HomeImprove Your SchoolVolunteering & Fundraising

Become a legislative advocate for your child's school

Let your elected officials know where you stand on the issues that affect schools and your child's education.

By GreatSchools Staff

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.

Comments from readers

"Why not become a child advocate? If this is your calling then take the steps to make it happen. "
"The children of American taxpayers are really getting the pathetic, disasterous result of so many hundreds of thousands of kids of illegal aliens in our public school system for the free ride across America. My suggestion would be that if the illegal aliens have their kids in OUR public schools, the cost is $8,000 per year per child for them to attend. Pay in advance, please."
"I see to few parents getting involved with their childs education, even those with alot of clout. I think its very important that a parents get involved in knowing what reading porgram they are using, what policies they have in place and knowing the laws. Mine started in preschool when the therapist refused to teach me what she was ding so I could carry over at home. From that point on I have learned HIPAA, Confidentiality,IDEA, NCLB, Civil Rights for the disabled, consitutional law, penal law, exeutive law. Am I a lawyer NO!I am just informed. I now advocate for children in schools along beside their parents, I recently had our district change their reading porgram to one that is more effective as my child was failing in ELA. My statement to them was that if I can teach him to read why cant they! This changed things for me in alot of ways. Today I am corresponding with legislators to change the language content in preschool and early elementary grades. Seems they do not te! ach our children, they assume they can read therefore do not teach them language, this is why our children are failing. I have several teachers behind me as I go forward with my goal to change the way they teach ELA in early grades. For any parent that is skeptical about starting, We need more people to help us help them! 'Please consider whats at stake if you dont come on board'! We need to unite and come together. Parents need to unite"
"This is not original with me, but is too good to not be repeated. WHO IS RUNNING THIS NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC 'SHIP OF FOOLS? It certainly puts the question before Congress. Is there a price being paid for raising kids' math and reading scores?' A question before Congress? Get real. Teachers ought to crawl under the nearest desk, having to admit that they are unable to teach math and reading while carrying a normal curriculum. Band, music classes in general, theater, art, physical education, even recess...all of them fell to what we were lied to was budgetary restraints. Now, with these time-consuming {and absolutely necessary] out of the picture, we are told that teachers areunable to teach even the skelletal remians of what their criminally negligent School Boards have left for them. I am tires of the old tired, the beholden and paid-off, the confounding teachers' unions, the rich old broads who dictate how and where and when and for how long the poor will be educated. We did a far better job 150 years ago in one-room schools. Why? Because someone gave a 'care'. Teachers cared, the older kids taught the younger, at the end of eight years, kids could write and essay and do essential arithmetic. They had a working knowledge of classical writing and still got the cows miked or sold newspapers. Parents gave up the precious labors of the kid {and they were precious, either on the farm or at a job} to school them. WE WILL HAVE SCHOOLS THAT WORK WHEN DO_ GOODERS, UNIONS, POLITICIANS and a thousand special interest get the heck out of the way to let teachers teach. Then perhaps paprents will feel empowered ehough to crawl out tof the rec room and find out why theirkids are turned on by computer games and turned off by school."
"As we see the Oprah school open one ask, 'Why not in America?' I can tell you that apathy has set in and you can give children a book, paper and pencils here and they wouldn't think twice. In Africa the children hunger for an education, they know they need it in order to do better in life. If our children would believe they needed an education, we would see a difference in their performance. Education is made important by the parent. Parents need to stand up and don't leave their children behind societal norms. Iam a parent and know that in order to get a good paying job the minimum will be a college education. I push them to read, study and read some more. I get tutors for weaknesses and work with them nightly. We don't watch TV Monday-Thursday. I make my children be accountable to me about their grades. Even 'if' they have teachers who don't know their stuff, they have a book to read and commit those things to memory. America families must be responsible. Why i! s Johnny failing? His parents are working overtime to buy him Games that will limit his learning and attention span. Let's be what made this country great, passionate about becoming a better people by working hard and serving others."
"I would like to say it is easy to tell someone to talk to their representative, but gettting an appt. is a another subject.I think the fcat has put such a burden on our kids in school. It takes up the time of learning the other subjects that are important such as teaching middle school children how to sign their name. This is more important to me than an fcat which they are not interested in. I think we need to go back to the basics of reading,writing and math. These are the things they will need to survive in this world. Since everybody depends on the computer, you all have forgotten about penmanship. I enjoy writing and someone comments and say you have such a lovely handwriting. I know a couple of kids in middle school cannot sign their name. Something is wrong with this picture. Instead of putting more on our children let's get them back interesting in going to school so they can learn the basic things they need to know in life. Halfn of children loose interest in middle school and decide to drop out.It's too much pressure. Who want to go to school for 12, 13 maybe 14 years and come out with a certificate! That's the most important day of your life as a child to walk down that ailse and recieve your diploma. They see it as a waste of time. Help our kids and take some of the pressure off them Everybody is not going to be a lawyer, teacher or judge. Some want to continue learning and some don't want to learn. Let's lead them in the right way.These are not computers that we can turn off and on and program them. I have a child that is adhd and I have been crying for help since elementary school. I have heard every excuse in the book. Let's let the districts run our school. Someone needs to visual check on the progres of our students all year long. Some schools are not producing they way they are supposed to. Everything looks good on paper, come inside our schools more often. Surprise the school and drop in and check on our children grades during the year, not at the end when they fail the fcat test. I th! ink we n eed to send that fcat test back to where it came from."
"This past year, my son, who is in the fourth grade, brought home a letter from his teacher. It said that the class was going to spend the first half of the year learning how to take the No Child Left Behind Test so that they would feel comfortable and confident when test time came. So, for the first two months of school, my son was learning how to answer multiple choice questions and so on, instead of learning the core educational skills that probably would have made the test easier to pass in the first place. That's when it hit me that schools have turned into test-taking factories where teachers spoon-feed information to students only to be regurgitated on some standardized test. They are not taught any real-world, common sense approached to problem solving. Schools are so concerned about getting the test schores they need to stay funded that this has become the answer. "
"I think this is an excellent article. As a former teacher, I can not stress the importance of a quality education enough. It is the most important investment a society can make. The quality of education is linked with quality of life in general. Do not think that a lesser quality of education in certain segments of society will not affect the society in general. It will! "
"In response to the comment about children being left behind, I do not feel that it is Bush who is responsible for this. It is a proven fact that most children are working at 4 grade levels higher than we did as children. When this happens they have to know more at a younger age and there is no time for the 'extras'. The teachers must teach more to children who may not be ready to learn at the higher levels and therefore it takes longer for the child to get it. So do we cut out the extra time needed and let the kids have the extras and not meet or exceed the standard or do we continue to teach to an ever changing standard so that we can say that my child is an hornor student at...? When I was in college I was majoring to be a teacher and I have to say that I am so thankful that I did not persue that line of interest. I feel sorry for my children who do not get the opportunity to be children because of homework and schoolwork. Our children spend 6 hours and 45 min. at school learning and then they get to come home and spend a minimum in most cases of 1 hour of homework. When do our children get to be children? "
"I believe our children are being put to the test,there are not enough good devoted teachers out there who are willing to stay after school to help children who are falling through the cracks and who may not graduate because their parents don't have enough money to get a tutor for them. This should be the responsibility of the school but in order to get government funding they have to push the kids harder to learn more without any type of humanities, art, music, sports. These are all cut out, and if the parents want this for their child they have to pay extra for it, something that was once a standard for all schools. I believe Bush said we shall not leave one child behind, but in essence he is leaving a whole bunch of children behind, where will it stop, when kids get burned out and start retaliating against the school system. "