2016 Special Education Legislative Summit Wrap-up

2016 Special Education Legislative Summit Wrap-Up

Sunday, July 10

Looking into the Crystal Ball.  The Summit kicked off on Sunday afternoon with guest speaker Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the authoritative, nonpartisan newsletter on American campaigns and elections from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, briefing advocates on some possible post-2016 election scenarios, and what they will mean. Kondik shared the factors that could lead to a Trump victory or a Clinton victory, and made a prediction that, although each party will lose and gain seats, it’s highly unlikely the makeup of the U.S. Congress will change. Kondik also shared likely outcomes for the country’s gubernatorial and state legislative races. View Kondik’s presentation.

Getting briefed.  Following the Opening Session, attendees went right into an intensive overview of advocacy strategies, which was led by Myrna Mandlawitz, governmental relations consultant for CEC’s special interest division for Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE)View Mandalawitz’s presentation.

Monday, July 11

The second day of the Summit kicked off with the Student Advocates Panel, featuring Dr. Kathy Boisvert, the 2016 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award recipient, interviewing two 2016 Yes I Can Award recipients, Alex Campbell and Paloma Rambana, both of whom were honored for their advocacy work. Alex discussed his work in the passage of two restraint and seclusion laws in Virginia, and Paloma spoke about her part in getting $1.25 million in additional funding for students with visual impairments in Florida. The student self-advocates served as an inspiration to the Summit attendees, and even had some sage advice for the new advocates:  Use personal stories and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Following the Student Advocates Panel, Summit attendees headed for Breakout Sessions to review the nine issue briefs that would serve as the basis for their discussions on Capitol Hill. They studied the background, summary points, and CEC’s recommendations with their state teams on the following issues:

View Monday’s presentations.

After an information-jammed day for the advocates, special guest Deputy Assistant to the President for Education Roberto Rodriguez spoke at the Summit’s evening reception.

Tuesday, July 12

They came, they advocated, they stormed the halls of Congress!  First thing Tuesday morning, our advocates had breakfast on Capitol Hill with a Congressional Hill Staff Panel, including guest speakers:

  • Jake Cornett senior advisor, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension
  • Bill Knudsen, Senior Policy Advisor to the Senate HELP Committee
  • Joel Packer, former executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, was the panel’s moderator.

The advocates then got to work in their Congressional visits.  After their day on the Hill, Summit attendees had the opportunity to unwind and share their stories on a Potomac River cruise.

Wednesday, July 13

After the rousing success of Capitol Hill Day, the advocates came together for a debriefing session. Speakers helped put the whirlwind of Tuesday’s activities into perspective and the advocates were able to share their experiences and their successes.

The final event of the Legislative Summit was the IDEA Reauthorization Town Hall meeting, led by Tim Lewis, chair of CEC’s IDEA Reauthorization Workgroup. The workgroup is gathering information and building a strategy for future advocacy efforts around the reauthorization of IDEA, and the Town Hall was just one of the ways in which input will be sought from CEC members.