Over the past several months the united voices of parents were heard from the halls of our state capitol to the offices of the Commissioner of Education. Your advocacy efforts created policy changes. The phone calls, e-mails, and visits to your elected officials demonstrated how relationships effect change. This is the foundation of advocacy.

Advocacy takes time and effort and does not become successful overnight. Most importantly, advocacy should not happen only during legislative session. The time to start is now, when the daily rigor of school work and home work settles down. The place to start is your own backyard. There is greater impact meeting with your legislators while they are at home in their district offices than when they are in Tallahassee. You have a greater opportunity to express your concerns and to talk with them about the effects their decisions had on your community.

Be as creative and unique as the community you represent when coming up with ways to advocate. Below are a few suggestions you can implement:

HOST A MEET-AND-GREET for your legislators and your PTA/PTSA. With redrawn districts, House and Senate members should be eager to meet their constituents. Be sure to include all nominees for any given office. PTA’s cannot show partiality to any one candidate.

HOLD A CANDIDATES FORUM. Invite PTA and community members to participate by preparing questions in advance of the forum. Reach out to the local media for a possible forum host. Consider videotaping the forum and post it on your PTA website. Again, remember to include all nominees running for an elected office.

CREATE A LEGISLATIVE QUESTIONAIRE. Send a list of questions (not to exceed 10) to all nominees running for your legislative county delegation that are of special interest to your PTA. Questions could include issues such as their vision for the future of public education; the importance of parental involvement; vouchers; funding, etc. Establish a deadline for their written responses and post the responses on your website or other electronic communication. For those who may not respond to the questionnaire, post that as well.

WHEN SCHOOL RE-OPENS IN THE FALL, invite your legislators to visit your school(s). This will provide them a first-hand experience of a “day in the life” in a public school. They are, after all, making the important decisions regarding our schools and our children’s education.

Keep in mind… if your legislators are not hearing from you about how their decisions affect your community, then you cannot expect them to appreciate the consequences of their actions.

Keep us informed of your advocacy efforts so we can share them with our members throughout the state.

Happy Advocating,
Your Florida PTA Legislative Team