Charter schools, smaller class sizes and more frequent standardized testing are just some of the big changes brought about by legislation. Education is a political hot button, and the laws passed on the state and federal level have a major impact on local schools.
What can parents do?
Your state and federal legislators want to hear from you. Personal letters have the greatest impact, but emails, faxes and phone calls are all good ways to let your voice be heard. It’s best to have a specific issue or piece of legislation in mind when you contact your legislator, and it is particularly effective when large numbers of citizens write regarding the same bill or issue. Many school PTAs have a legislative coordinator who alerts the school community and organizes group letter-writing campaigns when an issue or particular bill merits attention.
Tips on writing to your legislator
State your purpose in the first paragraph. Since the work of legislators is primarily creating and voting on proposed legislation, it is most helpful to mention a specific bill and identify the bill with its proper bill number.
Use specific examples from your experience to personalize the letter. Personal letters have a greater impact than form letters.
Address only one issue in each letter and try to keep your letter to one page.
Meet your lawmakers
Legislators are impressed when groups of people take the time to meet with them in person in their district, state or federal office. School board associations, PTAs and teachers’ unions generally arrange lobbying meetings on specific issues. Contact your local group to find out how you can get involved or form your own group of concerned citizens and make an appointment to meet with your legislator. The same rules apply as when writing letters: Your visit will be most effective if you talk about a specific issue and/or a particular bill and how it will affect your local school.
Get informed and vote
One of the most important actions you can take as a concerned parent is to learn about the issues and vote in each election. Find out where candidates stand on education issues and study ballot measures affecting schools. Read local newspapers and attend voter forums a few weeks before the election to learn about local candidates.
How to find your legislators
To find your legislators, their addresses and phone numbers, go to Project Vote Smart. When you type in your zip code, you will be directed to your legislators.