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Influencing State Policy: How You Can Make a Difference! Myrna R. Mandlawitz, Esq. LDA Public Policy Director.

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Presentation on theme: "Influencing State Policy: How You Can Make a Difference! Myrna R. Mandlawitz, Esq. LDA Public Policy Director."— Presentation transcript:

1 Influencing State Policy: How You Can Make a Difference! Myrna R. Mandlawitz, Esq. LDA Public Policy Director

2 The “ Why ” of Advocacy

3 LDA ’ s Vision LDA Visualizes a World in Which:  All individuals with learning disabilities are empowered to thrive and participate fully in society  The incidence of learning disabilities is reduced  And learning disabilities are universally understood and effectively addressed

4 Facts about SLD  About 2.7 million students with SLD receive special education services. ( 30th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the IDEA, 2011)  44.6% of all students receiving special education services are identified as having SLD. (30 th Annual Report)  64% of students with SLD graduate from HS with a regular diploma; 75.5% of students generally (2009).  22% of students with SLD dropped out of HS; 9.4% of students generally (2009).

5 More Facts…  2/3s of HS graduates with SLD were rated "not qualified" to enter a 4-year college (37% of grads without disabilities).  9.7% of students with SLD attend 4-year colleges (28% of students generally).

6 Even MORE facts….  55% of adults with SLD are employed (76% without SLD).  6% of adults with SLD vs. 3% generally are unemployed.  Students with SLD are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system % of all students with disabilities in these settings.

7 Be an Advocate!  Advocates = People in the community who make their voices heard  Advocacy = Mobilization of a network of activists for a common goal  Constituency = power!

8 Advocates are Change Agents We can….. Let current policies stand OR Work together to affect change

9 “Advocacy is…Advocacy!” Local Local Local governments Local governments ‘Regulatory’ agencies (School board, etc.) ‘Regulatory’ agencies (School board, etc.) State State State legislatures State legislatures State agencies State agencies Federal Federal Congress Congress Federal agencies Federal agencies

10 Find your advocacy “ comfort level! ”

11 Six Steps to Effective Advocacy  Determine the issue!  Research the issue.  Build a network.  Communicate with your allies.  Set clear goals and reasonable expectations.  Develop a plan and take action.

12 The Details!  What do you want?  Who can give it to you?  What does the ‘ policymaker ’ need to hear?  Who should deliver the message?  How do you get them to hear it?

13 More Details!  What resources do you have already?  What do you need to develop?  How do you begin? (short term vs. long term goals)  How do you know it ’ s working?  Where do you go from here?

14 An Advocacy Exercise  The ISSUE: Requiring general education teachers to demonstrate knowledge of SLD to receive state certification.  Your TASK: Develop an “ Action Plan. ”  With your group members, briefly answer the 10 questions on the two previous slides.  Then we ’ ll share with the whole group.

15 The “ Nitty Gritty ” : Influencing the State Legislative Process

16 State Legislatures  Unicameral vs. bicameral legislatures Nebraska: only “ unicameral ” state  When does the legislature meet? “ Citizen ” legislators Only a few year-round - National Conference of State Legislatures

17 Authorization: Establishing a program and setting funding limits Authorization: Establishing a program and setting funding limits Appropriations: Providing funds for authorized programs Appropriations: Providing funds for authorized programs Authorizing & Appropriating

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20 Critical Points in Advocating  When YOU have an issue to address How to get lawmakers to make it ‘ their ’ issue!  When a lawmaker raises an issue Committee hearings Research phase Bill drafting Floor action Governor ’ s action (sign/veto)  Authorizing & Appropriating!!!

21 Key Roles in Lawmaking  Legislators  Personal Staff & Committee Staff  Constituents  Lobbyists professional or “ volunteer ”  “ Experts ” Researchers Folks working in the field of interest Folks with personal experience

22 Legislative Testimony  Know why you were asked to testify purpose of the hearing any proposed legislation  Know your audience and who else is testifying  Choose facts & research to support your analysis and recommendations

23 Testimony  Briefly introduce yourself and give credentials Give context of your knowledge base Express opinion Provide recommendations supported by research  Possibly write longer version for hearing “ record ” with more supporting research.

