AASB’s Secret Weapon for Political Clout: Our Members

By Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director

The AASB Board of Directors create a long range plan called Pathways for the Association and updates the plan every three years. The current plan has five goals with the first being highlighted in a previous Commentary article. This month’s column will highlight the second board goal.

Strengthen the positive political influence of AASB at the local, state, and national level.

AASB has had a long history of advocacy on the state and federal level beginning in 1988 when former Executive Director Carl Rose initiated with the board of directors the first Long Range Plan. That initial plan had two advocacy statements:

  • Improve lobby efforts by coordinating member activities and organizing grassroots lobby.
  • Increase influence through education issues action committee.

Interestingly, those two statements are as relevant today as they were in 1988!

The objectives and strategies in the current advocacy plan are all inclusive and involves not only staff but heavily rely on the membership.

OBJECTIVE 1  Increase AASB membership, staff and community advocacy effectiveness to policymakers at the local, state and national levels.

  • Strategy 1 Create, expand and promote a grassroots advocacy structure to all stakeholders that is both proactive and reactive to legislation at all levels of government.
  • Strategy 2 Cite AASB resolutions when responding to requests for support or non-support.

OBJECTIVE 2  Utilize the resolutions process to provide a voice for ALL school districts to participate in the creation of the legislative agenda.

  • Strategy 1 Find ways to engage more board members in the resolutions committee process so that ALL boards are heard and given the opportunity for input.
  • Strategy 2 Cite AASB resolutions when responding to requests for support or non-support.
  • Strategy 3 Widely distribute AASB’s resolutions to policymakers and other organizations to garner support.

OBJECTIVE 3  Provide advocacy services that support AASB’s mission and incorporate “best practices” and student achievement.

    • Strategy 1 Strategically employ “calls to action” to activate grassroots advocacy in support of, or in opposition to, legislation on both state and national issues.
    • Strategy 2 Develop partnerships with organizations that are aligned with AASB’s resolutions.
    • Strategy 3 Work with other advocacy organizations to assist them creating educational policies that support student achievement.
    • Strategy 4 Utilize multiple methods, including social media, to activate grassroots advocacy.

The Association offers two Fly-In’s to train members and provide opportunities for them to advocate for students with a unified voice. The Legislative Bulletin printed weekly during the session provides up-to-date news of the Legislature and schedules for upcoming bills to be heard in committees. Additionally, Calls-To–Action are sent out on an as-needed basis. AASB’s legislative handbook, Your Guide to Lobbying the Alaska Legislature, can be downloaded from the AASB website. It is updated annually and is routinely used by other organizations.

Alaska’s local school board members are adept at testifying before committees both telephonically and in person. The Association has loyal core of school board members who routinely offer testimony, often on short notice.

Finally, the key to an effective advocacy network is relationships – and these are not established with one visit, but rather over a period time. Effective advocates seek opportunities to interact with their legislators over the interim and attend functions to develop friendships. These relationships, built up over time, pay big dividends for our students.