It’s time to pick up your phone and dial. Our statewide partner, EducationVotersPA, is asking everyone to call their legislators today to support our public schools. When we do this together, it works. Here’s what you need to know.
Q. Why do I need to call my legislators?
A. Governor Corbett has cut almost $1 BILLION from public education in each of the last two years. As a result, our children have lost nearly 20,000 teachers across the state, and we are seeing increased class size, deep programs cuts and the elimination of vital positions like librarians and counselors. Negotiations for the 2013-14 state budget are heating up, and the Governor and state legislature need to hear from us that we want them to support public schools.
Q. Phone calls seem so simple. Do they really work?
A. Yes! We know that just 10 calls in one day to a legislator will put this issue on their radar. When we participate in these call-in days, we add our voices to a state-wide movement – there’s a real multiplier effect when we all do this together on a single day. Our other actions are important, too (rallies, letters, face-to-face meetings) – but these call-in days are an opportunity for all of us to speak up and be heard directly by our politicians. They are listening! Last year, this kind of direct action and contact helped to save $100 million in proposed cuts.
Q. How do these calls help our movement?
A. One of the most important things our grassroots movement is doing is to help each other learn about: how the education budget is set, who makes policy decisions, and how we can be a part of that process. Through this movement, many people are learning who their legislators are and that it’s OK to call them. This is the definition of empowerment and parent engagement – the very things we know make our public schools strong. These call-in days are opportunities to talk to other parents and our networks about the issues facing public education and to encourage those folks to join our movement. Use this chance to spread the word to your colleagues and friends.
Q. What should I tell my legislators?
A. Give a couple examples about how two years of state budget cuts have had a devastating impact on our schools. Then get specific about what we want to see happen this year. We are asking legislators to:
- Reinstate $270 million in funding to K-12 education in this year’s budget (and for the next 2 years – to restore the nearly $1 billion in state funding level cuts over a three year timetable).
- Put in place funding formulas that have a strategy for allocating dollars, working toward a permanent, rational funding formula. Formulas must account for the number of students, include “weights” for the additional costs for educating students with special needs (including students in poverty, gifted students and English language learners), and provide sustainable and predictable funding for districts.
- Begin to address formula and funding mechanism flaws in the way that charter schools are funded (a good formula will set rates appropriately & not pit groups of children against each other).
Q. Who is my legislator? What numbers do I call?
A. You can look up your state representative and senator here. You can call either their local office or Harrisburg office. Also, please be sure to call the Governor’s office at (717) 787-2500.
Q. But my legislator is already supportive of public education. Why should I bother him (or her) about this?
A. Even if your representative generally supports public education, we want her (or him) to take a more active role – especially during these next two months. You might ask your legislator to become a public education champion. And it doesn’t hurt to let them know that we “have their back” on this issue. We will never see sustainable dollars put back into our schools unless our legislators take this issue by the horns. And many legislators are feeling the Boiled Frogs effect, too – we need to let our supporters know that the water is getting hotter!
Q. I keep hearing state officials say they actually increased funding for our schools. What’s going on?
A. Governor Corbett and his administration are very fond of saying this and you will likely hear this statement when you call his office. The fact is, he collapsed several budget line items into one, “Basic Education,” so he could say that he increased funding for this, when in reality, he has drastically decreased overall education spending. He has even admitted as much in interviews, but the administration continues to use this extremely misleading sound-bite. [See “The Numbers Game”]
Q. I’m nervous, what should I say?
A. You will be speaking to a staff member. Introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent. For example: “Hi this is _____, I am a constituent of Representative _____, and I am calling because I strongly support public education and I am very concerned about the impact of budget cuts on my school, and on our community.” Then in your own words, say something about what you are seeing at your school. You might explain that every child must have an opportunity to learn and good schools make stronger communities, or that education is a human right. You might also say that education is a top priority issue for you as a voter. Let them know you plan to follow these issues and see what happens. For example: “I am interested in the Representative’s position on these cuts and would like to hear back about it. My email address is …. Thank you.”
Do you need more motivation? Last year our movement held “sidewalk parties” outside many schools on call-in days. Look how much fun parents had making their calls: