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Reflections on SELS Participation by Marissa Kase, Ed.D.

Marissa Kase standing among the CEC Board of Directors at SELS

Marissa Kase, Ed.D., Exceptional Student Education Teacher, Palm Beach County School District (grade levels 1st through 5th)

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Special Education Legislative Summit (SELS), cosponsored by the Council for Exceptional Children and one of its special interest divisions, The Council of Administrators of Special Education, in Washington DC for the first time. It was an opportunity to learn more about policy and advocate for the needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth from a “boots on the ground” perspective. On Sunday and Monday, I eagerly learned from special education policy experts about the status of current special education legislation on the Hill and how that impacts the students I serve every day. They provided us with issue briefs to support our Tuesday meetings with our congressional representatives, as well as explanations about the importance of the issues about which we would be speaking. As a classroom teacher, I learned about how critical it is to add my personal experiences and stories into the meetings as they apply to the issues being discussed. 

On Tuesday, I journeyed with three other SELS participants from my congressional district (FL 22nd) to the Capital to meet with House Representatives and Senators. It was stressful, but such an honor to be able to sit with such influential leaders and discuss with them the power they have to impact the education of our most needy students. It was empowering to add stories of my teaching career and have them heard by those individuals. During one of our meetings, I was invited by a staffer from Representative Lois Frankel’s office to participate in a virtual meeting where they were inviting several current and former teachers from Florida to discuss the impact of current legislation on the field with Representatives from around the state.

During the meeting, many former educators shared how lack of funding and difficult legislation led to them leaving the classroom, even though they truly loved their job. I spoke about how I too love my job, but it is getting more difficult to do it because of the lack of funding and fear caused by the current legislation. It was amazing to have an open and safe forum where teachers could truly be heard by different political representatives who truly didn’t seem to understand the impact that was being felt in the classroom. I was so grateful for the opportunity.  

Though these may have been my first two experiences with advocacy on a national level, they definitely won’t be my last. I am truly looking forward to the next opportunity I have to advocate for what my students and fellow teachers need.  

Posted:  4 June, 2024

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