PTOs and PTAs are more alike than they are different. Put 1,000 PTAers in a room with 1,000 PTOers and you wouldn't be able to tell them apart (and, no, you wouldn't need to issue boxing gloves). Committed, generous volunteers are the common denominator. As long as those volunteers continue to support their schools—through a PTO, a PTA, or any other mechanism—then children, all children, will be the winners.

Add your 2 cents to the PTO vs. PTA discussion.

For the National PTA’s take on these same issues, check out their “differences” page here.

Tim Sullivan is founder and publisher of PTO Today. He writes a regular column for PTO Today magazine, offers weekly tips in the Leader Lowdown email newsletter, and shares his thoughts on the blog. You can also find Tim in the ptotoday.com Community and follow Tim on Twitter @TimPTO.

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Comments

  1. avatar

    Posted by Rose C on Nov. 24, 2013

    Hi tony,
    That's an option, but perhaps best considered only when you are sure all options to work together have been exhausted. The problem with setting up a separate group is you could end up essentially competing with each other for support and that ultimately doesn't do the parents and school community much good. We have lots of resources on the site to help resolve conflicts, working with difficult people and building support for ideas. Here are just a few:

    When Conflict Splits Your Group: http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/196-when-conflict-splits-your-group

    How to Build Support for Ideas: http://www.ptotoday.com/video/14-quick-tips/detail/215-5-tips-for-promoting-new-ideas?detail=7&buttons=1

    How To Deal with Difficult People: http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/409-how-to-deal-with-difficult-people

    Good luck!
    Rose
  2. Posted by - tony on Nov. 23, 2013

    Can a school in NYC have a PSA group and a seperate PTO group? There are obvious reasons in our situation of having a separate group. Things are not being done when they should and a few likeminded parents are willing to forge ahead and start our own pto. thank you
  3. avatar

    Posted by Rockne on Jul. 08, 2013

    Hi Amy -
    I agree with Craig on the independence, but wanted to add one thing: I hope you'll share all that you've learned with your members and let them make the call or help make the call. It's their group and their $$ as much as yours. If your members wouldn't like the idea of so much $$ heading away from your school, then that tells you something important.
    Tim
  4. avatar

    Posted by Craig on Jul. 08, 2013

    Hi Amy -- PTOs are independent, so you would be able to determine the number and types of fundraisers that are right for your school.
  5. Posted by - Amy on Jul. 07, 2013

    Our school is considering switching from a PTA to a PTO. We have about 50% participation. In looking for ways to increase this, we visited the PTA's website and found their pros of membership. We felt if we used their list for our drive, we might lose members. Especially, if members realized how much $ didn't stay in our school. We want increased parental involvement, not dues $. We view access to the PTA's programs as a pro for it. A big pro for a PTO is it may be less restrictive on fundraising activities. Our understanding of PTA rules is that we are limited to 2 fundraisers/year. We don't want more large fundraisers, but we can't do any other type-- even t-shirt sales -- unless done as part of those 2. Add'l smaller fundraisers could benefit our school in monetary and non-monetary ways. (This doesn't apply to our book drives, etc. I believe this is because they are officially done by the school and funds go to its budget.) Are we correct that a PTO is less restrictive in this area?
  6. avatar

    Posted by Rockne on May. 08, 2013

    Hi Tina - Good feedback. Glad your PTA experience went so well. I'd just caution against using only two groups (out of 80,000+) as evidence of a trend. I suspect it's more likely that you just happened onto a less organized PTO and a really well-functioning PTA. In my experience, I've seen tons of really well-running PTAs and PTOs and tons of really struggling or middling PTAs and PTOS. It's been much more about the habits and people at the local level than it's been about the acronym or affiliation.
  7. Posted by - Tina on May. 08, 2013

    (continued...)

    The PTO was run about as efficiently as my homeowners' association, also an independent 501(c)3. Things got done, but not with the same level of turnout or parental involvement as with our PTA. Our PTA was truly a well-oiled machine, in terms of fundraising for the school and sponsoring fabulous activities like school dances, an international cultural night, a spring drama/play, an annual art festival, etc. Our PTO did some activities, but quite honestly, it just felt "bush league."
  8. Posted by - Tina on May. 08, 2013

    I've been at schools that had both forms of organization. Personally, I prefer a PTA. Yes, a small portion of my dues went to the state PTA and national PTA, but the leadership training and overall professionalism of the PTA I belonged to was head-and-shoulders above that of the PTO. Both schools were in relatively affluent areas of their respective states with plenty of at-home parents to get involved.

