President's Focus

Freebies From AASA

by John R. Lawrence, president, AASA

One of the reasons AASA is the pre-eminent educational leadership organization in America is the association’s long-standing practice of delivering massive amounts of information to educators.

I don’t know of another professional association that provides more good stuff than ours. The list includes but is not limited to The School Administrator magazine, the AASA Professor journal, our Legislative Corps updates, a frequently updated website and a virtual stream of cutting-edge research summaries. Most recently, the District Daily sent by e-mail to AASA members—sometimes before the sun comes up--is a welcome addition to our library of information.

The good news is that our information and data reflect consistently high quality. The lesser news is that AASA’s traditional practice is to make much if not most of our information available free of charge to both members and nonmembers.

What information should be globally provided in contrast to being an exclusive member benefit is a frequent topic of discussion among the leadership of AASA’s Arlington, Va., headquarters. On the one hand, clearly no one desires to prevent significant and useful information from reaching America’s school system leaders, especially in these defining times.

On the other hand, in the landscape of our current economy, one that promises to be of a longer rather than a shorter duration, the cold cost of conducting business threatens the warm costs of sharing spirit freely.

However, before any alarm bells ring, know that AASA has no intentions of turning off the free faucet of our research. To do that now does not serve the industry. Yet the paradox is that these times of dwindling fiscal resources are also the times when the war chests of professional associations need dollars most to fight the good fight and to send the powerful messages that must be sent to Congress and to the president and to those who serve him to “Stand Up for Public Education.”

To this end AASA is like the local school district or the state universities that you serve. The association either must enhance revenue to meet the challenges of education’s expanded battleground or reduce expenditures.

So what is the solution to the AASA’s paradox of needing more in an era of being provided less? The answer is not to reduce our publications budget for as the cliché goes “information is power” and therefore essential. Rather, the answer is simple—AASA needs your new and continued membership. It’s not easy to do when the focus on administrative spending is so highly scrutinized. And it’s not easy when many of our nation’s public schools and schools of higher education are downsizing. Although it is not easy, it is necessary because AASA’s efforts to mold and shape public policy cannot continue at full efficiency unless more school leaders meet the responsibility of belonging to America’s loudest and most consistent voice for public school leaders and public school children.

Most of you reading this column are members and your membership in AASA is cherished. Some of you reading this column are not, as the magazine has been provided free to all superintendents for the last few years, a practice that will end later this year. If you are not a current member of AASA I ask for your reconsideration, for at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, it is your obligation.

John Lawrence is president of AASA.