Creating a Plan for Change

As your PTA gears up for the school year, consider adding another new item to your list: advocacy. Take a moment in the next few weeks to consider what your local PTA unit’s advocacy goals are for the school year. What are some issues affecting students and families in your district that your PTA can “speak up” for? Perhaps you want healthier food in your students’ cafeteria, more family and community events, or safer routes to school that encourage walking and biking. Or, maybe your PTA wants to work with your state PTA to let your state and national leaders know your thoughts on school funding or to support National PTA’s public policy agenda on ESSA implementation.

Once you have identified those issues most important to your PTA, you can begin organizing your PTA unit to effectively advocate for them. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Be realistic. Make sure the tasks you are undertaking are within the abilities of your PTA. Identify issues that are small enough in scope that the local PTA unit can address them in a reasonable manner, but will have a noticeable impact on families and students in your school or district. If you find that the topics are outside the scope of what is possible, re-think your goals to bring them into a more realistic sphere, while also finding ways to grow your unit’s capacity to make the larger objectives possible.
  • Have a plan. Using a strategy chart, create step-by-step events and objectives that can be completed one at a time. Trying to take on too much at once can be frustrating and cause you to lose sight of the end goal. Also be sure to celebrate the completion of these steps, no matter how large or small a victory it is!
  • Communicate your goals. PTA seeks to engage families in education. But oftentimes, families do not know how to get involved. Make sure you are communicating your initiatives through various mediums (social media, local newspaper, newsletters, etc.) so people in your school’s district know how they can get involved.
  • Work with local, state and national leaders. Reach out to the administration in your school district, your city council, state legislators and even members of Congress. Do some research on these individuals to find out what topics are important to them, so that you can approach the right people to support your cause. If you need help figuring out who your leaders are, you can go to PTA’s Takes Action site to search by your zip code and find out.
  • Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither can all solutions be arrived at instantaneously. Give yourself and your PTA volunteers enough time to get organized and complete the objectives in a workable timeframe.

National PTA has put together many resources for you to get started on organizing your local unit to meet its advocacy goals. You can check out our Advocacy page for materials on various topics, including special education, education funding and the Common Core State Standards. The page also provides a link to National PTA’s public policy agenda, which may be helpful to your unit as you seek opportunities to promote the PTA cause. Our Advocacy Toolkit offers tips on how to interact with the media and your legislative leaders, in both web and PDF form. The toolkit also includes an outline of the federal budget process, short videos detailing the history of PTA as an advocacy organization and how to effectively make your voice heard with your leaders. You can also check out our Advocacy Training Guide, which provides detailed steps on topics such as coalition building, recruiting volunteers, and building an effective advocacy campaign. Finally, you can always contact National PTA staff by phone or e-mail for help.

Your PTA unit can also help National PTA’s child advocacy efforts by signing up to receive action alerts from our Takes Action network. These alerts will keep you informed when Congress is acting on issues important to students and families, and will give you the opportunity to make your voice heard with your legislative leaders. For even more opportunities to receive information from National PTA, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

The new school year is a great time for your PTA to consider what opportunities exist in your school district for improving the lives of all children. As your students head back to school, take some time to figure out how you can advocate for every child with one voice.