Important Lessons from the 2021 Legislative Conference

Nothing beats a good story. That was a recurring theme throughout the 2021 Legislative Conference organized by the Washington Association for School Administrators (WASA), Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), and Washington Association of School Business Officials (WASBO).

As Senator Lisa Wellman said, “500 people sending letters gets attention, but give me a story, something I can latch on to.”

Senator Wellman was one of the Legislature members who pre-recorded interviews to share at the Legislative Conference on February 21. Another was Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education Committee. Rep. Santos said, “don’t focus on cost but focus on the impact to students; that’s what legislators need to hear.” And finally, Representative Alex Ybarra of the 13th Legislative District reinforced the same message, saying, “I need examples of how students may be impacted.”

Over 450 conference attendees

More than 450 people attended the Legislative Conference, which was held virtually for the first time in the event’s history. Held annually each February, the conference allows members of our three organizations to align our messages and magnify the impact of our collective advocacy, which happened during the subsequent “Week on the Hill.”

Almost 300 people met with legislators

Almost 300 people attended the Week on the Hill virtual meetings with legislators March 15-19. The representatives of nearly every legislative district in the state had meetings with K-12 advocates. Leading up to those meetings, the fate of bills waxed and waned, so WASA and WSSDA’s advocacy leads, Dan Steele and Marissa Rathbone, provided an interim update to conference participants.

Don’t take a breather

Legislative Conference and Week on the Hill’s lasting power comes from follow-up and continued conversations with legislators. As Senator Brad Hawkins told us, “Don’t take a breather…many important things are happening at the end of the session when bills are nearing the finish line, and important adjustments are being made. Stay engaged and on message through the final days of a session.“

Why people participated

Event emcee Mike Nelson, assistant executive director of WASA, invited attendees to say why they were attending the Legislative Conference:

“My Why: wake lasting influence and shift public policy to allow all students equitable access to achieving their life goals, without barriers rooted in racism, by working on bold and impactful initiatives across large systems.”

I’m here as a student representative to both educate myself and to be able to better advocate for my generation and class. As a member of, I want to become more informed on legislative efforts in education supported by schools across my local region, and better understand my personal stance or lend perspective to inform such initiatives.

“I’m incredibly honored to serve and support ALL staff, students, and families that give hope, compassion, and skills to improve our community. I am humbled every day to work alongside inspiring and amazing educators that give that hope and love to our students and families.”

This story originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of WSSDA Direct.