Hosting site visits for members of Congress are an excellent way to not only continue to build your relationship between yourself and your elected officials, but also to establish your PTA as a resource. Site visits allow elected officials the opportunity to see that PTA is not about bake sales, but about school and family engagement and school reform.
Your elected officials can see firsthand the things your local PTA is doing for the school in his or her district. Before you begin the process, feel free to reach out to National PTA Government Affairs staff to help brainstorm and plan your visit.
Planning the Visit
Before you begin coordinating a school visit, check with the principal for the policies on site visits. Meet with school officials to brainstorm what you would like to accomplish and what messages you would like to deliver, such as highlighting successful family engagement programs within your school and advocating for certain legislation. In order to ensure the visit runs smoothly, create a draft agenda for the visit—including which classrooms, program and personnel you’d like your member of Congress to see in action.
Scheduling the Visit
Arrange a site visit when your member of Congress is home in his or her district and when school is in session. Members of Congress are usually in their home districts Friday through Monday and during the August recess. For additional recess opportunities, please check the Senate and House of Representatives' calendars.
Tips for Scheduling a Visit:
- E-mail a letter of request to your member of Congress’s district scheduler at least six weeks in advance of the proposed site visit. The PTA Takes Action Network can provide you with their contact information.
- Explain why you believe the member of Congress’s visit would be beneficial (i.e., to see effective family engagement programs).
- Include specific information about the visit, such as date, time, location, others who may be invited (i.e., business partners), whether the media will be present, and what activities are planned for the visit.
- Members of Congress’s schedules can be hectic, so be as flexible as possible with your schedule to accommodate the member.
- Make sure to coordinate dates with the school and the member’s district staff to work out any possible scheduling conflicts, such as school wide testing.
Alerting the Media
Work with the member of Congress’s press secretary or communications director and school staff to coordinate press activity. Invite local television news stations and newspapers to cover the event. Send a media advisory to all the local news outlets alerting them to the time, date and purpose of the site visit. If the media is unable to be present, take pictures and include them with a summary of the activities and send this to the local media outlets.
Hosting the Visit
Prepare teachers and students before the visit by explaining what to expect as well as appropriate behaviors during the visit. Teachers can plan lessons and activities to help students understand the role of our legislators, civic responsibilities and the purpose of the visit. Have students interact with the member of Congress and provide that member with literature on local statistics regarding the effectiveness of your programs and family engagement, anecdotes of success stories, and other information that shows the connection between PTA, your community and the member’s constituents. Make your requests for legislation needed to strengthen your school or family engagement policies.
After the Visit
Send a media release to local news outlets. Be sure parents sign a release form before pictures or names of students go out in the media. Send a thank-you letter to the member of Congress, including any photos and press stories. In the letter recap the highlights of their visit and restate any requests for legislation needed to strengthen your school and family engagement policies.
Keep National PTA Informed
Let National PTA know how your visit went and where your member of Congress stood on any issues you may have discussed by utilizing our Advocacy Activity Form. This gives PTA staff in Washington additional insight into the positions of members of Congress and helps us identify strong supporters and those that need additional attention or information, as well as PTA members who have good relationships that can be called upon in the future.