Advocacy and Policymaker Pressures

The summer 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, published by ASCD, contains an article with useful guidelines for advocates seeking to influence policy at local, state, and national levels.

In “What It Takes to Get a Policymaker’s Attention,” Celine Coggins describes the three “central pressures” that influence policymaker thinking: promoting equity, allocating scarce resources, and addressing accountability issues.

  • Promoting equity: “Policymakers address equity at the system level,” Dr. Coggins writes. “Any policymaker whom you approach … will want to know how [your idea or program] creates more equity of opportunity.”
  • Allocating resources: “Policymakers must make hard tradeoffs with limited tax dollars,” Dr. Coggins observes. You must show them how your idea, activity, or program will have a greater positive effect and reach more people than other, equally worthy ones—or how it will address multiple areas of need by bringing multiple solutions together.
  • Addressing accountability: As public servants, policymakers must be able to demonstrate that they have been responsible stewards of the public interest. In other words, they must hold funded activities and programs accountable for their outcomes, and they can do this best when they have numbers. Advocates can use numbers to their advantage when they think beyond the usual data categories of testing outcomes and persons served and look to effects in the larger community.

Dr. Coggins writes, “Successful advocates will get policymakers on their side when they can show how their … proposals attend to these pressures.”

While the article is written for educators in K-12 contexts, its content has much value for practitioners in the broader education and social service communities. The article (and the entire summer issue of Educational Leadership) is available for free here.

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