AEFP 45th Annual Conference Program
Please note: All times are Central Time (CT)
Chair:, University of Arkansas
Chair:, Oregon House of Representatives
The policymaking process is typically a black box to the public, especially for communities who have been historically overlooked. While there are many paths by which a community can elevate their needs onto the political agenda of a legislator, most of which are public (e.g. op-ed, social media, professional conferences, public forums, or discussions), once a need is being discussed as a policy solution during legislative session it becomes mostly closed doors. The education policy research community refers to this definition phase as para-private, not typically open to community members or education leaders. So, education leaders serving their communities rely on key policy actors from the advocacy community to represent their needs during negotiations.
As such, it is imperative that education leaders and communities build coalitions when defining, advocating for, and crafting education policy to ensure that the public’s needs are heard and protected. It is especially valuable if coalitions include stakeholders who can identify with or understand one or more of the following perspectives, (a) the political imperative, (b) the problems being described in the community, and (c) the potential for effective policy to impact outcomes for the community (Kingdon, 2003). This framework holds the coalition accountable to achieving evidence-based policy solutions that address the cross-sector needs of a community and are situated within a realistic political context.
In 2018, a bipartisan committee of Oregon legislators set out to tour the state, talk with educators, families, and students, and create a set of recommendations for the 2019 regular session. During the tour the Early Childhood Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations in Oregon, pushed legislators to include stops at early childhood centers and listen to the challenges that families faced within the early childhood education model in Oregon. The coalition maintained this consistent pressure on legislator throughout policy formulation during the legislative session and the outcome was a monumental reinvestment in public education in Oregon, the Student Success Act. with an explicit funding mechanism for early childhood education that will nearly double the state’s current budget for programs and services for children under six years old.
The Student Success Act provides an example of a long-term and complex, yet successful case of a successful political coalition that ultimately achieved nuanced policy outcomes. While many state education policy initiatives are broad enough to easily gain bipartisan support, the Student Success Act introduced unique challenges, like an explicit investment in early childhood education and not higher education. This policy talk will bring together perspectives from education policy researchers, advocates, and policymakers about how Oregon’s Student Success Act elucidates the best ways to navigate competing interests across the cradle to career continuum while crafting large-scale state funding policy for early childhood education.