One way school leaders can communicate with legislators is to contact them directly either via mail or email. In recent years it has been said that it is more effective to send physical mail than email because legislator inboxes are flooded with emails, but a piece of physical mail may stand out. However, it can also be more difficult to get a response via physical mail because it takes more effort. Being on an email listserv can get you quick and frequent access to your legislator’s current priority list so you can make timely communication about issues. For example, Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s most recent email asked for input on sports betting in Iowa. While this is not necessarily closely aligned with education, it is an excellent example of how to give timely input when a legislator is seeking it.
Another powerful way to communicate with a legislators is to join an advocacy/lobby group. Joining a group like RSAI or Iowa’s UEN group gives you a leg up because they do a lot of leg work for you. The groups identify priorities, research bills that may come up and their likelihood of passing, organize events for face-to-face time at the capitol, and provide materials and talking points that administrators can easily implement into a conversation so that they sound informed on the issues. While your individual school voice can get lost in a larger crowd, these groups tend to advocate for legislation that is beneficial for all schools, meaning that you have power in numbers. You could also join other community groups that do not have a specific education lens but do lobbying work. Those people are part of your community and it is both important to share those issues in those spaces and gives you a broader constituent base and voice when talking to your representatives.
Another suggestion is giving a small donation to the campaigns of your elected officials. It does not have to break the bank, but $25 does get you on mailing lists and keep you on the radar as an invested supporter. You do not have to support only one party, and probably shouldn’t, because as party majority changes you will still want to have a voice with the decision makers in your area.
Finally, while it may not be direct communication, it is also important to communicate with the students, parents, and communities your serve about your school’s legislative priorities. Helping them understand the issues and encouraging and supporting them in contacting legislators themselves amplifies your school community’s voice in the process.
Want to see some of this year's education priorities in Iowa? Check out the Urban Education Network's one-page list of priorities (which is very similar to the list identified by the Rural School Advocates of Iowa).