Education Lobbyists: What do They Do?
Since schools are already overseen by organizations like the state school board and accreditation organizations, what exactly can an education lobbyist do?
Education lobbyists are powerful because they can help facilitate change by working directly with legislators. While the school board and higher education administration is run by the government, the legislators have the ability to have a direct impact through the creation of laws and bills.
One of the most common reasons to hire an education lobbyist is to procure funding for an educational institution.
Asking for Funding
The key to the success of any educational institution is funding. You can’t teach without teachers and you can’t have teachers unless you pay them.
Funding can come in many forms. It can come from decisions regarding budgeting in the Senate or House. Both K12 and public high education institutions rely upon state funding. By working with legislators and making them aware of the needs of education it is more likely that budgeting decisions will be made that will benefit educators. Lobbyists can also work for teacher’s unions or school psychologists associations to help advocate for better pay, lower student ratios, and more.
Public universities hire lobbyists to help with funding as well. While some people may assume that a university’s operating budget comes primarily from tuition, that is not true. Higher education appropriations are critical to a university’s fiscal budget. New hires, programming, and services all rely upon the money given by the state. Communication with the higher education appropriation committee is critical in ensuring that a university’s needs are being addressed.
Legislators have a lot of people fighting for their attention so while they all probably agree about the importance of education, it may not be a top priority for them when drafting bills. It is important to have an education lobbyist that can help your voice be heard to encourage change and improvement for education.
An Education Lobbyist Can Initiate Change
One of the most common reasons for working with an education lobbyist is securing more funding. However, you can also lobby for change. Change can happen at multiple levels in the education system. When working to initiate change, it is important to know who has oversight for the area you are concerned with.
At the K-12 level, you start out with the individual school level. There is a principal who oversees the teachers and students. In addition, there is typically some kind of parent board type organization that has input. In Utah, there is the School Community Council which fulfills this role.
Above the individual school, there is the school district that oversees the principals and the general administration. There are individual leadership positions that oversee aspects and personnel at school: special education, teacher training, business, school lunch, etc. The district also has a community component to it with school boards that discuss important issues, assist with hiring, and review community concerns.
Above the district, is the state school board which has a greater amount of oversight. While individual schools and school districts have the freedom to customize instruction or planning, there is a large amount that is mandated from the state school board level. For administering K12 education, each state has an Office of the Superintendent of Education.
Above the state is the Department of Education. This is the highest level of oversight and has an incredible impact on education. The Department of Education is who created such major programs as “No Child Left Behind,”
When lobbying for K-12, it is important to understand what level of education you are focusing on. Generally, people will look at lobbying at the state level to see changes that will impact their individual state. However, when you want to go for a larger impact, you can lobby at the Senate level in Washington, DC. It depends on the impact you are hoping to have and the specific geographic area of your concern.
Higher Education Administration
At the higher education level, you would begin with the individual department of the college. Each department has its own chair who oversees the department’s needs. Above the departments is the college which is led by a dean. The position above the dean could be a provost, an academic vice president, or another role. Then above that is the university president.
In terms of oversight, each state has a Higher Education department that oversees the higher education institutions. In addition to the state oversight, each university also must be accredited. Depending on their specific classification, they will be accredited by a group. In Utah, most universities are accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Accreditation requires that a university create extensive documentation illustrating and proving that they are meeting all of the requirements of accreditation. That may range from the credentials of the professors to the safety of the facilities.
The U.S Department of Education also has oversight over universities.
Lobbying for Change in Education
When lobbying for change in education, it is important to know how best to approach the situation. Lobbying may mean that you are seeking support from legislators for specific changes. Or it may be something that can be done at a lower level with a specific school, district, or school board. It is important to think carefully about your goals for change and determine at what level you need to focus.
If you decide that you want to focus on statewide change, an education lobbyist can be a good fit.
Stan Lockhart: Education Lobbyist
Education is at the heart of Stan Lockhart’s experience. He was asked to fill an opening on the Utah State School Board from 2015-2016. He also serves on numerous educational committees and boards. Stan Lockhart understands the workings of education and can assist you with lobbying for change in education. Contact us today to see how we can help!