Q: If our District receives a donation from our Parent-Teacher Organization designated to fund supplemental educational staff positions, are we required to use the funds for that specific purpose if something else is needed at a given campus?
A: Yes. Pursuant to House Bill 1525, enacted September 1, 2021, school districts must accept PTO donations designated to fund supplemental educational staff positions and must use the funds for that purpose only.
The acceptance and use of donations to public schools is governed by Section 11.156 of the Texas Education Code. Previously, the discretion to spend donations rested solely with a district’s board of trustees (although trustees have been permitted to consider a donor’s requested purpose when lawful). During the recent legislative session, however, subsection (c) was added to the statute, enacted by House Bill 1525, which created a mandatory duty for school districts to accept and use funds as directed when the money is donated by a parent-teacher organization (“PTOs”) and specifically earmarked by the PTO to finance supplemental educational staff positions at a particular campus.
Subsection 11.156(c) became effective on September 1, 2021. The Texas Attorney General has stated that the duty to accept and spend a donation exists regardless of whether a school district has already set its budget for the current school year. See Opinion No. KP-0387. Accordingly, each school district now has a duty to accept and spend certain PTO donations once all conditions in subsection 11.156(c) have occurred, including:
- the donation is derived from a PTO/PTA recognized by the district;
- the donation is designated to fund supplemental educational staff positions at a school campus; and
- the campus has directed the expenditure for its designated purpose and has specified the time within which the donation is to be spent.
Importantly, the new mandates imposed by subsection 11.156(c) are not without limit. First, the duty in subsection 11.156(c) concerns only a donation from a PTA/PTO that is recognized by the school district. In addition, the duty applies only to a donation that designates funding for a supplemental educational staff position (or positions) at a school campus. Finally, the statute provides that a school district is required to act in accordance with the direction provided to the campus, which includes the specification of the timeframe to spend the donation.
To conclude, districts should consider the new subsection when a PTO donation arrives. For specific questions related to donations, please consult with your local school attorney