Sunday, March 28, 2010

NWP Spring Meeting in DC: Day 2

Day 2 in DC was our main lobbying day, but as we were walking to the Dirksen Senate offices for our morning rally, we caught the tourist bug and had to take pictures of the beautiful cherry blossoms that were already in bloom. These were at the Japanese American memorial.

Congresswoman Maizie Hirono was nice enough to stop by at the rally to offer up support to all the NWP teachers to encourage us for the work that was ahead today. What was really nice was that she talked about leading with aloha. Many people stopped us to thank us for coming, because if we didn't come, they wouldn't have heard Congresswoman Hirono speak. She did a great job of representing our state and as someone who signed our Dear Colleague letter to support NWP, we say mahalo a nui loa to Ms. Hirono.

The main thing that I learned about the new budget is that the federal government would like to give a lump sum of federal money back to the state for educational programs, and each state would be in charge of doling out money to programs that would have to compete for the federal money. We are not against competition, however, as a national program, we are not able to compete. We are a national network, not a state network. For example, if California's multiple writing projects got funding from California, but Hawaii and Alaska didn't get funding, what would happen to the national writing project? As the Lehua Writing Project, without the infrastructure and support of the NWP, we wouldn't exist.

The Dear Colleague letter supports our need for direct funding. Our job on this day was to meet with Senator Akaka's aide to talk about our program, to talk about the need for our kind of professional development in Hawaii, and to encourage him to sign the Dear Colleague letter. We met with Arun Revera who was coming off of a very long night (Senate was getting ready to vote on the health bill). He was very warm and receptive, and in karmic coincidence, Arun and Jeannine lived very near each other in Texas, and he went to HPA. His mother still lives in Waimea and they both frequent Waimea Coffee. It was destined to be a great meeting. We talked about our program, we shared mana'o from Cathy Riehle, Merle Yoshida and Joanne Yoshida, answered his questions, and he assured us that he would ask Senator Akaka to sign the letter. We will follow up with him this week after their own spring break.

Senator Akaka and his office continued to show us hospitality by arranging a private capitol tour (we were joined by 4 kids and their advisor from 4H Hawaii) and when we got back, Senator Akaka gave us some of his precious time before he went back to the floor for another vote. We also found out that when we see senators giving testimony on C-Span, they're usually talking just to the stenographer and whichever young senator is doing time as the speaker. Everyone else is in committee meetings or doing other work. The staff keeps track on C-Span to what's going on, and when a vote is near, there are buzzers that go on in the senate offices.

It was such a full day with so many cool things going on, but the best thing was our meeting with Hirono and Akaka. We weren't able to meet with Senator Inouye, but Paul LeMahieu met with his education aide on our behalf before we got to DC, and although Senator Inouye is very supportive, because he is the chairman of the appropriations committee, he is not able to sign the Dear Colleague letter. It would be like signing it to himself, and would not be appropriate.

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