Question: PTO Money Raised. Can my school district claim/control the money we raise?

We have a new administration and cabinet in place in our school district. Recently, all PTO/Booster Presidents were notified, through the Principals, that the district wants control of the money we raise and we no longer have control of how that money is disbursed within our school. They want control of all PTO money raised so they can disburse the money to other school in the district that might not be as successful as ours. They also state that they need to comply with Title IX, which I believe our organization already does. FANS (Furthering Academics 'N' Sports, is registered with our state, as a not-for-profit organization and up until recently, we had control of the money we raise, which by the way, ALL goes back to the school. Does my district have the legal right to take control of the PTO/Booster money and disburse it how they see fit? Any thoughts or recommendations would be valuable. Thanks.

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
You're not alone, although this is the first time I've heard Title IX used as an excuse. School districts usually have two issues they're trying to address with these policies: 1. There have been lots and lots of thefts from parent groups across the country, unfortunately, almost always because of poor financial controls -- the most significant being that nobody besides the treasurer (or president) looks at the bank statement every month. As a result, some districts want to control PTO bookkeeping. But a lot more want to control the money itself. 2. The other issue is fairness between schools. If in the same district one school doesn't have enough text books and another is supplying every child with a laptop and putting state-of-the art teaching tools in every classroom -- all because the PTO is able to raise that much money -- it's a problem for the district.

The problem with the policy your district is putting in place is that it will simply discourage groups from fundraising at all. If you can't see the results of your own fundraising, you're not likely to work as hard at it. And if parents don't think the money they give will directly help their own children, they're less likely to give. Your best strategy might be to get all of the PTO leaders in town together, explain the issues to the district and perhaps the school board, and demonstrate that you have strong financial controls in place. (See 5 Smart Financial Controls.)

If you are unable to overcome this policy, it probably makes sense to dial down your fundraising and concentrate more strongly on building involvement -- use volunteer power rather than cash to strengthen your school. Continue to hold events, but charge a small amount to cover costs. Good luck, and I hope you're able to fight back. Please keep us informed of how things go.

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