ACTE Congressional Recess Packet
ACTE is pleased to provide this Congressional Recess Packet for CTE advocates to utilize when Members of Congress leave Washington to visit their states and districts. Legislators rely on their constituents' input to guide their work, so take this opportunity to participate in some advocacy activities to raise awareness of CTE with policymakers.
Crafting Your Message
It is important for CTE advocates to know the current issues being debated on Capitol Hill. By familiarizing yourself with these issues, you can craft a message that is timely, relevant and targeted. Use the CTE Policy Watch blog to find out about all of the latest congressional happenings. You can also visit the ACTE Policy Agenda page for more information on federal funding, current legislation and other CTE issues.
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Before you begin any advocacy activity, be sure to do your research and brush up on the current happenings in federal CTE policy. Here are some resources to utilize in your advocacy efforts.
- CTE Policy Watch blog—The blog is updated regularly with the latest CTE policy news.
- Targeting the Media page—A strong media campaign that utilizes newspapers, radio and television can reach a large numbers of people and policymakers with the CTE message.
- Fact sheets and Issue Briefs—ACTE has many publications that highlight CTE’s role in a variety of important policy issues, including dropout recovery, STEM education, career guidance and economic competitiveness.
- CTE Action Center—Direct links to all Members of Congress, along with their contact information, can be found in the CTE Action Center. Click on action alerts for important CTE policy issues and send a message directly to your elected representatives.
- Share Your CTE Story—Personal stories are a vital tool when discussing the impact of federal legislation on students, classrooms and teachers. ACTE will use your story in our efforts to advocate for CTE on Capitol Hill.
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Meeting In Person
The best way to ensure your message gets heard is to schedule a one-on-one meeting with your senators or representative through their local district office. The following are a few tips on making the most out of your meeting.
- Schedule your appointment in advance and be flexible. Call the district office as early as possible and have a few dates and times in mind.
- Do your homework! Craft your message and do the research to support your points. Check out the CTE Policy Watch blog, ACTE's Policy Agenda page and the CTE Action Center to find the information you need.
- Be prompt and provide relevant information. The legislator’s time is limited and you must make a local connection to keep the conversation relevant. No matter the topic of discussion, always bring it back to how the current practices are impacting the community and state, and how policy changes may effect your school and students. For example, if you are meeting with your senator to discuss CTE funding, you might talk about how the local school budget is shrinking and the need for federal funding to support and supplement CTE in your community. Let them know how important federal Perkins funds are to local CTE programs and give examples of how your CTE program has utilized Perkins funds.
- Be armed with research, information and handouts that are specific to your community. Support all of your talking points with recent and accurate information. If possible, speak to your school administration about providing local data and information that could be useful in making your case.
- Listen to what your legislator has to say, and be prepared to answer their questions to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question, just tell them that you can follow up with that information later.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up! Be sure to get contact information for your Member of Congress and their staff. After the meeting, send a "thank you" note and provide them with any written materials you discussed during the meeting.
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Social Media Advocacy
While traditional advocacy activities, such as face-to-face meetings and phone calls, are effective in promoting CTE with policymakers, it is also important to utilize technology as part of your strategy. ACTE has several social media networks that we use to build and maintain a coalition of CTE advocates. We encourage you to join these outlets to receive and share information about CTE.
Social media is a quick and effective advocacy tool that allows you to connect directly to policymakers. More information on using social media for advocacy is available on our Social Media and Advocacy page. Here are some sample tweets and Facebook posts that you can share with your legislators during this recess.
- .@SenatorReid my #CareerTechEd students need Congress to invest in their education! It's time to increase funding for Perkins CTE!
- .@SpeakeBoehner funding for #CareerTechEd is critical to keeping our economy moving in the right direction! Build our investment in CTE!
- .@MitchMcConnell it is time for Congress to make funding #CareerTechEd a priority!
Sample Facebook Posts:
- Funding for Perkins is critical in preparing youth and adults for 21st century careers. [Senator McConnell] it is time for Congress to make funding career and technical education (CTE) a top priority!
- Federal support for career and technical education (CTE) has already been cut by over $100 million since 2010. [Speaker Boehner] we can't cut our way to a 21st century workforce. Increase Perkins CTE funding and help to make building our investment in CTE a top priority for Congress!
- [Senator Reid] career and technical education (CTE) is vital to educating our nation's current and future workforce. Cuts in Perkins CTE funding hurt high schools, tech centers, community colleges, employers and millions of CTE students nationwide. It is time for Congress to build our investment in CTE!
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Town Hall Meetings
Members of Congress typically host town hall meetings with constituents during congressional recesses. These meetings are generally open to the public and provide constituents with the opportunity to raise concerns, ask questions and openly share their views on policy issues. Here are a few pointers on advocating for CTE at a congressional town hall meeting.
- Find out the date, time and place of the town hall meeting. You can find this information in your local newspaper, on your legislator's website or by calling their district office.
- Do your homework. Your time to speak is very limited, so prepare in advance on the topic you want to discuss. For more information on current CTE policy issues, you can check out our CTE Policy Watch blog or the CTE Action Center.
- Be precise and direct. When it is your turn to speak, step to the microphone and state your name and hometown. Then ask your question or state your position clearly. When asking a question, try to be as specific as possible. For example: “Federal funding to support career and technical education has been flat or in decline for years. What do you plan to do to help increase resources for education and workforce training programs in our community?”