    I think the difference really stemmed from the PTA's ability to collaborate and get ideas from other PTAs and from the state and national levels. The PTO felt much more isolated, and you had no idea what other PTOs in the area were doing unless your child happened to know a child at the other school and you asked the parent, who happened to be involved. (That's a lot of "ifs.") Our PTA president, on the other hand, was very aware of how other PTAs in the are were running, largely because she had occasion to meet with them.
  9. Posted by - Elizabeth on Sep. 28, 2012

    If the national/state figures are correct, our PTA sends about $525 to national and $225 to state. That's $750 NOT being used at my daughter's school.

    I don't want to support lobbyists, period. I don't want the PTA lobbying for movie ratings, or music ratings, or what have you. I don't want to support a political agenda, one way or the other. I *really* don't want to support a national organization, because inevitably, with such organization, donation dollars end up supporting people who make a paid career out of 'administrating'.

    I'd much rather support *my* child's school and district and keep the money at home. Yet I can't even volunteer at my child's school *unless* I join the PTA. How wrong is that??
    So, PTA has my membership, but only under duress.
  10. Posted by - Margaret on Aug. 03, 2012

    I like the idea of PTO because I don't like to give money to groups that lobby positions I don't agree with at all. I found this on both the state and national level and have stopped joining the PTA. I give the money directly to the teacher to help other kids with their needs. I like the idea that my daughter's new school will have NOT have a PTA, but instead, a PTO that we control 100% of, locally.
  11. Posted by - Jeff on Aug. 18, 2011

    WHY PTA ? It's the ONLY organization with a voice in Washington at the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT LEVEL advocating for chidlren's education.
    That's where the money is that is essential to USA's educational efforts! No other organization has representatives advocating for children's education at the National Level.

    And the National PTA does it for so little!

    Show you care for ALL children who will be your chidlren's future friends, neighbors and co-workers (And your caregivers when your old).

    If there is no local PTA for you to join: http://pta.org/jp_find_your_pta.html

    Then consider at least supporting the efforts to reach our Federal elected officials by joining the National PTA for a little over $2 a month.

    https://redirect.pta.org/ssl/natmem/
  12. avatar

    Posted by Rockne on Oct. 11, 2010

    Hi Rick -- Saw your comment. For the record, what you mention is basically what I've always said about PTA. I think that parents who both support the PTA and choose to personally make the PTA one of their causes should do that directly. In recent years, many state PTAs and the National PTA have added that direct membership as an option. From what I've seen, very few are taking that option, but I think it's good that that option is there. The $5 number really is a misnomer when it comes to a group, as parents can't choose individually when it's a group decision. For the average PTA unit it's actually about $1,000 that goes from the unit to state and national PTA. That's a good fit for some groups. And not a good fit for others. I've never heard a parent group member of any stripe say that he or she is "ashamed" of volunteering for kids and schools in any form. That certainly seems like a major reach. Tim
  13. Posted by - Rick on Oct. 11, 2010

    Well, I am ashamed! I have been an active member of my sons' elementary school PTO for six years. I understood that the reason we were a PTO was to avoid PTA membership dues. I never once stopped to consider what those dues were buying me and (more importantly) my kids.
    I feel as though I and the leadership of my kids' PTO have been short sighted here. For an additional five bucks, we can be supporting the wonderful work national PTA does in the areas of child protection and advocacy. We choose not to because $5 might discourage a few parents. I don’t believe five bucks is going to discourage any parent who would otherwise want to be a part of a PTA or PTO.
    I for one will strongly urge my school to make the change to a PTA. If that does not work out, then I will be proposing a voluntary contribution each year to the National PTA or the local Delta Council for PTA, so that we are doing our part to support the wonderful work of the National PTA organization.
  14. avatar

    Posted by Jtest01 on Jul. 21, 2010

    This was incredibly informative. Thanks!
  15. Posted by - nut4squirrel on Mar. 21, 2010

    Parents involvement in their child's learning experience is very important to maximizing that child's success. However, that involvement needs to go beyond a single organization.
  16. Posted by - Mary on Mar. 16, 2010

    I will say that after a year of being involved in our kids' elementary school's PTA, what I have seen scares me. PTA at our school seems to attract these self-proclaimed "messiah" types who verbally abuse volunteers and officers and bully them, all while pushing some agenda of their own -- or perhaps that of the principal.

