Elections and Lobbying 101

Lobbying and Legislative Activities

National PTA and its constituent associations may support or oppose legislation and policies affecting children and youth to the extent allowed by their tax-exempt status. Historically, much of the legislation protecting the health, education and well-being of children and youth owes its existence to PTA support!

To stay within the permissible limits placed on it by its tax-exempt status, a PTA should focus the larger part of its legislative activities on educating and preparing members to exercise their individual and association rights. State, region, district, council and local PTAs can and should have legislative committees that share information with the membership. Every PTA should be part of the united effort working within the state and across the nation on behalf of children and youth.

National PTA and its constituent associations may – and are encouraged to - propose, support, or oppose legislation needed to achieve the purposes of the PTA and the legislative program— provided those activities do not exceed the limitations established by the federal tax laws governing such organizations’ tax-exempt status. Keep accurate records of the amounts of time and money spent and the nature of volunteer activities. These records will help your PTA monitor its activities to stay within Internal Revenue Code (IRC) limitations, as well as complete any reports required by the IRS.

Educating

The following are legislative activities that do not count as lobbying because they are considered educational:

  • Analyzing and reporting on passed, pending, or needed legislation (a) with members or (b) by invitation with government agencies
  • Reporting state and national PTA positions to PTA members
  • Adopting and reporting local PTA position statements about legislation or policies
  • Researching an issue without bias toward one side or the other

Elections

Being educated about candidates for public office is critical to advocating effectively for youth. Through informed decision making at the ballot box, PTA members can directly make a difference on the issues that affect our children and public schools. And local PTA units have a role!

When PTA votes, we become a powerful voice for all children. There are many ways that PTA members can participate in the election process. PTAs can hold candidate forums, publish candidates’ responses to a questionnaire, help register new voters, and remind members to vote. Casting a ballot is the most important thing you can do in an election, as an advocate for children.

While there’s many activities PTAs can do around elections, here is what PTAs cannot do:

  • Endorse candidates or a political party for public office.
  • Invite only one candidate or political party in an election to speak to the PTA.
  • Ask candidates to sign pledges on any issue (tacit endorsement).
  • Tell PTA members to only vote for a candidate who supports “X” position.
  • Distribute any campaign materials on behalf of a candidate.
  • Wear campaign buttons or T-shirts during a PTA meeting.

Resources:

Your PTA can use these resources to help you successfully participate in election season as a 501(c)3: