Kent woman starts local chapter of education advocacy group

Brooke Valentine has been an advocate for children and school-funding issues for some time now, but recently she has taken her advocacy to another level: testifying in Olympia.

Valentine, a member of the Kent Area PTA and parent, recently joined Stand for Children, a national organization dedicated to teaching parents and community members how to advocate for school issues in their state capital.

With five chapters already started in the state, the group is launching its sixth chapter with members in the Kent School District.

Valentine was contacted because of her role as legislative chair of the Sawyer Woods PTA, but while the PTA is often made up of small groups with no real training, Stand For Children has already trained Valentine to speak before the Legislature in what she called a clear and efficient way.

Plus, Valentine likes that Stand is dedicated to action.

“Stand is more ‘What are we doing next?’” Valentine said. “We teach people how to do it better than other organizations.”

Dan Morris is the local community organizer for Stand With Children. Morris contacted Valentine and is working to set up four local teams, each one encompassing one of the district’s high schools and all the school that feed into it.

According to Morris, the group itself has no real agenda and exists to help the local groups become more effective to get their message heard.

“It’s about them using us so they can be more effective advocates,” he said.

Morris said that is a “critical difference” between Stand and other groups, which generally make their decisions from the top down. Stand, said Morris, “is truly a grassroots organization” where a local group sets its agenda and uses the resources from the state level.

“People say ‘What should we do?’” he said, “and I say ‘What do you think is going to make you the most effective?’”

Morris said Stand also seeks to build relationships between all of those with a stake in schools: community, parents, kids, administration and teachers.

For Valentine, whose group already has 16 members, that means lobbying the Legislature for more funding at the state level.

“Right now in Kent we’re facing drastic budget cuts,” she said. “Locally, I think we can make a big impact on the budget.”

Valentine said she is learning from Stand about how to get everyone working together and to know when to take the issue to the capital.

Our kids and our schools meed more parent involvement and I think Stand for Children is a good way to start that,” she said. “You’re always more powerful together.”

For more information visit www.stand.org or wastand.wordpress.com. Or e-mail Dan Morris at dmorris@stand.org.


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