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Advocacy in Action

University Partner for the 2012 Annual Public Policy Institute

By Kelly M. Vaillancourt

Once again, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the George Washington University (GW) will cohost an annual public policy institute (PPI) in July 2012. This year's theme is “Creating Safe and Supportive Conditions for Learning: Directions for the Nation” and is an excellent professional development opportunity for school psychologists and GW graduate students interested in public policy and effective grassroots advocacy. The 2012 GW/NASP Public Policy Institute will feature a 3-day basic training for school psychologists and other national organizations from Wednesday, July 11 to Friday, July 13. Those participating in the 3-day training will be able to receive NASP continuing professional development credits. GW graduate students and others interested in earning graduate credit hours will participate in a 5-day training that continues on Monday and Tuesday, July 16 and 17. The 3-day basic training will focus on building a foundational knowledge of public policy, federal education law, and grassroots advocacy. The 5-day training will delve more deeply into the development of administrative policy and procedures and how public policies impact students and school organizational systems.

The primary goal of the PPI is to build capacity, knowledge, and skills related to public policy and grassroots advocacy. Participants will gain a valuable set of advocacy skills and tools needed to effectively engage in and organize advocacy efforts in their districts and states. PPI speakers include nationally known experts in education policy, leaders from the U.S. Department of Education, GW faculty, NASP Government and Professional Relations leaders and staff, and Capitol Hill staff who provide insight about how things operate in the Senate and the House. These speakers provide training on the fundamentals of professional and legislative advocacy, history of federal education law and current reform efforts, education funding policies, effective conditions for learning, and other relevant issues related to educational equity. In 2011, 85 school psychologists, teachers, administrators, graduate students, and other interested professionals gathered in Washington, DC from 27 states to learn these critical and valuable skills.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has begun, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is up for reauthorization soon. The current drafts regarding the reauthorization of ESEA as well as other pending legislation have the potential to significantly impact academic outcomes for our students and the availability of comprehensive school psychological services in the schools. Participants will review this legislation, learn how NASP's priorities align with advocacy and public policy initiatives, and gain specific tools to help engage other professionals in the advocacy process. At the end of the 3-day experience, all participants get to put their new skill set to good use by spending a day on Capitol Hill. This day begins with an interactive discussion with a panel of key Capitol Hill staff members and is followed by the opportunity to meet with their elected officials to share their stories about the impact of their work, and to advocate for policies and practices that are critical to school psychologists. Several opportunities for state planning, networking, and collaboration will be available throughout the experience.

School psychologists and state associations need to be prepared for many of the challenges that lie ahead. We need to work to ensure implementation of the APA model licensure act, expansion of NCSP parity, and advancement of the NASP Practice Model. Additionally, as states continue to deal with shrinking budgets and larger student populations, it is critically important that school psychologists are prepared to advocate for our profession and the vital services we provide to students at the local, state, and federal levels. The GW/NASP PPI is an excellent way to build capacity of members and leaders for this truly important work. PPI participants will gain critical knowledge and skills that can be used to make policy and legislative goals that promote school psychology a reality. To view selected content from previous PPIs and learn more information about the 2012 PPI, visit http://www.nasponline.org/advocacy/professionaldevelopment.aspx.

Kelly M. Vaillancourt is NASP Director of Government Relations.