    I say if the PTOs require adults to act like adults -- i.e., be respectful, civil, even agree to disagree and move on -- then that's awesome! Cliques went out in high school. We all grew up, or didn't we?

    Just because a national organization doesn't have its sticky fingers in the local school's money put there by the tax-paying PARENTS, so what.

    GO FOR IT PTO, and keep up the DECENT treatment of those that support and work hard for your efforts. Your volunteers will continue to grow in numbers.

    After all, that's part of what keeps volunteers coming back....only I don't think this Elementary School's PTA nor the school principal has that figured that out yet.
  17. Posted by - Sherry on Jan. 04, 2010

    My children attended a private school for the last 12 years where only the PTO was available, my youngest is now in a public school where a PTA is used. I personally think both are good and parents and teachers will only get out of what they are willing to put in it.

    That being said, does anyone know how often they are to be audited?
  18. Posted by - Donna Dodgen on Dec. 15, 2009

    I am shocked by the formation of PTO. I really don't understand the need of a PTO. PTA dues were only $5. $1 dollar went to national level and $1 dollar went to state. $3 was left at the school level. Without sending money to a national organization for children's rights, there will be no legislation. This is a tragedy. The National PTA was responsible for fighting for the current rating system for movies, G, PG, PG13, R. The movie industry did not do that on their own, it was the national level of parents joining together to fight a major cause for all benefit from. Only thinking of a school wanting all the money is so sad when there are larger issues for children needs. What happened to the PTA's fight for seat belts on school buses. PTA you get the best of both worlds. Major safety changes for America's kids and money for the individual school
  19. Posted by - PTO Mom on Oct. 15, 2009

    My mom was PTA president for most of my elementary and middle school years. Recently, I helped to organize a PTO at my own son's school. I agree with the folks who have said that in this country, isn't it great to have a choice? There are difference between PTO and PTA and each group can determine which is best for its own members and the school. Most importantly, these are two type of organizations that share an interest in our kids. Get off the sniping and focus on why they both exist.
  20. Posted by - Dee on Oct. 09, 2009

    As a long time PTA member at the unit, council, and state level it is amusing to see the nasty comments about one or the other. If we are all parents concerned about the future of America's youth....then there should be no argument. We should all be working for the same cause....good health and good education for our children. Many PTA's fund field trips, cultural arts, teachers luncheons, etc just as their counterparts in PTO's. We should all gang up on the parents who are not involved at all instead of sniping over whether a PTA or a PTO is "better". It depends on the needs of your school and is and should remain an independent decision based on the facts that are relevant to your building.

    Be peaceful and good role models for your children
  21. Posted by - Tim Sullivan _PTO Today on Sep. 08, 2009

    PTOs mess up school budgets by buying stuff for schools? Really?

    I'd like tp put in a request to have my personal budget messed up in that way.

    Not to mention the fact that PTOs and PTAs both make purchases for their schools. That's not a PTO or PTA thing.

    Tim
  22. Posted by - Holly on Sep. 08, 2009

    Sounds like there's more accountability with PTA. Also sounds like PTO's eventually mess up the overall school budget with their independent purchases. No real advocacy for children in that regard.
  23. Posted by - Bruce Deitrick Price on Sep. 02, 2009

    For what it's worth, Martin Gross in "The Conspiracy of Ignorance" made the PTA/PTO conflict seem to be another case where a large, national group becomes more liberal than its members; so local groups spring up to defend their own views. We see the same thing now in AARP, which is facing a revolt by its members.
  24. Posted by - Tim Sullivan _ PTO on Aug. 04, 2009

    Hi Chris -

    Thanks for the feedback. I'd say that both PTOs and PTAs are passionate about children. Thank goodness.

