As school gets back in swing, you might be wondering, should I join PTA? It’s that time of year again, when your child is joining all these school clubs and you keep getting these requests to join PTA. Is it going to be like the PTA in the 2016 Bad Moms movie? Is Christina Applegate the PTA President? Good golly, I hope not! I have been a member of PTA “on and off” over the past 15 years, and I never saw such craziness as in that movie. Yikes…that shows you how old I am! Oh well, my goal is to help you figure out what’s right for you, not to keep my age from you. Anyways, I guess we should start with some PTA basics.
What does PTA / PTSA Stand for?
If you are not familiar with PTA, it might help to have some background. PTA stands for Parent Teacher Association and PTSA stands for Parent Teacher Student Association. In my experience, PTA was in elementary and middle school, and then it changes to PTSA in high school. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to mainly focus on PTA not PTSA, they are basically the same except for the fact that students can join a PTSA. PTA is a non-profit organization run by volunteer parents and some staff at the school. As you probably figured, each school’s PTA membership is also made up of parents and school staff. In my experience, there has always been a PTA Board with a president, treasurer, secretary, and all of the other necessary board positions, and then there is the General Membership. The Board basically makes all of the decisions, some of which must be approved by the General Membership.
What is the Purpose of PTA?
To help you understand what PTA does, it helps to know that the purpose of PTA is to support the school and the students in various ways. Some of the programs that a PTA might provide are:
- School Supply Packs – Provides a lower cost, a one-stop shop to purchase all of the school supplies for your student
- Reflections Art Contest – Coordinates a school art contest where students can submit works of art in dance, film, photography, literature, visual arts, etc…
- Book Fairs – Manages on-campus temporary book store to promote reading for all the students
- School Festivals/Parades – Organizes a festival/parade of some sort with games and fun activities for the students
- Room Parents (Elementary) – Help teachers with parties and communication to parents
- Fundraising – Last but not least, coordinates a fundraising event to raise money for a school need
Of course, this is not a complete list of the things a PTA can do for a school. However, these are some of the central programs I have seen over the years. If you are interested in helping the school with some of the above projects, that might help you answer “Should I Join PTA?”.
If you are interested in the history of PTA, visit www.pta.org, where you can find all sorts of information about the national organization. Yes, there is a national PTA, state PTA and then a school district PTA Council. As you can imagine, the school PTAs roll up into the district PTA council, then the school district councils roll up into the state, and lastly state PTAs roll up to the national organization. Each school PTA Board typically has a district council representative that finds out district-level initiatives. Most, if not all states, have their own PTA website, for instance, Texas PTA is www.TexasPTA.org, Minnesota PTA is www.mnpta.org. And then, of course, your school district likely has its own council PTA website. These councils often times have training for some of the school-level PTA board positions.
How Does PTA Benefit the School?
In my opinion, there are two key benefits.
- PTA creates a vehicle in which the parents and the staff work together to benefit the students.
- Many PTA-sponsored events have a fundraising component, and that money helps buy items the school needs to provide a better environment for the students.
I was treasurer and president of an elementary school PTA, and I saw first-hand these two benefits. While on the Board, I developed a new respect for the school teachers and administration. It helped me as a parent, understand the issues they deal with from year to year, and I truly believe the school staff learns more about what concerns parents have each year. While there are typically one or two main fundraising events, the other events and even parents becoming PTA members help raise money. These events help fulfill a need that the school (and students) would otherwise have to do without. During my time as treasurer and president, our PTA provided thousands of dollars of PE equipment, and we funded the building of a shade cover over the playground. It was so satisfying to know we provided the students with new jump ropes, balls, hula hoops for PE and provided them a shaded area during recess. We live in Texas, so the shade cover was very beneficial during the warmer months.
Should I Join PTA?
Now we get down to brass tacks, so to speak. Now you know the basic ins and outs of a PTA, do you really need to join? I would say, in almost all cases, a resounding YES. Why? Maybe you have a demanding job and have no time for PTA stuff. I totally get that, but…you can absolutely join and not volunteer to do a single thing. When you join PTA, you will be more likely to be informed on what’s going on in the school and in your child’s class. Or you might find a little something that you can help with on occasion. I believe my kids benefited every year that I was a member of PTA. Even if it was a year that I wasn’t on the Board, the fact that I just got the PTA newsletter was beneficial because I knew what was happening at the school and helped my kids not miss out.
If PTA doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, but you still want to donate your time check out “Where Should I Volunteer?“