March/April 2024

In Practice: Advocacy Resources for Illinois School Board Members

Compiled by Theresa Kelly Gegen and the IASB Governmental Relations Team
Journal | March/April 2024 

The Illinois Association of School Boards, led by the Governmental Relations team, assists members in their advocacy efforts. School board members in Illinois have an essential voice to be heard in the legislative process.

Advocacy Ambassador Program Moves Forward
The IASB Advocacy Ambassa­dor program is moving forward. The IASB Advocacy Ambassador Pro­gram aspires to build relationships and effective communication chan­nels between school board members and state and federal legislators. The goals for this grassroots program include helping members build rela­tionships with fellow advocates and legislators, ensuring that members stay informed about legislative devel­opments that impact their districts, and sharing advocacy tools and strategies for you to become more actively engaged in discussions sur­rounding education policies.

As school board advocates, you have the unique opportunity to affect change in both legislative deci­sions and school board initiatives. Your dedication to navigating the educational landscape will play a piv­otal role in creating a brighter future for our students and communities.

We are thrilled to unite the voices of passionate individuals dedicated to education in Illinois. Member support of IASB’s legislative work will enhance local school board excellence and district success.

Ambassadors will receive regular communication from IASB, includ­ing emails, text messages, surveys, and group Zoom meetings where we can collaborate for training and membership engagement discussions.

To sign up, visit Advocacy and select the Advoca­cy Ambassador option. Together, let’s magnify our voices, influence legislative decisions, and champion the cause of improving quality pub­lic education and excellence in local school board governance in Illinois.

IASB Legislative Reports Keep Board Members Up-to-Date
The Illinois Association of School Boards sends regular state and federal legislative updates when issues impacting education are being discussed. These are sent via email and posted on the IASB website. The reports from the state level are produced by the Governmental Rela­tions Department, typically weekly when the General Assembly is in ses­sion and otherwise as needed. A typ­ical IASB Legislative Report includes a narrative on key legislative action, a list of education-related bills and their progress through the legislative process, and updates on the commit­tee meeting schedule.

Federal Legislative Reports include coverage of the latest in pub­lic education matters at the federal level and information on hearings, legislation, and events. These are produced with assistance from the Consortium of State School Boards Associations (COSSBA) then and sent via email and posted online.

Vision 2030: A Collaboration for the Future
The Vision 2030 initiative is aimed at enhancing public education in Illinois in the long term. IASB is collaborating with school districts and educational organizations to dis­cuss education policy and issues that will shape future advocacy endeavors.

Vision 2030 is led by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), and includes representatives from the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Association of School Business Offi­cials (IASBO), the Illinois Principals

Association (IPA), the Illinois Associ­ation of Regional Superintendent of Schools (IARSS), and other partners. It is supported by ECRA Group.

Vision 2030 has created work groups in the areas of Student Success, Accountability, Educator Excellence, and Finance & Funding. Protecting the integrity of the Evi­dence-Based Funding Formula and reforming the mandate process were the two top goals of those surveyed, with the largest number of responses coming from school board members.

From 2013 to 2020, Illinois Vision 20/20 united the education community behind a long-range plan to improve school funding, teacher recruitment, 21st-century learning, and accountability. The organiza­tion’s goal is to build upon the great success of Illinois Vision 20/20 mov­ing forward into Vision 2030.

COSSBA Shares National Priorities
The Consortium of State School Boards Associations was created in 2021 as a non-partisan, national alli­ance dedicated to sharing resources and information to support, pro­mote, and strengthen state school boards associations as they serve their local school districts and board mem­bers. COSSBA tracks and advocates federal education issues and policies impacting local school boards and public education.

Illinois is a founding member of COSSBA. The Consortium’s Exec­utive Director is Thomas Bertrand, who was IASB’s executive director from 2018 to 2023.

