Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yes, education advocates can!

Proof that repeating your mantra can cause others to believe it (see Bush’s “We're fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here”) was on hand in Olympia yesterday as Mary Jean Ryan, chair of the state school board, repeated education advocates' current talking point to the press, “The legislature must pass the strongest education reform possible.”
"The prudent course to take legally is for the governor and the Legislature to pass the strongest legislation possible," Ryan said.
Could Ryan be repeating what an endless series of callers are telling her and their legislators every time she picks up her phone?

Evidence that activists’ tireless work calling, emailing and driving to Olympia is making a difference is satisfying. On the other hand, there’s also evidence that a lawsuit facing the state over its funding of education (or lack of it), plus the incentive of federal stimulus money contingent on reform are making big impressions as well.

Governor Gregoire's new warmth for the bill can be traced to the allure of federal money and worry about lawsuits over ed funding.

Ryan and new state schools chief Randy Dorn (endorsed by NPI) led a huge showing of education advocacy groups at an Olympia press conference yesterday in support of ESHB 2261, which redefines public education and how it is financed.

In an article about the press conference, the Tacoma News Tribune noted that “everyone” was pushing for the education bill, except for the state teachers union. Here is proof of the effectiveness of another advocacy tool, coalition building.

After seeing their long-awaited reform bill die in the Legislature, be resurrected in another form, and get hammered by the Washington Education Association, education advocacy groups finally pulled together by combining their messaging and message delivery, and it seems to be paying off.

What yesterday’s press conference showed was a united front of organizations supporting strong education reform legislation: the PTA, the League of Education Voters, the Public School Employees Union, the Service Employees International Union Local 925, Stand for Children, the Urban League, Partnership 4 Education and the Washington Technology Industry Alliance, plus one notably absent group, the Washington Education Association.

What can't the WEA see that the other groups can?

I am sure education advocates are aware of another advocacy principle: it’s not over until it’s over. With ten days left in the legislative session, there’s still plenty of work to do, although it is nice to see that the hard work is paying off.

Hopefully the big reward will follow.


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