Advocacy: Your Voice is Important. You are an Advocate.
School board members are advocates for the schools in their community. That advocacy is critical to the success of students, teachers and administrators and the efficient operation of local schools. CASB is constantly in contact with school board members across the state, and it gathers their suggestions, concerns and policy ideas at meetings throughout the year.
CASB’s advocacy team represents the best interests of school boards as it interacts with education organizations, political leaders and business leaders at the state and national levels. When legislative proposals concerning education are being considered and developed, CASB is there to protect the interests of local school boards and to provide data, advice and assistance to legislators.
The perspective of school boards is a critical component in the creation of legislation that respects local control and focuses on the success of all students. And in fact, school boards, working with CASB, have for decades helped shape significant legislation involving K–12 education in Colorado.
In this chapter, we will discuss ways you can be involved in advocacy and in helping to define CASB’s policy agenda, and we’ll outline CASB tools and resources you can use in your district and beyond.
Shaping a Statewide Policy Agenda
Legislative Resolutions Committee
School board members play a critical role in determining CASB’s legislative platform and priorities. Each summer, CASB issues a call-for-resolutions request to every member school board as an opportunity to provide input on public education issues for the next legislative session. CASB compiles the proposed resolutions, prepares research data and distributes the information to the Legislative Resolutions Committee, which reviews resolutions and makes recommendations to the CASB Delegate Assembly. Additionally, the committee reviews legislative proposals, discusses issues and advises CASB staff of the issues school board members would like brought to the attention of the General Assembly.
CASB’s Delegate Assembly meets in the fall to establish the legislative priorities, resolutions and beliefs of the association. Each member school board is encouraged to name one member as a voting delegate. During the assembly, proposed resolutions are debated, amended, approved or rejected; additional resolutions may be submitted from the floor. Members of the Legislative Resolutions Committee are on hand to answer questions from delegates about the committee’s recommendations and to offer insight into a particular issue.
The resolutions adopted by the assembly provide a framework to guide CASB’s advocacy efforts and set the general direction for the legislative program for the following year. In January, the CASB Board of Directors prioritizes resolutions passed at the Delegate Assembly and gives guidance to staff for action during the General Assembly. Throughout the legislative session, the Legislative Resolutions Committee meets regularly to analyze implications of proposed legislation and decide the positions the advocacy team will take on introduced bills.
Federal Relations Network Committee
Through CASB’s Federal Relations Network, the advocacy team and committee members keep in touch with Colorado’s congressional delegation to convey the position of local school boards on federal issues and respond to lobbying requests from the National School Boards Association. Every year, CASB representatives travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby the Colorado congressional delegation about local concerns regarding the effect unfunded federal mandates have on Colorado’s public education. The committee closely follows federal legislation and keeps members informed about federal issues and how they impact local school districts.
Advocacy Begins at Home
Communicating your challenges and successes to policymakers is a key role and responsibility during your time on the school board.
As a board member, you have tremendous credibility with legislators – they often mention how important it is for them to hear from school board members on education issues. Additionally, you speak as another elected public official, in touch with your community and charged with doing what is right for your constituents.
Connecting with Legislators
One of the best ways to make connections with legislators is to invite them to schools and school board meetings. This helps create a bond with the board and the community, and it opens a channel of communication to discuss the needs of Colorado’s schools and students and to celebrate the successes of education in Colorado.
Close connections are best made before the legislative session so lawmakers can recall previous conversations when board members make contact during the heat of committee hearings or at the end of the session.
As you advocate on behalf of your school district, the single most powerful force in state lobbying is the influence of those living and working in the district of each elected legislator. In order for you to become a strong advocate for your district, it is important to know the keys to effective lobbying and to create an Individualized Lobbying Plan (ILP) for your legislators.
Days at the Capitol
Back to School Week for Legislators
The National Conference of State Legislatures sponsors “America’s Legislators Back to School Week” in September. For more information, resources and marketing materials, visit www.ncsl.org. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This CASB advocacy program runs January through April during the legislative session and gives school board members – from rural districts tucked away in the mountains or spread out on the plains to large districts neighboring the state capitol – a chance to experience the legislative process firsthand. It’s a way to learn how the legislative process works, from observing the House and Senate from the floor to watching legislators in action at the Education Committee meetings to touring the capitol. Spending a day at the capitol also is an opportunity to build relationships with your legislators – meeting them face-to-face, inviting them to lunch or a school board meeting, or talking to them about your district’s successes, needs or concerns.