    Your book point -- I have no idea on the double dipping -- is a decent example, though, of a question many local units do ask: how are these dues dollars we're sending away (in this case supporting sales of that book) benefitting our local unit?

    RE: staff. I believe there was a layoff at national PTA last week. Don't know if it was the higher-salaried staffers. Suspect not.
  25. Posted by - Chris Trinity on Aug. 02, 2009

    I am passionate about child advocacy. I recently learned that National PTA have more than 5 people with less than 2 years experience in the PTA earning in excess of 100K. Where is that money coming from? The dues that PTA members pay. The CEO is a motivational speaker; so yes he has a great fan base. He has authored a book that is being promoted and sold on the PTA website that benefits him directly --- is that double-dipping off the backs of true volunteers. I would say YES! Stay with PTO--if you're passionate about children.
  26. Posted by - Lucy on Jun. 30, 2009

    As current president of our local PTA, our principal has asked me to look into changing our existing PTA into a PTO. She's had enough with our state board and wants to start ASAP. I told her I'd get all the information ready to share with our current board. PLEASE HELP US. I don't know where to start. Thanks so much!
    -Lucy
  27. Posted by - Stef on May. 07, 2009

    omg! is this for real?
  28. Posted by - Juliet in Virginia on Mar. 24, 2009

    11 years involved with PTA--local, council, district and state levels--I have always been impressed with the compassion and intensity of our volunteers.

    Our strength to influence legislation on behalf of ALL children lies in the number of members we represent.

    I am heartbroken today because my child attends a title one school with families much too strained by the economy, and PTO seems more "cost" worthy to some.

    This thinking will dissolve the PTA at a time when it is critical!! Our future: our children, ALL children and there are some things you CAN NOT put a price tag on.

    I am overwhelmed that groups of parents actually believe helping jsut their child is enough--what a small minded thought.

    In Virginia, 1.75 goes to National and .75 goes to our State. What a nominal fee to be a part of such a strong volunteer-based child advocacy group.
  29. Posted by - Riann on Mar. 09, 2009

    Denise,

    As an active member of a PTO in a low income school system, I resent that comment. As a school district, we cannot afford to have a PTA, nor do we feel that we can have the involvement necessary to maintain the PTA if it were formed. We have no dues, and donate 100% of all profits to the school. It helps out the teachers because they all get a field trip stipend. We do all the fundraising for the school as well. We are doing everything in our power to make our school better when the state has just ignored our cries for help. We couldn't pass a referendum if it were coated in chocolate and topped with whipped cream. We also have an issue with our school being largely non-english speaking. Please do not refer to us as welfare recipients. That is a broad generalization. Our PTO is made up of upstanding parents and teachers.
  30. Posted by - Tim Sullivan of PTO Today on Mar. 03, 2009

    Ummmmm, Denise. Not exactly sure how to respond to that one. Each PTO is independent. Think you may be over-analyzing things here...
  31. Posted by - denise on Feb. 26, 2009

    PTA ALL THE WAY!!! I WILL BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE THAT WILL STOP PTO BECAUSE AFTER READING ABOUT TH-IS TERRIBLE ORGANIZATION IS NOTHING BUT A WHOLE LOT OF ACORN PEOPLE WITH THE WRONG MEANING FOR SCHOOLS!!!!

    CAN YOU SAY WRONG!!!! PTO IS WRONG FOR THE SCHOOLS AND IT HAS OBAMA WRITEN ALL OVER IT!! IF YOU GET RID OF PTA I PROMISE YOU THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM WILL ONLY BE FOR THE WELFOARE RECIPIENTS!!!!!
  32. Posted by - kreem on Feb. 02, 2009

    Is PTO up and running
  33. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Jan. 26, 2009

    Hi Kelly -

    It's possible and perfectly legal, but it's not common and -- in my opinion -- not optimal.

    The one exception is that it can be wise to have the PTO up and running before you officially disband a PTA (if you're contemplating that process), as it can make transition easier (no gaps).

    Beyond that, I find that having tow differnt school-wide parent groups only confuses your parent community and needlessly creates a lot of duplicate work.