COSSBA has position papers and action items on each of its Advo­cacy Priorities, which are

  • Prioritizing K-12 Public Educa­tion As Schools of Choice
  • Increased Funding for K-12 Education
  • Teacher and Principal Training And Recruitment
  • Broadband, Connectivity, Cybersecurity, and E-Rate
  • Child Nutrition Programs
  • Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

According to the Consortium, “COSSBA’s non-partisan Federal Advocacy concentrates on the major federal issues with widespread impact on the nation’s public schools and students. Our advocacy position statements are adopted annually by leaders of the member state school boards associations, requiring a two-thirds majority support. They serve as a unifying agenda on behalf of American public school students.”

COSSBA held its first Federal Advocacy Conference in 2023. IASB coordinated Illinois’s delegation to this event, during which officials from several Illinois school districts and IASB staff met with staffs from Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Tammy Duckworth’s offices. In addition, they met with U.S. Rep­resentatives Jonathan Jackson, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Bill Foster, and Bradley Schneider, as well as staff from the offices of Representatives Darin LaHood, Mike Quigley, Rob­in Kelly, Nikki Budzinski, and Eric Sorensen.

The second COSSBA Federal Advocacy Conference is scheduled for September 2024. Information on that and all of COSSBA’s work is available on the organization’s website.

Resolutions Process Guides IASB Advocacy Efforts
The Resolution Process is the foundation for advocacy for the Illi­nois Association of School Boards. Each year, member districts can introduce a resolution based on a topic or issue facing the district. Each submitted resolution is vetted through the Resolutions Process (see timeline below and get complete details). Resolutions are presented to a vote of the mem­bership at the Delegate Assembly at the Joint Annual Conference. If adopted, the resolution becomes part of the IASB Position Statements and is applied to statewide policy. When legislation is introduced, the Govern­mental Relations team reviews the Position Statements and uses them to advocate on behalf of IASB with members of the General Assembly. It is vital that every district participates in the process, especially the Delegate Assembly, where the membership vote determines the direction of the Association’s advocacy efforts.

Action Items
Sometimes, legislative issues require a quick and dedicated response from IASB members to help influence the way lawmakers view bills. The purpose of this action on the part of school board members is to give legislators a better under­standing of the local impacts a piece of legislation may have on public school districts.

A Call to Action asks IASB members to reach out directly to their members of the General Assembly to communicate the positions in favor of or opposed to a particular bill, or take another action around a particular piece of legislation.

A Witness Slip is one such action. A Witness Slip formally expresses your support or opposition to bills being brought before the House and Senate Committees. IASB offers assistance with the steps involved in completing a Witness Slip; scan the QR code or visit

Still More Resources Offer Education and Assistance
IASB offers other in-person resources to promote the Associa­tion’s advocacy efforts on behalf of public schools in Illinois.

  • Members can attend Legislative Breakfasts, which bring togeth­er local legislators with school board members and administra­tors for discussions of legislative issues.
  • At each Joint Annual Confer­ence, the IASB Governmental Relations team hosts legislators for Panel Sessions to discuss the latest education topics in the legislature.
  • Members can also gain perspec­tives on advocacy and stay current on legislative issues with resources such as
  • Annual publications such as the yearly Resolutions Committee Report, End of Session Report, and New School Laws, plus Advocacy for School Board Members and columns in the Journal.
  • Podcasts featuring the Govern­mental Relations team in con­versations with special guests, discussing current topics in advocacy.
  • Webinars and videos that offer insights into the work of the legislature as it pertains to public education in Illinois.

Last, but not least, the people of IASB are the most valuable resource for school board members seeking to have their voices heard in Illinois government. The Governmental Relations team offers all of the resources above and is available to answer questions, guide efforts, and assist members at every turn in the important arena of public school advocacy.

Sarah Miller, Mary Ellen Buch, Barbara Hobrock, Mike Stevens, and Alie Wagner are the IASB Governmental Relations team. Resources associated with this project can be found at iasb. com/Advocacy.