Influencing Legislation Toolkit

Influencing Legislation Toolkit

Dear CQEL Members,

Thank you for joining CQEL in our advocacy efforts. As individuals we can only do so much, uniting is our real strength. Join CQEL in our efforts to inform legislators on how the decisions they make affect us and the children and families we serve. No one knows this better than you, and if we do not inform our legislators of the effects of their decisions, who will?

CQEL’s advocacy efforts are focused on building a strong grassroots in our Public Policy Program. This advocacy toolkit will help early learning professionals become knowledgeable in the legislative process, making phone calls, writing letters and emails to their legislators, and in visiting their legislators’ home office. Our Public Policy Committee develops our Public Policy Platform, tracks legislative bills, and informs our members of legislative issues that may require action.

We hope you see that participating in legislative advocacy is simply the beginning of a long journey in political activism. We hope you will become leaders in your own local area, informing legislators of the value of quality early learning. Thank you for joining us in this journey.


The CQEL Team

Preschool for All Platform

Californians for Quality Early Learning (CQEL), a nonprofit membership-based organization advancing the profession of providing quality early learning education, supports the concept of Preschool for All but is compelled to bring up concerns noted by its leadership and its members. CQEL supports both private and public programs in integrating promising practices and is an advocate for a thriving and diverse early learning system for children and families.

CQEL supports an expansion of state preschool for three and four-year-old children if the competitive bidding process is equitable between public and private programs; this ensures the best programs are granted a contract to provide these services. Research from James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning American economist, underlines the economic benefits of a quality early learning program based on a private community-based child care program.

CQEL raises the following points for consideration:

  • For the first time in over 50 years, there has been a separation of slots allocated between these public and private programs, which is very concerning.
  • Historically, California’s state preschool programs have been awarded to both public and private programs through a competitive bidding process, to ensure programs of the highest quality are chosen to provide preschool services to low-income children.
  • CQEL supports and appreciates the investments of Early Learning programs in this year’s state budget, but believes that an open, equitable, and competitive grant process for all programs is what is best for California’s children. Keeping competitive bidding open to all programs ensures the highest quality early learning programs are chosen to provide these valuable services for children and will help to ensure closing the achievement gap.
  • Using the current public and private programs to provide these services is an efficient use of state monies as it will lower the cost of having to build new facilities with the expansion of this program. With 80% of center-based child care provided by the private sector, it only makes sense for California to include these programs in an equitable competitive bidding process, inclusive of all private and public early learning programs that can meet the high-quality criteria of program participation.
  • Private programs are more likely to provide full-day and full-year programs, which is what the majority of parents need so they can work to support their families. Public programs are typically closed frequently throughout the year for holidays, breaks, in-service days, etc., and the burden falls on already strained families to find backup care during this time. CQEL advocates allowing families to select the program that best fits their individual needs and schedules.
  • Research shows that children are more likely to close the achievement grant when they are allowed to be in a classroom with their peers from a higher economic status. With such strong research showing the advantage of inclusive environments, it would be in the best interest for California to support a mixed delivery system for children who are eligible for this program and typically the private sector serves a mix of both funded and private pay families.

CQEL supports efforts to help all of California’s children attend high-quality early education programs, through an expansion of the California State Preschool Program which would equitably include both public and private (regardless of their tax status) early learning programs.

CQEL will oppose any efforts to limit parental choice and any efforts to limit the ability to serve California children in all program types and settings.

The Ten Informal Rules of Lobbying

1. Consider yourself an information source. Legislators have limited time, staff, and interest on any one issue. They can’t be as informed as they might like on all the issues – or the ones that concern you. You can fill the information gap.

2. Tell the truth. There is no faster way to lose your credibility than to give false or misleading information to a legislator.

3. Know who else is on your side. It is helpful for a legislator to know what other groups, individuals, state agencies, and/or legislators are working with you on an issue. CQEL can help with this.

4. Know the opposition. Anticipate who the opposition will be – organized or individual. Tell the legislator what their arguments are likely to be and provide them with answers and rebuttals to those arguments. CQEL can help with this, call or go on our website to be more involved.

