For the fourth consecutive year, ASBO International and The School Superintendents Association (AASA) co-hosted the 2018 Legislative Advocacy Conference, July 10–12, in Washington, D.C. More than 250 school business officials, superintendents, and education advocates from across the nation attended the event to learn about K–12 policy issues and advocate for their schools and students on Capitol Hill.
Before the conference began, ASBO International’s Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC) came together to discuss the association’s 2018-2019 legislative beliefs and priorities and prepare for their Hill appointments to advocate for their districts and professional peers. The LAC discussed everything from the value of having SBOs advocate at the federal level, to best practices for speaking with elected officials, to which policy issues were affecting which districts the most, and more. ASBO members can find ASBO International’s legislative priorities and beliefs on the Legislative Resources webpage to learn more about the issues we are advocating about to support the profession.
The conference kicked off Tuesday afternoon with opening remarks from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech and ASBO International Chief Operations Officer Siobhán McMahon, immediately followed by a panel on education policy and news coverage under the Trump administration and current environment. The panel featured media reporters and analysts from Education Week, CNN, NPR, and the Center on Education and Policy, who shared what it’s like to work in their field today and how it all relates to what education practitioners are seeing on the front lines in their profession.
Tuesday’s schedule offered a variety of panels and sessions on other education issues, too. Topics included higher education issues and teacher shortages; new fiscal and financial requirements to prepare for under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); what’s changed and stayed the same regarding school segregation issues and how we can address the problem; and more. Later that evening, AASA and ASBO International provided an advocacy update to help attendees prepare for their Hill visits the following day, during which ASBO International Vice President Tom Wohlleber delivered remarks on how SBOs and superintendents can effectively work together as a team to drive positive change for their students and schools.
On Wednesday, school business officials and superintendents attended a Congressional breakfast to hear words of advice and inspiration from several senators, representatives, and federal agency officials before venturing off to Capitol Hill. VIP guests included Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan.
As attendees broke off into their own respective Hill visitation groups, ASBO International sent a group of school business leaders to meet with several officials to advocate for the profession and education. ASBO International staff accompanied Vice President Tom Wohlleber and LAC members Sharie Lewis, David Lewis, and Kelley Kitchen to discuss major issues affecting school business officials and districts across the country. They met with officials and staff from the offices of Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN).
ASBO International’s advocates, “ASBOcates,” urged Hill officials to continue investing in education programs (especially Title I, Title IV, IDEA, and CTE/Perkins) and asked for more flexibility with spending federal dollars. They tied the issue of underfunding to addressing other district challenges involving school safety, personnel training, school climate and mental health programs/services, and school infrastructure, and demonstrated how these issues were interconnected. ASBO International’s Hill Group also expressed concerns about how pending farm legislation could affect child nutrition and school meal programs, and how the federal government can continue providing support to reduce cumbersome requirements and regulations in healthcare and other areas. ASBO International members can find more talking points that district leaders shared with their officials here.
The conference wrapped up Thursday morning after several education panels and sessions recapped what attendees discussed on the Hill, discussed school connectivity issues and the federal E-Rate program, and forecasted how the 2018 midterm elections could affect federal and local education policy. Thanks to the participation and engagement of school district leaders across the country, the 2018 Legislative Advocacy Conference was a resounding success! We hope that even more school business leaders and superintendents will be able to join us next year in Washington, D.C., for the 2019 Legislative Advocacy Conference, July 8-10.
For more conference coverage of this education advocacy event, check out our Twitter hashtag feeds #ASBOcate and #AASAadv, and read AASA’s blog.