Why Political Involvement Is Important
Legislators determine public school funding, goals and requirements, as well as educators’
salaries, retirement benefits and working conditions. Their decisions are based on constituents’
wants and needs, so educators must advocate their priorities or risk allowing others’ agendas to
shape policy in ways harmful to public education.
Components of political advocacy
To be effective, the three components of political advocacy must work jointly and
simultaneously: professional lobbyists, political fundraising and grassroots involvement.
If a component is missing or weak, the advocacy becomes unbalanced, and the entire system
ATPE Governmental Relations is your full-time advocate for ATPE’s legislative program and
priorities. But ATPE members must provide the other two components: grassroots involvement
(through the Legislative Alert Network, commonly known as the LAN) and political fundraising
(through ATPE-PAC). ATPE wants you to know the importance of
education advocacy, and become involved!
What does it take to be politically involved?
There are three levels of political involvement. The higher levels require more commitment,
but they also produce the most rewards.
Basic political involvement
The most basic level of political involvement requires minimal action. Educators involved at
this level are well-informed about the issues and candidates, and they vote in all elections.
Moderate political involvement
Moderately involved educators stay informed on education issues and are capable of educating
others about them. ATPE members accomplish this level by
joining the LAN, reading the
Legislative Update and regularly visiting
ATPE’s website. Moderately involved educators call and
write elected officials on issues of importance to them,
respond to LAN action alerts and
donate to ATPE-PAC.
Advanced political involvement
Educators who have reached this level truly influence officeholders. They meet with their local
elected officials and know those officials’ positions on issues. They conduct letter-writing and
phone campaigns to get other educators involved. These educators are also active in the election
process. They volunteer to work for pro-public-education candidates’ campaigns, hold candidate
forums and attend political party meetings. Not only do these members donate to ATPE-PAC, they
also regularly encourage others to do so through local unit fund-raising drives.
Who has the most political influence?
The higher the level of political involvement in which educators are willing to participate,
the more influence they have with officeholders. The diagram on the left illustrates how
individuals’ levels of involvement impact their political influence. Use the diagram to compare
the level of political influence you have with your state representative to that of other
citizens. The closer you are to the top of the pyramid, the more influence you have.
average, only 17 percent of the population in a legislator’s district actually voted for him.
So, if you voted for your representative, you already have more influence than 83 percent of the
people in your district. That places you one step higher in the pyramid. If you volunteer or
contribute to a campaign, that takes you another step higher.
The number of people decreases as you move up the levels, so those willing to put forth the
effort necessary to reach one of the higher levels will be rewarded with greater influence. The
earlier you become involved with candidates, the more committed they become to your ideas, so
start now. Getting your voice heard is not as difficult as many people think.
Remember, ATPE’s strength lies in its numbers, and as more and more ATPE members move up the
pyramid, ATPE’s political influence will continue to grow.