Local PTA Advocacy

Any unit, council or district PTAs may recommend action on legislation to the California State PTA Board of Managers. Unit, council and district PTAs are responsible for taking action on local issues originating in school districts, cities, regions, or counties.

Laws enacted by local, state and national bodies are primary sources of public policy. Securing adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth is one of the purposes of the organization. Therefore, PTA maintains an active legislation program.

PTAs can and must participate actively in the process through which public policy decisions are made.

Legislation Chairman

  • Obtain materials from predecessor and unit president, or if no materials are available, begin a new file that includes the resources listed below under Resources and References.
  • Attend council, district and State PTA meetings, conferences and workshops. Know council and district PTA counterparts and consult them for advice and assistance.
  • Download California State PTA Sacramento Update, available for downloading at www.capta.org.
  • Study the Legislation Platform (see California State PTA Toolkit) adopted by convention delegates in even-numbered years. The Platform outlines the scope of PTA legislation activities.
  • Study the Legislation Policies and Procedures (see California State PTA Toolkit) adopted by convention delegates in oddnumbered years. The Policies define how the California State PTA legislation program works; unit and member participation is guided by the Policies.
  • Become familiar with PTA Resolutions and Position Statements.
    • California State PTA Position Statements are printed in the California State PTA Toolkit. The Toolkit section 4.5 provides a list of current California State PTA Resolutions. The California State PTA Resolutions Book is available online at www.capta.org.
    • National PTA position Statements and Resolutions are available online at www.pta.org.
    • Contact district PTA president for further assistance.
  • Learn how a bill becomes law; know how to get copies of bills; learn how to obtain information on and track bills; know how to contact legislators. Learn how to access California State PTA positions on legislative bills.
  • Maintain a list of the names, addresses, phone/fax numbers, and e-mail addresses for all elected representatives in the area: U.S. Senators, U.S. Congress member, State Senator, State Assembly member, Board of Supervisors member, city council members, and school board members.
  • Report to PTA members about issues affecting the school and community and the legislative activities at all levels of government. Be objective; give factual reports. Be sure to include PTA positions. (See California State PTA Toolkit for guidance on local issues.)
  • Write newsletter articles and circulate materials from council, district, State, and National PTA. Give reports at PTA meetings.
  • Observe Legislation Policy #11 (see California State PTA Toolkit), which sets guidelines for sending legislation material home with students.
  • Establish contacts with local individuals, groups, organizations and agencies to develop sources of information on local and statewide issues that affect the school, families and community.
  • Invite legislators/policymakers/elected officials to visit the school.
  • Know the calendar for the two-year State Legislative session.
  • Join the online listserv to receive legislative information and Legislation Action Alerts from the California State PTA. Respond to Legislation Alerts from the California State PTA.
  • Join the National PTA Member-to-Member Network, and subscribe to the National PTA e-newsletter This Week in Washington.
  • Establish a method for sharing PTA Legislative Action Alerts with other PTA members.
  • Obtain California State PTA positions and analysis on statewide ballot measures.
  • Identify issues of local need or special interest by informal survey of members or suggestions from other PTA chairmen or school authorities.
  • Consult with council or district PTA legislation chairman to coordinate efforts with other PTAs in the area. Forward findings to appropriate people, if study involves a district PTA or state issue.
  • Keep council, district PTA and California State PTA counterparts informed about contacts with legislators and responses from legislators.
    • - Participate in legislation study groups (How to Make a Study 7.4.2, 288).

    ENCOURAGE PTA MEMBERS TO

    • Meet with local government officials (e.g., school board and city council members, county supervisors), and know the local policies and ordinances affecting children and youth.
    • Meet with state and federal legislators, when they are in the local district PTA office.
    • Participate in California State PTA legislative conferences and council/district PTA-sponsored visits to Sacramento.
    • Participate in legislation study groups and informal surveys of the issues, and attend Candidates Forums.
    • Work with other local community organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, to sponsor nonpartisan candidates forums preceding elections. (Election Campaigns and the Role of PTA 4.3,127; Nonpartisan Policy 1.3.3, 16.)

    Study the Issues

    Check to see if the California State PTA already has taken a position regarding your concern or a closely-related issue (Where We Stand 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 130-212).

