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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Corresponding With Policymakers

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Never underestimate the power of a constituent’s contact! Letters and phone calls expressing a given viewpoint can change a policymaker’s mind and are particularly helpful when that official is wavering on an issue.

Personalized communication from constituents is the most effective at all levels. However, due to contamination threats, mail service on Capitol Hill continues to be unpredictable. As such, it is best to communicate by fax or e-mail when reaching out to your federal policymakers.

Below are some tips to help you correspond with policymakers:

Making Your Communication More Effective
Writing E-mails
Calling Policymakers
Sample Letter To Members of Congress
Sample Letter To Governor
Sample Letter to Local Official


Making Your Communication More Effective

It is important that letters or e-mail be as simple and clear as possible. To make your communication more effective:

  • Keep it short.
    Limit your letter to one or two pages.

  • Use appropriate address and salutation.
    Use the correct title, address and salutation and spell each correctly. To find the contact information of your Members of Congress, please visit ACTE's Legislative Action Center. If you are writing a state or local official, visit your local government page or your state ACTE Association for more information. The following forms of address and salutation are recommended for Members of Congress (It is not necessary to include the room number or street address when writing to your Members of Congress):

To Senators:
The Honorable (insert full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (insert last name):

To Representatives:
The Honorable (insert full name)
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (insert last name):

  • Be positive.
    Policymakers, like most of us, respond best to praise, not criticism. Tell them you supported them in the past (if you did) and how you need their help. It is extremely important to acknowledge their previous support on this or other issues.

  • Ask for a reply.
    When they do reply – and they usually will – write again. Compliment positive actions taken or encourage reconsideration of negative actions or those not taken. When a public official differs from your position, his or her response may include such language as “careful study,” “due consideration,” or “keeping your comments in mind.” These are often negative indicators and do not show commitment. Write back for clarification. Doing so lets the policymaker know that you are serious about the issue and are following his or her actions carefully.

  • Establish yourself as a resource.
    You are an expert in your field and can offer to provide additional information regarding the field, the issue, and the impact of proposed legislation.

Writing E-mail

As technology has become a way of life on the Hill and throughout most of the United States, most offices have established procedures to deal with electronic correspondence. Although e-mail may not have the same visual effect as a pile of letters or a jammed fax machine, its speed is unmatched. While letters, faxes and phone calls are still extremely important advocacy tools, the advent of e-mail gives you one more option in communicating with policymakers. Coordinated e-mail campaigns are now an established advocacy tool that is increasingly used by interest groups and individual constituents. Its main advantage is the ability to get your message delivered promptly compared to perhaps finding your public official's phone lines busy, especially when an important vote is imminent. Its disadvantage is the possibility that your message won’t be read in time or at all. With that possibility, it is prudent to have an effective statement in the subject line of the e-mail in case it isn’t read. ACTE’s Legislative Action Center can help you compose, send and find e-mail addresses for your Members of Congress. Contact your state association to get information on contacting state and local officials. To make your e-mail more effective:

  • Summarize your views in the subject line.
    Make it short and efficient, for example: “YES ON S. 2.” Whether consciously or subconsciously, staffers will always see the subject line in their e-mail windows.

  • Keep content short.
    Limit your message to a few paragraphs. E-mail is designed for quick messages, not lengthy discussion. It’s best to use bulleted points, as in a fact sheet. Otherwise, the same rules hold true as with letters:
    • Use appropriate address and salutation.
    • Be positive.
    • Establish yourself as a resource.
    • Ask for a reply.
     

Calling Policymakers

If you want to make an immediate impact on an issue, use the phone. Staff and policymakers can’t avoid getting the message from a constantly ringing phone as the time of a decision on a major issue approaches. Hours of steady rings have been known to change the response from “thank you for calling” to “the Member of Congress is definitely backing the proposal.”

  • For contacting your Member of Congress, find your legislator’s phone number either by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at: 202-224-3121 (Senate) or 202-225-3121 (House), or visiting the ACTE Legislative Action Center. If you need further assistance, please call ACTE at 800-826-9972.
  • Once connected to the office, ask to speak to the staff member who handles education or workforce development issues (depending on what program you are calling about). Local officials may not have a staff member to field calls and may answer directly, but high-ranking public officials rarely take calls directly until you get to know them.
  • After you have identified yourself, tell the staff member the reason you are calling—remember to keep your remarks short and focused.
  • Remember to say “Thank you for taking my call and considering my views” – even if they disagree with you.

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The Association for Career and Technical Education is the nation’s largest not-for-profit education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. Founded in 1926, ACTE has more than 25,000 members; career and technical educators, administrators, researchers, guidance counselors and others involved in planning and conducting career and technical education programs at the secondary, postsecondary and adult levels. ACTE provides advocacy, public awareness and access to information on career and technical education, professional development and tools that enable members to be successful and effective leaders.

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