Tips for communicating with elected officials

Whether you're making a call, writing a letter or sending an email, here are some tips for communicating with your representatives (adapted from Literacy Action Network's Legislative Toolkit):

  • Be specific. Choose one issue and identify it right away. Make it clear what side of the issue you are on and what action you would like your official to take.
  • Identify yourself as a constituent. Constituents always get priority over others wanting the elected official’s ear.
  • Get personal. Tell your legislator why the issue (the specific bill, a proposed cut, etc.) will help or hurt you, your children, your business or your community. Explain what it means to you
  • Be informative. If you can, include statistics and other facts that lend credibility to your views. Remember, when calling you may talk to a staff person who knows little about your issue. Avoid jargon.
    *If you're looking for data to help you articulate the value of adult basic education and the Corporation for Community and National Service (CNCS), which funds AmeriCorps VISTA, we can help! Find more here.
  • Be polite and reasonable. Lawmakers can't please everyone. They may disagree with you. Try to respect their views. Don't lose your temper, on the phone or in writing. Tell your legislator what you think and why, but be polite.
  • Be courteous. Be sure to say "thank you." Although a legislator may be opposed to the particular bill for which you are advocating, there may be bills in the future that s/he could support. If you are courteous, the legislator or his/her staff will remember and want to work with you again.

Key campaign messages to share:

As a student

All student letters should include (1) the reason that the student enrolled in adult education. Examples might include the following: receiving a high school equivalency credential, improving literacy, math or writing skills, or participating in job training. (2) what the student is planning to do when they finish the program. (3) The statement INCREASE ADULT EDUCATION FUNDING.

If you are a teacher or volunteer, please help your students identify and direct their communication to the appropriate politician. Find representatives/their contact information online.

As an alum of an adult basic education program

Letters from alumni of adult education programs should focus on how the program has helped them get a better job, earn more money, helped their children learn more effectively and made them better citizens.

As a teacher

Letters from teachers can include some capsule summaries of the students that they are teaching and the statement INCREASE ADULT EDUCATION FUNDING.

As a program administrator

Letters from program administrators can contain information about the outcomes of their local program (number of students gaining a high school diploma/equivalent, number of students going on to postsecondary education, number of students gaining quality jobs, etc.) and the statement INCREASE ADULT EDUCATION FUNDING.

As a friend of adult basic education

Letters from friends of adult education, particularly business and industry representatives, should focus on the economic benefits of the adult education program to the community and to the specific business and the statement INCREASE ADULT EDUCATION FUNDING.

 

A note about telephone calls:

Telephone calls should be made directly to the Washington D.C. offices of the members of Congress. Student calls can go as follows: “My name is ___________. I am a student in the ________________ adult education program. I would like Representative/Senator ________________ to know that adult education works. Please increase adult education funding.”