More than 200 PTA members nationwide attended National PTA’s 2016 Legislative Conference (LegCon) to hone their advocacy skills and learn new ways to strengthen their PTA voice. During workshops and panel discussions, PTA leaders heard from experts about best practices to expand their grassroots network of PTA advocates, build relationships with policymakers and how to amplify their message through social media.
On the last day of LegCon, PTA advocates met with their elected officials on Capitol Hill to discuss key issues affecting children and families, including obtaining funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). PTA members’ dedicated advocacy efforts and collective voice resulted in 38 Representatives and 22 Senators signing on to a Dear Colleague letter in support of funding SFECs.
The bipartisan, bicameral support for the Dear Colleague letter is a great example of the power of our PTA advocacy efforts. That success is just the beginning of what the PTA can achieve when our 4 million members advocate for “Every Child with One Voice.”
To push back against the expected budget cuts to federal education programs, it is imperative for PTA members to continue to be engaged with Congress in 2016. The LegCon workshops and trainings have been uploaded to the LegCon website and can be utilized year-round to expand PTA members’ advocacy efforts at all levels of government.
The key to effective advocacy is building relationships with your Members of Congress and their office staff. Below are a few relationship building strategies that you can do throughout the year to develop a rapport with your Congressional offices:
- Send letters to your member of Congress through National PTA’s Takes Action Center
- Call your member of Congress’ office to discuss issues affecting children and families in your district and state
- Meet with your member of Congress and their staff in the district office
- Invite your member of Congress to visit your school and/or attend a PTA meeting
- Engage with your member of Congress on social media
By developing a strong line of communication with your members of Congress and their staff, our association will be able to meet our policy goals that will help to improve the lives of children and families across the country.
Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.