“There is sort of a magic to advocacy 101,” says Ted Lempert, a former California State Assembly member and longtime champion for education reform who currently serves as president of Children Now, a national research and advocacy organization. “Usually in political or advocacy campaigns, when there's a really clear message and the base is together, you win. And when the base is split, you lose.”
On this episode of School’s In, Lempert joins Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to discuss how to build more effective coalitions to support children’s health, education and welfare.
“Most elected officials don't go to Sacramento saying ‘I'm going there to mess up kids’ lives,’ ” says Lempert, a Stanford Law School alum who has worked on both sides of policy legislation. “A lot of them want to do the right thing. And then they get pressure to do everything but kids, by sophisticated, coordinated interests.”
Lempert wants to foster a children’s movement that takes a page from the finance and oil industry groups who take advocacy seriously, recognize their power and know how to stay on message. Among educational and childhood advocates, “there's a sense of scarcity and powerlessness.” And this has groups jockeying for attention or even opposing adjacent policies.
Individual organizations focus on educational reform, foster care, health care, school funding and other concerns. The unifying message among overlapping interest groups, he says, is that they are all pro-kid.
Together “we have an enormous amount of power,” says Lempert, pointing to the Chamber of Commerce as an example of unified interests. “There's no other issue where you can bring labor, faith-based, civil rights groups, Democrats, Independents, Republicans together,” he says. ”The way we have that power is to be more connected.”
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