Speaking to the people
For their annual conference this year, the members of National People's Action finally let Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley come to them.
The Chicago-based coalition of 302 community organizations, which uses a "nonviolent direct-action campaign" to attract attention from federal officials, was in Washington last week to lobby for education initiatives such as school construction aid, after-school programs, and programs to foster parental involvement.
As part of their overall "campaign," members of the group streamed into the lobby of the Department of Education's headquarters during last year's annual conference, hoping to meet with Mr. Riley. But the secretary was out of the office.
Since that unexpected visit, Mr. Riley has visited three schools in the members' communities to lobby for federal school construction aid. On April 11, he spoke at the group's meeting on President Clinton's education agenda, emphasizing Mr. Clinton's $3.7 billion construction initiative.
"National People's Action has two powerful slogans--'Our kids need room to learn' and 'Every child with their own seat'--that members of Congress need to hear again and again until they pass the president's school modernization proposal," Secretary Riley said.
The NPA hopes Mr. Riley will continue to visit its communities, although the secretary's spokeswoman, Julie Green, made no promises this month.
A spokeswoman for the group, Cris Pope, said the members have been pleased with Mr. Riley's response to their demands from last year's visit, which included more parental involvement in Title I programs and allowing community members and groups, not city leaders, to advise the secretary on which schools to visit when he travels.
"We're very pleased to say that he's been talking to groups," Ms. Pope said.
The heads of some other federal agencies might not be so hospitable to the NPA. Last year, after the members found out that Mr. Riley was not in his office, they went to the homes of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew M. Cuomo and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
--Joetta L. Sack [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 32, Page 21