What Items Does Your Pto Pay For??

Updated on April 18, 2012
L.O. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
15 answers

I have a kindergartener... so I am new to the world of school. I went to my second PTO meeting last night and finally got to ask a few of my questions... The PTO budget incudes $4,000 for field trips. I had seen that on a budget before and wondered about it.. It turns out that the PTO allocates $8 per child for field trips per year. I am not sure that this is a good use of funds.. I would be totally fine with the PTO funing the full cost of field trips for children that have a financial need. I dont see the point in selling pizzas, cookie, calendars just to turn around and give $8 back to my chld for field trips. We can afford the $8.

Also a teacher was at the meeting.. She complained that the water cooler in the teachers lounge was running out of water. The PTO pays for hte water for the teachers... This does not seem like a reasonable expense to me.

The teacher also asked the PTO to pay for an electric stapler for the teacher work room. I think this is fine.. But shouldn't the school district pay for basic office supplies to keep the school running..

This is an affluent school district. The per pupil spening is $11,000 per child.

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answers from Madison on

We pay part of field trips, feed the teachers for their conference nights, have breakfasts with mom and dad, little things here and there.

Think those items are pretty much the norm

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answers from Pittsburgh on

As the president of our school's PTO I can tell you that those things that you mention are precisely what the PTO is set up to pay for. What would you have them pay for if not something like field trips which are obviously an enrichment for the children? And although you are an 'affluent' district I can assure you that your school would have great difficulty collecting a fee for each child for a field trip-would YOU want to be in charge of making sure that everyone turns in their money? As a result some kids would have their trip payed for so that all of the kids could attend and then that would be even more unfair.
And districts do not pay for many of the supplies that you would think they would. The little things that you can do to show appreciation to your teachers are extremely important and make for a harmonious school environment for all.

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answers from Washington DC on


Our PTA pays for a LOT of things...computers for the school, field trips and more....we paid for Smart Boards in our rooms and our school is being rebuilt (not on the PTA dime - however - the money we raise for the school has allowed the county to do other things that would not have been in the budget otherwise...)

Our county allocation per student is over $13K. We are a VERY diverse county.

Keep in mind - these TEACHERS are TEACHING your child. So what's wrong with giving them a "nicety" of bottled water?

Get involved. Talk to the treasurer and get the budget and the spending of the PTA...it should be open to parents. If not. I would have a problem with that.

As to supplies? don't get me started about that. Bottom line - it sounds like you want to know how every dime earned for the school is spent. And you don't like how your county allocates the money for the teachers and students.

Get involved. Ask questions. Don't like it? Join the PTA and get on the board and start making changes.

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answers from Chicago on

You can always contact your PTO's Treasurer to get a copy of the budget. They should be very open about sharing that information. Regarding the $8/per student per field trip, I think that's awesome. Instead of paying for 1 field trip per grade, you get a discount on every field trip. Maybe they couldn't swing one field trip per grade. And even though you live in an affluent school district, that doesn't mean that no one appreciates getting that $8 discount.

We have an HSO (Home and School Org), which is split for each school. Each school has it's own budget and board, but they all pay for various things like field trips, field days (last day of school activities), scholarships, dances, assemblies, artist in residence, teacher appreciation, ISAT testing snacks, etc. We even have a teacher's wish list that they can submit at the end of the year. Any leftover monies goes to fulfilling those wishes.

Honestly, in all my years of volunteering my time and donating my money to the HSO, I have never felt that my return on investment was poor, which obviously, you do. I see the delight and appreciation in the kids and in the teachers.

Cheryl - I totally agree with you!

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answers from Houston on

I think all of those things you mentioned sound reasonable. Our child's field trip is to the circus this week, that is a lot more than $8, and the school is covering it. I would guess that most field trips are over $8 per child.

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answers from Dallas on

You are in your first year of PTO. It is a good idea to observe your first year. You can certainly ask for a treasurer's report and read it.

The PTO is important to the school to assist with funding.

