county boards
On advocacy and making an impact
by Heidi Weiland, Board Member, El Dorado COE
According to Merriam-Webster, “advocacy is the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal; the act or process of advocating.”

When preparing for this article, I reached out to a handful of county board members across the state to ask about federal funding for their counties; their advocacy awareness and relationships with other elected officials; and whether they thought their interactions had an impact. The answers regarding relationships and advocacy ranged from frequent interactions to those only through the California School Boards Association/California County Boards of Education. Those who had the most frequent interactions also had the most confidence that their advocacy efforts made an impact.

Why is it so important that you advocate? As county board members, one of our most important roles is that of advocating for our students and families, and public education. And, as elected officials, we are uniquely poised to build relationships and alliances with, and have tremendous influence with, other elected officials.

We are advocating at both the federal and state levels for funding, special education, transportation, rural counties through the Federal Forest Reserve Act, and innovative ways to better serve our student populations including incarcerated youth, foster and homeless youth, and more. We are also advocating at a local level to boards of supervisors and city councils for collaborative programs and systems of care with local agencies and nonprofits.

Some thoughts for building relationships:

  1. Use issues such as Full and Fair Funding as a reason to visit your elected officials in their offices (for state and federal, visit the district office nearest you) and introduce yourself;
  2. Don’t hesitate to build relationships with their staff — staff often stays around through changes in office holder or moves to work for other office holders;
  3. Attend community events where you will not only have the opportunity to be seen representing public education, but where you will have the opportunity to acquaint yourself with other elected officials;
  4. Invite them to your board meetings or events at your county office of education or county school boards association;
  5. Attend functions that they hold in your communities, whether or not you support them. The goal is to have every opportunity to engage with them;
  6. When you need something from them and they come through, make sure to acknowledge them. When they don’t, don’t give up;
  7. And, if you are uncomfortable in new situations, take another county board partner.

If you build these relationships and nuture them, when there is a need in your community for your students and families, you already have those connections in place. You will have the ability and access to reach out and build the solutions needed. Happy advocating!