The Leading Advocate for
Public Education

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Every child counts.

Support Democracy at its best. Stand up for America's Public Schools. Join us

About Us

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) views education as a civil right that is necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people. Local school boards are the nation’s pre-eminent expression of grassroots democracy.

Adequately funded, student-centered public schools will provide, in a safe and supportive environment, a comprehensive education for the whole child and will prepare all of America’s children for a lifetime of learning in a diverse, democratic society and an interdependent global economy. (Excerpted from Beliefs & Policies of NSBA)

I believe in investing in
urban communities and under served areas.
And I believe in America’s public schools.
—Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr.

Make Your Voice Heard

Who should stand up for public schools?

The answer is simple: YOU!

Motivated people from all walks of life should support public education. Whether you are a parent, a political leader, a small business owner, a local or state decision maker, or a member of your community who believes in the American dream, when you take a stand for America’s public schools you help every child achieve world-class standards and a brighter future.

Stand up on:

FACEBOOK: "Like" us and engage with the Stand Up community discussing equity and excellence in public schools.

TWITTER: "Follow" us and tweet educational successes and student achievement.

MINDMIXER: Discuss the most urgent and pressing matters facing public schools by participating in interactive real-time conversations and instant polls.

Great things happen at public schools.
—Salman Khan

Engage in the NSBA National Campaign for Public Education

In six simple steps

In today’s fast-paced society, many interests compete for your time. Numerous issues merit public attention and community engagement. However, we believe that providing quality public education to every child is an essential priority for our nation. The six steps below can help you focus your engagement efforts and make them as meaningful as possible.

Step 1

Get Informed

America's Public School Boards in Action

Key messages should echo and reflect the core values of your local schools. NSBA recently released a key document, “A School Board Vision for Public Education” to assist public education advocates to create key messages that are consistent with the principles, practices, and priorities of local public schools across the nation.

Discover the Vision and Guiding Principles

America’s Public Schools Matter

The National School Boards Association national campaign in support of public education rests upon four pillars:

America’s strength: NSBA understands what keeps America strong – 21st century public schools that connect K-12 students to career and college readiness.

Hard-hitting advocacy for parents, neighborhoods, and community schools: NSBA is the leading advocate for public education. Access to local schools in local communities reflects the will of parents and the fundamental rights of every child for whom public schools are the gateway to a better future. Join the expanding “army of advocates” for public education today. All children, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve a world-class education and a promising future. Choose public schools and local school governance over alternatives that undermine America’s high-quality public education system.

Global vision: NSBA understands that the role of 21st century school boards centers on advancing student achievement in today’s digital society. Lend your support to local school board members who are leveraging technology to enhance teaching and learning and advance America’s future.

Preserve the public interest: Community ownership of public schools safeguards transparency, accountability, and equity and excellence in education for every child. Partner with school boards’ “army of advocates” and keep the public in public education.

Step 2

Get Ready

Parents, community leaders, and other members of the public should review websites and materials of local school districts and/or local schools to gain a clear understanding of major challenges and issues facing your local school system.

If you are a local school board member or administrator with access to local school district public affairs/communications offices, be certain to coordinate directly with these offices to identify guidelines around spokespeople and ensure that your communications adhere to the policy, practices, and priorities of your local school district.

Study the Issues

We realize that it is important to use your limited time wisely. To communicate effectively about public education, tap into the best available resources. We provide a list below.

  • Research and analysis: Interested in accurate, timely, and credible information about public education? Need the lowdown on what works from pre-kindergarten to high school? Want the facts about issues affecting your schools from Common Core standards to school schedules to teacher evaluation? Then check out NSBA’s evidence-based Center for Public Education.

  • High-achieving schools boards put student achievement first. Discover the eight characteristics of effective school boards at CenterForPubliceducation.org/Eight-characteristics-of-effective-school-boards.

  • Learn why voting in school board elections is your investment in the future of kids and your community CenterForPublicEducation.org/allinfavor.

  • Need credible information about education hot topics at your fingertips? From Common Core State Standards to pre-K to trends in teacher evaluation and much more, explore the “All Issues” drop-down on the CPE website at www.centerforpubliceducation.org. American School Board Journal, NSBA’s flagship magazine, gives a national perspective on cutting-edge education trends and issues at www.asbj.com (subscription-based).

  • Top education stories: Education blogger Alexander Russo, author of This Week In Education, identifies the most notable education stories from 2013 in The Atlantic.

  • Education blogs: In addition to national, state, and local media, explore sites like Teach100 that provide a user-friendly daily ranking of education blogs. Each blog lists a “Teach Score” that examines blogs by key ranking factors, such as “Social,” “Activity,” and “Authority”. (A free, downloadable “Teach100” widget keeps this "must read" list at your fingertips.)

