Question: Charter school not allowed to have a PTO?

I was told by our principal that our charter school could not start a PTO or name it a PTO. What, if any, are the reasons a nonprofit charter school could not have a PTO alliance as a parent group? Please help—we are at a standstill and parents are at a loss.

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Elly isn’t sure why your principal says that your charter school cannot have a PTO; Elly knows many charter school parent groups that are PTOs. (These days, in fact, more than 75 percent of K-8 parent-teacher organizations are independent parent groups.) Perhaps there is a stipulation in your school’s charter or bylaws? Elly says check with your principal to clarify why that might be the case at your school.

It’s possible that your principal is mistaken or confused about PTOs in general, so it might help to educate her about them. In short, “PTO” is a general acronym for the many groups (PTOs, PCCs, HSAs, etc.) that choose to remain independent from the National PTA. PTOs are allowed to write their own bylaws and can choose whether to charge membership dues. Groups that do charge dues are not required to pay fees to any governing body; they keep all funds raised.

You can get more information about PTOs, including how to start one, on the PTO vs. PTA page on (You can also slip a copy of PTO Today magazine into your principal’s inbox at school; she’ll find lots more about how the nation’s best parent groups are helping their schools.)

In truth, though, Elly says it doesn’t matter what your group’s acronym is. So long as you make involvement your number one priority, you’ll always be on the right track.

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