What’s happening with respect to cuts in education funding in Iowa? How will the agency be impacted if severe budget cuts are imposed by the legislature? How will programs and services be impacted? AEA 267 Chief Administrator Roark Horn answers these questions and others in this special update.
What cuts are being considered?
- The House has passed House File 45 which proposes to cut state government spending by $48 million in the year ending June 30, and $496 million more over the next two years. The bill includes a $10 million cut to the AEA system–beginning in this fiscal year–and in years to come.
- The Governor has proposed a $20 million cut to AEAs in his proposed budget.
- It projected that the education will be given between 0-2% allowable growth in spending.
- $1.6 million in ARRA (American Recovery Reinvestment Act) funds will no longer be provided beginning in 2011-12.
Resources and advice on contacting your legislator
- To find your legislator, go to the Iowa Legislature’s website at http://www.legis.iowa.gov/Legislators/find.aspx
- If you plan to share stories or your political opinions with any legislators, do NOT send it via agency email. Use your own personal email account. It is against the law for AEA employees to lobby the legislature using agency email or stationery. Also, do not send any such messages during agency work hours, as that would also be a violation of the law.
- Tell your own personal story about how the cuts could impact the services you provide or the children, families and educators you serve. Personal stories have a far greater impact than any “template” or form letters.
More tips for contacting legislators:
- Be sure to identify yourself each time you meet a legislator. Legislators and their staffs meet many people during the session. They cannot be expected to remember who everyone is and it’s embarrassing to put them in that position. Until you are on a first-name basis, be sure that you identify yourself, your AEA, and remind them of your special interest.
- Know your legislators, their party affiliation, area of expertise, geographical area served, and committee assignments. Take time to get to know each one from your area personally, and be aware of political ideologies. Keep a notebook on legislators’ past votes and the positions taken on issues. Keep a list handy of home and office phone numbers.
- Know who’s got the power. Since it is virtually impossible to become acquainted with all legislators you should concentrate on who is in leadership positions. Every legislature has a leadership structure, legislators who can dictate how others will vote and how legislation is worded. These are the people to know!
- Keep track of where your legislation stands. No legislator can keep track of the status of all proposed legislation. While you may be interested in one particular bill, the legislator cannot afford that luxury. It becomes your job to know the status and components of the bill that concerns you. You should know where that bill is at all times, sub-committee, full committee, on the calendar for debate, etc. By having this information, you are not only perceived as being knowledgeable, but also a help to the legislator and that’s the name of the game.
- Be brief with your appeal. Legislators are busy people, and your case is not well served by overstaying your time or by writing too long a letter. Follow up periodically; a reminder is helpful. When talking with a legislator, NEVER give misleading facts. Once you lose credibility, you will seldom win it back.
- Show your appreciation. Legislators are human and appreciate strokes like anyone else. Commend them for a favorable vote and urge others to do so, too. Be quick to commend and slow to criticize.
- Combat negativism. Inevitably you will find a legislator who does not support your position. Don’t give up. Keep the door open. Sometimes legislators change their minds when they learn more facts. Once you see their minds won’t be changed, remain just as cordial as before. There may be more votes in the future, and legislators have good memories.
- Contact legislators year-round. It’s very difficult to build relationships with legislators when you see them once or twice a year and only when you need their help. A quick visit or periodic phone call on their home turf can pay dividends in the end.
- Personal letters should be specific and in your own words. Letter-writing campaigns with identically worded contents are not very effective. Letters will most likely be read if the envelope is plain white and hand-written. Never use pre-printed labels.
- Legislators do scan newsletters, especially eye-catching ones. A good strategy is to group in one section articles you particularly want them to read. Do this every time, and they’ll get in the habit of looking there.
- That dirty word Money! When an issue comes up, and legislators are suddenly surrounded by people wanting their votes, most legislators wonder where all these suddenly concerned people were during the election. In other words, provide financial support to candidates who share your views. If you can’t contribute money, contribute time to aid them in their campaigns. This, too, will be remembered.
-Wayne Haddy, AEA Government Relations Specialist
(Revised January 17, 2011)