When our executive director Eric Nesheim and other leaders in the adult education field met with 80 members of Congress and staff, their message was simple: fully fund ABE.
Their meetings were part of Capitol Hill Day, an annual event sponsored by the Coalition On Adult Basic Education (COABE), but this year's event was a landmark occasion. For the first time, attendees of the event were sharing a simple, unified message with lawmakers - and it was, in part, thanks to Eric.
One voice for change
Eric had been frustrated by the slow progress ABE lobbying efforts were garnering at the national level for a while. The problem, Eric knew, is that repetition is often the key to learning. But when it came time to visit Capitol Hill, every major organization seemed to bring its own slightly different message and lesson to lawmakers: some lobbied against ABE funding cuts, others for ABE to be fully funded, while still others advocated for ABE reform.
When it comes to advocacy, a cohesive and unified message is critical to success. Here in Minnesota, for example, we are lucky enough to enjoy some of the more robust ABE programming in the country both because of your support and the fact that the Minnesota Literacy Council collaborates with other ABE organizations to ensure we present the same message to state lawmakers. Tom Cytron-Hysom, facilitator and coordinator for the Saint Paul Community Literacy Consortium, said Eric's advocacy efforts have been critical at the state level. “He has a great email system set up to notify people when action is needed, which is the first time that’s really happened in our field,” he said.
As you can imagine, it's a lot more difficult to coordinate a unified approach to ABE at the national level. But after the 2016 election, it became clear that it was time to try. “In a general sense, I think the current political climate in Washington D.C. has made it imperative that our field organize really effectively, maybe in a way that we haven’t before,” Tom said. “The services we provide can be so easily defunded.”
So, at the 2017 COABE Conference, Eric proposed bringing everyone together behind one message on Capitol Hill Day for the first time. But this wasn't the only important "first" that happened at the conference: COABE and other leaders of our field also launched the first national campaign for ABE, Educate and Elevate, at the conference, as well.
The final impact assessment
Thanks to the support of people like you, this is just the beginning. Congress votes on the 2018 fiscal year budget in September, which means we have a little less than five months to make our voices louder than ever before. With your help, we know we will make ourselves heard.
To learn more about our advocacy efforts and how you can get involved, please visit the advocacy section of our website.