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Advocacy Toolkit

Advocacy Tips


This collection of advocacy tips originally appeared as part of a weekly series on the CTE Policy Watch blog beginning in 2009. Use the tips to increase the effectiveness of your efforts to speak out on behalf of CTE at the local, state and national levels and to hone the advocacy skills of you and your colleagues!

8/3/09: Connections Count 10/19/09: Always Be Honest
8/10/09: Keep It Real! 10/26/09: Involve the Business Community
8/17/09: Specific Statements Succeed 11/2/09: Use External Research Sources
8/24/09: Be Flexible 11/9/09: Utilize Staff Connections
8/31/09: Make Notes for Future Reference 11/16/09: Be Professional
9/7/09: Keep in Touch 11/23/09: Find Common Ground
9/14/09: Know the Facts 11/30/09: Show Them What You've Got!
9/21/09: Have High Expectations 12/7/09: Focus Written Communications
9/28/09: Use Examples of CTE Press Coverage 12/14/09: Never Underestimate the Power of Your Words
10/6/09: Be Effective With Your Research 12/21/09: Get Visual
10/12/09: Put a Face on Your Program 12/28/09: Remember That Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Advocacy Tip of the Week (8/3/09): Connections Count
By: Lucas Fuess, ACTE Intern

Our congressional representatives and their staff members see dozens of constituents, lobbyists and interest groups each day. Eventually all the messages blend together and the points of each visit are forgotten. We do not want this to happen with ACTE issues!

An important step to remember during each visit or contact is to attempt to make some sort of connection with the person you are meeting with. The world is much smaller than you think! During a recent visit I figured out that the brother of the staff member I was meeting with goes to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY—just like me! We spoke for a few minutes about Cornell and upstate New York in general and got the meeting off to a great start. In a different meeting a staffer mentioned that one of his best friends from college was an agricultural education major and is currently teaching agriculture in a high school in his state. This was a great breakthrough because I realized that he would probably have at least some knowledge already of agricultural education and CTE.

Just one small connection will help the person you are meeting with remember you and the issues that you bring to them because of the link that you made. If that link is strong enough you might even have a tie with that office forever!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (8/10/09): Keep It Real!
By: Lucas Fuess

There are always colorful brochures, long letters and a thick folder of “leave behind” information that we usually take with us when visiting our representatives. All of this information is useful for the representative and the staff, but how can we make a specific point to bring the facts to life? How can we make our statistics related to CTE mean something?

When we share stories of CTE in action we can show Members of Congress that we are having a true influence on students across our nation. Recently I had the opportunity to visit my local representative to discuss Perkins legislation and share numerous stories about agricultural education programs in upstate New York. I told him that my high school has a greenhouse, raises small animals and plants our own crops. I told him how much I loved the rigorous education in the classroom that I could apply in the laboratory. I brought to life my past leadership experiences and showed him exactly how they prepared me for my current career.

When I used the examples of my past education to bring Perkins money and CTE to life my representative seemed to understand much better exactly what I was asking him to increase funding for. I made the statistics come to life, and because of that he was much more interested in the visit and more knowledgeable afterwards!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (8/17/09): Specific Statements Succeed
By: Lucas Fuess

We’ve all heard most of the guidelines of legislative contacts: make sure you look professional, be prepared, make a connection, etc. One aspect that is sometimes difficult for me is being very specific.

In New York, my home state, the chair of the Assembly Agricultural Committee is from near my home town. He always tells people that the stories, requests and updates are great to hear, but what he truly enjoys is specific information and facts. When telling a story about CTE -- be sure to use specific information. When discussing funding, give the policymaker specific numbers. When discussing students enrolled, say exactly how many and break down that number into key subgroups.

My representative valued specificity because he could then go into the Assembly chamber and make a strong, positive case for CTE or other issues he was debating. Because he was prepared with the solid, specific facts he could make a compelling argument for his beliefs. Be specific, members! Say exactly what you need and why!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (8/24/09): Be Flexible
By: Lucas Fuess

After doing a few legislative visits I’ve realized how extremely busy everyone is in Washington, DC, and in my state capitol of Albany, NY. One staffer I talked to said at any given time of the day a representative or senator might have three events going on at the same time!

When planning meetings, it is best to let the people you are meeting with choose a time that is best for them. This may sometimes complicate your schedule, but it is better to meet them at a time that they have chosen and prepared for. The staffer will be more relaxed and will probably have given your issue some thought before seeing you in the meeting. Even using this strategy though, last minute changes can still occur.

