By Kerry Savage, Policy Analyst, PAVE
Too often, policymakers make decisions without input or feedback from the communities they serve. At PAVE, we seek to remedy this disconnect by connecting, informing, and empowering parent leaders to give D.C. families a voice and choice in the vision for education in our city.
We want families to have a seat at the table in conversations about schools and their children’s futures.
In this vein, PAVE held our first ever Parent Voice and Choice Week in January of 2018. Over the course of the week, we hosted 11 events that brought parents and their elected officials together to discuss their concerns with our education system and what could be done.
Preparing Parents to Engage Policymakers in Dialogue
In order for these meetings to be truly impactful, our team worked with our Parent Leaders well in advance of the week to ensure everyone at the table was informed. This included bringing in community partners to share their expertise and providing training on issues directly impacting schools and families. Once parents understood the issues, they worked together to identify their highest priorities and craft targeted questions for their officials.
To make the questions effective and ensure parents’ concerns really resonated with the officials, each parent was prepared with a framework to connect their real lived experience and the data to back up their concern. This format resulted in a powerful dialogue that was rooted in action steps and solutions. The week fostered a new level of respect for our parent leaders, now taken seriously as advocates, with each official requesting meetings more often and—even better—asking parents for ideas about solutions!
Growing Parent Advocacy & Leadership Skills
We know it is vitally important for our parents to have a seat at the table, but we also strongly believe in giving our parents the opportunity to grow in their advocacy and leadership. Each meeting was chaired by a parent from one of our Parent Leader in Education Boards. Our team helped coach them on how to facilitate the meeting beforehand, but the day of was entirely their time to shine! It was incredible to see parents not just participating in a conversation with policymakers, but truly owning and leading it.
Parents have a tough job; they wear many hats and are incredibly busy.
We know parents want to be part of the decision making when it comes to education for their children, but they might not always have the capacity to do it on their own.
PAVE works to bring the information and opportunities to get involved directly to parents, so that they can focus on sharing their stories and using their perspective to help build solutions. Parent Voice and Choice Week is just one example of such an opportunity, and PAVE is looking forward to many more events in the future as we continue this work. Bringing people together is always powerful. Bringing parents into a room where they can confidently share their passion and voice with the leaders in our city—that is where true change occurs. We are so proud of our parents for PAVING the way to giving every kid a great education in D.C.!