Legislative Advocacy

What is Legislative Advocacy?

The act or process of pleading in favor of a particular cause.

  • Making the case for a larger investment in career and technical education.
  • Working with policy makers to address concerns of career and technical education.

Why is it Important?

  • Puts your program in the spotlight.
  • Lets policy makers know what is happening in the “real world” of education
  • Local connections make an impact on policymakers
  • This year is more important the ever – Budget threats and Perkins Reauthorization
  • You can protect CTE! The future of career and technical education depends on you!

General Advocacy Guidelines

  • Be Informed
  • Know the Policy Maker
  • Make it Local
  • Be Concise
  • Be Specific
  • Be Constructive
  • Follow-Up
  • Continue Relationship

Methods of Communication

  • Visits with Key Policymakers
  • Fact Sheets
  • Letter/Faxes/E-Mails
  • Calls to Key Policymakers
  • School Tours
  • Presenting Testimony
  • Community Activism
  • Political Campaigns

Who Should You Target?

Education programs like career and technical education are governed by the federal government, state government and by your local school district – so all three levels are important!

Federal Level:

  • Congressional representatives
  • U.S. Secretary of Education
  • Office of Vocational and Adult Education
  • President Obama

Legislative Visits

Before Your Visit

  • Call staffers to schedule appointments
  • Define your goals, gather your facts, and plan your group strategy
  • Prepare your materials
  • Know where you are going
  • Be on time, be flexible

Steps to a Successful Visit

  • Identify yourself and your organization: No acronyms or abbreviations!
  • Deliver your message: Use local stories and statistics and share your personal experiences
  • Make your request
  • Ask for something specific
  • Say thank you

What You Can Do

  • Develop a relationship with your congressional representatives
  • Share data and statistics with policymakers
  • Stay informed on key issues and sign up for ACTE Legislative Alerts
  • Share this information with others – encourage them to become advocates
  • Promote your programs!

Receive Legislative Alerts from the Association for Career and Technical Education

  • Nonmembers may join the CTE Community on at no expense by simply visiting the ACTE's website.

Tips for Successful Legislative Meetings

Before Your Visit

  • Make an Appointment: Arranging an appointment in advance with your legislator’s scheduler helps avoid long waits and disruptions in the legislator’s or staff’s schedule and ensures that you will have a specific amount of time for your meeting. Be sure to tell the scheduler how many people will be in your group and what topics you would like to discuss. You may also consider making an appointment with key staff in your legislator’s office or make sure the staff that handles your issues knows you are making an appointment with your legislator.
  • Define your goals, gather your facts, and plan your strategy: Clarify what you want to get out of the meeting ahead of time. Know what key points you want to make, and what action you want your legislative member to take (e.g., support or oppose a bill, support a specific issue, visit your program). Don’t assume your legislator or his or her staff will be familiar with your issue or a particular bill. Make sure you “know before you go” the status of the legislation you are there to discuss and what impact it will have on your state or local area. Plan a strategy with others in your group: who will take the lead, who will raise which issues, and who will serve as the primary contact for follow up.
  • Prepare your materials: Have on hand a short piece to leave behind summarizing your issues and positions. Always include contact information on anything you prepare for your legislators. You can use materials prepared by a national organization like TSA, but should also have any of your own school’s or state’s materials with you as well, such as short brochures, fact sheets, or research results. You can always provide additional background materials to staff after the visit. Bring plenty of business cards so staff can contact you for further information.
  • Know your Legislator: If you aren’t familiar with your legislator’s background or track record, it always pays to find out more before you visit. Take a few minutes to visit his or her website or glance through your local newspaper to find out what his or her top priorities are.

Arriving For Your Visit

  • Know where you are going: Be sure to have a map of the facilities and the location of each of your scheduled meetings and that you know who you are meeting with in each office.
  • Be on time, be flexible: If you are going to be late, call the office if you can and let them know you will be running late. Given their busy schedules, staff will appreciate the notice. Of course, they may not be on time – it is not uncommon for legislators and their staff to be late or to have a meeting interrupted. (If interruptions to your meetings with Members do occur, take advantage of the opportunity to meet with staff.) Also, if you haven’t had the opportunity to make an appointment ahead of time, and you would like to drop by your legislator’s office, simply introduce yourself to the staff in the reception area, noting that you are from the home state or district, and inquire if the person handling your issues might be available for a few minutes.

During Your Visit

  • Introduce yourself and others in your delegation: Introduce yourselves and identify the programs or schools with which you are affiliated, taking care to note that you are represented by the legislator.
  • Thank you: Thank your legislative representative and/or staff for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Explain the purpose of the meeting: Tell your legislative member why you are there and quickly get to your point. Let them know you are there to discuss Perkins reauthorization, funding for career and technical education programs, or other issues that relate to technology education.
  • Present your main message: Keep it simple, brief and non-technical. Avoid acronyms, insider jargon and overly technical discussions. Explain why you support or oppose a particular position and give the member or staff your supporting facts.
  • Bring the message back home: Explain the unique perspective you bring to the debate because of your local work, and how these issues impact your state and local area. Highlight the work of your program, its importance to the community, and how career and technical education makes a difference to those you serve, to local businesses, and to the economy. Cite specific examples of your program’s success in meeting the particular needs of your area.
  • Get a commitment: Make sure you get a clear answer from your legislator on any action you want taken. If your legislator agrees to study an issue further, or will not tell you his or her position, offer to provide additional information to help them make a decision. If your legislator states opposition to your issue, use your judgment as to whether further information will make a difference. Always be friendly no matter what your legislator’s position or track record on your issues – in politics there are no permanent friends and permanent enemies.
  • Allow time for questions: Be prepared to answer questions. Remember that it’s always OK not to know the answer! Let the legislator or staff know that you will find out the answer and get back to them. Then remember to do it!
  • Wrap it up: Keep in mind the legislator’s busy schedule and wrap-up your meeting on time. Leave behind your supporting materials, offer to serve as a continuing resource, and thank those you met with for their time.

After Your Visit

  • Debrief: Review the meeting. Did you make your key points? Do you know where the legislator stands on your issues? What do you need to do to follow up?
  • Send a thank you note!: Send a brief note to the legislator and/or staff thanking them for their time and reinforcing your key points. Make sure to include any information you agreed to send or answer any questions you were unable to answer during the meeting. You would be surprised how often people forget to do this and how much of an impact it can make when you do.
  • Sustain the relationship: Periodically send legislators and staff information that may be of interest. Invite them to visit your program. Thank legislators who honor commitments or who vote in support of your position. Also remember that developing and maintaining good relationships with staff may be the most effective means to making your concerns heard. Also, let staff know that you have a presence in Washington at ACTE & TSA.

Good luck! Your efforts make a difference!

For more information, contact:
Alisha Dixon Hyslop
ACTE Manager of Federal Affairs
703.683.3111, x331