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2019 Washington Policy Seminar

Wednesday, March 20, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lexie Farkash
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The annual Washington Policy Seminar, a capstone event of IEL’s Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), celebrated its 55th year and focused on the theme “Looking Backward, Moving Forward.” Over 300 EPFP Fellows from across the country put their heads together around federal education policy, the federal-state interplay, national policy trends, and equity in education policy and practice. This diverse cohort of education leaders spent four days learning together and sharing their expertise from many different sectors. Fellows emerged significantly more prepared to lead the charge within their own communities. 

 

EPFP brings together Fellows from 17 different states to focus on three pillars: Policy, Leadership, and Networking. We began WPS with a conversation on the role of the federal government in education policy to offer a foundation for the overarching debates in education and the distribution of power in today’s federal education laws and policies. After a welcome from the DC State Superintendent of Education, we finished up Day 1 with the Congressional Insights Simulation. This activity is designed to challenge Fellows’ thinking and understanding of how decisions around federal policy are made. The Simulation provided perspective on the priority factors influencing legislative decisions, which pressures are negotiable and how, and which stakeholder voices and partnerships warrant greater consideration. Fellows had an opportunity to come together and engage with each other to broaden their understanding of public policy, setting up thoughtful conversations ahead of their visit with state legislators the next day.

 

Equity was at the forefront of many conversations around policy on Day 2. Fellows had the chance to hold conversations among themselves during Making Meaning sessions. Fellows broke off into discussion groups based off of their role and reflected on issues impacting their local communities. EPFP site Coordinators led the discussions and encouraged fellows to practice telling their story, hone in on policy priorities, and focus on their message.

 

After hearing from experts in federal policy, including Congressional Research Service Senior Analyst Judy Schneider, Fellows headed out into DC in state groups. Many had the chance to connect with their federal representatives during their Hill Day sessions. Fellows went into these meetings more aware of the difficult decisions policymakers juggle from their experience in Wednesday’s Congressional Simulation session and were able to participate in meaningful conversations around their role in the education system. Fellows from pre-k, k-12, higher education, business, and non-profit sectors came away from the experience with a new perspective on how to engage with policymakers and learned more about education policy contexts affecting their own communities. 

 

The third day of WPS continued with great discussions between Fellows that sparked debate around policy and community impact. The morning began with the Samuel Halperin Lecture, co-sponsored by American Youth Policy Forum, featuring Roberto Rodriguez and Kenvin Lacayo, winner of the Youth Public Service Award. From there, Fellows participated in breakout sessions across a wide range of salient education issues hearing from speakers representing many institutions and perspectives. During the National Forum for Education Policy, each Fellow had the chance to put forth their equity policy ideas. After a brainstorming session, Fellows debated and defended their proposed policies and generated consensus on the most effective methods to improve education equity, which they then presented to the entire cohort.

The excitement and discussions carried through to the final day of WPS, when Fellows wrapped up their week with breakout sessions and plenaries that pushed their thinking. Roscoe Jones, Sr. discussed his experiences as a 17-year-old leader in the Civil Rights Movement and challenged Fellows to create spaces for civics while lifting up equity leaders of all ages. Fellows reflected on takeaways from WPS and were inspired by a spoken word performance by Naim Owens, and Tyra A. Mariani, New America President  & Chief Operating Officer, to ask themselves “What will you say you did?” and consider how each one of them can be change makers on behalf of children. Fellows left WPS better prepared to influence education policy and inspired to advocate for equity.

 

 


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