Recently, I had a visit scheduled with the education legislative aide in a representative’s office. I arrived at the meeting a few minutes early but found out that the staff member had an emergency and was not in the office. I needed to wait about 15 minutes but they found someone else to meet with me. Luckily, I did not have another visit scheduled that day. These kinds of things happen all the time with policymakers, and point to the need to maintain your flexibility when making contacts.

Think of a classroom on any given day: students handing in homework or asking questions about an assignment, a student who can’t make a deadline, a student teacher who is asking for advice, and the administration supervising you. This might all be happening at once! It is a lot like a congressional office. Teachers need to be flexible in their classrooms; this is also critical when advocating.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (8/31/09): Make Notes for Future Reference
By: Lucas Fuess

Forgive the college metaphor, but it’s what I’m used to: When I’m studying for an exam I obviously always look through my notes from past classes and labs to help me prepare for that upcoming test. Wouldn’t it be great if we always had first hand, original notes when preparing for a visit with a Congressional office?

During my internship I met with over 50 people/offices on Capitol Hill. After each visit I made personal notes about what was good or bad about the visit and the potential to ask that office for assistance in the future. Hopefully someone will be able to use my notes to make decisions about different offices.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a school administrator, a CTSO director or anyone else making legislative contact: take notes and record what happened! You never know when you might need to remember key facts. Also – don’t forget to share that info. If you make contact with a federal official, e-mail ACTE, or for state officials contact your state association. You may have just the piece of information they need to aid in advocacy efforts!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (9/7/09): Keep in Touch
By: Lucas Fuess

Congress is back in session tomorrow, but we hope you had an opportunity to connect with your Members of Congress while they were home over the August recess–perhaps through a meeting, community forum or town hall. Why end contact there (or after any meeting or encounter)? You have someone now that you know and have made a connection with, don’t waste it! After sending an initial thank you note your message will be further reinforced if you send periodic e-mails and updates. What works even better, though, is if you invite the policymaker or staffer to an actual event.

My agricultural teacher in high school was perfect at maintaining contact with our elected representatives after visits. Multiple times throughout my high school years we had our elected leaders stopping by to see my agricultural classroom and my school’s entire CTE program. We had multiple and repeated opportunities to show them what CTE programs do for students and how they provide rigorous and relevant education to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. What is better than getting a policymaker to see firsthand what we are trying to get him to support?

After that initial meeting be sure to keep in touch and keep the policymaker updated! You never know when you might need something!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (9/14/09): Know the Facts
By: Alisha Hyslop

I’m sure you heard about Rep. Joe Wilson’s infamous “You lie!” outburst during President Obama’s health care speech last week. While policy leaders on both sides of the aisle seem to agree on the inappropriateness of the comment (as do I, to put it mildly), it does bring attention to a critical advocacy issue. In today’s 24/7 news environment with new sources of information popping up continuously, coverage of the health care bills has been everywhere, from radio to TV news to blogs and tweets online. However, it is important to remember that everything you hear or read about a piece of legislation is not necessarily true!

In addition to stark inaccuracies that might be circulating, each side in a political debate is also spinning material to fit their audience and positions. In order to be an effective advocate, you must know the facts of whatever issue you are promoting. For example, if you are seeking an amendment to a bill, you must understand what’s actually contained in the bill to start with and how problems might be fixed. Congressional staff have extremely busy schedules, and your communications will be much better received if they are based on the facts of the issue.

This can require independent research and analysis. Some easy things you can do to get the facts include:

  • Turn to ACTE. We are a non-partisan organization. Our policy analysis and advocacy are focused on how policies affect CTE; not how the policies align with the agendas of a particular political party or ideology.
  • Read bill summaries and materials from both sides in a political debate. If opposing groups are saying the same thing about a policy, there is a good chance it is true; if they are presenting completely opposite viewpoints you know the issue is worth a second look.
  • Whenever possible, go straight to the source. Read a speech, bill or original policy proposal yourself and see exactly what it says in context. A lot of things can be made to seem something they are not when presented in isolation.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (9/21/09): Have High Expectations—But Accept that Every Meeting Isn’t Perfect
By: Lucas Fuess

If you’ve done a legislative visit on Capitol Hill before, then you know the feeling that comes with walking up the steps to a House or Senate office building, getting in the elevator, walking down the long, big, marble hallway and arriving the office. Well, maybe it’s just me who gets that feeling! But in any case, going to a visit is a big deal. There are high stakes. You might be making a first impression or building a lasting connection.