    Tim
  34. Posted by - Kelly on Jan. 26, 2009

    Is it possible that a school would have a PTO and a PTA? If so, Why?
  35. Posted by - Jacquie on Dec. 09, 2008

    Hi,

    My son goes to a Technical High School where there is limited ways for parents to get involved and help the school. I have been asked to explore the possibility of either a PTO or a PTA. I have downloaded the PTO vs PTA sheets, which appear to very helpful but my question is: Are there any PTO's out there for Secondary students - grades 9 - 12?

    Thanks!
  36. Posted by - Jennifer on Nov. 17, 2008

    Interesting. I am a new member to PTO as my first child is now in K-5. I did not even know there was a difference. However, two weeks ago our acting Superintendent came to our district wide PTO meeting. We bounced around the hot topic of class size and funding for additional teachers and consequently smaller class sizes. He really drove it home that we would have to go to the state level to get action. Petitions, Congressmen...things that in theory sound bold, passionate, and of course where the change could happen. It also sounds overwhelming and intimidating as to where to start. So it really seems that more of an effort should be there from the PTA to get the local PTO's onboard with helping to make change, lobbying for the things that will make a difference. Since the PTA has the resources and is physically situated where this change may be better heard, it would be great to have task force teams within PTO's that work with reps in the PTA's to get change moving!
  37. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden on Nov. 11, 2008

    Hi Angie - here's the link to that list - http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/705-pto-vs-pta-differences-at-a-glance
  38. Posted by - Angie on Nov. 11, 2008

    Has the pro vs. con list been made yet about PTO & PTA. If so, where can I find it. Thanks!
  39. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Nov. 03, 2008

    Hi Donna -

    One of our staffers will be emailing directly. You can also call our 800# (800-644-3561) for direct help.

    Tim
  40. Posted by - Donna on Nov. 02, 2008

    Hi, Can anyone out there tell me how to start a PTO from the ground floor? I've read all the pro's and con's for PTA etc. I'm finding insurance info, and I would also like more info on the annual 199 dollars for tools, etc. Also, do we need by laws or codes of conduct, etc? I'm floundering here with all there is to read but not really getting the basic info I need. Thanks so much for your help :)
  41. Posted by - Tim Sullivan on Oct. 30, 2008

    Ratio-wise, the data comes two ways: 1) we've worked with insurance for parent groups now for about 4 years and have seen/heard no difference whatsoever in the claims history (for bonding, for example) of PTOs v PTAs; and 2) anecdotally, simply review our blog or do your own google news search of "PTO PTA embezzle" or the like... and see what comes up.

    Mission of PTO -- that's up to your local group. Most are quite similar, but it's wholly up to you. If you don't (more correctly: your group doesn't) like it in 5 years, make the proper motions/steps to change it.

    Tim
  42. Posted by - Jill McKenzie on Oct. 30, 2008

    Where can I find these equal ratios experiencing losses data?

    Also, does a PTO have to have a mission statement, by-laws, etc.? Or is it up to the individual unit? What if I don't agree with what was put into place 5 years ago?
  43. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Oct. 27, 2008

    Hi mcke661-

    I think the financial checks-and-balances are really the same for both PTOs and PTAs -- it's very much up to the local unit to utilize and enforce those. Sadly, we see about an equal ratio of PTOs and PTAs experiencing losses (often theft) due to poor controls. It's not an A or an O issue.

    You're correct with a PTO there doesn't "have to" be any controls in place, but your member/board member concerns would really about whichever local PTO you were involved with, and it's easy enough to check that group and/or help that group get the controls in place if they are not there. Tons of PTOs have very good controls in place, just as many PTAs do.
  44. Posted by - mcke661@bellsouth.net on Oct. 27, 2008

    What auditing &/or checks and balances are there with a PTO in regards to the money? As I understand it, since each is an individual group, there does not have to be any in place.

    That makes me very nervous both as a member and a possible board member.
  45. Posted by - Tim Sullivan on Oct. 16, 2008

    Hi Marcia -

    Thanks for the feedback. My most important response is: Thanks! Your volunteer work is awesome.

    Couple of additional perspectives on what you're saying: 1) There are a lot (more than half, in my estimation) of PTA states/regions where the services are not close to what you're describing; and 2) even with you doing all that work, it remaisn fair for a particular group to decide if that work is a fit/worth it for them. If they don't use the help, then why pay for it? If they don't attend the training, then why pay for it? Etc.

