Effective advocacy is a year-round activity, and the key is building strong relationships with your legislators. There are many ways to go about building that relationship, and different actions you can take throughout the year, whether the legislature is in session or it’s summer break. Your goal is to be your legislator’s go-to resource on education issues. Advocacy is, above all, about building relationships.
The Legislature is only in session for 3-4 months out of the year, meaning your legislator has another job and interests outside of being a lawmaker. Learn their background and what motivates them, so you can connect outside of official business. As in any other relationship in your life, establishing yourself as trustworthy and reliable will go a long way when you do have a legislative ask in the future. Some tips to get you started:
Send an email to introduce yourself. Use our sample email template.
Sign up for your legislator’s newsletter. These newsletters are a great source for issues important to your legislator and where they will be hosting local forums and events.
Attend a legislator’s local forum.
If your legislator has social media, follow their accounts.
Present your legislator with a Friend of Iowa Public Education certificate. This can show your board’s appreciation for your legislator’s votes, stances or work on an issue that made a difference in your district. It provides an opportunity to publicly thank your legislator.
Pro tip: Take a picture with your legislator when you present the award, post it on social media, and be sure to tag your legislator.
Show them an innovative program. Introduce them to students benefiting from legislation that they helped to pass. By seeing public schools up close, legislators will better understand the positive impacts their decisions have on students.
Pro tip: Have students be the leaders in a meeting in your district. It showcases their passion for learning and the success of programs in your district.
Did your district host a legislator? Do you have an innovative program or success story to share? Did you attend a local forum where education was a topic of interest? Sharing your advocacy with IASB helps our advocacy efforts as an organization as we promote the positive impacts of public schools.
Advocacy Self-Reporting Form: Fill out this short form to further our advocacy efforts.
Checklist: Before, During & After Meeting with Legislators: Use this simple checklist to ensure you get the most out of a legislator meeting.
Issue Toolkits: For talking points, data, and impacts on the biggest legislative issues, use our issue-specific toolkits.
Listen to a conversation between former IASB Government Relations Director Phil Jeneary and experienced school board member advocate Angela Rheingans, Board Vice President at Central DeWitt Community Schools.
"As a school board member, one of my roles is to advocate on behalf of our students, our district, our district staff and the community as a whole."
"When you have an established relationship, you can call when something happens quickly and you need to have your voice heard."
"Having that can-do attitude and just that positive intent of “we’re going to work together for the benefit of our students and our communities” makes a big difference."
– Angela Rheingans, Board Vice President, Central DeWitt Community Schools