How do I become an advocate for agricultural education?
Being an advocate is not just about lobbying your state and national legislators. It is about being an educated person and educating others about your passion — agricultural education! This starts by beginning to understand your own agricultural education story and how you can best share that story.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is the act of showing public support for a particular cause or policy.
- There are a variety of outcomes for advocating, including:
- Change in an institutional policy and practice
Example: Encouraging school administrators to offer agriculture biology as a science credit.
- Change in public attitudes or behavior
Example: Fostering a shift in the view the local community has about the agricultural education program (Vo-ag program of the 1960’s vs. agricultural education in the 21st century)
- Change in the political process or system
Example: Becoming a teacher representative on your local school board
- Increased power or influence for a less influential group
Example: Showcasing the importance of agricultural education to the entire school and how it contributes to student success.
What is an advocate?
An advocate is someone who actively supports a cause or policy by building relationships with those who exert influence. Anyone can and should be an advocate, regardless of experience.
Agricultural Education — The Backstory
Agricultural education has changed a lot in the past few decades. It is very important to understand that shift and what has led to it. It is important to know your history before you begin to develop your own story. This is also a time for you to examine your local agricultural education program by gathering test scores, student success stories and anecdotes to help enrich the story you will tell!
There are many factors that have influenced agricultural education. It helps to understand each one and the role they play in the profession.
What is agricultural education?
Organizations that Influence and Affect Agricultural Education
Many of the national organizations that have an interest in agricultural education have banded together to form The National Council for Agricultural Education, a coalition that serves as a common meeting ground for agricultural education and helps stimulate actions to support issues important to agricultural education. Learn more about The Council by visiting their website.
National Association of Agricultural Educators
National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education
American Association for Agricultural Education
National Farm and Ranch Business Management Education Association
Association for Career & Technical Education
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
National FFA Organization
National Postsecondary Agriculture Student Organization
National Young Farmers Educational Association
National FFA Alumni Association
National FFA Foundation
Other Influencers of Agricultural Education
There are many other factors that play a role in the direction of agricultural education. As you can see from the graphic below, some of these influences are constantly shifting and evolving, so it’s important to be familiar with why your program is the way it is.
Remember that even before the legislative process begins you have an opportunity to influence it. The first way is by becoming an educated voter and ensuring that the candidate you select supports your program and shares your side of priority issues. But be sure to truly investigate these individuals to determine what side of issues they stand on, don’t just take a television commercial’s word for it!
The chart below gives a basic overview of the steps of the legislative process. For a more detailed description of each step, download this document.
Hover over image for more description
Anyone may draft a bill; however, only members of Congress can introduce legislation, and by doing so
become the sponsor(s).
There are four basic types of legislation:
- joint resolutions
- concurrent resolutions
- simple resolutions
The official legislative process begins when a bill or resolution is numbered — H.R. signifies a House bill and S. a Senate bill — referred to a committee and printed by the Government Printing Office.
Be involved in presenting your ideas for a change or addition to legislation to your legislator.
With few exceptions, bills are referred to standing committees in the House or Senate according to
carefully delineated rules of procedure.
Know what committees your legislators serve on! This way you know if you should be in contact with your legislator to express support or concern during this stage regarding upcoming legislation.
When a bill reaches a committee it is placed on the committee's calendar. A bill can be referred to a
subcommittee or considered by the committee as a whole. It is at this point that a bill is examined carefully and its chances for passage are determined. If the committee does not act on a bill, it is the equivalent of killing it.
Determine important people to testify for pending legislation that may enhance your case for this type of legislation. Be sure to identify people that truly have expertise and support in this area, you may even be that person!
Often, bills are referred to a subcommittee for study and hearings. Hearings provide the opportunity to put on the record the views of the executive branch, experts, other public officials, supporters and opponents of the legislation. Testimony can be given in person or submitted as a written statement.
Continue to communicate with your legislators that may be on the committee reviewing this bill. If your district is not represented, advocates from districts that are and ensure they contact their representatives to share their stories as well.
When the hearings are completed, the subcommittee may meet to "mark up" the bill, that is, make changes and amendments prior to recommending the bill to the full committee. If a subcommittee votes not to report legislation to the full committee, the bill dies.
After receiving a subcommittee's report on a bill, the full committee can conduct further study and hearings, or it can vote on the subcommittee's recommendations and any proposed amendments. The full committee then votes on its recommendation to the House or Senate. This procedure is called "ordering a bill reported."
After a committee votes to have a bill reported, the committee chairman instructs staff to prepare a written report on the bill. This report describes the intent and scope of the legislation, impact on existing laws and programs, position of the executive branch, and views of dissenting members of the committee.
Be sure to take a look at the published report and determine if any amendments and/or modifications made in committees affect the pending legislation in any way.
After a bill is reported back to the chamber where it originated, it is placed in chronological order on the
calendar. In the House there are several different legislative calendars, and the Speaker and majority leader largely determine if, when, and in what order bills come up. In the Senate there is only one legislative calendar.
When a bill reaches the floor of the House or Senate, there are rules or procedures governing the debate on legislation. These rules determine the conditions and amount of time allocated for general debate.
Be sure to get your advocates to communicate what they believe very clearly so that they can ensure that the legislators are educated on your issue during the debate process.
After the debate and the approval of any amendments, the bill is passed or defeated by the members
When a bill is passed by the House or the Senate it is referred to the other chamber where it usually follows the same route through committee and floor action. This chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or change it. Know what committees your legislators serve on! This way you know if you should be in contact with your legislator to express support or concern during this stage regarding upcoming legislation.
If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, it is common for the legislation to go back to the first chamber for concurrence. However, when the actions of the other chamber significantly alter the bill, a conference committee is formed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. If the conferees are unable to reach agreement, the legislation dies. If agreement is reached, a conference report is prepared describing the committee members recommendations for changes. Both the House and the Senate must approve of the conference report.
After a bill has been approved by both the House and Senate in identical form, it is sent to the President. If the President approves of the legislation he signs it and it becomes law. Or, the President can take no action for ten days, while Congress is in session, and it automatically becomes law. If the President opposes the bill he can veto it; or, if he takes no action after the Congress has adjourned its second session, it is a "pocket veto" and the legislation dies.
If the President vetoes a bill, Congress may attempt to "override the veto." This requires a two thirds roll
call vote of the members who are present in sufficient numbers for a quorum.
ACTE National Policy Seminar with Agricultural Education Strand
The ACTE National Policy Seminar is held annually in Washington, D.C. and is a great opportunity for agriculture teachers to develop their skills as advocates for career and technical education and agricultural education. NAAE hosts special programming during the policy seminar focused on helping agricultural educators tell their story. Attendees will also have opportunity to visit with their national legislators and their staffers. These are skills they can take back to increase their effectiveness as an advocate at the local and state levels as well.
(After I attended NPS) “I was able to tell my students from first-hand experience how the legislative process works, the number of legislative assistants, and specialists in DC, and how I was able to advocate for a subject they know I am passionate about — agricultural education. After all, we all know the best way to teach is to lead by example.”
— Toni Sasso, Illinois Agriculture Teacher and 2013 NPS attendee
Learn more about the ACTE National Policy Seminar
NAAE Advocacy Education Tools
How have you educated yourself to become a stronger advocate for agricultural education? Share your story!