    Again -- awesome that you do it. But doesn't really change the economic argument of whether it'sa fit for the local group.
  46. Posted by - Marcia on Oct. 15, 2008

    Apparently my comment was to long, so here is the rest of it;
    Our State board spends countless more hours on behalf of all our PTA boards and members. We put together training opportunities for things like; understanding district policy as well as compliance with IRS and State requirements, dealing with board transitions and conflicts, etc. (all at no additional cost outside what dues they have provided to state). Our councils usually receive .25-.30 for every member and yes the state gets $1 for each member of which a large portion comes back to our region to put on our Programs like reflections (which take up the biggest portion of our budget), Awards, Battle of the Bands, etc.
    In my humble opinion, If our time is worth anything, then I think they get a pretty big BANG for their buck.
  47. Posted by - Marcia on Oct. 15, 2008

    Hi All,
    I've been researching this PTA vs PTO thing for 7 years now. I understand the logic behind what Tim is saying. I think if we are for all children, not just our own or our schools, it doesn't matter the name. Having said that however, I just want to tell you what I've been doing in PTA for the past 7 years working in the Council and Region part of PTA.
    I and my 2 associate Dir. are over 79 schools that are PTA/PTSA. I spend upwards of 15-20 hours per week, sometimes more, working one-on-one with local units to solve almost every kind of conflict that arises, helping them with 501c3, school district, and organizational issues. I know my colleagues around our state do the same. I've even gone out to schools and helped set up nominating committees, and worked with principals to get these boards back up and running by making countless phone calls in that school's behalf.
  48. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Oct. 02, 2008

    Hi Alison -

    Quick point. You say: "As for the cliquiness, having a specific name usually doesn't matter, it's the people that were in that group that make the difference."

    I say: exactly!!!! That's the point we've been making -- and which PTA folks often object to so vehemently -- for 10 years.
  49. Posted by - Alison on Oct. 02, 2008

    PTA pres-

    I am confused on why you feel it would be easier to do all you do with the PTO name instead of the PTA name. If you went with PTO, wouldn't you have the same issues? It sounds like you need to take a few of your members and delegate out the responsibilities. Coming from PTA, you should know how to do that. Any organization should know how to do that. As for the cliquiness, having a specific name usually doesn't matter, it's the people that were in that group that make the difference. I turned our PTA around from being a "rich parent clique" to a "family involved, for the students parent group" that everyone is involved in. Good luck to you.
  50. Posted by - PTA pres on Oct. 01, 2008

    Coming from a current PTA President of our local unit and also the Membership coordinator, I have to say I am still a little confused. I not only have to recruit the members for our unit but also as the President find a purpose for them to even be here. It would be much easier to do this as a PTO (or any name other than PTA). The PTA has aquired such a CLIQUEY (?sp) name tag that I myself am even annoyed with the process.
  51. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Sep. 23, 2008

    Hi Eliseo -- The most common names for school parent groups are Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and Home and School Association (HSA). There are lots of other names and acronyms, but the bottom line is they all do the same thing—help create the kind of school environment where teachers and students can do their best work. -- Craig
  52. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Sep. 20, 2008

    Huh? The $40-$100 more is because the insurance company -- at this point -- charges more for the PTO group policy than many state PTAs get for theirs. It's not in our pocket. The reason for that is that -- until PTO Today popped up to help -- there was no PTO group policy, and therefore the "claims history" for the PTO group is very limited.

    I think you're looking for some vast, for-profit conspiracy here, when the fact is our presence has brought rates down (way down for PTOs and I'd argue somewhat down for PTAs).

    Are you suggesting that our offering cafeteria-style options at a variety of pricepoints is *bad* for groups? If yes, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that. I think that flexibilty and freedom is one of the things that groups like best about PTO Today.
  53. Posted by - Debra on Sep. 20, 2008

    Tim,
    I'd certainly like you to describe what your officer's receive for the $40-$100 and why units must choose "options," when in fact they may or may not understand what is specifically necessary to protect their respective units and homes (especially in the case of brand new officers). In such a litigious society, and in your own words (units are looking to get the most value for the dues), it would seem the extra $100 is worth the $1,000,000 in coverage PTA offers. Additionally, PTA doesn't offer a regular and "plus" membership. I get the feeling they regard everyone as equally important and that it's unnecessary to offer Multi-Level type marketing to target specific groups.
  54. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Sep. 19, 2008

    Hi Nan -

    The $1,000 number is an average that's really never been in dispute. There are roughly 5.3 million PTA members in roughly 22,000 units, which is about 240 members per unit. Multiply that by average national, state, and council dues... and it's up over $1,000 in dues.