It is great that you can afford your child's field trips... we can too, however, our fundraising, etc helps ALL of the students, many who can't ante up extra monies (we are also in a very affluent district). A PTA sponsored event is much easier than going around and trying to collect from 800+ kids in elementary and 2400+ kids in Sr High. the PTA/PTO is not about me me me... It is about the teachers, students and community.

My daughter is in Sr high now. The average balance on that budget which is only 11-12 grade is over $200,000. As a board member on the cheer boosters which work with PTA, our annual fundraising is over $50,000 for 22 girls plus 2 coaches. Our cheer fundraising pays for the Senior trip/competition, the overall competition, competition training, just to name a few high priced things we cover.

We, as many PTO/PTA's are set up, are there to pick up any slack in funds needed for our school, help our teachers so they can focus on the students and the classroom instead of having worry about how the next project will be funded.

We treat our teachers well. They are educating our children so yes, we keep an ice machine in the lounge so they can have ice handy when needed, fresh water and iced tea as well, one Friday per month is dessert tray day and all teachers are given a special treat, in Sr. High in the fall just before fall break when teachers are working and students are out of school we provide EACH staff member a 4 course meal for 4 to take home to eat now or freeze for later.

Once you observe for a while, maybe you will commit some of your time to volunteer to help the PTA through committees, chairing events, or become an officer. This is not the time to be questioning the PTA board on expenditures and what you feel may be poor spending. Remember... GOOD board members, officers, chairpersons, volunteers spend tons of their own time to manage the PTO well...and it is not well received when a newbie comes in and tries to tell them what to do. If you are not willing to take a position and work with them and learn, then don't complain.

The PTO does a lot for the school and you may think now it is useless but as your child progresses through school, you will see the difference the PTO makes in your school and community.

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answers from Detroit on

As a former Treasurer, I can say that my PTO pays for 100% of field trips. Over 50% of our families are under the poverty rate and expect to get free field trips. I can say that while the admission fees were not that expensive, the transportation fees were hefty, more than double the cost of admission per child. We also paid for back to school packets, teacher appreciation, the odd laminator or art supplies and whatnot. As others have mentioned, the schools get a budget for paper, toner, and school supplies that is woefully inadequate, so teachers have to take from their underpaid salary to supplement. Periodically parents are asked to supply Kleenex or sanitizer for the health of the students, but that's it.

I had people get mad at all the fundraisers we needed to do to make this happen. They didn't want to "buy a bunch of junk" (their words). My response was they were perfectly welcome to give an outright donation, which would go straight to the PTO without someone else taking a cut. We couldn't charge dues because of our socioeconomic makeup - no one would pay. We couldn't make parents participate in events in lieu of dues either as that would be unfair (according to some people). My opinion: you want your kid to get a decent education, you commit time and money to making it happen. Attend the meetings (we typically have about 12 people out of 150 families attend - mostly Board members plus principal plus one teacher), help out at events (help run games or sell food at fairs and movie nights), and engage the teachers in getting reports on how your children are doing. If you can participate financially, all the better. We have yet to deny a field trip based upon a lack of funds.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think your PTO needs you!
Largely, the mind set of the PTO is "this is what we do because this is what was done last year...."

Ours pays for field trips, teacher appreciation lunches, folders, pencils, party snacks (3 per year) and I'm thinking a lot of other ridiculous stuff.

I'm with you, I'm of the opinion that the dog-and-pony shows are out of hand for what the kids actually get in return. I'm thinking PTO dues plus $10-$20 per child would cover it.

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answers from San Francisco on

Those things sound reasonable to me, and I am also in an affluent district. The $8 per child field trip allowance is very little. When you add up the cost of museum/exhibit/class entries and the HUGE cost of buses, drivers and gas? The real cost per student is much higher (hence all the fundraising and check writing.) The PTO has simply budgeted this amount to help offset other costs.
If you are really concerned about these things I suggest you ask for a copy of the budget (it may even be online.) When you take a look at that I'm sure these things will make more sense. You can also get more involved by joining the board and perhaps working with treasurer or fundraising committee.
Welcome to the wonderful world of grossly underfunded public schools!