5. Make the legislator aware of any personal connection you may have. No matter how insignificant you may feel it is, if you have friends, relatives, and/or colleagues in common, LET THEM KNOW. Our legislative process is very informal and though it may make no difference in your effectiveness, it may make the difference.

6. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. If the legislator wants information you don’t have or asks something you don’t know, offer to get the information for them and respond in a timely manner. Ask the legislator which staffer should receive the information that was requested.

7. Be specific about what is the “ASK”. If you want a vote, information, or answers to a question – whatever it is – make sure you ask directly and get an answer.

8. Follow up. Send a handwritten thank-you note, insert your business card. In addition, it is very important to find out if your legislator did what he/she said they would. It is very important that you then thank them if they did, or ask them for an explanation as to why they did not vote as they said they would. Invite them to your center to see what quality looks like.

9. Don’t “burn any bridges.” It is very easy to get emotional over issues you feel strongly about, but being professional is key. Be sure that no matter what happens you leave your dealings on good enough terms that you can go back to them. Remember, your strongest opposition on one issue may be your strongest ally on the next.

10. Remember: YOU are the boss! Your tax money pays the legislators’ salaries, pays for the paper they write on, the phone they call you on. You are the employer and they are the employee. You should be courteous and professional, but don’t be intimidated. They are responsible to you and nine times out of ten, legislators are grateful for your input.

Guide to Legislative Visits

Locate your representative

Go to, enter your address information and it should take you to your legislative representatives, click on their names and it will take you to their website.

From the website, you can get their contact information, request a meeting, send an email and find where their local offices are located.

Set up a meeting in advance-ideally bring a colleague or friend with you.

More than likely you will not meet with the Legislator but will be meeting with a staff member which is equally beneficial, as legislatures rely on staff to dig deep into issues. Be on time.

Know your subject and how it relates to your legislator.

Stick to one or two issues, know your “ASK”

Be organized

Ideally, have a short handout to leave with the staff/Legislator (CQEL can help with this)

Offer a tangible solution (again CQEL can help with this)

Know what you want out of the visit: to inform the legislator on an issue, a commitment to vote on an issue, leadership on an issue, but do not be argumentative or confrontational.

If you do not know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” But offer to follow up, it’s a good reason to get in touch again.

Listen Well

Look for cues on the Legislators views

If you hear what you hoped for, express your thanks and leave.

If you reach an impasse, thank him/her, even if disappointed, say so, but leave room for further discussion at another time.

Wrap up

Don’t stay too long, try to get closure on your issue

Leave your card with the handouts.

Leave with an open invitation if the Legislator/staff would like more information on Early Learning issues.

Thank the Legislator/Staff for taking the time to meet with you and that you look forward to meeting with them again.

Be sure to get the card of the individual you met with for future contact information.


Send a handwritten thank-you note with your business card inserted.

If you promised to provide follow-up information do so in a timely manner.

Contact CQEL with information on your visit.

Maintain a relationship with your legislator even when you don’t want something.

Invite the Legislator to an event at your school, site visit, CQEL can help you prepare for this visit.

Guide to Communicating With Legislators

There are many ways to communicate your views to legislators, telephone, email, mail, fax, personal visits. Legislators want to hear from their constituents, your views and groups, such as CQEL can influence policy. Staffers keep a record on every bill, “for” and “against”, to inform the legislator on what people are thinking. Your voice and CQEL’s voice are very important, as numbers are important to your legislator because numbers mean votes. So if you have not joined CQEL do so today to add to the number of voices heard.

The following are some of the political actions of CQEL:

  • Organize a Public Policy Committee
  • Develop early education advocacy leaders
  • Advocate for the private early learning profession
  • Send out political action alerts
  • Inform members of legislative actions that affect the early learning profession
  • Organize grassroots advocacy in local areas
  • Organize a letter-writing campaign
  • Organize a telephone tree

Many people want to reach out to their legislators but are unsure about what to do and the protocols involved. As you join CQEL in your political activism we hope this toolkit will be of assistance. On the following pages, you will find information on protocols for communicating with your legislator.

