When you are advocating for public education, the number one action you can take is to contact your legislators. Ultimately, your goal is to establish a relationship of mutual trust with them. You should be able to trust that they will listen to you, and they should be able to trust that you will help keep them updated on how their decisions, or potential decisions, will impact your students.
In order to do this, there must be mutual respect, which begins with friendliness and politeness in all interactions.
That said, let’s take a look at the steps you can take to becoming a political advocate for your students.
You are building a relationship here just like we do in the classroom. We are experts at building relationships. End this meeting on a friendly note, and volunteer to assist them in understanding how education policy plays out in your classroom.
Join Online Public Education Communities
Several online communities exist in common social media platforms to help you connect with educators, parents, and other stakeholders across the state:
Find your legislator
You can find your legislator via a regular computer by going to Find My Legislature page at OKLegislature.gov. Just enter your home address, and you’ll be given a list of both U.S. Congressional legislators, but also your state legislators.
You can also download the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) 55th Legislature app from the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store to your mobile device to receive the information.
Find the bills you care about
You can discover which bills are impacting education from several sources:
- Professional Oklahoma Educators — This organization provides updates to members regarding legislation that needs to be watched, but also frequently includes this information on their Facebook page.
- Oklahoma Education Association — This is the main educators’ union for the state of Oklahoma, and they also make note of important legislation on their Facebook page.
- OK Legislature — You can also find specific pieces of legislation via this site. Just enter the number of the bill (ex. HB3156) in the Find Legislation search box and click “search.” The site will then tell you the status of the bill, enable you to read the legislation, including multiple drafts. You can create an account to track specific pieces of legislation and receive updates on them.
Learn how your legislators voted on the bills
When you view a specific piece of legislation on the OK Legislature website, you can click the Votes tab to see who voted “Yea” (Yes) and who voted “Nay” (No) on the bill.
You can see how our representatives voted on HB 3156 here.
Call your legislators
Find your legislators’ contact information from the website or apps mentioned above. Before you call though, make sure you have a list of what you want to say. We recommend you tell your legislators who you are (parent, teacher, etc.), where you live if you are in their districts, thank them for one thing, and then mention what your concerns are.
If you aren’t looking forward to talking to a human being when you make these calls, be sure to call after hours. That way, you can leave a message with the answering service, and the legislators’ assistants will keep a tally of the messages left.
Email your legislator
If you’re not a phone person, you can accomplish the same effect by writing an email. Your legislators information is available from the same sources listed above. Include the same information that we recommended including in the phone call. In our experience, you’ll often receive a personal response from the legislator within a day or two. There are some exceptions, including legislators who never respond and those who rely on their assistants to respond.
Visit your legislator at the Capitol
The Capitol is a public building, and you are welcome to visit it to communicate with your legislators. On a normal day, you may park in the south lot non-restricted slots that are available in front of the Capitol. You may also part on the north side of the Capitol complex between the Department of Education (Hodge Building) and the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Once you’ve parked, you’ll want to enter the Capitol on the southeast side. You’ll see scaffolding over the sidewalk leading into the building on the east side of the front steps. You’ll need to pass through a metal detector in order to enter the building.