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answers from Boston on

I found it helpful to observe and listen for the first year, then to jump in with suggestions and opinions. I liked getting a real feel for how things worked, how the parent group impacted the education process and supported the efforts of the teachers and the students. Then, when I started stepping in, asking questions and offering ideas I was able to present things within the context of what was going on rather than in an isolated way.

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answers from Austin on

Our PTA's pay for exactly the things you stated because otherwise these things would not be available. The federal govt. provides money for low income and struggling students.

The schools that are affluent and the students are not struggling, receive far less money.

The school district just does not have enough money for even the basics..
Also each school has their own needs. Their largest expense each year is Teacher Salaries. The schools are supplied with a set amount of moneies to run the schools, but it is just never enough.

Also remember, Public schools must educate any and all students that walk through the door. They do not get to pick and choose. The public schools must also meet the needs of special need students.. emotional, physical.. and all of this also costs a lot of money.

Here are just a few of the things our PTA has provided or purchased for the schools.

We give each of the teachers a stipend to repay them for only a fraction of what they spend on supplies for their rooms.

We also purchased the copier in the teachers work room and the paper needed for it. The district agreed to pay for the monthly service fee. The old copier was a nightmare and just could not keep up with the amount of copying needed on a daily basis.

We purchased a laminator machine for the teacher work room, field trips because the school district does not pay for field trips, an electric pencil sharpener for every classroom, gym equipment including the sports court floor for the gym and more equipment.. The school is 60 years old and had laminated tiles on the gym floor.

The playground equipment. We assist with some of the special training the teachers are required to take, books for the library, a bed for the nurses office, teacher luncheons, hot water for the teachers lounge (no hot water is allowed on school property for safety reasons). Supplies for the art department, a Spanish teacher to teach Spanish in Elementary school so every child was learning a second language. The district agreed to pay this teachers benefits.

And so.. without the PTA, there is no other way for the schools to have these items.

The more you attend meeting, the more you will learn about all of this. It is very interesting to hear the needs of the schools and exactly what the Federal Govt. pays. The state pays and then your actually city pays for.

I sat on a bond committee for our school district for almost 3 years (yes volunteered). Our school district owns and maintains more square footage than the entire University of Texas . The University budgets 8 million dollars a year to maintain the infrastructure.. our district only has 1 million dollars to maintain it. So some of the schools still had their original roofs on them from the 1950's when they were first built! The air conditioners in our schools are used almost every month school is in session.. To replace a roof on a school? 1 million dollars. HVAC (air conditioner) to replace one million dollars..
Yes per school.

And so, the only way I learned all of this? Attended as many meetings as possible. I collect5ed my questions and asked why? and also asked How can we help?

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answers from San Francisco on

I would also wager that you/they are not doing all that fundraising just to turn around and pay for field trips. Chances are your PTO is paying for much much more. I am also a PTA president, and we allocate money that can be used for field trips. It's not just the $8 to get in the children's museum, but hundreds for the bus to get there. And later on field trips get more involved, each year we have overnights for both 4th and 6th grades and without the fundraising they couldn't do it.
We also fundraise for computers, our working garden, playground maintenance, educational materials, software... things that in theory the school and district could pay for but simply doesn't have room for in the budget. Since we are not allowed to pay for staff, I'd rather have us collectively pay for field trips so that the school can pay for the student advisor. And, lastly, the more experience you have with the red tape of the school district, you'll probably agree it's just easier to buy a new stapler for the work room (which the parents at our school use just as much as teachers).

I also want to commend you for paying attention and wanting to know. It's how I started too, 3 years ago, asking a TON of questions and attending meetings and having the treasurer slow down and explain it again. I do hope you use your interest to get involved and make a positive impact at your school!

