August may be slow here in Washington D.C., but the coming several months are a great time for you at home to highlight the changes Safe Routes to School are making in your community. With somewhere in the ballpark of 20 legislative days left before the end of the year and mid-term elections just around the corner, you can bet members of Congress will be at home and engaged in their communities. And with school already back in session for many children across the country, there couldn’t be a better time to engage your leaders.
In 2015, we will move into a new and likely even more divided Congress, and policy making will quickly take a back seat as eyes turn towards the 2016 presidential elections. Members of Congress will have just five months to reauthorize our long-term transportation programs – in all likelihood we should expect a number of additional short term extensions — and with several near-hits to Safe Routes to School in recent months, it is critical that we show our leaders the impact that federal dollars are having on children and families in their own communities.
There are several ways you can do this. Whether it is meeting with your Member of Congress at their office, calling their staff, or scheduling a site visit to show them the hard work you’ve been doing to create Safe Routes to School in your community, we’ve prepared some great resources to help you in your efforts.
If you’ve never met with your member of Congress, it may seem like a big deal or a daunting undertaking. But remember: they were elected to represent you! If this is new to you, Safe Routes to School has prepared a comprehensive one-stop document to get you on your way in the Toolkit for Building Congressional Champions for Safe Routes to School. One easy option is to invite a Member of Congress to participate in or speak at an upcoming walk or bicycle to school event. With an event already arranged, all you need to do is invite your legislator to participate.
We can’t understate the important role these meetings and site visits have in reinforcing and creating new support for the Safe Routes to School program. Lawmakers are not always able to connect with real world examples of the policies they put into place, but when they do, they often become lifetime champions. As we’ve seen in the last year, they share their stories about safe routes to school in committee hearings and on the floors of Congress. With your help, we can grow even more support in the coming years!