The PTA Difference

PTA logo
Given the longevity and universal name recognition of our organization, it’s easy to understand how “PTA” is commonly used to describe all parent groups, whether or not they are actually affiliated with PTA. Parents, teachers, and even administrators are frequently confused or even unaware of the differences between PTA and other parent organizations. This document has been prepared to help you, the PTA leader, explain what truly differentiates PTA from all other parent groups and to dispel some of the myths that have circulated about our organization.

Defining the difference

  • PTA is the nation’s original parent group in schools, supporting and encouraging millions of parents to get involved in their children’s education. We are the nation’s premier resource for parent involvement.
  • PTA is a national, grassroots, not-for-profit organization; neither the organization nor its leaders make any profit or receive any financial benefit from PTA activities.
  • PTA is composed of nearly 6 million volunteers in 23,000 local units. These units are supported by a national and state system that provides them with information, resources, and training.
  • PTA is run by volunteers and led by volunteers, and we are accountable to our members, parents, and schools. We give parents what they want—a way to help their children succeed.

All parent groups are not the same

  • Although all parent groups have a local component—a way for passionate, dedicated parents to get involved in K–12 schools—many of the other groups focus solely on fundraising.
  • Some parent organizations are actually owned and operated by a privately held for-profit business, making these organizations driven more by profits than by children.
  • Fundraising for items not covered by school budgets is an important component for school groups, but we know that parents are interested and concerned about other school issues as well. In contrast to other parent groups, PTAs have a broader role to play, beyond fundraising, in the education of children.
  • Parents who are knowledgeable on the issues that affect schools and student achievement can more effectively participate in local and district school decisions, and can speak up that our legislators need to allocate more funds for public schools.
  • We at PTA know that advocacy works. If our members choose to get involved by working on issues that affect their children and schools, members receive the information and training they need to work effectively at the local, state, and national levels for school funding, school construction, school safety, high-quality teachers, high nutrition standards in school lunch programs, after-school programs, and more. These efforts benefit all children, including those whose parents are members of non-PTA parent groups.
  • PTA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Other independent parent groups must either complete a complicated process to file for tax-exempt status on their own or file taxes on all revenues received.

PTA membership is open to everyone

  • PTA is an inclusive organization that is open to all adults who care about children and schools.
  • We have learned that the main thing that parents want from schools is to help their children succeed academically, emotionally, and personally. PTA builds bridges between homes and schools. When a parent gets involved with PTA, the child who benefits most is his or her own.
  • We reach out to diverse communities to allow parents to more fully integrate their children into the life of a school. We actively invite all parents to be involved in their children’s education through participation in PTA. We work hard to bring mothers, fathers, teachers, school administrators, grandparents, mentors, foster parents, other caregivers, and community leaders into the organization.

Local PTAs make their own decisions

  • Each of the 23,000 local units selects the programs and activities that it will undertake to address the needs of its local school and children. While National PTA creates many successful programs for local units to use, there are no PTA-mandated programs.
  • State PTAs and National PTA provide support to help local PTAs succeed. For example, when working on local issues such as making a street intersection safer, upgrading school water taps to remove the threat of lead contamination, enhancing reading standards, and other school or district concerns, National PTA is a welcome resource. In most cases, we have probably seen the same challenges elsewhere in the country. We therefore can advise local PTAs on the best practices observed, issues surrounding the problem, and the outcome, and provide them contact information for additional details.

MN PTA Defining the Difference