Today, September 28th, is Ask a Stupid Question Day. The day was created in the 1980s by teachers to encourage students to ask more questions in the classroom. But as the day is intended to point out, no question asked in search of knowledge or understanding is stupid. In honor of Ask a Stupid Question Day, here are some PTA-related questions some might think are stupid.
- What is PTA all about? At its core, PTA is about its mission “to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.” PTA exists to improve the lives of children, not just at school but also at home and in their community. That means that PTA is about programs for families, resources to strengthen families and communities, and advocating for policies and laws that improve the lives of children. When you join a PTA, you are not just supporting the PTA at your child’s school, but also the efforts and resources from Illinois PTA and National PTA.
- Do I have to have a child at a school to join PTA? Not at all. PTA membership is open to anyone who pays dues. Your PTA can reach beyond your school families for membership to anyone who is interested in supporting education at your school—from community members, to business leaders, to grandparents who may live out of state.
- Do I have to volunteer if I join the PTA? No. In fact, some PTAs have successfully recruited members who are fearful of being asked to volunteer with a membership campaign of “Don’t Volunteer. Just Join.” The only thing required of a PTA member is to pay their dues. Beyond that, how you choose to PTA is up to you. Remember, there is no wrong way to PTA.
- Can we do business without a quorum? You’ll find what your PTA’s quorum is in your bylaws, and without a quorum, your PTA cannot do business. You can, however, meet as a committee of the whole to discuss those business items, but you can’t vote on them until you have a quorum.
- I’m a new [PTA President/Vice President/Treasurer/Secretary]. What am I supposed to be doing? Your PTA bylaws will have the basic duties for officers spelled out in them. In addition, your PTA may have some policies and procedures that expand on those duties.
- How do we do a [nominating committee/auditing committee]? Your PTA bylaws will spell out how each of these committees are formed.
- OK, so our PTA bylaws apparently have a lot of answers. Where can I find them? Ideally, you will have the most recent version of your bylaws in the big box of stuff or on the USB drive you got from the previous PTA president. Didn’t get that box or the bylaws aren’t there? Contact your district or region director, as they should have a copy as well. If they don’t have a recent copy, they can help you develop a new set using the sample local PTA unit bylaws in the Illinois PTA Leadership Resources.
- What do we have to get done at our PTA meetings? Your general membership meetings only have to take care of certain business items primarily related to how the PTA is run: approving the audit, approving and amending the budget, electing the nominating committee, electing officers, and amending the bylaws. Your bylaws might also specify that your membership elects the auditing committee.
- Does the PTA need to pay taxes? PTAs are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. While your PTA doesn’t have to pay income tax, it is required to file some variety of Form 990 with the IRS every year. For most PTAs, this is just a simple online postcard form. Your PTA also has an Illinois sales tax exemption letter so that items purchased for the PTA do not have to pay Illinois sales taxes.
Got a “stupid question” that isn’t asked here? Contact your district or region director, and they will be happy to answer it or direct you to the person who can. Remember, as Dear Abby wrote in 1970: “There is no such thing as a stupid question if it’s sincere. Better to ask and risk appearing stupid than to continue on your ignorant way and make a stupid mistake.”
Comic © Randall Munroe under Creative Commons License at xkcd.com.