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.

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?

Take Action: Tips for Contacting Elected Officials

A simple and effective way to voice your opinion on an issue is to contact your elected officials via email, mail or social media.  Individualized communications with a specific request are best as they will likely receive higher priority over a form letter.  Social media also works! In the last half-decade, officials have leveraged social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to gauge their constitutes views and opinions.

In a poll by the Congressional Management Foundation, 64% of the social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions. (source)

Which constituent types who leveraged social media are most influential with elected officials?

  • 77%: multiple constituents commenting within a group
  • 75%: leaders of a group or organization
  • 69%: a single constituent self-identifying with a group
  • 58%: a single constituent on his or her own

Ready to start?  

Below is a call-to action from Think Small, a MinneMinds coalition member, to educate local elected officials on the importance of early learning investments.  A form letter is provided that will also enable you to revise the pre-populated content and then mail or email to your officials.

From Think Small – Leaders in Early Learning: Speak Out For Children

Additional Resources

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

USA.gov

Minnesota House Passes Lunch Bill

Last Thursday, the Minnesota House unanimously passed a bill that would authorize $3.5 million in 2015 to ensure that all children who qualify for the 40-cent reduced lunch are not denied a hot meal at school.

The measure is the result of a study by the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid survey of 309 public Minnesota school districts and found that 46 school districts (15%) reported “…a policy or practice of an immediate or eventual refusal to serve hot lunch or an alternative meal to a child who cannot pay.”  The legislation closes the gap between the federally funded free lunch program and the reduced-price lunch program.

The measure now moves to the State Senate where similar legislation will be reviewed by the Education Policy Committee.

Senate To Vote On Child Care Block Grant

This week, the U.S. Senate will vote on a bipartisan sponsored bill (S. 1086) to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for the first time in over 17 years.

The CCDBG provides States with the resources needed to help low-income families gain access to quality and affordable child care and after-school programs.

Proposed changes to the CCDBG will:
  • Improve the health and safety of children in child care settings and require annual inspections
  • Provide more consumer/family information about the availability of child care and child care quality
  • Enable children to have more stable, consistent child care assistance

Source: http://www.naeyc.org/policy/federal/3_11_14

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has simple, straightforward templates which you can utilize to inform your Senator of your support of the legislation.

Bipartisan Bill Increases Early Childhood Spending

On Friday, January 17th, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion bipartisan spending bill that contains a $1.5 million post-sequestration increase to early childhood programs.

Early Childhood Highlights

Source: http://www.naeyc.org/policy/federal/1_14_14

The Impact of the SNAP & SNAP-Ed Cuts

The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ends today which means a benefit cut for nearly 48 million SNAP recipients.  For a household of four, this cut equates to a $36 reduction in SNAP benefits per month.  Congressional work on the Farm Bill, which funds SNAP and SNAP-Ed, commenced this week with both the House and Senate proposing further cuts over the next ten years.  The House proposal would cut the $80 billion program by an additional $4 billion per year while the Senate proposal would cut the program by $400 million per year.

The lesser recognized component of the SNAP program, SNAP-Ed, is a federal / state partnership that supports nutrition education for persons eligible for the SNAP.

State agencies who conduct nutrition education are eligible for reimbursement up to 50% of their SNAP-Ed costs by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.  In Minnesota, SNAP-Ed is delivered by community educators from the University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; these two agencies serve all counties in the state and six tribal reservations.

Snap Ed

Minneapolis Election Guide: Ranked Choice Voting

As Minneapolis draws closer to the mayoral election on November 5th, the JLM Advocacy blog will run a series of posts which highlight the election including, candidate discussions of the Achievement Gap and other pertinent education issues.  The first post will highlight Ranked Choice Voting (RCV); a method of voting that allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference.

Why Ranked Choice Voting?

RCV was passed by the voters of Minneapolis as an amendment to the City Charter in 2006 and was first used in the city in 2009. RCV combines the primary and the general election into one event.

What Offices are Elected through RCV? 

Ranked Choice Voting is used for Minneapolis municipal offices: Mayor, City Council, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Park and Recreation Board (both At- Large and by District). Ranked Choice Voting is NOT used in elections for the school board, county, state, or federal offices.

Impact of Sequestration Cuts on Early Education

57,000 children nationwide, including 1,000 children in Minnesota, will be denied a place in Head Start and Early Head Start due to fallout from the sequester.  In addition to a reduction in the number of available spots, Head Start will be forced to:

  • Cut 1.3 million days of service
  • Provide 18,000 fewer hours of service through shortened school days
  • Terminate or reduce salaries of 18,000 employees

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Head Start and Early Head Start are programs of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and provide comprehensive health, nutrition and education services to low-income children and their families.

Supporters of Head Start say research shows it offers substantial long-term benefits in key areas such as educational achievement while critics argue that Head Start has little or no lasting effects on its participants.

Worst Cuts to Head Start Since Program Began

 

$485 million in Education funding

As the legislative session wraps up, both the Minnesota House and the Senate finalized the K-12 education funding bill.

Here are the highlights:

  • increases funding for early childhood education and K-12 schools by $485 million.
  • provides funding for all-day kindergarten for all schools in the state ($130 million).
  • provides a 1.5 percent increase on the per pupil formula (an increase of $234 million over the next two years).
  • increases special education funding by $40 million.

To read more click here.