Legislative Advocacy

Identifying the issues, influencing legislation and shaping the debate on key education issues

Identifying the issues, influencing legislation and shaping the debate on key education issues. PSBA provides the tools school directors need to become more active and visible in the legislative process

PSBA plays a critical role in drafting, analyzing and helping legislation pass that will positively affect public education, as well as fighting those bills that could have negative consequences.  The association has a daily presence in Harrisburg representing the views of school directors with legislators and other policymakers.

Influencing legislation and shaping the public debate on key education issues also depends upon the grassroots involvement of PSBA's members. The association provides the information, tools and opportunities for school officials to become strong advocates for public education.  The goal is to help school directors build real relationships with legislators and keep the issues at the forefront throughout the year.

PSBA has established an effective advocacy program that enables school directors to identify the issues, to receive the most up-to-date information on what's happening in Harrisburg, and to deliver the messages to their legislators. PSBA's program allows school boards to work individually and with other school boards to maximize their efforts.

School Board Members' Role as Advocates

School directors are the best advocates for public education, because they are actually in the trenches making decisions and seeing what does or does not work in the classroom. While education is important for the majority of people, as well as the majority of legislators, it is not always the top priority in Harrisburg. In order to be a good advocate, it is necessary to have an understanding of the General Assembly, its members and the process by which a bill becomes law.

The General Assembly

There are 50 members of the Senate and 203 members of the House of Representatives. It is important that PSBA members know who their legislators are and that they communicate with them regularly on legislative issues that affect local school districts. Contact information may be found on the General Assembly's Web site (see www.legis.state.pa.us).

Where does education stand within Pennsylvania's political framework?

The interests of school boards involve a variety of subdivisions: labor relations, local government, the School Code, taxation, transportation. Committees that PSBA monitors for bills affecting schools include: House/Senate Education, House/Senate Finance, House/Senate Appropriations, House/Senate Labor Relations, and House/Senate Local Government.

The General Assembly and education

There are four times throughout a legislative session in which there is most likely going to be a School Code bill: June 30 of each year (during state budget passage); The odd-numbered year of a session (prior to Christmas break); and Sine Die, (Latin for "adjournment without a day") or end of the session (Nov. 30 of even-numbered years).

The regulatory review process

A regulation is an official interpretation of a statute, detailing the steps to be taken in its administration and enforcement. State agencies use regulations to implement federal or state law.

As part of Pennsylvania's regulatory review process, the State Board of Education (see (www.pde.state.pa.us) refers education regulations to the House and Senate Education Committees, as well as the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for recommendations and approval (see www.irrc.state.pa.us).

A school director's role as an advocate for public education

Although we represent our members, PSBA's influence only carries so much weight. The most important element of a successful advocacy strategy is involvement at the local level. Legislators are more likely to act on problems that affect their constituents. Relationships with legislators are cultivated over time. It's never too late to initiate and maintain a positive relationship with your legislators and remember that advocacy is not adversarial. We ask that our advocates continue to  share any feedback with PSBA's Office of Government Relations.

Communicating with legislators

Legislator contact information can be found on the General Assembly's website. Prior to communicating with legislators, one must do their homework. Here are examples:

      • Every time a bill gets amended, it receives a new printer's number. Review the content of the most current printer's number of a bill (see www.legis.state.pa.us).
      • Know the legislator's position on legislation and ask if it is not apparent.
      • Be prepared to discuss how the issue affects the school district financially and academically.
      • Know the legislator's committee assignments. All legislators, except those in leadership, typically have two to four committee assignments. Even if a legislator is on the Education Committee, you may need to educate the legislator about the bill since he or she may not be aware of all the bills that have been referred to the committee. Committee assignments can be found on the General Assembly's Web site.
      • Know the voting record of the legislator by researching legislation on the General Assembly's Web site where printer numbers, history, votes, etc. are found.  
      • Get to know the legislator's staff members. They are often the "gatekeepers."

      Advocating by personal visit

      Make an appointment and be specific about the issue being discussed. Stick to one or two issues per visit. PSBA suggests that you take a bulleted summary, outlining your position, and a brief, statistical summary sheet of the school district's academic successes, enrollment information and general budget data to present during your meeting.

      Advocating by phone

      If the legislature is in session, call the Harrisburg phone number. If they are not in session, call the district office. If the legislator is unavailable, ask to speak to the chief of staff or legislative director. Briefly state the issue/bill number, share talking points, and ask the legislator's position.

      Advocating by letter or email

      PSBA Legislative Alerts include talking points that can be tailored for e-mailing or mailing to your legislators. Add your personal information, school district data and preferred personal style.

      Build a coalition

      When working in the political arena, it always is easier to get things done within a group. Coalition building with people in your community, as well as with other school districts, can be an effective lobbying tool for issues that have broad appeal.

      PSBA's Legislative Advocacy Program provides the means to help you become a strong advocate for public education:

      • Issues and Advocacy section of the website contains an advocacy toolkit, articles, position papers, testimonies, and research on the top issues.
      • Legislative Action Center is member protected, so you will need to enter your e-mail address and a password.
      • Spring Legislative Meetings scheduled for your county. These meetings are typically held in IUs, CTCs or schools and local legislators, superintendents, business managers and school board members are invited. A member of PSBA staff presents a legislative update and often facilitates the discussion. Post cards are mailed several weeks before the meetings and you may visit the PSBA Web site for information. As needed, some counties will hold meetings in the fall.
      • Legislative Reports and Legislative Alerts. All members with e-mail addresses will receive these automatically. Contact our office if you are not receiving them.
      • Key Contact Network. The network consists of about 700 school directors and superintendents who have relationships with legislators and are willing to be considered "grasstop" advocates for PSBA.
      • Parent Advocacy Network. This is an added advocacy service to the members in that we will assist you in educating and engaging your parents in advocating for public education.
      • Federal Relations Network
      • All interested school board members are encouraged to develop a rapport with their members of Congress and advocate at the federal level through the National School Boards Association's Federal Relations Network (www.nsba.org), the national grassroots advocacy network.
        • Registered lobbyists
        • We have four registered lobbyists within PSBA who are continually representing your interests on the hill.

       Contact us if you would like more information. 


Identifying the issues:  Drafting and adopting PSBA's legislative platform

PSBA's legislative platform, which is drafted and approved annually by school directors, serves as PSBA's official record of positions on legislative issues and is the guide for the association's advocacy efforts. This means that PSBA staff will support or oppose pending legislation that aligns with platform positions and also will draft legislation that corresponds with platform statements. more>>

Be active and visible in PSBA's Legislative Advocacy Program

PSBA encourages school directors to become more actively involved and visible with the association and our advocacy program. Sign up to receive email updates -- weekly legislative reports and special alerts. Check the "Issues" area of this website for more information and advocacy tools related to specific issues.

Here are some other ways you can take on a more significant role:

(view the PSBA Advocates: Job descriptions videos here! )

  • PSBA liaison – Each school board appoints one of its members to be the PSBA liaison. The PSBA liaison serves several important roles.

  • Legislative coordinator– The role of the legislative coordinator is important to the success of PSBA's Legislative Advocacy Program.

  • Regional director -- The regional director shall takes a leadership with the regional cabinet and acts as a key promoter and advocate for the PSBA Code of Ethics and Standards for Effective School Governance for the local board.

  • Assistant regional director -- The assistant regional director acts as a key promoter and advocate for the PSBA Code of Ethics and Standards for Effective School Governance for the local board.