CEAM and the Missouri Charter Public School Association will be offering three parent advocacy training sessions on both sides of the state this fall. A new training session will be offered each month until the end of the year.
“The purpose of the training sessions is to give important tools to anybody wanting to influence policy or change the educational landscape on a statewide level in Missouri,” said CEAM Director of Outreach Cici Tompkins. “Participants will have a chance to learn what it means to advocate and how to amplify your voice. We will cover how to craft your personal story and how to use that story throughout the legislative process. Participants will learn how to testify in committee hearings, how to advocate in meetings at the capital for advocacy days, and other ways to connect with legislators locally.
“It’s not just all about going to the capital,” added Tompkins. “There’s a lot that can be done in your local community as well. Your legislators live in your district and you can connect with them before session and on weekends. There’s also a lot that can be done through email and Zoom and even just good old-fashioned phone calls.”
Tompkins said she encouraged advocates to attend all three sessions being offered as each month will cover different topics.
“In October, we will be covering how to craft your personal story and what advocacy is,” she said. “Then in November, we will talk about the legislative process and in December we will talk about how to use your personal story through the legislative process and help people prepare for the session to start in January.
“If you can only make one session you will get something out of it but they are designed to be taken in succession and I encourage you to attend all three,” Tompkins added, noting that this year’s training sessions would be valuable even for long-time parent advocates. “Even though I’ve been at this for 10 years, I still learn something new about the legislative process every year. I think it’s always a good refresher to attend these even if you have been to the capitol or been to these trainings before.”
She said the training sessions are a great way for parents with similar concerns to get to know each other and build a community of advocacy, something that CEAM has been working on building in both St. Louis and Kansas City over the course of 2023.
“Our outreach personnel on both sides of the state, Lisa Smith in St. Louis and Samoy Mainda in Kansas City, have been working on building out a group of advocates in each region this year,” Tompkins said. “There have been multiple opportunities for those parents to engage with each other. We have had ice cream socials, and a couple of different listening sessions, where parents have a chance to engage with their local legislators.”
Tompkins said increasing advocacy around educational opportunities is key to helping Missouri overcome pandemic-related learning losses and remain competitive with programs offered by surrounding states.
“We’ve had some big wins in recent years in Missouri, but our programs are still limited,” she said. “What we’re seeing in other states is much more expansive school choice programs such as universal ESAs, so I think now is the time to show legislators the benefits of these new programs here and push them and encourage them to create these opportunities for families all across the state.”