Always have high expectations when you go to a meeting. It will that you are positive, excited to be there, and expecting a great meeting and a great outcome. Recently, I met with the education legislative assistant to a “big name” senator. We started off the conversation great, made an awesome connection and she was interested in what I had to say. After I spoke a little about Perkins money and agricultural education/CTE in general and answered a few of her questions, the only thing she could say was how impressed she was with my enthusiasm and passion for what I was speaking about. I had high expectations for the meeting and she could tell. In the end it came out great.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. During another meeting I had all of the same high expectations, but no feedback was returned to me. The staffer didn’t ask any questions, didn’t try to make a connection and was looking at her Blackberry the entire time. Not every meeting will go great no matter what you do to make your performance stand out.

Expect great things, prepare, and show exactly what you need and why! Many times the meeting will be a success. It’s important to remember, though, that there will be bad meetings. They aren’t your fault!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (9/28/09): Use Examples of CTE Press Coverage
By: Sabrina Kidwai

Although I don’t get up to Capitol Hill that often to lobby, one of the things I try to do when meeting with policymakers is to bring media articles about CTE specific to the local area. I’ve noticed staff members really appreciate seeing these articles, and it shows that we have done our research! News coverage provides policymakers more objective information about the role CTE plays in their community, and it may help them understand more about CTE.

If a story about a new CTE program or school, CTE program winning an award, programs reducing the dropout rate, or the need for qualified workers in CTE fields appears in your local paper, this is the perfect opportunity to talk to your Member of Congress about the critical need for CTE and increased funding for Perkins. If you can’t find any articles to take with you to a particular visit or event, then keep looking and send something with a follow-up e-mail.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (10/6/09): Be Effective With Your Research
By: Jason Kiker

Having and using research as part of your CTE advocacy efforts is vital to being effective. But just what research will be most effective? While there is no perfect answer, there are some guidelines to follow. First, find out what is important to the policymakers you are talking to. If they are interested in economic development, use ACTE’s "Return on Investment" or "CTE: Education for a Strong Economy" Leave Behinds and talk about how CTE builds lasting partnership with business and industry. If they are interested in dropout prevention and student graduation, use ACTE’s dropout prevention Issue Brief or Issue Sheet, and add data from your own CTE program.

This brings me to the second guideline to follow—use as much positive research and information from your program as possible. National data and statistics are good tools, but the information on your CTE programs will help make the local connection with the policymakers.

Third, not all effective research is from gold-standard, evidence-based clinical trials. Gold-standard research is important, but so are stories from your students and teachers; percentages of CTE students in your program who graduate and go on to postsecondary education; number of students entering nontraditional career paths; partnerships with business and industry; and number of dual enrollment students and credits earned.

Finally, don’t try to overwhelm someone with numbers. Use a few strong research points to back up your advocacy efforts and tell them that you are willing to send them more information if they want it.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (10/12/09): Put a Face on Your Program
By: Jamie Baxter

Earlier in this series we discussed “keeping it real,” strengthening your message with specific program examples. I want to expand on that idea by stressing the importance of personal stories. These stories can demonstrate the true value of CTE: how a student got discouraged with school, but overcame that obstacle to succeed in a CTE program; how a student from a low-income family won a CTE scholarship to enter postsecondary education; or how another student is giving back to the community by running their own small business.

Personal stories are a great way to get your message heard on Capitol Hill. Whenever I enter a congressional office I am armored with research, facts about the district and CTE, and media articles. All of this is crucial for advocacy, but what is missing is a personal reflection of how CTE has affected someone in the district. This is where you come in! As an educator you have encountered countless students who went above and beyond to ensure that they got the most out of their time in your classroom. Or perhaps you had a student who started off the year on rocky terrain, but by the end of the year had soared beyond any expectations. Every student has a story, every student felt like giving up at one time or another—tell Members of Congress how your program kept these students engaged.

