In this episode of the We Love Schools podcast, host Joel Gagne speaks with former Kentucky Congressman Mike Ward. The two chat about public school advocacy and how important it is to support education in America by encouraging your elected officials to vote to help public education.
“Public schools are what America is all about,” Ward says. “The only way to help young people and to help families is to get them a better education.”
“We’re not going to have the jobs that require muscles as time goes by,” Ward says. “We’ll have the jobs that require brains.”
Ward and Gagne discuss the importance of education to keep jobs in America and how education wasn’t necessarily at the forefront in the 2016 election.
“Schools are always picked apart and under attack, but surprisingly education was not a big thing in 2016, why do you think that was?” Gagne asks.
Ward explains that he thinks education was just overshadowed by so much else in 2016, and that’s why education wasn’t a central topic leading up to the election. He believes 2016 was an aberration, and he hopes that public school advocacy will be a central topic in future elections.
“People are very concerned and committed to providing good public education, but they have a hard time understanding what that really means,” Ward explains. “To me, so much of that is the responsibility of school districts to get that message out.”
Gagne asks for tips on how public school advocates can be effective in reaching out to those in public office.
Ward compares public school advocacy to reality television and its popularity. He says that he thinks reality television is so popular because it seems to give the impression that it tells the stories of real people.
“That’s what school boards have to do,” Ward says. “They should talk about real stories about real people to help elected officials understand what impact that local district is having on their community and their voters.”
Gagne agrees that to be effective at public school advocacy, schools need to tell a powerful story, even if they tell that same story over and over.
“Schools need to get into the business of storytelling, they need to grab their audience with powerful stories,” Gagne agrees.
The two continue to discuss technology that can be leveraged to effectively advocate for public schools, including virtual town halls, social media and more. It’s all about effectively telling the school’s story in usable forms and sharing the story with elected officials.
Ward explains that among all the misconceptions about elected officials, the idea that politicians are all crazy rich and don’t care about their constituents is the most inaccurate.
He recommends that you get a message to your elected officials at a public meeting rather than trying to set up a private meeting. If the message is short and effective, they’re likely to remember it.
The two discuss reaching out to elected officials to share school success stories and how elected officials sharing those stories in congress is a win for both the school and the official.
Ward says the biggest thing that can be improved within public schools is that the schools get their message out more effectively.
“We need to make sure the good stories, the good news, the positive things about public education get out there, and that’s responsibility of the administrators,” Ward says.
Gagne finishes by asking what book Ward would recommend to listeners.
“If you want to learn about what motivates politicians, there are two books,” Ward says. He recommends “The Politics of Ambition” and “What it Takes: The Way to the White House” for anyone who would like to understand elected officials and politicians better.
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