March 20, 2017

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Superintendent Advocacy Challenge - Keep Up the Good Work!

This blog stems from feedback we are receiving from members, and observations and experience as we travel throughout the country. We are entering the third month of the AASA 2017 advocacy challenge. As a reminder, the advocacy team is challenging superintendents and education leaders to commit to making contact with each member of their Congressional delegation (two Senators and one Representative) each month, and is supporting this effort by providing a policy overview (including background, context and talking points) to support these conversations.

The current environment in DC—as it relates to federal education policy conversations—can at best be described as concerning, if not threatening. As such, when we provide updates to AASA members, we are ever cognizant of the fact that almost all policy areas include something that could be considered a threat, or not good news. With that in mind, and knowing that the effort to build out and support superintendent advocacy in 2017, we wanted to remind you of a few important points:

  • Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, more than ever, this is important to keep in mind. It is very likely that the conversations we have with this Congress and this administration will be in defense of public education.
  • Congress will make these votes whether they hear from you or not. Let’s at least give them a shot of getting it right. To use another axiom I just picked up: They may not always do better, but our advocacy can ensure they know better.
  • You do not need to be a master in all aspects of federal policy. It is an explicit member benefit—of belonging to both AASA and your state affiliate—to have support in your advocacy efforts. Rely on your advocacy team to do the heavy lifts of reading, analyzing and communicating important information about legislation, regulation and policy.
  • Continuing on the idea of not needing to be a master of all aspects of federal policy, engage deeply on the one or two that are most important to you/your district, or that you find most interesting. From there, coordinate with other superintendents in your region/state to ensure that all of the topics are covered. If you focus on funding and education technology, perhaps your neighboring superintendent can focus on nutrition, and another on ESSA, and another on IDEA, etc… Many hands make light work.
  • Keep your head up. The current education policy environment may seem overwhelming or depressing or a lost cause. Sincerely, though, (and accounting for the inherent job bias we have toward public education and advocacy): Your voice matters. Your advocacy matters. If we don’t commit to advocating for public education now, who will? And when? To borrow from one of my favorite MLK quotes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”, we have to reiterate that the arc of education in this nation is long, and has long been the backbone of our nation, it’s civic education/engagement, and its success, and bends toward public education. This moment in time is a shift of the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, and your commitment and advocacy is the best remedy we can think of. 

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