Can your PTO or PTA give free admission to an event to a family in need? Or buy a coat for a student without one?
The short answer is yes, you can do that kind of work if your group decides that’s where it wants to spend its dollars, especially if the amounts are fairly nominal.
If your group’s mission is something along the lines of making your school a great place or serving the kids or growing community at your school, then you can certainly make an argument that serving the less-well-off at your school and ensuring that those students and families can thrive and participate would fit your mission.
The question then becomes: Should you? And that really should be decided openly at the group level. There are lots of ways to spend your dollars and focus your attention. Is this right for your group?
Personally, I hope that nearly all of your school events are free so that admission passes aren’t necessary for any family. As far as the free coat or the financial support, it’s certainly noble, and dedicating a percentage of your budget to helping the less fortunate can be a great lesson for all. If you do go that route, my advice is to work through a school staff member or a local agency. Keep the PTO itself out of the business of determining who is or is not in need.
I’d love to hear how your group handles this question and whether you use some of your funds to help less fortunate school families. We have a thread going on our message boards and another over on our Facebook page about this topic. You might also be interested in this column about defining the role of a PTO.