Save the Date! Get Ready for LegCon 2020

I can hardly believe that the 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference (LegCon) is just a few months away. It has always been my favorite event because it is PTAs’ opportunity to use our voices to improve the lives of children and families.

Advocacy is at the core of our association’s mission and vision. Our legacy in advocacy started over 120 years ago when our founders organized over 2000 parents to speak on behalf of children and continued to lead the way in improving their lives. Through our members’ persistent commitment to advocacy, National PTA has played an integral role in landmark federal education legislation and policies. At this year’s #PTALegCon, we will continue to empower the nation towards making every child’s potential a reality.

This year our theme is PTA Takes Action for Kids! and we will do just that when PTA members from across the national descend on Capitol Hill to advocate for policies that support, advance and protect our nation’s youth.

This year’s LegCon is being held at the Westin Alexandria in Old Town—just a hop, skip and a jump from Washington D.C. We will have the opportunity to network with fellow PTA advocates, meet with policymakers and learn how to shape public policy on Capitol Hill and in your own state. Don’t miss this chance to expand your knowledge and have your voices heard!

As a constituent, your grassroots perspective is extremely valuable to elected officials and their staff. During our #PTALegCon Capitol Hill Day, Wednesday, March 11, you will be able to inform lawmakers about which federal programs are serving our children well and which ones are failing them. Federal policymakers work to improve the lives of children and families and they want to hear directly from the people they represent.

Never underestimate the power of your voice! We all want to improve education, and LegCon 2020 will be the perfect time to call upon the 116th Congress to take action. Let’s let them know how they can make a difference in the lives of all children.

Attending #PTALegCon is also about improving and sharpening your advocacy skills! Regardless of your level of advocacy knowledge, we will have something for everyone! Not only will you have the opportunity to hear from policy experts during our workshops, you will hear from your peers that are experts in diverse areas of advocacy. These experts will guide you through the policy landscape and equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively advocate on these issues.

You will leave better prepared to engage in policy discussions with lawmakers, advocates and members of your community. We are confident you will return to your home states feeling fully self-reliant and ready to speak for every child with one voice!

Lastly, we are beyond thrilled to announce our Keynote Speaker for the Advocacy Awards dinner is Rodney Robinsonthe 2019 National Teacher of the Year. He is a powerful, thoughtful and inspiring speaker and is sure to bring all of us to our feet!

Join us! Register here to attend the 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference


About the Author:

Yvonne Johnson is the Vice President of Advocacy, Chair of the Legislation Committee, and member of the board of directors for National PTA.

 

Meet Today’s PTA Advocate: Yvonne Johnson

Today’s post comes from Yvonne Johnson, National PTA’s 2014 Advocacy Ambassador and DE PTA’s Federal Legislative Chair. Ms. Johnson has many years of child advocacy experience with the Delaware PTA, and is a passionate advocate for education issues. In her piece, she shares a recent advocacy win and the strategy used to obtain it. Passion, patience and determination are key to creating positive change for every child. For resources on becoming a better advocate, visit pta.org/advocacy.

PTA_Takes_Action_Dinner YvonneWhen I think of advocacy, it is like second nature for me. Of course, it was not always like that. The first time I set my mind to change something I had no idea how to begin. But, the most important ingredient in advocacy is a passion to change something. That is something we all have in common as PTA members: a desire to make a difference or to change the status quo.

A great example of this comes from recent efforts in Delaware. Last year, there was a proposal from the administration of my local district to create inclusion in all our schools. I live in the largest school district in Delaware. Our district is highly in demand, as it offers many choices for families: magnets, charters, specialized programs, and traditional settings. We also have the only public school in the state that offers a K to 8 model. The district administration decided, without consulting families, that they would force all students that require special education services to go to their feeder school, and the special schools and programs many students had been attending would be eliminated. PTA of course supports inclusion with the right supports and resources in place. However, the district was pushing to eliminate any program that would be stand alone. For example, our English Language Learner (ELL) population attends schools only with ELL programs. The district proposed that these students be sent to a mainstream setting without providing them a dual language program or any other supports in order for them to learn. Additionally, the district proposed that students with highly specialized needs be mainstreamed without additional nurses or paraprofessionals in the school, or other such supports as necessary.

Many of these families were quite upset, claiming that their children had already tried the mainstream or inclusion setting, but did not fare well. These parents wanted the option to keep their children in special programs if that was their choice. In Delaware choice is used by a majority of families, and the district was essentially taking this away from families! PTA argued that the district was taking away the parent’s right to choose the best fit for their student, based on what their IEP dictated and the student needed.

The school board was making the decision. After polling them it appeared the vote would be 6 yes and 1 no to move to this inclusion plan. So PTA got to work. We forced the district to have numerous public sessions to gain comment and concern from the community and parents. Each parent met individually with board members, and PTA met with the administration, to share their concerns about the plan, which was more like a timeline for implementation. We garnered support from our local legislators and educated them on the subject, and made certain that their constituents emailed, called and wrote to them about their opposition to the plan. The icing on the cake was when we discovered that the district was planning to ask for a tax hike (referendum) to sustain programs in the schools the following year. PTA simply told district leaders that it would be very tough to gain support from parents, teachers or the community if they could not support families in this inclusion situation.

After hours of work, meetings, research, op-eds in the newspaper, bloggers, social media postings, numerous public meetings (and a lot of coffee!), the vote was scheduled for the March School Board meeting. Hundreds of PTA members, dressed in a Red Shirt, attended the meeting. We each went to the microphone and just said “VOTE NO!” After 2 and half hours of this, there were four proposals. The first one, 6 NOs and 1 YES! The other three did not even get a second to the motion. We did it! We were successful in showing the school board that the plan was inadequate and inappropriate. We were effective in showing the school board that we want families included in the planning and discussions of their children’s schools. We were victorious in making a statement about never underestimating the power of a parent’s voice!

Up next are numerous committees to gain public input on the plan forward. There has been a link added to our local school district’s website. Everyone who offered comment received a letter from the superintendent inviting them to participate in these collaborative committees to ascertain that the plan that is put forth is the right one for all students! Working together, PTA was able to make a different for the students in this district.