Keys to Effective Lobbying
Know Your LegislatorsKnowing your legislators and their staff members is the first step to having your voice heard. The beginning of the school year is a great time to invite legislators to a board meeting or to visit a school. Establishing a connection with your legislator early is a primary step in the process of providing information and getting to know each other before the legislative session begins.
- Know each legislator’s party, committee assignments, priorities and history.
- Know where their children and grandchildren go to school.
- Find out whether your legislators have been a teacher, board member or have family members in education.
- Find out why they ran for office and what they hope to accomplish.
- Ask whether they prefer to be contacted by phone, email or postal mail.
- Ask them to describe their goals and vision for Colorado education.
- Contact CASB for questions to help you determine if candidates or legislators support public education.
Be a Source of Reliable and Credible Information
- Give your legislators your home, work and cell numbers and your email address so they can reach you at any time. You want legislators to consider your input before a vote.
- Remind legislators that school boards do not run on a partisan ticket.
- Be willing to share your insight and experience as a board member on issues legislators will have to vote on.
- Be ready to provide accurate, persuasive information on how legislation will affect your district and its policies. Use data as well as real-life and community examples of those effects. Work with your superintendent to develop the information you need.
- Build coalitions locally to meet your legislators together – there is strength in numbers.
Make Your Legislators Experts on Your District
- Provide information on your district at every opportunity.
- Always leave information in writing – political experts still say that a handwritten letter is the best way to communicate with legislators. Even if a legislator prefers receiving email, it’s still good to follow up with a handwritten thank you or more information.
- Send lawmakers copies of your annual progress report to show how your district is working to improve student achievement and be accountable to your community.
- Share good news and accomplishments, especially if they were made possible by past legislation.
- Send news clippings or links from your local newspaper or other publications frequently and particularly when the legislature is in session.
- Invite legislators to your schools, staff development training, board meetings or PTA meetings.
- Give legislators stories from your community they can use to make their points in floor debates.
Timing is Everything
- Attend meetings and forums that your legislators hold in their communities.
- Pick a good time to get your point across.
- Obtain a legislative calendar showing when legislators are in their home district or at the capitol. Calendars show when lawmakers should be in committee, in full session or in the office.
- Use post-vote connections to thank legislators and advocate other issues.
Follow Your Legislators' Actions
- Ask legislators how they will vote on an issue. Let your legislator know you need their support or no vote on education issues.
- If a legislator is not supportive, let him or her know that you know how they voted. Convey the message that you appreciate their time, but the children of your district need their vote.
- If a legislator was supportive, thank him or her for that support.
- If visiting the capitol or with legislators, give priority to supporters of your legislative issue.
- Direct the greatest amount of your time on the undecided majority party members and then the minority party members.
- Do not spend time visiting lawmakers who strongly oppose your bill.
Don't Forget Colorado's Governor
- Send letters and emails and make phone calls to the governor’s office.
- Invite the governor to your district if something special can showcase student learning in a unique way.
- The governor’s budget is the template for decision-making. Ensuring that the governor is well informed on education needs can pave the way for legislative progress.
- If unfavorable legislation passes, remember that the governor’s veto power is the last chance to make a difference.
- Contact candidates for governor and let them know your priorities before the election in November.
All Politics are Local
- Recruit local advocates who care about public education to help you explain your students’ needs to your legislators. Talk to chamber of commerce members, service organization partners, church friends, farmers, retired board members, school staff members and parents – anyone who needs your district to provide the best possible education to your students.
- Encourage citizens to advocate on behalf of your district. Feel free to forward CASB action and legislative alert emails.