Unlike any other time in our nation’s history, our education system is facing a proliferation of major education reform policies at all levels of government. Now more than ever, schools must contend with wide-sweeping changes in policy, structures and practice driven at the federal, state and local levels. Programs such as Race to the Top, the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, as well as initiatives like the Common Core State Standards, are pushing reforms that will have a monumental impact on practice and how teachers and principals deliver instruction.
Additional changes are coming as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While the law continues to be mired down in politics on Capitol Hill, principals have a unique opportunity to refocus and reprioritize reforms known to work within schools, and reinsert their voice in the policy discussion to be stronger and more influential than ever. This can be done through targeted advocacy efforts. NAESP provides an opportunity for principals to mobilize and engage with policymakers throughout the year at annual meetings in Washington, DC, and encourages all members to have on-going meetings with their representatives and senators in their district offices or local communities.
NAESP is putting out an urgent call on policymakers at the Federal, State and local levels to return to a common sense approach to law and policy setting in education: recognize the critical role principals play in the education system; set policies that support what we have learned about improving student achievement; and build the capacity of principals to create the best conditions possible for optimum teaching and learning in schools. Below are resources to help NAESP members find information about Congress, and how to engage policymakers in productive meetings and discussion.
NAESP can help you with your advocacy efforts whether in Washington or in your state or local district. The advocacy team is here to assist you with policy panels, town hall meetings, and any advocacy questions in general. Please contact Kelly Pollitt, Director of Advocacy, Policy and Special Projects at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about Congress
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. House of Representatives
- The White House
- U.S. Department of Education
- Thomas.gov – The Library of Congress’ website that tracks action on bills in the Senate and House.
How to Plan for a Successful Visit on Capitol Hill
The following actions will help you schedule a meeting on Capitol Hill.
- Contact the Washington, D.C., office of the members of Congress who represent you and ask to speak to their scheduler. In most cases, email is the best communications vehicle. Visit www.house.gov and enter your zip code into the search function if you need contact information. Visit www.senate.gov to locate your Senators or visit NAESP’s legislative action center here.
- Be sure in your email to the Congressional office scheduler or staff to list which congressional district you live in, and if you are a constituent.
- Let the scheduler or staff member know you would like to meet to discuss important elementary and middle-level education issues, including education funding, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the impact of state and local implementation based on federally-drive reforms, and policy that build the capacity of principals to lead schools.
- If the elected Representative or Senator is not available, ask to meet with the legislative assistant handling education policy. Staff or legislative assistants know the issues well and can be very influential in promoting a capacity-building agenda for principals.
- Be sure to research the Member’s voting record on elementary and middle-level education. Know the committees he or she sits on and what bills he or she has cosponsored.
- If you are scheduling several meetings between the House and Senate, leave enough time to navigate the congressional office buildings. Walking between the House side and the Senate side of the Capitol grounds takes about 15 minutes.
Attending a Meeting on Capitol Hill
- Arrive at least 10 minutes before for your appointment.
- Present your business card. When you meet the legislator or staff member, mention that you are an NAESP member.
- Reiterate the purpose of the meeting and what you would like to discuss. It is important to relate the broader issues raised for discussion to the local context and the principalship. NAESP can provide you with talking points to do so.
- Members of Congress and their staff may ask a question about a piece of legislation or policy that you are not familiar with -- let them know you’ll get back to them with answers. Be sure to let NAESP’s advocacy team know that you need help with any follow up.
- Offer yourself as a local resource to both the legislator and staff member handling education issues. Just make sure they have your preferred contact information.
- Invite the legislator and staff member to visit your school and let them know you’ll be telling others about your meeting (see below).
- Have your picture taken with the legislator, if possible. Staff members are always happy to grant such requests, and the photo can be useful in publicizing your visit. When you get home, work your with school district to contact the media.
After Your Congressional Meetings
- After your meetings, let NAESP advocacy staff know of any necessary follow up.
- Mail or email a thank-you note to the legislator and staff member. It gives you a chance to reiterate key points and add any information you may not have had time to mention. Offer an invitation for a school visit and follow up with the legislator’s local office.
- Reiterate your offer to serve as a local resource to provide information about the issues that principals and school leaders are facing in elementary and middle-level education reform.
Additional Local Meetings
During the year, there are numerous opportunities for Members of Congress to spend time with constituents in their district. Here are some tips for inviting your representative to your school:
- If your elected representative has never visited your school, contact his or her office to coordinate a visit during a school event.
- It is important to talk with the right person. For a local visit, it is always good to reach out to the district directors. The Congressional offices in Washington can help you find the district staff and help coordinate a scheduling request.