FAQs for Donations During Coronavirus

California State PTA’s Treasurer, Melinda Kirkland, has been getting lots of financial questions from local leaders as they begin to navigate online meetings and event cancellations.

Today she is sharing with us information about what to do with items donated for cancelled events, and PTA policies on donating to other nonprofits and/or to families in need.

For more information on holding meetings during the COVID-19 restrictions, visit our website.

Events and Donated Items

Q: What do we do with donated items now that we can no longer have the event they were donated for (like our silent auction)? Do we need to vote to cancel the event even though we can’t hold it due to school closures and COVID-19 restrictions?

A: If the donations were solicited specifically for this event that you are now not able to have and not as “general” donation to the PTA, the PTA needs to contact the donors (all of them) and ask them what they would like you to do with the donated items. This is easiest via email, because then you will have written instructions from the donor, which is really what you need. If the donor wants the items returned, you have to give them back. If they give you permission to keep them/use them as needed, then you can vote as an association how to “repurpose” those donations at a future time.

You do not need a vote of the association to cancel a fundraiser/event that you are no longer able or allowed by law to hold. You would only need a vote on how to distribute/use any donations that were not returned to donors. FYI: only donations that you keep have to be reported on tax filings. Returned donations do not need to be reported.

Donations to Other Nonprofits or Families in Need

Q: Can our PTA donate to other community non-profits who are taking lead roles in supporting the many under-served families in our district? Can we offer some sort of direct support to members (individuals and families) of need in our school communities?

A: The IRS is very clear that a 501(c)3 public charity (which all PTAs are) may donate funds to another 501(c)3 public charity with a similar mission. That means that a PTA can donate money only to nonprofits who have similar purposes. For example, you could not donate to the Red Cross, but you could donate to a non-profit children’s library, provided it had 501(c)3 status.

Likewise, the IRS is very clear that a public charity may not gift funds to individuals or families unless that is what the charity was organized to do. PTAs are not organized for that purpose, so we may not give money (including gift cards) to individuals or families in our school communities, regardless of need.

So the PTA may donate to other community organizations if they meet the criteria above (and assuming the association voted to do so), but the PTA could not gift funds to an individual or family.

However, there are several other things that PTAs can do to help and we encourage units to consider the following:

  • The PTA may advertise any and all benefits/fundraisers being held for individuals or families in need or local charities who are assisting those in need, regardless of who is organizing them. That includes letting everyone in your community know GoFundMe campaigns, etc.
  • The PTA may also help with a fundraiser by advertising it and encouraging volunteers, but it cannot be an official PTA activity and all money collected must go to the organization holding the fundraiser Checks cannot be made out to PTA and no deposits may be made to the PTA account on behalf of another organization or family in need.
  • The PTA may sponsor a food/diaper/necessities drive or solicit donations of those items to be given to a local food bank, etc. “Necessities” could include personal protective equipment (PPE) for local hospitals and medical facilities if that’s a need in your area.

Please visit the COVID-19 Resources for PTA Leaders page on our website. There you will find information about holding association meetings via telephone or video conferencing. We’re trying to help our local leaders and members be able to “meet” safely so that they can vote to make donations or redirect funds as needed for their school community, while still complying with legal requirements.

Distance Learning Resources

As thousands of families are now learning from and working from home, things have changed in all of our daily lives. California State PTA always prioritizes the health and safety of our children, families and communities.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during this time of social distancing. Remember, children take their cues from the adults around them, so it is important to remain calm and talk to children about what is going on in an age appropriate way. Children become anxious when the adults around them are anxious. Experts say children feel better when they have some control over what is going on.  

Spending some time outside running, walking or bike riding is a good way to get fresh air. 

Most school districts are providing free meals for children. Check your school/school district website for information on how to pick up the meals. There are also some classes and lessons online.

Here are some other resources that are fun and helpful. (Please note that these links take you to websites that are neither run by nor endorsed by California State PTA.)

