Public Policy Analysts, Educators, and Elected Leaders:
The Public Policy Committee (PPC) of the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences formulated a strategic plan in 2006. Though the issue of financial literacy was a primary focus, enhancing members’ skills and abilities to engage in policy education processes and activities was a definite goal. The PPC identified several means by which this goal could be accomplished. One such means was the development of case studies of various professionals who work nationally, statewide, and locally and the exemplary programs they have helped to bring to fruition.
During roughly the same time period, Carol L. Anderson interviewed a number of state and local program and public policy leaders. The Ohio and Texas settings involved the AAFCS affiliate. As a result, case studies featuring the following persons were developed:
Case Studies: National Perspective
Prior to becoming the manager of Consumer Education and Research, Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, for the Federal Reserve Board in 1995 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., Jeanne Hogarth was a midwestern public school educator and extension specialist, initially in high school and later in the university. Her undergraduate studies were completed at Bowling Green State University, while her graduate studies, including a doctorate, were accomplished at The Ohio State University. Over the years, she has authored many publications, presented at numerous conferences, and received a variety of awards and recognitions. In her managerial role with the Federal Reserve Board, Jeanne’s primary tasks involve collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, both quantitative and qualitative. She is also responsible for seeing to it the findings and recommendations from such efforts are reported in print and web-based consumer information. When appropriate and needed, she oversees the evaluation or outcome assessment of educational and outreach programs related to household financial management.
There are two such programs Jeanne believes have been and continue to be particularly exemplary. The focus of both was information about disclosure policies and practices first with regard to vehicle leasing and, more recently, with credit cards. The primary goal was to develop regulations that clearly, readably, understandably, and concisely disclose information to consumers about the policies associated with using their services. An accompanying goal was to develop educational resources about disclosure policies and practices that could be helpful to educators and consumers. She attributes the success of both programs, as measured by results of consumer testing, to the protocols used to design, develop, and implement them.
One procedure employed was to conduct consumer focus groups in an effort to help industry regulators understand what consumers needed and wanted in disclosure write-ups. Another was to form, convene, and engage an advisory committee made of diverse members representing industry, regulators, educators, and consumers to guide and direct the design and development of educational and informational resources, both in print and electronic (e.g., PowerPoint® and Internet) formats. Finally, sample disclosure write-ups and educational resources were field tested with selected consumers. While field testing yielded positive feedback, Jeanne noted some issues surfaced that have prompted considerable reflection. First, though more and more consumers are willing to go online for information, a digital divide is still apparent. Certain barriers to accessing web-based information still exist for many. Second, though informational websites sponsored by other entities that focus on credit card disclosure provide “calculators” to project interest credit card balances, the Federal Reserve Board (FR) has not yet incorporated such a tool into its online instructional materials.
The paths Jeanne has taken in her career have brought her to this point. She is well traveled indeed. One wall in her Washington, D.C. office is filled with photos of she and her husband in numerous locations around the world. She is respected by colleagues and others in her field. Every day, she finds challenge and reward in the work she undertakes. She acknowledges that such outcomes are, at least in part, due to the value her parents placed on formal education and the dedication of her high school home economics teacher, the mentoring of a consumer economics professor in college, and the example of a role model associated with one of her first positions as an extension specialist in the area of family economics. These persons advocated life-long learning and demonstrated enthusiasm, commitment, and passion for their field of study and practice.
As a result of their influence and her rich experiences, she has been able to achieve a healthy balance between her professional and personal/family life. Jeanne believes her own life illustrates the saying, “Extension helps people make a living and a life.” When she has occasion to pass words of wisdom on to today’s emerging professionals, she tells them to do the following:
Case Two: Jane Schuchardt
Jane says, without question, her experience as a consumer affairs newspaper reporter was responsible for her latest career path. Before graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Jane contributed to an "Action Line" for the Lincoln Journal. She utilized the power of the press to call businesses with consumer complaints and get action. Someday, she would like to go back to writing a column of this kind. Additional experiences with the Omaha World-Herald and the Daily Oklahoman reporting about duped consumers helped her realize more education was needed to prevent poor financial decision-making. Jane has dedicated the rest of her career to that goal.
When Jane is in a position to pass along words of wisdom to fellow professionals, be they new or experienced, she has these valuable nuggets to share:
In her current role as president of a Maryland consulting firm named Higher Heights Consulting and Training, Karen Murrell has developed relationships with such clients as Allstate Insurance, Bank of America, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, GE Consumer Finance, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Consumer Federation of America. Her mission in working with Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, and faith-based institutions is to help such entities develop, implement and/or carry out financial education and asset building initiatives to serve lower income consumers. Prior to striking out on her own consulting endeavors, Karen was senior director for outreach and education initiatives for the Fannie Mae Foundation located in Washington, D.C. Her undergraduate degree in communications and graduate degree in marketing have served her well.
