The Power of Neutrality in Legislative Advocacy
December 01, 2023
Appears in December 2023: School Administrator.
In 2019, the Texas legislature passed landmark school finance legislation that represented one of the most significant investments in public education in the state’s history. However, the bill was hardly perfect.
As the bill moved through the legislative session, public education advocates chimed in to point out the flaws. In multiple instances, advocates were met with indignation from legislators who were unwilling to accept that they would not testify in support of the bill.
When it came time for a school board member in Frisco Independent School District (where I served as general counsel at the time) to testify, she was asked by a legislator on the education committee why she was not testifying in support. Her answer: “Frisco ISD’s practice is to not take positions on pending legislation.” It set the tone for the rest of her testimony, which enabled her to both praise and criticize portions of the bill without the disdain the legislators had shown to other advocates who dared not support it.
This scenario is a perfect example of the power of neutrality and why serving as a source of information, rather than delivering a political opinion, can improve our effectiveness in front of lawmakers.