• Policy staff (seated, far right) from the office of Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (CD-12) engaged in discussion with representatives of the Plainfield Public School District.

Last week, school leaders from across New Jersey traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a national advocacy conference. The first two days of the conference consisted of informational sessions on some of the most pressing issues facing public school districts. The final day was set aside as a day for attendees to meet with their congressional representatives and advocate for ways that our federal policy makers can support local boards of education and public school students. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, New Jersey School Boards Association staff coordinated a “Day on Capitol Hill” for New Jersey’s conference attendees to help facilitate discussions with the state’s federal lawmakers and their staff. In the morning, a congressional breakfast reception took place at the Rayburn House Office Building. Congressman Donald Norcross (CD-01) kicked off the event by delivering welcome remarks, highlighting various actions Congress has taken to assist public school districts during these challenging times, and discussing the importance of vocational education in today’s economy. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (CD-11) and Congressman Thomas Kean Jr., (CD-07) also personally attended the event and engaged in robust discussions with board members and school administrators. Policy staff members from the following offices also participated to listen to attendees’ advocacy priorities and hear their stories about programs they have implemented to advance student achievement: 

  • Congressman Chris Smith (CD-04). 
  • Congressman Josh Gottheimer (CD-05).
  • Congressman Frank Pallone (CD-06). 
  • Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (CD-09).
  • Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (CD-10).
  • Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (CD-12). 

In the afternoon, attendees made their way to the Senate Hart Office Building. There they met with key staff from the offices of both Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker. 

Advocacy Priorities 

The Day on Capitol Hill provided an opportunity for NJSBA staff and school board members to advocate for various ways that Congress can support the work of local boards of education, including: 

  • Fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 
  • Ensuring districts are equipped with the resources necessary to address learning loss and accelerate academic recovery.
  • Providing greater and sustained federal resources to expand access to mental health services and supports.
  • Implementing policies to help address staff shortages, such as loan forgiveness for teachers and principals. 
  • Maximizing the impact of COVID-19 relief funds for school facility and infrastructure upgrades.