Contacting your legislators is an important part of homeschool reform. In many cases lawmakers may not be aware of this issue, or of the concerns involved. You can create change by reaching out to your legislators and providing them with the information and insight they need to get started on this issue. We will explain how to prepare yourself for contacting your lawmakers, how to find and contact your lawmakers, and what to say when reaching out.
It is possible that your legislator or their staff may know less about home education and related policies than you do. They may want to ask you follow up questions about the bill you are asking them to support or oppose, or about the current laws and regulations regarding homeschooling, or for specific examples of abuses that support your concerns about the current level of oversight. You can use the following resources to prepare for your conversation, or share them with the legislator or staff member.
Open States will let you search for your state senator and representative, find their contact information, see what committees they serve on, and what bills they’ve sponsored. You might also want to do a quick internet search to find their official and campaign pages and a bio. Knowing the personal and professional background of your legislator can help you frame your communication to appeal to their interests.
The website for your state legislature should also have a tool to search by zip code or address to find your legislators. From there, you can use their member page on the state website to get updated information about their bills and committee memberships. Some members will also include information about their district on their page; it is useful to read how your elected official talks about your district as it shows their priorities.
The contact information that you need to make a call, write a letter, or schedule a meeting should be available either on Open States or the legislator’s state website. You will want to make sure that you are contacting that legislator at their official address, email address, or phone number rather than that of their campaign. This information is typically easy to distinguish; the address will be at your state capitol rather than in your district, the phone number will have the area code of your state capitol region, and the email address will end in .gov or otherwise indicate association with the legislature of your state.
Calls are a great option if there is active legislation in your state that you want your legislator to co-sponsor, support, or oppose. A member of their staff will most likely be answering the phone, and their job is to get your message to your legislator. You can also call to ask for more information about a piece of legislation. Bill language can be full of jargon and difficult to understand, so legislative staff are used to doing research on behalf of constituents and answering questions.
Some tips for navigating a call to your legislator:
Letters are a good way to make sure that all of the details you want to provide are on record with your legislator’s office. In a phone call or meeting, the staff or legislator will be taking their own notes and may not write down something that you believe to be important. You can send a letter by postal mail or email. Most legislators try to provide a response from their office when they receive written correspondence. Additionally, if sharing your particular story or those of others is emotionally overwhelming for you, writing a letter gives you the freedom to take as much time as you need to make your case.
Tips for writing letters to your legislator:
There may be times when speaking directly to your state legislator is most productive. Pending legislation may be at a critical point, or you might need to hear a stance on your issue directly from them. The good news is that state legislators tend to be more accessible than those at the federal level. Ideal meetings would be at your state capitol, but that may be a long or expensive trip. When you call to schedule a meeting you can ask if your legislator has a district office where you can meet, if they have scheduled an upcoming town hall, or if they’re willing to schedule an in-district meeting with you.
At times, your legislator may still be unable to meet with you. Legislative sessions are always busy. Urgent, unplanned meetings and lengthy floor debates or committee hearings are a common occurrence. Meeting with a staff member may still serve your purposes, as you can get their undivided attention and share physical copies of any relevant information or data.
Some tips for meeting with your legislator or their staff: