Washington State PTA (WSPTA) recommends that PTAs do not pay costs for staff during the school day. Whether a PTA does so, however, is a local decision made by the board of directors and members of that local PTA. There are many relevant factors involved; the information here is presented to address these factors and to provide the information needed to help boards make well-informed decisions.
This activity is not part of WSPTA’s standard or vetted language for IRS applications; therefore, most PTAs have not included this activity in their application to the IRS. When a PTA is chartered, a form is filed with the IRS that states in detail everything the PTA intends to do (IRS Form 1023.) The IRS grants nonprofit status based on this application. If a PTA wants to change or add to their approved activities, it would be necessary to amend that form with the IRS. Washington State PTA cannot speak to whether these changes would be approved. New PTAs in the process of filing for their nonprofit status should be aware that any such language added to their application for nonprofit status is not vetted by WSPTA, and results are not guaranteed. Adding this language could potentially delay a 501 c 3 application.
Many school districts do not allow PTAs to pay for staff. Others have guidelines or policies in place related to this. PTAs should be fully aware of district policies around providing funds to be used for staff costs.
Why does WSPTA recommend that PTAs do not pay for school staff? There are several reasons – many of which are included in WSPTA Resolution 4.13, Subsidizing Certificated and Classified Staff Salaries. While this resolution does not prohibit a PTA from any action, it is worth considering the impact of PTA action on every child, in keeping with the mission and vision of PTA.
There are other issues that may arise when PTAs pay for school staff. PTAs often want to pay for school staff when a favorite teacher is being let go due to a lack of funding. Funding the continued full-time employment of a specific teacher would be considered “personal benefit” by the IRS. However, (if this activity were allowed by the PTA’s IRS Form 1023) the PTA could grant funds to keep the number of full-time teachers in a school at 35, rather than 34. They would have no say about who that teacher is, or any other aspects of that individual’s employment, however.
PTAs who have contributed funds to supplement staff costs often feel ownership of “their” teacher or staff member, and object when that teacher is transferred to another school or the employment status of that teacher is altered in any way. Granting funds for staff costs does not give the PTA a voice in matters of employment that exist between the employee, the school, and the district.
PTA’s governance structure presents some unique challenges. One board may not commit funding for future boards. Volunteer resources are not constant. School populations may shift, or boundaries may change. Fundraising may fall short. The resources that a PTA has today are not guaranteed to them in the future. (Many PTAs have seen their fundraising ability shift dramatically with a district boundary change, or with the onset of a recession.) Staff funding cannot be guaranteed year over year. While it may seem worthwhile to have an additional staff member, even if it’s only for a year, consider that from the perspective of the staff member, whose employment is far from secure.
Finally, there is a potential impact on the PTA association and the board of directors to consider as well. PTAs who have provided funds to pay for staff have been named in wrongful termination lawsuits when future boards cut funding and staff was let go. PTAs may not have fully vetted grant policies or insurance to protect them in these instances.
Whether a PTA pays for staff is a complicated question; if your PTA would like more guidance or information about this important decision, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.