Question: PTO as an employer

Our PTO historically employs an independent contractor for our music program. Recently, the District told the PTO they are prohibited from employing this instructor because she is not credentialed. The parents are very upset! Here's the catch... the District will allow the PTO to hand over our hard earned PTO money so they can employ her for less pay and reclassify her job (she would perform the same job with a weird title attached.) Can a PTO act as an employer? Our PTO has its own Tax ID Number and is a 501. I see no legal reason why our PTO cannot employ an uncredentialed teacher. With budget cuts looming, we may need to fund additional positions too, but the PTO Board does not want to hand money over to the district.

Asked by Curious George



Advice from PTO Today

Rockne writes:
Hi Curious -- Can PTOs be employers? Yes. That's the simple answer to your question. But the reality is much more nuanced. Your district certainly has a say in how its music program is run. You don't have to give the district $$, but they can say how they want to manage their music program and staff for same. Additionally, I'd add that being an employer has its own complications that most PTOs don't want or aren't prepared to handle. You call the teacher a contractor, but is that your word? Does the IRS definition agree with you? If the IRS feels the teacher is actually an employee (as opposed to a contractor), they expect things like tax witholding and worker's comp insurance. Like many situations, this is one where communication and collaboration is basically required. What are district worries? What are yours? How can you work together? Tim

Community Advice

Curious George writes:
Thanks Tim. We do have a professional accountant keeping records for our PTO (we are blessed!) The District worries are complex and there is much turmoil so we try to keep things simple. As they say, good fences make good neighbors until the neighbors resolve their differences. We utilize this strategy whenever possible to prevent conflict. In school utopia, we'd be stitting over coffee working as a team. Sadly, it doesn't work that way here. That being said, it is our ultimate GOAL to reach a mutualistic and harmonious relationship between the District and the PTO. Baby steps until then. Hmmm, I think the "contractor" term applies to a one time service. We hadn't given that much thought. That is an interesting point which requires investigation on our part. Thank you so much for the advice!

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