Week Three (8/16): Write an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor

Conducting media outreach is another effective way to raise awareness among policymakers and the broader public about the benefits of CTE. Policymakers are particularly tuned in to local media in the area they represent, so sharing information on relevant policy priorities, major news and initiatives, and other current issues that are affecting CTE with media professionals can help get important messages in front of policymakers. One of the easiest ways to do this is write an op-ed or letter to the editor of a local publication. The goal of an op-ed or letter to the editor should be to leave your readers feeling like they have a solid understanding of the issue, what the solution to the problem is and how they can get involved to help make that change happen. A strong media campaign can reach large numbers of people to communicate about the importance of making strong federal investments in CTE! 

ACTE’s Action Center features a media directory to help you find a list of media publications in your area to submit your op-ed or letter to the editor. If you choose to send a letter to the editor, the Action Center can submit your letter directly to the publication without any additional steps! Just type your letter, subject line and closing line, then click send. 

TAKE ACTION: Draft an op-ed or letter to the editor to share with local or national media professionals expressing the importance of investing in CTE to: 

  • Upskill and reskill workers to respond to the ever-changing demands of a pandemic-impacted economy. 
  • Include specific examples about how you are equipping your students to succeed. 
  • Help institutions recover from the financial demands of the pandemic and build on innovations that emerged during the last year. 
  • Discuss challenges you have faced and innovations you have made. As educators and administrators, you know your program best! 
  • Develop the educators, program content and flexibility necessary to help meet future workforce needs. 
  • Explain how you are meeting workforce needs in your program! 


What is a Letter to the Editor?

A letter to the editor is an excellent way for CTE advocates to express the importance of strong federal investments in CTE to policymakers, as well as to educate people in the community about the importance and value of CTE. You may also use a letter to the editor to correct inaccurate facts about CTE, promote CTE, or to praise or condemn a recent article. Write persuasively; include local statistics and personal stories to make your point. In addition, it is important to remember that a letter to the editor is a vehicle for expressing your own opinion, and that it must take a clear stance on an issue. It is important to find the newspaper’s policy for printing the letters. Most newspapers require that letters be no more than 250 words.  


For this exercise, follow the advocacy task guidelines above to focus your letter to the editor around our August Advocacy topic! Here is a sample letter to the editor to help you craft your own letter to the editor. Navigate to ACTE’s Action Center to submit your letter to the editor! If your letter is published in print, let ACTE know as well! 


What is an Op-Ed? 

Many newspapers provide a forum for opinions that address issues of concern to your community. When your local education association or school is involved with and has a point to make on a major, newsworthy issue (such as CTE), the op-ed page provides you with the chance to illustrate the value of the profession. 

Steps to follow when writing an op-ed: 

  • Find opportunities – Review publications in your region to determine which ones accept op-eds and which formats are preferred. ACTE’s Action Center features a media directory to help you find a list of your local media outlets. 


  • Decide on a topic – Relate your topic to a current issue affecting CTE. Perhaps write about the role of CTE educators in the school system, the reasons why CTE is an important part of the education and workforce development agenda, federal funding vehicles and current legislation moving through Congress, or any other CTE topic. For this exercise, follow the guidelines above to focus your op-ed around our August Advocacy topic! 


  • Approach editors – If you are planning to send your op-ed to a national paper, consider sending a pitch letter to the appropriate editors outlining the proposed topic and author. If you have established a relationship with a particular editor, make a call instead of writing. If you are sending your op-ed to a local paper, go ahead and prepare a draft to send. Keep in mind that the person whose name appears on the op-ed need not be the person who wrote it. The byline should be that of a person prominent in your organization or community, or with a recognized expertise or specialty. 


  • Prepare a draft – Determine what your paper’s guidelines are for submitting an op-ed. Your paper may have a specific format in which you have to send it to be considered, (e.g. length, double spaced, etc.). Op-eds can run between 350-800 words depending upon the paper. If you are preparing an op-ed for your local paper, be sure to localize your op-ed with statistics and examples of your point within your community. The byline should include the author’s current professional position. In addition, be certain to identify the author as an educator, if appropriate. 


  • Submit a draft – Adhere to deadlines. If you promise an editor you will have a draft by a certain date, do so. A short paragraph at the end of your op-ed should be used to tell the editor exactly who the author is and why he or she is qualified to write the op-ed. Be sure to include your full name, title, address, email and phone number so that you can be contacted. Remember, an interest in reviewing an op-ed does not necessarily mean the publication will use the piece, even if it is particularly well-written. You may have to adapt the op-ed to the editor’s wishes. If the editor declines the piece, try submitting to another outlet or reworking it and beginning the process again. Persistence is the key! 

Keep in mind that many large newspapers ask that an op-ed piece be on an exclusive basis, meaning no other publication can simultaneously print the piece. Be sure to only submit to one publication at a time, and do not submit it to another outlet until your piece has been declined. However, some outlets will not tell you that they are not running your submission. In this case, it is generally safe to submit your piece to another outlet after 10 business days. 


If the publication publishes your piece, send a thank-you note to anyone that assisted with publication of the piece, and let ACTE know by emailing Jori Houck at jhouck@acteonline.org! If your piece is not selected for publication, send it to ACTE and we will publicize it on our Medium page and on our Twitter account, @ACTEpolicy. 


Here is a sample op-ed to help provide some ideas for how to structure your op-ed – feel free to customize your op-ed, and make sure the media gets the message about CTE through your voice! 


If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please reach out to Jori Houck, ACTE Media Relations and Advocacy Associate, at jhouck@acteonline.org.