Karen is particularly proud of the programs she helped bring to fruition while working for Fannie Mae and the Fannie Mae Foundation. Several of these programs focused on homeownership, more specifically, the preparation and shopping for, buying of, and maintenance of a home. Her favorite initiative, she reflects, was one carried out in the mid-to-late nineties that involved conducting research to quantify the business opportunity of serving the emerging market of immigrant homebuyers. She carried out a needs analysis and developed a long-term strategic plan to increase homeownership in select immigrant communities. Once implemented, the program helped more than 3.5 million immigrants to pursue homeownership. A key to the success of the program was the innovative partnerships that were formed as the program unfolded. Recognizing how life-transforming homeownership is to an individual, as well as a family, Karen has found gratification in this program’s outcomes.
A more recent program that ranks among her favorites is one that took her to the metro Atlanta area to create the HOPE consumer awareness campaign to help homeowners who were at risk of losing their homes. Karen helped to bring a variety of partners together, including city government, the Federal Reserve, financial institutions, and nonprofits. Based on research findings related to home foreclosures in the Atlanta area, the HOPE campaign took root and flourished. Educational and counseling services were put into place, all with the goal of preventing home foreclosures.
One of Karen’s first tasks after joining the New America Foundation in January of 2007 was to form and convene a group of 35 academics, nonprofit staff, and staff of financial institutions. After appropriate planning, the group members came together in late March for a one and one-half day roundtable discussion about issues of financial literacy, security, and services. This group continues to hold virtual meetings on a bi-monthly basis. Many of the insightful perspectives and innovative policy solutions the group has identified have been taken to state and federal policymakers, sometimes in written form and other times by means of face-to-face dialogue. Karen also shares these ideas through presentations at meetings and conferences.
Though the National League of Cities has been in existence for some time, its Institute for Youth, Education, and Families has only been in place since 2000. Abby Hughes Holsclaw joined the YEF Institute in March of 2002, first as a program associate and eventual senior program associate for the Family Economic Success program. Currently, she is the director of the Early Childhood and Family Economic Success Program. In this capacity, she
The path to her current career position began with the completion of a dual undergraduate degree in political science and history at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, as well as a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Abby has been director of research and assistant to the City Manager in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Upon leaving there, she moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, where she was a grant researcher for the Kentucky Association of Community Action and a policy analyst and communications specialist for Kentucky Youth Advocates. These academic and early work experiences provided valuable preparation for her current responsibilities in our nation’s capital.
Though proud of her association with all of the Institute’s initiatives, Abby is especially committed to those that promote family economic success and asset building. The Institute's work in these areas is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Since September 2005, the YEF Institute has sponsored a project to help municipal leaders take action toward helping low-income, working families build assets. The Cities Helping Families Build Assets Project (CBA Project) builds municipal leaders' capacity to help families increase their economic stability. A companion effort, the Family Economic Success (FES) Network, aims to stay connected with cities that have been part of YEF Institute technical assistance projects or have expressed interest in strategies to promote family economic success. The network newsletter is a quarterly update that highlights important learning opportunities and new publications about such topics as promoting the Earned Income Tax Credit; conducting multi-benefit outreach, including benefits such as food stamps and free or low-cost health insurance; supporting transitional jobs for individuals with barriers to employment; and helping families build and protect assets. In many tangible ways, Abby has had a hand in these efforts. For example, she created several toolkits.
Abby cannot hardly recall a time in her life when she has not felt passionate about helping others. She was raised in a rural area of Arkansas by two parents who were passionate about their professional endeavors in the local schools. Her mother, a school librarian/media specialist, and father, a high school history teacher, counselor, and principal, were civic-minded, as were her grandparents. Their words and actions taught her to appreciate the struggles that others endured and to seek to help in positive and constructive ways. As a teen, she was selected by a state legislator to participate in the Youth for Understanding program which provided her with a summer travel abroad experience in Japan. While attending college, she served as an assistant for a sight impaired professor. She was a tutor for children of immigrant parents. In light of these giving role models, horizon-expanding experiences, and mentors, it was an easy and obvious choice to embark upon the academic career path that she did.
