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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lobby Day 2010 Pics

Bright and early at the Soldier Field Rally.

David Weinberg, INCS Board Chair, addressing the crowd.

Ron Huberman, CPS CEO, showing his support.

Students standing up for their charter schools.

Ron Huberman's address.

On the road to Springfield.

Happy to be counted.

Showing off the signs just before the rally in the rotunda.

Waiting for the rally to start.

Erie Elementary manning an information table.

One Student Group’s Springfield Lobbying Experience

As an INCS consultant on INCS’ Mar. 25th Lobby Day, I had the pleasure of guiding seven high school girls from Young Women’s Leadership Charter School as they and their two teachers hunted down legislators to promote school funding. For an educator like me, this was as much about kids’ learning as about influencing government. And what a day it was.

We first sought out Senator Kwame Raoul, whose district includes the school. Though he was out of town, others hovered about their offices nearby, leading to an extensive discussion with Senator Emil Jones III and new Senator Toi Hutchinson. Hutchinson, particularly, praised the girls for their lobbying effort, and was clearly jazzed to see young minority women taking action.

Representative Barbara Flynn Currie was on our list, and the girls, nervous that she disliked charters, strategized at length about how to pitch their arguments. Unfortunately, Currie was away so the kids didn’t get to test their plans.

Our next hit was Representative William Burns – an easy win because his wife is on the YWLCS Board. Burns, wanting to do more than just brag about his support for the school and charters, provided a mini-lecture on the politics of passing a tax increase in the legislature. Then he suggested we talk with Rep. Karen Yarbrough, and even fished her off the House floor for us. She made each girl state a reason for protecting the education budget, which was great for drawing out the shy kids. Unfortunately she missed one girl in the process. The teachers reminded the girls afterward about the importance of a firm handshake, rather than limp-fish-style.

At the end of the afternoon, as I sat next to Janae in the House visitors gallery, she fumed at the scene. “They’ve all got laptops!” she snapped. “They’ve had opportunities, education, but they don’t care about it for us.” Nevertheless, she told me how her youthful slack attitude had been turned around by a caring bible study teacher at church, who used to call every night to make sure she was doing her homework. “I’ve gone to four different schools,” she said. “And no one at school helped me until I came to Young Women’s.”

She’s going to go far.

--Steve Zemelman
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