- Be polite and follow up. Even if the Member of Congress does not support your position, thank them for their time and follow up with a staff member after the meeting. A town hall meeting can be a good first step in building a relationship with your legislator.
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A great way to showcase the value of CTE is by inviting your Members of Congress to see your program. Providing policymakers with the opportunity to get an up-close look at CTE in action can help to drive their perspective on CTE policy issues. Here are a few pointers to ensure a successful school visit.
- Get permission. Before you begin any planning, get permission from your school administration. Be sure to keep students and parents informed throughout the process as well.
- Determine goals and set an agenda. Determine before the visit what you want to accomplish. Be realistic with your goals and make sure your agenda helps to further those goals.
- Invite your Member of Congress. Send an invitation via email or fax to your Member of Congress. For advanced scheduling, it is best to contact their Washington, DC office. If possible, be flexible with the date and time. If you do not receive a response within a week, call the office to follow up.
- Invite media. Work with the legislator's press staff, as well as your institution or district administration to put together a formal press release to the media. If you need pointers on putting together a release, please see ACTE’s Targeting the Media page.
- Conduct the tour. Stick to your agenda and make sure that staff and students are aware of the visit. When possible, initiate conversations with the Member of Congress to ensure that your issues are communicated and understood.
- Follow up. After the visit, follow up with your legislator and their staff to continue building a relationship. Send a "thank you" note and include any press coverage about the visit.
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Policy and Advocacy
CTE Support Fund
The Career and Technical Education Support Fund promotes the
advancement of CTE through a broad array of activities, including
developing research-based materials focusing on the value of CTE;
building and sustaining a national coalition of CTE leaders,
administrators, organizations and businesses that support CTE awareness;
and organizing public awareness campaigns to support CTE. These efforts
are critical to supporting and advancing the cause of CTE and donations
to this purpose are tax-deductible. Your contributions to the CTE
Support Fund enable ACTE to carry out vital work on your behalf.
Hosting a Site Visit for Policymakers
You have a superb CTE program. NOW is the time to show it off for your
public officials. Your policymakers’ understanding will go a long way
with an up-close and personal tour of programs. These are the people who
can help you EXPAND and IMPROVE your program by ensuring funding and
effective policies. A successful tour needs meticulous planning.
ACTE has developed 10 STEPS to help you conduct a successful legislative tour of your school:
Before you begin any planning, get permission from school officials. Keep everyone informed.
What type of impression do you want the policymaker to have of your school? What programs do you want to highlight? Brainstorm and select the most important features you want to show off.
DEVELOP A DRAFT AGENDA
Most importantly, make sure school is in session for the tour. Plan a short and concise introductory presentation about the school and programs the policymaker will see. Following the brief presentation, schedule an organized tour.
Now that you have your agenda, the next step is to invite your targeted policymakers. Fax or mail a brief letter to the policymaker at his or her local office at least six weeks before the scheduled date (you can find contact information for your federal Members of Congress by visiting ACTE’s Legislative Action Center). Briefly introduce yourself, your program, and state the purpose of the letter. Explain why you would like the official to visit your program (to see how an example of a CTE program can work in the community, the importance of supporting such initiatives, etc.). Include specific information about the visit (date, time, location, others who may be invited, whether the media will be invited, what activities are planned for the visit). Public officials have very busy schedules, so you’ll need to be as flexible and accommodating as possible.
FOLLOW UP WITH THE SCHEDULER
The policymakers’s scheduler should be contacted seven to 10 days after you have mailed the letter. You should keep in mind that you need to be flexible with the date and tour arrangements. You should take every step to accommodate the policymaker. NOTE: Federal legislators will most likely be in their home districts Mondays, Fridays, and on the weekends.
DETERMINE PRESS ACTIVITIES
Work with the policymaker’s press secretary, if they have one, to determine appropriate press activities. Send a press release to the local media inviting them to attend the tour. In addition to giving the policymaker publicity, it will increase the community’s interest in your program. Be sure to follow up with the media to make sure that they attend since the policymaker will be expecting them! Take plenty of photographs. If you are unable to have the media present during the tour, send the local reporters a follow-up summary and a photograph for their use. (ACTE can help you with your media activities! Please visit the "Targeting the Media" section of ACTE's Action Center.
CONDUCT THE TOUR
The day has finally arrived! When the policymaker and his or her staff arrive, distribute descriptions of your programs, success stories about students and any other relevant information you feel promotes your program. Make sure that your name, address and phone number are on every document so staff can contact you later. Let the policymaker know the scope of the program: how many people you serve and what impacts the program has on families, the community, local businesses and the local economy. Explain why continued funding for CTE is important to students, jobseekers and businesses in the state or district. Encourage interaction between the policymaker and students. It is helpful for policymakers to make connections with those who benefit from the program and see the changes in people’s lives that good CTE programs make.
Have a few supporters present, such as parents, students and business partners, to help you make the case.
MAKE YOUR PITCH
Emphasize how additional resources could benefit students. While you have the policymaker’s undivided attention, make a pitch for support. Ask the lpolicymaker to support your programs through increased funding and effective policies. Remember to be specific if current legislation is pending.
Congratulations! You conducted a successful tour, but you have another important step to take. Before you do anything else, make sure you:
Send thank you letters to the policymaker and any staff who attended, reiterating the need for additional funding and more effective policies for your program.
Include copies of press coverage.
Include a photo of the policymakers with your students and supporters to remind them how important CTE is to your community.
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