How to lobby successfully–and legally–for ed-tech funds

If you read the front-page story of last month’s issue, “Bush: Cut $3.2B from education,” you might realize that grantsmanship sometimes involves advocacy. The demise of grant programs isn’t always a bad thing, but in some cases, it can be catastrophic to districts that can’t find other sources of funding to keep programs going or meet increasing needs for technology.

If you want to personalize the projected budget, check out the National Priorities Project web site. Here, you can click on your state and read a PDF file of what the proposed 2007 budget will mean for your state. When I clicked on mine, Pennsylvania, the projected budget was explained in terms of its impact on areas such as food and nutrition, environment, community development, and education. According to the web site, the National Priorities Project is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan education and advocacy organization whose intent is to educate the public about the impact of federal tax and spending policies at the community level. The group does not support any candidate or political party.

If you haven’t looked at the list, there are 42 federal education programs slated for elimination. Of course, it’s not a sure deal that every one of them will be killed. But it’s not too early to take a look at the list and examine closely how the demise of any one of these programs might affect your district.

Start making plans now for what you are going to do in the event that this funding disappears. For example, can you scale back your activities? Can you make revisions to your district budget? Can you find other sources of funding, perhaps local ones, to pick up some of the lost funds?

Also, take steps now to make sure that your federal legislators understand what the demise of specific grant programs will mean for your district. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Call or send a clear letter or eMail message to your legislators, explaining in detail what the loss of grant funds will mean to your district. Cite the effects this will have on your students and teachers. If it will impact student achievement, explain how. (Many national organizations concerned with education and/or technology might have a template you can use, if you aren’t sure how to compose your letter.)

2. Notify parents and other stakeholders about the possible loss of grant funds. Explain what this will mean for their children. Ask them to help get this information to your legislators by making phone calls, writing letters, or sending eMail.

3. Ask your students to write letters or send eMail. No one is in a better position than they are to explain what the loss of funds will mean to them. (This also could be an excellent opportunity to combine a lesson about English composition and our political process!)

4. Invite your legislators to your district, so they can see first-hand how you are using federal grant funds. This should enable them to better conceptualize what the loss of funding will mean. And, it will put a “face” (your students) on the loss, rather than just numbers on paper.

Although cutting programs is always difficult, it appears some new grant programs might be on the horizon, too. In next month’s column, I’ll discuss how to prepare for possible new sources of funding in the areas of math, science, and high school reform.

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