Legislator Visit Talking Points

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MEET California State PTA:

  • PTA members in over 3,300 schools across the state
  • 160 volunteer advocates meeting with their legislators this week as part of our conference!

Choose 2 or 3 of these that are important to your community:


  • PTA believes that all children deserve a quality education regardless of the community in which they live, the color of their skin, their language, their gender identity, or their immigration status.


  • PTA is seeking legislation to address poverty, and the income and racial inequities that affect millions of California’s families.


  • PTA supports school and community programs that protect the health and welfare of children and families, and support items in the state budget including money for:
    • Community schools
    • School based health services
    • Counselors
    • School nutrition


  • California’s school finance system must provide stable, adequate and equitable funding to meet the
    diverse needs of all our students, including before and after-school programs, summer school and
    distance learning.
  • We support the recruitment and development of an educator workforce that is reflective of the students
    at each school with qualified and effective teachers delivering a full curriculum that includes the arts,
    P.E., and civics.
  • All students deserve an education that prepares them for successful participation in society and entry
    into college and the work force.
  • Coursework must address racism and bias to counteract institutional and structural biases that often
    drive inequitable outcomes for students.


  • Schools should not open in person unless it is safe for students, staff and their families.
  • School districts must provide opportunities for input and feedback from parents before and during
    school reopening planning and implementation.
  • Parent and families should be provided with choice in determining whether their child returns to the
    classroom full or part time.

Six Practical Tips on How to Advocate With Your Legislator or Elected Official

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1. Establish your agenda and goals.

  • Know what subject you are going to address. Don’t overload with issues – stick to no more than two or three.
  • Decide what you would like to get out of the visit, ie. a commitment to vote for your issue, leadership on the issue, or you may decide the visit is simply informational.
  • Allow time for small talk at the outset, but not too much. Remember, it’s your visit.

2. Listen well.

  • Much of lobbying is listening, looking for indications of the elected official’s views, and finding opportunities to provide good information.
  • Listening can allow you the opportunity to find areas of common ground on an issue.
  • If you are meeting with a “silent type,” draw her/him out by asking questions.
  • If you are confronted with a “long-winded type.’ Look for openings to bring her/him back to the point.

3. Be prepared, but don’t feel that you need to be an expert.

  • Most elected officials are generalists, like many of us. Do your homework, but don’t feel that you need to know every little detail of an issue. Air personal feelings and experiences where appropriate. Relate the concerns of your friends and members of the community.
  • Know when to admit “I don’t know,” and offer to follow up with the information.
  • Be open to counter-arguments, but don’t get stuck on them. Don’t be argumentative or confrontational.

4. Don’t stay too long.

  • Try to get closure on your issue. If you hear what you had hoped for, express your thanks and leave. If you reach an impasse, thank the legislator, even if disappointed, and say so. End the meeting and continue the discussion at another time.

5. Remember you are there to build a relationship.

  • If the elected official is good on an issue you’ve been involved in or has supported your position in the past, be sure to acknowledge your appreciation during the course of the visit.
  • If the opposite is true, think of the phrase, “No permanent friends, no permanent enemies.” Someday, on some issue of importance to you, they may come through. In the meantime, your visit may prevent the official from being an active opponent of your issue.

6. Follow-up is important.

  • Be sure to send a thank-you note after the visit. If commitments were made in the meeting, repeat your understanding of them. If staff members were present, write to them too. They can often be important allies.

Statement from California State PTA Regarding Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products

Thanks to the efforts of California State PTA and a broad coalition of health organizations and local municipalities, California just outlawed the sale of flavored tobacco products. Senate Bill 793 banned all sales of flavored tobacco and vaping products to both adults and children.

The tobacco industry waged a major opposition campaign, making this a sweet victory.

California State PTA had strong PTA authority for this bill. It had just adopted a convention resolution this summer that specifically called for the prohibition of all sales of flavored tobacco, not just to kids.

Recognizing that tobacco companies were more than happy to prohibit the sale to kids as long as they could continue marketing and selling to adults, convention delegates voted to outlaw all sales. This was to ensure flavored tobacco would not be available as an entry level product to create a lifetime of addiction.