Learning from home sites:

Take a virtual field trip:

Podcasts for elementary, middle and high school students:

Free downloadable educational coloring pages:

We would love your suggestions for things to add to this list! Feel free to email us at communications@capta.org.

An Arts Education Success Story: Moreno Valley Unified School District

The Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) understands the direct impact that parent engagement has on student academic achievement across all socioeconomic groups.

In fact, the Board of Education approved a resolution earlier this academic year in honor of Parent Teacher Association Membership Month to encourage all parents and community volunteers to support district schools through PTA by becoming members.

“We strive to engage and inform parents of our programs, services, policies and plans in a variety of ways as they are the most influential people in their children’s lives,” said Superintendent Dr. Martinrex Kedziora. “We want to ensure they are able to navigate the education system and will continue to do our best to guide them in actively taking part in their children’s lives.”

The Moreno Valley Unified School District offers multiple opportunities to establish strong partnerships with families such as participating in committees, clubs, workshops and meetings. One unique area where the district connects with families is through the district’s music programs, as families understand that participating in the arts increases student achievement in other academic subjects.

“…families understand that participating in the arts increases student achievement in other academic subjects.”

In the past five years, the Moreno Valley Unified School District has added significant resources to its visual and performing arts programs, including a dedicated Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, and additional instructors at schools to ensure students at all 40 schools have visual and performing arts programs. For example, the district added art, music and physical education teachers for grades four and five, and partnered with the Riverside Art Museum to offer arts education for students in grades two and three.

MVUSD is extremely proud to have 41.27% of students participating in the arts – more than two percent higher than the state average’s 39 percent. With the increase in arts education in Moreno Valley Schools, the district decided to host annual events to provide the opportunity for students to showcase their talents to their parents, family and the community. Events include a High School Honor Choir Concert; Elementary, Middle, and High School Honor Band Concert; and a Band and Orchestra adjudicated festival every spring semester.

The future performing arts center at Moreno Valley High School

Due to large attendance and interest in these events from parents and community members, the Moreno Valley Unified School District has made plans to build a Performing Arts Center at Moreno Valley High School. The center will be 26,000 square feet with a seating capacity of 625 and a 2,400 square foot lobby and art gallery. The district is committed to removing barriers and inequities in arts education by including the Arts as part of the comprehensive education provided to all students and increasing opportunities for families to engage with their children by providing state-of-the-art facilities for students to showcase their talents and skills.

Creating these opportunities for parents to be involved in their children’s education allows the district to collaborate with parents in meaningful ways. The district’s ultimate goal is for parents to join the district in fulfilling its mission to ensure all students graduate high school prepared to successfully enter into higher education and/or pursue a viable career path.

Thanks to Anahi Velasco, Public Information Officer at Moreno Valley Unified School District, for this article.

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Celebrating Black History Month

black history month

February is Black History Month, and we know that you want to celebrate with your children. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee have given us some great resources to help you in your school, home, and community. 

  • This four-part series helps schools teach about black history by giving them resources that focus on aspects of black history and culture that aren’t centered on violence, trauma and struggle: 
  • This beautiful coloring and activity book called “What We Believe” is a free download from Black Lives Matter at School. 
  • Here is a teacher’s resource guide to teaching Black History Month.
  • Here is a list of 100 books by or about African Americans for children in Kindergarten through 8th grade
  • National PTA has some resources to engage African American families on your school campus– this would be a great month to try one of the activities!

We would love to hear about your ideas for celebrating Black History Month! Please email them to communications@capta.org

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Why Wednesday? 2/5/20 – What is Founders’ Day and Why Should We Celebrate It?

In 1897 a group of parents, teachers and community members met in Washington D.C. to champion causes that impacted children and families. 123 years later in schools and towns across the globe, we are still meeting for the same purpose. Founders’ Day celebrates the legacy of the Parent Teacher Association and all the good that it has done over the last century. On February 17th we pause to celebrate the efforts of our founders Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Alice McLellan Birney and Selena Sloan Butler. 