Were she to share some words of wisdom with emerging young professionals seeking to establish careers in public policy arenas, perhaps focusing on family resource management and financial security, her message would be this:
Case Studies: Statewide Experiences
Enthusiastic, imaginative, and visionary are terms describing 2006/2007 Affiliate President Marlene Lobberecht of the Texas Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (TAFCS). After attending the October 2005 AAFCS Leadership Workshop, Lobberecht returned to Texas with a vision of greater involvement in public policy and the deliberative dialogue/action process. After all, many of the policy issues focus on the needs of families.
At the March 2006 TAFCS Annual Meeting, Texas Representative Mark Strama provided a summary of legislative items centered on families and education. After hearing about legislative items, Marlene took on the challenge for TAFCS to create an avenue for greater public policy involvement and communication in the Texas legislative process. The TAFCS Program of Work included a goal of increasing participation and/or awareness of statewide public policy issues. The wheels of action were beginning to turn and Lobberecht became a force in helping others recognize they too could become active participants and several positive public policy actions resulted.
The Vice President of Marketing/Public Affairs suggested this position be divided so that greater attention could be given to public policy issues. At the 2007 TAFCS Assembly of Members Business Meeting, the VP of Public Policy position became reality.
In September 2006, a family and consumer sciences colleague in Austin contacted Lobberecht regarding what eventually became known as Senate Bill 50. This bill was designed to create an Early Childhood Professional Development Partnership. Upon analysis of the proposed bill, it was found that this potential legislation would impact FCS secondary education, Cooperative Extension, child care regulations, community college courses, teacher preparation/certification, early childhood in-service education content, and the creation of a credentialed Texas Early Childhood Professional Trainer Registry. If enacted, this legislation would have far reaching consequences.
As president of TAFCS, Lobberecht invited all of the impacted communities to meet with the appropriate senate aide during draft writing work sessions to assist with the legislative wording and later in the process, the funding levels. During the bi-annual legislative session, TAFCS members monitored the twists and turns of the legislation. They were prepared to quickly analyze the latest development so that sound resources could be made available. Keeping in touch was essential during the complex review and revision process. Using technology, greater numbers of interested participants could be engaged and encouraged to reach out to their elected leaders at critical points in time during the process.
Despite gaining significant Texas bipartisan and public support, SB 50 died waiting for a final vote in the House. A portion of the bill survived by appending it to another bill that required school districts to report reading scores for use in a newly developing school readiness certification system. The proposed budget cuts were avoided and $38 million in additional funding for many of the desired SB 50 provisions were included in the state’s final budget, securing the funds to expand pre-kindergarten services, increase child care reimbursement rates, and support professional development partnership projects to improve the recruitment, retention, and quality of professionals working with young children.
TAFCS and collaborative state educational groups celebrated the progress. Through public policy actions, they supported SB 50, assessed the reality of not winning all issue segments but ultimately scored a victory for the state's children and are more prepared for the next public policy issue. It is apparent that being involved in public policy issues is important for the organizational vitality. The AAFCS Public Policy Tool Kit was an invaluable resource to Lobberecht as she undertook her public policy work while serving as president.
Personal life experiences have contributed to her FCS career path and AAFCS involvement, and for Marlene Lobberecht there have been many. Her father, a WWII vet taught her early in life that ethical behavior and personal integrity are essential ingredients for public involvement. Surrounding herself with like-minded, positive, energetic people, Lobberecht had mentors who were available and encouraged her to try new avenues. “Learning to assume calculated risks and work through challenges with eventual success boosts one’s confidence,” Lobberecht readily shares.
Lobberecht says she has learned these important lessons from her policy work:
Engaging in public policy is somewhat like working with a puzzle as there are many pieces. Each piece has a role in creating the final product, and the individuals who are engaged in the process have an opportunity to work with different pieces and contribute to the overall result.
Other contributions Lobberecht made during her tenure as affiliate president were student chapter and advisor materials, more specifically, the creation of a Texas Advisor & Student Handbook for Students that assists advisors/students to have a rich learning experience by becoming more involved. In May 2007 she added a Leadership Development CD to the resources for students and included items such as selected PowerPoint® presentations, simple training tools, leadership development articles, and documents to teach leadership/parliamentary procedure. Texas students have the opportunity for additional public policy learning experiences.
“Cheerleaders,” “coaches,” “prodders,” and ”handholders” might be words to describe Janet Laster and Sandy Laurenson as they helped colleagues, students, and friends come together and influence legislation that could shape family and consumer sciences education in Ohio high schools for years to come.
In March 2006, Governor Taft proposed graduation requirements known as the "Ohio Core." Identical bills were introduced in both the Senate (SB311) and House (HB565) in April 2006. These bills addressed Governor Taft’s “Ohio Core” plan to give “all high school students the academic foundation needed for success in an entry-level job, apprenticeship, the military or college.” The goal was to create a plan to require a more rigorous high school curricula for graduation.
