What is Advocacy?

This is after all an Advocacy blog? Let’s take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page.

Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting, or making recommendations to influence change. People tend to associate advocacy with lobbying or politics – and it can be – but individuals can advocate for themselves or others too. Can you remember a time when you  spoke up for someone who wasn’t present or defended a friend? Advocacy just means “speaking up” and giving voice to our passions and principles.

The JLM Advocacy committee is working to define advocacy for its membership, engage members in a non-partisan way, and educate membership on the issues surrounding the achievement gap. It’s important that we raise our collective voice in favor of programs and policies which support our vision of decreasing the achievement gap.

WAYS TO ADVOCATE                                                                                                            

  • Creating public awareness through education – sharing data and stories to persuade
  • Blogging
  • Communicating with your elected officials and encouraging others to do the same
  • Writing a letter to the editor

TOOLS TO GET YOUR MESSAGE OUT

  • Social media
  • Promotional materials
  • Letters to the editor
  • Opinion Editorials

Attend the Advocacy event “Coffee & Conversation with Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff” on Saturday, March 21st from 9:00am-12:00pm to take a deeper dive into the world of advocacy, understand how you can become civically engaged and hear from  Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff on her journey and current priorities. See the JLM website for more information and registration.

Additionally, please post comments on the articles and links you see. Nothing educates people more than a great conversation!

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

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2015 Children and Issues Briefing

The Children and Issues Briefing is an annual event preceding the legislative session.  Key leaders and experts from across the state inform and engage participants in discussion on policy to improve outcomes for children in Minnesota.  This year’s event featured speakers from Governor Mark Dayton, the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet and a youth panel, among others.

One of our own JLM members was in attendance and shared these key takeaways :

  • Early Childhood is a priority for legislatures and policy.  Four years ago Early Childhood funding was nonexistent and the proposal for this year is at $100M.  There is still a need to grow though.
  • In order to make progress, legislators need to focus on outcomes rather than specific programs.  This requires both political sides to find common ground.
  • Children are looking for Equity.  Everyone should have the opportunity to be successful, as all kids have potential.  This was a common comment from experts and children on the panel.
  • One of the most impactful quotes – “It is unacceptable that a whole life can be written in just the first chapter”.  This amps up the importance of intervention early in life.

Videos of that day’s presentations were just release and can be viewed here.  I encourage you to view a few segments and consider how you can get involved.  One presenter commented that letters, emails and visits to the Capitol make a difference.  What resources would you need to send a letter or email?

Opportunities To Give Back During The Thanksgiving Holiday

This week, Thanksgiving is upon us and many of us are preparing to leave town to enjoy the holiday with family, while others may be putting the finishing touches on their menus in anticipation of hosting the feast for the first (or fifth) time. Between curling up and watching football, and braving the crowds to score a Black Friday deal, we will pause to recognize all we have to be thankful for.

Not everyone in the Twin Cities is fortunate enough to have an abundance of food, or food at all, this holiday season, but for those of us who do, it’s a great time to give back. There are an abundance of volunteer opportunities available.  One of the ways the Junior League of Minneapolis works to address the achievement gap is by providing food to children through the Backpack Buddies program, since it is easier to focus on learning when not focusing on being hungry.  If you are still looking for a way to give back this week, and help families in the process, the options below are just a sampling of opportunities available to help provide food for families in need:

Neighbors, Inc. Holiday Volunteers

Neighbors, Inc. provides emergency assistance programs to low-income families in and around St. Paul. They have a list of food items you can donate, and are also looking for volunteers for holiday-related tasks.

NorthPoint Health and Wellness Thanksgiving Food Delivery, Minneapolis

NorthPoint is seeking volunteers to help distribute frozen turkeys and side dishes to families in north Minneapolis.

If you would like to negate a few of those Thanksgiving calories, here are some charitable races that focus on collecting food for people in need:

Turkey Day 5K – Lifetime

Participants in this downtown Minneapolis 5k are asked to bring as many non-perishable items as they can carry to help stock local food pantries.

Fast Before the Feast Race

Run the 5K, 10K or Fun Run (1/2 mile) in White Bear Lake to help them meet their goal of raising 10,000 lbs of food for the community this year.

Happy Holidays!

JLM wants YOU to vote on Election Day!

It’s hard to believe we’re less than one week out from next Tuesday’s (Nov 4th) Midterm Elections.  This is a super important day for us to cash in on one of our rights and make an impact in our local, state and national government.

Some of you have been following the local and national coverage of this year’s election and know exactly who you’ll be voting for – to those, I salute you for your diligent preparation!  For others that have been changing the channel every time a campaign ad comes on the TV (and quite frankly that could be all of us), fear not! There is still time to learn about the candidates and issues to make an informed decision.

To help you out, below are some of the hot topics and big candidate races (nonpartisan, of course).  theSkimm (a fun and easy to understand news source) has a Midterm Election Guide and it’s geared toward those who aren’t in “the know”.

Hot Topics

  • The Senate.  The Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2006.  That plus Obama has its benefits, but the Republican party (also known as the Grand Old Party, i.e. GOP) has had enough.  If the Republicans gain control they will own both the Senate and Congress.
  • National topics haven’t changed much.  The state of our economy, immigration laws and foreign policy continue to be top of mind as voters head to the polls.
  • Minneapolis specific City Amendments:
    • Filing Fee for City Elected Offices.  Some city council members want to increase the price of entry to run for positions like mayor.  Remember when we had 20+ candidates running for mayor in 2013 including Captain Jack Sparrow? Yeah, some people don’t want that again.
    • 70/30 Liquor Licensing Requirement. Have you ever ordered a glass of wine in a South Minneapolis restaurant and been forced to also order food?  That’s because many restaurants are required under law to gross at least 70% of their sales from food.  Many believe this law is antiquated and stifles the growing restaurant scene in our neighborhoods (it also forces restaurants to increase their food prices).  Opponents say we need to keep our neighborhoods clean & quiet.

