Local PTA Advocacy for Children and Youth
VP for Advocacy – Kathleen Fay
Any PTA district, council or unit may recommend action on legislation to the California State PTA Board of Managers. PTA districts, councils, and units 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.
PTA is a child advocacy association. Its legislative mission is to speak on behalf of all children and youth at the local, state and federal levels. One of the Purposes of PTA is “to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth.” PTA promotes and encourages legislative advocacy for the education and welfare of all children and youth.
Role of PTA in Legislation
As local officers of the largest grassroots child advocacy organization in the state, PTA legislative advocacy chairs are responsible for demonstrating leadership on children’s issues at the local level by educating PTA members, community members and elected officials about PTA’s issues of concern and legislative priorities and goals.
The California State PTA takes positions on issues/legislation based on position statements in the California State PTA Toolkit, California State PTA convention resolutions, California State PTA Legislation Platform and National PTA positions and convention resolutions.
The unit, council or district legislative chair provides PTA members with information about PTA positions on current legislation and issues.
What to do
In order to ensure your success, regardless of your level of legislative experience, we have broken out the “What To Do” sections by “Newcomer” “Continuing” and “Advanced.” So, please go to the section that best fits you and remember to incorporate the Newcomer and Continuing actions even when you’re Advanced!
Remember: no amount of fundraising can have as much impact as a single piece of legislation.
Newcomers to Advocacy
Please obtain materials from your predecessor and/or unit/council/district president. If no materials are available, please begin a new procedure book. If you are new to advocacy, we encourage you to do the following:
- Request that advocacy is on the agenda of every meeting and give a legislative report.
- Share with PTA members about issues affecting the school and community as well as legislative activities at all levels of government. Remember we are a nonpartisan association, so please be objective and factual. Be sure to include PTA positions when appropriate.
- Circulate materials from council, district, State, and National PTA when available. Have copies at PTA meetings or information on websites or links where the information can be found.
- Write articles for your PTA newsletter. Please observe Legislation Policy 11 (4.2.5k) which discusses guidelines for sending materials home with students.
- Schedule at least one meeting per year with your elected representatives to discuss your PTA’s local issues of concern and legislative priorities of the California State PTA.
- Take a few members from your PTA with you.
- Participate in one of the following: a letter writing campaign, a postcard campaign, a rally to support a PTA position.
- Attend some local school board meetings. Communicate advocacy positions as authorized by your PTA board.
- Establish a method for sharing PTA legislative Alerts and other important information with PTA members.
- Take Action on legislative Alertsfrom the California State PTA and National PTA and encourage other PTA members to do the same.
- Maintain current contact information for all elected representatives in your area: U.S. Senators, U.S. Congress member, State Senator, State Assembly member, Board of Supervisors members, city council members, and school board members. Feel free to take advocacy actions from the other categories at any point that you feel ready.
Continuing Advocacy and Education Efforts
If you have served as the legislative advocacy chair for one to two years at the unit or council level, you will likely be ready to take your advocacy to the next level. Please continue with all your newcomer advocacy actions and also add as much of the following as possible:
- Organize a voter registration drive annually. Remember to include new residents and high school seniors.
- Organize a letter-writing, e-mail or call-in campaign to communicate legislative priorities to legislators one to three times per year. Provide a sample letter, e-mail or phone script.
- Encourage PTA members to attend meetings with State Assembly and Senate representatives, 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.
- Schedule at least one public appearance of unit, council or district representatives to highlight California State PTA’s legislative priorities and local issues of concern. Some examples of appropriate forums are school board meetings, the local chamber of commerce, and meetings of local service clubs.
- Submit at least one letter each year to the editors of local newspapers on behalf of your PTA highlighting California State PTA’s legislative priorities and local issues of concern (with signature of district, council or unit president).
- Train your members to be advocates.
- Visit sacramento with other PTA members to meet with elected representatives and key education leaders.
- Invite legislators/policymakers/elected officials to visit a local school.
- 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.
- Please consider advancing to the next level of PTA by volunteering to serve on your council advocacy team, or your district advocacy team.
Advanced Advocacy and Community Education Efforts
If you have been serving as an advocate for several years, you will be ready to go to the advanced level! Please continue with all your newcomer and continuing advocacy efforts and also add the following:
- Meet with federal legislators, when they are in their local district offices.
- Host a presentation on advocacy issues. Invite a council or district PTA counterpart to present.
- Organize a rally to highlight a key PTA issue. Invite legislators and other speakers, as well as the press.
- Invite the press to PTA advocacy events, and publicize PTA advocacy activities and positions.
- Organize a candidates forum, working with PTA council and 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; Nonpartisan Policy 1.3.3.), see Fig. 4.2.
- Consider authoring a resolution on an issue of concern to your PTA to submit through appropriate channels to the California State PTA or National PTA. (See Toolkit section 2.9.)
- Provide leadership and support for PTA-approved local school bond and parcel tax campaigns. (See Toolkit section 4.3)
- Organize/participate in a legislation study group if a local issue arises (How to Make a Study – Toolkit 7.4.2). Consult with a 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.
How to Stay Informed
Sign up to receive regular e-mail updates from:
• Your school district
• Your PTA council (if available)
• Your PTA district
• California State PTA – www.capta.org
• National PTA – www.pta.org
Events to Attend (attend as many as your schedule allows.)
• California State PTA Legislation Conference in Sacramento
• California State PTA Convention
• Council/District PTA-sponsored visits to Sacramento and other advocacy events.
• EdSource Forum
• National PTA Legislative Conference held in Washington D.C.
• Legislative Alerts (please sign up on the website to receive e-mail updates)
• Toolkit (Available in both English and Spanish online, in print or on CD). Chapter 4 is Advocacy and includes: local advocacy, elections, legislative program, legislation platform, listing of resolutions, position statements, policies and procedures
Flyers/Forms: Chances are that you are currently filling the last few appointed spots on your board. Is legislation/advocacy one of those open positions? Here are some hints for finding a PTA advocacy person:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Go to Forms page.
Please feel free to distribute
these flyers within your unit.
Brainstorm possibilities. Who is active in neighborhood associations, League of Women Voters, professional organizations? Who seems to know what is going on at the school board or in city politics? Consider PTA dads. Consider past financial officers or parliamentarians. Consider members who are intelligent and committed, but don’t have a lot of time during the school day. Try advertising in your newsletter. (Note: Beware the single-issue activist or the gadfly who might alienate policymakers.)
Ask someone to serve: A personal conversation works better than merely asking for volunteers. Emphasize the importance of advocacy as a core purpose of PTA, the reasons you think this person is a good candidate for the job, and the many resources available to help her/him get started.
Pass along resources and train: Refer your new recruit to the Advocacy Section of the California State PTA Toolkit and to www.capta.org and www.edsource.org for background information. Send him/her to the Fourth District PTA Advocacy Training Roundtable in the Fall for basic training. Have him/her sign up for LegLink. Remember, the Advocacy Team and I are here for you. We have a great year planned, and we hope your unit and council will participate!
Chances are that you are currently filling the last few appointed spots on your board. Is legislation/advocacy one of those open positions? Here are some hints for finding a PTA advocacy person: