This op-ed originally appeared in District Administration and is reprinted with permission.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented responses. For the first time, much of the country appears to have the same goal: getting both students and teachers back into schools. To that end, there has never been a more critical time to advocate for educator preparation and policies than now.
COVID-19 drastically changed the world, and its impact continues to influence opinions, strategies, and even political policies. The pandemic shined a spotlight on the importance of education for both students and educators alike. Everyone could finally see the existing deficits in the education system. The absence of education in the physical classroom revealed the importance of educating our children and ensuring quality learning environments.
In this post, Joseph Peters of Georgia State University reflects on his experience 2021 Washington Week Day on The Hill attendee.
This year’s AACTE Day on the Hill, themed “Your Voice Matters,” was a fantastic experience. The Hop-In virtual platform made it easy to participate in the event. AACTE’s Research, Policy and Advocacy staff provided excellent speakers to prepare everyone for the congressional visits. Our Georgia team was led by Georgia State University’s Project Nurture TQP Grant Director Norma Green. In addition to Georgia State University, Georgia College and State University, Fort Valley State University, and Middle Georgia State University participated in the event. We were able to set up meetings with both Georgia Senators’ staff, as well as the educational policy staff of four Georgia Representatives.
This article originally appeared in Inside Higher Education and is reprinted with permission from the op-ed author. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
September 2 marked the anniversary of the National Defense Education Act, the law signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 to vastly expand funding for colleges and universities. The country has been the better for it ever since. Eisenhower famously warned about the military-industrial complex and how every dollar spent on a bomber could have been spent on a school.
Today, Americans realize the futility of spending $2 trillion over 20 years fighting a lost war in Afghanistan. What would the world look like if that money had been spent on education in that country and in ours? Now is the time for every college in the country to fight hard for the next massive investment in higher education. Quite simply, they should lobby for our future.
Unfortunately, higher education institutions have historically played defense when it comes to advocating for their own interests. For the past four years, colleges have spent lots of time and money responding to chaotic Trump-era proposals on immigration, free speech on campus, graduate student taxes, Title IX changes and restrictions on research. In most states, funding to higher education is much lower today than it was 20 years ago.
One of the important coalitions AACTE is a member of is the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), which is the oldest and largest coalition of education associations and calls for an increase in federal funding for education. CEF’s current campaign is “5 Cents Makes Sense,” which calls for 5 cents of every federal dollar to be spent on education. The campaign’s official hashtag is #5Cents4EdFunding.
Each year, CEF publishes a Budget Book, which analyzes the President’s budget proposal and its impact on federal education programs. AACTE contributed two articles to the Book. One is on TEACH Grants, the federal program that supports the recruitment of high-quality teacher candidates for hard-to-staff fields and schools. The other article is on the Teacher Quality Partnership program, which is the only federal initiative designed to strengthen and reform educator preparation at institutions of higher education.
This article is a personal reflection of the 2021Washington Week Holmes Policy Advanced Policy Course by attendee Shauna Torrington.
My takeaways from my participation in the Holmes Advanced Policy Course have been threefold. This course has impacted me as an international student, an advocate, and as a practitioner.
As an international student, I have a greater understanding about the terminology that is normally used in policy advocacy. This new knowledge has enabled me to follow along with a clearer understanding during discussions on policy. The words representative, senator, and congressperson also now have greater meanings for me. I am aware of the basics of the legislative process and can better follow the process of how a bill becomes a law. I now know what it means to introduce a bill or to sponsor a bill. Additionally, I know what a “markup” means and what is the process that comes after a markup. I know where to look to find information on my senators and my representatives. I know how to contact their offices or to see what issues they voted for or against.
As a former early childhood public school prekindergarten teacher in rural South Carolina, I have always engaged in advocacy for better educational policies. I have been engrossed in issues such as reduced recess, teacher professional development policies, parent access, and teacher training since I was in the classroom. I continue to serve as a point of inspiration as a 13-year veteran teacher educator at a historically black college and university (HBCU). Such personal connections and identified issues led me not only to serve on the AACTE Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy but also to engage in AACTE’s “Day on the Hill.”
AACTE’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee is as way for me to provide support, experience, and advice in an area that I feel honored to have some expertise in—early childhood teacher education—to affect change at the highest level of the United States Government through the AACTE community. I have always said, “I trust my leaders, but they always need to have access to all of the information and the right information to make a comprehensively informed decision.” I lay that same claim to politicians and other policy makers and enforcers. This committee has given me much additional excitement because I not only see changes happening, but also, I believe that my small, humble contributions help make a difference.
This article is a personal reflection of the 2021 Washington Week Holmes Policy Institute by attendee Kamilah Bywaters.
AACTE’s Holmes Policy Institute was literally “a breath of fresh air.” The gathering was a reminder of the extraordinary leaders within our nation who are dedicated and committed to forward thinking ideas that are good for all of humanity. I was more than thrilled to hear from Jessica Cardichon, assistant secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development with the U.S. Department of Education. Her specific role that day was to inform Holmes Scholars of the initiatives and goals of the Biden Administration. To top it off, Nick Lee, the deputy assistant secretary for higher education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development with the U.S. Department of Education, provided valuable information on one of the objectives to ensure that higher education is equity focused and affordable to underserved and underrepresented communities. I am filled with hope to know that many of our nation’s leaders listen to the communities they serve and strive to implement policy that provides access and does good in the world.
