Each year many parent teacher groups struggle with membership levels, meeting quorums, and functioning as a group, often as a consequence of how the group’s bylaws are written. As the Fall semester begins to wind down, this can be a good time to revisit your PTA or PTO’s bylaws. Retooling your bylaws can help revitalize a parent teacher group for the Spring semester. It could be a great benefit to your group to occasionally revisit and review your bylaws so they are current and representative of your group.
How to Get Started Revising PTA/PTO Bylaws
Because your organization is a nonprofit organization, it’s important your financial and legal documents are in order. As such, it is important for your bylaws to be reviewed by a legal professional. If you’re looking for a good template to start reworking your organization’s bylaws, you can get a copy of free non-profit bylaws through Rocket Lawyer HERE.
Bylaws Top Section: Name, Mission Statement, Objectives
The first place to start with revamping or creating your bylaws from scratch is to determine the formal name of your parent teacher group. In addition to the name of your PTA or PTO, you will want to document your organization’s mission statement. For more information about developing or revising a mission statement for your parent teacher group see How to Start a PTA, PTO, or Booster Club.
PTA and PTO Objectives
Below the mission statement, detail the objectives of your parent teacher group. One example would be, “raise money to benefit the students of [Your] school.” Include objectives not related to fundraising such as how your group offers a forum for parents and teacher to communicate and provide a richer community and school experience for students.
Parent Teacher Bylaws: Membership, Voting, Policies, Amendments
If you have current bylaws, take a look at who can be a member of your PTA or PTO. Does your membership include parents and teachers? Do they need to fulfill any requirements to become a member, such as signing up, or can they be members automatically? Consider carefully, as making all parents and teachers automatic members of your parent teacher group could have an impact on setting your group’s quorum for effective representation. Would it be beneficial for your group to have membership dues to help with fundraising? Membership VotingYour revised bylaws should include one vote per household and you may want to make an amendment for virtual voting with consideration to the challenges of holding in-person meetings due to COVID-19. Detail any ways a member might lose good standing in your PTA or PTO and the ability to vote in meetings.
PTA and PTO Policies
Take a look at your parent teacher bylaws for any overarching policies. This can be a good place to include an umbrella policy like, “[Your] PTA will operate for charitable, educational, and non-commercial purposes.” Consider including a non-discrimination policy and a policy for carrying over remaining funds from the previous fiscal year. You may also want to include a policy that states organization meetings will follow Robert’s Rules of Order.
It’s important to make it simple (but not necessarily easy) to amend your bylaws going forward. Include information about when bylaws can be amended, notification guidelines for announcing the vote, and whether it requires a majority or two-thirds majority vote to ratify amendments.
PTA and PTO Officer Bylaws
Every parent teacher group needs officers. Your bylaws should stipulate who is eligible to be a group officer, how and when they are elected, removed, and any term restrictions. To get you stated, most parent teacher group officer elections are held annually and individuals are held to a two consecutive terms maximum in the same officer position.
Additionally, the organization offices and their primary duties should be listed in your bylaws. Make sure the most important duties of your PTA or PTO officers are detailed. Below is an example of the officers and duties you might include in your revised bylaws.
- Creating meeting agendas and preside over meetings
- Representing the PTA/PTO at outside meetings
- Coordinate PTA/PTO initiatives with the principal
- Vice President
- Serve as Aide to the President
- Act in the President’s stead due to absence, resignation, or inability to serve
- Maintain PTA/PTO records (transactions, correspondence, events, contracts, etc.)
- Keep the PTA/PTO bylaws, standing rules, and member roster on hand for review
- Maintain past PTA/PTO records for the last five years
- Steward of PTA/PTO funds and checkbook
- Does NOT hold the power to sign checks
- Maintain group’s financial records
- Audit all invoices and receipts for accuracy
- Perform tax returns, financial reports, and financial filings related to the group’s 501c status
Revised Bylaws for Removing Officers
Nobody wants to be in a situation where a PTA or PTO officer needs to be removed from their position, but you definitely want your group prepared for the situation should it arise. You can include a section that states an officer can be removed by a two-thirds vote at any meeting, with or without cause. You may also want to include details about how members will be notified of the vote and who steps in to fill the role of a vacant office.
AIM Directors and Officers Liability Insurance
Your parent teacher group and its officers can be sued for decisions made as individuals or as representatives of your group. Directors and Officers coverage insures your group and officers against legal action concerning mismanagement, misrepresentation, dissemination of false/misleading information, and inappropriate actions. This includes coverage against an officer not following your PTA or PTO’s bylaws.
Learn More about Directors and Officers Liability Insurance through AIM.
PTA and PTO Bylaws for Meetings
Meetings are central to the structure and effectiveness of any parent teacher group. Having a form and guide for conducting your PTA or PTO meetings is critical and should be reflected in your group’s bylaws. Consider including bylaw items that detail the different types of meetings held by your organization and when they happen.
