Educator Voice Opportunities: Educator Advisory Council, Educator Leadership Institute
Advance Illinois’ outreach work is grounded in the idea that the experience and input of Illinois’ educators is crucial to creating strong education policy. Created in 2009, the Advance Illinois Educator Advisory Council (EAC) provides an opportunity for teachers and principals to share their perspectives and feedback on education policy implementation in Illinois.
The 15-member council gathers on a regular basis to share perspectives and feedback on education policy implementation across Illinois. The EAC’s vision is an Illinois education system that is student learning centered and teacher led. Council members are teachers and school leaders from across the state, including several Teacher of the Year award winners and finalists. During the EAC’s annual Educator Leadership Institute, hosted with thestate’s teachers’ unions and the Illinois State Board of Education, attendees reflect on education initiatives and draft recommendations for the state. The most recent Institute focused on avenues for teacher advocacy.
What have been your organization’s biggest accomplishments while exploring educator voice work?
Advance Illinois aims to create a collaborative and inclusive environment for teacher voice by grounding policy in teacher voice and experience. The most historic victory on Illinois’ new school funding formula proved to be an effective way of including and elevating teacher voice so that students were at the forefront of decision making.Teacher on our EAC developed advocacy skills by publishing letters to the editor, meeting with their legislators, developing a social media presence, holding community town halls on the issue, and organizing their colleagues to do the same. Because of their robust representation across Illinois, EAC members were given the opportunity to advocate for students in their district as well as student across the state, which allowed for a strong and unified message. Through these advocacy activities EAC members were seen as leaders in their communities and experts on the issue across the state.
What advice do you have for other advocacy organizations thinking about engaging educators?
Whether teachers have been in the profession for two years or 20, teacher voice is essential for organizations when building an advocacy agenda. Our advice to other advocacy organizations is to just do it! Be intentional about bringing educators into the advocacy work and create the structure by doing the work together. In order to do so however, organizations must create opportunities for teachers to have a seat at the table or, in more practical advocacy terms, train teachers on skills of community organizing and make it ease for them to take action. Through our own EAC, we have learned that by engaging members on all fronts of our work at Advance Illinois. Rather than creating specific initiatives for the expression of teacher voice, teachers are included throughout the entire iterative process in order to best inform the work for students in Illinois.