Sometimes your PTA runs into an issue that no one has seen before or knows how to handle. You’ve checked your bylaws, but they don’t seem to address the issue directly. Your next step should be to turn to your PTA’s standing rules.

Standing rules are your PTA’s administrative and operational rules. If your PTA was an appliance, your bylaws would be the assembly and installation guide, while your standing rules would be the operator’s manual. Standing rules are often guided by bylaws, but are not appropriate for the bylaws. For example, your bylaws have the following in Article IV—Basic Polices:

“No part of the net earnings of the association shall inure to the benefit of or be distributable to its members, directors, trustees, officers, or other private individuals except that the association shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in the ARTICLE—PURPOSES as contained herein.”

This basic policy is required by the IRS and basically means that PTA members and officers cannot be paid their work for the PTA unless it is reimbursement for a purchase for the PTA. However, this also means that when a student, teacher, parent, or PTA member becomes seriously ill or passes away or a school family loses their home to a fire, the PTA should not make a monetary donation to the family (though they are often asked to do so). Your PTA can develop a standing rule to cover this situation, perhaps making a donation of books to the library in the deceased’s memory. This meets the PTA’s legal requirements, serves all of the children of the school, and recognizes the loss.

Other areas where your PTA may find standing rules to be helpful include:

  • Procedures for gifts to staff members who are retiring or who make a presentation to the PTA a no charge. Be sure to check your school district’s policies as well.
  • Guidelines for presenting Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund awards to PTA members and paying for meals at Founder’s Day events or district or region annual meetings.
  • Rules for how the PTA will choose delegates for district or region annual meetings, the Illinois PTA convention, or the National PTA convention.
  • Guidelines for committee chairpersons on developing plans of work, getting approval for activities, and submitting annual reports.

Because PTAs and PTA Councils are community-wide associations, they are often put in situations where the bylaws don’t provide specific guidance and legal issues may be a concern. Consequently, it is best to develop standing rules before a situation arises so that matters are handled consistently, legally, and in a way that won’t create a precedent that may cause future conflict. And if you do come across a situation that would have been helped with a standing rule that your PTA doesn’t have, be sure to take the time to create one to help guide your PTA in the future.

Create a committee to look at possible standing rules, and then bring forward the suggestions to the membership. Unlike bylaws, standing rules do not require 30 days’ notice prior to taking action on them. In addition, standing rules can be suspended by a vote of the membership, while bylaws cannot be suspended in any circumstance. For more information or help in developing standing rules, contact your Illinois PTA district or region director.