Politics, Policy and Public Schools Discussed at NSBA Advocacy Institute

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, June 16, 2016

The National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Institute was held in Washington, D.C., June 12 – 14. This was the rescheduled date from January when a blizzard forced its cancellation. Despite the change, Michigan was once again well represented with more than 50 members. In all, more than 600 school board members from across the country descended on our nation’s capital to stand up for public education.

Our members heard from featured speaker Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and senior analyst for CNN. He spoke about election-year politics and how the election will influence the Supreme Court, thus affecting the outcome of cases before it. There were also presentations on the use of social media to inform, not just in an election cycle, but for school boards and districts every day.

NSBA staff also presented on the details of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the next steps for both Congress and individual states. Finally, the conference wrapped up with individual presentations from Dr. John King Jr., the U. S. Secretary of Education and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who, as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, has been holding hearings on ESSA implementation.

"A highlight was getting to talk with representatives from other states," shared Anne Hamming from Thornapple Kellogg Schools, a first-time attendee. "We shared our approaches to their challenges and we were able to learn ways they are dealing with things that challenge us. I was particularly interested in the way South Carolina school boards have united to speak out against a rapid increase of charter schools in their state. They are using the latest research and the law to slow down the threat of charters."

Michigan's full delegation attended MASB’s annual Senate Breakfast in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Sen. Debbie Stabenow spoke to the delegation about ESSA, her role in the child nutrition legislation and embracing the diversity of our state and school districts. Then we were joined by Sen. Gary Peters who took questions on a variety of issues. Discussions ranged from the use of increased federal Medicaid funding for Flint children and others affected by the lead crisis to CTE programs and expansion of middle and early college programs.

Thirteen of Michigan’s 14 Congressional offices were visited by groups of our delegates. Topics addressed in those meetings included reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, ESSA implementation and issues specific to our schools in Michigan. Members also gave each Congressperson a copy of MASB's latest edition of LeaderBoard, for further insight into some of the issues facing Michigan school board members.

"I walked away from the conference much more confident in my ability to advocate for all of our children," Hamming said. "The session leaders were very clear that we have authority as elected officials to engage our congressional leaders and hold them accountable. We have the authority to ask for what our kids need. With that comes the enormous responsibility to know the facts, set a clear agenda and stick to the agenda with our elected leaders. I saw in our sessions with our own Congress members that this approach truly works. The responsibility rests with us."

View a few photos, courtesy of Brenda and Randy Carter, on MASB's Facebook page.

NSBA and MASB Government Relations staff will continue to represent your needs to our policymakers in D.C., but don’t forget your voice also needs to be heard. Contact information for all of the Michigan members of Congress is available on the MASB evocate site under "Find Your Elected Official," and we encourage you to make a difference by picking up the phone or emailing your representative and senator. 

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