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Advocate for All Children

"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

- Jane Goodall

In 1897 when Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst decided that someone should speak out on behalf of children, they founded the National Congress of Mothers which later became PTA. For more than 125 years, PTA advocacy has resulted in many changes such as creation of kindergarten classes, child labor laws, public health service, juvenile justice system, mandatory immunization, and the school lunch program.

Today, PTA continues to advocate for all children, to press for adequate, equitable, and sustainable school funding, to create safe and healthy communities, and to make every child’s potential a reality. Become an advocate at the Local PTA or by joining Louisiana PTA and National PTA to add your voice to PTA’s one voice for every child. Advocacy is what makes PTA different from other parent groups. Each of us desires the best for our children. Reaching out to other children ensures that all children benefit from our efforts. Creating communities that are child friendly places promotes their health and wellbeing where they can prosper. Why Advocate? It is probably safe to say that no one first joins PTA to be an advocate. Most initially go to meetings and share their thoughts when the principal asks for ideas on an issue the school is facing. They help run an activity booth at the fall carnival to help raise funds to purchase items that teachers need in their classrooms. They talk to the child’s teacher when another child was bullying them. They work a shift or two at the book fair because the school library would get extra books after the sale. They do these things because they want the child’s school to provide the best education possible. And in doing all these things, they were involved in advocacy, because at the most basic level, advocacy is simply working to make things better. Sometimes that involves speaking to someone with the power to make a change. Sometimes it is raising funds to support that change. By talking to the child’s teacher about a problem in the classroom, they already know the basics of advocacy. Talk to the person who can change the situation, share what the problem is, and ask them to fix it (possibly with the solution). The approach is the same when advocating with a school board member, a state legislator, or a member of Congress. The LAPTA Toolkit: Advocacy is designed to help the PTA become a more effective advocate, whether that advocacy is in the school, in the district, or at the state or national level. It will help to strategically attack an issue, recruit supporters, build coalitions of like-minded groups, structure the arguments, and communicate effectively. It will help to engage the PTA’s members in advocacy and teach how to take advocacy success from the local level to the state or national level. PTA was founded on the idea of advocating for children at school, in the home, and in their community. The Local PTA Unit has already been involved in advocacy, even if they did not call it that. Now, they can strengthen that advocacy. When PTAs advocate for change, they make things better not just for their child right now, but for every child going forward.

Walking the Halls of History for Louisiana PTA

An article by Beth Maillho on the 2024 Legislative Conference by National PTA

The awe-inspiring history of Washington, DC, hit me between the eyes as Giselle Allen and I walked the halls of our Capitol buildings. We were there to speak with our Louisiana congressional delegation on behalf of Louisiana PTA. The huge role that Louisiana played in our American history, past and present, was on full display – from Marquis de Lafayette and Mrs. Lindy Boggs to Congressman Steve Scalise and Speaker Mike Johnson.

 

National PTA held its annual Legislative Conference (LegCon) in March to encourage PTA members to advocate for all children with their members of Congress. To assist, National PTA published a list of five bipartisan “asks” to improve education for children. The priorities focused on federal funding for education, digital safety, family-school partnerships, inclusive schools, and gun violence prevention.

 

Our day started at the Cannon House Office Building with Rep. Clay Higgins’s staff member Daniel and then Speaker Mike Johnson’s staff member Tyler. Giselle did a great job sharing our five priorities from National PTA with each office. We had just enough time to have the speaker’s staff member Dayton take us on an unexpected tour of the US Capitol Building with a special stop on the “Speaker’s Balcony.” This is located on the front (west side) of the Capitol centered on the National Mall looking down toward the Washington Monument. It was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t help but wonder who had stood in that exact spot throughout the history of this incredible building.

 

We scurried back to the Cannon House Office Building to meet with Rep. Troy Carter’s staff members Layla and André, and Giselle again spoke about our priorities. Our next meeting was in the Rayburn House Office Building, which we walked to outside in the cool, misting rain. Once there, we met with Rep. Garret Graves’s staff member Matthew, followed by Rep. Steve Scalise’s staff member Leah. We had lively talks with them about the educational area and all of its needs. Leah graciously brought us to the underground train to get us to the Senate side for our next meeting in the Senate Dirksen Office Building with Sen. Bill Cassidy. We met with his staff member Hayley, who is a staffer on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee. We had lots to discuss with Hayley, who is a former teacher!

 

After a short break, we made our way back to the Capitol. Speaker Johnson invited us to attend his 3 pm “Coffee at the Capitol” on the speaker’s other balcony. We had a brief talk with the lovely Mrs. Johnson and a quick photo op with Speaker Johnson. I took a picture of the floor’s intricate and old tilework in front of the fireplace that backs up to the balcony, again contemplating the history that has walked those floors before me.

