Lauren NavarroEDSA 597
November 14, 2018Professor K. Hamilton
Policy Formation/ Mid-Term Assignment
It wasn’t until this school year, as I became a member of my school’s Equity Team, that I was exposed to and truly started to understand the difference between equality and equity. I am a very visual learner, and strongly feel that the image above is a brilliant pictorial representation of the difference between equality and equity. The caption beneath “Equality” goes on to state that “equality is about sameness, as it promotes fairness and justice by giving everyone the same thing.” However, it can only work IF everyone starts from the same place, which is represented in the picture, as showing that equality only works if everyone is the same height. The caption beneath “Equity” goes on to state that “equity is about fairness, it’s about making sure people get access to the same opportunities.” Occasionally, our differences and/ or history can create barriers to participation, so we must FIRST ensure equity, BEFORE we can enjoy equality. When all is said and done, “educational equity stands at the center of our nation’s growing effort to reform and improve public schools and provide greater educational opportunities to every family.”
In order to close the achievement gap, it is more than giving everyone access to the same resources. The truth of the matter is that some students still need more to get there. Data shows that mostly students who come from low-income families, and students of color, who may sometimes fall in both categories, tend to come to school lagging academically. These are factors outside of a school’s control, so giving those students the same exact resources as those students in higher-income neighborhoods alone, will not close the achievement gap. Therefore, a policy needs to be put in place that gives more funding for poorer schools than they do for more affluent schools. After all, shouldn’t students who attend school in low-income neighborhoods, as well as, students of color have access to exceptional teachers and the funding to provide them with the high-quality education that they not only deserve, but that they need to succeed? Why should students suffer for factors that are out of their control? “Equality has become synonymous with ‘leveling the playing field,’ so let’s make equity synonymous with ‘more for those who need it’ (Mann, 2014).”
In order to petition the state to provide more funding for poorer schools, than they do for more affluent schools, I would start by following the three approaches discussed in the Fowler text, as this is a whole new process to me. The three general approaches to influencing policy formulation and adoption are government relations, working through professional organizations, and “lobbying.” Fowler (2013, pg. 197) stated that, “Skillful education leaders use all three, building a strong foundation of solid relationships with other public officials, participating in and networking through professional organizations, and ‘lobbying’ by contacting officials about specific bills or rules, as necessary.” Fowler goes on to say that most leaders tend to neglect the first two approaches, hence the reason why most legislators view educators as whiners who only show up when they need money.
The first approach to petitioning the state to provide more funding for poorer schools is influence through building relationships. Relationships are built through regular, two-way communication. Figures 8.5. and 8.6 (Fowler, pg. 199) were helpful visuals in figuring out “officials to consider including in a government relations program,” and “ways to communicate with public officials and involve them in schools.” As a result, I would reach out to the following potential stakeholders (along with the school community and parents): Mayor, City Council Member, Representative and Senator in State Legislature, County Executive and Commissioner, Congressional Representative, Selected Officials in State Department of Education and Federal Agencies, Local Judges, Supreme Court Justices who live in the area, etc. The ways I would provide information to them would be through the school district or school directory, the district or school newsletter, the district’s legislative agenda, and newspaper clippings about special school or district programs and events. I would receive communication from them at town hall meetings, legislative hearings, political receptions and dinners, and at their speaking engagements in the area. I would involve them in schools by arranging school visits, inviting them to attend a special school or district function, inviting them to a school open house, inviting them to speak to faculty, the district leadership team, the school board retreat, a class, and so forth, and ask them to present awards to students at graduation or an awards ceremony. Building these relationships is key in helping to influence policy development, and “represents a sound investment of money and time.” The bottom line is that legislators will make laws with or without you, but better ones with you!
The second approach to petitioning the state to provide more funding for poorer schools is joining one or more professional organizations. Fowler (2013, pg. 201) emphasizes that “for school leaders who wish to influence the policy process, such memberships are essential.” As seen in Table 8.5 – Representative Professional Education Organizations (Fowler, pg. 202), I would absolutely join the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and unquestionably the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), “which advances state budget practices through research, policy analysis, education, and knowledge sharing amongst its members,” as well as, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), “which advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership.” Most importantly, “they believe that education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential.” Furthermore, professional organizations offer a rich source of information and expertise (i.e. Chapter 7 discussed how most organizations publish journals, and in most of them are policy developments are regularly featured), they usually sponsor informative policy sessions at their state and national conferences (i.e. Chapter 6 noted that that regular print and broadcast media cover education news occasionally, especially at the state level), and provide a valuable forum in which administrators can meet other people who share their policy interests and discuss them (i.e. many professional organizations have official legislative agendas that they try to advance in each session of Congress or the state legislature).