Tips For Calling/Talking to Your Legislator


Usually when there is an action (e. g., a vote on the budget is being heard) pending in the near or very near future.



WITH A LEGISLATIVE AIDE. You can contact your legislator at his/her State or Local House office. If you are unable to speak to either your legislator and/or aide, always leave a specific message with your name, number, where you are from, why you are calling, and ask to be called back.


  1. IDENTIFY WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU ARE CALLING FROM, AND IN WHAT CAPACITY (i.e., as a constituent, agency Executive Director, board member, teacher, parent – or a combination thereof!).
  2. Be sure to identify if you are part of a larger network of people in the district – and/or throughout the state. And don’t forget to give your name, address and phone number at the beginning or end of the conversation.

STATE WHAT YOU ARE CALLING ABOUT (i.e., the specific bill, budget item, or another issue).

When possible, know as much about the bill title, where it is in the legislative process, and what action is pending (i.e., “currently in the Education Committee,” “coming up for a vote on the floor of the House today,” or “will be voted on next week”). Although it is not necessary and often not needed, it may help to orient your legislator and/or aide to that particular bill and whether action is a clear priority.


Request that a legislator takes a specific action (e. g., “move a bill out of committee,” or “vote for or against a bill”). Be sure to thank your legislator if he/she is a sponsor or co-sponsor of the bill you are calling about – but still ask them to take a specific action!


Speak from your own experience, beliefs, and convictions! Use a compelling statistic to bolster your case. Share a “real-life” story about how this issue will or has affected you or others and state how this proposal could either help or hurt. The more personal you can be, the more impact you will have. If you can, make your case from a “local” point of view and present as specific a picture as possible of how your issue affects people in your legislator’s district. The number of children, parents, or staff a decision may affect.




If your legislator’s position does not agree with yours or if they are undecided, you may want to politely inquire about their concerns – but always ask if there is any additional information you could provide them. You may want to invite your legislator for a visit, be sure to take many pictures and invite the media. This is often an opportunity to create a more powerful impact, as “seeing is believing.” After the visit, be sure to thank them and ask them to let you know when they expect to make their decision on how they will vote.


Unless, of course, they’re keeping you on the phone with questions.

Tips For Writing Your Legislator


IN YOUR LETTER. Put your home or business contact information (depending upon the capacity in which you are advocating) directly in your letter.

Remember, envelopes can be thrown away! When writing to your own legislator, be sure to identify yourself as a constituent!



Services Committee” or “coming up for a vote on the floor of the Senate next week.”


WHAT IT IS YOU WANT. Request a specific action or ask your legislator to commit to a particular position – e. g., “report a bill out of a committee favorable,” “support or oppose a bill or line item,” or “vote in favor of a bill on the House floor.”

4. STATE WHERE YOU STAND ON THE ISSUE – State your position of support or opposition clearly. Give a brief statement about what effect the proposal will have on you, the population about which you are concerned, or that legislator’s district. Include compelling statistics, if available. Give a short paragraph about yourself, what your situation is.



Tips For Emailing Your Legislator

Many people ask us about the effect of emailing your legislator. More and more it is becoming commonplace, but you may ask the legislator’s aide what is his/her opinion of how effective email is.

Certainly more legislators are using email and are comfortable with it as an effective tool for communicating with constituents. In general, follow the same guidelines outlined above for writing your legislator.

Sample Letter To Your Legislator


The Honorable (first and last name of legislator)

California State Senate or California State Assembly

State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblymember or Senator (Last Name of Legislator),

I am a constituent of yours and live on ___________________ (give your street address, Legislators love to hear from their own constituents).

I am asking for your support/opposition of SB…. This bill will …{Insert a paragraph about your situation. Tell them briefly about how this bill will affect the children, family, staff, and any other pertinent information, provide specific numbers, such as 200 children, 189 working families, 36 staff members.}

I hope I can count on you for your support.


