By Amanda Litvinov
Whether you are a new or veteran educator, the start of a new school year can be overwhelming. The entire community counts on educators to set up the school, help students get situated, and solve whatever problems crop up along the way.
But your community is also counting on you to keep advocating for the resources your students deserve, by telling local, state, and federal policymakers what your kids need to succeed. The educator voice is trusted and needs to be heard.
For Alaska special education teacher Winter Marshall-Allen, being an educator-activist means calling for better school funding and restorative justice practices to ensure that her special needs students are treated fairly and receive the services they need.
Marshall-Allen uses more than just facts and figures to make her case with policymakers. It’s the personal stories that resonate, and her own story is a starting point.
“I would not have my current job and opportunities as an educator were it not for the efforts of social justice and civil rights activists who preceded me,” says Marshall-Allen. “I had an Individualized Education Plan for visual impairment thanks to the American with Disabilities Act. Now, I am able to advocate for those who might be seen as less able or undeserving because they differ from societal expectations.”
True, it can be hard to find time for advocacy work, which can be emotionally taxing. But it’s worth it, says Marshall-Allen.
“Fighting with one’s heart is the most rewarding and significant display of love we can show our students,” she says. “Advocating for education and seeing how that affects my community and my students reaffirms that the struggle is worth it.”
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Add Everyone Who Represents You to Your Mobile Contacts
Include all elected leaders—from your district school board members to your members of Congress—with their D.C. and back-home office numbers! Be ready to hold them accountable, and thank them when they do right by public schools.
Get the News that Public School Advocates Need
EducationVotes.org is an essential resource that helps busy educators stay in-the-know on state and national politics, legislation, and events that affect public education. It offers quick and easy ways to support good initiatives, speak out against bad ones, and share your story with decision makers.
Follow EdVotes on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t miss a beat. For more on what’s happening on Capitol Hill, sign up for NEA’s Education Insider. You’ll receive federal legislative updates on the topics of most interest to you, plus action alerts to let you know when it’s time to reach out to the folks who represent you in Congress.
Finally, check out your state association website and make sure you’re taking advantage of the insights and information their political experts have to offer. Follow your state association on social media and sign up for legislative newsletters or text alerts.
Start Spreading the Word
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Make sure everyone in your networks knows that you care passionately about public education—and show them how they can help us defend it!
“Like” Speak Up for Education & Kids, and share EdVotes articles on Facebook and Twitter (follow our feed!). And make sure you’re connected to your state association’s social media, too.
But don’t forget what always works best—face-to-face conversations are still the most potent tool for engaging others. Activism starts with the everyday conversations you have with friends, your family, colleagues and people you meet. By knowing your issues and actively listening to what others have to say, you are more likely to encourage others to get involved in the fight to invest in our public schools.
Make Your Voice Heard in the 2020 Presidential Election
November 2020 is more than a year away, you say? True, but the presidential candidates are defining their education policy right now, and debating the issues.
That’s why NEA has already launched its Strong Public Schools 2020 campaign. Now is the time for educators to get involved and ensure that their voices are heard—by their union, by the presidential candidates, and within their own communities.
Go to StrongPublicSchools.org to:
• Find information about the 2020 candidates and compare their positions on important issues;
• locate events hosted by presidential candidates and NEA;
• and learn about every step of NEA’s candidate recommendation process.