In Georgia, we utilize several grassroots strategies when working with policymakers and legislators on the state level. It is important to note that there exists a wide range of opinions in the field when it comes to CTE and what works best. Many elected officials believe that they have found the magical “CTE Silver Bullet” and thus will stop at nothing to insist on their position. However, our experience has been that CTE programs and delivery models are best determined by local school systems in collaboration with their CTE students, CTE teachers, and business partners. For some time now we have heard about the importance of conducting needs assessments within the business community to determine what programs are offered. While this data is imperative and helps to ensure that CTE courses are relevant, it must be noted that student interests should also be a factor in what programs are offered. A community could potentially sell themselves short by only offering programs needed by the local business community if they have students with career interests that lead them to other professions outside of what is needed locally. Also, one of the biggest issues we still struggle with is parent and student perception of what make up CTE programs.
Now back to advocacy: we utilize a CTSO Expo at the State Capitol each year to highlight the important work being accomplished by our student leaders. During this Expo, legislators have the opportunity to interact with CTSO officers and hear first-hand about the importance of CTE. Throughout the year, GACTE is recognizing legislators and policymakers for their support of our programs and students. At the annual GACTE Summer Conference, awards are given to those legislators who have been instrumental in their efforts to support us throughout the previous year. Finally, our members are reminded on a constant basis about the need for advocacy. If you have not developed a one-page promotional newsletter for your CTE program then you need to do so today! This one-pager can be E-mailed to elected officials in your community (i.e. mayor, councils, commissioners, school board, legislators, business partners and others). This is one of the best advocacy efforts to ensure that all vested parties are aware of what is going on inside your classroom. Remember what the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” It starts at home with you making the effort to advocate. We have the greatest story in education to tell. Will you help to tell it?