PTA has a rich history of advocating on behalf of children and families.  Did you know that child labor laws, hot school lunches, kindergarten, and getting more arts in education were all issues PTA advocated for?  Even before women had the right to vote, mothers in the PTA were leading the charge on these important issues. To learn more about the history of the PTA, National PTA has a comprehensive timeline that outlines our accomplishments decade by decade.   

Why is it important to set aside some time in the month of February to celebrate Founders’ Day?  So many of the parents at our school sites don’t truly understand what the PTA does. Through movies and media we have become a stereotyped group of bake sale moms–but we are so much more than that!  Sharing our legacy of advocacy, the good that has been done, and the things we have yet to do, will help your families become more invested in your programs. Perhaps it will even inspire members in your community to join your PTA.

There are so many ways to celebrate Founders’ Day.   You could post to your social media some of the great advocacy work PTA has done, you could give Honorary Service Awards, or you could pass the hat for a freewill offering to help continue the mission of the PTA.  Our website has graphics you can use as well as fliers, videos, and ideas on fun ways to celebrate. 

How will you celebrate Founders’ Day?  Share your story and photos with us at communications@capta.org.

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The Benefits of Phenomenon-Based Science Learning

“Why are some days cloudy?”

“Why can a cactus survive without water when a willow tree can’t?”

“Why does the light on the ceiling go on when I flip the switch on the wall?”

Our kids’ “why” questions provide near-constant reminders of their curiosity about the world. California’s new approach to science instruction, called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recognizes and encourages that natural curiosity. Research shows that doing so can ignite students’ interest in science and engineering, especially if science in school is introduced at an early age.

When teachers start with a question like “Why can a cactus survive without water?” they are using a technique called phenomenon-based instruction. The lesson starts with a question about something students can observe. Teachers then build one or many lessons to take students from that simple question into serious scientific inquiry. Our cactus question, for example, forms the basis for various student activities in a first grade classroom, including:

  • Examining cactus needles and discussing how they might provide shade and protection for the plant.
  • Thinking about and listing the different parts of plants more generally (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) and using examples to understand how they help plants survive and grow.
  • Comparing a willow tree and a teddy bear cholla cactus to discover how their different parts help them survive and grow in very different environments.
  • Creating a picture that illustrates how a cactus’ spines and water-storing stems help it survive in the desert.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) this is an example from a free first-grade lesson available through the California Education and the Environment Initiative. You’ll find it here: https://www.californiaeei.org/curriculum/unit?unitid=4. The initiative provides a wealth of ideas for how teachers can start with questions about the environment and use them to help students explore questions of science, engineering and much more.

As a parent, you can use the same kind of question-based approach to explore science and environmental topics with your kids, even if none of you think of yourselves as scientists. The lessons on the EEI website, which cover a wealth of topics and grade levels, can give you some ideas. There is a full list at https://www.californiaeei.org/curriculum/.

As a parent leader, you can ask district officials or your school principal what is happening around science instruction and environmental education, and whether teachers are working with the new standards. And how can that best be shared with parents? Could teachers present a sample lesson to parents or make science instruction a special feature of the school’s next open house? If your school has a science fair, should the new standards be reflected in student projects?

Want to learn more about Next Gen Science as a first step? Try this page on CAPTA.org: https://capta.org/focus-areas/education/next-gen-science/

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Why Wednesday? 1/29/20: The Importance of Compliance

Compliance, Compliance, Compliance! I know, we sound like a broken record, but unfortunately it is the number one way your non-profit can have big problems. Time for us to explain what the compliance documents are and why they are so important!

Compliance documents are the legal documents required by several governmental agencies in the state of California. These documents include:

  • The 199 – a tax return for the Franchise Tax Board
  • The 990 – the tax return for the Internal Revenue Service
  • A Charitable Trust Renewal (RRF-1) for the Attorney General’s Office
  • An Annual Financial Report for the Internal Revenue Service 

To remain a legal, functioning entity in our state, you need to produce these documents every year, within four months and 15 days of the end of your fiscal year. (Example: If your PTA’s fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30, these documents are due no later than November 15th.)