The third approach to petitioning the state to provide more funding for poorer schools is “lobbying.” Fowler (2013, pg. 206) points out that “three of the most effective ways to ‘lobby’ public officials are through written communication, telephone calls, and personal visits.” Some tips for effective letters to legislators that I would use to address my petition on more state finding for poorer schools are seen in Table 8.9 (Fowler, pg. 207): include your name and address on the envelope and in the letter, deal with one issue or bill, keep letters short; one page is ideal, identify the legislation by number in the first paragraph, clearly state your position and give your reasons for it, drawing on your expertise and experience, ask the legislator to support your position, be pleasant, polite, and constructive, sign your name by hand, and write a letter of appreciation, if the legislator does support your position. The telephone is often the best way for a school leader to contact an agency administrator. Contacting agency workers with questions, requests for clarification, and complaints about new policies or rules is appropriate. Offering to help develop new rules in your area of expertise is also appropriate. Often, they value honest input that can help them plan the implementation of a new policy. Every now and then, talking with a legislator face to face is worthwhile, and such a personal visit can be extremely effective. An appointment must always be arranged well in advance, and it is wise to plan to visit early in a session of the legislature, rather than later when calendars are packed, and days are full. A typical appointment with a legislator lasts only about fifteen minutes. Accordingly, to get the most value from a visit, it should be carefully planned, which means knowing exactly what must be said and being ready to say it. Some suggestions I would take into consideration when planning to meet about my petition for more school funding for poorer schools is preparing a brief outline of major points to make, as well as, putting together information to leave with the lawmaker, such as, a fact sheet that summarizes my position and the reasons for it.
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In order to petition for more state funding for poorer schools than for affluent schools, I would need to look at the current school-funding formula. The often-debated and criticized school-funding formula is a complex set of factors based on demographics and need. According to the article, “Funding for New York Schools: What to Know This Year” by Joseph Spector (March 2018), the formula has long been criticized for being outdated, and not providing enough aid to the districts that need the money the most. “An investigation by the USA Today Network in 2016 found a series of problems with the formula, such as using Census data from 2000 rather than newer information. Since then, some changes have been made to ensure the most ‘so-called’ foundation aid — the base amount each district gets — goes to the poorest districts.” Nevertheless, most officials admit more reforms are needed to ensure the “huge pot of money” for schools is allocated as effectively as possible. Yet, critics said the funding formula still has flaws. For example, “it doesn’t account for a district’s change in enrollment, which, if corrected, would send more money to poorer districts because they have had the largest enrollment increases, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.” The stakeholders that I would need to get involved in this conversation were mentioned in the paragraphs above on “influence through building relationship.” Again, those stakeholders would include the community, parents, the mayor, council member, representative and senator in state legislature, congressional representative, selected officials in state department of education, local judges, supreme court justices who live in the area, etc.
Lastly, to measure the success of my petition for more funding for poorer schools, I found another helpful visual that ties everything together titled, “Quality Indicators for Effective Policy Development ; Implementation” (Stonemeier, J. et. al, 2016). The indicators are as follows:
Use the Practice Informed Policy-Policy Enabled Practice Cycle (Practice Informed Policy engages and informs stakeholders, so that they can ensure the developed or altered policy, procedure, or regulation will enable new practices to occur in classrooms, schools, and districts)
Ask whether policy change will improve student outcomes
Ensure all policies are aligned with district vision/ values, and tools/ resources
Engage range of stakeholders in policy development, implementation, and alignment
Think expansively about who stakeholders are, including families, students, teachers, business leaders, local child-serving organizations, and others
Introduce new/ revised policy to stakeholders through professional development and other communication methods
Develop targeted professional development to staff with specific responsibilities to implement policy (e.g., finance staff training to implement funding policies)
Consider re-teaching policy and/ or revising policy as needed
Ongoing Evaluation and Support
Provide supporting documents (e.g., FAQs, model forms, rubrics) written in plain, understandable language and offer other supports (e.g., training, coaching) to increase fidelity of implementation
Insure that supporting materials explain regulations, rules, or directives in plain language to increase the likelihood that policy will be implemented in ways that achieve the desired outcomes
Use the “Plan, Do, Study, Act” decision-making cycle to establish a strong decision-making framework to support implementation and sustainability of any policy
Make policy documents accessible to the public (e.g., available in many formats: printed, electronic/web-friendly, translated into a variety of languages)
Ensure policy is understandable to all stakeholders (e.g., avoid use of jargon, linguistically relevant to the community)
Distribute supporting documents to stakeholders to increase understanding and buy-in early in the process
Mann, Blair. “Equity and Equality Are Not Equal” (The Education Trust, March 2014), available at https://edtrust.org/the-equity-line/equity-and-equality-are-not-equal/Spector, Joseph. “Funding for New York Schools: What to Know This Year” (Democrat & Chronicle, March 2018), available at https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/03/23/funding-new-york-schools-what-know-year/453481002/Stonemeier, J., Trader, B., Kaloi, L. & Williams, G. (2016). “Indicators for Effective Policy Development and Implementation.” Issue Brief #8. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.
“National Association of State Budget Officers,” available at https://www.nasbo.org/home”National School Boards Association,” available at https://www.nsba.org/Fowler, Frances. Policy Studies for Educational Leaders: An Introduction. 4th Edition, 2013.