Legislative and Policy News
As the traditional school year comes to a close and summer vacations are eagerly awaited, Michigan legislators will also be on a summer break. This doesn’t mean work in Lansing won’t be done or top issues ignored, but it does mean that constituents will have a greater opportunity to meet with their elected officials to discuss matters important to them.
Because of current term limits, legislators often do not have the opportunity to become knowledgeable on all issues. It’s imperative that we, as educators, take time to inform House and Senate members about issues that impact education. We must also have dialogue that is respectful and provide information that is rooted in fact, not emotion.
Here are some guidelines that can help you have a productive meeting with your legislator:
- Legislators want to hear from their constituents. Some will meet at local establishments in a larger group setting while others prefer a one-on-one conversation. Every state representative and senator has a webpage (house.michigan.gov and senate.michigan.gov). If the webpage does not indicate local meeting dates or times, email your legislator to ask when they will be holding their next meet and greet. Also, don’t forget to register to receive their email updates.
- Be respectful of their time; you can’t address every issue in a short period. Let them know what you would like to discuss so they can be prepared to ask you questions and engage thoughtfully.
- Meet with the intent to provide helpful information they can use to become more knowledgeable about a specific topic. Find common ground and help dispel misconceptions and/or confusions.
- Share concrete examples or real-life stories from your school community that emphasize your point. This helps to humanize the topic and can highlight areas that may have not been previously considered.
- Create a short brochure or document that highlights salient points. Avoid using confusing graphs or statistics. Include websites or resources that are user-friendly and helpful. Remember, your legislator may be passing this information along to their aide or a committee member so summarizing your talking points is a benefit.
- Regardless of the outcome of your meeting, always follow-up with a short email or note thanking them for the opportunity to meet. They’re more likely to remember you and be responsive in future correspondence.
New or proposed legislation shouldn’t be the sole reason for contacting your legislator. Get to know them, what they stand for and against, and begin to build a relationship. While you may not always share the same viewpoint, you can begin to build the foundation for civil discourse.
Yours in Literacy,
Grace B. Velchansky, PhD
MRA Legislative Chair
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