    Sounds like it's much different math for you guys, which is great fro you. I don't disagree at all.

    RE: insurance. while it's comon for PTA rates to be a bit lower, I've never seen a case where the difference was as large as you've described for the same coverages. Are you talking about the PTO rates for PTO Today Plus members? Typically, that difference is more like $40-$100 depending on how many converages are selected.

    Tim
  55. Posted by - Nan on Sep. 19, 2008

    I'm not sure where PTO is getting the $1,000 per year figure. Our PTA has 48 members and paid $180 in membership and $200 a year for PTA group-rate insurance. If we were a PTO we'd be paying $199 to join and more than $600 for insurance. It wouldn't make any sense for us to switch.
  56. Posted by - Kacey on Sep. 15, 2008

    As a former PTA member/president. And now my kids attend a brand new school, where the parents have a choice to either form PTA or PTO. I have concluded that from the dollars and cents point PTO is better. But if you never lead and non for profit, nor do you know what an EIN is or how to get one. Then PTA is much better because they do all of that for you, and they provide training on how to deal with those irate parents or how to organize a fund raiser. PTA will also send out a team of people to your school and help you recuit parents and teachers. In other words you get what you pay for.
  57. Posted by - Eliseo Ortiz on Sep. 15, 2008

    What does PTO stand for?
  58. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on Aug. 24, 2008

    Hi Penny -

    Defintely a good site to go to to check out the PTA. One quibble, however: while the PTA does provide resources, it's not correct to characterize them as "free". The average unit spends more than $1000 in dues in order to be a PTA. And even after that, a good number of the PTA's resources have additional costs associated with them (convention, Schools of Excellence certification, more...). Worth mentioning...
  59. Posted by - Penny Manke on Aug. 23, 2008

    To see the difference between PTA and PTQ just go to pta.org. You will see all the free resources for your PTA. Also, the PTA advocates for all children and public schools on a local, state and federal level. There is always someone to turn to for help at the state, national and local levels. PTA provides you with the leadership and structure needed to sustain your group. PTA's are autonomous and usually covered as a 501c3 non profit organization by the National PTA. Check it out for yourself at pta.org.
  60. Posted by - Sue M. on Aug. 15, 2008

    Please do not allow yourself to get caught up in the fact that PTO Today is a "for-profit" company. Quite frankly, everyone is in the business to stay in business. The services and tools they provide at a one time $199 annual fee are amazing.

    Traditionally, non-profit businesses operate solely off of donations. Do I need to remind you that the National PTA (not to mention what the state takes) receives $1.75 of every membership a PTA has? I'd rather spend $200 a year and get what I know our school wants or needs vs. paying multiple times that and getting a cookie cutter version of what everyone does.

    One significant benefit to going the PTO route is you able to personalize the group's plan for your school and your students. And all of the money you raise via memberships stays right in your own bank account!
  61. Posted by - Anna on Jun. 25, 2008

    It would also be helpful to see the pros and cons of a Foundation. More and more schools now have Foundations or have both a Foundation and a PTO or PTA. Does a PTO need a Foundation if they want to raise money?
  62. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on May. 29, 2008

    I'm still not exactly sure what you are trying to imply. Yes, PTO Today is a (hopefully -- 4 kids and college on the horizon) for-profit company. Just as the company which makes the desks at your school is and the company that sells the textbooks and the company that makes the buses, and Scholastic and Apple Computer....

    The good news -- all of our resources are available equally to both PTOs and PTAs. Thousands and thousands of PTAs use our many tools and services, which is awesome.
  63. Posted by - Kelly on May. 29, 2008

    Mr. Sullivan, thank you for your clarification. Again, I commend you for taking an opportunity and running with it. Again, the reality is both organizations are beneficial for youth. I don't see why one would promote the seperation, especially when the big picture isn't actually being shared. You are a for profit , private organization the PTA is not.
  64. Posted by - Tim Sullivan on May. 29, 2008

    Ummm... Kelly, I think you may be looking for ghosts where they aren't. No intent to mislead -- your comment wasn't actually posted to this article. It was posted here: http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/465-just-say-no-to-dues ... and that's where I responded.

