Keeping advocacy focused

Tightening budgets in many states and local school districts (including the one in which I live) remind me of the importance of having a focused advocacy message for library positions/technology budgets.   Texas is facing a severe budget shortfall, as is my local city’s school district, and library and technology budgets are on the line with drastic cuts proposed.

Last spring I had the opportunity to hear the inspirational Spokane Moms, amazing parent advocates from Spokane who had many insightful suggestions about how to effectively advocate for a cause at the state and local levels (my blog post about their very important points is here).

They emphasized again and again how much the voice of parents and businesses matter, but that the message must always be focused on students, not on the staff.  

Hearing that both local library positions are threatened, as is the state technology fund allotment to schools–I think it’s imperative that we focus on who this ultimately impacts–our students, our future leaders, employees, innovators, designers, entrepeneurs, and college students.

As the Spokane Moms suggest we need to:

1)  Make sure parents know the impact of recommended cuts

2)  Appeal to what is important for each constituency.  If we are speaking to state legislators, what is important in THEIR districts?    If we are speaking to local school boards, what is important in THEIR district/school?  

3)  Keep it focused on students, students, students.  How do the cuts impact their learning experience or disadvantage them?

4)  Use the power of local businesses and the business community.  Do these cuts affect their future employees?  Does it affect their community?   How is this important to them?

5)  Utilize the power of social media.   I’ve watched in awe the last two weeks as parents in the Austin school district have organized via Facebook, Twitter, and pooled their efforts into a website that is used by all the schools.  In a completely grass-roots effort, they created a common hashtag #saveatxschools and common Facebook group pages, then organized events like picnics, marches, tshirts, signage, all using the power of social media to garner the attention of the conventional media.  

6)  Remember that parents are central to effective advocacy both locally and statewide.  They want the best for their children as all of us do for their students.  They vote and their voices and participation in this process matters.

On these two issues–library funding both state and local, and the state technology allotment, there are important issues at stake.   And we have to keep reminding everyone that this is about our students, our children, and their learning and future.   That message can ring through loud and clear.

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