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answers from Washington DC on

Our PTO pays for all the things you have mentioned. Our school district supplies very basic supplies to our schools so we have created a wish list for staff which the principal has to approve then we will purchase those items. Our PTA pays for the kids to attend the local movie theatre twice a year and we contribute towards there field trips and parties. We organise and pay for a mini-prom for the kids who are moving up to High School and a Welcome Back after summer party for the whole school. We have purchased DS's with educational maths games, A wii with sports games, all the whiteboards and a couple of smartboards, Ipod with docking station + lots more. :-)

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answers from Detroit on

Hello Lisa,

I also live in Michigan and live an a district that is compensted pretty well from the state per pupil. What I think that you do not realize is how much of the money the school gets from the state and property taxes goes mainly to Personnel pay and benefits. Here is an example. I live in Dearborn and from our Transparency report you can see in the 2010-2011 school year that this is what the district spent its money on.

Personnel Expenditures
Salary (1xxx) $112,701,448 56.80 %
Employee Insurance Benefits (21xx) $23,414,654 11.80 %
FICA/Retirement/Unemployment/WC (28xx) $31,881,741 16.07 %
Other Personnel Expenditures (22x - 24xx, 29xx) $0 0.00 %
Total Personnel Expenditures $167,997,843 84.67 %
Remaining Expenditures
Professional and Technical Purchased Services (31xx) $4,454,575 2.25 %
Client/Pupil Transportation Purchased Services (33xx) $966,349 0.49 %
Other Purchased Services (32xx, 34xx - 4xxx) $6,395,857 3.22 %
Supplies and Materials (5xxx) $13,453,015 6.78 %
Capital Outlay (6xxx) $934,998 0.47 %
Other Expenditures (7xxx) $94,208 0.05 %
Payments to Other Public School Districts(82xx) $0 0.00 %
Fund Modifications (81xx) $4,099,938 2.07 %
Other Transactions (83xx - 89xx) $8,000 0.00 %
Total General Fund Expenditures $198,404,783 100.00 %

Yes you reading that the district spent almost 85% of their budet on Personnel's Pay, benefits, and retirement was basically their whole budget. That only left 30,406,940 dollars to pay for supplies, transportation,repairs on the schools ect. 30.4 Million is not that much money when you talk about over 19000 students. So that equates out to being 1600 per student to pay for supplies in the classroom, books, repairs on the schools,ect. This is why the PTA/PTO's pay for field trip buses (generally they only pay the buses and not the admission), Computer upgrades in classrooms, ect.

The amount of money that is spent on the Administration in the school districts are RIDICULOUS! Our Superintendent has 3 vice/associate superintendents. They have categories in the administration that makes me want to scratch my head and go what the heck do you need that person for! Might I add that in 2009-2010 the Superintendents Secretary made about 65K without the benefits and pension. With that her total compensation was around 93K or so. At least in 2010-2011 her pay did decrease some and her total compensation was only about 90K. But for a secretary that is nuts! If you truly investigate you will find that a lot of your schools waste comes from the administration.

Just so you know my son started kindergarten too this year. I have made sure to go out and buy construction paper, index cards, extra pencils, envelops, and I even bought 25 packs of crayons (that was one per student).

Your school district is required to do transparency reporting. I would look on their website or if you have to request the budget information from the administration office.

Good Luck! But you should get involved in the PTA/PTO. You sound like you have some great ideas and they would be lucky to have you involved!



answers from San Antonio on

I used to teach school and my husband would have a fit each time I would spend out of our pocket to provide supplies for my classroom.

If I didn't there were no supplies...

You were given so many reams of paper for a whole year at the beginning of the year...when you ran out well that was it...it didn't matter what you taught everyone got the same thing. Pencils, pens, sticky notes...we had a supply closet but it was empty by Christmas.

I always got funding for our field trips as I was at a low income school...but the children still would pay about five dollars each to attend.

I don't know about the water cooler...but our school did provide the teachers with coffee and I really really appreciated that!!!

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