JNCL is the national lobbyist for foreign language and international education in the United States.
Below, are some basics for how to:
*make telephone calls
*go on office visits
*testify at legislative hearings or at a school board meeting
*contact the media
*network with other organizations
Writing Letters: Letter writing is probably one of the most effective and efficient ways to express your opinions about an issue. Letters also serve as a means to educate decision-makers about your field and how they can assist you. Responding to constituent mail is a number one priority for most legislators.
Letters to policy-makers must be brief and to the point (usually no longer than one page).
Any letter should include the following major points:
Identify the issue clearly (with as positive a perspective as possible)
State your position and why you care about this issue
State how the issue will affect you, your school and/or your state
Tell the decision maker what you would like him/her to do
As with letter writing, telephone calls are a good way to contact policy makers. Be sure to give the following information during the call:
-Your name, address, and phone number
-The issue that has prompted your call
-What action you would like to see on this issue
Visits can be a useful way to educate policy-makers at all levels. Appointments can be arranged by calling the office to set-up a time and letting them know who will be making the visit and the issue to be discussed.
Present a written position (preferably a "one-pager") to support your proposal. This will allow the administrator, legislator and staff to reflect on the meeting at their leisure.
Many officials are often busy with numerous issues and may not be up to date on your particular cause. Take time to explain your views, concerns, and suggestions. Seek to offer a new way of looking at the problem and offer constructive criticism, not just negative preaching or scolding.
End each visit with a question which evokes a commitment to action such as: "Will you support this issue?"
Testifying before a congressional hearing, your state legislature, or the local school board, is yet another way in which to let your voice be heard. Hearings give policy- makers necessary information to accurately assess, write, and vote on laws and policies.
Know why the hearing is being called so your testimony is appropriate
Meet with committee members and staff in advance
Prepare and provide your written testimony as far in advance as possible
Be brief -- Don't read -- Maintain eye contact
If you don't know the answer, say so
Be courteous and tell the truth
In most cases, you do not have to be present in order to submit written testimony for the record. Call the appropriate office for details.
Local Newspapers, radio and television stations will offer publicity for an issue if they are convinced that the issue merits attention, and if you are willing to offer assistance. Remember to utilize your school newspapers and association newsletters as well. Include relevant policy-makers on your mailing lists.
Publicity may include:
Press releases on noteworthy programs (your school's National Foreign Language Week program)
Notices of meetings (your state language association's annual meeting)
Letters to the Editor
Other organizations can be a source of collaborative strength.
Expand your network to include areas where you may never have expected to find support:
Businesses with trade concerns
Social organizations with international dimensions (Rotary, 4H, etc.) By combining resources, skills, ideas, and networking lists, you can generate hundreds of letters and calls, positive support, and effective political action. Through joint meetings, coalitions can focus on common goals and priorities, target specific issues, and develop effective strategies.
Tips for Conducting a Public Advocacy Workshop
I. Advance planning: You may find that few people are interested in attending this session when there are so many others they think might be more important to their classroom performance. The following tips should help increase attendance:
Schedule the session so that as many people as possible will be able and encouraged to attend
Publicize the session using the flyer in this packet (or one specifically tailored for your meeting)
Feature the session prominently in the program
Make announcements about the session at every plenary session, breakfast, lunch, etc.
Ask influential members of the Board to personally help recruit people to attend the session
II. A "Walk-through" of the Workshop
A. Introduction: It is often useful to begin with a brief discussion of what the attendees think advocacy/lobbying is and note that their perceptions might be changed by this session. In moving to the discussion of issues that concern teachers, note that they will leave this session with specific public advocacy strategies that will help them influence the policy-making process just as "big money lobbyists" do.
B. Issues facing the profession: Most teachers will identify with at least a few of the items on this list, but they probably do not realize that their actions can have an impact on the way decisions about these professional issues are made. The list on this handout can be used as a quick summary of issues many teachers care about, or the group can take a few minutes and generate their own set of issues.
C. The politics of issues facing the profession: Many teachers have never thought about the connection between professional issues and political action. This section of the session should focus on this connection and help the participants realize that their input is important in the policy-making process at all levels.
Any one of the issues listed in Part B may be used to discuss how the language teacher actually implements an effective advocacy strategy. Pick one (the example uses well articulated sequences of language study) and discuss what the teacher must do, who the teacher must work with, and what kinds of advocacy activities will be most likely to be effective for influencing policy on that particular issue.
D. Identifying decision makers: Who are people in positions of power? Define who the people are who make decisions in communities, school districts, and on the state and national level. Identifying these individuals enables you to choose the most effective method of advocacy.
HANDOUT: Identifying Persons in Decision-Making Positions
E. Help: At this point, the participants may be overwhelmed at the amount of work involved. Take time to talk about an organizational structure that will encourage and support such activities by individual members. Describe your organization's activities or ways in which you would like to begin building a political action committee and network.
F. What must I do? Individuals can be politically active in a number of ways. This portion of the session should be dedicated to discussing actual advocacy activities. To avoid overload, point out that individuals need not be responsible for the entire list, but pick the one that is best suited and leave the others to the rest of the committee. In this way, advocacy will be a group effort!
G. Advocacy Tips: Many teachers feel that they have no experience doing public advocacy and would like some practical advice on writing letters, making phone call, setting up appointments, and so on. Role-playing and group work can be effective ways to address their fears.
H. Conclusion: Try to get a commitment from each of the participants in the group to be a part of your organization's public advocacy committee or network. Remember to get names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses in order to start and/or maintain an accurate data base. Finally, assure them that they have the necessary tools to begin public advocacy immediately. In their new work, they will need to keep in mind the characteristics of a good advocate. Confidence will come with experience.
III. Follow-up: The political action chairperson and committee must actively involve these participants in public advocacy projects as quickly as possible. Assign them specific tasks and ask for reports to share with the rest of the committee. Publicize their successes!
The training process is never finished. You might wish to run a similar session each year at your conference and target it specifically to new members. In addition, you may wish to hold a session for those already actively involved. It could be a forum to discuss new issues and strategies that have been effective as well as a way to maintain an accurate network list.