Statewide group offers help for parents wanting to shape education policy

/ 2 January 2014 / eunice

Kim McGuire, Star Tribune, January 2, 2014 – Understanding the legislative maneuvering that shapes education policy each year in Minnesota isn’t always for the faint of heart.

In fact, it often takes someone who’s not easily daunted by unbelievably complex funding formulas and test data to decipher education legislation.

For years, Mary Cecconi has untangled the web of legislation for Minnesota parents as the executive director of Parents United for Public Schools.

This year, three West Metro school districts are partnering with Cecconi and Parents United to put on a series of three presentations for parents who want to create change for schools and students.

Billed as an advocacy “boot camp”, the sessions will cover legislative basics, school governance and funding and citizen advocacy. Robbinsdale, Osseo and Hopkins will host the sessions over the next three months.

“There have been huge changes to the way schools are funded in Minnesota and other legislative changes that affect schools that parents need to understand,” Cecconi said, citing changes to test that students were once required to take in order to graduate.

Cecconi said parents in the three West Metro district took the initiative to organize the workshops – a first for Parents United.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise though – both in Minnesota and beyond, parents are playing a more prominent role in education advocacy. Education Week had a recent article that sheds some light on parents’ expanding roles in recent education reform movements.

“Parents in Minnesota have to understand that their voice really does matter,” Cecconi said.

The first workshop “Legislative Basics” will be Jan. 10 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Education Service Center for Robbinsdale Area Schools. The center is located at 4148 Winnetka Ave. N, New Hope. Parents United for Public Schools has more information on its website.