2017: The Year of School Superintendent Advocacy


The Advocate
February 2017

Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, Policy and Advocacy
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

With a new year, a new Congress, and a new administration, now is as good a time as ever to issue an advocacy challenge. And while here at AASA we focus on federal advocacy, the premise of this month’s article can apply just as readily to state and local advocacy.

When it comes to advocacy, Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I have found someone to pay us full time to do advocacy. When you—AASA’s members—do advocacy, it is in addition to your day-time job of running a school system. A large part of our job is to support AASA members in their advocacy efforts and it is an explicit benefit of belonging to both AASA and SAI to have support for advocacy.

Tying back to an idea we outlined in the October edition of School Administrator, advocacy can be as quick as 15 minutes a month (5 minutes a week). Peruse the full issue, or read the feature article on the role of superintendent as advocate. Which brings me to the 2017 advocacy challenge.

Each month of this year, our team will identify a topic or two—whether driven by the AASA legislative agenda or by current goings on with Congress or the administration—and provide advocacy support. That is, we’ll give a bit of quick background on the topic, explain the relevant policy proposals and implications, and then share a few talking points that you can use to weigh in with your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both your Senators). You can take that information to craft your monthly outreach—contacting one office per week—to your Congressional delegation, to relay the policy priorities in the context of what it means for your schools and the students you serve.

We stand by ready to answer any questions you may have. Do you not know the name or email address of the education staffer in your Senator’s office? We can provide that for you. Are you interested in seeing who from your state serves on certain House or Senate committees? Did your Congress member reach out with a different question, and you’d like information about that? We can get that to you.

We are using the February advocacy challenge to make an introduction and extend an invite. Congress is adjourned for recess at regular intervals, meaning they will be in their home districts frequently. Recess is an opportune time to invite your elected officials (and/or their education staffers) to see your schools in action. Highlight your programs that are excelling (After school? English Learner support? Early education? Credit Recovery?). Give examples where you could do more with better federal support (High class sizes? Teacher shortages? Limited opportunity for CTE?). Facilitate a community conversation with stakeholders about ESSA (or education technology, or school nutrition, or rural education).

  • Introduce yourself and your district. Enrollment, free/reduced lunch rate, community type, etc.
  • Introduce your state association and its role in helping facilitate/convene roundtable conversations with member superintendents.
  • Introduce AASA as the national organization for school superintendents (and feel free to copy one of us on your outreach!).
  • Extend the invitation for the visit and ask who you should coordinate with to set it up.
  • Extend the opportunity for them to reach out to you as they have questions and consider various policies in Congress; let them know that you’d be happy to tell them what it would look like in your district and for specific things to consider.
  • Indicate that you will be reaching out over the course of the year on federal advocacy priorities and that you look forward to working with them.

It is an introductory round this first month, and will be more substantive and policy-specific next month.

Thank you, in advance, for your continued advocacy efforts and support for AASA advocacy. And, as always let us know if you need anything.