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LED: Helping educate lawmakers

Legislative Education Day (LED) is an eye-opening experience that empowers OSEA members from around the state to learn about the legislative process and talk with lawmakers at a crucial time of the year for education funding and policy.

The day is coordinated by OSEA and AFT-Oregon. LED is actually two days, starting with preparation and education of members the day prior. This session, LED is scheduled for Sunday-Monday, March 3-4.

The day’s aim is for elected officials to get an education from our members as they teach them about the important work they perform every day in our K-12 schools, community colleges, education service districts (ESDs), higher education, Head Start agencies, park and recreation districts and libraries.

“Our elected officials need the information we can give them on what is happening at the local level in schools,” said Judy Kulluson, a librarian and vice president of Roseburg Chapter 21. “I use my personal leave day to go to LED. It is worth it.”

LED 2011

Curt Smith, right, a member of Eugene Chapter 1, talks with his representative, Nancy Nathanson, during Legislative Education Day (LED) 2011. LED gives OSEA members from throughout the state the opportunity to meet with their legislators.

The preparation and education of members on Sunday is an essential part of LED. No matter how much you know about Oregon’s legislative process, members are sure to learn something new. Sessions include how a bill becomes law in Oregon, a review of legislative priorities and how best to interact with elected officials.

On Monday, members can tour the Capitol, attend committee hearings and talk with representatives and senators one-on-one about local or statewide concerns. Often the day includes visits and speeches from statewide officials such as the governor, secretary of state and labor commissioner. Doris Buchholz, of Vernonia Chapter 67, went to her first LED during the 2011 legislative session.

“I was interested in touring the Capitol and having an opportunity to talk to legislators and see how it all worked,” she said.

Kulluson has attended three LED events and said sometimes persistence is the key. She said her interactions with Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse, who represents her district, progressed from him simply listening to him asking questions about her issues and work. Kruse eventually agreed to attend a candidate interview held at her library.

“I feel like the door of communication has been opened a bit,” she said. “I learned it takes perseverance when it comes to talking to a politician who may not be labor friendly.”

Issues on the table during past LEDs include everything from adequate school funding and collective bargaining to retirement security and ESD funding. Sometimes pressing local matters come to the forefront. Buchholz talked with Rep. Brad Witt and Sen. Betsy Johnson, both Democrats, about building a new school in Vernonia and problems with obtaining supplies.

“At the time I was working as a custodian, and we had trouble getting things like mop heads just to do our jobs,” Buchholz said.

She added that the training provided by OSEA prepared her to be an effective advocate when speaking with lawmakers.

“You’re always more comfortable when you know what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it,” Buchholz said. Kulluson said it’s common for people to get nervous when speaking with elected officials, so it’s important to know what you want to say and even rehearse it in advance.

“They should have a story of their own work experience and the effects of tight funding at their school,” she added. Members can register for LED online by visiting the OSEA website. Call the State Office at 800/252-6732 for additional information.

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