by Emily Gersema - Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
School-boards group offers class on legislative process
Frustration has simmered among school supporters this year since state lawmakers began slashing the K-12 budget, most recently cutting $144 million from a fund that pays for desks and other classroom needs to offset a state revenue shortfall that tops $2 billion.
The pre-Thanksgiving budget cut was one of several rounds this year that have inspired parents to attend the Arizona School Boards Association's new statewide workshops on grass-roots advocacy.
ASBA spokeswoman Tracey Benson said the organization, a non-profit representing school boards across the state, has held nine workshops on advocacy so far this year in all but a few Arizona counties.
It's the first time the organization has led such an effort, and it taps into the emotional fight over
ASBA workshops have attracted huge turnouts "even in areas you wouldn't expect," Benson said.
About 45 people came to the workshop this fall in Safford, said Beth Sauer, the ASBA government-relations analyst who leads the workshops.
At other workshops, "we average about 20 to 25 people," she said.
Sauer said the idea for the workshops came up last year when association President Bob Rice suggested at a retreat that the organization start forums to inspire a grass-roots effort.
The goal is to teach community members to start putting pressure on state legislators or members of Congress to protect or promote certain issues, such as K-12 school funding.
As the workshop presenter, Sauer offers attendees basic tools for either advocating alone or forming coalitions. She also explains to community members the process of bill drafting and legislation, describes several efforts that can be made to fill in legislators on the potential impact of new bills as they move through the process, and gives tips for approaching and contacting legislators who could help their cause.
Sauer noted 2010 is an election year - an opportune time to meet with legislators.
The ASBA is a non-partisan organization that does not take positions on how supporters should vote. Its workshops have attracted parents who have cited budget cuts as the main reason they are interested in taking a stand for their districts... (continued back at the Republic)