Lisa Hansknecht can still remember her craziest day in Lansing. That’s because it was just last December, during the most recent lame duck session.
“We call it the ‘silly season,’” said Hansknecht, Oakland Schools’ director of Government and Community Services.
Also, it wasn’t just one day, but actually several strung together where her and Oakland Schools’ Director of Government Relations Education Policy and Research David Randels basically lived at the Capital building in Lansing making sure the last-minute created laws didn’t negatively affect Oakland Schools.
“Emotions start going, there’s junk food everywhere,” Hansknecht laughed. “When you work those kind of hours, you become friends with the legislative staff. There’s a lot of comradery.”
As advocates for Oakland Schools, it’s David and Lisa’s job to be activists on behalf of Oakland Schools, either persuading members of Congress to vote for a bill that Oakland Schools is in favor of, or, convincing them not to vote for a law Oakland Schools believes will be of detriment to public education.
“So much of how we run schools and educate kids is now dictated by law,” explained Hansknecht. “Because of that we need to have someone who can translate education speak to legislative speak back and forth and build those relationships.”
Some of the convincing takes place over relationships they have worked at since the legislator was first elected, or, sometimes, it comes down to right before a vote.
“It’s much easier to fix a problem before it becomes a bill and, if it is going to become a bill, before that bill is introduced,” explained Hansknecht.
Hansknecht said when she and Randels are representing “Oakland Schools,” it means they are speaking on behalf of all of the superintendents in Oakland County. They are also interested in hearing any concerns Oakland Schools’ staff may have and advocating on their behalf.
One of their main tasks is keeping relationships with legislators and the Department of Education up to date, as well as continually teaching those representatives about the latest important issues in education.
“Half of the job is every two years we get from five to ten new legislators in the county who know nothing about public education and certainly nothing about what an intermediate school district is,” said Hansknecht. “We have to teach them.”
When Randels and Hansknecht aren’t cultivating relationships or advocating on important issues in Lansing, they can be found reading the new bills that have been introduced or doing research on the latest education issues. Hansknecht said although there are a variety of education issues each year, there are always mainstays such as budget, curriculum and the whether school should start before or after Labor Day.
Hansknecht and Randels encourage Oakland Schools’ staff to help keep them aware of the latest education issues.
“Please reach out to us,” said Hansknecht. “If you hear something, a new bill idea or if the group you are working with is supporting, or against something specific to a law, we want to hear that.”
Sarah Davis is the communications specialist at Oakland Schools.