Minnesota Gubernatorial

  • Currently being held by Mark Dayton (D).
  • Who is running?
    • Mark Dayton (D) – The guy basically runs Minneapolis (think Borough, Askov Finlayson and old school Dayton-Hudson’s).  He wants to come back.
    • Jeff Johnson (R) – Not so fast Dayton! Jeff has is a former State Representative and current Hennepin County Commissioner.
    • Chris Holbrook (Libertarian)
    • Hannah Nicollet (Independent)
    • Chris Wright (Grassroots)

Minnesota Senate

  • Currently being held by Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D).  Al Franken’s seat is currently up for election.
  • Who is running?
    • Al Franken (D) – Wants a re-election.
    • Mike McFadden (R) – Franken’s biggest threat to the seat.  He has worked in the financial sector prior to this campaign.
    • Steve Carlson (Independent)
    • Heather Johnson (Libertarian)

Minnesota Congress

  • Minnesota has 8 congressional districts and each district elects a representative to the House for a two-year term.
  • There are several districts that cover the Greater Twin Cities area given the dense population.  District 5 covers the majority of Minneapolis but depending on your home address you may be in District 2,3 or 4.

Other races include Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Representative, County Commissioner, County Attorney, Sheriff, School Board Director, Supreme Court Justice, Court of Appeals Judge and District Court Judge.  Phew, that was a lot.

You can also find more information by visiting the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get involved and I hope this does the trick. Our only ask – get out there and VOTE!

Coalition’s Plan To Close Minnesota’s Achievement Gap Unvieled

Last Monday, former Minneapolis Mayor, R.T. Rybak, in conjunction with Generation Next, a coalition of civic, education and business leaders, unveiled a plan to close the achievement gap in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Rybak indicated that Generation Next and its partners are working to reach three core goals:

  • Comprehensive Health Screening
    • 3-year-olds to be screened for health problems & disabilities in order to obtain therapy and support
  • Reading Proficiency by 3rd Grade
    • Generation Next is focused on five key benchmarks:
      • Kindergarten Readiness
      • 3rd Grade Reading Benchmarks
      • 8th Grad Math Benchmarks
      • 100% High School Graduation
      • Post-Secondary Counseling
  • Enhanced Guidance Counseling
    • Engagement by trained adults to develop a plan to help their journey to college or to a career

Generation Next plans to roll-out initiatives in pilot schools, collect data and then will determine which initiatives to implement on a larger scale.  All results will be published on Generation Next’s website.

 

Policy and a Pint: A Personal Perspective

This week’s guest blogger, Carrie Curtis, recently attend Policy and a Pint: The State of Education hosted by The Current and the Citizen’s League and shares her perspective on the panel discussion.

Policy and PintEarlier this week I attended ‘Policy and a Pint’, an event hosted by MPR’s The Current and the Citizens League.  This is a reoccurring forum dedicated to discussing a single public policy topic and this month’s topic was “The State of Education.”  To help inform and speak on behalf of our state’s need to close the achievement gap, they included guest speakers Sondra Samuels of the Northside Achievement Zone, Kerry Muse of Venture Academy in Minneapolis and Michelle Walker, CEO of St. Paul Public Schools.  As a new member to the JLM and girlfriend to an elementary school teacher, I was excited to be part of this event and found the discussion to be honest, full of passion and hopeful for the future. 

To kick off the event, the panel debunked a few myths regarding the achievement gap noting this discrepancy is more than test scores – it is preparation, attendance, reading levels, and participation.  While testing may be the most prolific factor, they all illustrate the disparity between students of race, socioeconomic status and gender.  They also made it clear that if we are to have a conversation about the achievement gap, we need to have a conversation about race.  This sentiment was also shared by Principal Lorraine Cruz of Richard R. Green Elementary school at the JLM January General Meeting.  It’s a conversation that no one wants to have, but is necessary if we are to make progress.  When it came to discussing solutions, a key theme to me was customization.  Michelle Walker talked about “equity v. equality”.  In today’s schools, teachers need to ensure that all children are treated the same  (i.e. equality), but Michelle pointed out that not all students are the same.  Instead, teachers need to suit individual student needs to ensure that all students achieve their potential (i.e. equity).  Kerry Muse also shared some secrets to his success – he makes sure his kids are engaged in their own learning and development by having them reflect on what they know and what they need because every child wants to learn.  Sondra made my favorite statement of the evening –  when it comes to the achievement gap, “we don’t have a child problem, we have an adult problem” as it’s going to take change from policy makers, educators and parents to close this gap. 

The closing message to the audience was to do more than talk about the achievement gap instead, to take action – make a difference by attending school board meetings, volunteer as a reading buddy, and advocate for policy changes that will create equity.  To learn more about the action the Northside Achievement Zone is taking, check out their website at http://northsideachievement.org/

Attend Parents United for Public Schools Advocacy Boot Camp

Parents United for Public Schools will host the final session in a three-part series on advocacy next Monday, March 10th at the Eisenhower Community Center.  The third session will focus on the question, why do we need to be advocates?

The session runs from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm and is free of charge.  To register and to learn more about the series, visit the Parents United for Public Schools site.