Washington State PTA members embraced the 2021 virtual format for National PTA’s annual Legislative Conference (LegCon). The conference began March 9. Of the over 800 attendees, 58 were from local PTAs here in Washington state, including two students. For some, the event was their first experience with federal advocacy.
National PTA contracted with a professional consulting firm to manage all the Congress member or staff/constituent appointments matched by attendee zip code. So the first day included some advocacy training and the coordination of teams and the WSPTA teams were up to the task!
They shared relevant stories about:
- Access, consistency, and the prioritizing improvements in the federal school meal program
- Language barriers and ESL class cancellations showing the need for a statewide family engagement center here in Washington state
- Changes to federal policies about restraint and isolation of our students
- The need for prioritizing schools in any comprehensive federal infrastructure package – our kids, teachers, and staff deserve a safe and modern space to learn and work.
For a complete picture of the policy asks, look here: https://www.pta.org/home/advocacy/federal-legislation/Public-Policy-Platform
Ten different congressional offices met with our attendees, asking thoughtful questions and sharing PTAs desire that every child’s potential become a reality. Wednesday, March 10 was “Hill Day” and began with a team that met with Rep. Derek Kilmer. Our whole group met with both senators, first a conference call where we were joined by Sen. Patty Murray for a portion. “PTA – you keep me going and work hard for all kids, thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said on the call. That was followed by a generous amount of time from Sen. Maria Cantwell’s legislative aide Amy Folkerts. That afternoon, we divided into teams for virtual meetings with staffers from Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Rep. Richard Larsen, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Rep. Dan Newhouse’s offices. Rep. Suzan DelBene and Rep. Kim Schrier joined their meetings, listening to stories from parents and agreeing with the PTA asks for the day.
Classes and networking times rounded out the event. WSPTA advocacy committee member Susan Baird-Joshi shared an extremely popular class about climate change advocacy. After describing the effects to children and how current environmental and economic leaders are seeking solutions, she went through simple yet innovative steps for grassroots advocacy at every legislative level that can be replicated for any PTA leader that sees a “problem” facing their community. She will be sharing this class at our WSPTA convention, so make sure to bookmark it in your program.
Although the classes and training were virtual, the speakers delivered information that brought parents together through both common experiences and some different from their own. Thanks to all who attended, it was a positive, unscary way to dip one’s toe into advocacy, and hopefully, some will dive in during the upcoming year. Some of our teams are continuing their conversations with the congressional education staffers. Contact Sherry Rudolph, the Federal Legislative Chair if federal advocacy is something you would like to continue as a monthly touchpoint firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report provided by Sherry Rudolph, WSPTA Advocacy Director and National PTA Federal Legislative Chair