Question: Should we pay school staff salaries?

Our charter school has lost some employees because of a lack of funding. For instance, we no longer have a librarian. Can our PTO hire back school employees? We are under the guidance of the state’s financial management team, and I was told we cannot give the school funds to employ these people as we have in the past. If we hire them, our PTO will be the employer.


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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Elly feels for you and parents at your school. Financial cutbacks within a district, and their consequent staff reductions, present many challenges. The first question is whether you and other parents agree with the choices being made. Maybe an administration job was protected over the librarian’s. If you feel that choice is wrong, you have the ability to make your voice heard. A unified group of parents with an articulate argument can make a difference.

One thing you almost certainly shouldn’t do is hire someone. Pay?ing wages to an employee creates sticky business details (like payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance, to name two). There’s a reason that few parent groups take on employees—most groups are just not organized in a way that easily supports this burden.

There’s an alternative, though, and it’s something PTOs are good at: Fill the gap with volunteers. Most likely, you won’t get any individual person to do the whole job, but you can probably find a bunch of people to volunteer an hour or two each a week. Start by creating a specific set of duties so that volunteers can help even if they know nothing about the job. If necessary, contract with a librarian from another school to write procedures for you.

Then divide the job into time chunks and sound the alarm. Make sure people know that this job matters and that the children will otherwise be missing something important. Elly bets you’ll get the response you need. Your volunteers won’t be as effective as a real librarian, but they can help make the situation a lot better.

As tempting as it may be to pump money back into salaried positions, sometimes parent group ingenuity wins over any quick budgetary Band-Aid your members could offer. When you communicate the school’s specific areas of need and explain to folks how they can help your PTO help students succeed, you’ll be amazed at the positive results you can achieve. And you will feel even better knowing you didn’t spend thousands of dollars to do it.




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