Sample Op-Eds & Letters to the Editor

June 30, 2014

Think op-eds and Letters to the Editor are old-fashioned? Think again. They're actually an excellent way to reach out to your community and Congressional leadership to show what issues really matter to you and the constituents. 

Here, find templates for an Op-Ed and for a Letter to the Editor, provided by the Children's Leadership Council, that will give you a good start to writing your own.

Op-Ed Template

Template text generously provided by the Children's Leadership Council.

If political leaders in Washington take revenues off the table as they haggle over how to fix the nation’s debt and budget crises, children and families are the ones who will suffer. Although the one thing all parties agree on is that our children didn’t cause the problem, many of the options under consideration would make kids one of the biggest victims of the budget stalemate.

This year as in years past, severe cuts have been proposed to health care, education and nutrition programs like Head Start, school lunch programs, special education, children’s hunger relief and child care assistance for low income parents.

These federal cuts are amplified at the local level, as nearly every state grapples with its own deficit. In Illinois, for example, which faces a deficit of nearly $45 billion as of March 2014, more than 22,000 seats for children have been cut from preschools in the past three years. The  state budget inflicts pain mostly on children and families in need.

The cuts represent the same kind of short-sighted thinking that got us into this mess.  Over time these cuts will cost far more than they might save by requiring far more intensive health care, social services and even criminal justice interventions down the line.

They would also create a poorer, sicker and less educated population that makes our country weaker and less competitive. 

Cuts like these would only exacerbate the already weak condition of America’s children. Our nation has fallen to number 31 out of 178 countries on Save the Children’s 2014 State of the World’s Mothers report, which measures infant mortality, health care, poverty rates, and educational opportunity, among other factors. Fifteen years ago, we ranked in the top five. That's not progress.

The United States lags other developed countries in academic achievement.  According to the 2014 annual CIA ranking, 55 nations report better infant mortality rates than we do.  In the richest country in the world, nearly one-quarter of American children face periods when they don’t have enough food.

But it isn’t inevitable that these tragedies will get even worse.  Resolving the debt and budget crises must include reasonable revenue measures and spending reductions that protect essential services for children and families.  It will require prioritizing our children’s welfare over continuing tax breaks for the wealthy.

It is simply unconscionable that Congress is considering retaining tax breaks for corporations when the future of America’s children hangs in the balance.

[We recommend you include a  sentence here about a good current tax proposal on the table, if any.]

The nation’s budget is a reflection of our values.  Even if we put aside the emotions like compassion and empathy that are the essence of our humanity, enlightened self-interest dictates that we should invest in children to strengthen America. 

Letter to the Editor template

To the Editor:

As the debate continues over whether the United States should solve its debt and budget crises with revenue enhancements, spending cuts or a combination of the two, our leaders should stop to ask themselves a simple question:  Which approach makes (STATE) and America stronger?

Once again, we face severe cuts to programs that protect children and families. This represents the same short-sighted thinking that got us into this mess.  Just as politicians couldn’t resist the temptation to borrow a little more rather than make hard decisions about our budget problems, these cuts would cost far more over time than they save in the short run by requiring more intensive health care, social service and even criminal justice interventions down the line.

They would also create a poorer, sicker and less educated population that makes our country weaker and less competitive.

There is a better option: enlightened self-interest.  By reaching an agreement that includes reasonable revenue measures and spending reductions that protect essential services for children and families, our leaders can put the country’s fiscal house in order and preserve the future.  Resisting the temptation to slash health care, education and nutrition programs that allow countless children to grow up to be productive citizens would enhance both American democracy and our nation’s competitiveness.     


Want to learn more about Letters to the Editor? Get powerful tips on writing and placing Letters to the Editor here

You can also find more about improving communications and advocating effectively on SparkAction's Communications page.

Get templates focused on early childhood nutrition.

SparkAction and The Children’s Leadership Council collaborated on these templates to help you in your work.

The Children's Leadership Council is a coalition of child advocates representing over 50 leading national policy and advocacy organizations who are working everyday to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life. The CLC organizations have members in every state in the nation. The Forum for Youth Investment and SparkAction are proud members of the CLC.


This post was originally published in September 2012, and was most recently reviewed and updated in June 2014.

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