Difference Between PTA and PTO

Schooling and education play a crucial role in a child’s initial life. A school with properly educated teaching staff and capable mentors. Along with the perfect staff, it is also important that the parent organizations keep a keen check on the management staff and assist in shaping the future of a child. But with the presence of numerous organizations, it is easy to get confused between them. One such pair of confusion is the PTA and PTO; it may seem that they are the same but they are intrinsically different.  

PTA vs PTO  

The main difference between PTA and PTO is that PTA stands for Parent-Teacher Association and is the official organization associated with the State or National PTA, on the other hand, PTO stands for Parent-Teacher Organization and is considered as a local PTO which is not associated with any official State or National PTA.  

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PTA or Parent-Teacher Association is primarily an association that volunteers and works extensively for the betterment of students and children. It is also referred to as a Non-Profit organization. Along with guiding the students and protecting them from possible threats they also help students to find their inner talent and passion and guide them to follow it.   

PTO or Parent-Teacher organization is typically an organization that comprises of parents and teachers and some volunteers and is not as huge as PTA. It is not at all linked to the PTA even though both share some similar goals. A PTO does not pay dues to any National Organization as it is an independent organization.    

Comparison Table Between PTA and PTO   

Parameters of Comparison PTA  PTO 
Stands for    Parent-Teacher Association    Parent-Teacher Organization    
Established on    Feb 1897-Washington D.C  1999  
Total Number of Units    National PTA-24,500  About 60,000  
Number of Members    About 75  About 25  
Primary Goal    Staff support and Leadership Training, etc.    The welfare of Students and Families, etc.  
Politically Involved    Yes  No  

What is PTA?

Aforementioned, PTA is an official organization affiliated with the State and National PTA. It is often referred to as the PTFA (Parent-Teacher Friend Association) or PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association) and is more of a formal organization compared to other associations.

PTA is an officially registered non-profit organization and usually consists of millions of members nationwide and these members are paid by the National PTA.  PTA was first established as a formal organization in Washington D.C but they vary from country to country. The rules and protocols may differ even in the states and cities of a particular country.

In India, after the National Policy on Education (1986) was brought into action in 1992, parents were constantly encouraged to volunteer and get involved in the administrations and mentoring the students, thus guaranteeing transparency in the functioning and treatment of the students. In India, the government declared that every school must have a PTA mandatorily.  

In the United States, PTA was earlier known as the National Congress of Mothers which was composed of members (Workers, Volunteers, Parents, Teachers) all over the country. Currently, most of the schools in the United States have a PTA that is affiliated to the National PTA except for some private schools that have a local informal PTA. They carry out responsibilities like creating kindergarten classes, school safety, healthy lunches for students, etc.   

Even though PTA differs in every country, the responsibilities and functions of every PTA are more or less the same. Ultimately all of them work to achieve one goal that is the protection and guidance of students.   

What is PTO?

As mentioned above, PTO is more of an informal local organization prevalent in private schools. They are not associated with any of the State and National PTAs and hence they do not pay any dues and fees to any national organization. PTOs have the permission to register themselves as non-profit organization if they want to.   

Just like any other organization even the protocols of PTOs differ from country to country and can even vary in every state. These PTOs are individually working and every school that has a PTO can establish its own rules and goals. PTO is often referred to as the independent syndicate.   

PTO usually consists of a board comprising of members referred to as the Board Members peculiarly a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc. They perform the role of holding a meeting, voting the dates for a meeting, conducting an event or a program, hospitality programs, etc.   

PTO generally has the choice to register itself as a non-profit organization or they can choose to get involved politically or not. As they are not affiliated with any formal organization they are not paid by the National PTA. Their sole source of income is paid advertising. All the PTOs worldwide usually focus on personal growth and carry the freedom to carry out any event as they are not under any political influence.   

The functions of PTO contemplate of conducting awareness programs for the students, like drug awareness, energy and water conservation, bicycle safety, etc. In PTOs even the parents can assist and accompany the students on field trips or excursions. PTOs can even introduce new events as they are independent organizations.   

Main Differences Between PTA and PTO  

  1. PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) is affiliated with the National or State PTA, on the other hand, PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) is not affiliated with any National Organization.   
  2. PTA is mandatorily registered as a non-profit National organization, in contrast, PTO can register itself as a non-profit organization based on their will.   
  3. PTA generally focuses on the administration and faculty quality of a school, whereas PTO focuses majorly on personal growth and a child’s mental and emotional development.   
  4. PTAs typically have less freedom in choosing their members and events, on the other hand, PTOs can choose their members and events as they are not under any political influence.   
  5. PTAs worldwide contemplates thousands of members, while PTOs have comparatively limited members.   
  6. PTA members are paid by the National PTA, while PTO members have no national source of income. 


From the above-mentioned points, it is evident that although PTA and PTO may appear strikingly similar, they are structurally different. PTA is more of a legalized and formal organization, on the other hand, PTO is more of an informal and independent organization. PTA has comparatively less freedom than PTO.   

Although PTA and PTO are different, they work towards a similar goal- the betterment of the students and the involvement of parents. PTA works on an administrative level and PTO supports educational goals, conducts various workshops beneficial in identifying the passion and strengths, and weaknesses of a child, and helps them in enhancing them.    


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149718908001134 
  2. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/668754 
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