In the education community, there was an initial sense that this proposal was going nowhere. Groups, such as fine arts, foreign language, and career-tech communities, interacted with legislators. However, it continued to appear that nothing would happen.
In mid-November, it became obvious that the proposal had moved from a sidetrack to the fast-track. Laurenson (2006) shared in an e-mail “My state representative, Brian Williams (former superintendent of Akron Public Schools and current member of the House Education Committee), has confirmed that these bills will be on a very fast track when the House and Senate reconvene after the elections in a lame duck session on November 14 and are expected to pass.” She goes on to say “I believe we must act and that we have a very short window. Legislators have heard nothing from FCS although they have been lobbied for months by the fine arts, foreign language, and career-tech communities. I think we must have a plan by the end of this week. We need support from our own members plus significant numbers of parents, current and former students, advisory committee members, FCCLA members, etc. Brian Williams also suggested that we arrange to testify before the Education Committee.”
Indeed the legislation had moved to the fast-track, and it was essential for the FCS community to get involved or live with what would be passed. Before Governor Taft left office at the end of 2006, the “Ohio Core” legislation had been signed and FCS added via amendments.
Within the FCS community, there were concerns about the legislation as it did not mention family and consumer sciences nor include family and consumer sciences as a provider of financial education. The concerns were two-fold. First, as proposed, all students would be required to take a social studies course in financial literacy. FCS was not identified as a provider. Second, family and consumer sciences was absent in the elective options identified.
Messages such as the following (Laster, November 21, 2006) were sent via e-mail for input:
A sample letter (Laster, November 21, 2006) was shared electronically and people encouraged to send an e-mail letter to their elected representative or senator.
Family and consumer sciences should be included as a provider of the financial literacy component because FCS teachers are licensed to teach financial literacy. Furthermore, they are uniquely qualified to engage students in the content because of their holistic perspective and family/consumer/employee focus. In FCS, financial literacy is currently taught in Resource Management, Life Planning, and Consumer Economics courses. Within these courses, financial literacy is taught along with the complexities and in the context of family life, such as how to resolve financial conflicts in families with varying financial resources. With financial literacy and conflict management skills, major causes of financial difficulties and divorce are more likely to be avoided in families and society. Family and consumer sciences should be one of the elective options in the Core Graduation and Op-out requirements for three reasons:
1. FCS courses, such as Nutrition and Wellness, Resource Management, Parenting and Child Development, Life Planning, Personal Development, and Family Relations, provide the life skills needed by all students: those who are college- and work-bound. Nowhere else in the required or elective subjects of the Core Graduation Requirements do students develop the life skills, knowledge, and ethics/social responsibility essential to their success and well-being in college, work, family, and community living. Each FCS course purposefully helps students develop their critical thinking/problem solving, interpersonal relationships, family and community leadership, and balancing work and family responsibilities skills.
Contact your State Senator and Representative and Senate and House Education Committee members by phone, visit, or e-mail. (Contact information attached. If your time is limited, contact committee members whose names fall in the alphabet where your name falls to assure all are contacted.)
Ask FCS supporters (administrators, parents, students, former students, advisory committee members, community members who have provided service learning opportunities, etc.) to contact legislators. Provide basic information for them to use and personalize.
Ask legislators to:
Support your request with reasons FCS is important content and provide examples drawn from your experience and context/perspective.
Thanks to everyone who testified and encouraged others to testify, sent e-mail to legislators and encouraged others to send e-mail to legislators and make phone calls, and made phone calls. Pat yourselves on the back: You were wonderful advocates who made a difference in the lives of students and their families for years to come. (Laster, December 08, 2006)
The bill was signed and became law. According to Laster (December 06, 2006), this was one important step in the process, and now teachers need to advocate for offering economics and financial literacy in their school districts. A collaborative effort between educators, business people, and key community leaders would be important to build strong, relevant, and useful financial literacy courses for the diverse student bodies in districts across Ohio. Helping school boards understand the value of financial education offered as an FCS course meeting a Core requirement means being involved, articulate, and engaged in building networks.
A degree in child development prepares one to help children explore and be creative in a safe environment. Jane Halliburton has put this philosophy into action as she has developed her own career. She was in the first group of students at Iowa State University who were certified for early elementary education as well as preschool education. Upon graduation, she taught in the elementary grades. Today, she is one of three Story County, Iowa supervisors and has served 21 years adding up to six consecutive terms that began January 1987.
