SEL Advocacy in California
The Alliance has four major targets for our advocacy in the state. They are:
- Legislators, in order to promote funding for SEL development and support for Best Practice Guidelines.
- School District and local government education department decision makers, especially those who have budget authority.
- School Personnel, including teachers, administrators and counselors/psychologist and their professional associations and unions.
- Business and business organizations, for joint advocacy and co-promotion.
With each of these targets our methodology is outreach through citizen action (office visits, calls and emails), and we are forming delegations to decision makers and legislators. (Scroll down for a guide to how best to identify, contact and influence decision-makers. Parents, teachers and administrators will find even more detailed information for implementing SEL in the “SEL FOR YOU” tab on the site menu bar.)
Contact CA legislators
CONTACT STATE LEGISLATORS NOW regarding two issues:
One is to revive the 2015 version of Senate Bill 463 which provided funds for teacher training in SEL methods – crucial for any SEL expansion.
The other is to designate a major portion of the coming excise tax on marijuana to SEL expansion in the state. It is estimated the tax will generate $500 million in revenues in fiscal 2018-2019.
(See “How to Contact” and “What to Say” below.)
Contact local CA school board members and superintendents regarding…
The local control and accountability plan (LCAP) which requires funding for “highlighting school climate and connectedness through a variety of factors.”
To explain: In 2014 California enacted what is called the Local Control and Funding Formula (LCFF), which essentially set breakthrough new guidelines on the apportionment of state education funds to the districts and gave local districts more flexibility on how they were to be used.
More recently the state promulgated what is called the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) as a more descriptive set of concepts for local districts as to the planning and use of their funds and resources. The state described it this way: “The LCAP is a tool for local educational agencies to set goals, plan actions, and leverage resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes.”
The LCAP set eight areas of priority for school administrators, one of which was highlighting “school climate and connectedness.” LCAP used this terminology to refer to creating a safe climate – which is an entry way to SEL.
As a priority mandate, it provides an opening to advocate that schools fund SEL development lest they be reported for not doing so. (The ability of the state to monitor this is on its own is not great.)
Overarching these development, the California Department of Education has adopted a vision that actually can greatly advance SEL, especially if there is public knowledge of it and advocacy behind it. That vision was summed up by the department statement that it “is committed to aligning a system of supports to better meet the needs of the whole child (from cradle to career).”
“Whole child” is the concept that schools need to address building the social and emotional learning and other life skills of students, not merely their test scores. The department created a special team it called the “One System Action Team” to carry out these principles.
Coming soon will be Guidelines from the department on SEL implementation (see link below to most recent draft), which is the state’s way for now of recommending standards. 15 state legislatures have adopted formal SEL standards. “Progressive” California is only now completing the process of defining guidelines that could become standards, with none yet proposed to the legislature by the Education Department.
So far so good, And here is where SEL4CA comes in.
Notably, setting guidelines or standards doesn’t equal funding implementation either at the local or state level; it’s only a step in the process. Even though local schools will be able to shift some funding to SEL under LCAP as determined by each district, comprehensive implementation with fidelity will require more money from the state.
For those of us advocating for SEL, this will mean the need to focus on two levels. One is the local LCAP level, with outreach to school board members and administrators that they shift meaningful amounts of their budgets into SEL. And on the state legislature level, just the same.
The biggest need at the state level is money for teacher and administrator training in SEL and its roll-out as a priority. The second biggest need is funding that each district can use for other elements of expanding SEL as they deem essential. Many might likely use it for parent buy-in.
How to Contact and Educate Elected Officials – A Bipartisan Endeavor
(Courtesy of Alliance member BIgEQ.org)
- The best way to identify and get contact info for your elected representatives – federal, state and local – is via the realtors lobbying website –http://www.realtoractioncenter.com/realtor-party/tools-and-resources/findelectedofficials.html
- For backup for your state legislators use https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator
School board members also need to be targeted. Search for “school board” in (name of your city or town) and go to its website and get contact information for the board members.
In order of effectiveness: (a) Personal appointments when your legislator is in his/her home office, ideally accompanied by others who share your views whose names you will have ready when you ask for the appointment; (b) Visits to the local office or telephone conversations with the staff member who tracks education issues. Bring some downloaded articles about SEL to hand out; (c) Old fashioned letters; (d) Phone messages on their answering machines – and request a callback (e) Emails. Always do emails and phone calls no matter what else.
The first thing you need to know about lawmakers is that the overwhelming majority of Congress members, state legislators and local council members have never heard of Social and Emotional Learning. So you may want to refer them to this website and any others you find relevant after you search for “Social and Emotional Learning.” (Sadly, local school board members are very rarely up to speed themselves.)
- If you do manage a visit or phone call, ask for progress reports. Don’t be shy about this – legislative staffers are trained to be friendly and cooperative.
- Follow the same instructions for contacting school board members.
- If you are a parent, your chances of rounding up other parents will increase geometrically if you first send them to this website to get up to speed about Social and Emotional Learning.
- A generally good thing to do is go to relevant local public meetings that allow for public comments such as school board meetings – and even city council meetings, community forums sponsored by officials, town-halls and hearings.
WHAT TO SAY OR WRITE
Give your name, say you’re a constituent, give your zip code and then say or write something along these lines:
“I want to talk about why we don’t have Social and Emotional Learning in the curriculum of all schools. I certainly want it in my child’s school [or in my local schools if you are not a parent]. It’s the best practice out there to elevate schools and give children a chance to be their best selves and successful in life.
“I’d like to hear back from you that you are willing to learn about- and get behind – this movement and create or endorse bills and funding to support SEL. Here is some material [printed or emailed] that will help you be informed if you aren’t already. You can also go to www.BigEQ.org to learn more.”
Another point: No matter how you are registered to vote or what party the legislator or official belongs to, somewhere in your exchanges it is best to state that your interest in reaching out is that you want to elevate every child’s chance to become her or his best self – their happiest, most productive, most creative and responsible self. Whether you are a parent, educator or business person, you want every school – public or private – to provide a loving, safe climate that embraces the absolute best programs and policies for developing the healthy attitudes, learning engagement, skills and behaviors that parents seek to foster at home.
It is good to mention that you support “whole child” education via social-emotional learning.