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Lesson Plan for Letter-Writing Campaign Protesting TOPS Cuts

NOTE: While this lesson plan was written to address funding cuts in Louisiana’s college scholarship program, it may be adapted to efforts to ensure access to postsecondary institutions outside the Bayou State. Please share your lesson plans and/or letters.


Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies

Grades: 12th (though it’s certainly relevant for 9th through 11th grades)

Brief Description: Students will write a 500- to 750-word letter to specific members of the Louisiana State Senate and House education committees. The letter will make a persuasive argument to change the qualifications for the Taylor Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Objectives: Change the qualifications for TOPS

Students will:

  • Practice how to convince someone using a letter
  • Understand how to qualify for a TOPS scholarship
  • Learn a simple advocacy technique that gets members of the community involved in a relevant legislative/policymaking process.

Materials Needed:

  • Copy of Ensuring Equity: The Future of TOPS at http://kate18.businesscatalyst.com/index.html published by the Louisiana College Access Coalition or another relevant data source
  • Relevant data on the issue
  • Paper, computer, pens, pencils, envelopes, stamps

Lesson Plan:

Hechinger Report columnist Andre Perry speaks to student attendees at letter writing campaign rally protesting cuts to Louisiana’s merit scholarship program, TOPS, on April 4, 2017, at the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market.

Have students read Ensuring Equity: The Future of TOPS or a news article that explains how TOPS funding is inadequate to fully meet the program’s needs. Present data provided by the college accessibility advocacy group, the Louisiana College Access Coalition, which shows how families from low-income households will be disproportionately affected by some of the proposals introduced by legislators over the last year.

Teachers, please review a good source for how to write a persuasive letter to an elected official. I found this one. There are several good guides out there. Pick one that you’re comfortable with to introduce the rudimentary skills of writing a convincing political letter.

Have students write a 500- to 750-word letter. The letter writer must:

  • Address each letter to Governor John Bell Edwards, Senate Education Chair Dan “Blade” Morrish and House Education Chair Nancy Landry. Please see their specific mail and email addresses at the end of the lesson plan. Make sure to address each legislator by his or her official title in the salutation, e.g. “Dear Sen. Morrish.”
  • Introduce yourself by summarizing the problem or issue and how you are personally affected by the problem.
  • Offer ONE of the following proposed solutions, which may be copied word for word:
    • Restore full funding to TOPS
      • We seek the restoration of full funding for TOPS, so that all eligible recipients receive their full scholarships.
    • A tiered funding structure
      • If the legislature does not allocate enough money to fully fund TOPS, we seek the implementation of a tiered funding structure that prioritizes awards for low- and middle-income students, as well as first-generation college students.
  • Provide supportive evidence for the solution. Please see data compiled by the Louisiana College Access Coalition at http://kate18.businesscatalyst.com/index.html or the Cowen Institute’s Future of TOPS report at http://www.coweninstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/The-Future-of-TOPS.pdf
  • Offer counter arguments to the proposed solution and then refute them.
  • Instruct the legislator to take action by supporting or sponsoring legislation that would deliver the proposed solution.

Some logistics

Please check the spelling and grammar of all letters. Students can compose their letters using computers and printers, or write them by hand, neatly. Place each completed letter in an envelope. Make sure the name and address of the student is on the envelope. Teachers can place proper postage on envelopes.

Mail letters to as many addressees, listed below, as necessary. Please have students email immediately after physical letters are sent.

Governor John Bel Edwards
Link to email Gov. Edwards: http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/form/home/4
Mailing Address: Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, Chair of the Senate Education Committee
Email: morrishd@legis.la.gov
Committee Mailing Address: Senate Education Committee
P.O. Box 94183
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Rep. Nancy Landry, Chair of the House Education Committee
Email: landryn@legis.la.gov
Committee Mailing Address: House Education Committee
P.O. Box 44486
Baton Rouge, LA  70804

Please contact Andre Perry at drandreperry@gmail.com if you have any questions. If you use this lesson plan or do a similar activity with your class or if you want to share your letters with The Hechinger Report, please also feel free to contact Andre Perry.

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Andre Perry

Dr. Andre Perry, a contributing writer, is the former founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Previously, Perry worked in… See Archive

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