Lobbying for the EL Cause

Sep 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Advocacy, News
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Sandy Silverstein

CATESOL Sends Rep to DC for Advocacy/Policy Summit

By SANDY SILVERSTEIN

—The TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit 2014 was conducted June 22-24 at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, with the lobbying completed on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I attended the summit as a representative of CATESOL, having been nominated and chosen for the position.

John Segota, the leader and organizer of the group of attendees, began the conference on Sunday by relating the history of federal funding for education, the various mandates concerned with federal funding, and the various federal agencies and House and Senate committees concerned with education.

The following day involved guest speakers from several federal departments who spoke of the various functions of their respective agencies and the particular problems that they have to deal with. The first speaker was Carlos Martinez from the Office of English Language Acquisition of the Department of Education. He explained the particular sources of funding from the division and the federal provisions for its disbursement. Emily Davis, a participant in the Teacher Preparation and Teacher Quality Initiatives of the Department of Education, explained her dual role of teacher/leader, a program for teachers who wish to take the initiative for change but who do not wish to leave the classroom.

The attendees were then given a choice of concurrent sessions, of which they could choose two of four offered.

The first session that I chose was “Civil Rights of English Learners,” presented by Emily McCarthy of the Department of Justice. She informed us of the fundamental law, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and of the interpretations of the law that have often evolved from civil rights lawsuits in addition to statutory law.

The second session, titled “Common Core State Standards and ELLs,” was offered by Giselle Lundy-Ponce of the American Federation of Teachers. She spoke of the evolution of the Common Core and its potential effects on ELLs. In addition, she clarified some common misconceptions concerning the law.

The last speaker was Diane Staehr Fenner, who explained the needs for advocacy for second language learners.

John Segota distributed packets to give to the people whom we were to lobby and he explained the process and procedures for lobbying.

Debbie West, president of TESOL France (left), and the author visit Senator Dianne Feinstein's aide in charge of education, Crystal Martinez (center).

Debbie West, president of TESOL France (left), and the author visit Senator Dianne Feinstein’s aide in charge of education, Crystal Martinez (center).

On the following day, I teamed with Debbie West, the president of TESOL France, and we lobbied the staff members of the following California legislators: Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives George Miller, D-11th District, Mike Honda, D-17th District, and Julia Brownley, D-26th District.

Debbie and I complemented each other quite well, with my offering the point of view of the needs of the K-12 learner and Debbie offering the point of view of the needs of the adult learner.

In addition, I was able to give the perspective of the second-language domestic learner in an environment where English is the dominant language, whereas Debbie was more versed in the issues concerning second-language learners not living in an environment where English was the common language of communication.

In our presentations to the congressional aides, who were the specialists in education in each legislator’s particular staff, we first introduced TESOL as an organization, explaining its history and purpose.

We then spoke of our backgrounds as educators and of our personal backgrounds that were relevant to the discussion: Debbie’s background as the daughter of a career serviceman who lived in several countries where Debbie had to adjust to the country and to the language and my background as the child of immigrant parents who had to struggle with English.

In the photo taken at the farewell banquet, the author (center) stands next to Yilin Sun (in blue), the president of TESOL International, and a group of other summit participants.

In the photo taken at the farewell banquet, the author (center) stands next to Yilin Sun (in blue), the president of TESOL International, and a group of other summit participants.

The major issues we presented to the congressional aides concerned increased funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, in particular emphasizing that Title III funding for professional development should not be merged into Title I funding for ELLs.

In addition, we advocated for increased funding for adult education and for the Workforce Investment Act.

Finally, we offered our services as resource persons for issues concerning second language learners and we promised that we would periodically contact the aides with any new information or concerns dealing with ELLs.

We concluded the day with a sumptuous dinner at the hotel and with picture taking afterward.

Overall, I found the experience quite insightful as to how government works and I found it personally satisfying to lobby on behalf of the students whom we are trying to service.

And, finally, I dearly value the networking among my colleagues and the lines of communication that it opened.

Sandy Silverstein teaches at Arcadia High School.

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