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Time for School Boards to meet with elected legislators
A new Legislature was elected on Nov. 8 and now is the time to invite your delegation to a School Board meeting to help your senators and representatives understand the issues your district is facing and how legislators can help.
This brief overview is designed to help you get ready for that meeting and plan an agenda. Also linked is a handbook, “Lobbying the Legislature On Behalf of Local Schools”. It not only talks about the School Board meeting with newly elected legislators, but suggests ways board members and superintendents can be most effective as bills work their way through the legislative process. (Click here to download a printable copy of the handbook.)
The first step is to meet or renew your acquaintance with legislators by inviting them to a board meeting, preferably in November or December before they are called to Augusta for session.
This meeting is not only designed to help you get to know legislators, but for them to better understand your schools. Suggested agenda items include:
School Board Meeting with Legislators
- Give district overview/statistics
- Outline district accomplishments and challenges
- Always discuss how state funding affects your schools and community
- Identify other key issues
- Ask what key bills are on the horizon
- Ask legislators for help to support students/schools
- Exchange cell numbers and email addresses
The agenda should include a district overview where you can talk about what schools you operate; enrollment trends; new programs; and program needs. Outline your accomplishments and challenges and talk in broad terms about your budget trends and needs.
This meeting is designed to be the start of a relationship because as school leaders you want to be the expert your legislators turn to on educational issues to inform their vote. Make sure you exchange contact information.
Maine School Boards Association (MSBA) and Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA) members will be kept informed on bills that we are tracking through bulletins, newsletters and posts on the website – www.msmaweb.com (The direct legislative link is: http://www.msmaweb.com/advocacy/).
Testimony on key bills will be presented by Association Officers and Legislative Committee members on behalf of the Associations, as well as by MSMA staff as appropriate. Local school board members and superintendents also will be called upon to testify on key legislation.
Remember the most effective testimony is how a given proposal will affect the local district and its students. MSMA will send out talking points on major bills that you can use when you call your legislators, but always include the local impact.
Because this is a biennial budget year, a major concern is what level of state funding will be recommended for schools by the governor and what changes are ultimately recommended to the full Legislature by the Appropriations Committee. The governor’s biennial budget proposals are expected in January. When the budget is released, we will send out a bulletin on proposed funding levels statewide. That will be followed, as soon as it is released, with the spreadsheet listing state aid by school district.
Telling the local story on how the proposed budget affects your schools and the students they serve is the most compelling argument you can make for increased funding of public education.