Your Signature

Your Name


City, State, Zip Code

Phone, E-mail

Note the following salutation for Governor:

The Honorable Gavin Newsom

Governor’s Office

State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Newsom,

Guide to Testifying On A Bill


• Anyone is allowed to testify on a bill at a public hearing. You can just walk in, some hearings will require you to sign in before testifying.

• Testimony can be given either in writing or verbally, which is known as “oral” testimony. Oral testimony tends to be much more powerful, but be sure to leave a written copy of your remarks with committee staff as they may review it at a later time.


Hearings can often be long and it is almost impossible to get an exact time for when your testimony will be heard. In addition, because of their schedules and the schedule of the Assembly or Senate sessions, legislators are often taken “out-of-turn” to give testimony – so even if you were the first one to arrive at the hearing, legislators will always be allowed to testify before members of the public. Members of the Committee may come and go from the hearing depending on what other obligations they have in the State House. Don’t take it personally if a legislator leaves during your testimony!


• Be sure to state who you are and who you represent and if you are a constituent of a legislator on the committee

• Try to be brief – it is best if you can limit your remarks to three minutes and keep your testimony simple. Your written statement can be more specific.

• Speak from your experience, data-driven!

• Use only irrefutable facts and never be afraid to say you “don’t know” the answer to a particular question. Offer to get back to the committee with the correct information – and be sure to follow up in a timely way.

Sample Testimony

Provide an opening statement: Good Morning, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you. My name is Charlotte O’Brien, I live in… and I am here to testify in support/opposition SB….. state the name of the bill.

Give a paragraph about your own situation: state who you are, such as; your business the number of children, families and staff you have, how many years you have been in business

Give some information about the bill you are testifying on: then explain how this bill will affect the children, families, or staff, either negatively or positively make every attempt to use specific data.

Give a conclusion: restate the position you would like for this committee to take, oppose/support: “In conclusion, for these reasons ____, I would ask this committee to support/oppose SB…”

Guide to Center Visits From Legislators

Having your local legislator visit your center helps to build awareness of the value of private Early Learning programs and to develop a relationship with your legislator. Building these relationships is vital to informing legislators of what we do and the importance of early education. These visits help your legislator to develop a relationship with you, and that you don’t want something from them. Fall is the best time to invite your legislator to visit your center.


  1. Review CQEL’s Talking Points to help guide your message.
    Determine who would be the best individual or individuals to share this message. Having a parent share her/his story might be impactful, remember to keep this time short as most of the time should be with the children.
    •Have all presenters practice the message prior to the visit and do a dry run.
    •Do a final walk-through of the visit.
  2. Promoting the Visit
    •Contact CQEL to help with the preparation
    •Check with the legislator's press staff to see if they can help with this.
    •Contact your local paper to see if they can attend.
    •Write a press release to place in your local paper.
    •Use your newsletter to inform parents.
    •Use other media, Facebook, emails, website.
  3. Photo Tips
    •Photos will be an important part of the day. Before the visit, take photos of your center in preparation for the visit. Then review the best angles for photos on the day of the legislator visit.
    •Get signed permission forms from parents to photograph children.
    •Assign an individual to take photos on the day of the visit. Try for some pictures that are not posed and show active participation.
    •Take lots of photos with the children. The more photos were taken the more chance of catching that special moment. Use two or more cameras if possible
  4. Preparing for the visit
    •Prepare what activity/engagement time with the children and staff will be available during the visit. Try to make the visit as normal as possible, keep in mind your schedule as you set up your visit timeline. You will want the visit during activity time with the children.
    •Prepare what your message will be, CQEL’s talking points will help to guide you in this, some ideas of the message you can share:
    1) Information on your center, how long in business, how many families you support and children you educate, and the number of staff you employ.
    2) any awards you have received, if you are accredited and what that means, or any other uniqueness about your center
    3) quality matters and show how you provide a quality program as a small business owner
    4) the value you bring to the families and children in your community
    5) the value of early learning to close the achievement gap, (these handouts are on the CQEL website members section)
    6) The private sector provides 80% of licensed care in the state of CA.
    5) Day of the visit
    •Have everyone prepared for the visit- a timeline for presentations (these should be very short) and the activities prepared ahead of time for the legislator to do with children.
    •Photos! Photos! Photos!-Assign someone to take lots of photos, don’t forget to get close-ups. If possible use multiple cameras. You never know when your camera could malfunction losing a critical photo. It happens!
    •Tour of the center, this will be the first presenter, who will share highlights of your program; you want this to be more than just a walk-through but a time to highlight your program. Before the visit make a list of what you want to highlight and share this with the legislator. A parent would be a great part of this to share how the program has helped her to work and her child to learn.
    •Have an activity arranged for the legislator to take part in; joining in circle time singing songs, reading a book, sharing a meal, doing play dough, joining the children outside, etc. Have handouts ready to share how this activity helps children learn, singing rhyming songs is a pre-reading skill, play dough develops their eye-hand coordination for prewriting skill development, remember you are the expert and sharing your expertise will be an important part of the visit.
    •Make them want to come back. Invite them to some special activity.

