WACTE Builds Momentum for Its Next Day on the Hill
Members of the Washington Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE) met with Washington state lawmakers during WACTE’s inaugural “Day on the Hill” earlier this year—an effort to familiarize legislators with teacher preparation programs across the state, present ourselves as resources to legislators on teacher preparation and K-12 education, and articulate the WACTE agenda/priorities.
In the state of Washington, the legislative process is nothing like academia, where it can take a year from proposal to approval for a new program or process. The legislative sessions move at a furious pace. A bill can be amended to do something completely different than the original intent, and a legislative lobbyist can prevent the legislative process from “getting away from you before you know it.”
In late 2005, members of WACTE realized we needed help with advocacy and hired a lobbyist to represent WACTE in the Washington legislative process—we were not at the table, we were on the menu! We have subsequently instituted a “rapid response” system where each member institution designates an individual who can respond to legislative issues within 24 hours. Our lobbyist, a non-voting member of the Executive Board, understands the organization’s values and outlook, which empowers him to move on issues ahead of a formal polling of institutional representatives.
As part of the leadership activities, WACTE hosted a breakfast at the state legislature each January for the past 10-plus years. Deans and directors of member institutions met with legislators and staffers to discuss upcoming bills and other efforts for increasing “respect for educators as professionals, strengthening the educator pipeline, and improving data systems.”
For the past several years, however, legislative attendance at the breakfast dwindled. Because of low attendance, the WACTE Executive Board charged our legislative consultant/lobbyist to meet with WACTE representatives to draft a change in venue/format for the meeting. The Task Force agreed to list five to seven potential priority issues, filter them through the lens of the political environment in Olympia, and bring the issues to the full membership for feedback. That’s when the idea for a Day on the Hill was conceived.
At the October 2017 meeting, deans and directors participated in a legislative training to prepare for engaging with legislators and staffers. Members gathered for a second training the morning of the Day on the Hill, receiving up-to-date status reports on current legislation and logistics of meeting with legislators and staff. The WACTE executive assistant coordinated hotel reservations, developed materials to be distributed to event attendees, and gathered debriefing comments.
There were 17 of 23 colleges/universities represented. The 26 members who participated visited with 37 legislators and staff. Feedback from legislators was positive, and they look forward to further engagement with teacher preparation programs. Discussions focused on teacher shortage conditional grants, alternative route conditional scholarships and future teacher conditional scholarships, student teaching grants, using existing capacity, and maintaining high standards.
To further our efforts, a 5-Year Strategic Plan was adopted in April 2018 and includes a priority on a legislative focus. In addition, an annual fund of $3,000 to support future Day on the Hill events was approved by the membership. We look forward to the Second Annual Day on the Hill in January 2019.