Navigating Town Halls

Town halls are public-forum events where legislators meet with constituents to hear about their thoughts and concerns.  Legislators will either host the event themselves, or together with the other representatives/the senator from their district.

Generally speaking, town hall events follow the same format: Multiple participants have the opportunity to ask a question to their legislators. Town halls will either be open to any topic, or legislators will plan to focus on one specific issue – like a ‘Healthcare Town Hall’ or ‘Child Care Town Hall.’


Advocacy Strategy

Town halls are excellent opportunities to remind legislators about the importance of supporting early learning. As advocates, we have two main goals when attending town halls.

  1. Raise the topic of early learning, so that legislators know it is important to their district
  2. Ask a specific question that forces legislators to speak “on the record” about early learning in front of constituents.

Questions do not have to be long or complex. Legislators have to consider the needs of their district across dozens of issue areas – from education to healthcare, and transportation to the environment – so raising any early learning question makes an impact. It reminds legislators that our early learning system needs their support.


When Do They Happen?

  • Use the district finder tool to find out who your legislators are.
    • Go to their websites – they often have email lists where they will share when they hold town hall events
    • Follow them on social media – this is often the first place where they announce a new town hall event
  • Check our Event Calendar. We try to track as many town halls as we can. But with nearly 150 legislators in Washington, your easiest route is to sign up for YOUR legislators’ email lists!


What Do I Ask?

That’s a great question! If you want to support early learning, we have a variety of questions below to use at town halls in your community.

As an advocate, the most important thing you can do is show up and carry early learning into the conversation. That shows legislators and your fellow community members that child care should be on everyone’s radar – so don’t let the question itself get you nervous!

But generally speaking, here’s a good approach to forming your question:

  • Try and choose a specific aspect of early learning to focus on
  • Ask a leading question to get a legislator to publicly commit to supporting something
  • Check in with local or statewide early learning organizations (like CCA of WA!) to see what early learning bills are up for consideration, and ask if they would support them

The best advocacy happens when you stay true to your own experiences. What are your biggest struggles or successes with early learning right now? Be specific – compensation, substitute pools, accessing professional development, wait lists. Tell your legislator how it impacts you, and ask them what they can do to help.


Sample Questions

Compensation Questions

  • Licensed child care capacity in Washington State would need to grow by an estimated 34% to meet demand. At a time when we need to significantly grow capacity, 4 out of 5 Washington providers are reporting staff shortages. What are your plans to support the child care workforce and get kids into high-quality care? (Source)

  • According to a report from the Center for American Progress, the child care workforce lost more than 88,000 jobs from the start of the pandemic to August of last year. How can the  legislature support recruitment and retention for the child care workforce? (Source)

  • Many child care programs continue to operate at reduced capacity because of difficulty hiring — at a time where child care salaries average below fast food workers and pet groomers. How can the legislature help the child care industry address our workforce crisis so more children can be served? (Source) (Source) (Source)

Eligibility Questions

  • Only 13% of eligible children birth through five currently receive assistance through Working Connections Child Care. How do you plan to expand access to more of Washington’s families? (Source)

Child Care Collaborative Task Force Questions

  • The Child Care Collaborative Task Force’s cost of quality care estimation model confirms that subsidy reimbursement rates barely cover the cost of providing care – in some cases, subsidy rates fall short of the cost of providing care. What can the legislature do to make it feasible for providers to serve kids through Working Connections Child Care? (Source)