PTAs do a lot for kids, from providing programs to support learning, to engaging families in their children’s education, to raising funds to support their work and improve the lives of children. But PTAs make their biggest difference when they advocate, because through advocacy, PTAs affect the lives not just of the children who show up for an event, but for all the children in their school, their district, across Illinois, or throughout the nation. The Illinois PTA 2022 Fall Advocacy Campaign is coming up November 15th through December 1st. Here’s what you need to know to be ready to advocate.
Can I Make a Difference? I’m Just One Person
You may be thinking that you’re just a mom or dad, not some high-powered lobbyist, so why would your legislators listen to you? The fact is, legislators hear from lobbyists all the time, but they don’t hear from constituents all that often. Plus, the lobbyist is getting paid to try to get them to support a piece of legislation, but when you contact them, it’s because you care about an issue. That means that when you speak up, it gets noticed.
Remember, you’re also not alone in this. You’re joining other PTA advocates in support of these issues. Another important part of advocacy is encouraging your fellow PTA members to take action as well. It’s our collective voice as PTA advocates that makes a difference.
Does PTA Advocacy Really Make a Difference?
You may not know that the swing arms on the front of school buses that ensure the driver can see children walking in front of the bus are actually the result of PTA advocacy here in Illinois, starting with a resolution passed at the Illinois PTA Convention, and now used across the country. In the past few years, Illinois PTA advocacy has:
- Resulted in the testing for lead in every unique drinking water source at every school in Illinois up to grade 5, meaning millions of Illinois children are no longer being poisoned by lead in their school drinking water.
- Resulted in passage and funding for the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula, which has added over $1.2 billion in new state school funding in the last five years, primarily directed at the schools furthest away from adequate funding.
OK, So I Want to Advocate, But I Don’t Know What to Say
That’s not a problem. You can start to get informed on the issues we will be advocating on by joining our briefing webinar on November 2nd at 7:00pm (or finding it on the Illinois PTA YouTube channel afterwards). We’ll cover PTA advocacy and talking points for each of our targeted bills.
Next, when you receive a Call to Action e-mail or go to our Take Action webpage, you will find links to our campaigns for each of the bills (as well as any of National PTA’s federal campaigns). Click on the campaign you want to advocate on, and then:
- Enter your name and address (which will find your legislators and their e-mail addresses for you)
- Read over the pre-written letter (or don’t—we’re not your mom, and we’ve already worked hard to present our best argument for supporting the bill)
- Add a personal story about how the legislation will affect your family (or not—the letter is ready to go as is)
- Hit send (If you don’t add a personal piece to the letter, you can be done in just a minute or two.)
It’s that simple. When done, you’ll go to a thank you page that will have links to the other bills we’re advocating for during the campaign. If you found advocating for the first bill you took action on quick and easy, take a couple minutes more and take action on the others. Who knows? Maybe your e-mail is the one that convinces your legislator to vote in support of a bill or sign on as a co-sponsor to help get it moving out of committee.