Hundreds of Public Education Advocates Under the Dome

March 02, 2023  

Our 2023 Leadership Symposium brought together more than 275 dedicated school leaders from across Texas to Austin to connect, collaborate, and advocate for public education. The 15th Annual Symposium included alumni from Charles Butt Foundation and Raise Your Hand Texas programs. 

These individuals are the heart of our work across the state. They are leaders in their classrooms, campuses, and districts, who go above and beyond for their students and staff every day. This week they embraced education advocacy alongside learning and networking.

The advocacy highlight of the event was our Capitol Advocacy Day, bringing together attendees with their legislators at the Capitol. And the day was impactful and life-changing. 

Advocates at the Capitol

“Being at the Capitol and sharing my passion for public education further solidified the calling on my life to serve public school students, and NEVER become SILENT because our students and their education MATTER,” said Aretha Jackson from Kerr Elementary School in Plano Independent School District. 

Before attendees headed out for a day at the Capitol, Dr. Michelle Smith, executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas, addressed these important leaders. She let them know they belong in the Capitol and that as the on-the-ground experts about public education, their presence and stories are critically important to good, sound policymaking for the single biggest line item in the budget: public education. 

“It can feel hard and intimidating to visit legislators, but they need to hear from you,” said Smith. 

Raise Your Hand Texas’ senior director of advocacy Libby Cohen and senior director of government relations Will Holleman sat down with advocates to share more about public education and the role it will play in the 88th Legislative Session. 

“Advocacy is ongoing – it happens all the time,” said Cohen. She also shared that advocacy is so much more than “a meeting” every two years with your legislator. This is one part of a consistent, ongoing practice of connecting with people in your community, sharing your voice and opinions on important issues as they arise, and meeting with or reaching out to your legislators to ensure your voice is heard. 

Holleman followed up by saying, “Where we can meet in the middle gives us the best chance of good policy for education.” 

He also went on to share that there are a few defining features of the legislative session, including historic amounts of budget revenue and a  voucher fight. Texas is in the bottom 10 states in the country in per-pupil funding. Holleman said lawmakers should focus on investing funds in our public schools rather than diverting dollars from them, and an emphasis on property tax relief should be met with equal emphasis on investing in our students.

Alumni leaders then teamed up with Regional Advocacy Directors (RADs) to prepare for their meetings with legislators at the Capitol. Regional Advocacy Directors led break-out sessions on how to prepare for a productive legislative meeting. In these small groups, RADs were able to dive deep with alumni and fellows to discover what policy priorities resonated most with them and their campuses. Having identified areas of alignment, selected appropriate stories and data points, and organized meeting agendas, alumni then traveled to the Capitol. There they met with dozens of legislators and their staff advocating on behalf of their educational communities and the needs of their students. 

The great success of our 2023 Leadership Symposium can be measured by the stories our Leadership Alumni shared with their legislators. Our teachers and administrators are the experts in our public schools, and the future of Texas is in our public schools. 

Todd Bloomer from Churchill High School in Northeast Independent School District shared this about his experience: “Advocacy has become an integral part of our role as administrators. We can no longer wait around for someone else to do the work for us. The highlight of the Capitol visits was truly seeing that our representatives want to hear from us. When we frame our visits as partnerships, we can seek common ground and truly let the legislative process play out.” 

Michael Semmler from Leaman Junior High School in Lamar Consolidated Independent School District went on to say, “With experience as an educator, I have realized how important my role is as an advocate for education. I truly believe our politicians want to do what is right, and by partnering together with them, we are trying to develop a relationship to educate each other. Through that partnership, we want to ultimately help the students of Texas have a stronger education taught by the best people. Teachers are the backbone of everything that goes on in the world and we want to have the best system anywhere. I have made many connections with people from around the state and that also helps me develop a strong network of people who ultimately care for our educational system and the students of Texas. We are stronger together.” 

We are proud to partner with our sister organization, Charles Butt Foundation, to continue to highlight and advocate for the indispensable work of our public schools. As we look into the future, we see our advocates taking their experience, which strengthened their advocacy toolkits, back to their regions to continue to advocate for public education within their communities. 

Tags: Advocacy Alumni Regional Directors

related content


subscribe & make
a difference

Subscribe to our e-newsletter for Texas education news, stories, policy insights, and ways to make a difference. We only use this information to send emails relevant to you and will never share this information with third parties.

Address (Required)(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.