NJSBA officers, executive director and staff, with representatives from several New Jersey school districts, attended the annual Advocacy Institute and Equity Symposium last week, hosted by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in Washington, D.C.

On Feb. 3, attendees participated in the Equity Symposium, which included sessions such as “Leading for Equity: A Practical Framework for Board Discussion and Action.” The focus of the symposium was to ensure that personal or social circumstances such as gender, ethnic origin or family background are not obstacles to students achieving their full potential. Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter for TheNew York Times, was the keynote speaker for the symposium.

During the three-day Advocacy Institute (Feb. 4 – 6), attendees heard several prominent speakers, including Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and political analyst for MSNBC; Mark McKinnon, political advisor and television producer; and Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The conference included sessions focused on areas of key concern regarding federal support for public education. Breakout sessions included:

  • Advocating for an increase in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) so that school districts can expand their work to ensure that all students with disabilities achieve their full potential.
  • The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to strengthen and build the educator and school leader workforce and support other strategies to promote equity, college access and success.
  • Improving infrastructure, including the adoption of new incentives and investments focused on modernizing and building educational facilities that are designed to meet the needs of students, parents and their surrounding communities.
  • Increasing the flexibility of grants to make school safety improvements and taking necessary action to ensure that all children have a safe and secure learning environment.
  • Supporting efforts to ensure an accurate count for the 2020 U.S. Census.

Other breakout sessions included:

  • Educational choice programs to increase diversity without diverting public funds to private educational entities.
  • Opposing legislation that diverts public funds from K-12 education directly through voucher programs or tax credits.
  • Ensuring student privacy while promoting effective data usage.
  • Supporting policies designed to help teachers, school leaders and administrators to better use data to support instruction and decision-making.

On the final day, the NJSBA contingent headed to the “Day on the Hill” to meet with representatives of New Jersey’s House and Senate delegations. Sharon Seyler, of the NJSBA’s Governmental Relations department, helped organize the event. Mike Vrancik, director of the governmental relations department, contributed to making the visit a success.

Congressman Donald Norcross of the 1st Congressional District, hosted a breakfast for House representatives to come and speak with school board members. Staff from seven of New Jersey’s twelve congressional offices attended. School board members also met with staff representing Senators Menendez and Booker.

The conference provided a valuable opportunity for members to carry their specific concerns to New Jersey’s congressional delegation. Many attendees said they will follow up with their representatives in their local offices later in the year.