Writing to Legislators

Because most school board members can’t come to Austin regularly during a legislative session, it’s important to keep in touch with your lawmakers in other ways. Personal, thoughtful, well-written letters have a significant impact on lawmakers, especially when the letters are from their constituents.

Here are the four most important things to remember when writing elected representatives:

  1. Tell them you’re a school board member.
  2. Tell them the issue (when the Legislature is not in session) or the bill number and subject (when the Legislature is in session).
  3. Explain the local impact.
  4. Be clear about the action you want them to take (support the bill, oppose the bill, etc.).

More letter-writing tips:

  • Properly address the legislator.
  • Be timely. Write before an issue becomes big news, before the lawmaker takes a position. This gives the legislator time to reply. When writing about an imminent vote, make sure the letter gets there before the vote. Your insight won’t be much help if the vote was yesterday.
  • Avoid form letters. Write your letter personally. Use your own words. Avoid slogans or phrases from form letters. If TASB provides sample language, be sure to adapt it to your own circumstances wherever possible.
  • Keep the letter short, no more than one side of a single page.
  • Begin by identifying the bill or issue you’re writing about, and focus on only one bill or one issue per letter. You don’t want to dilute the importance of the main point.
  • Explain the local impact of the bill. Personal experiences or the likely effect of proposed legislation on your school district is the best supporting evidence you can give. Be sure to include any relevant information about the school district.
  • Express your point of view and your rationale strongly. Explain why the legislator should support your position; but don’t get personal, never threaten, and never be offensive. Don’t mention Election Day.
  • Always provide a bill number.
  • Be specific about what action you want the lawmaker to take; tell him or her to vote for or against something.
  • Neatly type or write the letter, preferably on business or personal letterhead with a return address. Envelopes are discarded.
  • Be respectful and reasonable.
  • Ask the legislator for a response explaining his or her position on the issue. You are entitled to know how and why your elected representatives take a specific position.
  • If your legislator responds, write a follow up letter promptly. If you get a noncommittal response from the first letter, don’t be surprised. Often legislators won’t take a position until the last minute. In the follow-up letter, restate your position and request. Remind the legislator that you will continue to follow the issue, refute or agree with the legislator’s position (if any), and thank him or her for writing.
  • When legislators vote the way you ask, write them a brief note to let them know you appreciate it. If you worked with a member of the staff, include his or her name. This could ensure the member sees the letter!

   Knowing how to correctly address public officials is important when advocating. Here is a list of key state officials and correct forms of address for letters and personal contacts:

The Governor

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Governor of Texas
State Capitol
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Dear Governor (Last Name):

When speaking: “Governor (Last Name)”

The Lieutenant Governor

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Lieutenant Governor of Texas
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711-2068
Dear Governor (Last Name):

When speaking: “Governor (Last Name)”

The Speaker of the House

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Speaker of the House
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768-2910
Dear (Mr. or Ms.) (Last Name) or Dear Speaker (Last Name):

When speaking: “(Mr. or Ms.) Speaker”

State Representative

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768-2910
Dear Representative (Last Name):

When speaking: “Representative (Last Name)”

State Senator

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
State Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711-2068
Dear Senator (Last Name):

When speaking: “Senator (Last Name)”

United States Representative

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative (Last Name):

When speaking: “Representative (Last Name)”

United States Senator

When writing:
The Honorable (Full Name)
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (Last Name):

When speaking: “Senator (Last Name)”

The President

When writing:
The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear (Mr. or Ms.) President:

When speaking: “(Mr. or Ms.) President”

E-mail

Although all members of the Texas Legislature can be reached by e-mail, they may not check it regularly. The e-mail address for Senators is firstname.lastname@senate.state.tx.us; for Representatives, the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@house.state.tx.us.

Fax

The fax number for all senators in Austin is 512-463-0326. The fax number for all representatives in Austin is 512-463-5896. Because of the limited number of fax machines in the Texas House and Senate, there is a good chance messages sent using this technology will get tied up, misrouted, or lost. It may be best to use other, more dependable, communications tools.

Sample Letter to Your Legislator

(On school district or personal letterhead)

The Honorable Melissa Model
State Senate
P.O. Box 12068-Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711

Dear Senator Model:

I am a school board member from Everydistrict ISD. On behalf of my district, I urge you to support Senate Bill 386, which would significantly increase transportation funding for my district.

Providing transportation for our 6,890 students has been a growing expense in EISD. (Insert specific local examples and information.)

Senate Bill 386 would enable this district to avoid increasing our tax rate significantly.

Thank you for your leadership in support of public education. Please respond to let me know your position on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Michael B. Member
President, Board of Trustees
Everydistrict Independent School District
512-000-0000