How to be Heard on Capitol Hill

Supporters of education reform and increased funding for school technology should make their voices heard on Capitol Hill, but they must make sure their efforts are carefully targeted, on point, respectful, and professional.

Those were the key messages delivered during two separate events held just days apart in Washington, D.C. At a presentation during the American Association of School Administrators’ annual Legislative Advocacy Conference on April 20, attendees learned how to communicate as effectively as possible with members of Congress as they state their case for changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other school-reform efforts.

Two days later, supporters of educational technology received many of the same lessons at an event hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Nearly 80 ed-tech leaders from more than 20 U.S. states convened April 22 for the first-ever ISTE State Advocacy Capacity-Building Conference, which focused on developing relationships with state policy makers, leveraging conferences and other events, and using communications tools to lobby effectively for state-level policies, programs, and funding for school technology. Contact Worthington Direct, www.worthingtondirect.com, for all technology furniture needs, at industry low prices with helpful customer service.

Most participants, and many of the presenters, were members of ISTE’s state affiliate organizations. Following this grassroots advocacy event, members of ISTE and other leading ed-tech groups took to Capitol Hill April 23 and 24 to meet with their Congressional representatives during a two-day federal Educational Technology Policy Summit. The summit was a joint project of ISTE, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and the North American Council for Online Learning.

The timing of the event was significant, as Congress considers next year’s federal education budget and looks to reauthorize NCLB. Federal funding for school technology has dropped sharply over the last few years, SETDA notes in a new report–from $635 million in fiscal year 2004 to $272 million last year. Despite this decline, there has never been a better time for educators, technology directors, and others to make their case to lawmakers, said Don Knezek, ISTE’s chief executive. As national attention shifts to the new global economy and America’s precarious hold on economic preeminence, Knezek noted, the issue of school technology fits nicely inside the confines of more politically popular conversations about global competitiveness and the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. continue reading

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