Set Goals and Objectives

For the national campaign to thrive, it is important to create an “echo effect.” Join local school boards in helping to tell the important story of public education by spreading the word: Share this site and the national campaign itself with key influencers in your region, state, and local community. Set goals and objectives that tap into local media outlets and other dissemination channels to help drive awareness and get the word out.

Think of the campaign as a door-opener or conversation starter. When you set out to reinforce, strengthen, or shape an opinion, it requires studying your local market to identify key messages that are receiving coverage or engaging public interest in your area. To customize the national campaign for your regional, state, or local community, set specific goals and objectives that:

  • Acknowledge the baseline – to what extent are key influencers informed about the issues and to what degree are they willing to engage in dialogue?
  • Prioritize key influencers –important individuals or active community, civic, business, social, and faith-based organizations or informal groups should receive priority attention.
  • Identify preferred channels – how and in what ways key influencers prefer to receive information (i.e., through digital or social media, in publications, media releases, video scripts, community events, in-person engagement, etc.).

One size NEVER fits all if your goal is to communicate effectively! To reach your target(s), make use of the very same source(s) they rely on for news and information. Successful communication starts by clearly identifying the people or groups you need to reach, then delivering that content via the channels the people or groups you seek to reach rely on, whether traditional, social or digital format.

Step 3

Get Connected

Widen Engagement

Get smart about community engagement.

Let NSBA point you toward success stories around collaboration and community engagement. This is especially important for those new to community engagement, as it allows you to model and adapt against best practices.

To better understand community-based issues and challenges, avail yourself of websites created by local school districts and public schools in your community.

Know Public Education Critics

Retired educator Elaine Magliaro named the often “invisible” critics, that is, those individuals and organizations behind the push to establish thousands of private charter schools and to use taxpayer money to fund private and religious schools. Magliaro writes clearly about the profit motive behind some of the reforms being advocated by “Big Money” interests in describing activity that is eroding America’s public education infrastructure and placing public schools at risk.

Key organizations Magliaro identifies in her post include ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), StudentsFirst, the DeVos family, and several private companies.

Posted by guest blogger Elaine Magliaro, a retired public school educator, at jonathanturley.org. Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law.

Step 4

Get Strategic

Develop an Agenda for Action

Keep your action plan high-level and straightforward so that it remains actionable. This sample tracker can be created as an Excel or Word document and is easily expanded.

Steps Goal/Objective Target(s) Timeline Progress
Action 1: Grow the baseExpand community engagement
Action 2: Expand Media EngagementOutreach to key state, local reporters (e.g., Letters To the Editor [LTEs], op-eds, press releases, press conferences/Town Halls, etc.)
Action 3: Know State/National IssuesKeep pace with education legislation

Create Targeted Messages

The national campaign has a set of key messages that can inform your outreach to key groups or individuals. That said, we understand the need to localize your messages to ensure they connect to hot topics undergoing discussion in your region or state. Again, if you are a local school board member or administrator, be certain to check with your public affairs office to understand and abide by communications protocols.

As you develop added messages that connect to the campaign, develop persuasive messages of interest to your audience that follow these key principles:

The Basics

For each hot topic or issue you address, develop three to five key messages.

Be concise; develop brief messages (under 25 words is best) that have the power to motivate busy people to hear, consider, and take action.

Write for clarity – avoid the use of jargon to develop messages that are accessible in cross-cultural or multilingual environments.

The Specifics

Make national messages locally relevant; key influencers need to understand how an issue impacts or benefits them.

Other critical sources include the NSBA website – www.nsba.org. Be certain to explore the websites of local school districts/schools for community-based information on local hot topics and priority issues.

Do not force a concept; after additional research, if you cannot back up a key message with sufficient evidence, the message should be rethought and rebuilt.

It is always wise to test draft messages with those unfamiliar with its content to ensure that final messages are clear, accessible, and on point.

Step 5

Get Involved

Use Your Voice

Tap into the power of social media. The NSBA has provided a set of action steps to help you get the word out about Stand Up 4 Public Schools.

Engage the Media

Again, if you are a local school board member or administrator, before you start, be certain to coordinate with your district public affairs office to ensure that the steps you plan to take align with existing communications protocols.

Public advocacy is dependent on successful media relations. Communicating messages to large numbers of people rapidly is dependent on effective media engagement.

Reporters and editors work on deadline – what the media need most are credible sources able to help them get a story right today. The news waits for no one. If you are not responsive to reporters’ deadlines, they will bypass you for an alternate source able to meet their short-term deadlines.

