Real-time Advocacy Part 1

By: Paul Baker, NASP GPR Member from Kentucky 

If you are reading these words, then I do not have to convince you that advocacy is important. There is a famous anonymous quote that underlies why: "If you don't have a seat at the table, then you're on the menu." To me the imperative to advocate has never been put more succinctly and accurately. My purpose here is not to convince you of the need for advocacy; instead what I am doing is chronicling my efforts to advocate real-time to serve as an example. Hopefully together we can move from the "Why" of advocacy to the "How". This will be a two-part blog. In this first part, I will discuss the early planning and foundation-laying efforts that one state government and professional relations (GPR) committee is doing to enhance its advocacy efforts.

The Background: I have been the Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools (KAPS) GPR Chair since 2012. I was encouraged to take this position after my attendance at NASP's Public Policy Institute (PPI) the previous year. I would sum up the early years of my tenure in the GPR position as catch-as-catch-can. I had a supportive, ever-expanding GPR committee, thanks to a KAPS sponsored stipend program. However, my naïveté about leadership and the machinations of state government meant that our advocacy efforts weren't as effective as they might have been. This state of affairs began to change 2 years ago when I was selected to be on NASP GPR Committee. Another famous saying I like is by Friedrich Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger". Joining the advocacy effort at the national level has been a challenge to be sure, but the lessons learned in this arena have added value to my work at the state level. A long-time goal of KAPS GPR committee has been to do an event at our state capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. This has never been attempted in our state association in recent memory, so when the GPR Committee set to the task of doing this we took baby steps. Since this was uncharted water, we decided to do a pilot experiment with ourselves as the guinea pigs.  

The Preparation: One valuable lesson learned from my time on the NASP GPR Committee is the value of partnerships. KAPS and NASP are both small relative to other professional associations. It is essential that we form and maintain relationships with sister organizations with similar goals. We give each other strength, and our voices are magnified when we advocate. In preparing for the KAPS advocacy event, I reached out to our state partners to see what advice and assistance they could offer. What I discovered was that one of our partners, the Kentucky Psychological Association (KPA), offers an advocacy training annually in Frankfort at no charge. What was great about this training (beside the free part) was that its goals were to teach about the legislative process in our state, and the best ways to communicate with state legislators. This was something I and the committee members needed. The committee has had wonderful professional development opportunities on this topic by NASP GPR and Assistance to States (ATS) Committees. What we needed now was more knowledge specific to our state. The committee settled on a 2-day event with the first day being the aforementioned state training. The second day would consist of attending an education subcommittee meeting, meetings with individual legislators, and a full legislative session. Since this was our first attempt at talking to legislators, we felt our goal and subsequently our message was to educate them about who school psychologists are and what we do in the schools. In addition to this message, we advocated for legislators to provide adequate school funding, since this was a year in which the biennium state budget is crafted. NASP was a great help to me in terms of providing information. They sent me the following resources: the "Who are school psychologists brochure", the Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, and the School Psychologists as Mental Health Providers Infographic. In addition, they directed me to the Kids Count Data Set from the Annie E. Casey Foundation from which I developed Kentucky-specific reports to include in my packet of information for legislators. Armed with information and a full schedule of activities, we were ready.            

The Outcomes: The capitol event was a success and laid a great foundation. KAPS GPR committee members' advocacy skills were strengthened relative to learning how the legislative branch of our state government works. The committee going forward will be savvier with their advocacy efforts and strategy deployment. We built relationships and group identity amongst the committee members. Because our committee meetings are typically conducted by conference call, this event was the first time that we had assembled together solely for a GPR related purpose. The final outcome of the state capital event was that it highlighted some clear next steps for the KAPS GPR Committee.  

A KAPS Version of PPI: In cooperation with our partners, we plan to host a professional development opportunity on advocacy at our fall conference. At this training, we plan to get a commitment from members to join us on a day at the state capital during next year's legislative session to advocate for our profession.  

A Policy Platform of Our Own: It emerged from our time together that the GPR Committee needed to improve its advocacy messaging. The past number of years, our efforts have been focused mainly on educating decision makers about school psychology. We need to identify some policy goals that align with the vision and mission of the association. This will provide us some guidance on future legislation and its impact on Kentucky's children, schools, and our profession.               

That brings you all up to speed on KAPS GPR Committee's work. As you read this, maybe your state association is way beyond this;  if so, check out my message on the GPR interest group page.  Maybe as you're reading this, your association is where we were just a few years ago. In that case I hope this serves as a road map as you work to enhance your efforts. Lastly, I will say make sure to continue to check the Policy Matters Blog for the second installment of this story. Until then good luck in your advocacy efforts!      

Related Resources

Contact Your Elected Officials
Make your voice heard by visiting the NASP Advocacy Action Center to contact your members of Congress and share how Medicaid Matters.

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Proposed Changes to Medicaid Would Harm Children and Youth (Infographic)
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Cuts in Medicaid Funding Will Directly Impact School Psychological Services (Infographic)
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