20th Anniversary Advocacy Day Lays the Groundwork for Continuing Engagement
May 30, 2013
Having recently returned from Washington D.C., CCSA's President and Chief Executive Officer, Jed Wallace offered perspective. "Participation in Advocacy Day by parents and charter school leaders represents the culmination of a year-long celebration of charter schools in California and is a fitting way to honor National Charter Schools Week, held May 5-11, 2013," continued Wallace.
Assembly Education Committee Chair Joan Buchanan and Assembly Education Committee Vice Chair Kristin Olsen opened the day's program. "Today, it's more important than ever that every child receives a high quality education," said Assemblymember Buchanan. "We need to make a deeper commitment to our children. We need to find that common ground because our children need us. Let's figure out a way to join hands for the benefit of our children."
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen commented, "Charter schools prove the impossible possible...as we work together you are part of the solution. We can turn the state of education around in California."
After hearing from legislative leaders, CCSA staff worked to ensure that all participants, many of whom had never before met with a legislator in the State Capitol, were ready to tell the charter story.
"Charter leaders and parents are able to tell their personal charter story in a powerful way that impacts public policy," said Laura Kerr, CCSA's Managing Regional Director for the Northeast and Central Valley. "The 20th Anniversary Advocacy Day event was featured as an example of how state organizations can honor National Charter Schools Week by advocating for a more favorable policy environment for charter schools."
"Not only did these charter school representatives tell their charter story, they also made clear statewide charter school priorities," commented Tanya Hoffman, CCSA's Director, Legislative Affairs. "By participating, it tells legislators that you support your school, the charter school movement and education reform."
In meeting with nearly half of the California Legislature, charter school enthusiasts helped to build and nurture meaningful relationships with local legislators. While Advocacy Day provided a memorable impression of charter school success, the work of engaging policymakers continues throughout the year. In addition to dispelling myths, this ongoing educational effort helps to ensure that legislators recognize the work that charter schools are doing to transform public education.
"With so many newly elected legislators, Advocacy Day was an excellent opportunity for legislators to learn more about charter schools and hear from voters in their district," said Myrna Castrejon, CCSA's Senior Vice President, Government Affairs. "It puts a face on issues, helping legislators to know who their decisions affect and realize that charter schools have strength in numbers."
Monica Jones, a parent of a 12th grade student at Sacramento Charter High School reminds all of us that "we are stakeholders in our children's education." With that said, CCSA will continue to work with members to advocate for funding equity and expanded facilities access, and to oppose bills which would reduce charter school autonomy and flexibility. With updated information about state revenues available in mid-May, members should closely monitor the Capitol Update for Action Alerts.
Some participants, like Mary Searcy Bixby, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Altus Network of Charter Schools, have been attending charter school advocacy events for years. "I love participating in this effort because it reminds me of the many gifted people in charter schools who will go that extra mile to help our movement serve students in high caliber settings conducive to learning. CCSA Advocacy Day 2013 was an extraordinary demonstration of all the energy and passion that is so characteristic of our charter schools. Our charter leaders were able to articulate the inequity of those flawed bills we oppose."
Advocacy Day provides an opportunity to help legislators become more familiar with issues impacting charter schools. Proposed bills that parents and school leaders discussed with elected officials included CCSA's sponsored legislation AB 948, which allows more charter public schools to access state facilities, and AB 913, which participants urged legislators to reject because it imposes new, unnecessary, conflict of interest requirements for charter schools.
In addition to advocating for charter friendly public policy, Advocacy Day is an opportunity to create a memorable impression that is more meaningful than numbers on spreadsheets. "In the late hours of a legislative session, the hope is that legislators recall the stories shared by charter leaders and parents about schools making a real difference - uplifting struggling students and helping each student to be their best," concluded Wallace.
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