In writing to the legislature, the PTA said:

“Flavored tobacco, and specially flavored e-liquids for vaping promote tobacco use by California’s youth. Over 5.3 million kids in the U.S. now use e-cigarettes. 27.5% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019 compared to 11.3% in 2016. Flavors are driving the demand for use. 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use. While we understand the tax implications and potential loss of revenue as a result of this bill, we believe the health benefits to our children and youth should hold more sway when deciding the future of this legislation.”

Several PTA districts drafted the resolution and worked with the California State PTA advocate in contacting key legislators and the Governor as the bill went through the legislative process. PTA worked closely with a range of state and national organizations to pass this legislation and used Action Alerts as well as the Advocacy Insider newsletter and social media to engage PTA members in this advocacy.

Governor Newsom said, “It will be a point of deep pride and personal privilege as a father of four and as someone who’s had many, many family members die at the hands of the tobacco industry to sign that bill.”

PTA Resolution and Background StatementE-Cigarettes/Vaping, Flavored Tobacco Products and Youth Health


California State PTA sent the following letter on July 29, 2020 to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer:

On behalf of our 700,000 members, California State PTA is writing to express our deep disappointment that the proposed HEALS Act does not respond adequately to the funding needs of our schools and the health and safety needs of our students and school staff.

The Senate HEALS ACT provides little healing and in fact tries to force schools to open with in-person learning despite the worsening of the coronavirus pandemic throughout the country.

Instead of protecting public education by funding at the levels school experts recommend, the HEALS Act shortchanges kids and teachers.  The Council of Great City Schools estimates that schools need at least $200 billion to meet the needs of students   The HEALS Act provides far less: $70 billion is allocated to the country’s K-12 schools BUT only one-third, or about $23.3 billion, will be available immediately.

The bill tries to persuade schools to reopen in person by dangling about two-thirds of the funding ($46.6 billion) — only to schools that reopen with more than 50% in-person instruction.

Schools that are reopening mostly with distance learning will not be eligible for any additional funding outside the initial $23.3 billion.

This punishes states that are opening primarily with distance learning and prioritizing the health and well-being of students and staff.  California, the state with the most students in the nation, will not get enough money to support its schools because it is putting safety and health first.

The timeline for the reopening of schools should be based on the current impact of the virus on individual communities.  Using the promise of extra money to re-open schools in person violates our responsibility to protect the safety and health of our children.

California State PTA has several additional concerns beyond the low level of funding for schools to open safely.

  • Oppose Private School Tuition Scholarships The bill provides money for private school tuition scholarships.  Public money should be used for public schools.  Private school voucher programs undermine our nation’s public schools by diverting desperately needed resources away from the public-school system to fund the education of a few, select students in private, often religious, schools.
  • Increase Funding for Childcare The HEALS Act would allocate $15 billion to help childcare providers reopen, including $190 million for programs aimed at preventing family violence and promoting child welfare.  Childcare experts estimate that $50 billion is needed to provide for personnel, sanitation, training and other costs associated with reopening and running childcare facilities. Childcare is one of the most critical needs to allow parents to get back to work.
  • Fund Special Education Missing from the bill is what most school districts put as one of their highest needs: fully funding special education. The costs of special education have grown much faster than revenues and schools are forced to reduce services for other students to meet their legal obligations.
  • Support Internet Connectivity It is unacceptable that Congress is not providing needed resources to connect students and teachers to the internet as schools have already announced plans to conduct remote learning or a hybrid combination to start the school year. This is an equity issue that prevents students living in poverty from accessing public education.

Congress must invest at least $175 billion for K-12 education to ensure that students can keep learning and schools can reopen for in-person instruction when it is safe to do so.



Celia Jaffe
President California State PTA

cc:  Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Kamala Harris

Shereen Walter Speaks at Press Conference in Support of Proposition 15

Shereen Walter, California State PTA’s Director of Legislation, spoke at a press conference on Thursday July 2 in support of Proposition 15, also known as the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative or the “split-roll” initiative.

The press conference was organized by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the Schools and Communities First campaign. Other participants included State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, CFT President Jeff Freitas, and Los Angeles Community College District Trustee President Andra Hoffman.

To watch a video of the virtual press conference, click here. Shereen’s portion starts at 13:42.

To read more about this ballot initiative, click here.

