A child learns everything they know through two basic sources: their parents and their teachers. There are other sources as well, especially the television and the Internet in these modern times, yet parents and teachers remain the primary educators. It is entirely natural and unsurprising, therefore, that they would come together in order to provide the best possible education to the young ones in their care. There are two primary types of groups: Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
The primary difference between a PTA and PTO is quite simple. The PTA is a national organization, with formal membership, a long established history, and headquarters to boot. It works for school children at a national level, and local groups who decide to become members must pay dues and abide by the rules.
The PTO on the other hand is a generic title for the thousands of groups spread around the country, and who operate independently of the National PTA. These groups are mostly limited to one local school or school district and focus entirely on its administration and welfare, according to their own rules.
Parent Teacher Association
The Parent Teacher Association was first established in 1897, and has since become almost synonymous with school parent group. Akin to products such as Kleenex and Band-Aid, which are brand names rather than product names, PTA has achieved near universal recognition over its 100 plus years of existence. The national PTA has worked extensively for child welfare, contributing to the introduction of inoculation programs and instituting school lunches countrywide. PTA continues to maintain a high profile, and remains the only national parent-teacher group.
Parent Teacher Organization
Parent Teacher Organizations came into existence due to the failure of the PTA to achieve what it did nationally on a more local level, despite all its accomplishments. Parent-teacher groups who failed to justify paying the rising PTA dues decided to establish independent groups. They argued, and perhaps justifiably, that the money could be better spent on the schools their children belonged to. These expenses would cover more supplies for the school, perhaps an extra field trip for the kids, or renovation of the school premises.
The advantages and disadvantages of each particular type of parent-teacher group could be debated upon endlessly, yet the issue at hand is very simple: Do you form an entirely independent group that focuses exclusively on your child’s school and its neighboring community, or do you become a part of the larger, national PTA and spend your hard-earned money outside of the school as well?
Ultimately, it is your child’s future in the balance, and it remains your decision to make whether a PTO is more suitable for the local school or whether it would gain more benefit from being a part of the National PTA.