How to Contact Your State Legislators

This legislative session, ATPE has reported on a number of bills that are dangerous for public schools and Texas students, including those that would support vouchers, eliminate payroll deduction options, and harm educator groups like ATPE.

Reviewing the list of potential threats to Texas education can be overwhelming, but banding together and taking a stand for public education can make a difference. We magnify our voice through phone calls, personal letters, and visits to legislative offices—often the most powerful way to influence lawmakers and easier than you think. As ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins explains, the key is to be calm, respectful, and prepared. Mark explains that every type of communication can be broken down into a few simple steps:

  1. Go to Advocacy Central to find your legislators’ names and contact information. You can also find background information and talking points on ATPE’s legislative priorities, plus direct links to key bills being debated this session.
  2. Identify yourself as a constituent and educator.
  3. State the bill or issue you’re calling about and explain why it’s important to you. Make sure they know why this is personal. Example: “I’m concerned about Senate Bill 13, the ban on payroll deduction. It’s the safest and most convenient way for me to be a member of my professional organization, which is not affiliated with any national labor union. I feel like we’re being attacked for being teachers, and it’s unfair.”
  4. Ask for a commitment. Example: “Will you oppose Senate Bill 13?”
  5. Thank them and leave your contact info.

For those who can drive to Austin, there are also opportunities to testify at committee hearings, although ATPE’s lobby team cautions that public testimony is typically limited to two or three minutes and may occur in the middle of the night. ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday explains that during session, committee hearings often get delayed until after the full House or Senate has finished its business on the floor that day. “As deadlines loom in the latter months of the session, committee agendas get jam-packed with bills, and the public testimony on those might not begin until very late at night,” Canaday says. Committee meetings last as long as it takes for all bills on the agenda to be heard, and it’s not uncommon for hearings to proceed overnight, wrapping up early the next morning. “Many lawmakers encourage educators to come share their input on bills,” says Canaday. “But it’s hard to expect teachers to pull an all-nighter sitting in a committee hearing room on a school night, waiting for a chance to give three minutes’ worth of testimony.” For teachers who can’t make it to the Capitol, it’s reassuring to know that ATPE’s lobbyists are always there to protect their interests and keep members informed about the actions taken.

ATPE’s advocacy blog at TeachtheVote.org is where you can find announcements about on upcoming bill hearings and after-the-fact reports on what took place in those hearings. It’s also an excellent resource for ATPE members and the general public to keep up with the latest education news and updates on legislative and regulatory developments both in Austin and Washington, DC.

And ATPE members can still register for our popular lobby day and political involvement training event, ATPE at the Capitol, through Feb. 3! Held in Austin on March 5-6, 2017, ATPE at the Capitol is your chance to speak directly with lawmakers and tell them what’s important to Texas educators! Register today!

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