What I find especially disconcerting is that the PTA officials quoted are – at best – exaggerating and – at worst – outright misleading. Why the need for the misdirection?
The first quote is from the Virginia state PTA president and says:
"Plus, PTAs have more parent involvement than schools with PTOs because [you’re] able to learn from other schools."
There is just not a single shred of evidence that says that PTA schools have more parent involvement than PTO schools. Not one. There are tons of PTA schools with really strong involvement and tons of PTO schools with the same. The opposite is also true. If anything, we do hear stories about parents purposefully staying away at PTA schools because of issues with PTA national politics. But those are infrequent. The fundamental truth is that there is no connection between your acronym and your involvement – that involvement comes from how your group and how your school and parents operate, and that’s completely independent from any acronym. (Additional small peeve – PTOs *do* share ideas with other schools. Our magazine, for example, goes to virtually every K-8 school in the country, PTOs and PTAs, 7 times per year. Plus our website, our email newsletters, our conferences, etc.)
The second quote comes from Chuck Saylors of national PTA regarding PTA dues:
“For every $1.75 sent out the door, you get $3.75 back in resources.”
That’s a new one. Not sure how he figures that math. He’s also conveniently leaving out state dues and (which often are higher than national dues) and even county dues. It absolutely costs more than $1.75 per member for a unit to be a PTA. Nearly all of the groups who leave PTA tell us they do so because they feel they aren’t getting enough value for the dues dollars spent. The average PTA sends about $1,000 “out the door” to state and national PTA.
Finally, Mr. Saylors is correct that becoming a 501c3 costs $750 right now with the IRS. But he also fails to mention that that’s a one-time cost, whereas that $1,000 to PTA (or whatever a local’s dues total is) is annual and is due each year. That’s not a huge deal, but it’s another small example of the the angling or misdirection.
The PTA option may be right for these Virginia groups or it may not be – that’s really up to them and what they’re looking to achieve and how they’re looking to operate. I know they can do amazing work in both formats. I just think national PTA and state leaders should sell their benefits on the actual merits, rather than trying to spin groups into affiliation.
We have an entire message board on PTO v PTA with tons of good, thoughtful opinions on both sides. Glad to continue the discussion over there.