24 Is Anyone Listening? Communicating Your Message!

25 Before making contacts…  Know the member ’ s prior record.  Know why the legislator ’ s constituency wants his/her support.  Know any personal info on the legislator that might be helpful.  Are there other legislators whose support might influence his/her decision?

26 ABCs: s and Letters  Identify yourself as a constituent and a member of LDA!  Briefly describe the issue, with bill # if possible.  State what action you want: the “ ask ”  Share personal stories.  offer to be a resource.  Ask for a response..and say “ thanks! ”

27 ABCs: Phone Calls  Same as the previous slide!  In addition, be prepared to… Answer questions about your position or offer to find the answers. Counter arguments politely, but don ’ t argue back!

28 ABCs: Visits ABCs: Making Visits  Define the purpose of your meeting. Limit your focus. Limit your focus. Form your message concisely. Form your message concisely.  Meet beforehand to discuss your strategy.  Review talking points in advance and consider potential questions.

29 Visits, 2 Visits, Part 2  Assign roles Opener Opener Recorder Recorder Commenter Commenter Closer Closer

30 Visits, Part 3  Be prompt. Be patient. Be flexible.  Be sure to say “ I am a constituent from ____________. ” “ I am a constituent from ____________. ” “ I am a member of LDA of _______. ” “ I am a member of LDA of _______. ”  Talk about the issues, with personal stories, if possible.  Again: state your points clearly & firmly, but don ’ t argue.

31 Visits, Part 4  Deliver your “ ASK ” and try to get a commitment.  Leave materials, including contact info.  Sign the guest book and leave your business card.  FOLLOW UP Thank you note ( is best). Thank you note ( is best). Call-backs or s regularly. Call-backs or s regularly.

32 Reminders  Don ’ t be bamboozled by “ jargon ” …and don ’ t use jargon!  Admit you don ’ t know the answer – but offer to find out.  Remember that YOU are the EXPERT!

33 Visits, Part 5  Thank the staff.  Give the member visibility/publicity.  BE A RESOURCE!

34 Extra Credit Develop monthly activities: Immediately: Send follow-up letter ( or snail mail) & any promised info Call to make sure info received Next month: Letter on “ talking points ” September: invite member to your school October: Letter to the editor KEEP IT GOING!

35 Exercise: “ Elevator ” Speeches  Find a partner.  Issue: Same as the 1 st Exercise!  Take turns doing the following: Introduce yourself. Introduce yourself. Give your “ creds! ” Give your “ creds! ” Say why you ’ re there – in one sentence! Say why you ’ re there – in one sentence! Make a 2-minute case with 3-5 key talking points. Make a 2-minute case with 3-5 key talking points. Ask for something specific! Ask for something specific!

36 Exercise: Team Visiting  Issue: Increasing state funding for special education.  Develop talking points and assign roles.  Myrna will be the legislator!  Any volunteers?

37 Using the Media: How to Take Your Case to the Public

38 Before Contacting the Media…  PLAN YOUR MESSAGE!  Create a media list. TV and radio Newspapers, including community papers and “ free press. ” Blogs and other social media YouTube  Designate a spokesperson.  Focus!

39 Using Traditional Media  Press Releases  Letters to the Editor  Op-Eds  Editorial Board Meetings  Local TV/Radio Interviews  Media Events

40 Social Media  Build a “ friend ” list.  Use social networking sites to promote action alerts.  Ask your “ friends ” to post your alert or other content on their profiles.  TWEET!  YouTube

41 Supporting the National Organization: Making “ Friends ” at Home

42 Developing Relationships  Get to know district/state staff of members of Congress.  Work with LDA to deliver timely messages.  Be a resource for district- and state- specific information on SLD.  Act on LDA Action Alerts.  BUILD RELATIONSHIPS!

43 Thanks for your attention! ….and stay tuned for more resources at


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