Nonpartisan Policy

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 office.

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 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 based upon a study of the issue and a vote of the association; and
  • By supporting California State PTA positions on legislation needed to achieve the Purposes of the PTA.

In order for PTAs to retain tax-exempt status and continue to receive tax-deductible contributions, under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3), they may not (1) devote more than an insubstantial part of their activities to influence legislation; (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. For further information on IRS reporting requirements and options, see Election Campaigns and the Role of the PTA.

Policies of the PTA as an organization are in no way intended to infringe on any member’s rights as an individual.

See Bylaws for Local PTA/PTSA Units, Article III, Sections a, b, and c, and the National PTA Quick Reference Guides for detailed information on the basic policies.

The PTA is a noncommercial, nonsectarian and nonpartisan organization.

Partisan, as defined by the PTA, includes any election involving a candidate — even for “nonpartisan” offices such as a school board or city council.

A PTA Leader’s Role in Election Endorsements

PTA members are often the individuals with the most knowledge and awareness of their communities’ needs. Their community activities qualify them to take leadership roles in election campaigns. However, PTA leaders who are considering taking a leadership role on behalf of a candidate are strongly urged to avoid even the appearance that their private activities have, in any way, the endorsement, approval, or support of PTA. Discretion must be used by the current PTA president, because he/she is the official spokesperson for the PTA organization.

Activities on behalf of any candidate must be conducted separately and apart from any activities of the PTA association. A current PTA officer/board member may not use his/her title or the name of the PTA to endorse:

  • a ballot measure on which PTA has not taken a position; and
  • any candidate even for purposes of identification in print, electronic, or website candidate literature (e.g., campaign mailer, ballot statement, candidate stationery).

A current or former PTA officer/board member must not use his/her title, the name of the PTA or the trademark of PTA in any election venue unless authorized by a vote of the association, following a study of the issue.

Although federal election regulations do not prohibit the use of organizational affiliation for identification purposes, the California State PTA sets a standard which is higher than law. Failure to comply may result in a violation of California State PTA policy.

For the purpose of this policy, all elections involving candidates are defined as partisan elections, even those for “nonpartisan” offices such as school board or city council.

Use of a PTA’s name or the PTA trademark with participation in any partisan activity will endanger PTA’s nonprofit status.

Candidates and Issues Forums

During the course of a campaign, candidates for public office do not discuss political or legislative matters at PTA meetings unless appearing at a candidates forum, where all candidates for designated offices have been invited to speak.

PTAs may conduct candidates forums alone or as part of a coalition with other nonpartisan groups. All candidates for a specific office must be invited to present their views. Whether or not a candidate chooses to appear is the decision of each candidate. A nonpartisan moderator should be in charge of the meeting, and fair procedures must be established and agreed to in advance. Similar procedures should be followed for an issues forum (For more information see Local Candidates Forum and Organizing a Local Candidates Forum, Figure 4-3).

PTA Leaders Seeking Election To Public Office

The California State PTA recognizes the fact that the experience and interest gained by its members through participation in PTA activities make them particularly qualified to serve the community as elected officials.

PTA officers and those members who are likely to be recognized locally as being active PTA spokesmen or leaders, and who choose to enter the political or legislative arenas in their private (i.e., non-PTA) capacities, are strongly urged to avoid even the appearance that their private activities have, in any way, the endorsement, approval, or support of the PTA.

PTA leaders who consider public office while they serve as PTA spokesmen are urged to weigh the impact their candidacy, appointment, or election could have on PTA’s tax-exempt status.

Members who choose to seek public office may neither request nor receive PTA endorsement at any time, but may list their PTA service as part of their qualifications.

Neither government regulations nor PTA policy prohibit unit, council, district or State PTA officers and other leaders from serving on commissions or other boards active in areas of concern to the PTA, provided that such membership is not designed to support partisan interests (i.e., those of any political party or candidate).

Nonpartisan Policy and Membership on School Boards

The California State PTA recognizes the fact that the experiences and interest gained by its members through participation in PTA activities make them particularly qualified to serve the community as members of local school boards of education.

PTA officers may serve as members of school boards as long as they do not seek PTA endorsement to support their election. If a PTA officer runs for a school board, no endorsement by the PTA should be given or implied. The inclusion of a reference to PTA service or honors on a list of the candidate’s qualifications for office is permitted.

Any activity in support of any specific candidate for a school board position on the part of any local parent-teacher unit, council, district, or state PTA branch is prohibited under the nonpartisan policy of the National PTA and the California State PTA.

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