Learning Advocacy from Three State Chapters

This article is a personal reflection of the 2020 Washington Week State Leaders Institute by attendee Tariq Akmal.

Tariq AkmalI was fortunate to attend the State Leaders Institute breakout session on State Government Advocacy with Three State Chapters. Attendees heard from Christine Carrino Gorowara of Delaware, Scott Hewitt of Florida, and Vanessa Anton and Robin Fuxa of Oklahoma.  This session was a sharing of the different types of advocacy activities that were occurring in three states.  The variation in state size/population was very evident in the scale of activities of each chapter. What did they hold in common?  They are all active in advocacy work and are experiencing a teacher shortage in their states. Each panelist shared particular aspects of their association’s work with their state department of education, legislators, and other stakeholders within their states. 

The Delaware Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (DACTE) had “flipped the script” on the traditional Day On the Hill approach and now brought specific Delaware legislators to their association for conversations regarding how DACTE could be a resource to legislators on educational issues and to build relationships so that DACTE would be invited to legislative initiatives on education. They invited members of the House and Senate Education Committee, in particular, which seems to be a highly effective strategy! Carrino Gorowara noted how they became collaborators in developing legislation that would be a help to Delaware teacher candidates in simplifying the background check process.

The Florida Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (FACTE) shared how they had planned a huge summit meeting for April of 2019 with member EPPs, the state education department, school district administrators, legislators, the Florida Education Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and field placement officers, to name a few, when COVID-19 changed the landscape. FACTE pivoted quickly and started a series of meetings with many of the aforementioned players to focus on the disruptions to field placements, candidate testing, and student teaching, etc., caused by COVID. They were able to be instrumental in development of relief mechanisms for student teachers in Florida. 

Vanessa Anton shared how the Oklahoma state chapter (OACTE) was able to hire a legislative liaison who helps them track legislation, sends them links to information, and helps them make contacts at the legislature. Through the contacts created by the liaison, they were able to push for incentivizing teacher education and to get the state of Oklahoma to recognize the value of traditional EPP candidates over emergency certified teachers. They also worked to develop a white paper on Oklahoma EPP Teacher Preparation as compared to emergency certificated teachers and informational materials called “Ready on Day One” (as opposed to an emergency certified teacher) for handing out to legislators and other stakeholders. 

All three programs gave us much to consider. There is clearly great activity going in these states and we would all do well to emulate their efforts.  We can all learn from each other and can serve as resources for one another—but that requires us to thinking outside our own state boundaries!     

Tariq Akmal is the chair, Department of Teaching & Learning at Washington State University.

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