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Public schools are the beating heart of our communities - but often, community members, elected officials and local media don't include charters in that group. As public education stakeholders, we have to build up those relationships and solidify our schools as critical community pillars, who are driving impactful work.
Your priority relationships extend beyond the walls of your school. Consider which community leaders are influencing decision-making about K-12 education. Local elected officials, media and journalists, as well as key influencers like religious leaders, business leaders, etc. have major clout when it comes to things like school funding, resource allocation, etc. Find out who your local Senator and State Representative are, then check out these key tactics on connecting with these influential audiences.
When you start connecting with the right people, come prepared with the right words. You're already doing great work in your school, so leverage your academic success, your passionate educators, your exciting programs/curriculum and more - make sure that any time he/she hears "charter school," they think of you.
Becoming visible to community decision makers could be as simple as an email, or a phone call - and the results can have a BIG impact. Look up your local legislators on Facebook or on their policy website. Find out when they're meeting with constituents. Bring your elevator pitch, and a personal story, and rock their world.
Invite your local lawmaker to your ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new playground. Call your city newspaper to cover your award-winning 6th grader who's traveling to Greece to compete in a world chess tournament. Meet your State Representative at their Lansing office to talk about how they can support your school. No matter the occasion, engage these influencers. Be consistent, thank them for their time, and make sure they leave those meetings with real stories and real facts they can use when it comes time to vote or weigh in on K-12 issues.
Elected officials have a responsibility to seek feedback from their constituents, and to use the knowledge they gain in those interactions to make informed decisions at the Capitol. Remind them that your voice represents many students, educators and families who count on your school as a key community resource - and that you can provide valuable feedback on how to support those constituents on K-12 issues.
As part of our ongoing efforts to build engaged charter school stakeholders, and to connect passionate people with decision makers, MAPSA is proud to host the annual Charters Make a Difference Project. During these events, which run from February through April, we invite parents, board members, school leaders & other advocates to Lansing to learn about the K-12 school funding process, get a tour of the Capitol, and witness firsthand one of the House/Senate Education Subcommittee hearings.