One of the most important aspects of our work as advocates for public schools is making sure that the voices of people who know and care most about what happens to our children and schools are the voices heard the loudest by lawmakers and other decision-makers.
Contacting the people elected to represent your community and schools is an important part of standing up for public education in Wisconsin. Here are some tips for state and local level advocacy:
- Know your legislators, and make sure your legislators know you. Write, call, attend listening sessions, and share your concerns, ideas, and values. Follow legislative news and stay informed. You can subscribe to legislative updates and see calendars at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/.
Click here to find your legislator’s contact information: http://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/.
Click here for our handout, Legislative Action Tips: How to Build Relationships with Decision-Makers
- Local control means your voice matters most where you live. Know what’s going on locally. Follow local school board agendas and attend meetings to share ideas and concerns. Get the facts and figures from district staff to know how budget changes and voucher expansion impact your schools. Encourage strong public school supporters to run for school board, and get to know the people serving on your local board. If you have a local advocacy team, take turns attending meetings (or watch them online if that option is available in your community), and report news that matters to your group. Share resolutions and concerns that board members and superintendents have with legislation or policy widely and help amplify those concerns.
- Organize. The more we stand together, the stronger and louder our voices.
The key to supporting public schools lies in the fact that support for public schools is so wide-spread. Forming relationships with local leaders, parent groups, educators, and community members and business owners who support local schools allows opportunity to connect on the issues that matter to all of us: making sure that every child in our community has the opportunity to attend an excellent school, and knowing that strong schools are the bedrock of strong communities. Whether you form a grassroots team or an informal alliance of people who care about local schools, use those connections to help spread the message that your community stands united in support of its students and schools.
These three steps can make all the difference at both the state and local levels.
With nearly 80% of Wisconsinites opposing budget cuts to public schools, it is too easy to assume that our voices are being heard just because we know that our friends and neighbors agree that public schools are the hearts of our community. We know that supporting schools is not a partisan issue, and it seems self-evident that our support is well-known by those in power.
That’s no longer a safe assumption.
Lawmakers and local decision-makers need to hear from us. They need to hear from parents, educators, local business partners, retirees, and all who care about the current and future success of our students, communities, and schools. There’s no “registered lobbyist” for concerned parents. There’s no one at the Capitol everyday speaking up for the concerns of the grassroots groups organizing around the state to support their local schools. But there is a powerful and influential lobbying effort working to persuade legislators to decrease funds, resources, and local control for public schools and increase public funds for private and privately-managed charter schools that are not held accountable to local taxpayers. These groups have a loud voice, a strong presence, and a disproportionate influence both in the media and at the Capitol.
Our job is to make sure the voice of the people is heard loudly and clearly, and that legislators are held accountable for representing the interests, concerns and demands of their constituents — not a handful of paid lobbyists working to promote an agenda that underserves the vast majority of Wisconsin’s children.