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By Melinda George
Every educator is an advocate, and many are now serving as elected policymakers, with at least one former teacher going to Washington, D.C., to serve in the 116th Congress. Learning Forward couldn’t be prouder.
Learning Forward is celebrating the electoral victories of more than 40 educators, including Jahana Hayes, the 2016 U.S. Teacher of the Year and a judge for Learning Forward’s Agents for Learning competition in 2016.
Hayes has said repeatedly that education saved her life. When she won the office of congressional representative for Connecticut’s 5th district, she became the first African-American female congressperson from her state. In her acceptance speech, she said, “Today we made history. This history teacher is making history.”
We congratulate each and every educator who will take office in January. The number of educators who chose to take on the challenge of running for office is unparalleled, and the wins are impressive. (Read EdWeek’s ongoing coverage of educators running for office here). Most will serve in elected positions in their states.
What we’re most excited about is the sheer volume of expertise about education that will soon inform policy conversations throughout the nation. Education policy decisions often fly under the radar given the wide range of issues that state legislatures and the federal government address, even as education is something that touches every community, state, and family.
With a former teacher serving as a member of Congress, we know that discussions about the needs of students, educators, and schools will help inspire the next actions Congress undertakes. That’s great news for our country. Supporting high-quality education for every student in the U.S. is both a domestic and foreign policy priority. When we ensure all students are well-prepared for the challenges to come, we position the U.S. to succeed at home and abroad.
Supporting professional learning is a significant part of that policy priority. Learning Forward is proud to lead advocacy efforts in partnership with our members and allies in our community to help policy makers understand the importance of investing in professional learning at the federal level.
The voices of our educators were critical in the last two federal appropriations cycles as they shared data and impact stories about the critical role of Title IIA funds, the primary source of federal funding for professional learning in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title IIA funding supports instructional coaches, leadership development, learning for teachers to build their knowledge and skills to reach a range of students, and more.
When educators have time and resources to improve, students and communities benefit. We look forward to working closely with all legislators in the next congressional term.
Congratulations to every educator who will take office in January. We know you’ll use your teacher voice to bring your communities’ concerns to the fore.
Melinda George is Learning Forward’s director of policy and partnerships.