Gather around, children, and I’ll tell you a story. What kind of story, you ask? Is it a scary story? Is it a funny story? A magical story? No. It’s better than that. It’s the best kind of story there is. It’s a story about policy change. ASES to be exact.
Our story begins way back in the year 2006. Do any of you remember that year? Some of you may have been quite young. A traveling minstrel named Justin Timberlake performed a song called SexyBack. Children were introduced to a delightful talking car named Lightning McQueen. Some of you weren’t even on Facebook yet. But this year was special because it was the last year that California After School Education and Safety programs, known to local townsfolk as “ASES,” received an increase in the daily rate paid to the heroes who provide expanded learning programs to heroes-in-training. The rate increased from $5 to $7.50 per student, per day, and all the people rejoiced.
All except one.
A certain cranky policy wizard named Brian Lee stood up and shouted, “We need a COLA!” But he was barely heard amongst the raucous cheering. Perhaps the delirious mob simply thought he was thirsty. But he wasn’t, and the people would have been wise to listen. The COLA he was referring to was, in fact, a “Cost of Living Adjustment,” a formula for increasing reimbursement rates as the world gets more expensive. But the heroes were so grateful for the higher rate that asking for a COLA seemed greedy, and the cranky (but correct) policy wizard was ignored.
Years passed, and all was well for our ASES heroes, even during the dark years of fiscal recession when many other heroes lost their programs because ASES was protected by a magical enchantment called a “public initiative” that made it impervious to cuts, no matter who wielded the sword. But lurking in the shadows was a policy change that threatened the very foundations of this impenetrable program.
You see, the land of California is an expensive place to live. Those of you sharing a two-bedroom apartment with four roommates already know this. In the year 2013, the Governor of California, Jerry the Brown, signed a decree that would raise the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10 per hour by January of 2016. Most of the ASES heroes paid little attention to this development because their entry-level serfs were already earning $10 per hour or more. But it was clear to your humble storyteller, and many of my colleagues, that this was just the beginning of an upward trend that could soon wreak havoc upon our heroic enterprise.
Fortunately, a merry band of policy warriors named the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, or “CA3” as they call themselves, had formed to defend the interests of ASES heroes across the land. This group had always been primarily focused on protecting the program from cuts, but this time their quest would be to seek additional treasure from the Lords of the Legislature in a faraway place called Sacramento.
Your humble storyteller was the first member of the CA3 band to venture out in search of new riches. In the spring of 2014, I wandered the halls of the legislative citadel, pleading my case to every member of the education and appropriations guilds of both the Senate and the Assembly. I proposed an elegant solution to our problem – index the ASES daily rate to the minimum wage. For every dollar the wage rose, the ASES daily rate should rise by 50 cents to keep pace. I shared the mathematical calculations that had been used to develop the ingenious proposal and, by and large, most of the legislative minions who met with me thought it made perfect sense. I was convinced I was making progress, but of course, I was just a lone warrior and therefore easily dismissed. What we needed was an army…
For breakfast today, I had black coffee and a bowl of porridge.
Author Profile: @steveamick
Note from BOOST: This kind of advocacy is a leading example of how you can create change in your state! We are thrilled to post this two part blog written by passionate Breakfast Club Blogger @steveamick. We hope you found some great tips on how to lead for change in policy and funding for your program. It’s so good, we want you to digest each part, one nugget at a time. We will post Part 2 on Tuesday, July 25th. Take notes!