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AACTE Members Make Voices Heard at 2016 Day on the Hill

AACTE’s 2016 Day on the Hill welcomed more than 120 member participants to the nation’s capital last week, building their capacity for political advocacy and delivering them to Capitol Hill to present their messages personally to member of Congress and their staff.

The event kicked off June 7 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. Attendees enjoyed a full-day orientation, expanded from prior years to more fully prepare them to articulate their positions, cultivate positive relationships with elected officials and the media, and partner with other education advocates.

AACTE President/CEO Sharon Robinson welcomed participants, saying she was excited to convene members for such an important cause. “We are taking on some of our greatest challenges,” she said. AACTE Board of Directors Chair Jane Bray and Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy Chair Joen Larson joined in offering greetings.

Next, AACTE Director of Government Relations Deborah Koolbeck provided a Washington update and reviewed the Association’s legislative agenda. She then led a panel of advocacy specialists from education organizations along with a congressional staffer to discuss strategies for collaboration. One key to reaching a wide audience and building a coalition is to use social media, they said, where a simple advocacy post can build goodwill and broadcast a message at no cost.

Nancy Reder of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education speaks on an advocacy panel during Day on the Hill. To her left are Leslie Tatum, a professional staff member with the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Jon Fansmith of the American Council on Education.


After lunch, we transitioned to tips on how to work with the press with insights from Caitlyn Emma of PoliticoPro and Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week. They discussed the difference between speaking on and off the record, common needs of education reporters, and how to decide what news outlet to contact (tip: reach out to the ones you read/follow yourself). Later, AACTE members from Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin shared state advocacy experiences and advice.

The final group session offered guidance on applying the day’s lessons back at home. Staffers from congressional offices offered advice on getting the attention of congressional offices. After this discussion, participants worked in state delegations to strategize for their meetings and coordinate plans for the next day’s Hill visits. The day concluded with an evening reception.

On June 8, participants boarded buses for Capitol Hill to put their skills to use conducting the hundreds of appointments they’d arranged with legislators. Delegations from over 30 states communicated their concerns and success stories with congressional staff and elected officials. Many participants ended the day together at a happy hour debriefing to share their experiences and consult on their next steps.

U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) meets with Connecticut constituents during Day on the Hill.


Selected photos from June 7 are available on AACTE’s Facebook page. For a sense of the on-the-ground experience and lots of June 8 Capitol Hill photos by participants, review the event hashtag on Twitter at #AACTEWW16 or the Storify record at https://storify.com/AACTE/aacte-washington-week-2016-on-twitter.

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