School Leaders Take to the Hill to Advocate for Schools and Students

Guest post by William Parker

On June 21 and 22, 2016, the National Association of Secondary Principals hosted its Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C.

School leaders from across the country descended upon Capitol Hill as well as heard presentations from experts in advocacy, leadership, and federal policies that affect schools. As a state coordinator for NASSP, I joined Clay McDonald—middle school principal from Piedmont, OK, and president-elect of the Oklahoma Association of Secondary Principals—for the two-day conference and Hill visit.

On June 22, we visited Congressional members and staff on the Hill. Mr. McDonald and I visited the offices of Oklahoma Reps. Frank Lucas, Jim Bridenstine, Steve Russell, and Sen. Jim Inhofe.

NASSP Advocacy Conference GroupDelivering a Big Thank You

Our first priority was to thank members of Congress for their support of the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind.

ESSA limits the number of student assessments students are required to take and gives states and local districts the flexibility to decide on accountability standards for these exams. ESSA is a welcome relief to public schools, and we made it an important goal to thank members for their support.

Support Still Needed

We also shared with Congressional members the support our public schools still need under ESSA’s Title programs. Appropriations for these programs have yet to be decided, and with pending elections, a budget is not likely to be finalized for months.

In the meantime, we asked them to support the following:

Title I Grants

  • ESSA allows Title I funding to serve the most disadvantaged students and increases have been proposed for FY 2017.
  • Title II, Part A allows funding not only for teacher training but also professional development for principals.
  • Title II, Part B, allows funding for the recruiting, training, and development of principals.
  • Title II, Part B also allows grants for dedicated literacy programming.

NASSP Advocacy Conference MeetingTitle IV, Part A

ESSA allows grants to help students in three areas: providing them with well-rounded education; supporting safe and healthy schools; and supporting the effective use of technology.

IDEA State Grants

Although ESSA promises to fund “40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure for students receiving IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) services,” NASSP is also urging Congress to pass an IDEA Full Funding Act.

Career and Technical Education

ESSA allows state grants to support high-quality career and technical education programs. Many states rely on these Title and Grant programs to fund school programs. For states like Oklahoma that are facing cuts in state funding, these federal programs would provide essential resources for schools.

Student Advocacy

As a part of our advocacy training in D.C., I was also able to share a quick presentation with school leaders on the power of involving students in advocacy. This past spring, students from Skiatook High School in Skiatook, OK, joined me in meetings at our state capitol, and nothing is more powerful than stories from students about why their schools and teachers need support from lawmakers.

I shared that positive advocacy has five parts:

  • Understand the issues, but keep it simple.
  • Be friendly and say thank you.
  • Tell stories.
  • Take photos and share them via social media.
  • Follow up with thank yous and continue conversations.

You can read this touching story from one of my students here and learn how she passionately rallied for the support of teachers on the Hill.

Now It’s Your Turn

Advocacy is important for maintaining state and federal support for our students and schools, but advocacy is really about relationships—being able to talk about issues that directly affect students—regardless of party affiliations or elections.

You don’t have to visit Washington, D.C., in person to be an advocate. Check out the advocacy section on the NASSP website for more information on issues and ways you can reach out today. You can also email your legislators via the NASSP Principal’s Legislative Action Center.

William Parker is the principal at Skiatook High School in Skiatook, OK, and the author of Principal Matters: The Motivation, Courage, and Action Needed For School Leadership. A version of this post previously appeared on Parker’s blog.

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