Are you operating independently, or as part of a group? If independently, you may opt to “narrowcast” your outreach by targeting a select group of media who have written on your topic. If you are part of a group, you may opt to “broadcast” your outreach to a wide range of media outlets.

Below we highlight four types of routine media engagement – a media interview, a press release (PR), a press conference, and a Letter to the Editor (LTE). We share tips for preparing for a media interview, and NSBA samples of a PR, press conference invitation, and LTE.

Tips for media interviews

First. Nothing is off the record. Do not make a comment that you are not willing to see on air, online or in print.

Second, never go into a media interview "cold." What is your main point? What are the two to three “proof points” that reinforce your main point? How can you restate/summarize your main point at the close of the interview to reinforce it? Never guess. If you do not have 100 percent confidence in an answer, tell the journalist you don’t know the answer, and then offer to get back to the journalist if deadlines permit.

Do not answer a "baited" question: If the question itself is hostile, attempts to put words in your mouth, or is otherwise off track, correct the question itself in your response. The key to an effective interview is always advance practice and ownership. Prepare your responses in advance, and take control of the dialogue. If the interview veers off course, bring it back to your key messages (this is called “bridging”) to exercise message discipline and reinforce important content.

Monitor Legislative Activity in Congress

Keeping pace with legislative activity at national, state, and local levels enhances your ability to serve as an informed and credible public spokesperson. In addition to taking time to become familiar with the legislative process in your state legislature and in your local community, it is important that you become familiar with the federal legislative process as well. Several easily accessible online resources are available to you to monitor federal legislation. However, arguably the most well-known is THOMAS that enables you to track federal legislation by subject, bill number, or the sponsoring member of Congress.

We also encourage you to visit the NSBA website as a public resource that offers short summaries on key elementary and secondary education issues as well as key education legislation that has been formally introduced within Congress. Posted summaries are updated throughout the legislative process from introduction to final enactment by the U.S. Congress. The NSBA website will help you to keep pace with active federal legislation on education policy, programs, funding, and much more.

The NSBA site also gives you a current view of issues that affect local school board governance. Members of Congress may introduce federal bills around this important topic. One example of federal legislation related to local school board governance introduced by a member of Congress during the First Session of the 113th Congress is Local School Board Governance and Flexibility (H.R. 1386). Passed by the House of Representatives, this bill proposes to reverse the current overreach of the federal government in public education by requiring the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to be more responsive to local school board concerns when issuing federal regulations. Further, the bill would prohibit ED from making policy in the absence of specific federal legislation. It would also preclude ED from placing unfunded and unrelated conditions on federal grants and prevent ED from exercising authority over local school boards.

Learn about critical legislative initiatives – such as academic standards, student testing, school safety, charter schools, vouchers, child nutrition, programs for students with disabilities, students living in high concentrations of poverty, rural schools, and much more – at www.nsba.org/Advocacy.

Track School Law

Our legal advocacy efforts – the most prolific and successful of any Washington-based education group – are weighing in on more cases that impact public schools. Our arguments have been cited in numerous key decisions, including by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Visit http://www.nsba.org/SchoolLaw to become familiar with school law issues and gain a view of recent amicus (friend of the court) briefs that NSBA has filed at state and federal court levels. NSBA files more amicus briefs to the Supreme Court each year than all other education associations combined.

The reason we do so? To protect America’s schoolchildren: Resources spent defending lawsuits against public schools are resources not available for the education of children. Learn more at www.nsba.org/SchoolLaw/AmicusBriefs.

Step 6

Get Results

Assess Progress

It is important to refer back to the action plan identified in Step 4 to assess the degree to which the plan is achieving progress. While your objectives and goals should remain constant, new information, legislative, or legal movement, or other emergent activity may require changes in tactics or positioning. On this basis, it is important to continuously monitor and assess the progress of your advocacy initiatives on an ongoing basis.

Recalibrate for Success

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That is, a good plan can fall short if the actions planned did not roll out as intended, whether delayed, under-resourced, or changed. Or, it may be that emergent change in the public school debate, whether at policy, economic, or leadership levels, requires changes In your advocacy plan to better tell the story of public education.

Ask yourself or your group two basic questions, and recalibrate as needed based on the responses:

  • To what extent have intended outcomes been achieved?
  • Is the level of progress keeping pace with expectations?

To accelerate progress:

  • Which actions are creating the greatest level of success, and which are falling short?
  • Should certain actions be retooled, altered, or halted, based on outcomes?
  • What else can be changed to achieve better results for future actions?