Earlier this month, the ORAEYC Public Policy Committee joined over 300 early childhood educators, parents, and advocates from 41 states working to advance federal and state early childhood policy. The 2018 NAEYC Public Policy Forum was held from March 4-6 in Washington, DC where our team attended sessions on electoral advocacy, expert policy briefings, guest speakers, and interactive breakout sessions. The event culminated with Forum participants congregating on Capitol Hill at congressional offices to build relationships with representatives, senators and legislative aides.
Gathering with colleagues from across the nation to rally in support of a shared vision for the Early Childhood profession was invigorating, enlightening and powerful. We asked the Public Policy Committee to share their experiences and highlights from this monumental event.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work!
The Public Policy Forum highlights for me this year were the strength and length of our team’s Hill visits. There were five people total this year, and thanks to the scheduling arrangements of our visits by NAEYC staff, we were able to attend four out of the day’s six events as a full team! It really made a difference in the energy of the meetings. Each team member was able to speak at each meeting and share in their part of the story about the importance of supporting funding for both early learning educators, and early learning environments.
Three out of the five meetings were with Hill staff ORAEYC has met with over the past four years, one meeting was with Representative Greg Walden, and one visit was with Representative Earl Blumenauer’s Chief of Staff, Willie Smith . We also had an amazing opportunity to participate in the photo-op with Senator Patty Murray of Washington State when she accepted the petition for the Child Care for Working Families Act.
Our team’s voice and presence affected decisions of Representative Peter DeFazio by educating him and his staff about the Child Care for Working Families Act. He became a sponsor of the bill after our team’s visit with his staff, Brittany Lundberg. We educated Representative Walden and his staff, Rebecca Ray, about the Child Care for Working Families Act, and advocated for him to be the first Republican to sign as a sponsor. As we all know, parenting and caring for children is not a partisan issue!
The 2018 Public Policy Forum experience was empowering and inspiring! And, it goes to show that commitment and teamwork can lead to great things!
-Laura Pilkington, Public Policy Co Chair
Important Things are Happening
As a classroom teacher for over 5 years, I always find myself telling people I meet how important early learning is and how we as educators support children's growth, not just academically but socially and emotionally as well. When I got an email advertising the NAEYC Public Policy Forum I knew this was a great opportunity to take my efforts spreading awareness about my work to the next level.
Being in a room full of supporters and advocates of ECE felt so inspiring and exciting; so many people from different walks of life working together towards a common goal of affordable high-quality childcare for all. Each presenter gave a unique perspective and was open to hearing other points of view in a respectful way. After getting a public policy rundown, I was able to attend newcomer sessions where the presenters provided an in-depth look at what it's like to meet with State Representatives, what to say and how to respond to certain questions. We were even able to practice with our peers so that we could really feel prepared for Hill Day.
There is no other feeling like walking through the halls of the congressional buildings in Washington, D.C. I got the feeling immediately that important things are happening and I do have a chance to influence decisions being made. It may seem intimidating to sit down for a meeting with staff members of a Senator or Representative's office, or even the Representative themself, and it is at first, but everyone was so welcoming and friendly that the meetings felt more like easy conversations. I've come away from this experience with the feeling that I can make a difference, my voice matters and that there is still a lot of work to be done to professionalize the field of Early Childhood Education and I am so proud to be a part of the process.
-Caitlin Curtis, Joyful Noise Child Development Lead Teacher
Connect with Possibility
The size, the beauty, the magnificence… it is both awe inspiring and sobering all at once. It is easy to feel small standing amongst the massive architecturally breathtaking buildings and monuments; however, that is tempered by the sense of national pride resonating throughout the city… an ever-changing sense of process and possibility.
The monuments carry a sense of grief, respect, awe, gratitude, and reverence. The museums encompass a sense of wonder, connections, and beauty. I was reminded we are but guardians, entrusted with preserving that which we have for future generations. That mantle of responsibility, although heavy and uncomfortable at first, was not unwelcome and triggered in me a sense of familiarity. I had been taught a sense of national pride, a responsibility for maintaining and guarding our freedoms, and, yet, it had been buried by the mundane business of everyday life. It was eye opening.
The power of the Senate and House buildings is undeniable. Reaching out and placing my hand on the marble wall I instantly felt a connection to those within. It was an almost tangible vibration of those walking the hall, the sense of expectation, hope, purpose, power, change; but I also felt the silent hum of those who came before us, who walked there, who knocked on those same doors, who risked, who built, who challenged and demanded change. For me it was a reminder that we cannot languish in apathy and discontent. We must find our voice, and step forward, be heard, and work to transform social ambiguity to assertive demands for representation and change. We are not the visitors in those hallowed halls but rather the owners checking in on those we’ve left in charge.
Our actions are pulled by the possibility of the future. Everyone should visit Washington D.C. for a personal recalibration on what we have, what we have yet to do, and what we have to lose; and, most importantly, to reconnect with POSSIBILITY. Then, perhaps, we will transform the whispers to shouts and assertive expressions of social consciousness.
- Danielle Phillips, Childcare Network Coordinator
We Truly Can Make a Difference
I feel that the NAEYC Public Policy forum this year was an inspirational and empowering experience! With a team from different parts of Oregon, who work in different capacities in our fields, I went to Washington DC to represent our colleagues all over Oregon. There is a lot going on in DC this year. There is much in our field to celebrate, and much to continue to advocate for. The CCDGB (the Child Care Development Block Grant), that funds so much in our ECE world has been approved with a significant increase. We hope and are advocating for the final budget, due to be approved soon, that it will really include those dollars that were promised.
The responses we received both from members of Congress, and their offices, were very positive. My district’s representative, Congressman Peter DeFazio, signed on to the bill after we went and talked with his legislative assistant. It felt so great to feel we had made an impact! Happily, both of our Oregonian Senators have already given their support. As one of our team is in Congressman Walden’s district, we met with him personally. He said he would consider supporting this important piece of legislation. Anyone from his district? Please send him the message that you want his support on this! The Higher Education Act needs to be reauthorized. This will help so many folks, afford school and help with tuition repayments. This would also include money for childcare services on campuses to help families with young children who are attending college.
Another highlight for me was being present for the delivery of 43,000 petition signatures in support of Washington Senator, Patty Murray's bill, The Child Care for Working Families Act. We met in Senator Murray’s office as she was presented with her state's signatures in support of her bill. This important piece of legislation will help poor and middle class families in new and important ways. A young child, named Alice, handed the packet to the Senator and piped up, “We want child care now!” … a young child’s strong voice asking for what we do truly need! I will never forget her. When we work together and raise our voices, we truly can make a difference!
-Deb Murphy, RCC ECE Faculty and ORAEYC Public Policy Co Chair
Learn more about the NAEYC Public Policy Forum Here!