Last week ERS director Jonathan Travers and I traveled to Denver, Colorado to present to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) convening of education-focused legislators from around the country. These legislators, most of whom have served on their respective states’ education committees, came to discuss and explore answers to a common question: how can we promote education reform in an era of limited resources? Districts increasingly rely on state legislatures to publicly advocate for improvements in the way people, time and money are managed in education. This convening was a valuable opportunity to engage state leaders in a conversation around how they can best use their influence to encourage deliberate and thoughtful decisions about resource allocation. We discussed the types of state policies that prevent districts from implementing policy that’s truly aligned with their priorities, as well as how the growing number of legislative efforts related to teacher evaluation and staffing interact with district initiatives aimed at improving teaching effectiveness.
The presentation ended with a game of School Budget Hold’em, which required legislators to briefly step into the shoes of school district leaders. Connecting their experience at the state level with our experience at the district level was a powerful way to bridge common gaps between policy and practice. Dan Thatcher, senior policy analyst for NCSL, said, "The legislative education committee chairs in attendance played School Budget Hold'em with interest and vivacity. The game provided a balanced medium to explore the painful decisions local stakeholders must make in the face of tight budgets and how their smartest budget decisions may be inhibited or facilitated by policy on the state level."
Many thanks to NCSL for hosting this important event and to the legislators who attended.