Sunday, February 12, 2017

Advocacy Institute delegation pushes
for school funding, including Title I, IDEA

The Illinois delegation met with Sen. Tammy Duckworth
(center) and Sen. Dick Durbin, and five Congressmen.

By Theresa Kelly Gegen


In the midst of a dynamic political environment, the Illinois delegation at the National School Board Association’s 2017 Advocacy Institute focused on funding issues, including the importance of funding for Title I and IDEA.


Twenty-four participants made up the Illinois delegation, led by IASB President Phil Pritzker (President), Vice President Joanne Osmond, immediate Past President Karen Fisher, Treasurer Thomas Neeley, and IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy.

“I was thrilled to lead the Illinois contingent the Advocacy Institute,” said Pritzker, “Again, Illinois had a significant number of public school advocates to bear witness to public policy being made. Having 16 different districts being represented was important as we planned to meet with our elected representatives.”

Susan Hilton, IASB director of governmental relations, rated the Advocacy Institute, formerly called the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference, the best of her experience. The Illinois delegation was able to meet with both Illinois senators, including freshman Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who had previously met with the group as a member of the House of Representatives, and veteran Sen. Dick Durbin who was able to meet briefly with the delegation and secured Senate gallery seats for the group.

Illinois attendees also met with Congressmen Brad Schneider, Randy Hultgren, Robin Kelly, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Darin LaHood; and staff from the offices of Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Peter Roskam.

“School board members are elected officials, who appreciate the opportunity to meet with their own elected officials in Washington,” Hilton said. “The stars aligned for this Institute, and the Illinois delegation was perfect – on point and on message.”

The group attended two days of informational sessions on a wide variety of national education issues, and then had a long and productive day lobbying on Capitol Hill.

In addition to funding Title I and IDEA, the attendees also stressed the importance of ensuring that any “choice” options that may be considered would not be detrimental to Title I and IDEA.

Many districts in Illinois currently offering successful choice options and more could be added under the current framework with additional flexibility. In regards to the issue of local control, attendees discussed the difficulties districts are having with the Child Nutrition Act and the need for flexibility from several onerous mandates. Attendees asked for relief from mandates from the previous administration requiring duplicative reporting to the U.S. Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights.

“We also asked our federal representatives for assistance in removing the provision in Illinois law that penalizes districts for paying teachers from Title 1 funds because a 45 percent fee is assigned to all teachers paid for with those Title 1 funds,” said Pritzker.

A portion of the visit including presentations by NSBA lobbyists on federal education funding, education choice, the Child Nutrition Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Attendees also heard from several members in leadership on education in Congress: House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and member Tim Walberg (R-Mich.); Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Was.); and Senate Appropriations Committee member John Tester (D-Mont.).

The Institute also included remarks by NSBA President Miranda Beard and Executive Director Thomas Gentzel, a conversation on year-round advocacy featuring IASB’s Eddy, and a keynote speech by presidential historian and commentator Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Attending from Illinois:

IASB Board of Directors: President Phil Pritzker, Vice President Joanne Osmond, Immediate Past President Karen Fisher, and Treasurer Thomas Neeley.

IASB Staff: Executive Director Roger Eddy, Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm, and Director of Governmental Relations Susan Hilton

Local school districts: Kathleen Burley (Carpentersville CUSD 300), Lori Casey (Assistant Superintendent, Woodland CCSD 50), Mable Chapman (West Harvey-Dixmoor SD 147), Quinton Foreman (Lincoln Elementary SD 156), Vanessa Hatcher (Lincoln Elementary SD 156), Rosalyn Hathorn (Lincoln Elementary SD 156), Elliot Johnson (Matteson Elementary SD 159), Andrea Kidd (Lincoln Elementary SD 156), Diana Kreiling (Lake Forest CHSD 115), Carla Little (Woodland CCSD 50), Kisha McCaskill (Harvey SD 152), Ted Moorman (Lake Forest CHSD 115), Courtney Orzel (Superintendent, Lemont-Bromberek SD 113A), Suzanne Sands (Lake Forest SD 67), Kurt Schneider (Superintendent, NSSED), Bhavna Sharma-Lewis (Superintendent, Diamond Lake SD 76), Mike Simeck (Superintendent, Lake Forest SD 67 and CHSD 115), Donna Simpson Leak (Superintendent, Sauk Village CCSD 168), Frank Tanniehill (Lincoln Elementary SD 156), and Sonya Whitaker (Superintendent, Harvey SD 152).