Public Policy: Why Your Voice Matters
I was raised with an expectation that I utilize my influence to “stick up” for those who cannot stick up for themselves. While I did not set out on a path to be a professional advocate for children, I do not believe it is a coincidence that I have been led to this role. I have been blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing advocates that have guided me through this journey and helped me understand the various ways in which I can make a difference.
As newly appointed Chair of the CAAEYC Public Policy Committee, it’s my turn to return the favor and extend a hand to you my fellow Association members in the hopes you will join with me in advocating for children, families, as well as early education professionals at this critical juncture in our state and nation. One voice alone will not influence change, but our voices together can impact early education reform and future fiscal planning for professionals and children needing high-quality childcare in our state.
Jose Nunez, who represents the Men in Early Care and Education as the CAAEYC Committee Chair joined a group of his fellow ECE professionals to experience his first legislative visit. After a day at the State Capitol, he had this to say about his experience. “Public policy is not my forte, and I have to admit I have limited knowledge about the legislative process. However, ELAD helped me to feel more confident and empowered to advocate for the ECE field. I would definitely participate again.” Here is a perfect example of how you can join with others and help influence a legislator by simply telling your story. Jose was also able to share materials our committee provided about early education budget needs and specific information about the legislation we support as an association. His feeling of empowerment happened because he was willing to take a step to join with other advocates.
As professionals in the ECE field, there is no better expert on the needs and issues our children face than each of you. In your local community few can communicate the needs children and families face and how ECE programs benefit both children and family. CAAEYC members are more than 5,000 strong. Decisions on the state budget and programs impact you, the children, families and community you serve. If we begin to collectively advocate for our ECE programs, children and families it will be hard for our representatives to ignore us.
Pamela Robinson, Executive Board Member for Riverside Consortium for Early Learning Services and CAAEYC member shared this: “I met with a local legislator last month to request his support on a bill. Initially I was only allotted 15 minutes for our meeting. He was so interested in the ECE field, we spent more than an hour discussing not only the bill that I wanted to talk about, but he was very interested in all the different funding streams and the impact on children and families. We came with statistics of how many children were not being served (but qualify for subsidized program) in his district, which helped him to understand the great need. This was a positive experience and without us taking the time to make this visit, he would have not had this valuable information.”
Overcoming the misconception that we are bothering staff or legislators by our personal visits is important to recognize. If for any reason the legislator or staff are busy and cannot meet there are other ways to share your story. Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) said this, “Of course, whenever a one-on-one meeting is not feasible, there are certainly other efficient ways of advocating, including calling their office, sending an email or physical letter or even interacting with them on social media.”
Figuring out how you share your story or how to join with others in unity is something we each must decide. The important point in advocacy is that you participate. There are a few options and ideas I have provided in hope you will find a way, like me, to “stick up” for those who cannot stick up for themselves. The ECE field has a multitude of children, families and professionals who need us to do just that. Can I count on you? I promise to help you along this advocacy journey as so many others have done for me.
A FCC visit with Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) (pictured third from left).
"Direct advocacy by constituents is particularly effective, including meeting with the elected official or their staff to discuss their issues of interest. For example, a constituent sharing personal experiences about how a certain bill or legislative action might help or hurt them helps to shed light on the potential impacts of proposed legislation that the elected official can then consider.”
~ Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino)
Testifying at the CA State Capitol with Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (pictured at left).
"Every constituent’s voice matters in public policy, it is our duty to
represent all of our constituents and have meaningful discussion on
how public policy impacts them and their children."
~ Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D, San Bernardino)
HOW YOUR VOICE MATTERS
~ Ask a local elected official to your site. Bringing legislators to your site is easier than you think and a powerful way to advocate for the benefits of ECE programs, the number of children waiting to be served, etc.
~ There are opportunities to visit elected officials in their local offices, write letters of support or opposition, and attend advocacy workshops with other members of our field. Telling your story is an important way to put a face on who the policy will impact.
~ Building relationships is the key to successful advocacy and the starting place for your advocacy work is connecting with your elected officials, and especially their staff members. The legislators listen to their staff. If you have a relationship and influence with the staff member you have it with the legislator as well.
~ Join with others advocating for children and families and visit a legislator’s office. I’ve included a few pictures from recent legislative visits I have organized in my local community or at the state capitol. CAAEYC and other organizations have opportunities all the time to visit the Capitol or local legislative offices.
~ Ask me for assistance with your advocacy efforts, or reach out to the Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our amazing Public Policy team is eager to work with you.