Hills are often seen as obstacles, but they can also work to our advantage. Once we crest them, the path back is often much, much, easier. I spent the last two days learning about advocacy in Washington DC, a conference that culminated with a visit to THE Hill to push for educational policy that keeps learners at the forefront.
In fairness, New York is an easy state to advocate for education in. Our federal governance team strongly agrees (one of the staffers we met with basically said, “You’re preaching to the choir”). But, of course, it pays to advocate to showcase how important issues are to a certain constituency. So, as we traveled to visit the offices of our two senators, and then went across the hill to meet with our respective House leaders, we kept focused on the foundations we wanted to make clear: Ensuring equity for all learners, supporting educators, and promoting a culture of excellence in education. We wrapped these ideas up in the continuation of support for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which all states are currently in the planning process for.
One of the nice parts about doing this work yesterday was that we had a team of very varied educators. Amongst us we represented much of the state of New York’s educators: educators teaching elementary and secondary, teachers and administrators, higher education and P-12, local and regional. This was powerful for our Senate and House colleagues to see as it showcased how important the ideas we shared were to the state, as a whole.
Along with being an amazing experience, it was also an enlightening one. It was really powerful to walk the halls where much of the planning for legislation takes place, and also interesting in that many of the lawmakers seem very much like each of us. It was humbling to walk past the Capitol, and interesting to get a sense of our elected officials from the staff they hire and the layout of their offices.
At the end, our group made connections with three influential people from our federal government. And, we also better understood the interplay between federal, state, and local politics. While I would not have always believed that being a “lobbyist” is a role I would relish, I can now easily understand why it is such a powerful role when you are lobbying for something you believe in.
I hope to have the opportunity to do this again!