News from the Central 1 Region
Steve Viktora, Central 1 Regional Director
As I write this C1 Regional Report, I am enjoying the end of summer during the lull between the Republican and Democratic conventions, a natural time to be thinking about politics and politicians. I don't think you will see this article until after the election; otherwise I would have focused on urging all of us to vote, especially considering the importance of politics in determining educational policy.
However, now that the elections are over (for awhile), this might be a better time for us to become politically engaged. It is well-known that many politicians are less reluctant to make decisions on difficult, controversial issues after an election than before it. Consider the current situation in Illinois; there is an enormous debt problem for public employee pension plans because of years of underfunding. There has been increasing pressure for years from various constituencies to "fix" the problem, but the state legislators had the opportunity to address the issue late summer during a special session and did not make any decision that became a law. There is currently speculation that once the election is over, the Illinois Legislature will again convene in special session to attempt to tackle the issue with the fear of alienating key constituents less after the election than shortly before the election.
Governments at all levels have strong influences on the development of educational policies and practices, and it is understood that legislators and governors can be influenced. This is how it should be in a democratic society, but it is important our voices be part of the conversation. In Illinois recently, Senate Bill 7 was passed with the support of the unions, some important educators, and powerful politicians; the new law will produce a massive overhaul of public education in Illinois and affect the lives of students and educational professionals. I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of this new law, but it is important to note that Stand for Children, an advocacy group based in Oregon and founded by Jonah Edelman, was extremely influential in the passage of the law.
Large, powerful groups will continue to influence legislation, but we need to remember that as individuals we also have power and can influence the development of public policy. Now is a good time to become involved, to begin to cultivate relationships with your elected representatives. Many legislators are interested in developing relationships with voters in their districts, especially with those who have expertise on subjects that are being addressed. Perhaps if NCSM members share their knowledge with their representatives, we will see an improvement in legislation affecting education. It's worth a try.