- Annual Meeting
- Review annual reports, such as the financial report and prospective budget
- Annual officer elections
- Normal monthly meeting functions
- Monthly Meeting
- Regularly scheduled day and time of meetings repeated monthly
- Day and time of the meeting is often decided by the executive board (officers plus standing committee heads)
- Old business discussion, new business discussion, voting, and decision making
- Special Meeting
- Can be called by the President, two other officers, or any five members by written request to the Secretary
- Notice should be sent to all members via two different modes of communication with at least seven days advance notice
Your bylaws should also be revised to show how and when members will be notified of upcoming meetings. A good rule of thumb would be to use two different methods of communication (Ex. email, text message) at least seven days before the meeting’s date.
Quorum PTA and PTO Bylaws
When revising your parent teacher group bylaws take a good look at the quorum requirements. Your group’s quorum number should be large enough to effectively reflect your group’s constituency, but small enough that your meetings will effectively reach quorum so votes can be made. PTAs should look to their state guidelines for quorum information.
Bylaws for Your Executive Board
In addition to bylaws for your officers and general meetings, it’s important to create bylaw items for your parent teacher group’s executive board. Such as, who is on the PTA/PTO executive board? Oftentimes, the executive board is made up of the group officers, standing committee heads, and the principal.
Like general meetings, you should dictate the time and date for recurring meetings of the executive board and its quorum. Many parent teacher groups use a quorum size of half the executive board membership plus one.
Of course, you will want to denote the purpose of your organization’s executive board. This will be a little different for every parent teacher group, but here are some staple purposes of a parent teacher group executive board.
- Transact business in preparation for upcoming meetings
- Create standing rules and policies
- Create committees
- Develop and submit the annual budget for approval
- Approve routine expenditures
- Prepare reports
- Present recommendations to the general membership
Revised Committee Bylaws
There is more work in a parent teacher group than can be handled by monthly meetings of the general members and the executive board. This additional work falls to committees. There are two types of committees, standing (permanent) and additional (temporary).
When revising your bylaws you should make sure it states who is eligible to serve on a committee. Often committee participation is open to all members and officers in good standing, with the President holding an ex officio role in all committees. The executive board is empowered to create additional committees as necessary, but you may want to include a list of standing committees that are part of your PTA or PTO. Here are a few examples of standing committees you may want to include.
- Arts & Enrichment
- Family Events
Revised PTA/PTO Bylaws for Finances
Because our parent teacher group is a 501c entity it’s important your financial bylaws are clear, consistent, and up to date. Include in this section when the executive board is to develop the annual budget and when the group will vote to approve the budget.
This is also a good place for policies to protect your group against embezzlement. An example would be requiring check payments for more than $400 dollars to need the authorized signatures of two, non-treasurer officers. You may also want to include what happens to any remaining funds at the end of the fiscal year or in the rare instance when a PTA or PTO is being dissolved.
Embezzlement Coverage with AIM
Strong bylaws and fiscal responsibility are a great start to preventing embezzlement in your parent teacher group. Unfortunately, embezzlement can be a problem for PTAs, PTOs, and booster clubs across the nation. In fact, embezzlement is the most common claim covered by AIM. Worse yet, many cases of embezzlement continue for months and even years before they’re noticed taking funds away from your school and students if the funds aren’t insured.
Learn More about Embezzlement Coverage through AIM.
Revising Your Conflict of Interest Policy Bylaws
If your bylaws currently do not include a conflict of interest policy, it’s something you should seriously consider adding. Often what gets a parent teacher group in trouble with its 501c status falls under conflict of interest. Having a strong policy will help your group make sure all its dealings are above-board and are unlikely to draw your PTA or PTO’s 501c status into question.
Because of the specific legal nature of this topic, AIM advises your group get the assistance of licensed attorney to help your develop and review your Conflict of Interest policy. Here are some ideas of things to include in your Conflict of Interest policy.
- Financial Interest Definition
- Determining Conflict of Interest
- Addressing Conflict of Interest
- Conflict of Interest Procedure Participation
- Recording Procedures
- Conflict of Interest Annual Statements Officer Signatures
- Periodic Reviews for Conflict of Interest Occurrences
- Use of Outside Auditors and Experts
When to Revise Your PTA or PTO Bylaws
Parent teacher groups should review their bylaws annually for any necessary changes. A great time to do this is when new officers are elected. This provides them the opportunity to become familiar with the organization’s bylaws, sign their conflict of interest statement, and bring a fresh set of eyes to how your parent teacher organization is run.
Each year you should also review insurance coverage for your PTA, PTO, or booster club. AIM offers annual coverage options for event liability, embezzlement, directors and officers, and property protection. In addition to annual coverage options, AIM also offers single event liability coverage for your group.
See which coverage options are right for your parent teacher group.