By Erin Jones
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to students in a school, then to federal employees. That was followed by a meeting with a new friend who is a recent college graduate and wants to eventually work in education policy. I left that meeting and visited a new school construction project. I watched the impact of decision-making in a variety of environments. I listened to a recent college graduate come to the realization without my help that she should probably work in a school for awhile before trying to write education policy.
After spending a day on Capitol Hill Monday, where hundreds from a variety of constituencies rallied to advocate for full-funding of basic education and watching the confirmation process of Betsy DeVos at the national level two weeks ago, where she demonstrated she clearly knows little to nothing about public education (the institution she's been chosen to lead), I am more convinced than ever that far too many decisions are made FOR and ABOUT people without engaging them.
I believe most decision-makers have great intentions and want to do what's right for the people they serve, but I also believe there is a culture in leadership of assuming we always know what's best (I include myself as a guilty party). Having run for office, I learned...no, it was confirmed for me that there are only certain groups/kinds of people that end up having access to power and position, which means perspectives are limited.
It is expensive and time-consuming to run for office...or earn a graduate degree in order to work as an administrator. This means one has to already have access, resources and a certain level of power, in order to get more. It takes time to engage constituents in a meaningful way, whether they are students, teachers, citizens. Authentic engagement requires an acknowledgement that you may not have all the answers, which is hard to recognize when you've been trained to "be in charge."
I don't know that I have answers yet, but I want to use the platform I've been given, after running for statewide office and now being invited into many spaces, to at least engage us in the conversations about changing practice. In a political space in our state where we say equity should be the focus of funding and resourcing, lawmakers are nowhere near resolution on a task they were supposed to have completed last session. At the national level, a bill has been introduced that would eliminate Title IX protections and Title I resources. In both cases, making the wrong decision will negatively impact our most vulnerable children.
Are you listening?