    If there is no prior position on record, the next step is to make a study (How to Make a Study 7.4.2, 268). Your council or district PTA can provide assistance.

    Present the results of the study to your membership. They may vote to accept the recommendations of the study and to forward them through channels (unit to council [if in council], council to district PTA) to the California State PTA. Background information and recommendations will be reviewed at each level before a vote is taken to forward the study to the next level. The unit, council and district PTA should report to each other on any action taken.

    Do not become discouraged if at any level the study is returned. Consider any recommendations, rework the study and resubmit it through channels. Remember, elected officials typically have to amend a bill many times before it receives enough votes to pass.

    If the study is rejected by the district PTA or is returned with no recommendation, and if the unit still has strong concerns about the issue, the unit may forward all background information and recommendations to the district PTA president, who must forward it to the California State PTA.

    When the study and recommendations reach the California State PTA Board of Managers, they will be referred to the commission or committee responsible for the subject matter. This commission or committee may accept or reject the recommendations and may prepare a position statement or resolution to present to the California State PTA Board of Managers for final action. Any action taken by the California State PTA will be reported to the local unit.

    If the California State PTA Board of Managers cannot take action on the study and recommendations because there is no authority for action, the local unit may decide to prepare and submit a resolution for consideration by delegates to the annual convention in accordance with the procedure and timeline described in the Convention Resolution Process (Convention Resolution Process 2.9, 66).

    Do Your Homework

    Research the issue and know the pros and cons of the issue. If the unit is working on a specific measure, know the bill number, title and sponsor( s). Remember to personalize the issue by preparing arguments on how the bill will affect the local community.

    Know the different groups that support and oppose PTA's position on the issue. Be an information resource and have available the following:

    • Fact sheets that include background on the issue;
    • A summary of the legislative proposal;
    • An analysis of the bill;
    • Facts and statistics that support PTA's position; and
    • Surveys or opinion polls of PTA members.

    Communicate with Your Elected Officials

    To determine who your state and federal representatives are, check the local telephone directory.

    You may also find the name of your California elected representative by going to:

    www.capwebworks.com/addresslookup/lookup.aspx

    You may find the name of your federal elected representative by going to:

    http://capwiz.com/npta2/dbq/officials/

    VISIT YOUR LEGISLATORS

    Group or individual contacts are among the most effective ways to communicate with legislators. Take the following steps:

    • Schedule an appointment or, if the elected representative is unavailable, arrange a meeting with the aide handling the issue.When making the appointment, specify how much time will be needed.
    • Draft an agenda and be sure to list the issue(s) the PTA wants to discuss. If part of a delegation, assign each person a role. For example, one person can open the meeting, another person can be the recorder, someone else can focus the conversation back to the PTA agenda when necessary and another person can leave literature.
    • Arrive on time for the meeting. Have the delegation meet together immediately prior to the meeting and then go in together. Once in the meeting, immediately identify yourself and the PTA represented. During the introduction, state the issue(s) of concern. Keep the time frame in mind during the meeting.
    • Be prepared to educate the legislator or aides about PTAs position. Be open to questions. If you dont know the answer, politely explain that you will do some additional research and get back to them. Never give false information or assumptions. Personal credibility and the credibility of PTA are on the line.
    • Ask how the legislator will vote on the issue. If the legislator is unable to make a commitment, tactfully state that you would like to know, and that you are willing to call at a later time to learn the decision. If the response is positive, respond, We appreciate your support. If the response is negative, ask, What are your specific objections?
    • Develop a positive relationship with legislators and their staff members. Communication should be a continuing exchange, not sporadic contact. A solid relationship with legislators and their staff members is an important step in building credibility and power for the PTA.

    WRITE LETTERS

    Letters alert legislators to PTAs views. A letterwriting campaign also educates PTA members about the issues and publicizes the organization. Begin the campaign by identifying a coordinator, perhaps the legislation chairman or PTA president.

    Determine the message. Have sample messages available, as well as fact sheets with PTAs position on the issue.When writing on behalf of the PTA, use PTA letterhead. State the case succinctly and accurately, citing the following:

    • Issue and background facts;
    • PTAs position and what PTA wants to happen (e.g., change in regulations, new legislation);
    • Number of PTA members the writer represents; and
    • Your involvement with the PTA and, when applicable, your PTA title (e.g., unit, council or district PTA president).

