A phone call is the most effective way to voice your concerns to Congress and impart a personal touch to your request. When you call your Members of Congress, it is important to be clear, concise and direct. Dial (202) 224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard, which can connect you to your representatives’ offices. If you are not sure who your representatives are, the Switchboard can tell you based on your zip code.
When you call:
- Ask to speak with the legislative aide who deals with education, specifically afterschool. This person is your representative’s expert in the area and will be far more likely to respond positively to your message.
- Introduce yourself. The aide will probably ask for a mailing address or zip code to verify that you are a constituent. It may be helpful to also give your phone number and email address so the representative or their staff can follow up with you.
- Let them know why you are calling. Below is a sample script. Draw from this script, but be sure to add personalized accounts of a program in your community.
“I am calling about the importance of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program. The 21st CCLC program provides more than 1 million kids in America with a safe place to go after school, however, a recent survey shows that parents of more than 18 million youth say their children would participate in an afterschool program if one were available. Here in [insert name of town/city], our program, [insert name of program], serves [insert number of kids/families] kids and families.”
“We depend on funds from the 21st CCLC program to keep our kids safe and engaged after school. As you know, both the summertime and the start of a new school year bring a host of concerns for working families with school-age children. One of their greatest concerns is the safety of their children during the afterschool hours; a time when many children are left unsupervised and the juvenile crime rate peaks. Working mothers and parents are concerned with their children’s safety during these hours and believe that afterschool programs are an effective strategy for preventing juvenile crime and keeping children safe after school. This sentiment is confirmed by new data from America After 3 PM: A Household Survey on Afterschool in America, conducted by the Afterschool Alliance and JCPenney Afterschool Fund. This broad survey revealed that 15.1 million K-12 children take care of themselves after the school bell rings.
[Here are some more facts that you can cite on your call. Or, you can use data and evaluation findings from your own program]
- The hours after school are “prime time” for violent juvenile crime. Between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., a youth’s chances of becoming a victim of crime more than triple. (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 1999)
- Nine in ten Americans think children need organized activities or a program to go to after school where they have learning opportunities. (Afterschool Alliance Poll, September 2003)
- Teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are three times more likely to use marijuana and other drugs, and they are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and engage in sexual activity. (YMCA of the USA, March 2001)
- In a national poll, nine out of ten working mothers with children said that they are most concerned about their children’s safety during the after-school hours. In the same poll, nine out of ten mothers also agreed with the idea that expanded prevention efforts such as afterschool programs could greatly reduce youth violence. (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2003)
- A national poll of police chiefs found that 69% chose afterschool and child care programs as the most effective strategy for reducing youth violence, over strategies such as trying juveniles as adults, hiring more police and installing metal detectors in schools. (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000)
- More than half of voters (55 percent) think that there are not enough afterschool programs available for children in America today. (Afterschool Alliance Poll, September 2003)
Afterschool programs are key to keeping kids safe, helping working families and improving academic achievement. Please support efforts to increase funding for afterschool programs.
Give them time to ask questions and be prepared. Know facts and figures about your program – how many children, the amount of the grants, and evaluation data if available. If you don’t know the answer, that’s ok – be sure to follow-up soon with an answer, though.
Follow up. The elected official should be held accountable for any statements made to you. Follow up to see how your elected officials support afterschool funding.
You are the boss. You should be courteous but not intimidated. Elected officials and their staff work for you.