This guest post comes from Todd Butterworth, principal research analyst at the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau and 2017 LESN Recognition Award recipient.
The education staffers in America’s state legislatures are a hardworking bunch. Every year they draft thousands of bills, sift through mountains of budget documents, field countless research requests and constituent inquiries and interpret thousands of hours of testimony. All of this is done in the public policy arena of K-20 education, which is subject to constant change, controversy and commentary. It is difficult work.
The irony is, when done well, the work of an education staffer goes largely unnoticed. Like musicians in a top-notch orchestra, education lawyers, researchers and analysts in our nation’s state legislatures are at their best when they blend into the larger undertaking. (There aren’t any triangle solos here!) The foundation of a well-functioning legislature is its skilled and knowledgeable staffers who quietly go about their work. It is the legislators who are charged with making the very difficult public policy and budgetary decisions — and with receiving the resulting accolades and criticism.
This is not to say the work of legislative education staff is undeserving of recognition. In fact, for the past 18 years, the Legislative Education Staff Network (LESN)* has highlighted the great work of education staffers through its annual recognition award.
You might know an education staffer in your state legislature or a counterpart in another state whose work deserves appreciation. Perhaps they are a bill drafter who takes the time to understand the issues and ensure legislation accurately reflects its intent; maybe they are a research analyst who is a great resource on all things education in the state; or maybe they are a fiscal analyst who is somehow able to make sense of the state education budget and funding formula.
Let them know how much they are appreciated by nominating one (or more) for the 2018 LESN Recognition Award.
As the 2017 recipient, I can say it is particularly gratifying to receive recognition from those who understand the perils, challenges and satisfaction of the work. The award also comes with the perk of attending two recognition events — mine were in San Diego and Boston. It was great to receive the award, but even more fun to have time to develop deeper friendships with my counterparts from other states and the incredible people from Education Commission of the States (ECS) and National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Thinking about your state legislature, or those in other states, which education staffer would you nominate for national recognition? As they say, there’s no time like the present. Send your nominations to Stephanie Aragon, LESN coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 15.
*LESN is a partnership between ECS and NCSL. For more than 30 years, LESN has provided free training (and occasionally free travel!), networking events, professional development webinars, a very effective research listserv and other supports, all for the enrichment of legislative education staff. It is the best professional association I’ve encountered in my 30-year career.