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In March 2017, the education community woke to a daunting professional learning crisis: The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget proposed elimination of the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program (Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act). As educators face increasingly higher demands for student outcomes in a more diverse population, it’s astonishing that the Administration would even consider eliminating the only dedicated source of federal funding for professional learning and educator support.

For several months, Learning Forward has been asking each of you to help us contact every member of the U.S. Congress to let them know how critical Title IIA funds are to your work, your students, and your communities. If this is the first time you’ve been directly asked to advocate for any cause, you may be asking, “Who, me? What could I possibly share that would be of interest to lawmakers?” I’m here to tell you that your resume is perfect for this job.

As experts in education and as voters, you are exactly the right messengers to help lawmakers understand that Title IIA funding is critical to our country’s educational and economic success.

Lawmakers are not often educators, and their insight (and that of their staff) is limited to their own experiences as students. The educational climate has changed since they, and likely even their children have been in school. Your voice, impact data, and stories can help them appreciate what is actually happening in today’s classrooms, schools, and communities. You are particularly qualified to highlight where real needs exist.

Members of Congress and their staff want to hear from you whether they support Title IIA funding or are opposed to it. As supporters, they will use your experiences to make the case for Title IIA funding amongst their colleagues. If they are opposed, they need to understand clearly what the consequences would be if this critical funding were eliminated.

Learning Forward is excited to help you realize your potential as an advocate. We invite you to join us for our education advocacy sessions at our Annual Conference in Orlando. During these sessions, we will discuss the current political climate on Capitol Hill, and the status of Title IIA and other education funding. We will talk about what you, as an education expert and advocate, can do to impact the situation, and provide strategies to find and present data to make a compelling case for keeping Title IIA intact. We will explore essential steps for reaching out to members of Congress, including timelines, frequency of outreach, and getting your colleagues involved. We will also discuss what can be done now to protect Title IIA from future budget threats.

Your participation is already making a difference—we have confirmation from Senate staff that they are hearing from our community. And, thanks in part to your powerful stories, the Senate included funding for Title IIA in their version of the budget. But this is an ongoing battle, not simply a one-time fight. We all need to be vigilant and determined to see this through for the long-term. Please join us in Orlando to engage, to get reinvigorated and to be part of a community effort to make a difference.

Until then, we have a range of resources you can access to build your advocacy skills. We’ve just completed a series of four webinars on speaking up for federal funding for professional learning – you can find those webinars here.

Melinda George
org) is chief policy officer at Learning