President-Elect Carol Green Testifies at State Assembly Education Hearing

On June 16, 2020, California State PTA President-Elect Carol Green testified on behalf of PTA during the State Assembly’s hearing titled “Re-Opening California’s Public Schools for the 2020-21 School Year.”

“The past three months have been difficult for everyone – especially children and families. California State PTA has been asking parents throughout the state how things are going and what they need. In such a large diverse state the answers are varied. But there are few universal concerns about the health & safety. These seem to fall into three main categories: Concerns about the social emotional well-being of children, their families and teachers. Concerns about communication – Parents want to know what is going on and what the school plans to do. They would also like to be part of the process. Concerns for our most vulnerable children – students with special needs, socioeconomically disadvantaged families and other vulnerable students. All kids need to be considered.”

Click here to see a recording of the hearing – Carol is on the first panel, “Health and Safety of Students and Staff.” To read a transcript of her testimony, click here.

PTA’s Director of Legislation Quoted in Hi-Desert Star

Shereen Walter, California State PTA’s Director of Legislation, was quoted in this article about The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020 that appeared in the Yucca Valley Hi-Desert Star yesterday.

“’Our schools have been desperately underfunded for years. With the governor’s proposed cuts to education of $15 billion, this initiative is needed now, more than ever, to ensure our schools have the resources they need in order to provide the education our children deserve,’ Shereen Walter, director of legislation for the California State PTA, said in an email Tuesday.”

Officially known as The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020 and informally called the “split roll” initiative, it would modify 1978’s Proposition 13 initiative if passed. It will raise funds by reassessing and taxing certain commercial properties at current market value. It will appear on the November 2020 ballot.

Click here to read more about the initiative on CAPTA’s website – you’ll find a summary of the initiative, a link to the full text, and the fiscal impact report document. The campaign is also seeking volunteers to help get the initiative passed. Click here to volunteer.

Message from California State PTA Regarding Governor’s Budget

California Budget: Bad News For Schools – PTA Parent Advocacy Needed Now

Despite efforts by Governor Newsom to minimize cuts to education and children’s services, the revised May California budget proposal leaves schools and other programs facing significant cuts.

The largest cut to K-12 funding is a 10 percent reduction to the Local Control Funding Formula ($6.5 billion in 2020-21).

Schools throughout the state, already bracing for cuts before the pandemic, now have to cut budgets even further. The financial hurt stretches beyond the coming school year, with even greater economic challenges in the following years.

The pandemic has overwhelmed the state’s capacity to adequately support the education, health and welfare of California’s children.

Time for Parent Advocacy

Before we get to details about the proposed budget, let’s address what parents must do now to cushion this blow. We need to speak up and advocate for more money: More money from the federal government, more money at the ballot box, and more revenue in the state budget.

  • Contact your state representatives: Let them know what the impact of the proposed budget will be on your school. To find your representatives click here.
  • Advocate for More Federal Funding: Contact your federal representatives and ask them to support an additional $200 billion in federal funds for schools. Unless Congress acts, schools will experience major budget cuts triggered by the pandemic. Click here to send a message to your federal representatives.
  • Help pass the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative which is on the November ballot: This could raise about $11.5 billion dollars each year for our schools and local communities. Click here to volunteer.

Budget Process

In May, both houses of the legislature make their own budget recommendations. Then the legislature and the Governor negotiate a final budget, which must be adopted by June 15.

Efforts to Protect School Funding

The financial crisis is so big that funding schools at the minimum Proposition 98 guarantee would have decimated public education. It would have meant an almost $19 billion cut from the Governor’s January proposed budget. The chart below from the Department of Finance shows the projected drop in state revenues.

The Governor is recommending significant education investments in addition to the Prop. 98 minimum guarantee to reduce this precipitous drop.

These include:

  • Supplemental general fund payments for several years to avoid a permanent decline in school funding.
  • Federal money to address student learning loss caused by school closures and for Title 1 schools.
  • Limits on tax credits and other changes in the state tax code to generate more money
  • Deferrals of state payments (late payments) to school districts.
  • Increases in special education funding.
  • Pension relief for school districts.

The Governor is also drawing down from the state’s rainy day reservesClick here for details.

Proposed Cuts

The budget proposes major cuts to existing programs, such as after school and career technical education totaling $353 million and the elimination/reduction of many of the new programs the governor had included in his January budget proposal. This includes increased funding for school food programs and efforts to address the teacher shortage (about $1.5 billion).

