The NCSL Blog


By Joellen Kralik

In the 32-year history of the Legislative Education Staff Network (LESN), the network has provided countless opportunities for legislative education policy staff to connect and learn through meetings and online resources.

LESN members touring The Tennessee College of Applied Technology’s Murfreesboro's Smyrna Campus / Nissan Training Center. The site visit was offered as part of the LESN Fall Seminar Oct. 2-4, 2017 in Nashville.Today, members of the 2018 LESN Steering Committee tell us what keeps them involved with LESN year after year.

What is your favorite part of being involved with LESN?
  • Jessica Ozalp, Wisconsin: My favorite part of LESN events is being with people who “get it.” Our job is such a niche. It’s refreshing to share the day-to-day experiences we have in common, and it is revealing to realize what’s different in other states.
  • Josh Abram, Colorado: Having a peer network of nonpartisan staff working in the same policy area is a valuable (and fun) resource for professional development. The focused content of LESN seminars, the listserv, and face-to-face networking have greatly improved my understanding of education policy, and allowed me greater perspective of these issues in my state by virtue of comparing the experience in other states.
  • Mary Guerriero, Michigan:  I enjoy being involved with LESN because it keeps me informed about activity on the national legislative policy playing field. It provides a sense of comradery with other legislative staff and gives a wider perspective on issues in my own and other states.
What advice do you have for LESN members attending their first LESN seminar this year?
  • Pad McCracken, Montana: As Cat Stevens sings “Don’t be shy…” I think many of us are introverts, but the best LESN seminars are the ones where the ice is broken quickly and participants chime in with questions and ideas.
  • Scott Fuji, Hawaii: Come to LESN with an idea of what you want to learn; even if it isn’t on the agenda.  When you talk with the other attendees, you will be surprised how many people have information that can help you.
What stands out as being a memorable session at a LESN Seminar?
  • Josh Abram: The work we did on school turnarounds stands out as a memorable weekend training.  It's often difficult to translate education policy and law at the legislative level into the practice of educators and school professionals to implement those policies.  This is especially true for hard-to-translate policies such as "School Turnaround," which is a newer concept and not intuitively understood.  I left that weekend with a much better understanding of how those policies have been actively implemented (for better or worse) in public schools.
Who has LESN allowed you to connect with that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise? Why are you so glad you got to know them?
  • Pad McCracken: I jumped into LESN with both feet about five years ago. There are probably 100 people who I have connected with due to LESN and the generosity of the foundations that provide travel stipends to seminars. These are people with decades of expertise who have helped me answer policy questions, provided ideas and cautions I’ve shared with legislators, and testified in front of committees I staff.
Why are you excited for the future of LESN?
  • Kara McCraw, North Carolina: I am excited about the future of LESN because of the continued growth in the organization and the great work of the LESN staff to improve access to resources and contacts to make LESN something that will be a valuable tool for those working on education policy in state legislatures for many years to come!
  • Pad McCracken: I’m excited about all the new faces we’ve been seeing at seminars lately. I’m very grateful for our awesome NCSL and ECS staff and all their efforts!
How does LESN benefit your professional learning?
  • Melissa White, West Virginia: I have been able to discuss policy issues, presentation and implementation with similarly-situated professionals throughout the United States.  This has enhanced my effectiveness in my daily work environment.
  • Scott Fuji: LESN has been great as a resource for education-related policy research.  In addition, as a network of education related staffers, the ability to get information not just on bills or policy but also implementation and cost analysis has been invaluable.
How does LESN benefit the legislative institution?
  • Kara McCraw: LESN benefits the legislative institution by providing access to a wealth of knowledge and information about what is happening across the country on education issues.  It has been a tremendous benefit to nonpartisan staff in my state as a source of reliable data on trending topics that can be quickly accessed to provide members with an understanding on how issues are being approached in other states and on the impacts of federal legislation.
  • Melissa White: Often our leadership or my chairman would like to know what other states are doing with respect to a particular political issue.  Having the connections with others throughout the U.S. gives me easy access to those who have this information.

Joellen Kralik is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.

LESN is a partnership between NCSL and Education Commission of the States. Learn more about LESN and opportunities to get involved.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.