Using my Political Science
There is something about government that I have always liked. The important buildings full of people doing important things. I’m sure that if I looked behind the curtain it would be a lot like any other business, but, a business that is GIANT and dysfunctional full of rules on top of rules and nobody is actually in charge.
In school, I learned plenty about how government worked and while I learned plenty from my text books, I learned as much from my professors. One said that elected officials absolutely love to see the people that elected them rather than a paid lobbiest, not only do they hear a more genuine opinion, they have the ability to directly do something for someone that will return votes. Just like in business, the best advertising is positive word of mouth. Not that the world does not need lobbyists – they actually know all the players and get more done overall, could not get anything done without them.
So when my school district had to find 2 million dollars to cut for the 7th year in a row I decided it was time for me personally to be that parent/voter that goes and shows up and says that we need help. Our Forest Lake district has a few things working against it;
- It is geographically giant! to pay the bus costs for this area exceeds the transportation allowance by 1 million dollars. So, we start with a million in the hole.
- Not as many bigger businesses to contribute, and, medium income housing overall contributing property taxes
- The state asked to freeze for a couple of the really bad years, but, then they didn’t cover that debt later so it’s snowballed. The per pupil ratio is fairly sad now.
I woke up early, put on a suit and heels and makeup and went with a group to visit all the people possible. We ran all over, we accidently (sorry-notsorry) blocked hallways, we skipped lunch to maximize time and I think we actually did some good. I had a feeling lunch would not happen so I packed food, I was not alone, the business manager for the district had cheese sticks in his suit pocket – score one for women, pocketbooks hold more and better food.
The day was interesting in general. The capital is grand and large and a mix of beautifully old and oddly outdated. It is full of people in suits, every person in a suit. It is mostly full of men, mostly white men, but there were plenty of women too and in positions of influence, 2 of the 6 elected people we talked to were women. Just as interesting was that the secretary/assistant/aid crew seemed to be a mix of men and women too. I fit in there with my mask of makeup and costume suit but I’m not sure I would want to become a person who needs to go often. Visiting was fun though!
To make the most of the day I used every scrap of knowledge I had about influence. I stood up when someone came in, I shook hands, I sat at the table or in the front row. Eye contact, lean in, speak in the ‘compliment sandwich’, speaking in general; something not many people actually did. I told them I was a parent, I am a voter, I am someone who wants to help but needs help. I was respectful and also straightforward. I’m proud that after every meeting I got the business suit high-five (a nod and a ‘good job’/thanks’)
Unsurprisingly I learned tons from the day. I went in with a decent understanding of our problem and left knowing what was in the works from various people. Some people are working on things I didn’t know even existed as issues, others were looking at it a totally different way. There is no perfect formula but I have more of a concept of the whole picture now, of all the pressing things that are crying out for attention. On the bright side, I left more confident in the fact that education does seem to be on everyone’s mind and they are at least saying they are working to help. I also heard that they need suggestions on what would honestly help – there were times whey they flat out said “tell me what to do specifically”
My next step will be to follow up with the people we met to thank them for their time because they were all listening and present. I will also send the info on to the parents in my groups so they can send notes on specific bills to specific people so they know that the parent sitting in front of them was representative, not just a lone voice. …I have a feeling this is how lobbyist begins…
Looking past my short term follow up I have no idea what is next but I’m open and hopeful.