Education panel addresses policy concerns

October 27 2008

During an educational policy panel discussion at Indiana State University Friday afternoon, panel members urged audience members to not just get to know legislators but to run for office themselves.

"A wonderful advocacy tool is to file for election," said Marilyn Schultz, executive director of MySmartGov.org and former ISU vice president for planning and budgets. "It will put some life into a sluggish legislative system. I urge you all to run for office."

The panel, sponsored by the department of educational leadership administration and foundations (ELAF), sought to bring the panelists' leadership and insights into discussion on policy debates. Vigo County Superintendent of Schools Dan Tanoos moderated the dialogue on "Public Policy in Turbulent Times: What Do K-12 and Higher Education Administrators Need to Know.'"

"The U.S. Constitution delegates the responsibility of education to the states," said Joshua Powers, ELAF chair. "The federal government is becoming increasingly involved in providing dollars and so wants to have oversight. For that reason we need to be responsive. In our program we are preparing leaders that need to understand how to maneuver through public policy debates and be advocates for their areas."

Mary Kay Sommers, a 2008 ISU Distinguished Alumni Award winner and immediate past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, said educators are a group that legislators hear from the least.

"The groups they hear from the most are parents of special education children," she said.

When she recently testified in front of a Congressional committee concerning the No Child Left Behind Act, she said legislators listened to what educators had to say.

"That was the first time Congress asked for input before it came out of committee," she said. "Everyone wants to have a say in childhood education. The voice I believe that is still missing is the voice of educators."

Sommers urged those in the audience to become better storytellers in communicating with legislators.

"We tend to talk in academic language," she said. "Legislators need stories of impacts. Make it real to them and they can make it real to other people."

A third panelist, Todd Bess, assistant superintendent of Twin Lakes School Corporation and a participant in the ELAF sponsored Federal Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C., said educators need to understand legislators positions and motivations when going to speak with them.

"Become more involved in the legislative process," he said. "Develop that system of connection that works well for you."

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Contact: Joshua Powers, chair of the department of educational leadership, administration and foundations, at (812) 237-2900 or at jopowers@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@indstate.edu

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/401419661_RMKVh-D.jpg

Cutline: Assistant Superintended of the Twin Lakes School Corporation Todd Bess, , Executive Director of MySmartGov.org Marilyn Schultz, immediate past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals Mary Kay Sommers speak about educational policy while Vigo County Superintendent of Schools Dan Tanoos moderates the panel.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/401418806_5LfBU-D.jpg

Cutline: Mary Kay Sommers, a 2008 ISU Distinguished Alumni Award winner and immediate past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, speaks during an educational policy forum on Oct. 24.

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Story Highlights

During an educational policy panel discussion at Indiana State University Friday afternoon, panel members urged audience members to not just get to know legislators but to run for office themselves.

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