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Starting a State Advocacy Day

by Clarissa West-White, Editor, SLATE Update
March 2009

Over the next several installments of the SLATE Update, Clarissa West-White will chronicle the start-up of Florida’s Day on the Hill in hopes that fellow NCTE members will consider chartering similar days in their states.

It took only one trip to NCTE’s Day on the Hill to be bitten by the political bug. After visiting legislative aides to Florida senators and congressional representatives, and being repeatedly told that many of our concerns within the state needed to be addressed at the local level, it was clear that a state advocacy day would be essential to influence policy. And thus it began.

Initially, there were more questions than answers and this once deemed necessity was quickly turning into a wistful fantasy. Along with fellow board member Susan Houser, talks about how to initiate a Florida state advocacy day for teachers, specifically English teachers, began. We discussed NCTE’s format and found that it was conducive to our goals. We corresponded often via email and proposed a session at the 2008 Florida Council of Teachers of English Professional Development Institute in order to gauge interest for a state advocacy day, and to drum up participants for NCTE’s national advocacy day.  The session was well received. Five respondents showed and committed to assist in planning the state advocacy day and attending D.C. in 2009. During the session I presented a moviemaker presentation pieced from photographs taken in April along with narrative regarding what to expect when journeying to D.C., and Susan discussed the role and purpose of advocacy and how to schedule appointments with their representatives, and shared personal experiences from her encounters with aides, Congressional representatives, and Senators.

At the January 2009 winter board meeting, the SLATE/Legislative committee presented a motion requesting that $1 of each membership be allocated for advocacy and that this money (and other designated funds) fund four FCTE members to attend NCTE’s Day on the Hill in D.C. this April. The motion carried!

However, we are still at work on making Florida’s Day on the Hill a reality. A quick search of the state’s website led to the discovery of an email exclusively for soliciting information. This inquiry was forwarded and within a day, procedures for declaring a state day, procuring space, determining whether we needed to file as lobbyists, and other loose ends were received. Actually, the steps are quite simple in Florida; there are no forms to complete, or a lengthy list of people to contact. However, over the course of the last few weeks, we have determined that it may be best to witness the organizing of the event up close.  Thus, we tentatively plan to accompany other associations during this legislative session and then meet over the summer to coordinate Florida’s Advocacy Day for Teachers for 2010.

To be continued…

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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts