Lori Menning, WITESOL Board Member and New London High School ELL/Bilingual Teacher, joined over 40 other members of TESOL International Association in Washington, DC for TESOL Advocacy Day 2012, held June 18-19.
With representatives from over 20 US affiliates in attendance, the goals of Advocacy Day, now in its seventh year, were not only to lobby on key issues for TESOL, but also to provide an interactive learning experience for participants on elements of advocacy.
By the end of the event, TESOL members had visited the offices of approximately 100 Representatives and Senators.
The program started with three briefings from experts on key issues and legislation.
The first briefing featured staff from the offices of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) discussing what legislators know about ESL and ELLs, and what they need to hear from teachers. To discuss the current status of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a staffer from the House Education and Workforce Committee was featured on the next panel.
Dr. Rosalinda Barrera, director of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) at the U.S. Department of Education, closed out the morning with an update on the activities of her office.
On June 19, participants went to Capitol Hill to have meetings with members of Congress and staff. As numerous policy issues are under consideration in the U.S. Congress, the agenda included topics for both K-12 and adult education.
To maximize the impact of TESOL Advocacy Day, key members of Congress serving on the education and appropriations committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives were identified for meetings.
Menning met with staff from the office of Senator Herb Kohl and met directly with Representative Reid Ribble (WI-8) and Representative Thomas Petri (WI-6) to discuss policies and issues regarding English Language Learners (ELLs) in Wisconsin. She encouraged support for the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and specifically shared testimony on how Title III funds allotted to the School District of New London Bilingual/Bicultural Program are crucial in supporting the needs of their stable K-12 population of approximately 150 ELLs. As a higher education instructor working with current and pre-service teachers from throughout the state, Menning gave examples of the growing concern for the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Overall, the participants agreed this event was a very positive experience for them and for TESOL International Association.
“Advocacy is so very important, now more than ever,” said Menning. “My meetings on Capitol Hill were a starting point.”
Menning will stay in contact with both state representatives, as she offered to serve as a resource in the field of education. Representative Ribble expressed interest in visiting her ELL classroom at New London High School when he is back in his 8th Congressional District.
Additional information about TESOL Advocacy Day is available online at http://www.tesol.org. If you are interested in learning more about your Congressional representatives current legislative issues, visit the TESOL U.S. Advocacy Action Center at http://capwiz.com/tesol.