As part of XQ’s ongoing “How-To” series, here are some tips from experts at XQ on how school leaders, teachers, families, and anyone else who cares about high school education can engage effectively with elected officials.
By Jennifer Ellis, XQ Director of Policy, and Ann Cattalini Sinclair, Associate Director of Policy Content Partnerships
Elected officials – ranging from your local school board all the way to the state house – regularly make important decisions about funding, enrollment, curriculum, and other issues that affect your school. Keeping open the lines of communication can benefit everyone: Your school community will be better informed about decisions happening at the government level, and elected officials can learn how their policies affect local schools. Having strong ties with elected officials is also a great way to showcase your school’s successes.
Know your elected officials.Understand your local, state, and federal elected officials’ roles and stances on education. This will clarify where engagement will be helpful and necessary.
Be proactive. Don’t wait to build relationships with elected officials until you need something from them or have an issue to raise.
Share successes. Build relationships with elected officials by showcasing your innovative practices and inviting them to tour your school, attend events, and visit classrooms to see day-to-day instruction.
Be prepared. Have a clear and detailed logistical plan to ensure engagement with elected officials is seamless and organized. Also, be prepared to substantively answer all questions an elected official might raise.
Elevate student voice. Students are a critical part of your work. They are also a critical part of telling the story of your school to an elected official.
Elevate educator voice. Educators are an incredible resource for elected officials. Expect that they will want to hear from educators. Ensure that educator voice is a crucial part of your engagement.
Engage parents and community members. Use your school’s resources to keep your parents and community members informed and engaged.
Be responsive. Ensure that questions or requests from elected officials are responded to in a timely and thoughtful manner.
Follow up consistently. Engagement does not stop after one meeting/visit/email! To build a strong relationship, follow up a few times per year.
Do you have tips you’d like to share with XQ readers? Be an XQ guest blogger! Check out this form for details.