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Literacy Education Advocacy

Visiting Your Legislator in Washington, DC

Request an Appointment with your
U.S. Representative and Senators

1) Locate your Senators and Congressional representatives at  Senate.gov and House.gov , or

2) Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  Know the name of your House Representative prior to calling; the operators will not be able to look that information up for you.

photo:  NCTE members Clarissa West-White (left) and Susan Houser (right)
met with Representative Kathy Castor of Florida during the
2008 NCTE Literacy Education Advocacy Day

Make an Appointment according to the instructions outlined in your representatives' websites. Some congressional leaders have Web forms and others have a direct email address. Feel free to customize this sample letter to request your Congressional meeting.

If you call, ask to speak to the member’s appointment secretary or scheduler. 

  • Identify yourself as a constituent and also identify yourself by profession (teacher, administrator, professor or student).
  • Inform the scheduler the date and time you will be in Washington, DC (Thursday, April 18, between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., for example)
  • You will likely need to fax or email a written request for a meeting in addition to the phone call.  Be sure to ask for the fax number or email address.  DO NOT mail the request via the post office.  Due to terrorism threats, all mail service to Senate and House offices has been suspended indefinitely.

Follow Up
Don’t get discouraged.  Schedulers receive many meeting requests and the Congressional calendar is very full.  Be patient and persistent- you may need to contact the office several times.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

  • If you make the visit with a group, keep the number of people per visit small enough (3-5 people) for easy communication of ideas.  
  • Your appointment will probably last between 15 and 30 minutes.  Be sure to allow 20-30 minutes between appointments to allow time to travel between offices.
  • The walk between the House and the Senate takes about 15-20 minutes.  For those of you who haven’t visited Capitol Hill since 9/11, you’ll now have to do this walk outside.  Only staff and members of Congress are allowed in the tunnels under the Capitol building.  You will also have to go through security as well.
  • Bring a camera.  You don’t want to miss an opportunity to document your experience.
  • See these tips for visits on Capitol Hill.

Confirm Your Appointment a few days prior to your meeting. 

Do Your Research about your legislator by visiting Senate.gov and House.gov

Gather Materials for Your Visit
Use talking points from NCTE's Education Policy Platform as an anchor for your discussion.

  • Plan one or two points you want to make.
  • Be sure to include your own story of what you know works or is needed on the issue you've chosen. 
  • Bring 1)your business card, 2) a one-page outline or summary of your main points and 3) any background materials to leave behind.

Watch this half-hour video in which Susan Houser and Millie Davis talk about meeting with legislators.

Meeting with Legislative Staff
Legislative staff members are responsible for meeting with constituents and relaying that information directly to the member of Congress.  Even thought you may not meet with your representative, know that meeting with his or her staff member is an excellent way to share your knowledge and establish a relationship.

During the Visit

  • Smile and engage in conversation. Be confident and relaxed.  After all, you are the expert.
  • Be prepared that staff may ask you questions that you cannot answer. Be honest and tell them you don't know but that you will be happy to get back to them with the correct answer.

After the Visit
E-mail a thank you note and include any information you may have offered to provide during your visit.

Your objective should be to begin or to continue to develop a relationship with your legislator and with the staff responsible for education issues -- a relationship based on your expertise and knowledge of literacy education issues.

Note:  To request an appointment with your legislator or staffer at their home office, see our tips for Visiting Your Legislator at Home.

 

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