Advocacy section of the Tennessee PTA Handbook (password protected)
2012-2013 Legislative Priorities
Download legislative priorities file here.
Common Core Standards
Parent guides to the common core standards are available under the "Common Core Standards" page on the right-hand side.
Contact your legislators! Example of sample letter here.
Tennessee PTA Legislative Acting Chairman, Amy Zink (email)
The legislative program of the Tennessee PTA is directed by the Legislative Committee under the leadership of the Legislative Chairman.
The Legislative Committee is responsible for reviewing state and national laws and issues affecting children and youth, and for initiating and recommending the national and state legislative platform for the Tennessee PTA. It is also responsible for maintaining the national and state Member-to-Member Communications Network, supervising Advocacy efforts, and planning and conducting the annual Tennessee PTA Legislative Conference.
The PTA is comprised of millions of members who are working daily to improve the quality of life for young people. While the voice of one parent acting alone can be ignored, the voice of millions working together will get attention.
Responsibilities of Local Unit and Council President in the Legislative Program:
Appoint a Legislative Chairman to coordinate the legislative program and to provide information to the general membership on issues relating to the health, education, and welfare of children and youth.
Establish a Legislative Committee to support and promote the efforts of the Legislative chairman.
Work closely with the National and State PTA Legislative Chairmen.
Participate as a Member-to-Member contact person.
Attend and encourage others to attend the annual Legislative Conference.
Read the National PTA’s “Our Children” magazine and share its contents with all PTA members.
Each PTA member is responsible for helping to make the ideals embodied in the legislative platform a reality.
The Legislative Committee should serve as a study and action group to provide PTA members with information on current and pending legislation that affects the health, safety, education and welfare of children and youth.
The Legislative Committee should assist PTA members in understanding the way in which governmental bodies function and the process by which laws are enacted.
The Legislative Committee should assist PTA members in effectively communicating with elected representatives at all levels of government.
The Legislative Committee members should serve on local advisory committees and task forces that address topics dealing with the well-being of children and youth.
Procedure for submitting legislative items:
Legislative items may be proposed by any local, council, or region. These items must be:
Signed by the president and secretary of the submitting group;
Received in the State Office by their designated deadline dates.
The state legislative Committee may edit or adapt items to make them appropriate for inclusion.
Past Advocacy into Legislation
One hundred years of advocacy by PTA members are responsible for the passage of the following laws and the establishment of the following programs:
Child labor laws
Public health services
Juvenile justice system
The Pure Food Act
Safety belt laws
Child restraint laws
School bus safety programs
Addiction awareness education
School lunch programs
Goals 2000: Educate America Act
Family and Medical Leave Act
Children’s Television Act
Comprehensive school health programs
AIDS Education Project
Motion picture rating system
Child Protection and Toy Safety Act
The Four “C’s” of Advocacy
Courteous – Always be courteous, even if you and your legislator do not see “eye to eye” on an issue. What is most important is to keep the lines of communication open.
Correct – State the facts only. In letters, make certain your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct.
Concise – Do not be long-winded. On paper, limit yourself to a one-page letter that focuses on a single topic. If there are several issues you wish to address, it is best to write a letter on each.
Constituency Based Concerns – Concentrate on what is going on in your school district. Legislators are naturally most interested in what is happening in their geographic area.
As a PTA leader, you represent PTA wherever you go. It does not matter where you are - on Facebook, the grocery store, your church or your school - people look at you and think “PTA”. Even relatives at your own family reunion associate you with PTA. If someone asks you what you think of the President’s Education Policy, whatever you answer will be thought of as the official position of PTA.
Because you are a PTA leader, it is important that you only make statements that actually represent the PTA position on issues. If your opinion is different, keep it to yourself. It is also important that you know when you can speak for PTA and when you cannot.
Only the president of a PTA or the Board/Executive Committee may authorize you to speak for PTA. No one else has that authority. This is true for a local unit, council, district, state or the National PTA.
PTA is a non-commercial, non-sectarian and non-partisan organization. Because PTAs are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, the IRS rules regulating some types of legislative activities of non-profit organizations must be followed.
Certain political activities are absolutely prohibited: supporting or opposing political parties or candidates for federal, state, or local public office. PTA may only engage in non-partisan, issue-oriented advocacy.
PTAs must be careful not to be used by other individuals, groups or organizations to promote non-PTA interests. In voter surveys, PTA is widely respected for its positions on children’s issues.
Every PTA member and PTA must safeguard the reputation and integrity of the organization by avoiding these situations. Unauthorized use of the PTA name should be reported to the appropriate PTA officers. A good policy to follow is: When in doubt, check it out!
Advocacy Methods of Communication
The telephone can be a valuable tool for informing legislators of your position on issues. Telephone calls can be made to legislators at their offices in Washington D.C. or in Nashville. For state contact information go to: www.legislature.state.tn.us. For national contact information go to either www.senate.gov or www.house.gov
E-mail has become the way to send mail.
Subject heading should be clear.
Professional conduct does matter. We must remember how important our conduct is in designing the e-mail we send. Maintain a professionally oriented tone. Professional business e-mails should include your local unit/council/region name and your title.
E-mail should always include a phone number (including area code) if the contact needs to personally speak to you.
Proofread your work–always. Many times the tone, phrasing of e-mail can be misinterpreted and used to your disadvantage. There should be no excuse for spelling and grammatical errors.
Letters are most effective once you establish a relationship with your legislator with a personal visit.
Be positive, polite and do not threaten.
Keep letters brief. State your position on the issue clearly giving your reasons in as few words as possible.
Use your own words as much as possible. Do not….write on a postcard, use a form letter, be rude or vague. Avoid petitions.
Ask for support, but do not demand it.
Both state and federal representatives pay attention to their mail. Responding to mail is crucial to their re-election.
Make an appointment.
Limit your conversation to not more than 15 minutes.
Limit your group to not more than four people.
Know your subject and be prepared for questions.
Do not compromise your priorities.
Do not be belligerent or get angry.
Thank your legislator for his or her time. Send a thank you card when you return home.
Glossary of Legislative Terms
ACT--Legislation which has passed both houses of the General Assembly and has been signed by the governor.
ADVOCACY--The act or process of pleading the cause of another; the process of applying influence to sway the actions or decisions of groups or individuals.
AMENDMENT--The proposal of a legislator to alter the language in a bill or act.
APPROPRIATION BILL--Normally originates in the house; it permits the expenditure of monies that can be used to finance a particular act.
BILL--Legislative proposal introduced in either house. Designated S (Senate) and HR (House of Representatives) for the house in which it originates plus a bill number.
BUDGET--Document sent to the legislature by the Governor each year estimating revenue and expenditures for ensuing fiscal year.
CLERK--Staff person providing administrative support to the Senate or House Representatives or to a specific committee.
COMMITTEE--A subdivision of the House or Senate which prepares bills for action.
COMMITTEE HEARINGS--Committee meetings, open to the public, at which committee members listen to testimony from witnesses representing various views.
JOINT RESOLUTION--Designated HJ RES or SJ RES, requires approval of both houses and signature of the Governor, and if approved, has the effect of law.
LAW--An act of the legislature which has been signed by the governor or passed over his veto.
LEA--Local Education Agency – the board and staff responsible for the administration of a local school system.
LOBBYIST--A group seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation.
SPONSOR(S)--The legislator (s) who puts his name on a bill when introduced. Acts as the chief spokesperson for the bill and is primarily responsible for the handling of the bill through committee and floor votes.
VETO--Action by which the governor disapproves of a bill passed by both houses.