On June 17-29, 2019 Liz Martin 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. One of the most important tips is to call the representative/senator’s office and acquire the email of “the scheduler”. Simply filling out a request on their website is not sufficient. Multiple emails and calls to confirm an appointment are required.
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 dialogue.
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. It was important to schedule brief meetings of 15-20 minutes in length with sufficient time to travel to the following appointment. Allowances also had to be made in order to clear security between buildings.
To maximize the impact of the Summit, many participants attending from the same state teamed up so they could meet with the legislators in small groups. This year, Liz Martin and three other representatives from TexTESOL Regions I, II an III met with staff from the offices of senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. In addition, meetings with congressional office staff included: Marc Veasey , Will Hurd, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Veronica Escobar, Jodey Arrington and Julian Castro.
On June 19, participants went to Capitol Hill to have meetings with members of Congress and staff. It was a rewarding experience.
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.
On June 21-23, 2015, as the Advocacy Representative of TexTESOL V, I joined approximately 90 other TESOL educators and members of TESOL International Association (TESOL) in Washington, DC, for the 2015 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit. The program featured a full day of issue briefings and activities around education legislation and advocacy, followed by a day of visits to Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Read more…