It’s that time of year, when pristine Crayolas, crisp composition books, and un-scuffed sneakers signify that school is back in session. Congress, however, still has a couple weeks before they bunker down. After delivering a mixed bag of pre-August recess early ed appropriations decisions, members of the House and Senate are rooted in their home districts until September 10, when they’re expected to vote on a six-month continuing resolution to keep the federal government chugging along as attention spans drift toward the election and sequestration.
But just because they’re not in DC doesn’t mean that your friendly local federal representatives are kicking back and taking it easy. They’re back at home so that they can connect with you, the fine constituents whose votes keep them in office and whose concerns they should be eager to hear at scheduled events like town halls, meet-n-greets, and ice cream socials.
And just like the students and Congresspeople, you have some homework of your own: get out there and tell your representatives that early learning matters. Though the continuing resolution may kick the FY13 funding can further down the road, it’s important to keep spreading the word about quality early learning while members are relatively undistracted by the growing multitude of issues that await them in our nation’s capital.
A quick visit to a member’s website should provide a smorgasbord of opportunities for you to make your voice heard. No luck finding an event? You’re not off the hook yet. Members pay attention to local newspapers and blogs, and an op-ed or letter to the editor can be just as important as an in-person meeting.
The First Five Years Fund has some handy cheat sheets to help you complete your assignment. Our revamped communications template toolkit features talking points and templates that you can tailor to produce an op-ed, press statement, or letter to the editor. Need leave-behind materials? The “Smart Investments, Big Returns” one-pager collection is like Early Learning 101, concisely laying out the results, research, and policy principles behind successful investments in early learning. For a captivating visual take that reminds policymakers to “Be Careful What You Cut,” check out (and share!) the Children’s Defense Fund’s great campaign.
Are you the type who likes to read ahead? The next chapter in early learning’s funding saga has a potential villain looming in the shadows: sequestration. Stay tuned for more analysis in an upcoming installment, but you can find some great pre-reading in this CLASP article and in these materials from the Non-Defense Discretionary Coalition. It will be a challenging stretch, but with so many A students hitting the books, early learning funding is in good hands.