As an official state affiliate of TESOL International, LaTESOL supports the advocacy platforms of TESOL International. A full listing of these platforms (including their stance on Adult Education, Higher Education, Social and Diversity, Teacher Education, U.S. Education Policies and Legislation, and Young Learners) can be found here.
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LaTESOL participates in 2019 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit
LaTESOL Secretary and Advocacy Chair
On June 17-29, 2019 I joined over 100 other TESOL educators and members of TESOL International Association in Arlington, VA for the 2019 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit. The program featured a two days of issue briefings, breakout sessions and advocacy training, followed by a full day of visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. With representatives from 25 US affiliates in attendance, the goals of the Summit were not only to learn more about federal policy issues impacting TESOL educators and English learners, but also to provide an interactive experience for participants to actively engage in advocacy on behalf of their schools, programs, students and fellow educators. By the end of the Summit, TESOL members had visited the offices of over 150 Representatives and Senators.
To fully prepare for this year’s Summit, participants completed several important tasks before arriving in D.C., including scheduling meetings with their representatives in Congress. For many participants, this was their first experience in arranging such meetings. In order to assist new advocates, TESOL provided directions and guidance. Additionally, TESOL utilized its professional networking platform, myTESOL, to connect participants and encourage collective advocacy. I found the experience quite easy to navigate, as most congressional offices were eager to hear from someone from their state. I also appreciated the tips of scheduling meetings whose offices are close together – that made a big difference in my ability to schedule multiple appointments.
Participants also received background information on key policy issues such as federal funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act and the passage of the Reaching English Learners Act, so that they could begin to familiarize themselves in advance. To help make their congressional meetings more effective, participants were encouraged to find examples from their own programs to illustrate the talking points they would use in their meetings. I was eager to dive in and look at how the state of Louisiana could be impacted by this legislation. In my research I found that from 2017 to 2019 the state has seen an increase of 3,000 EL students.
The Summit featured a keynote from José Viana, the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to Mr. Viana, this year’s Summit welcomed Kerry McKittrick and Bridget Kelleher, legislative aides to Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) respectively, who addressed attendees on the need to pass the Reaching English Learners Act (H.R. 1153, S.545), which would provide grant funding for the training of pre-service English language teachers. Mckittrick and Kelleher also provided important tips on meeting with legislative staff on Capitol Hill. The Summit also included presentations from the American Federation of Teachers, Office of Career, Adult and Technical Education, Migration Policy Institute, National Skills Coalition, Center for Applied Linguistics, and Migrant Legal Action Program.
In addition to the numerous breakouts and speakers, Summit attendees were also given a special sneak-peak at the brand-new TESOL Advocacy Action Center. The new action center is an online advocacy hub that will allow all TESOL advocates, members and non-members alike, to contact their members of Congress about important TESOL issues, such as the Reaching English Learners Act. Furthermore, users can look up contact information for their national and state legislators and enter meeting notes if they recently called or met with their representatives. To learn more about the action center and take quick action on these important issues, please visit www.tesol.org/action
Following the various breakout policy sessions, the Summit shifted its focus to advocacy with preparations for meetings with members of Congress. Most meetings did not exceed 15 minutes and we met everywhere from offices, lobbies and hallways! It was an adrenaline rush walking around the Capitol for all of the meetings scheduled.
This year, I met with staff from the offices of Senator Cassidy, Senator Kennedy, and Congressmen Graves. I was also able to drop off materials to Congressmen Richmond’s office. I was able to emphasize that ELs are a growing population within Louisiana.
At the end of the day, many participants shared their experiences and what they learned over dinner. It was exciting to hear what other people experienced on their visit. Overall, all of the participants concluded that this year’s Summit was a very positive and motivating experience, with lots of advocacy work left to be done. More details on the 2020 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit will be released this winter.