The Annual Financial Report is an IRS requirement which basically shows how a non-profit earned money and how they spent it. It could also be considered a budget-to-actual report from your accounting records. This report is most helpful when you go to do your taxes, as it should have the major information that you need.  

There are different versions of the tax returns for the IRS and Franchise Tax Board. If you are uncertain about which version of each you are required to file, our Tax Filing Support Center has the most up to date information.

For the 2019-20 tax filing year, the Attorney General has added a new form: the CT-TR-1. Every non-profit in the state which makes under $50,000 will need to fill out this form for this new tax year, to be filed with your RRF-1 – Charitable Trust Renewal. Look at our website and follow us on social media to get the information you need to stay compliant and fill out this new form. We are planning webinars and trainings throughout the coming months to help our PTA units, councils and districts learn how to fill out these forms.

For those of you who think that only PTA’s are required to fill out these forms, that is not correct. Every non-profit in the state of California, from those making as little as a few dollars per year to those earning millions, must be compliant and file these forms. The big difference between PTA and most other non-profits is that you have a support system to help you navigate all these requirements. 

There is one document required from every unit, council and district that is not mandated by the government, but is a PTA requirement (and required by our insurance company), and that is the twice-yearly audit. Every six months, a qualified CPA or a member of the PTA, with a committee, should review the records of the treasurer and produce a report. The audit report should then be presented to the executive board members and then finally adopted at a general association meeting. Full details on the audit requirements are available at CAPTA.org.

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Meet the Board of Directors: Maria Steck

Get to Know the Vice President for Leadership, Maria Steck

Maria Steck, Vice President for Leadership Services, has been involved in PTA for 19 years. Her favorite thing about PTA is working with our local leaders. She loves hearing about all the great things they are doing for the families in their communities.

Maria lives by the beach in Ventura County with her awesome hubby. She has three phenomenal kids, two rescue dogs that have her wrapped around their little paws, a female spider named Harry, and two grand kitties who live in Portland. She manages two Airbnb rentals on the beach in Malibu.

She loves reading, crafting, hiking with her hubby and the dogs, traveling, cooking new and different foods. She is a shoe-a-holic. She loves Converse tennis shoes and currently owns 27 pairs.

Her one piece of advice to PTA leaders is the immortal words of Elsa, “let it go.” There is always going to be criticism of the things you and the PTA do. As long as at the end of the day, you know you did your best for the kids, then don’t stress. Her favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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Why Wednesday? 1/22/2020: What Happens at the State Convention and Why Should I Attend?

This year leaders from across California will come together in Riverside for the 121st annual California State PTA Convention. For three days in May we convene to do the business of the association, attend workshops and network. If you have never been to our convention before, here are some things you can look forward to, and if you have attended before, here are a few things you don’t want to miss!

General Meetings: We have four general meetings where we do the business of the association. We are motivated by Celia Jaffe, our State President; we learn about the state of our association from Sherry Griffith, our Executive Director; and we are inspired by the successes of our Reflections winners. We vote on resolutions, position statements, bylaw revisions, and in odd-numbered years we elect our Board of Directors. There is also time in our meetings to hear from the state Teacher of the Year or other experts who share their passion for working with children and families. It is hugely important to attend all of the general meetings so you can be there to debate, discuss, and cast your vote on the business of the association.

Workshops: Every day there is a wide variety of workshops to attend. We always have training for core officers including president, secretary, and the finance officers, but we offer so much more than that! We have workshops on membership strategies, family engagement, important topics in health, education, and parenting, advocacy, communications and so much more. Some workshops are presented by PTA leaders, while others have experts from around the state as featured speakers. We also have two different formats for our workshops: presentations and table talks. Both formats offer unique opportunities to learn from experts, PTA leaders, and convention goers — you won’t want to miss a single session!