 

We limped back to our hotel for a much-needed recovery period and then left the LegCon dinner early to return back to the Capitol for another tour. Rep. Graves invited us to join his nighttime tour of the Capitol – which he led himself! He is quite the history buff and has lots of interesting Louisiana tidbits to share. Somehow, we were graced with seeing the Speaker’s Balcony (the main one) for a second time, giving us the beautiful night view of Washington, DC. He also brought us into the House Chamber where the State of the Union would be delivered that very next night by Pres. Biden and explained all of the incredible details and history of the room.

Did you know that the House Chamber has only 2 large painted portraits on its walls: George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette? Lafayette’s French battalion is accredited with saving the weakened Revolutionists from defeat, thus leading to the founding of the United States of America. Lafayette, of course, is greatly revered in Louisiana. And the old House Chamber (now called the National Statuary Hall) had two “coat rooms” for each party. The doors to those areas have the names of two Louisiana members of Congress! One is Rep. Steve Scalise (for his survival of the shooting at a congressional baseball game practice), and the other is the late Rep. Lindy Claiborne Boggs, whose name is on the Congressional Women’s Reading Room (for her role as a formidable female representative). (On a personal note, Rep. Boggs was my paternal grandmother’s college classmate and very good friend!)

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Every meeting we had with the different staff members was engaging and exciting. There is so much room for improvement in Louisiana’s educational system. As we said multiple times during the day, “It’s cheaper to educate than to incarcerate!” Talking with those in power about changes was absolutely worth all the effort. If there’s any chance to make a change, we need at least to try.

 

Giselle and I walked a total of 19,000 steps that day advocating for the children of Louisiana. As the rookie, I did it in heels. Never again will I wear “cute shoes” on Hill Day. I’ll do a much better job next year!

Here are some of the "wins" from the work done during LegCon 2024 on behalf of PTA!

VoterVoice

VoterVoice helps people directly influence public policy that influences children and education matters by connecting directly with lawmakers and advocates. LAPTA will offer this important service to our members very soon. It will help members sign up for alerts, find specific legislation, and contact relevant officials, and view the voting record of officials. VoterVoice will:

  • Allow members to advocate on critical issues.

  • Engage more members in grassroot campaigns.

  • Move the needle on the memberships' main concerns.

  • Measure results of campaign performance.

  • Minimize the effort it takes for members to communicate with lawmakers.

Advocacy Awards & Application Links

Local PTA Units submit their advocacy efforts to LAPTA who offers a first and second place award. There are countless ways a PTA can advocate! See suggestions at the application link or in the LAPTA Toolkit Section 11: Advocacy.

Advocacy Award for
Local PTA Units
Deadline: March 31, 2025
Announced: April 14, 2025
Quantity Offered: 2

LAPTA accepts applications for our Student Advocacy Award program to recognize students who help to truly enhance public education. Students who are involved with civic engagement are the pillars of Louisiana’s future! 

Advocacy Award for
Students
Deadline: March 31, 2025
Announced: April 14, 2025
Quantity Offered: 2

Public Election Guidance & Tools from National PTA

Nonprofits, Voting
and Elections

 Explains the actions that nonprofits can take surrounding voter participation and member election education. 

Voter Engagement
Timeline

This timeline will help your PTA organize itself for its election related community engagement activities. 

Permissible Activities Checklist

 A complete overview of what nonprofits can and cannot do around elections. 

Candidate
Appearances

 Provides guidelines on inviting candidates to appear at your events. 

Education Questions for Political Candidates

A set of questions to ask political candidates around education issues. 

Hosting a
Candidate Forum

An in-depth guide on planning a candidate forum, including what nonprofits can and cannot do. 

Operating Guidance from LAPTA

What to do when a PTA Member runs for

Public Office.

Nonprofits and Ballot Measures

 An overview of what actions nonprofits can take around ballot measures. 

Toolkit Sec 7. Advocacy

Index:

Introduction to Advocacy........................................................................... 121

Gateway to Advocacy: Why Advocate?................................................ 122

Advocating on an Issue: Planning......................................................... 123

Setting Goals................................................................................................... 123

Raising Public Awareness.......................................................................... 124

Conducting Candidate or Issue Forums............................................ 124

Forum Timeline............................................................................................... 126

Implementation: Developing Your Message.................................... 127

Resolutions and Legislative Positions................................................ 128

Using the Media............................................................................................. 128

How to Write a Press Release................................................................. 129

Sample Thank You Letter to Legislator.............................................. 129

Advocating with Your School Board...................................................... 130

Advocacy Award for Local PTA Units.................................................... 131

Advocacy Awards for Students................................................................. 131

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