Advocacy is at the heart of the PTA mission! Does advocacy happen in Olympia when the legislature is in session? Yes! But that is not the only time or place because PTA advocacy is year-round. Advocacy is our most significant opportunity to positively impact our community and its future. To create a better world for our children, have a seat at the table where decisions about children and youth are being made, and support those students who need someone to speak for them. Advocacy gives voice to the needs of all families.
What can your local PTA or council do to expand your advocacy efforts? The choices are endless, but here are a few easy options:
- Parent Education
One way your PTA can advocate is by educating parents. You can do this through PTA communication channels (email, newsletters, websites, social media, etc.), meetings, and networking with other community members and organizations. Your PTA has board and membership meetings where you can share information, and brainstorming can occur. You can have the principal talk about hot topics, invite a guest speaker on a topic parents care about, or bring in a student panel so parents can hear their perspectives, ideas, and concerns. If the issue or presentation affects other schools in your district, invite other PTAs to attend. By doing this, your PTA is advocating!
- PTA Programs and Events
Hosting programs and events centered around a cause for change is another example of advocacy. Make sure your PTA logo is on all event marketing, so families know it is a PTA – not school – hosted event. These events can be things like candidate forums, voter registration drives, student panels, parent education events, math/reading/science/school safety nights, and much more. Anything you can think of…so get creative to address your community’s specific advocacy interests and needs.
- Voter Registration and Engagement
Voting is the opportunity to influence government, decide who leads, and who makes decisions. It is a way to advocate for who and what you believe in. PTAs can help students and adults register to vote and encourage people to vote.
A recent law allows students who are 16 or 17 to pre-register to vote when they get their Washington state driver’s license or state identification card. They will automatically receive their ballot when they turn 18. Or students can register if they will be 18 before the next election. This can be a great registration campaign for a high school PTA! There are also easy change of address forms online for temporary college, work, or military addresses that can be promoted.
IMPORTANT – PTAs may not endorse any candidates for public office. They can support legislative initiatives if a PTA votes to endorse and support the initiative (more info here).
- Engage with Decision Makers
There are decision-makers at all levels, from district to city to county to state and more. Build relationships with the decision-makers that impact your PTA’s community! Invite them to a coffee chat or to visit your school building (with principal permission, of course). Give them time at a PTA meeting to talk about what is going on that would impact your students, staff, and community. Email them when you have questions, positive feedback, or concerns you want to share. Share the Washington State PTA platform with them as it relates to their role. Be sure to report out to your PTA members to help them understand the advocacy work you do!
- School Board Testimony
School board directors are elected by, and are accountable to, the community they serve. Most school board meetings will have time for public comment where you can share your opinions, show your support, and state your concerns – directly to the people making the decisions. Use the “Build Your Pitch” template in the advocacy section of the Washington State PTA leadership resources to help organize your message. This is an incredible opportunity to make your voice heard!
- Communicate About Advocacy
There are simple things you can do to expand advocacy awareness, such as having an advocacy report at every PTA board and membership meeting. Include an “Advocacy Corner” on your website and in every newsletter – there’s always something from WSPTA or National PTA to support and educate your members. Encourage your members to sign up for WSPTA Action Alerts to automatically get important advocacy messages on the state platform that impact your students. Share WSPTA’s “One Voice Wednesday” social media posts to help educate your membership (#WSPTAOneVoice).
- Get Involved in State Level Advocacy!
You can also get involved with advocacy at the state level by attending WSPTA advocacy events such as Legislative Assembly and Focus On Advocacy Week. You can join the WSPTA advocacy or resolutions committee or join your region service delivery team as a Region Advocacy Chair (RAC). Another great opportunity is to share a statewide concern by submitting an issue/resolution/legislative principle for WSPTA consideration. More information can be found here.
If you still have questions, please email the WSPTA Advocacy Director.