Presentation for Advocacy 101: My Personal Journey

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On March 5th, my friend Shawna Murphy, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on advocacy. I was invited to participate on the panel. These are my opening remarks. 

My name is Carolyn Leith and I write for the Seattle Education blog. However, I think the real reason why I’m sitting at this table is because I’m a gifted trouble maker. 

I want to share with you what I believe are the three ingredients to advocacy.

First, by being here, you’re demonstrated the first ingredient: A willingness to act on your passion to make a difference.

I started out sitting in the same place you are now. I wanted to do something, but couldn’t see how I could fit into the organizations that were doing the work.

One day, it hit me.

I didn’t need to join a group to work on the things I cared about. I could do it myself, with friends who were worried about the same things.

That’s when I started to write for the blog.

Writing led to making a connection with other people who were concerned about the brand new Smarter Balanced Assessment. Together we formed the Seattle Opt Out Facebook Group.

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Through Seattle Opt Out, I met Shawna Murphy and we decided to create the tongue-in-cheek group, Teacher Retention Advocate Parents or TRAP.

Together we threw a half-baked bake sale at district headquarters to protest school level staff cuts and draw attention to the absurdity of trying to fund basic education with bake sales.

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After that, we asked parents in the district the Thirteen Thousand Dollar Question when Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr Larry Nyland, said his scheduled $13,000 dollar raise couldn’t solve any of the district’s problems.

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We also held the McCleary Crime Scene Coloring Contest to bring attention to the state’s criminal underfunding of our public school system.

So back to the ingredients of activism. We have the first ingredient: action combined with the second ingredient: fearless friends.

The third ingredient, which I think is essential, is framing your advocacy in a way that’s both funny and leaves a mark.

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Humor is the twist that disarms your audience and allows the more serious information the opportunity to seep in.

But how do you do this?

This question led to my latest advocacy project: The Typist Union.

Why a union?  Because I always wanted to be in a union and I thought it would be funny if I started my own.

Once a month we meet and do art together based on an artist or group which blended politics and art.

We’ve made union cards based on the Wobblies. Masks inspired by Bread and Puppets and protest posters inspired by Act Up’s design arm Grand Fury.

In closing, I’m not waiting for any leader to save me or the public school system that I love. I’m doing it myself. I hope you do the same.

-Carolyn Leith, card carrying member of the Typist Union

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McCleary Crime Scene: Help Unscramble Governor Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp with this Fun Worksheet.

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Here at the temporary Olympia branch of TRAP Headquarters, nothing makes our eyes roll like politicians giving lectures on the value of compromise and the McCleary decision.

What Governor Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp fail to grasp is that students, parents, and teachers have been compromising for years – and our patience is running out.

Preaching compromise works best when you walk your talk. Do Inslee’s and Chopp’s lectures on compromise include corporate tax breaks or pleasing lobbyists?

Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Since September of 2012, the Legislature has been in contempt of the State Supreme Court, refusing to do their Constitutionally mandated job of fully funding public education.

Did Inslee and Chopp push the legislature to work hard and solve the problem? Not really. Instead, they allowed lawmakers to dawdle, make excuses, and promise to do the work next year.

However, while the contempt ruling was in place, there were two issues – which directly impacted education funding – where both Governor Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp refused to compromise.

The first example is Boeing’s unprecedented $8.7 billion tax break. Unlike fully funding public education, it took just three days of debate for the Legislature to approve that boondoggle.

The second example is when both Frank Chopp and Governor Inslee betrayed their own party and pushed through a controversial bill which reestablished charter schools in Washington State; a crass move where pleasing lobbyists won out over the Constitutional rights of 1 million students who have been waiting years for fully funded schools.

So, Inslee and Chopp do have spines, but just can’t seem to find them when it comes to solving the McCleary crisis.

However, the most stinging diss to Washington’s students, parents, and teachers may have come when Inslee decided to take a capital gains tax off the table – before real budget negotiations had even begun.

Sorry, Governor Inslee, but we’ve seen this losing strategy before.

Democrats love to give away all of their leverage before negotiations begin and then whine afterwards about how they just had to agree to whatever horrible plan the Republicans put forward.

And make no mistake, the Republican plan is horrible. It’s basically a public education destruction plan masquerading as a funding plan.

We think Governor Inslee and Frank Chopp need to unscramble their priorities, but we need your help to set them straight.

Please solve this worksheet (Unscramble_2) which lists all of the revenue sources that should be on the table.  After you’re finished, make a copy and mail one to Governor Inslee and the other to Frank Chopp.

Here’s their addresses for easy mailing:

Frank Chopp
LEG 339C
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA
98504-0600

Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002

If you are able to make tomorrow’s WEA Caucus McCleary Candlelight Vigil (June 2nd from 8-10PM on the Capital steps) please make copies of the worksheet and share them with the other participants.

When it comes to kids, we refuse to compromise. We wish more politicians felt the same way.

Sincerely,

-TRAP:  Shawna Murphy and Carolyn Leith

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McCleary Crime Scene Find the Money Word Search

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A year ago Teacher Retention Advocate Parents (TRAP)  hosted a coloring contest to draw attention to Washington State’s criminally under-funded public schools.

Today, TRAP is back – because the Legislature STILL can’t find the money. Let’s help them out.

Please print out your own copy of the word search, find the money for the Legislature, and then share your work on Facebook: McCleary Crime Scene Find the Money Word Search. (printable link at the bottom of the page)

Once you’ve done that, please mail your word search to the legislator you think needs the most help finding the money.

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Get your word search here:

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More information available at:

Twitter: @McClearyCrime

Facebook: McCleary Crime Scene Find the Money Word Search

hashtags: #McClearyCrime #FundMcCleary , #ParamountDuty

email: teacher.retention.advocates@gmail.com

-Carolyn Leith & Shawna Murphy