The MSBA Board of Directors’ Executive Committee joined more than 700 school board and state school boards association leaders in Washington, D.C., earlier this month to advocate for strong public schools for all students.
The MSBA Executive Committee is represented by President Kevin Donovan (Mahtomedi), Past President Walter Hautala (Mesabi East), Treasurer Deb Pauly (Jordan), Kathy Green (Austin) and Jodi Sapp (Mankato Area).
Donovan, Hautala, Pauly, Green and Sapp — along with MSBA Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind and Associate Director of Government Relations Denise Dittrich — took part in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) 2015 Advocacy Institute, which centered on informing and building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance in public, legal, and legislative arenas.
Presenting on legislative priorities at the Institute were key members of Congress, Chairman John Kline (R-Minnesota) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee; and John B. King, Jr., Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education.
With the 114th Congress in full swing, the Institute came at a pivotal time for school board members to hone their advocacy skills and use them on Capitol Hill to influence the outcome of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) — aka the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law — and affect legislation to ensure maximum local flexibility and decision-making for districts.
During their stay, the MSBA group met privately with Rep. Kline. “Our conversations with Congressman Kline showed how serious he is about making the Elementary and Secondary Education Act work for students and local school districts,” Green said. “It is encouraging to witness our legislators in both houses now working toward this goal, it is long overdue.”
“It is exciting to know we might have a part in helping improve public education for 845,000 Minnesota students,” Donovan added. “Our legislators were genuinely interested in our advocacy for public education. It’s so important that we stand up for our kids and a good public education for all Minnesota students.”
Along with ESEA reauthorization, Pauly said they spoke with Rep. Kline about reauthorization of the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act and full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“We drove home the importance of ensuring that the local school board voice is heard in every public policy forum in which education decisions are made or influenced,” Pauly said. “We encourage all school board members and local school districts to advocate to their legislators for greater flexibility and more local authority to make educationally sound decisions. With this being the year of the reauthorization of NCLB and the child nutrition bill, it is a pivotal opportunity for us to impact change. We have a great opportunity to help support local innovation for greater student achievement.”
Hautala said he was pleased to discuss the School Land Trust Exchange with lawmakers — an issue that is important for his Mesabi East students and all the students in Minnesota. “Our congressmen were happy to see us and listened attentively to our concerns,” Hautala said. “It was an honor to represent Minnesota’s schools and students in Washington D.C.”