2019 Best Defense
August 13, 2019

This page has been updated to reflect the 2019 winner, as well as the nominees.

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country.

Sometimes the biggest wins are actually holding the line.

Because so many examples of strong defense were nominated from the Network, the Eddies! Selection Committee suggested recognizing this work in a new category. Below are the nominations for Best Defense—a campaign that strategically defends important policy. 

Click on a specific nomination to see more. See a complete list of winners, nominees, and finalists in all categories here.

2019 Best Defense:

Top Finalists:

A+ Education Partnership (with Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Stop the ‘Abolish Common Core’ Bill in the Alabama Legislature

SB 119, the ‘Abolish Common Core’ bill, was introduced and overwhelmingly passed the AL State Senate during the 2019 Legislative Session. SB 119 would have lowered academic standards in Alabama schools. But even further, the bill would have prohibited any program or assessment based on national standards, such as AP courses, National Board Certification, industry credentials, and the ACT college entrance exam. The passage of this bill would have been catastrophic for students and teachers.

A+ Education Partnership sprang into action, rallying partners & implementing a digital crisis communications plan to mobilize our programs’ networks of educators & parents. Partners in the business & military communities also penned op-eds and contacted legislators. Through these strategies, legislators reported receiving more calls opposing SB 119 than the gas tax, which was the top issue of the session. The bill was ultimately killed in the House, and Alabama kept its commitment to high academic standards.

American Federation for Children and ExcelinEd

Successful Defense of the Scholarship Program in Nevada 

The American Federation for Children and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) embarked on a yearlong “Save Opportunity Scholarships” campaign to persuade legislators to fully fund Nevada’s tax-credit scholarship program, which serves mostly minority low- and middle-income families with few educational options. The bipartisan coalition of parents and lawmakers faced one of the most difficult legislative environments in the country. Recent changes in political leadership led to strong threats to cut the program, potentially leaving at least 1,000 students without scholarships. The coalition utilized several strategies, including: coordinating multiple family rallies at the Capitol, organizing workshops, disseminating scholarship family stories, facilitating hundreds of calls and handwritten letters to lawmakers, supporting grassroots canvassing, producing ads on popular Spanish radio stations, and directly lobbying legislators. Despite their underdog status, the coalition worked behind the scenes to forge bipartisan partnerships with state leaders to preserve $9.5 million needed to fully fund the scholarships.


Defending Tiered Licensure

After years of advocacy to reform Minnesota’s broken teacher licensure system, a new tiered teacher licensure system became law in 2017—ensuring that great teachers have clear pathways to the classroom regardless of where they were trained or whether they took a non-traditional path into teaching. This year, union-backed legislators attempted to undo licensure changes—removing pathways to permanent licensure for effective educators and tying the hands of school administrators by preventing them from hiring and retaining certain licensed teachers.

The proposal would have had a devastating impact on thousands of Minnesota teachers, including 23 percent of our teachers of color and nearly half of career and tech-ed teachers. EdAllies built a broad and diverse coalition to elevate the stories of impacted educators, school leaders, and students. Through testimony, an enormously successful press conference, impactful media coverage, op-eds, and a multi-pronged advertising campaign, legislators were put on notice.

In response to countless stories and personal petitions, the coalition influenced enough legislators to push back against the proposals successfully. Stopping the bill has allowed high-quality, diverse teachers to remain in the classroom, and aspiring educators will have the multiple pathways to the classroom they need to become high-quality teachers.

Empower Illinois

Protecting School Choice for Low-Income Illinois Students

In February, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed budget phased out the Invest in Kids Act, a school choice program for low-income and working-class families. This threatened more than 7,000 recipients and the more than 43,000 kids in line for a scholarship. By May, the act was the only proposed cut in the entire multi-billion-dollar state budget. Empower Illinois organized the #SaveMyScholarship campaign, which mobilized families, school leaders, and donors from across Illinois to travel to Springfield and influence legislators to protect the program. For over a month, staff recruited, trained and empowered daily trips of this coalition to maintain a consistent presence in the Capitol. In just five weeks, parents, school leaders and advocates representing 146 schools visited Springfield, met with nearly 70% of the General Assembly (many multiples times) and wrote over 3,500 letters to legislators. These efforts were successful, and the campaign saved the program from being cut.


Defense of High-Quality Assessments

The students and educators of New Mexico have made impressive strides in recent years. Thanks to their hard work and the support of families and communities, academic growth and achievement trends are rising at the fastest rate in years. Even more impressive, students have achieved these improvements by meeting the challenging expectations laid out in New Mexico’s academic standards, which are designed to address the demands of the future workforce.

Unfortunately, this progress is now at risk. In January 2019 the Governor issued an executive order to discontinue PARCC and move to a new assessment. A new statewide assessment system could usher in an era of lower academic expectations. While state tests are politically unpopular, there is consensus from teachers, families, education advocates, and business and higher education leaders that an objective assessment of student learning is critical to provide information on how all students are progressing and ensure no students fall through the cracks. When assessment results point to major gaps in achievement, especially for certain student populations, it should be a call to take action and offer further support, not to retreat from high expectations or to hide the truth about student needs.

In “A Test of Resolve,” NewMexicoKidsCAN and co-author Teach Plus New Mexico offer principles to help inform the selection of the state’s next assessment. Modeled after a similar case-making resource from JerseyCAN, leaders urge the department to build on the momentum demonstrated by the state’s students and educators and maintain high expectations for students.

Learn more about the 2019 winners, finalists, and nominees in each category.

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    Ashley Schmidt

    Ashley is PIE Network's Senior Director of Member Engagement & Communications

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