Advocacy: One of the most important ways we can support our students
Kentucky School Advocate
By Davonna Page
I have been privileged to serve as one of three local school board member participants on the School Funding Task Force, a bipartisan group of state legislators established in 2021 under House Bill 405. The scope of this group’s work has been: to review all aspects of our K-12 funding system, including SEEK (the state’s education funding allocation formula), local revenues raised by boards and federal funds; to review how Kentucky’s funding system compares with other states; and to develop recommendations for changes to the SEEK formula to ensure equitable and efficient funding of our common schools. This month at the Task Force’s final meeting, lawmakers will ultimately decide on recommendations to the General Assembly during the 2022 session.
You have likely heard me say this before: I believe that providing public education is the most important function of government. For that reason, effective advocacy by you, our Commonwealth’s locally elected board members, is vital to the delivery of quality education to present and future Kentucky students.
As the 2022 session nears, I want to share some thoughts about advocacy in Frankfort, and impart a few tips I have learned on the Task Force:
1. Interact with legislators. Technology has allowed us to communicate with others remotely during the pandemic, but personal interaction with legislators is valuable. The more often a legislator sees you in person, the more familiar he or she is with you and the district in which you serve. Remember, every conversation does not have to be about public education. Get to know them, ask about their kids, talk about issues important to them aside from education. If you see a legislator who does not represent your district, introduce yourself to them, too. Tell them your name, the district you represent and thank them for something they have done to help all students (like funding full-day kindergarten).
2. Be respectful of time. Legislators are like board members – they are part-time policymakers balancing responsibilities as legislators, time with their families and careers. Know what you want to discuss and be prepared with the concise talking points you wish to make – backed up with data.
3. Be respectful. Given all that has transpired in recent months, I know all board members have a renewed appreciation for civility. Even when we disagree with someone’s position, respectful discourse builds goodwill. Like anyone, if legislators trust they can have a civil conversation with you – even on topics you disagree on – they are more apt to engage with you, to respond to your email and to perhaps seek you out for information. Respectfully agreeing to disagree helps us all get to places of mutual understanding more often.
4. Be reasonable. Someone once said you should shoot for the stars and maybe you’ll land on the moon. It’s important to be reasonable and realistic. While we believe education is the most important issue, legislators are facing obligations from across the spectrum of society. Ask them to take an action that is attainable.
5. Be credible. Just like board members, legislators need accurate data to make informed decisions. Provide them with information from your district, from your finance officer or pupil personnel director and others (like KSBA), to help them better understand your needs and successes. By providing them with correct data, they will be more confident in calling on you to correct misinformation.
Advocacy is a long game, never “one and done.” Advocacy for your students and for public education was critical long before our board service began and will be long after our terms end. Look for opportunities to accomplish a positive result. Recognize that sometimes no action by legislators can constitute a win.
The KSBA Board of Directors will adopt the 2022 legislative priorities during its December meeting. Look for discussion of them in upcoming association publications, including the December Advocate. Thank you for your continued advocacy.