Federal Dateline

Turn to AASA Online for Electronic Alerts

by Nick Penning

As technology swirls around and threatens to overwhelm us, AASA has jumped into the fray with its own Internet home page, including a public affairs section titled "Legislative Alerts."

Through this new means of instant communications, those of us working with Congress and federal legislation hope to keep you in touch with those events that require your help in contacting your own House and Senate members.

Even though the public ranks education high on its list of priorities, in fact No. 1 in many surveys, we need to be ever alert to congressional actions that may be taken before the consequences are spelled out in full to the public. As your guardians of the realm of public policy and education, you can be certain we will do our level best to act at the staff level to sway policy and funds toward the interests of public education.

Electronic Alerts

However, sometimes our word alone is not enough. Members of the House and Senate need to be reminded that we do have members, whom we represent. And during those crucial times—when an amendment vote is about to take place or a detrimental bill is about to pass—we want to be able to call on you for your help.

Therefore, in addition to our year-old Internet site, known as "AASA Online," we also have launched a legislative listserv or discussion forum. Through the efforts of legislative specialist Kari Arfstrom and AASA webmaster Geannie Wells, we now have a vital electronic alert element for those willing to take action through a phone call or personal visit to their members of Congress. The Legicorps listserv is designed to keep those who have "subscribed" aware of pending actions and opportunities to help.

When a message is posted by someone on AASA’s Legicorps listserv, that message goes to all subscribing members, a contingent that grows every day. This means you not only get messages from AASA staff, you also can bring a question or problem to the attention of your colleagues, offer a possible solution, and enter into a discussion that we hope will benefit all listserv members.

At AASA we see the listserv as a way to broaden the scope of our essential AASA Legislative Corps, whose swift and decisive actions led to AASA receiving credit as the Washington-based education organization with the best grassroots field operation for contacting Congress. Plenty of organizations much larger than ours do not have the impact of AASA, largely because of our AASA Legislative Corps and its member response to our calls for action.

So before you ask AASA to include you on the Legicorps listserv, be sure you are willing to commit to carry on the Legislative Corps’ reputation for speedy and timely response to Capitol Hill to help win passage of an amendment or bill or to stop actions dangerous to public education.

If you want to join the team, send an e-mail to me at npenning@aasa.org.

Grand Experiment

This list is a grand experiment, which we believe will be 100 percent faster than a fax or even a phone call. If you’re at your desk and a message icon pops up, you receive our information instantly. And through the House and Senate listings on the "Hot Links" section of AASA Online, you should be able to locate quickly your House and Senate members’ phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses. Or you can reach them through the Capitol operator at 202-224-3121.

Thanks in advance to those of you who decide to join. The only way we can be effective as a legislative advocacy office is if the folks on Capitol Hill believe we actually represent real voting people in their home districts and states. And at critical moments in the legislative process, the men and women elected to serve you need to know you’re there, looking over their shoulders.

Technology and AASA are moving. Hop aboard and see what a difference you can make.

Nick Penning is AASA Policy Analyst.