Winter Syposium: Plenary session

Winter Syposium: Plenary session

Winter Symposium: Plenary session

EDUCATION IS POWER: Board members learn the ins and outs of the lawmaking process

Kentucky School Advocate
January 2016

By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff Writer

School board members who attended KSBA’s Winter Symposium Dec. 4–5 will be better equipped to advocate for public schools during the 2016 session of the General Assembly, thanks to an unusually detailed look at the “pressure points” in the law- and regulation-making process.

KSBA Governmental Relations Director Hope McLaughlin went well beyond “how a bill becomes law,” during the Symposium’s plenary session, giving a realistic view of the twists and turns legislation can take, along with an explanation of the complicated regulation implementation process. She noted the latter is particularly important for education.

“I’ve tried to figure out how they get something done up there (in Frankfort),” Oldham County school board member Larry Dodson quipped after hearing about those complicated workings.
Green County school board member Martha Stepp talks with KSBA Governmental Relations Director Hope McLaughlin following McLaughlin’s plenary tutorial on advocacy.

McLaughlin emphasized the importance of school board members being heard when law and regulations are being considered. She displayed membership lists of General Assembly leadership and important legislative and regulatory committees, asking attendees to scan the lists and raise their hand if their local lawmakers or educators were on it. “You’re going to make a big impact,” she said, “when you pick up the phone and say, ‘There is an education issue that’s important to me and you need to vote this way or you need to vote that way.’”

McLaughlin said the presence of school board members also can make a difference when education bills are being heard in legislative committees.

The tutorial ended with an outline of KSBA’s legislative priorities and a preview of the 2016 General Assembly, during which lawmakers will take up the critical biennial budget.

“This is the most important piece of legislation that will be considered and hopefully passed in 2016,” she said. “The budget bill is the ultimate policy document for the Commonwealth.”

Several board members were already primed to tackle the topic. Martin County school board member Mickey McCoy asked whether KSBA would have a “call to action” on some of the “radical” changes that may be in the works, and whether the association would work alongside the Kentucky Education Association on some of them.

McLaughlin outlined the process KSBA uses to keep members informed during legislative sessions, including sending members emailed action alerts as needed and weekly legislative updates, and explained KSBA staff meet regularly with other education groups, both during and between sessions.

Elizabethtown Independent board Vice Chairman Tony Kuklinski noted that legislators in his area have asked for ideas on how to address the state’s budget deficit to preserve funding for education. And Newport Independent board Chairwoman Ramona Malone told attendees it’s important to present data so lawmakers understand that schools must be able to provide individualized education to children because of the correlation between a poor education and the incarceration rate. She also said it’s important to “empower ourselves” by knowing how local legislators are voting on issues.

LEADing at the Capitol
School board members can fan out and blitz the Capitol on behalf of K-12 education Jan. 21 at the KSBA Legislative Education Advocacy Day (LEAD). Board members and superintendents will gather at 7:30 a.m. at the Capital Plaza Hotel for advocacy training and then will head to the Capitol and its annex to meet with their hometown lawmakers. The day will be preceded by a legislative reception at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 20, also at the Capital Plaza Hotel, giving board members an opportunity to talk with senators and representatives in a more informal setting.

Registration information for the event is posted on KSBA’s website, 
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