    Just to clarify, PTO Today's resources are by-and-large free to PTOs and PTAs. Nearly all (95%) of our resources are supported by advertising, not PTO or PTA dollars.
  65. Posted by - Kelly on May. 28, 2008

    I find it quite odd that I posted a message yesterday, which is now not viewable. The message pointed out the fact that a PTA is non profit, membership dues is spent on developing tools and programs for youth which are then distributed to individual groups at no cost.

    PTO Today on the other hand is one of the fastest growing private businesses in the US, hence the monies collected selling software and services is resulting in profits for a private business.

    I asked for clarification as to whether or not my research was correct. I also stated both PTO's and PTA's are worth the investment, I just wish it wasn't the intent to mislead the volunteering parents about the real truth behind the issue. I do realize it is an individual groups decision to purchase the tools.

    The art of marketing is a wonderful plan.
  66. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on May. 23, 2008

    Hi Brandi - I just checked in with our editorial folks and the pro/con list is in the works but won't be ready for a few weeks.

    Have you checked out the PTO v PTA FAQ? Could be a good handout for your meeting - http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/480-pto-vs-pta-faqs

    This discussion thread is also good - http://www.ptotoday.com/boards/pto-v-pta/11718-how-switch-pta-pto.html
  67. Posted by - brandi on May. 23, 2008

    Did anyone every get a pro vs con list? Our school is thinking about switching to a PTO. We tried this past year to get someone from PTA to come and do a class for us but could not get anyone to come down and thr group is tired of paying the dues and not getting any help like this. I would love to get a copy of the pro vs con list to present at our next meeting. Thanks.
  68. Posted by - Tim Sullivan from PTO Today on May. 02, 2008

    Sure -- you can start a special education PTO. Definitely happens. On the organizational side, no difference between a SEPTO and a PTO. Both can be and are independent. All about your goals and which model works for you.
  69. Posted by - Samantha on May. 01, 2008

    Our parents group is unsure about PTO vs. PTA. We are trying to start a Special Needs parent group but don't want to do a SEPTA just because our town is traditionally PTA. Are there Special Education PTO's out there?
  70. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on Apr. 17, 2008

    Glad the article helped with your decision Tricia. Have you also read our FAQs and message boards on this?

    Our PTO v PTA FAQs: http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/480-pto-vs-pta-faqs

    Our PTO v PTA Message Board: http://www.ptotoday.com/boards/pto-v-pta/

    If you have further questions or if we can be of help, definitely contact us at customercare@ptotoday or 800-644-3561 ext. 208.

    One key note: more than 75% of the K-8 parent-teacher groups in the country are actually independent PTOs, so the change you're considering is fairly common.
  71. Posted by - Tricia Painter on Apr. 17, 2008

    Our PTA was considering changing to a PTO and this article was what we needed to make that decision. Now how do we make that change?
  72. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on Mar. 13, 2008

    Good suggestions on the pro/con list. Our editorial team is looking at putting something like this together.
  73. Posted by - Tia B on Mar. 11, 2008

    I would also like a pro-con list. We have been issued a mandate by administration that we must join PTA, and I need points to debate the issue.
  74. Posted by - Dayna on Mar. 10, 2008

    I sure would like to see an actual pro vs con list. I want to take a simple list to our next board meeting.
  75. Posted by - S. Rickert on Feb. 18, 2008

    The decline of National Organizations like the PTA has had a profound effect on the formulation of policy. It has allowed an increase in centralization of decision making which takes power away from the people and concentrates it in an increasing oligarchical political system. If the PTO and the PTA do the same thing at the local level how can you deny that an orgainzation that pushes beyond the confines of 'your back yard' to look closely at the policies formulated in the state capital and the national capital has additional value. Most troubling is the formulation of a 'national organization' that attempts to claim voice for those local groups based not on the association of individuals into groups, but based on their management of lists and donor solicitations.

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