6) Follow up
•This is as important as the visit, continuing your relationship with your legislator.
•Follow up with CQEL to inform us of any key messages from the legislator, how it went, and any photos that we can post.
•Send a thank you note/letter, include photos of the event
•Send a thank you picture from a child, frame if possible, include a message such as “thank you for supporting me”, or have the child share their view of the experience, as we all know sometimes kids say it best.
•If you did not have your local paper attend to take pictures do a press release with photos.
•Include photos in your newsletter, Facebook, emails, etc. (reminder: must have signed parent permission slips to post children’s pictures on any of these media locations)
•Sign up to receive your legislator’s newsletter.
•Attend a function where he/she will be attending, you can find this on their website, some of the functions might be at a Coffee location, town hall, etc. They appreciate seeing you at these events and it will support your relationship-building efforts. Remember out of sight out of mind, so these functions are great to remind them of child care issues.

The 3 C's of Advocacy

Collaboration and partnerships

  • Join a Child Care Association/organized group and/or Chamber of Commerce Association at the local, state, or national level. CQEL is a great state-level organization
  • Research your Governor’s Office or Women’s Legislative Caucus or Committees on Education and Human Services
  • What Committees/Councils represent the office of child care and early learning in your state or county?
  • Community Colleges and Higher ed, Chambers, and other businesses, legislators in your voting districts, lobbyists

Connecting and Communicating

  • Connect not Complain (always be solution-oriented)
  • Children always come first
  • Find common ground and tailor conversation to keep the agency or leader engaged
  • Remember you are a voter, a stakeholder, a business, and an essential service worker, you must use your voice and/or work through advocacy organizations to impact change

Creating new pathways

  • Think outside the box (money is not always available and not the only answer)

Why Join CQEL?

  • CQEL has low annual dues starting at $199 for individuals, $215 for 1 site, or $450 for 2 to 20 sites. We are dedicated to give preschool programs a ton of value for their membership!
  • Human Resources - Access to HR specialists by phone or online.
  • Insurance – Receive discounts on your insurance, including business, workers’ comp, auto, and general insurance. We also provide access to affordable medical insurance solutions for your staff.
  • School Supplies - Receive discounts on school supplies and playground equipment from Kaplan (15% & free shipping, over $250 on some items), Lakeshore Learning (5%+ depends on volume & free shipping over $250 on some items), Discount School Supplies (15%) and more.
  • Licensing - CQEL will keep you informed of upcoming licensing changes.
  • Public Policy/ Advocacy - Let your voice be heard by our state legislators and become an advocate for your program, the families and children you serve.
  • Legal Advice – CQEL has partnered with an attorney who offers free limited consultations in addition to discounted rates for members.
  • Professional Development and Networking - Discounts on CQEL conferences and workshops.
  • CQEL offers all of these valuable tools, plus becoming a member means becoming a strong advocate for California’s children and families.

Become a CQEL Member Today

Subscribe to CQEL

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.