Members of Congress value clear, concise, and informative communication from education advocates. School board members are in a good position to know what federal policies work and don’t work in the public schools.
Write Your Members of Congress
Personal, thoughtful letters have a considerable impact on your members of Congress. When writing your letters, keep the following in mind:
- Focus on one issue or bill per letter and identify the bill by name and number.
- Express your point of view and why your legislator should be supportive. Be brief and courteous.
- Explain the local impact of the legislation.
- Ask for a response from your member of Congress.
- Use your signature and personal letterhead and mention that you are a school board member when writing an individual letter. If it is a collective letter written by the board, have the president of the board sign it. Make sure the letter is on the board’s letterhead.
- Put your return address on the letter (envelopes often get lost).
Call Your Members of Congress
Phone calls are an effective and fast way to communicate with your members of Congress, especially when a critical vote is expected to occur. Sometimes you may be able to talk directly with your member of Congress or their key education staffers and have a more substantive conversation. Other times, your calls may be tallied by the receptionist who will inform the member of Congress of given counts of constituents for and against a particular issue.
When phoning your members of Congress, keep the following in mind:
- Ask to speak with the member of Congress or the legislative assistant who handles the issue, or briefly state your position to the receptionist.
- Give your name, title, and school district.
- Focus on one issue or bill. Whenever possible, identify the bill by number and name.
- Briefly state what position you want your member of Congress to take on the issue. Be prepared to give a locally based rationale for your position.
- Ask for your member’s position on the bill.
- If asked, give your address so that you can receive a written response.
Invite Your Member of Congress to an Event in the District/State
During the year numerous recesses are scheduled so that members of Congress can visit their districts. Plan to take advantage of this opportunity and invite your member to an event in the district/state.
- Plan ahead. Members of Congress have very busy schedules and their calendars fill up quickly. Send your invitation several months in advance of the date for the event.
- Contact the right person. Call your member’s office to find out the proper procedure for sending an invitation. Most members have executive assistants in their Washington offices who are responsible for scheduling requests. Invitations are generally requested to be in writing. Send the invitation to the attention of the executive assistant who is responsible for the member’s calendar. This will expedite the process. Also send a copy of the letter to the member’s district office. The Washington and district offices usually coordinate when the member is travelling in the state.
- Be flexible. If at all possible, note in the invitation that you are willing to accommodate the member’s schedule.
- One possible event is to invite your members of Congress back home to visit your schools.
- You may want to also speak with the member’s communications director to help get the media to cover the event.