Greg Smith: An Ever Changing Landscape Makes Community Outreach and Advocacy More Important Than Ever

Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Florida Literacy Coalition

Thanks to all of you who were able to join me for our recent webinar on Community Outreach and Advocacy.    If you missed the session, it is still available to view on FLC’s website.

One of the themes that I tried to emphasize is the importance of being proactive in developing and communicating key messages that you want others to know about your program and the difference that you make in the lives of your adult learners.

It’s easy for communications and advocacy to take a back seat to the many other things that we need to get done on a day-to-day basis.  After all, investment of time and effort in this area doesn’t always produce immediate and recognizable benefits.  Literacy programs have always been under resourced and the downturn in the economy has made matters even worse.  Moreover, demand for services is still high with over 70% of Florida’s community-based literacy organizations reporting that they have waiting lists for instruction.

While it may be a challenge, it’s now more important than ever to make sure that our communities, including key decision makers, are aware of the work that we do.   This includes elected officials at the local, state and national level.  The legislative and political landscape is ever changing.  Even since our webinar, a bill has surfaced that could have a substantial impact adult literacy.

In Congress, H.R.3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, includes a provision that would require those seeking unemployment benefits to meet minimum education requirements in addition to work search requirements.  To meet these requirements, an individual would need to have earned a high school diploma or GED credential or other State-recognized equivalent. If one doesn’t have such a credential, he/she would need to be enrolled and making satisfactory progress in classes leading to a diploma, GED or its equivalent.  Under the bill, which has passed the House, these requirements can be waived by states if they are deemed to be unduly burdensome.

This is a good example of legislation that may have pros and cons depending on your perspective.  What would be the potential impact of such a law?  Would it create an additional demand for services, and if so, from where would the resources come to meet this demand?   Congress needs to hear from adult education and literacy practitioners on this issue.

This bill is also good example of legislation that, if passed, would provide an opportunity to let state policy makers know your thoughts on if and how such a provision should be implemented here in Florida.  You’re the experts and they need to know your thoughts on matters important to our field.  They should also hear from adult learners who may be impacted by such legislation.  Educate yourself on what you can do in an official capacity and what you may need to do as a private citizen.   The National Coalition for Literacy has good guidelines on what you can legally do.

With Florida’s legislative session just around the corner, this is a good time to stay informed, get plugged in and become actively engaged in the process.  We’ll try to keep you updated on significant new developments.

Here are some great national and state resources to keep you informed and/or engaged.

National

      National Coalition for Literacy
                Legislative Action Center http://www.capwiz.com/ncl/home/
Advocacy Tool Kit http://www.national-coalition-literacy.org

      ProLiteracy http://www.proliteracy.org/page.aspx?pid=601

      National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) The Return on Investment (ROI) From Adult Education and Training.”

Florida

      Florida Senate, http://www.flsenate.gov

      Florida House, http://www.flhouse.gov

      ACE of Florida http://www.aceofflorida.org/advocacy/legislative-alerts

      FLDOE, Career and Adult Education  http://www.fldoe.org/Workforce/legislation.asp

      FLDOE, Statistics by Legislative District http://fldoehub.org/PerformanceProfile

      FLC, FL Data and Statistics Reference Guide http://www.floridaliteracy.org/about_literacy__facts_and_statistics.html

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