Pretend that you are a chief lobbyist for an interest group ( Texans for Education Reforms), group concerned about education in Texas. What would a letter expressing the policy preferences of the group you represent? Your letter should specify types of policies you would like the Texas Legislature to pursue in the next session. Moreover, the letter should be concise and leave no question as to what it is your group wants: 1) What specific policy would your group like to see implemented, 2) Why and how will your preferred policies improve education, and 3) How will students, state residents , and law makers benefit from the policies your group is proposing.
The Texans for Education Reform (TER) is a group that wishes to make lasting changes to the public school system in Texas. As a lobbyist, my letter would do its best to explain how this group can both have a positive impact on Texan public schools and one that will resonate with many constituents.
Naturally, your letter is going to be shaped by your own language and your own way of phrasing concepts. What is offered here is a road map towards figuring that out. Some of TER's critical policy preferences reflect charter schools, a wider playing field of school choice, and an option for parents to remove their kids from public neighborhood schools and move them into schools of their own choice:
TER exists to ensure that every child and parent have access to these best practices: Online learning, blended learning, access to high-performing public-charter schools, intervention in failing schools and a functional Parent Trigger law.
These policy preferences govern my group and thus guide my advocacy as a lobbyist for them.
It is this framework in which my letter would be written. It seems to me that as a TER lobbyist, I would focus my energies in the letter in two primary realms of legislation. The first would be to display my zeal for TER's desire to expand virtual schools. Online learning is a significant aspect of the TER platform. This would be a part of my lobbying efforts because online learning and blended learning in terms of the use of virtual schools is something that is evident in other states. Liberal- leaning states like Massachusetts signed legislation in January 2013 to ensure that would increase online learning environments for all of its students. TER is committed to the use of virtual schools as a means of enhancing learning. In my letter, the lobbyist in me would suggest that the use of the internet could help expand the educational learning potential for all students. For example, instead of simply reading and regurgitating information from Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, would it not be more educationally enriching for students to Skype with Gary Paulsen, asking him questions about the novel and the writing process? Enriching online learning capacity for all of the students in Texas ensures a greater learning experience is evident. This is something that would cut across all strata of students. My group is focused on ensuring that all students in Texas are able to experience new modes of learning that are focused on higher ordered thinking. I would suggest to the legislator that all stakeholders benefit from all of our schools improving and all of our kids learning. Democratic societies do not benefit from one group more advanced than another. One of the factors behind the emergence of the underclass is a weakened education system. Residents do not benefit when they see the results of a poor or deficient educational system. Strengthening education opportunities for all students by widening access to online technologies benefits all of us in terms of state residents and law makers. My group, I would argue, is committed to the idea of building better schools instead of better prisons. If we can guarantee educational excellence to all of our students, we embrace more of the former than the latter. As a lobbyist, I would point out that we have to stop thinking and saying that "These kids cannot learn" or "These kids are going to struggle." Instead, we must seek to transform the dialogue by suggesting that all of these students are our students, and our students demand the best. Increasing online learning does just that. It is a shame, I would conclude, that we have to ask to enrich the lives of our students. We should be demanding it. A demand in this regard would be ensuring that "access to online technologies" is a reality for every student in schools in Texas.
Another law I would advocate in my letter as a lobbyist would be for more funding directed to charter schools. My group is committed to the idea that there is not "one single answer" to the problem of education. We have to embrace a multiplicity of alternatives and options to help kids succeed. TER is animated by the idea that it is foolish to believe that public schools should be the only solution available to parents and children. How can the crisis of public education be solved through a lack of choice? My group believes that charter schools should be as present and as dominant as public schools. As a lobbyist, I would point out to legislative history in Texas to support such an assertion. The reality is that Texas is one of a handful of states to have passed a "parent trigger" law, stating that if an administration of a failing school cannot demonstrate adequate means to reverse the trend, the parents can demand that the administration is replaced. I would suggest that there is no point in passing the law if it cannot be used, namely with the establishment of Charter Schools. Legislatively, Texas has already set the stage for widened establishment of Charter Schools. The lobbyist perspective would argue that America succeeds when there is competition. Why not pose competition to the public school monopoly? Why can't parents choose between a neighborhood public school and a charter school in every community, in every county, throughout the state of Texas? As a lobbyist, I would insist that being able to increase funding for charter schools as a direct means of competition helps to increase options for parents. Naturally, parents benefit because they no longer have to feel trapped by the failing and unresponsive public school system. Students benefit because Charter Schools can be made to appeal to different aspects of a student's passion for learning. Students who want to focus on a curriculum more focused on literature could attend a school for this if it were available. Students whose zeal is in science could find a school that is dedicated to scientific endeavor. State residents benefit in being able to avoid the label of living in a district where there is a failing public school district, thereby limiting a drop in property value assessments. Finally, law makers benefit because, I would suggest, that they are living up to their promise of delivering choice to Texan citizens. No Texan lawmaker is able to effectively convince Texans that the lack of choice is a good thing. That dog don't hunt. The reality is that Texans like choice and believe in the free market. Lawmakers benefit when they are able to say that they are delivering this in the field of education. I would also remind the legislators that Texans vote. Texans don't stand for ineffective leadership and that the TER is willing to put their money where their mouth is in terms of gearing up enough publicity to support lawmakers who are on the side of high quality schools and those who are standing in the way of them.
These are the points I would make in a letter as a TER lobbyist. I would also conclude with an invitation to lunch or dinner to effectively communicate these points in person. The system of the right to petition one's government knows no boundaries...