Close to 100 education advocates made February 18th—President’s Day—a day of civic engagement by traveling to the state capitol, meeting with legislators, and discussing important education priorities.
The education advocates—parents, teachers, students, and other community members from districts across Oregon—attended Stand for Children’s 2013 Lobby Day to be a strong voice for all children.
Ann Burgess, a fourth grade teacher from Eugene, came to Lobby Day to share more about how the budget cuts have affected her students and school. Burgess said, “I feel that when Stand joins with me, we come as a team. I have the benefit of being well-prepared, appointments are made, [and] it’s easy to have access to the legislature where we’re meeting in a small group, we are having a close conversation, and we are able to dialogue—and that’s wonderful.” She highlighted that Lobby Day is “an opportunity for my voice to be heard, [and] it’s also an opportunity for me to be informed.”
Several students from Portland State University and over 30 community members from Adelante Mujeres came to Lobby Day to learn more about how the legislative process works and how to advocate effectively.
Camelia Mayfield, a junior studying Social Work at Portland State, shared her experience: “I was surprised with how willing the legislators are to give you ten or fifteen minutes of [their] time if you make an appointment.” Mayfield, her classmates, and community members from Adelante Mujeres attended several meetings with legislators. She added that it was wonderful to be able “to support each other, even if only a few people wanted to share their stories with their representatives.”
Stand’s Lobby Day began with an overview of its education priorities and legislative agenda, followed by a valuable skills-building session for members and friends of Stand. This training empowered education advocates by giving them the opportunity to: conduct discussions regarding critical education issues, practice storytelling and lobbying strategies, and prepare for meetings with local legislators.
After the training, advocates met with House Speaker Tina Kotek, and Sen. Mark Hass, chair of the Senate education committee, where they learned more about important steps our state must take to improve school funding. Some steps included exploring property tax reform options and controlling the rising costs of PERS benefits.
Members and friends of Stand found that Oregon school funding is very complex and many issues are inter-connected. Since streams of funding for school budgets come from federal, state, intermediate, and local resources, Oregon must consider healthcare, PERS, prison spending, demographic trends, and union and business interests, as the state works on school funding issues.
Over lunch, education advocates connected with Ben Cannon and Duke Shepard from Governor Kitzhaber’s office. This working lunch helped advocates gain more information on the Governor’s vision for a unified Pre-K to 20 education system. They also learned that such a system would aim to help every student succeed; it would also control certain costs so that Oregon could better fund schools.
Lunch was followed by a meeting with Sen. Richard Devlin from the Ways and Means Committee. This meeting helped advocates deepen their understanding of how the budget process works in Salem.
In the late afternoon, education advocates met with 36 elected leaders who are responsible for making key decisions that shape education policies and funding. This unique, face to face opportunity gave advocates a platform to share their personal stories so that their elected leaders can make more well-informed decisions that promote education equity and student achievement.
These legislative meetings helped education advocates engage in crucial conversations with elected leaders on what can be done to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education.
By the end of the day, many advocates explained that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to helping all kids receive an equal opportunity to succeed in school, career, and life. This sense of responsibility encouraged advocates to get other community members to be part of a coordinated effort to sustain more high-quality schools and programs for all children.
Mayfield reflected on the power of being able to share compelling stories with local legislators, “It was empowering to see the Adelante Mujeres women talk directly to the legislators for the district they live in, even though many of them can’t register to vote, this is a way for their voices to be heard in government.”
This Lobby Day is one of many events that illustrate Stand’s commitment to helping everyday people become effective advocates. For over a decade, Stand has been a leader in bringing informed, passionate education advocates to the legislature to be a voice for children. Stand’s work continues to inspire more people to be heard and to engage with our legislators about how we can make Oregon a better place for all of our children.