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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Advocacy Toolkit

ACTE Congressional Recess Packet

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ACTE has put together this Congressional Recess Packet for CTE advocates to use during congressional breaks—when Members of Congress leave Washington and are back in their home districts and states. It is very important that you contact your legislators during this time to advocate on behalf of your CTE programs. Members of Congress want and need to hear from their constituents, so take this opportunity to participate in activities that can raise CTE’s profile and get real results in Washington.

The recess packet will explain how to effectively meet with a legislator, use social media for CTE advocacy, take advantage of town hall meetings and make the most out of a site visit during recess.


Crafting Your Message

It is crucial to any advocacy effort to know the current issues being debated on Capitol Hill. By familiarizing yourself with theses 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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Resources

Before you begin any advocacy activity, be sure to do your research and brush up on the current happenings on Capitol Hill. Here are a few places that you can find information to help you with your 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 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. Please review this information to help craft your advocacy message.
  • CTE Action Center—Direct links to all Members of Congress, along with their contact information, can be found by entering your zip code 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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Meet Face-to-Face: Schedule a Meeting in the District Office

When Congress is in session, you are encouraged to contact the Washington, DC office, but during recess the local district office is where the action is happening. Use the directory on the CTE Action Center to find the location of district offices for your Members of Congress.

The best way to ensure your message gets heard is to schedule a one-on-one meeting with the senator or the representative at their district office. Following are a few pointers on how to make 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. Be as open as possible to alternative dates if they work better for the Member of Congress.
  • Do your homework! Craft your message, and do your research to support your points. Be sure to look at 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 relevancy. The legislator’s time is limited and you must make a local connection to keep the conversation relevant. No matter your topic of discussion, always bring it back to how the current practice is impacting the community/state and how a policy changes may impact the situation. 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 how CTE programs are suffering as a result. Explain to them that continued cuts to CTE will result in fewer skilled workers 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 specific to your district. Support all of your talking points with recent and accurate information. You want to back up your argument with facts! If possible, speak to your school administrators about data and information that could be useful in making your case.
  • Listen to what the policymaker says and answer questions as best you can. 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 the Member of Congress and their staff member who works on education and workforce issues. After the meeting, send a thank you message and provide them with any follow-up information you discussed during the meeting. Continue to send the office information including articles on CTE programs.

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Social Media and Advocacy

Today’s advocacy environment is always evolving. Traditional advocacy, such as face-to-face meetings and phone calls are still effective, but you may want to consider utilizing technology as part of your strategy. On the national level, ACTE has several social media networks that we use to build and maintain a coalition of CTE advocates, including teachers, administrators, alumni, institutions, businesses and more. 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.

Sample Tweets:

  • @SenatorReid my #CareerTechEd students can't afford another cut! We need a balanced approach to deficit reduction! #NoMoreCuts
  • @SpeakeBoehner funding for #CareerTechEd is critical to keeping our economy moving in the right direction! #NoMoreCuts
  • @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. Sequestration will add another $58 million reduction in Perkins CTE funding for the 2013-14 school year. [Speaker Boehner] we can't cut our way to a 21st century workforce!
  • [Senator Reid] career and technical education (CTE) is vital to educating our nation's current and future workforce. Cuts to Perkins hurt high schools, CTE centers, community and technical colleges, employers and millions of CTE students nationwide. It is time for Congress to stop the cuts and invest in CTE!

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Town Hall Meetings

Members of Congress typically host town hall meetings in their states and districts during recess. The meetings are open to the entire community and allow constituents to raise concerns, ask questions and openly share their views regarding legislative issues and positions. These meetings are traditionally held in community centers, churches or schools. You can find out the time and location of the town hall meetings in your local paper or by contacting your legislator's district offices.

Here are a few pointers to summarize and ensure that you get the most out of the town hall meetings.

  • Find out the date, time and place of the town hall meeting. You can find this information in your local paper, on your legislator's website or by calling their district offices.
  • Do your homework! Your time to speak is very limited, so prepare ahead of time for what you want to discuss. Do your homework, and know how your Member of Congress stands on CTE issues. For this information, 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, remain calm, and state your name and hometown. Then ask your question or state your position clearly. You should already know what your message is, but it is usually best to ask a precise question. For example, “This year, the House of Representatives proposed cutting funding for education, job training and other important domestic programs. What do you plan to do to help increase resources for career and technical education programs?”
  • Be polite and follow up! Even if the Member of Congress does not support CTE, thank them for their time and follow up with a staff member after the meeting. A town hall meeting could be a first step in building a relationship with your legislator. You can schedule a face-to-face meeting afterwards to go over points you mentioned during the town hall.

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Invite Members of Congress to Your Program

A great way to showcase the value of CTE is by inviting your Members of Congress to see your program.

No advocacy effort is as persuasive as showing how things works first-hand! It is up to you to show your Members of Congress how CTE benefits your students and the community.Here are a few pointers to ensure that you get the most out of your site visits.

  • Get permission! Before you begin any planning, get permission from school officials or your local CTSO chapter. Be sure to keep students and parents informed throughout the process as well.
  • Determine goals and set an agenda. You want to make sure to make the most out of your site visit. Determine ahead of time what you want to accomplish. Be realistic with your goals and understand that it may not be up to your Member of Congress to decide if Perkins receives an increase. However, that Member can vote on funding bills, join the Congressional CTE Caucus and supports legislation that benefits CTE. You want to make sure your agenda helps to further your goals.
  • Invite your Member of Congress! Send an invitation via email or fax to your Member of Congress. For advanced scheduling of a site visit, it is best to contact their Washington, DC office. Be sure to be flexible on your date and time. If you do not receive a response within a week, call the office to follow up.
  • Invite media! Work with the Member of Congress’ press secretary to put together a press release. If you need pointers on putting together a release, please see ACTE’s Targeting the Media page or contact ACTE’s media relations manager, Ashley Parker.
  • Conduct the tour! Stick to your agenda and make sure everyone in the school knows about the visit. Be sure to initiate conversations with the Member of Congress to ensure that your issues are understood.
  • Follow up! After the visit, follow up with your Member of Congress to continue building a relationship. Send thank you letters and include any press coverage about the visit.

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Data Quality Initiatives

With a growing national focus on data and accountability to help students succeed in education and careers, collecting high-quality data and sharing it across different agencies is more important than ever. For CTE, data quality and access issues include appropriately measuring student achievement, including the attainment of high-quality credentials; ensuring the quality of Perkins-funded CTE programs; and providing data to consumers on the connection between education and labor market outcomes.

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