Vendor Hall: This year we will have two vendor halls full of businesses who want to help support your PTA. There will be yearbook companies, fundraising programs, book fair providers, and lots more. There are also booths for PTAez, TOTEM, and AIM Insurance, where you can ask your questions directly to the reps from the companies. Many of the vendors will have giveaways, opportunity drawings, and information to share that you can take back to your unit. Be sure to bring a bag to carry things and your camera, as there are lots of good photo opportunities in the vendor hall.

Your participation in convention allows you to help guide the direction of California State PTA for years to come. Your vote on resolutions, bylaw changes and in elections shapes the advocacy and leadership efforts of our organization. You also strengthen your unit by bringing back new vendors, new ideas, and new resources to share with your board and the families at your site. We all know that training makes for a more successful year for your board as well, and we provide that for you at convention.

There are so many benefits to attending convention, but one of the most important is that you realize that you are not alone. You get to spend three days learning from leaders just like you across the state who face the same challenges and believe in the same mission. You are able to network with unit, council, district, and state leaders who are working hard in our schools, creating a better experience for our students just like you. Convention is a time to get re-inspired and revitalized, so make sure you are there!!!

We will be sharing lots more about convention in the coming weeks and months on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. While registration for convention doesn’t open until March, you can stay up-to-date on convention news by visiting https://capta.org/programs-events/convention/.

We will see you in Riverside from May 15-17, 2020!

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Parent Involvement and Your Child’s Long-Term Success

Parent involvement in a child’s education is likely to have a positive impact on a child’s long-term success. Students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, show improved behavior, attend school regularly, and graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education.

But everyone is busy and has limited time. However, the range of opportunities for involvement allows even the busiest parent to make a meaningful contribution. For example, meeting your child’s teacher and friends and attending school programs is a way to show your kids that you care about their education. And if you are able to help at school events, it shows kids the importance of volunteering at school and in the community. Simply joining your local PTA demonstrates your willingness to positively impact your child.

One of the most important ways that you can support your student is to attend parent-student conferences. During the conference, you can ask important questions that will give you a solid understanding of how your child is performing so that you can be invested in your child’s academic year. Learning Heroes suggests asking questions like:

  • Is my child reading at grade level?
  • What are my child’s learning goals?
  • Is my child making progress?
  • What is my child doing well?
  • What skills does my child need to focus on?
  • What can I do to support my student at home?
  • How can I help with homework?

Another way to support your student is to reach out to your student’s teacher and ask what help they need. Teachers usually welcome assistance in the classroom, or with a school event. Being a part of any event on the school campus will give parents a better understanding of your student’s daily life.

PTAs offers parents many ways to increase involvement by providing resources and volunteer opportunities. Attending PTA meetings offers a valuable opportunity to interact with other parents, hear from a school teacher or principal, and learn up-to-date information. Parents can ask questions and start to build relationships with parents, teachers and school administrators. Many PTAs offer speakers to help support student success, addressing such critical issues as vaping and mental health. Even attending one or two PTA meetings can make a difference.

Parents who cannot attend PTA meetings may still increase involvement by accessing on-line resources. CAPTA.org and PTA.org provide helpful information to assist parents become better informed, such as how to access the Dashboard or the National PTA’s The Parents’ Guides to Student Success.

PTAs also provide a framework for parents to help with events and participate in programs. When our kids see us weeding in the school garden on weekends or collecting cans for a food drive, they see us supporting our schools and community. By attending events that take place on school campuses, our students see parent involvement.

There are opportunities for every parent to be involved to the extent that time or resources allow. By focusing your time and energy on your student and their classroom experience, you are building the framework for a lifetime of success.

For the complete article referenced in this piece, please visit: How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success at www.waterford.org.

For more parent engagement ideas, be sure to read the latest issue of PTA in California, which features this article.

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