When you are advocating for CTE, be sure to put a face on the program. Make sure that the policymaker knows that CTE students are real students with real issues and that CTE is preparing these students for real successful careers. Keep in touch with your students after they leave your classroom so you can tell their stories and demonstrate that these are real people who are preparing for successful careers.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (10/19/09): Always Be Honest
By: Sabrina Kidwai

When you are meeting with a state, local or national representative, be honest and straightforward about ALL issues—even difficult ones! It’s important to be truthful and accurate in your comments and research presented, and to clearly state how you or your organization stands on issues.

During a meeting with a legislator, he may ask you to support legislation or find information on a topic or issue. You need to be realistic and make sure not to make promises you can’t keep.

If policymakers ask you questions about CTE and you don’t know the answer, tell them that you don’t know, but that you will find out and get back to them. Policymakers would much rather hear that than find out later something you guessed at an answer to wasn’t really true. They might restate your comments in a public setting, which could lead to an embarrassing situation!

Once you find that information, make sure you send it as a follow up. Being honest and being responsive to your policymakers is critical in building a successful relationship.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (10/26/09): Involve the Business Community
By: Sabrina Kidwai

This past week I attended DECA’s Business Advisory Board meeting. I talked about ACTE, what we do, our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and our partnership with DECA. After my presentation, the businesses asked great questions about how they could become involved in helping to advocate for CTE, especially funding for Perkins and educating policymakers about the critical need for CTE in their industry.

I mentioned to them advocating on Capitol Hill about CTE’s impact on their industry, including financially and through developing a qualified workforce. I talked about how they are making a difference in the education community by donating equipment, participating on advisory boards and working with CTSOs. I talked about how education budgets are tight, and the message they need to deliver that CTE programs are becoming more critical to have in schools around the country. I asked them to voice this concern to policymakers. I also placed a bug in their ear about ACTE’s National Policy Seminar, and I hope they consider attending and helping us educate policymakers in March!

After the meeting, two business representatives came up to me saying they wanted to help! I encourage you to reach out to your business advisory councils and industries in your region and talk with them about how they can advocate for CTE. ACTE is planning a session at the Annual Convention for our exhibitors to provide them information on how they can be a voice on Capitol Hill and with the media. Hopefully, we can encourage them to speak out for CTE!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (11/2/09): Use External Research Sources
By: Jason Kiker

Finding research to support your CTE programs can be a daunting task. It is very easy to get bogged down in databases and Web sites trying to find good information that you can use—but there are lots of useful sites that can help you gather research to use in advocacy efforts.

First, the ACTE Web site has several sources of excellent research. The Research Clearinghouse is a compilation of reports, papers and briefs based on ACTE’s national research agenda. The clearinghouse is updated as often as relevant research is found.

Also on the Web site are Fact Sheets with information that includes CTE’s impact on the dropout rate; the important role CTE plays in the economy; and CTE’s impact on energy and environmental sustainability. The State Profiles are an excellent source of information if you need to see how comparable states are dealing with issues in CTE.

Second, there are many other education and workforce associations and groups that have useful CTE research. America’s Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), the Alliance for Excellent Education, Jobs for the Future and MDRC all have CTE research papers and reports that can help you support your program.

Finally, there are several federal government sources of research that can be very useful. The National Research Center for CTE (NRCCTE) is a federally funded center that is devoted to researching and disseminating information about CTE. The Education Department’s Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) is a free database of current and historical education research with many full-text papers and reports. The Bureau of Labor Statistics can help you find information about fast-growing careers and employment trends.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it will be a starting point for your research needs. Please contact Jason Kiker for more research help and questions.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (11/9/09): Utilize Staff Connections
By: Alisha Hyslop

How many of you have reached out to your Member of Congress to inquire about an issue or schedule a meeting and were routed to a junior level staff person? If you had come all the way to Washington, DC, for such a meeting and this happened, you may have been disappointed or frustrated that your message wasn’t getting to a person that could take action. Have no fear! Congressional staff are the engine that make Capitol Hill run.

Members of Congress represent thousands of people and handle a wide variety of policy issues on a daily basis, so they rely on staff to develop expertise on specific issues and solve problems for constituents. Congressional staff take leadership roles on drafting legislation and prepping Members for committee hearings and mark-ups, and are your best connection to a congressional office.

However, staff are often overworked (not to mention underpaid), so you have to carefully utilize these connections. Recently, I heard the stat that each staff person gets 200-400 e-mails a day! It is important to carefully identify the staff person in your Member of Congress’ Washington, DC, or local district office that works on the issues you care most about, and to cultivate a relationship with that person. Use their personal e-mail or try to get their direct phone number, send short and timely messages, and invite them to visit your program along with the Member of Congress (or even to come preview your school in hopes of getting the Member to visit).

