Grassroots Advocacy Mobilization
What CSBA members can expect in 2018
by Dennis Meyers, Assistant Executive Director, Governmental Relations
If board members are not engaged and committed to this effort, then decisions about K-12 education in Sacramento will happen to you, and not because of you.
This quote from CSBA’s CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy has been emphasized throughout the year since it first ran in last spring’s edition of California Schools magazine, due to its relevance in all aspects of CSBA’s advocacy work, including the Grassroots Advocacy efforts.

It truly encompasses the end goal of this strategic initiative: increasing CSBA member engagement in order to maximize our organization’s political strength. With local grassroots networks already being built and CSBA’s current package of sponsored legislation progressing through the Legislature (on the heels of this year’s well-attended Legislative Action Day), we’re already seeing that political strength grow as we reach the midway point of 2018.

The core components of the grassroots strategy are the development of a local grassroots framework and expansion of the CSBA Issues PAC, a political action committee to advocate for key issues.

Local Grassroots Framework
In 2017, CSBA implemented a locally focused structure to help train and engage school district and county office of education governing board members to further increase their own spheres of influence — a structure that ultimately benefits individual board members and the communities they serve, as well as CSBA’s political and legislative agenda.

Mirroring statewide campaign strategies, the grassroots structure involves 12 “Divisions” within the state, each of which were established by considering factors such as media markets, legislative districts and voter populations. Each of the Divisions will have at least one CSBA Public Affairs and Community Engagement Representative — or PACER — assigned to it for a total of 17 PACERs. The PACERS are experienced organizers that live locally in each division and are the facilitators of this grassroots network of school district and county board members, community and business leaders and federal, state and locally elected political leaders.

While such a robust program for such a robust state does not happen overnight, CSBA is a third of the way there: CSBA has just hired our fifth PACER, Angela Vázquez, and PACER searches are continuing in four additional Divisions.

Angela Vázquez, who represents the Los Angeles Northeast Division, joins Michael Anadon (Capital), Sarah Bradshaw (Los Angeles Southwest), Raquel Maden (San Diego) and Allison Gallagher (Los Angeles Southeast), each of whom began building local grassroots networks in their Divisions in late 2017.

There’s no escaping the reality that money matters in the realm of political influence — hence the recent string of events to increase participation in CSBA’s Friends of Public Education PAC. This issues-based PAC has enormous potential to influence the outcome of statewide measures, including those which may appear on the upcoming November ballot. CSBA has held successful PAC events in San Mateo, Sacramento, Lakewood/Long Beach and San Diego, attended by numerous school and county board members, local officials and members of the Legislature such as Assembly and Senate Education Committee Chairs Patrick O’Donnell and Ben Allen, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

While these events have been exciting and fruitful, the real potential for the impact of the CSBA PAC comes from commitments of support from individual board members and others who support public schools. Visit for more information and to contribute online.

Looking ahead
The true strength of CSBA has always come from the collective power of its membership and the political clout that our membership, as a whole, represents. Maximizing that strength and applying it at the local, state and federal levels is exactly what the Grassroots Advocacy Mobilization initiative is all about, and we are already seeing results as the program continues to build and the culture of the Association’s advocacy efforts shift toward a continuously persuasive mode and toward building consistent, long-term political influence.