When her husband was drafted out of a public school classroom into the Vietnam War, she followed him. While he was located in Georgia before deployment to SE Asia, she taught for a brief time. When she found she was pregnant, the school regulations were such that one had to resign. Keep in mind this was the 1960s, so she was not outraged. Shortly after her husband had been deployed and she resigned, Jane had a miscarriage and was left with no job and no benefits. A permanent teaching job was not available; however, a permanent substitution position was available with a lower salary, no benefits, and no seniority system.
Seeking intellectual stimulation in a safe environment, the League of Women Voters became the recipient of Jane’s skills and talents. The attraction was study followed by action with a group of women who had mutual interests and had a commitment to creating a better community. One of the issues the League worked on was services at the County Care Facility, and this contributed to changing practices.
Community leaders recognized the talents and intellectual curiosity Jane brought to an issue, and she was appointed to the City of Ames Zoning Board of Adjustment. This became more of an experience than initially expected. At the very first meeting, a decision was made, and the Board was sued. This would become an important event for later work as this lawsuit took the mystery out of the legal system and helped build an understanding of the involved processes and how they are navigated.
In Iowa, an appointment to a county Grand Jury means being empanelled for one year and Jane had such an experience. During this year, the Grand Jury toured and made recommendations about issues related to county housing, the jail, and the care facility. Working on these concerns peaked her interest in how issues needed to be approached and analyzed so that solid decisions might eventually be made.
By this time, people were asking Jane whether or not she had interest in running for the Story County Board of Supervisors. Eventually, she agreed and ran on a platform “Prepared to Serve.” The board of supervisors is the legislative body of the county, composed of three members. They are responsible for the following aspects of county business: set county policy, county budget, and county tax levy; approve bonds and reports; fill employee vacancies; and promote economic development. She had the skills and experiences to carry out the responsibilities of the position. Over the course of 21 years, traits of learning, exploring, and being creative have been engaged again and again, and she says that it has been a remarkable experience.
The least favorite part of the experience has been the campaign process, and her children are the first to voice this concern. Having the time to talk with people on a level that brings insight into issues is difficult in a campaign. One has to be visible, and that means lots of parades and events where one is seen, but not always able to engage in dialogue.
Early issues related to community care plans for adults with special needs. This issue created learning opportunities related to how to put together plans or match needs with construction realities while maintaining an inclusive community. Jane stressed that one starts in a particular place, and through multiple experiences, develops expertise, often in unanticipated areas.
As might be anticipated, quality local work brought statewide opportunities, and one example has been involvement in the Managed Care System. Here is one area where the lawsuit was helpful as the group reviewed proposals, made a selection, and the selection was challenged.
Jane has served on the Board of Directors of the Iowa State Association of Counties. In this capacity, she has had input into statewide issues such as managed care and the bio-economy.
Meeting local and state needs and expanding interests then led to national involvement. Jane has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties. Currently, she is on the first Green Governing Advisory group. Since “meth” has been such an issue in rural areas, Jane has been involved in a Meth Action Group. This group provided a briefing for the Rural Caucus, which is a sub-group in the Agriculture Committee that is concerned about rural development. Issues examined help to inform development of the Farm Bill.
In the midwest, it is difficult to not be involved with bio-renewables as most states see the bio-renewable economy as one of the key factors for the future. One of the early efforts in Story County focused on using geothermal energy for a Human Services Building that has resulted in saving 40% in energy and 40% in costs. The Board of Supervisors had to approve this project, and it didn’t happen until there had been considerable study, analysis, and interaction with the broader community. This first project resulted in a second, a new justice center, and it will also be geothermal.
When asked why she is still in Story County and not running for either a senate or representative seat in Des Moines or a congressional seat in Washington, D.C., Jane says that there is so much energy and action in the local community. Her heart is in shaping the future of the community while contributing to the state and national scene.
Jane Halliburton sees women, such as Helen Hilton and Beverly Crabtree, serving as role models and mentors to help others reach their potential. Jane Halliburton, too, is a role model and mentor for others who are ready to be lifelong learners and engage in helping others through policy. She is a child development graduate who integrates the needs and interests of individuals, families, and communities on a daily basis.
Jane offers these words of advice to fellow professionals:
Were it possible to bring all of these women together in one room, the space would surely be filled with a sense of energy, passion, creativity, and enthusiasm. They are not intimidated by public policy work, be it policy analysis, policy education, or policy advocacy endeavors. They embraced the opportunity and brought together mutual interests. Jeanne, Karen, Abby, Janet, Marlene, Sandy, and both Janes have heard and responded to the call to be civically engaged. It is a call all family and consumer sciences professionals have the capacity to fulfill. Empowered by their role modeling and words of wisdom, wes can set about doing what we can to make a difference locally, statewide, or nationally.