Engage for Education Equity Toolkit

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Illinois’s ESSA implementation plan emphasize family engagement as a critical piece for improving student achievement. To help empower parents, families, caregivers, students, and other community members, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, Partners for Each and Every Child, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund have partnered to create the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit.

The toolkit provides resources, explanations, and processes to help stakeholders like PTAs engage with their school district’s implementation of ESSA to ensure that every child receives the quality education they deserve. The toolkit includes:

  • Fact sheets on various aspects of ESSA at the local level
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to engage with school administrators, create advocacy plans, and effectively advocate for your child
  • Letter templates for contacting decision-makers
  • Sample meeting materials
  • Case studies of effective engagement in school districts across the country
  • A glossary of education and ESSA-related terms so you can understand the terms used by school administrators

PTA has been an advocacy organization from its founding. When we advocate for children with our school districts, we can have a tremendous effect not just on our child’s school but also for all the children in our district. Take advantage of the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit, as school districts are creating their ESSA implementation plans now.

Your Advocacy Matters, Especially Now

The school year is winding down, and many PTAs and members are thinking about end-of-the-year parties and summer activities. But the end of May also marks the end of the Illinois legislative session, and many of the issues that the General Assembly still faces will have a significant effect on your child and their school. Among those issues are:

  • The state budget for the next fiscal year
  • Additional education funding for the new Evidence-Based Funding model
  • Gun violence prevention and school safety
  • Children’s mental health
  • Juvenile Justice issues

Illinois PTA will be advocating on these and other issues as the legislative session wraps up. We will be filing witness slips on various bills, testifying before committees, and contacting legislators and the governor. But the true power of PTA comes through when our PTA members join us in speaking up for all the children of Illinois.

You Already Are an Advocate

If you’ve spoken to your child’s teacher about an issue in the classroom or with your child’s learning, you are already an advocate. If you have raised a question at a PTA meeting about why your child’s school has a certain policy, you are already an advocate. If you have every spoken at a school board meeting or placed a school referendum sign in your front yard, you are already an advocate.

Advocacy is simply speaking up for another, and PTA advocacy focuses on those who have little to no voice in the halls of power—our children. Many school boards and many legislators have few, if any, individuals speaking up on a particular issue. When you can share your viewpoint and tell how a policy or a bill will have a specific effect on your child, your family, or your community, you have tremendous influence on those who make the policies or pass the bills. Don’t take our word for it, look at what PTA advocates did to get drinking water in elementary schools tested for lead.

How to Advocate with the Legislature

Illinois PTA makes it easy to advocate with legislators. Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network by going to the Illinois PTA Advocacy page and entering your e-mail and ZIP code in the Quick Sign Up box on the right.

As a member of the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network, you will get occasional calls to action in your inbox. Simply click on the button in the e-mail, which will take you to a prewritten letter to your legislators. Take a moment to add any personal information, including how the bill will affect your child or school, up at the top of the letter, include your contact information, and hit send. That’s all there is to it.

We know that these e-mails do make a difference. Legislators also take notice when Illinois PTA leaders start their testimony on a bill with, “On behalf of the 80,000 members of the Illinois PTA…” Your advocacy, and your PTA membership, makes a difference for your child and for every child in Illinois.

 

Three Reasons Why ISBE’s FY 2019 Funding Request Matters

You may have seen in the news recently that the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) budget request for the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY) is $15.7 billion, an increase of $7.5 billion over FY 2018. With Illinois’s financial issues well known, even ISBE acknowledges that this request is not going to be fully funded. But it is still important that legislators address this request. Here are three reasons why ISBE’s funding request matters:

  1. In arguing against SB 2236, a bill that would require the General Assembly to fund public education prior to funding the private school scholarship program, some legislators have backed away from increasing education funding, calling equitable funding an “aspirational goal” and calling the chances of adding $350 million to FY 2018 funding “slim to none.” ISBE’s budget request forces legislators to confront the true full cost of adequately funding education in Illinois and makes underfunding education a conscious, knowing decision.
  2. A new report out this week shows that Illinois’s worst in the nation education funding equity has continued to get worse. Last year’s report indicated that Illinois spent only $0.81 on a low-income student for every $1.00 spent on a non-low-income student. The new report shows that amount has now dropped to $0.78 spent on a low-income student. That same report showed that Illinois ranked 45th in state funding for education, with only 40% of school funding coming from the state. The lack of state funding puts increasing pressure on local school districts to increase local property taxes to adequately fund education. ISBE’s budget request lays bare Illinois’s lack of state funding for education.
  3. The new evidence-based funding (EBF) model adopted by the General Assembly last fall now details how underfunded schools are on a district level. No longer can legislators hide behind statewide averages that show them providing 80% of the state’s foundation level of funding. The EBF model now clearly shows that some districts in Illinois are only 45% adequately funded. Because the EBF model also takes into account a district’s ability to increase funding through local property taxes, the failure of the state to provide adequate funding to these districts is clear. ISBE’s budget request is based on providing 90% of every district’s adequacy target and shows how significant the state’s underfunding education is for each child in Illinois.

 

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

National PTA Advocates for Gun Safety and Mental Health Services to Protect Children

Last week, National PTA released the following statement on our advocacy efforts on gun safety and mental health services. In addition to the statement, the 2018 National PTA Legislative Conference on March 13-15 will focus on gun violence prevention efforts. National PTA has also created two documents to help PTAs address these issues:

National PTA joins students, families, educators, school administrators, community leaders and the nation in grief over the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and all acts of gun violence involving children and youth. This kind of loss is unimaginable, and our country has experienced far too many gun-related tragedies. It is urgent that we work together to find solutions and make meaningful changes to keep our children safe.

“Every child deserves to learn in an environment that is safe and to have the opportunity to grow into a happy and healthy adult,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our top priorities as a nation should be to protect our children, meet the needs of the whole child and ensure every child reaches their full potential. It is critical that solutions are enacted to eliminate gun violence.”

National PTA urges Congress to adopt legislation that would help prevent future tragedies from occurring while preserving the lawful use of firearms for sport and personal protection. National PTA has a strong history of advocating for laws and regulations in the areas of gun safety and violence prevention and supports the following policy recommendations:

At the same time, National PTA urges federal, state and local policymakers to prioritize mental health education, early intervention, prevention and access to school and community-based mental health personnel and services, so that all children can reach their fullest potential (Position Statement on Early Identification and Interventions for Children with Mental Health Needs, 2017). National PTA has long been committed to providing improved mental health programs and services to children, youth and their families and believes that all children and youth have the right to mental health treatment. National PTA recommends:

  • Federal, state and local policies prioritize outreach and education—including professional development for all school-based employees—in schools and communities regarding childhood mental health.
  • Resources are specifically provided to build mental and behavioral health system capacity within schools and communities to ensure students can receive a proactive continuum of behavioral and mental health services.
  • States and school districts provide the necessary resources to ensure adequate ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and school nurses, who are the most qualified professionals to provide school-based mental health services.

“Resolutions and position statements inform PTA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of kids and schools,” added Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “National PTA urges our members and all child advocates to reach out to their members of Congress and state and local policymakers to ensure schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a safer and healthier environment for all students.”