Get to know the staff person on a personal level so that you can communicate easily with them. Keep them in the loop related to things happening in the district that will affect the Member of Congress (make their jobs easier!). These efforts will provide you with the direct and influential connection you need when critical issues arise!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (11/16/09): Be Professional
By: Steve DeWitt

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting that was billed as “business casual.” I showed up in a sport coat and dress slacks. Fortunately, I guessed right. Had I shown up in jeans, I would have been under-dressed. I believe the message is more important than the delivery, but the truth is others are judging us: the clothes we wear, the language we use and even our body language. It’s important to appear as professional as possible when advocating since this is about influencing opinion.

If meeting with a Member of Congress, I highly recommend wearing a suit or similar appropriate dress. This is the Washington “uniform” on most days and you should dress for success. If you are planning to speak to your legislator at a fundraising barbeque, you might be better off in jeans and your ten-gallon hat. The point is, do a little homework and dress the part.

Take business cards to your meeting, if at all possible. Even if your workplace does not provide business cards, today’s access to the Internet, computer programs and other new technologies will allow you to order them at a reasonable rate. You can even acquire some for free via the Internet (however, study the fine print).

Finally, think about your body language and demeanor. Be assertive, but not aggressive. You want to make your point and convey that you are serious about the issues you are advocating but you don’t want to be threatening or “turn off” the legislator or staff person. A bit of small talk is fine to get the conversation started but stay focused and remember you are there to make your case.

Visit ACTE’s Web site to get additional pointers on visiting Members of Congress and other policymakers.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (11/23/09): Find Common Ground
By: Alisha Hyslop

A few days ago, I came across a Twitter stream that was full of negative political statements. There was name calling, belittling and a general lack of respect for the democratic process. This type of talk almost seems the norm these days as partisan passions run high and Congress is deeply divided on important issues. However, that doesn’t make it right—or helpful! Rudeness and rancor can be very damaging to any advocacy case you may be trying to make, whether for CTE or another issue.

Instead, it is important to work with all the policymakers that represent you to figure out the best way to solve problems and address the challenges facing education and workforce development. The best advocates work equally well with both Republicans and Democrats—I’m proud of the bi-partisan approach ACTE takes and the diverse group of supporters we have had over the years. Every policymaker might not agree with you on every issue, and you will surely disagree with many of them on many occasions, but it is important to find common goals you can work toward.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA) couldn’t be more different politically, but they are working together right now to build consensus on a comprehensive Senate energy bill. This is the perfect example for us to follow in working on CTE policy. We need to determine the priorities of specific Members of Congress, then work within those parameters to accomplish our goals. You may find out that the policymaker who has what you consider an extreme position on an issue like health care is a huge supporter of CTE programs. If you keep your eyes open for areas of common interest and stay respectful even in disagreements, much more can be accomplished!

Advocacy Tip of the Week (11/30/09): Show Them What You've Got!
By: Jamie Baxter

As ACTE staff, we can talk about CTE programs. We can provide data and success stories and list the top ten reasons why Perkins funding should be increased. What we cannot do is show first hand what a CTE program looks like. This is where you come in handy. A great way to spark Member of Congress’ and other policymakers’ interests is by showing them what great things you are doing in your classrooms. Invite policymakers to see your school and to meet the students that are being prepared for a successful future.

Scheduling a Member of Congress isn’t too difficult, especially if you know the congressional calendar. Check the House of Representatives or Senate calendars to see when your policymakers will be in their home state and districts. Following your Members of Congress on Twitter is also a great way to get this information.

Once you have an idea of the schedule, contact the district or state office and ask about their specific scheduling process. Following the procedures provided, submit a formal invitation to your representative and senators’ offices. When providing a date or time, be sure to mention that you are flexible with the time and event date. Congressional schedules fill up quickly, so be sure to send your invitation at least a few weeks in advance. If the office says that the Member of Congress is unable to attend, ask if a staff member would be able to attend.

