Taking Advocacy to Capitol Hill: ACTober Advocacy Day
Posted on 12/22/2015 @ 11:45 PM
By: Karla Angula, LULAC National Federal Affairs Intern
When I first decided that I wanted to intern for the League of United Latin American Citizens, I knew that this was the largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the country. I was also aware of its work to advance the lives of Latinos throughout the United States; however, I did not know just how extensive their reach was. During the first week of my internship with LULAC, I was able to observe first-hand how LULAC advances the economic condition, political influence, and education of the Latino community in the halls of Capitol Hill.
Throughout the year, LULAC has many national events, but one of its most unique events is ACTober: Fall Advocacy Day. ACTober occurs every October and allows LULAC members from councils across the country to meet with members of Congress and leaders from President Obama’s administration to discuss LULAC’s policy priorities. LULAC members from dozens of states across the country held meetings with congressional leaders from both political parties because bills often need bipartisan support. In addition to taking the time and effort to travel to Washington, D.C. and speak with their representatives, many of these council members are leaders in their local communities, giving them specialized knowledge on what needs to be changed at the federal level to affect change locally.
Amongst the various meetings held throughout the entire day, I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting with the legislative correspondents of Congressman Thomas Rooney of Florida and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. I accompanied LULAC members who wanted to discuss federal legislation that would address educational inequities in the classroom. We looked specifically at the Senate's “Every Child Achieves Act” and the House’s “Student Success Act”, and advocated for a provision which would hold states, schools, and districts accountable when they fail to meet educational target goals for Latino students and English Language Learners (ELL). Subgroup accountability is critical to ensuring that schools will do everything in their power to ensure the educational success of vulnerable student populations, including minority students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners. In addition to a subgroup accountability amendment, we also spoke on the need to use annual assessments to track the progress that students make. While there is a danger that students are often over-tested, especially in elementary school, LULAC supports administering one test so that results can be used as evidence of any achievement gaps for Latino students. If a disparity exists, the state and/or federal government can take action to give these students resources and additional support to close the gap.
Whether focusing on immigration detention issues, equal rights for the LGBT community, or Latino health issues, LULAC not only speaks on the importance of these issues, but they actually go to Congress and speak to their representatives. By telling them what the Latino community needs, they are ensuring that elected officials can make the necessary public policy changes to address these needs. Even though they might not necessarily agree with all the congressional members they are meeting with, LULAC members can still have a proactive discussion on addressing the needs of the Latino community and ensuring that what is going on in local communities across the country is heard by those charged with creating the laws.