Make the media part of your advocacy arsenal.
As we so often do, we encourage you to create and maintain relationships with federal lawmakers by visiting them when you are in Washington, visiting their district offices when they are home, and arranging for them to visit your schools and programs to see the value of career and technical education at work in your communities. Repeated constituent contact can make all the difference in highlighting your issue.
Another tool for promoting the value of your programs and of CTE generally is your local media. Not only is local media effective for gaining community-wide support for the good work you do even] day, but it is also an extremely effective way to reach your Members of Congress. While an article about CTE in a national newspaper or television broadcast can do wonders for national exposure, Members of Congress are guaranteed to read local papers in their districts and states. Using local media strategically will likely mean that your programs and issues will be on your elected officials' radar screens when they make important decisions about the future of career and technical education.
As you know, this is an important legislative year for CTE. With the future of the Perkins program and its funding being debated in Congress, now is the time to put your program in the spotlight. You might want to renew or establish relationships with education or economic reporters, feature writers, or editorial boards to increase coverage of your issues. Opinion pieces or a simple letter to the editor can also help you to make your case. (For tips on media outreach, take a look at the CTE Week Planning Guide on ACTE's website at http://www.acteonline.org/ career_tech/tech_week/index.cfm.)
What follows is a sample of a letter to the editor that you can tailor to your local experiences for submission to your local newspaper (follow your newspaper's instructions on how to submit a letter; the text can also be expanded with local details to serve as an op-ed piece):
To the Editor:
I am writing to inform your readership about a valuable resource In our community. [Insert a description of your school or program, and include details about how the program benefits students, local businesses, and the community.] This program would not be possible without the federal Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which supports career and technical education programs like ours in communities across the country.
The future of this important program is currently being debated in Congress, and its funding and structure have been threatened by proposals from the Bush Administration, including budget cuts of as much as 25% and significant policy changes that could damage the program's structure and how it delivers services to local communities. Career and technical education prepares youth and adults for the future by building their skills for the careers of today and tomorrow. It is among our nation's most important investments in high schools, a key component of our postsecondary and workforce development systems, and is vital to American business. This is not the time to make drastic changes to the Perkins Act; instead, it is an opportunity to build upon its successes in providing the career and technical education necessary to create the highly skilled workforce that supports the demands of the 21st century economy and promotes economic development in our nation's communities.
We know that career and technical education provides effective and proven links to skills-building opportunities and improved employment outcomes, and that employers across the nation continue to need well-trained workers with good skills. Career and technical education can meet these needs with the help of the Perkins Act. Without it, programs like ours could disappear, and along with them the positive benefits we can and do provide to our community.
For tips and tools for effective advocacy, please visit the Public Policy area of ACTE's website at http://www.acteonllne.org/ policy/grassroots_action/ advocacy.cfm.
Capitol View is a regular column authored by ACTE's Public Policy Department. Christin M. Driscoll, Senior Director of Public Policy, authored this column.