Attendees to the 2019 WSPTA Legislative Assembly kept up to a relentless pace of attending classes, issue topic education, caucusing and consideration of resolutions and issues. The theme at this year’s sold-out event at Bellevue College in Bellevue, WA was “Superheroes of Advocacy”.
The event kicked off with a general session bipartisan legislator panel featuring mental and behavioral health committee members from the house and senate. State Sen. Manka Dhingra, Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Carolyn Eslick, and Rep. Noel Frame spoke passionately about why they focus their legislative work on mental health and shared personal stories of mental health struggles in their families. Their messages conveyed common ground while exhorting attendees to keep fighting the fight for the Legislature to allocate funding to the programs that increase the capacity to treat children and youth for their mental health needs. Past WSPTA and National PTA president and now current Region 1 Advocacy Chair Laura Bay moderated the panel, asking questions about the new law which facilitates Parent-Initiated Care for their adolescent children.
Additional workshops, panels, and classes to help legislative assembly attendees become better superhero advocates included:
- Interacting with Legislators, at which legislators and former school board members gave tips for better testimony (Sen. Kuderer, Sen. Stanford, Rep. Callan, Rep. Thai, and Rep. Ybarra)
- Arm Yourself with Data from the Healthy Youth Survey
- Families of Students with Disabilities Overcoming Barriers, a presentation by OSPI and the Office of Education Ombuds
- Mental Health Education – Risk Factors and Tools for Community Solutions
- High School and Beyond – Graduation Requirement Changes Unpacked, a presentation by the State Board of Education
- Advocating and Legislative Basics
- Advocating for Change – Beyond the Basics
- The Power of Resolutions for Making Change
- Understanding the Legislative Process in Olympia
New this year was a student track of classes and workshops:
- Student Advocacy Basics, with Sen. Wellman, Sen Wilson, and Rep. Kloba
- Defining Your Hero Voice – Taking Steps to Advocate for Yourself as a Student
In addition to the voting delegates and attendees, more superheroes of legislative assembly were the WSPTA staff members that kept processing on-site registrations and helped everyone feel welcome; and the members of the advocacy and resolutions committees and member submitters. Committee members’ work began in June with the reading, vetting, and rewriting of the issues and resolutions. Many meetings were held, classes and presentations worked and reworked, while caucus topics and proponent statements were researched. Among it all, they were ready to answer questions and encourage first-timers in the ways of PTA advocacy. If you get the chance to give them a hug or shout out, please take it!
The “work” of the legislative assembly is to adopt new public policy positions for WSPTA and its local PTAs, councils, and members to advocate on. These include both short-term legislative issues, which are actionable in Olympia, and long-term positions that can be used at any level of decision-making: school, school district, city, county, state, and nationally.
Since the WSPTA Legislative Platform runs on a two-year cycle, this year delegates only had one new issue to adopt for the also supported list of the 2020 platform: Equitable Identification of Highly Capable Students. Delegates also amended the top 5 issue, Prevent Gun Violence. The new and revised issues can be found on the 2020 WSPTA Legislative Platform.
Delegates also adopted a new permanent legislative principle on Family and Community Engagement, and four new permanent resolutions. Three of the new resolutions are fundamental to how PTAs should address their mission, outlook on membership, and fundraising. The titles of the new resolutions are:
- Vital Impact of Membership on PTA’s Sustainability
- Mission-Focused Fundraising
- Equitable Education Opportunities to Close Gaps Across the Achievement Spectrum
Delegates also adopted a resolution titled “Gun Violence Prevention and Safety – Students and School Staff”. The complete texts of all WSPTA resolutions can be found on the WSPTA Resolutions webpage.
Thank you for your grassroots advocacy and we look forward to seeing you next year, in the fall of 2020, as we develop a new, two-year legislative platform!
WSPTA Advocacy Director