Since then, it’s had two conference calls, and — between its initial meeting in Portland and its first call — the committee has already reviewed and responded to several policy issues, including a letter to the U.S. Senate underscoring CEC’s priorities for a Higher Education Act reauthorization and a response to the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal.
But, what exactly IS this new committee and what does it mean for special educators like you? We sat down with committee chair, CEC Past President Margaret McLaughlin, to answer these questions and more.
What is the top priority for the committee?
For its inaugural year, the Policy Steering Committee has three priorities.
The first, which is well underway, is to recommend policy priorities to the board for the remainder of the 116th Congress and to begin the process of identifying key policy priorities for CEC under a new Congress.
A second, equally important priority is to review and recommend to the board actions on existing policy statements, as well as new positions that may be considered. It is imperative that CEC’s policy statements represent the most current positions of the organization and are responsive to emerging legislative actions at the national level. These positions should be drafted in a way that is also useful to members who are advocating and communicating policy directions in their state legislatures and local school systems. CEC has a number of policy position statements that must be reviewed and updated, which will also help the committee identify areas where the organization may need to consider developing a new position.
Central to the first two priorities is to create open lines of communication between the committee and CEC membership. It’s absolutely critical that the committee remains connected to CEC’s state and provincial units, divisions, and individual members so that recommendations to the board reflect strong and unified positions that support the organization’s mission of advancing the success of children and youth with exceptionalities.
Why should members become engaged in advocacy?
Because CEC’s members are all experts in the field, it is imperative that the organization harnesses their voices and expertise to be at the forefront of advocating for the highest quality of education for children and youth with exceptionalities. CEC does this through policies that support the work of early interventionists, teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, researchers, and other allied professionals.
This is not something that can be done by a few, nor can it be limited to one set of actions. To realize the mission of CEC, all members — whether it’s individually or through a unit or division — must engage in informed policy advocacy.
How can they get involved?
CEC has a number of ways members can do this, including the Legislative Action Center, where members and non-members alike can write to Congress about critical issues in the field. In addition, members can also get involved through CEC’s annual Special Education Legislative Summit, which brings together hundreds of special educators from across the country to advocate together each July, as well as regular updates from Washington, D.C., that provide context about why and when specific advocacy is needed.
What may seem like a small gesture when done alone can become a powerful and effective act of advocacy when done with others. CEC works to build a strong collective voice among its members to drive policy at the federal, state, and local levels.
Committee member Concetta Lewis has been an active advocate for years and is excited about the opportunity to help advance CEC’s policy and advocacy work. We can’t wait to hear from more of our members as our work continues and special educators like you come together to make their stories heard.