Friday, June 13, 2014

White House Domestic Policy Council Listens

It's a mouthful, but yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the Policy Assistant for Education from the White House Domestic Policy Council, Zealan Hoover. I'll just call him Zealan. Also present were Laurie Calvert, the Teacher Liaison from the Department of Education and Domestic Policy Council intern Lauren Burdette.

The meeting took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

To prepare for this meeting I gathered questions and requests from State Sup. of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, Education Policy advisor to Gov. Bullock Shannon O'Brien, and CSKT Tribal Education Director Penny Kipp. These fine Montana education folks expressed an interest in several topics: funding of Indian schools specific to impact aid, the work of the Interagency Working Group created in 2011 by Executive Order 13592, the potential use of Montana's Essential Understandings about Montana Indians by the Smithsonian related to the National Museum of American Indians to support teachers across the country, and a revamp of thinking on Pell grants used for dual enrollment students. There's more...but I'll quit the list-making.

View from our meeting room toward the White House.

Zealan said he appreciated my visit because his office doesn't get the chance to speak to many real teachers. This concerns me although I can understand why it is so: with teachers' schedules and demands it would be unrealistic to think that many can plan to visit with these folks. But who then is advising Zealan's office? My experience has shown me that many of the people behind education rhetoric and reform are not teachers. They have little understanding of the realities of classroom work and apply their own background knowledge, whether from business, politics, or farming, to schoolhouses. This doesn't work.

More teachers must become involved in leadership at their district and state levels; we need teachers' voices in the conversation about education. We need teachers to lead, and we need teachers to speak. We need teachers to be part of the solutions to the challenges we face.

And what are those challenges, Laurie wanted to know? What keeps you up at night, as a teacher? I'll let you ponder that and then decide how to raise your own voice to be part of the solution.

Laurie Calvert sports the feather. (I wonder what those guys are loading into the motorcade Suburbans, bottom right?)

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