Policy Making at the Roundtable

By Lisa Ventriss

Someone recently asked me how the Roundtable reaches decisions around policy positions and when we chose to weigh in on issues, or not. And it then occurred to me that others may be asking the same question, so here the mystery will be revealed.

Beginning in November with the Board planning retreat, directors reflect on a number of inputs regarding policy issues that broadly impact all Vermonters, which ultimately inform and shape our policy agenda going forward: inputs from members; survey findings; recommendations from our working groups and task forces; data from a variety of sources; and interviews and conversations with knowledgeable experts from the public, private and non-profit sectors. That policy agenda, both Top Tier and Secondary Tier issues, becomes our foundation for work in the legislative arena. The strategic plan, which the Board has developed in the last couple years, and which we’ve presented at our regional membership meetings this winter, is our “North Star”.

That foundation, or roadmap, provides me with the right kind of directional guidance about issues the Roundtable can or should speak out on and, conversely, those issues that we cannot or should not weigh in on. Two key examples are: H.883 Education Governance Consolidation and H.552 Minimum Wage; the former bill we are strongly supportive of and actively working for passage and, on the latter, we have no formal position.

Over time the Roundtable has developed a position as trusted advisor on policy issues regarding PreK-Post-secondary education reform and we have formed solid relationships with members of the Legislature, the Administration, the State Board of Education, and the education lobby to gain important progress on key issues. Education policy is at the core of everything the Roundtable stands for, and we believe that H.883 is an important building block for moving toward better outcomes for students.

Minimum wage, on the other hand, is not a critical policy issue for the Roundtable. While we appreciate the benefits that will accrue to lower-wage positions in such critically important jobs as early childhood educators, we also know the burden that a sudden move to $10.10/hour would have on some businesses, and what the upward impacts would do to a company’s overall salary structure. In this instance, the Roundtable was neutral, yet we did strongly urge lawmakers to phase-in whatever increases they might approve.

As the Roundtable’s Founders suggested in 1987, members should “shine more light than heat” on public policy issues and we have taken that guidance to heart. Staying focused on core issues and providing trusted forums for members to engage and share perspectives is essential to our success. Please make sure you participate to your fullest capacity.