You may have noticed organized efforts to wear certain colors in support of public education. Typically, public school supporters don red on Wednesdays in support of “Red for Ed.” But on February 24th, Hoosier public school advocates wore black to demonstrate “the darkness facing Indiana public schools and educators.” As I pulled on my black top that morning, I wondered how wearing a specific color could help make a difference on education policy and what else I should be doing to have an impact on proposed legislation.
Activity in the state legislative session this year has caused many of us to wonder how to best advocate for students and our profession as public school educators. Our concerns are shared by advocates of public schools in other states as well. In an effort to support our work, the Council for Exceptional Children released a timely article in their Jan/Feb 2021 edition of Teaching Exceptional Children titled “Legislative Advocacy for Special Educators.” The authors, Fisher & Miller, identified ten steps for legislative advocacy. In a highly summarized recap you are urged to stay informed, stay engaged, connect with others, take a stance, and speak up. Educator advocates are important because our drive is based on practical experience and a passion for change that we believe is warranted. We have personal stories that can shape practice and legislation.
So how does the color choice of my wardrobe on designated days make a difference? It keeps me engaged, prompts me to connect with others, and sparks dialogue about legislative issues. It is through these shared conversations and the resulting action that we will make a difference over time. The truth of the matter is that if we aren’t involved in the conversation about education policy, others without knowledge and skill in the area will make the decisions for us.