MLAs throughout Alberta have made it clear a small number of engaged citizens reaching out on issues has a big impact on them. We encourage all teachers to reach out to their MLAs about issues that are important to them.
This is a short guide on how to connect with your MLA about the issues important to you.
Phone calls: A call to a constituency office is a great way to let an MLA know you are engaged in an issue, although it is difficult to speak with your MLA directly. You generally leave your concerns with a staffer.
Meeting your MLA: Arranging a meeting with your MLA is incredibly effective, but difficult to arrange.
Writing Letters/Emails: This is considered the best way to make sure your MLA sees your concerns - volume is crucial! The more letters from more people, the better the result!
MLA Letter Ideas
Find out who your MLA is! Find out who your school’s MLA is!
Where do you stand on the issues? What is important to you?
Write to your MLA about one issue that is important to you. Examples include:
How to write your MLA a letter -
To make things easier, we've written out some template emails regarding class size, class complexity, and even if your classroom is doing okay but you still want to engage with your MLA.
Template #1 - Class size
My classroom concerns are related to class size. My class size this year is 28; it should be 25. That seems like a small difference, but in a classroom, it makes for a significant difference in instruction, management, and time spent with each student. Twenty-eight students is twenty-eight children I need to make sure I greet in a meaningful way each day. Twenty-eight children I need to check in with, to find out what is going on in their lives and evaluate their readiness to learn. It is extra desks in the classroom space, with less room to move and explore. It is extra books in the classroom library, and extra computers when working with modern technology. It means less time for each student with me, and less time for me to connect with each of them. When discussing class size, it is not about the number; it is about the students’ needs, learning, achievement, and success. It means less time to meet students at their level, and more time teaching to the class, not the student. I ask you, as my MLA, to please support our students and help put them in the best environment for success and achievement.
(Note: K-3 classes should have 17 students, Grades 4-6 should have 23, Jr. High is 25, and High School is 27.)
Template #2 - Complex classroom
My classroom concerns are about the complex needs of students in the classroom. My classroom has students with a variety of backgrounds, experiences and learning needs. The more complex the classroom, the harder it is to meet those needs. This year I have students with learning disabilities, behaviour needs, students who need help with language, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health and medical needs. All of these students need to have these needs met as well as learn the curriculum. The more complex the class, the more students who need these supports. These supports include time for me to meet with the people who help my students, such as the learning support teacher, parents, case workers, therapists and medical professionals; professional development time to learn strategies to support my students; and time with my educational assistant to plan for my students together. It means having access to those services, especially in rural schools. My complex class needs support for students to learn and achieve success and I need your support so I can better advocate for my students.
Template #3 - Everything is good.
My classroom concerns are about making sure what is happening in my classroom this year continues every year. My classroom this year is fantastic. I have 24 students in my grade 7 classroom, a small group of students with complex needs, and an educational assistant half of the day to support my students. Because of these factors, I am able to meet the needs of all of my students. I can spend time with each of them, make sure they have the supports they need, and monitor their success effectively. I can make sure to build a connection with each student, and spend time working with my students with complex needs. I still need time to meet and plan with my educational assistant, time to meet with specialists about my students' needs, and adequate support for arts, music, physical education, as well as other programs that make a school a successful community. I wanted to write to let you know why my class is successful, and how important it is to make sure all students in classrooms across the province have the same chance to achieve success. Your advocacy in this is appreciated.
1. How do I find out who my MLA is?
If you go to Elections Alberta's website and type in your home address, you will be able to locate your MLA and find out about your constituency. Alternatively, you can call the government's toll-free information line at 310-0000 and ask the operator to connect you to your MLA's office.
2. What are an MLA's obligations to his or her constituents?
Your MLA or MLA's staff should listen to your concerns. If they cannot help you, they should direct you to the government agency that can best help you. MLAs spend a significant amount of time on casework--helping a person or family resolve a particular problem, which can be anything from showing them how to apply for a health benefit to representing an injured employee at a Workers' Compensation Board hearing. MLAs are also notary publics and, as such, have the authority to sign official documents such as immigration papers.
3. What can I do if my MLA won't help me?
Often, a constituent raises an issue that cannot be solved by an MLA. For example, a student struggling to pay high tuition cannot expect an MLA to reduce that tuition. However, whether the MLA is from the party in power or an opposition member, he or she has is obliged to listen and to take the constituent's concerns to the legislature.
If you believe that your concern is within the scope of an MLA's authority and he or she still won't help you, you have a few options open to you. If you are dissatisfied with your MLA, you can take your issue to an opposition MLA, or you can contact a government ministry. As a last resort, you can ask the provincial ombudsman to intervene. Visit the website of the Office of the Ombudsman or call the ombudsman at 310-0000.
4. What if I'm part of a group trying to directly influence government policy?
Concerted group action goes a long way to raising an issue's profile. Attracting media attention also helps. If you are staging a public event, such as a rally, try to hold it between 10 am and 2 pm, to allow reporters to attend and to meet their deadlines. Also, notify the media of the event the day before.
A more formal method is to make a presentation to a policy field committee. You can schedule a presentation through the committee chair. A list of the current policy field committees is available.
5. Can I watch the government in action?
If you want to watch question period in person, you can get a seat in the visitors' gallery simply by showing up at the legislature before 1:20 pm. The show starts at 1:30 pm and continues until approximately 3:00 pm. To guarantee a seat in the gallery, contact your MLA and ask to be on his or her guest list. You can also watch debates on bills or motions and sometimes departmental budgets, which start after question period.
ACCESS television broadcasts question period live. If you can't get to the legislature or watch the proceedings on TV, you can consult Alberta Hansard, which is a transcript of everything said and done in the legislature. You can read Hansard online by visiting the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website and looking for "Assembly Documents and Records."