    Send copies of the letter to other contacts, such as key legislative committee and subcommittee members as well as the California State PTA director of legislation and, when writing about issues before the Congress, to the National PTA Office of Governmental Relations.

    When writing, you should:

    • Be brief, creating separate letters for each issue or measure;
    • Include bill number, author, and brief description of the bill;
    • Be specific about how the legislation would affect your school district and/or community;
    • Be willing to share any expertise and explain your connection with the subject;
    • Be positive and don't ask for the impossible;
    • Address the letter with proper titles; and
    • Sign your full name and give your complete address including telephone number.

    ADDRESSES OF CALIFORNIA 'S STATE AND NATIONAL ELECTED OFFICIALS

    The Honorable (name)
    Governor, State of California
    State Capitol
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    The Honorable (name)
    California State Senate
    P. O. Box 942848
    Sacramento, CA 94248-0001

    The Honorable (name)
    California State Assembly
    P. O. Box 942849
    Sacramento, CA 94249-0001

    The Honorable (name)
    United States Senator
    Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510

    The Honorable (name)
    United States House of Representatives
    House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    FAXES

    Faxes are a quick, effective method for making PTAs position known in writing.Many legislative offices have publicly listed fax numbers.

    ELECTRONIC MAIL (E-MAIL)

    Ask the legislator if he or she has an e-mail address. If so, and if the address is available to constituents, this is another way to communicate PTA positions on legislation.

    TELEPHONE

    Phone calls are an effective communication strategy, particularly when timing is critical. That is, when a legislators support or vote is needed within the next 48 hours. Following are some tips on using the phone to communicate PTA views:

    • Phone the legislator's district or capitol office and request to speak with the member or an aide.
    • Give information on the bill number and ask when action on the measure is expected.
    • State that you are from the legislators district, and explain the PTAs position on the issue.
    • Ask how the legislator expects to vote.
    • Urge the legislator to vote for the PTAs position.

    TELEPHONE AND E-MAIL TREES

    Telephone and e-mail trees are effective ways to mobilize many people on a particular issue. When the state president and/or the director of legislation receive information on an important issue, they may pass the information to local legislation chairmen who, in turn, can reach other PTA members in their communities.

    Through the use of telephone and e-mail trees, within a few hours of a legislative alert or call to action literally hundreds of letters, post cards, phone calls, faxes or e-mail messages can be on their way to appropriate legislators.

    Letters or faxes are best when time permits, but often we must react fast enough for the legislators to feel the impact of the PTA lobby within hours.

    Establishing a Telephone or E-mail Tree

    List the names and phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses of all those willing to act.

    Establish the calling sequence. Select "lead" callers.

    "Lead" caller should make no more than five calls, but may send unlimited e-mails

    .

    Last caller in sequence should return call to "lead" caller.

    If there is "no answer" after several tries, caller should go on to next in sequence.

    Do not count on answering machines to deliver messages in a timely manner.

    Invite telephone tree volunteers to a workshop to build individual confidence and enthusiasm. Distribute a copy of the entire telephone tree for all involved. Duplicate and distribute legislation materials from the California State PTA, the council (if in council) and district PTA.

    In the case of an e-mail tree, the legislation chairman can send one message to the entire list and members can forward it on accordingly.

    Tips On Effective Telephone or E-mail Trees

    Have alternate callers in case someone is unavailable.

    Have a system to check the effectiveness of telephone or e-mail tree. Is the tree functioning efficiently?

    Are there problems to adjust? Make your calls or send e-mails to legislators before activating the telephone tree. Your personal experience in communicating the message will alert you to any problems with the way you are presenting the message.

    Write down the message the leader is giving callers. Include bill number, author, subject matter, location of bill in the legislative process and the PTA position.

    It is important that the same message is delivered each time.

    By activating a telephone tree, the PTA unit has dramatically increased the number of contacts with legislators. It is important they hear from PTA legislators need to be reminded about priority issues.

    Update the addresses on a group e-mail frequently.

    FOLLOW-UP

    Following action on a bill, send the legislator a thank you note if the vote or action was favorable, or a polite note expressing disappointment if the legislator voted against the PTA position. Appreciation can be expressed in other, more public ways as well, such as writing letters to the editor of the local paper. Keep the PTA name visible.