Building Pathways for Member Legislative Engagement in Minnesota
In recent years, the Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) has been working to engage our members throughout the legislative process so that our ideas, issues, and knowledge can help inform the development and enactment of policies in the state. Whenever possible, we tap their expertise in shaping legislative priorities; responding to legislative, agency, and executive branch requests; attending and, when possible, testifying at legislative hearings; collaborating with other educational organizations on issues of mutual interest and concern; and interacting directly with legislators and their staff.
However, the realities of members’ on-campus commitments and of the fast-moving and often unpredictable nature of legislative schedules can make this difficult. And while it is often advantageous to have members testify in person at committee hearings, it is becoming clear that sometimes we can better gain the attention of legislators outside the context of these hearings. For example, time can be extremely limited for those individuals testifying at hearings, and the hectic pace of activity sometimes distracts the attention of legislators and staff.
As a result, we are increasingly seeking to encourage members to communicate directly with legislators via phone and email. We are supporting these efforts by sending periodic action alerts that provide context for actions under consideration, short messages that can serve as the text or a guide for their legislative contacts, and helping identify appropriate members to contact along with their preferred method of contact. The latter is especially important since, on many issues, legislators and their staff primarily focus on communication from their constituents.
These efforts build upon ongoing work to help MACTE members better understand the nature of the legislative process and to be aware of bills moving forward, while also working to personalize connections with legislators and, at strategic times, the governor’s office and staff. Although it is not easy to gage the impact of our work, we have reason to believe that direct member contacts have had a positive impact on the outcome of work by the Minnesota legislature and subsequent actions by our governor. We will continue to build these pathways between our faculty, staff, students, and the individuals elected to develop policies in Minnesota that impact the preparation and licensure of teachers.
Cyndy Crist is the MACTE legislative and policy liaison.