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Michigan School Board Members Advocate on Capitol Hill

Jeff Cobb

By Jeff Cobb, MASB Assistant Director of Government Relations

and

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Feb. 5, 2020

Seventy board members and superintendents from Michigan attended the 2020 National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Institute in Washington D.C. this past week. Second only to Texas, it was a strong showing of passionate and committed members representing their boards and public education in general. In all, more than 820 school board members from across the country descended on our nation’s Capitol to stand up for public education.

Michigan’s delegation began the conference with a lunch featuring NSBA’s new Chief Advocacy Officer Chip Slaven. He gave an overview of what to expect from the conference and the importance of the issues they are highlighting.

Headlining the conference were Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson, political consultant Mark McKinnon and Federal Communication Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Mr. Robinson discussed the current political climate and the coming political realignment of the Republican party. Mr. McKinnon shared his advice on how we can share our stories most effectively with our legislators. Lastly, Commissioner Rosenworcel discussed how the federal government is helping expand high-speed broadband to help close the homework gap. All three speakers provided great perspectives on what is happening nationally.

The conference wrapped up with a panel of four students and one teacher from Baltimore County Public Schools. It gave a different perspective of how the work of school board members affects students. Each student talked about a favorite teacher and how they made a difference in their life, as well as what they think students today need most when it comes to learning. All four looked to technology and how it has enhanced their learning experience. One of the students even serves on the Baltimore County Public Schools Board of Education.

Michigan's full delegation attended MASB’s annual Senate Breakfast in the Russell Senate Office Building. Sen. Debbie Stabenow spoke about the many issues that touch education, including reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, child nutrition and the federal budget. Sen. Gary Peters spoke about some of the issues he’s been working on and his support for more post-secondary opportunities and career and technical education in schools. Both Senators also expressed the need for more funding under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Sen. Stabenow also told everyone to “be loud” about public education; Congress needs to hear how the federal budget and other issues are affecting districts.

All 14 of Michigan’s Congressional offices were visited by our delegates. Topics addressed in those meetings included fully funding IDEA, maintaining funding for Title II for professional development programs, allowing the refinancing of bonds and issues specific to our schools in Michigan.

Many thanks to the attendees who made the trip to Washington, D.C. for this conference. We hope they’ll share their experiences with others and urge all of you make your voices heard. Making sure your Congressperson and Senators hear directly from constituents, especially those elected within their community, about the real effects of decisions made in Washington is key to building support and changing minds.

We encourage you to make a difference by picking up the phone or emailing a message to your member of Congress. And if we can be of assistance, please contact us.

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