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Policy Post: All Politics is Local

April 21, 2011

“All Politics Is Local.” When I showed my first interest in the national political drama, my dad said that to me pretty frequently. It was a mantra of his, but it was coined by Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. It didn’t take long for me to pick up his book in high school, All Politics Is Local and Other Rules of the Game. It’s something from another time:

A politician learns that if a constituent calls about a problem, even if it’s a streetlight out, you don’t tell them to call City Hall. You call City Hall.

The book is full of stories where political fortunes are won and lost because of what’s happening in states, cities, and schools. I’ve talked a lot about federal funding and it’s impact on special education, but school districts are the ones that will be making the toughest choices. Stimulus funding is running out while tax revenues are only now creeping back up to it’s pre-recession levels (and that’s only in some states). According to Education Week, in California alone 16% of school districts are on a financial watch list. The State Superintendent said he expects funding to go down by as much as $600 per student. We talked in trillions last week but talking in hundreds this week is a bit more devastating. Getting local is where the impact is felt but its also where some powerful things can happen. The notes and pictures we get from the books we send are the best part of this. Going local is at the core of what we do.

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