Three Ways Advocates Communicate About Charters
April 14, 2017

In recent months, advocates have faced new challenges, specifically around charters and choice—both as the federal administration shifted and as the political climate in states evolved.

In the PIE Network discussion playbook (released in 2016), “Communicating about Charters: Best Practices and Lessons Learned,” members described the communication best practices they used to advance charter legislation in their states. These lessons still ring true and can apply to many issues that our members are tackling during their legislative session this year.

Information is most effective when the timing is right for engagement.

For example, Mississippi First developed and published in-depth issue papers and briefs and distributed them to legislators. However, they found the most effective way of getting legislators the information they needed in a fast and timely way was to turn the issue in to a postcard and physically deliver the postcard to every single legislator’s desk right before the vote.

If putting a face on things is good, using a voice is even better.

We know authentic use of parent, student, and teacher voices speaks volumes. For example, while working on the rollout of the new school application system in New Orleans called the OneApp, Stand for Children Louisiana invited educators and elected officials to a town hall meeting where they had a parent panel prepped to answer questions about the hotly debated OneApp system. By lifting up the voices of parents who would be affected by the OneApp system, Stand for Children Louisiana was able to help change the minds of many community members who might have otherwise not supported the issue.

Whereas in Washington state, when the state Supreme Court invalidated Washington’s voter-approved public charter school law, PIE members took action. Joining a coalition in the state called Act Now for Washington Students, PIE Network members, Stand for Children Washington, DFER Washington, League of Education Voters, and the Partnership for Learning, strategized together and agreed that amplifying charter school student voices would be a winning tactic. They agreed that “the biggest impact there was kids articulating what will happen to them if their school closes. Their testimonies were profound.”

The importance of staying prepared for an opportunity.

Knowing when an opportunity arises to leverage an authentic conversation about a real need is paramount in advocacy work. It’s important to make this opportunity your own. Arrange to have those who are affected the most by the legislative issue to appear in front of or have a conversation with the decision-makers over the issue.

PIE Network members can review the full results of the discussion playbook here.

Tanzi West Barbour

Tanzi is PIE Network's Senior Director, Communications, Charters, and Choice

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