Learn about your Members of Congress
Before setting up your visit, make use of the helpful links below to answer these questions:
- Who are your Senators?
- Who represents your district in the House of Representatives (home and school)?
- What is their party affiliation?
- What are their Committee assignments?
- Do they hold a leadership position?
To determine who your Representative is, visit http://www.house.gov and enter your zip code at the top of the page. A listing of all Representatives can be found at: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml
Please notice if your representative is on:
- the House Education and Labor Committee; or
- the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; or
- the full Appropriations Committee.
To determine who your Senators are, visit http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Please notice if your Senator is on
- the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; or
- the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; or
- the full Appropriations Committee.
Your goal is to set up meetings with your Congressional delegation (your Representative and one or both of your Senators) at their home office during the “District or State Work Periods.” For your Representative see the calendar at www.house.gov/legislative/. For your Senator see www.senate.gov/legislative/calendars.htm.
Requesting a Meeting
Before making a verbal request for a meeting, it is a good idea to make a formal request in writing by facsimile. You should try to do this two to three weeks prior to the beginning of the District or State Work Period. Include a cover sheet with the request letter. Appropriate address and fax number information can be found on the lawmaker’s web site, which can be located via the House and Senate links listed above. If your Representative or Senator offers one, you can also use their designated e-mail form for requesting a meeting. Just be sure to keep track of when you e-mailed the form so that you can check back with the office in case of a non-response.
Tips on Preparing for your Meeting
In preparation for your meeting, collect a few facts, figures and anecdotes that are specific to your state or the local schools, or a few stories as examples to use in your meetings. These could include but aren’t limited to:
- How teaching social studies supports development of critical thinking skills and civic engagement;
- The percentage of high schoolers who leave school without history or civic education classes
- Any statements from business leaders in your area about how the skills taught in social studies prepare students to be good citizens AND good employees
- How teaching social studies in your area could benefit from competitive grants to create a menu of innovative, validated approaches to teaching history and civics for schools to select among.
- How past federal funding has been used to support innovative teaching in your school area;
Meeting Request Follow-Up
After submitting a meeting request via facsimile or e-mail, it is important to follow-up on that request with a phone call a week later. Call the home office of your Senators and or Representative; identify yourself, where you are from, the school, university or other organization you represent, including the National Council for the Social Studies. Tell the receptionist that you are following up on a schedule request and ask him or her to direct your call to the appropriate staff person. When you are connected, again identify yourself and your affiliation. If the scheduler is not available, leave a clear, concise message. An example of a conversation would be:
Keep in mind that this call could very likely result in a conversation with the staffer assigned education issues in the Senator’s or Representative’s office. You should have a similar conversation with the staffer, and accept any offer of a meeting with him or her in the place of the Member.
Determine Meeting Logistics
Tell the scheduler or staffer if anyone will be attending the meeting with you. Establish a time and place to meet. Keep in mind most meetings are scheduled in 15-minute increments. Thank the scheduler. If speaking with a staffer, confirm her/his fist and last name, thank her/him and express that you are looking forward to meeting.
Realize Meeting May be With Staff Person
Please realize that most likely you will be meeting with a staff person, not the Member of Congress. The scheduler may tell you this when you first set up the meeting; don’t sound disappointed – staff are the ones really doing the work!
Have Talking Points Ready and “Leave Behinds” Prepared
Before you go into the meeting, it is important to be prepared. NCSS staff will send you timely and appropriate talking points for these meetings. In addition, it is important to have prepared “leave behind” materials. This is a good way to provide the home office with additional details and information on issues that you may not have had time to cover during your meeting. NCSS staff will share copies of its “Dear member of Congress” letter. You should also bring any information on what is going on in your classroom, school, district or university relative to social studies education. Be sure to print out multiple copies of the talking points and leave behind materials to bring with you.
After the Meeting: Follow Up
Always follow up a meeting with a thank you note and any additional information you may have promised during the meeting. The best way to send information to home offices may be via fax or email. Also, NCSS will appreciate any information you can share that will serve the interests of the Council. For example, if you find that your representative used to be a social studies teacher, or has an unexpectedly strong interest in social studies issues, please share that information so that NCSS can cultivate any potential champions on Capitol Hill. NCSS will facilitate this process by providing a feedback form for you to complete and return to the NCSS office.
Good Luck and Have Fun!
This is a great opportunity to meet interesting people committed to issues in which you are interested.