Advocacy is Education
Legislators Need to Hear Directly From Those Affected by The Policies They Approve
Roz Thompson
Government Relations and Advocacy Director, AWSP
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Ensuring School Safety, Planning with Data, Aligning Curriculum, Improving Instruction, Managing Resources, Engaging Families & Communities, Closing the Gap
Advocating for the principalship and the needs of students and staff in our buildings is an ongoing effort for AWSP. So what does advocacy really look like?
Advocacy is supporting an idea or a plan or a way of doing something. Advocacy is taking action to recommend, argue with, support, or defend a specific cause. Advocacy is asking on behalf of others. Advocacy is education.
And here is where we, as educators, have the advantage.
Talking with Legislators Advocacy means teaching those who are not familiar with something everything there is to know about the matter. It is knowing your audience and creating the right lesson plan to help them learn best. It is telling a story to illustrate an idea or experience. It is using data to make a particular point. It is providing information. It is developing and fostering relationships. Sounds just like being in the classroom, right?
It’s up to us to educate legislators, policymakers, and people in our districts and communities about our role as principals. They need to understand how education funding impacts our work as well as what the implications of policy mean from the building perspective. Practicing principals and assistant principals have a tremendous amount of experience and wisdom to offer and there are many different ways that you can get involved in helping our advocacy (aka our educational) efforts.
AWSP Advisory Council Our AWSP Advocacy Advisory Council has an elementary, middle, and high school principal or assistant principal from each of the nine Educational Service Districts for a total of about 30 people. We meet each week during the legislative session to review bills and discuss strategies for advocacy. We also meet about once each month during the interim. Sometimes these meetings include legislators and are related to specific issues, and sometimes our meetings are to plan our legislative platform for the following session. We also have an annual “Day on the Hill” event where we connect with legislators during the session to discuss our platform and current bills being considered.
Imagine if all 147 of our state legislators had one school leader with whom they connected regularly to help stay educated on the needs of staff and students in their local schools. Some great teaching and learning could happen there!
Over the past few years, I’ve also encouraged our members to be a “Principal Partner for a Legislator.” This isn’t quite as time-consuming as being on our advisory council, but it is a valuable part of our overall advocacy efforts. In this role, I suggest that you get to know your local legislator and their legislative assistant by calling or emailing them to introduce yourself. You can send a brief email each month to update them on the happenings in your building and you can invite them to visit your school during the day, for special events, or in the evenings for a community meeting or arts/athletic events. Imagine if all 147 of our state legislators had one school leader with whom they connected regularly to help stay educated on the needs of staff and students in their local schools. Some great teaching and learning could happen there!
I will also continue to plan interim Zoom meetings with legislators, agency staff, and other policymakers related to issues like dual credit, graduation, early learning, or other timely topics. Any of you would be welcome to attend. Look for information emailed periodically in Principal Matters.
Are You a Member of WSPLEA? I invite all of you to join our Washington School Principals Legislative Effectiveness Association (our political action committee) to help us with our advocacy efforts. This is a HUGE election year with all of the positions in the House of Representatives and half of our state Senate up for election. In addition, over 20 sitting legislators have announced that they will not be running again for office. All of this means that there are many opportunities for us to get involved in these elections to continue developing relationships with elected officials. Our connections with them allow us to continue our work to educate them on the role of principals and assistant principals and what we believe our schools need in order to best serve our students.
Advocacy doesn’t just happen with our Legislature. There are ways that we can, and should, continue working with our partners at OSPI, the Professional Educator Standards Board, and the State Board of Education to impact policy and funding decisions. There are ways that we can and should work within our communities and districts to impact policy and funding decisions as well. And, we can and should communicate with our federally elected officials about our role as principals and assistant principals and how they can best support us and our students.
We have a list of leadership solutions in the works with ideas at the local, state, and federal levels that we believe will make your jobs more manageable which in turn will benefit students and staff. Our team will be working on our advocacy and education efforts over the next few months leading up to the 2023 legislative session and we need YOUR voice to help us.
If you are interested and willing to help with our AWSP advocacy efforts in any way, big or small, please reach out to Roz at roz@awsp.org. Your voice matters!
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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 3 – 2021-22