Member advocacy blossoms with CSBA Roadshow and Legislative Action Week

By Susan Markarian

The author Leo Tolstoy said, “Spring is the time of plans and projects.” That is certainly true at CSBA, where we have spent the first weeks of March planting seeds of advocacy that we hope will blossom into policy and legislation that improves California schools. At the beginning of the month, I had the pleasure of traveling to San Diego County to introduce the initial stop on CSBA’s 2023 Roadshow, the first event of its kind in almost six years.

As part of the roadshow, CSBA’s top staff are touring the state to initiate a dialogue with members, hear your ideas on education issues and student needs, provide updates on political and legal news, and share information about trainings and other CSBA offerings. The feedback staff gains on these visits informs our legislative advocacy and helps us develop programs and services that are responsive to your needs.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to welcome the roadshow back after a hiatus that was extended unexpectedly by the pandemic. Although we worked hard to nurture our member relationships virtually during the worst of COVID-19, there is no replacement for the in-person connection we’ve been able to rekindle at trainings and events over the last couple of years. It was good to see our members on their home turf and to be welcomed so graciously by the school that hosted us, Poway High School in Poway Unified School District. Conducting our business in a place where students come to learn on a daily basis is always grounding and provides the best perspective for our work.

Coincidentally, the roadshow was scheduled on International Women’s Day, which was appropriate, as women were especially well-represented at the roadshow, making up the great majority of the audience. This was a far cry from my early days as a board member, dating back 38 years ago, long before I ever imagined I could be president of this association. I know that we are all juggling busy schedules with work life, personal life and the increasing demands placed on district and county board members, so I appreciate everyone that attended the first roadshow and everyone that will attend one of the 16 to follow. I am also grateful for every one of the nearly 400 members that participated in CSBA’s Legislative Action Week from March 14-16, meeting virtually with more than 100 state legislators and staff.

Legislative Action Week offers our members a platform to shine a light on the top issues facing their schools and students — a local perspective that sometimes gets lost in the race to craft statewide legislation aimed at improving student outcomes. Rising costs, declining revenues and growing student needs pose challenges for schools and make direct advocacy more critical than ever.

During Legislative Action Week, members from all parts of the state urged the Legislature to protect recent investments that are essential to learning recovery and to fully fund the Local Control Funding Formula. These steps are critical to ensure that schools have resources, but also the flexibility required to invest in programs and services that are tailored to the needs of your communities.

I’ve served on school boards for nearly four decades and the job has grown more complicated year after year. That’s why CSBA is consistently engaging with members to learn how we can better support schools in every corner of California. Your participation allows us to do more on your behalf, ensure that our statewide efforts are aligned with local needs and that our advocacy work blossoms into the change we need for our schools and students.

Susan Markarian is CSBA President.