How to Request an Appointment with your
U.S. Representative and Senators
Information for your Congressional contacts can be found on Congress.org (type your 9-digit zip code in the upper-right corner). This website provides a wealth of information on legislative agendas and committee assignments and includes short biographies.
You can also obtain contact information for your member of Congress by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Please 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
Making an Appointment
Most congressional leaders have Web forms that you can use to seek an appointment. You will need to go to their website and cut and paste the letter into that form. Some will even 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 that you will be in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 22, between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m.
- 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.
Don’t get discouraged. Schedulers receive many meeting requests and the Congressional calendar is very full. Be patient and persistent -- you will likely need to contact the office several times.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
- If you make the visit with a delegation, keep the number of people per visit small enough (3-4 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.
Confirming Your Appointment
After securing an appointment with a member or staffer, be sure to confirm the meeting at least a few days prior to your meeting.
Doing Your Research
Use the Congress.org tool to learn about your legislator before the visit.
Gathering Materials for Your Visit
Use talking points from NCTE's Legislative 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 your business card and, perhaps, a one-page outline or summary of your main points and 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 a Legislative Staff
Legislative staff members are responsible for relaying information on particular topic areas to the member of Congress. An important part of their job is to meet with constituents and stay informed, and to pass that information directly on to the member of Congress. If the legislator is not available to meet with you, you will still have the great opportunity to meet with the staff member who handles education issues who serves as a resource person on educational issues for the Member.
During the Visit
Know that it’s possible that the legislator or staffer will ask your opinion on topics other than those you’ve come to talk about. Do share your expertise and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out and get back to you.” Then, of course, do get back to the legislator with what you find out.
After the Visit
Don’t forget to send a thank you note after your visit and include any information you may have offered to provide during your visit -- email is the best way.
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.