Basic policies govern the activities of all PTAs
These policies ensure a unity of purpose through the members’ commitment to the Purposes of the PTA and help protect the association and its members from exploitation. In addition, National PTA and California State PTA are tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As such, they maintain strict adherence to its requirements in order to retain that exemption.
Noncommercial, Nonsectarian and Nonpartisan
The PTA is a noncommercial, nonsectarian and nonpartisan organization. These basic policies must be part of every PTA’s bylaws:
- Noncommercial — All PTA bylaws, whether unit, council, district state or national require the association to be noncommercial. This noncommercial policy also means that the name “PTA” — which is a registered service mark — or the names of its officers shall not be used in conjunction with the commercial activities of other organizations including, but not limited to, the promotion of their goods and services. This policy should be applied with judgment, discretion and common sense, recognizing that it is not meant to prohibit all contact or cooperation with such groups. Before accepting donations of goods or services, a PTA organization, at any level, should consider whether such acceptance might be construed as an endorsement of the provider.
- Nonsectarian — The National PTA and its unit, council, district and States PTAs welcome into membership people representing a diversity of cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs. Creed, color, race and economic status are irrelevant to qualification for membership. PTA should be hospitable to all – supporting no one religion over another and according each faith equal respect and consideration. The Purposes of the PTA acknowledge the importance of spiritual faith in the development of children and youth. As a private association, PTA has the right to offer inspirational messages to open or close its meetings; however, such messages by PTA leaders should be inspirational rather than sectarian, recognizing that in this pluralistic nation, not all members share the same beliefs. Poetry, quotations from great men and women, uplifting anecdotes, and moments of quiet meditation can serve to focus concern for and dedication to improving the lives of children and youth. PTA leaders should be well aware of their school district’s policy regarding celebration of religious holidays and should work closely with school administrators to observe whatever guidelines have been established.
- Nonpartisan — Any use of the California State PTA name for legislative or electoral activity requires prior authorization from the California State PTA. No activity engaged in by any unit, council or district PTA should suggest or imply the support of the National PTA or California State PTA. One of the Purposes of the PTA is “to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth.” It is by educating its members – and, through them, the general public — on the impact of issues affecting children and youth, that PTAs can best influence the course of action of those who make policy decisions, thereby achieving the Purposes of the PTA. PTA units may be involved in legislative activities by supporting or opposing local issues that affect children or services to children in their respective communities, and unit, council and district PTAs are encouraged to promote adopted California State PTA positions and may be requested to actively support them. While unit, council and district PTAs are not required to work actively for any position, they should not officially oppose a stand taken by the State Board of Managers. Unit, council and district PTAs need not vote to affirm a California State PTA position in order to take action. Expressed membership disapproval of a position on legislation should be communicated to the California State PTA Board of Managers through regular channels, with a report of the extent of – and reasons for the disapproval. To retain tax-exempt status and continue to receive tax-deductible contributions, those PTAs that are recognized as being tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3) may not (1) devote more than an insubstantial part of their activities to influence legislation (generally interpreted as not exceeding five percent of total expenditures); (2) participate in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for national, state, or local public office. A unit’s failure to comply with these restrictions may endanger council, district, State and National PTAs IRC 501(c)(3) status. Legislative activities must not exceed the limitations placed upon the California State PTA and its units under the federal tax laws. In order to ensure that the limitations are not exceeded, records should be kept with respect to the amount of time, money, and volunteer activity such efforts involve. PTA must never support or oppose political parties or candidates, including those running for school boards on nonpartisan slates. However, PTA may adopt a position expressing its support for or opposition to issues dealing with the health, safety, education or general well-being of children and youth, but only to the extent permissible with respect to the requirements of each PTA’s tax-exempt status. Nothing in the law or in PTA bylaws prohibits members as individuals from exercising their civic responsibilities in personal and partisan ways, including running for offices themselves.