Early Education

While some early childhood education programs benefit from extra federal money, there are significant cuts to others. There is extra funding for COVID-19 related childcare activities ($350.3 million) under the federal CARES Act. But there are also $706 million in cuts to childcare and $490 million to state preschool programs.

Federal Money Helps Plug Budget Holes

California received $1.6 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. Ninety percent ($1.5 billion) will be allocated to schools through Title 1 funding to help low-income students. The remaining 10 percent ($164.7 million) will support community schools, training and professional development for educators, and the state department of education for COVID-related costs.

The budget uses $4.4 billion in federal CARES funding to address learning loss and equity issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 school closures this spring. These funds will be used by districts to support summer learning and other programs that address equity gaps. These funds will also be used to make necessary modifications so that schools can reopen in the fall and help support parents’ ability to work.

Budget Details:

K12 and Early Childhood education

Health and Human Services

Homelessness and Local Government

California State PTA and Carol Kocivar Honored at 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference

California State PTA was recognized with the Outstanding State Advocacy Award at the 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. last month, for our efforts in raising awareness about healthier school start times and securing the passage of SB 328, the Late School Start bill. The legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom in October 2019, requires that middle schools in California start no earlier than 8:00 a.m., and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Carol Kocivar, CAPTA’s former president and current legislative advocate, was also honored individually. She received the 2020 Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award, which is presented to an individual PTA member who, through their leadership and advocacy efforts, affected federal policy priorities within PTA’s annual Public Policy Agenda. Carol’s advocacy includes work on increasing investments in quality public education, school infrastructure, public school choice and charter accountability, as well as safe and supportive school environments.

While they were in Washington, our delegation of 14 from California also met with the offices of Senators Feinstein and Harris, as well as the offices of a number of our Congressional representatives. Our talking points focused on the inclusion of schools in any federal infrastructure legislation as well as the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Click here for a copy of the National PTA talking points for the conference.

Director of Legislation Shereen Walter and California State PTA President Celia Jaffe also presented a standing-room-only workshop on effective grassroots advocacy techniques as one of the Spotlight presentations being highlighted at the conference.

California State PTA Disappointed by Prop 13 Election Results – Looks to November Ballot to Secure Much-Needed Funding for Schools

SACRAMENTO, March 5, 2020 – California State PTA announces disappointment over the defeat of Proposition 13, which was not approved by voters in the state primary election on March 3rd. The passage of this initiative would have authorized state funding of $15 billion to K-12 public schools, community colleges, and universities for the construction and modernization of school facilities.

“We are disappointed that Prop 13 did not pass, as it would have helped our school districts respond to critical needs for funding to improve school facilities and modernize classrooms” said Celia Jaffe, President of California State PTA. “California State PTA will continue its long history of support for state ballot measures and legislation that provide much needed school facility funds for the safety and health of California’s children.”

In addition to providing an unprecedented $9 billion for the K-12 system and $2 billion for each of the three higher education segments (UC, CSU, and Community Colleges), this bond measure would have included important stipulations to create more equity in how funds are distributed between wealthy and poorer districts, and provided for natural disaster assistance, remediation of lead in water, protections for smaller districts, and funds for preschools.

“Fortunately, voters will have another opportunity to secure on-going classroom funding this November by supporting the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020, which commits 40% of the projected revenue raised to increase funding for K-12 schools and community colleges,” said Jaffe. “Our hope is that this new initiative will have a positive impact on the ability of school districts to hire more teachers and diversify their curriculum to ensure a complete education that includes science, technology and arts education for all students.”

The California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020 aligns with PTA’s mission to advocate for the education, health and safety of children and families. California State PTA recognizes that appropriate and adequate funding directly impacts the success of students and communities across the state.


Heather Ippolito
Vice President for Communications

Ignacio Barragan
Assistant Executive Director


About California State PTA: California State PTA connects families, schools and communities. We are part of the foundation of our public-education system and a trusted messenger to millions of members, parents, families, educators and allied agencies throughout the state. PTA is the nation’s largest volunteer-led child-advocacy association working to drive improvements in the education, health and well-being of all children and families. For more information visit www.capta.org.