“I really didn’t know exactly what I was signing up to do,” said Rights & Democracy member D’Vorah Kelley, reflecting back on her first experience as a grassroots lobbyist. “I had been to Concord many times – carrying signs and attending rallies at the State House – but this was different.”
Kelley, a retired teacher, joined eight fellow activists on April 16, 2019 for RAD’s first Education Funding Lobby Day.
After a brief introduction to lobbying, the group set out to talk with as many Senators as possible. A few meetings had been arranged in advance, but if meetings couldn’t be arranged, some RAD members squeezed in pointed words with their Senators while they walked through the halls!
In pairs or as individuals, the group made contact with a dozen Senators in just a few hours.
As the group members knew going into their meetings, every legislator has a duty to represent the needs of their home districts – but they also have a responsibility to think about what’s best for the entire state. We saw these conversations on April 16th as an opportunity to inform Senators about an issue that is undeniably afflicting the whole state. We explained that if we continue to fund education primarily through local property taxes, we will continue to pit neighbors against neighbors and towns against towns.
“It was a bit outside my comfort zone,” said Kelley, “so I was fortunate to be in a group with a more experienced person.” By the end of the day she had tried her hand at setting up a meeting with a legislator on the spot, and had also had a successful meeting with her own Senator, Jay Kahn.
The conversations were a two-way street as well. RAD members were also in Concord to gather information during their meetings with Senators that will help RAD’s Educations Strategy Team to build a legislative strategy. We were identifying which Senators are in favor of our education funding goals, which ones are opposed, and who is on the fence. This information is helping our members decide what our next step will be now that education funding has been rolled into the State Budget which is presently moving through the Senate.
“My take-away from the experience is that it’s important to step out of our comfort zone in order to learn that we can do things that are important to be part of making the changes we want to see,” said Kelley.