In parts one and two of this three part series, I shared my views on community engagement and effective school board governance, the first two objectives defined by Make Education a Priority. In this final chapter of the three-part series, I'll address the importance of an organized and consistent advocacy effort with the policymakers who largely define the direction of public education in the State of Texas.
Recall that, in a previous blog, I highlighted the positives of a recent conversation with the newly appointed Commissioner of TEA, Mike Morath, and the Chairwoman of the State Board of Education, Donna Bahorich. I anticipate that our initial conversation has established a foundation for future dialog and that, through these conversations, we will be in a better position to continue to focus on how we define the importance of public education in the State of Texas.
In addition to these discussions, it’s important that we initiate conversations with our elected officials in Austin, specifically those in the House and Senate. While much of that focus should be on members of the respective Public Education Committees, we should always ensure that those who serve as our local elected officials in our home districts understand the importance of a sound and quality public education system.
Specifically, MEaP has adopted the following as goals in support of enhancing relationships with policymakers:
- Build mutually beneficial relationships between policymakers and local school districts;
- Advocate for school board trustee engagement with policymakers; and
- Create public awareness concerning the effects of legislation on our public schools.
Individually, each of these goals is a daunting task but community engagement and engagement by
the more than 7000 public school trustees in Texas offer us a great start in initiating the dialog with policymakers. Although we are still a year away from convening of the 85th Legislative Session, it is not too early to start the conversation. Changes in makeup of this group of legislators will certainly have an impact but now is the time to share our views with both candidates and incumbents.
One of the challenges we face is that, all too often, community members and trustees don’t engage until action (or inaction) by the legislature impacts our local districts. If we are to succeed and, in essence, become a successful education “lobby”, we must begin now and we must focus not just on students in our local districts but on those across the state. It is the responsibility for all of us to Make Education a Priority with policymakers.