What is the Dallas Kids First issue focus?
Dallas Kids First focuses on electing high-quality leaders to school boards. Our organization has worked to close two gaps by advancing two priorities: 1) provide support to candidates who are running a campaign for the first time ever, and 2) maintain voter contact year-round by disseminating actionable information regarding the decision-making at the school board table.
Current campaign or project you’d like to highlight: What is something Dallas Kids First is currently prioritizing? Can you tell our readers a little about the goals of the campaign/project?
We are currently engaging registered voters who have never voted in a school board election in the past by knocking on their door, sharing who their elected school board member is, and asking them to mark their calendar for the upcoming election. During the election months, our team typically goes to people who have school board voting history. However, we determined that we must talk to people who may be active in other statewide or federal elections, so that we can add the school board election to their list of priorities.
Our goal is to truly make kids a first priority when a voter is considering an elected leader that represents public schools. We know that schools are the pillar of our communities and often times a place where families find security for their students. For this reason and many others, we want to be sure that we don’t just have 10% of voters electing our public school leaders. We need participation that represents the needs and desires from all families.
Tips and lessons: Do you have an “Advocacy Tip” to share or “Lesson Learned” while organizing this or other campaigns? Do you have any general words of wisdom that you’d like to share with other staff engaged in advocacy?
We frame everything around voter contact. We invest our time and energy into making sure that we are talking to voters. Sometimes, we get caught up in our bubble of organizers and other community leaders, but we are not breaking out of that bubble to make sure we are engaging neighbors from all walks of life in advocating for great public schools. In our world, the best way to advocate for great public schools is for people to vote for high quality elected school board leaders. To do so, we must break out of our nonprofit coalitions and make sure we reach those who are not part of an organized network. This is how we bring new advocates along.
Many of our member organizations work with both our Bolder Advocacy initiative on c3/c4 advocacy rules and guidance, and our Justice programs on the importance of the courts and judicial nominations. How has either or both most helped you? How have you worked with either or both?
Our organization started off as a PAC and has since built out a 501c4. Today, we are making plans to add a 501c3. The Bolder Advocacy resources for distinguishing between the activities and related advocacy rules for each structure have been incredibly helpful to our organization. We often reference the Bolder Advocacy resource book so that we can make sure that our operations are aligned with the expectations of each organization type (PAC, c3, c4).
Who inspires you?
Our students and student leaders inspire me. As much fun as it is to interact with elected leaders and candidates, a conversation with a student – from any grade level – it always grounding and inspiring. The students are the ones who put the pressure on our team to do better. At the end of the day, our city’s political leaders may have great ideas, but they do not matter if our students’ experience isn’t meaningfully impacted in a tangible way.