As we enter September, we are just weeks away from AACTE’s Day on the Hill, the Association’s premiere advocacy event. Participation in the event is critical to helping advance AACTE’s legislative priorities and highlighting the importance of teacher preparation programs. If you have not participated in Day on the Hill, or if you need a refresher, you may be wondering what attendees will be advocating for during their meetings with Members of Congress and congressional staffers. The AACTE team has posted a variety of Washington Week resources on the to help guide participants.
In many cases, you will be familiar with the issues: the importance of TEACH Grants, which are critical to helping students enter the teaching profession while helping to address shortages in hard-to-staff fields and schools; Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP), which helps strengthen the teacher pipeline; and a variety of other bills that will help make sure our nation’s classrooms are staffed with profession-ready, diverse group of educators.
While it is helpful to review these materials ahead of Day on the Hill sessions, please know that we will discuss the political landscape and AACTE’s legislative priorities before meeting with members of congress to help you become more comfortable with advocacy. And there will be several other panels to help you understand why advocacy is important and how you can have successful meetings.
If you haven’t already, I hope you will plan to join us for our Day on the Hill. To register, please visit AACTE’s website.
Beth Kubitskey, ACSR Midwest Region representative and president of the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, recently shared her experience as a State Leaders Institute attendee and what she’s looking forward to at this year’s virtual event during Washington Week.
Why do you believe it is important for AACTE members to actively advocate for education?
One of the reasons I think it is vital for AACTE members to advocate for education is because we are the experts. Still, often we are so busy doing the work that we do, we have to remind ourselves that we need to be proactive, not reactive. Often by the time we finally receive word on a bill, law, or state policy, it has already moved through many processes.
And so, we are not aware of those kinds of things before they get to far down the road, and we lose our opportunity to have an impact. There are multiple examples of where we are more likely to succeed if we can get that information early and be proactive.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll participate in my first Day on the Hill as a member of the AACTE Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy. I am really excited by the opportunity and want to invite you to participate. Like many AACTE members, I have worked with city and state elected officials, policymakers, and representatives from state agencies. But speaking with members of Congress and their staffs offers an opportunity for even greater engagement.
As leaders in education, AACTE members all know that we must be outward facing, managing our colleges while we tell our story to many stakeholders. That story is what enticed most of us to get in this line of work in the first place. We all advocate for our needs and interests all the time, and although our interests may not be identical, they are often closely related regardless of our institutions. Some of us push for greater equity in teacher preparation programs. We want to diversify the teacher pipeline and the resultant teacher workforce, knowing how vital representation along the lines of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual identity is to students across the country.
Are you following highlights of the AACTE 2021 Washington Week on Facebook and Twitter at #AACTEWW21? In addition to blog posts and testimonial videos, AACTE recently released a Washington Week infographic on social media. Check it out below!
Brian P. Yusko, president of the Ohio Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, provides insight into the impact the State Leaders Institute has on state leaders and affiliate members in the Q&A article.
Why do you believe it is important for AACTE members to actively advocate for education?
In our current political climate, educational policy is highly contested, with strong advocates for multiple competing goals of schooling. Many lawmakers feel comfortable proposing changes in P-12 educational policy without necessarily understanding all the implications for teacher preparation. If teacher educators are not at the table, policymakers are liable to make decisions that run counter to what we know about quality teacher education.
AACTE’s annual Day on the Hill, the association’s premiere advocacy event, is scheduled for September 21-23. It is a unique opportunity to engage with your Members of Congress about the critical work you do. But some may wonder, “What do I get out of participating?”
First and foremost, you can explain to policymakers the importance of the teaching profession and why it is important to invest in teacher preparation programs to help address the teacher shortage and diversify the profession. Even before the pandemic, the teacher shortage was a critical issue for our nation. Studies and news reports indicate that COVID will make the problem more acute. Fortunately, President Biden has proposed historic funding increases for programs AACTE has long supported, like the Teacher Quality Partnerships, and doubling of the TEACH Grants, which are critical to training student to teach in high needs schools or fields. Your voice is critical to helping this legislation pass.
Hear from outstanding speakers regarding advancing educational equity and policy and promoting culturally sustaining practices in education:
AACTE is excited to announce Congressman Mondaire Jones will participate in its 2021 Washington Week virtual conference Holmes Program. Representative Jones serves on the House Committee on Education and Labor. He is a champion of public education and understands that a quality education leads to intergenerational mobility.
About Rep. Mondaire Jones
Congressman Jones is serving his first term as the Congressman from New York’s 17th District, encompassing all of Rockland County and parts of central and northern Westchester County.
A product of East Ramapo public schools, Rep. Jones was raised in Section 8 housing and on food stamps in the Village of Spring Valley by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide for their family.