In late February, Elise Helgesen Aguilar, AU’s Federal Legislative Counsel, and Erin Taylor, AU’s new National Field Director, visited Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a strategy session on combating private school vouchers. Elise and Erin met with members of the Orange-Durham Chapter of Americans United for a working lunch and training session to begin outlining a plan for the upcoming state legislative session (April 25 to June 30, 2016). The AU chapter’s goal is to halt the expansion of the current school voucher program that was originally enacted in 2013.
Approximately fifteen people participated in the session, with some being new members to AU and to the chapter. We discussed the current legislative climate in the state, ongoing coalition activities already underway, recent happenings on vouchers at the federal level and in other states, and strategies that AU has used successfully in the past to push back. After breaking up into small working groups, we discussed key messages and prioritized the talking points attendees thought would best resonate in North Carolina and with their legislators. This exercise was the beginning of what will soon become a joint position statement opposing private school vouchers from the Orange-Durham chapter.
We discussed strategies for meeting legislators where they are, tips for effective advocacy in masse at the State Capitol when the group visits Raleigh, and how to use earned media to build public awareness and apply pressure. The Orange-Durham chapter is eager to connect with other AU chapters across the state to join efforts on defeating a program expansion this year. The AU Field Department is working with the chapters to set up a networking conference call in March.
If your local AU chapter could use help preparing for fights at your legislature or at the local level, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help.