Once you receive a firm commitment, it is show time! Have your brightest students featured, show what they are doing and encourage participation from your visitor. This visit should demonstrate the exciting things that are happening in CTE and ensure that your policymaker will be a strong supporter in the future. For more tips on inviting policymakers to your school, check out ACTE’s Action Center.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (12/7/09): Focus Written Communications
By: Sabrina Kidwai

When you write an e-mail or fax over a letter to your Member of Congress, keep the purpose of the letter to one issue. It keeps it simple and clear and allows the Member to understand your stance on a particular issue. For example, if you are contacting your Member about an increase in Perkins funds, then write about how funding impacts your district. You can include specific examples of student success, return on investment, and how CTE has reduced dropout rates—but focus on the examples on the funding issue.

Try to keep your letter to one page and include who you are and who you represent. If you disagree with an issue, then the letter should include sound reasons why you oppose it. Don’t be abusive or threatening, but use specific reasons why the bill or issue would affect your community. You can also ask for a written response from your Member of Congress on the issue. This is a great way to advocate on different issues throughout the year by providing written feedback to your legislator.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (12/14): Never Underestimate the Power of Your Words
By: Steve DeWitt

How many of us have sent a personal e-mail and mistakenly hit “reply all” instead of “reply,” or worse yet, had our private conversations broadcast via microphone as has happened in several high-profile political campaigns? Hopefully, our mistakes won’t be as uncomfortable or as memorable for the wrong reasons, but these stories do emphasize a point: you never know who is listening.

I have had the good fortune to work on a number of Washington “Hill Day” events through the years. Whether an ACTE event or an event with another organization, invariably someone always gets upset if they do not get to meet with their Member of Congress and instead meet with staff. This is a problem if you know your Senator or Representative is deliberately avoiding you, but most of the time Congressional Members have taxing schedules and multiple demands upon them. Staff handle the day-to-day workload on most issues and many times they know more than the Member of Congress about a particular issue. They also are listening, so never think that time spent with a staff person is time wasted.

I have been in many meetings where the staff have taken copious notes and get back to me with questions later. At times I have heard statistics or words used in a meeting on the House or Senate floor. Your words are important. You are a constituent and viewed as a leader in the community by many policymakers. Any time you are speaking to policymakers or staff there is the potential your words are making an important impact, so remember to be prepared, be professional and make your case to anyone who is willing to listen.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (12/21): Get Visual
By: Jason Kiker

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true when creating leave behinds in your advocacy efforts. Graphics have been shown to:

  • Attract attention to the material and heighten the likelihood that a reader will remember the material
  • Help the reader have a positive emotional attachment to the material
  • Increase the reader’s comprehension, recollection and retention of the material

For example, if you are using statistics as part of your presentation, have them in a graph on your leave behind to help make your point instead of just a list of written bullets. Use pictures of your CTE students as part of the leave behind to put faces to your cause. Make sure your association or school logo is included so the reader will quickly remember who gave them the information. Excellent examples of visually appealing and effective leave behinds have been created by Illinois and Ohio.

Be careful though, just like you don’t want to overwhelm policymakers with words, you don’t want to bombard them with graphics either. Use your graphics in the appropriate places to make your arguments better. Use the most simple graphics possible to make your point. Make graphs and charts easy to understand. Make sure the pictures used are clear and easy to see.

Advocacy Tip of the Week (12/28): Remember That Actions Speak Louder Than Words
By: Jamie Baxter

Throughout this series we have given you many tips on how to educate policymakers and advocate on behalf of CTE. What happens if you think you have the pledged support of your legislators, but when vote time comes around, your policymaker votes against CTE? Why, after all you have done and all they have said, are your legislators not showing their support?

There could be many reasons why policymakers are not showing their support for CTE. It is possible that the piece of legislation that includes the positive language for CTE has other language that is in strong conflict with the policymaker’s priorities, the policymaker might be feeling pressure from his/her political party to act a specific way, or there could be a larger population of constituents who want to see the legislator vote the opposite way.

Do not get frustrated or angry if he/she votes opposite to the way you want. Instead, view this as a challenge and find out why the legislator voted a specific way, what information you could have provided to help sway the vote, and how this vote will affect voters in your district. Use specific examples, and share your thoughts on why this specific legislation was important.

Give your policymaker other concrete ways to show support for CTE, such as by joining the Congressional CTE Caucus, visiting your program, or making public statements about why CTE is so critical to your community.

Remember, it is up to you to hold your Members of Congress’ “feet to the fire” and educate them on CTE so when a piece of legislation is before them, they can act the way you see fit. The more contact you have with the legislators’ offices the more influence you will have on a vote, and the more they will hear what you say.

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