In 2019, IECA created its first Government Relations Committee. In a short time, the committee has begun working on legislative priorities and future plans to serve the association and its members in federal and state legislative activity.

The origins of the Government Relations Committee are grounded in the Varsity Blues scandal, which grabbed headlines across the world and drew attention to the world of independent educational consulting. While some of the scrutiny was critical of independent educational consultants (IECs), it also provided an opportunity for organizations like IECA to highlight the positive work that we do as professionals.

One of the responses to the Varsity Blues scandal was legislation introduced in California that would create a mandatory registry for any IEC working with a client based in that state. Assembly Bill 1312 immediately drew the attention of IECA leaders and staff who rallied to reach out to legislators and partners in other professional associations to understand the potential consequences should the bill be passed into law. Quickly, IECA became enmeshed in legislative affairs and learned a great deal about the challenges (and opportunities) of having a voice in legislative affairs impacting our members.

Although AB 1312 was not passed into law, it did result in two significant developments for IECA. First, the board established the Government Relations Committee to monitor potential future legislation that could impact members across the spectrum of IECA. Second, IECA engaged Pillsbury Law, a well-respected lobbying firm located within the network of legislative advocates across the United States. IECA’s partnership with Pillsbury Law has already proved to be a remarkable benefit to our association. The expertise provided by Pillsbury’s lobbyists has accelerated the sophistication of our legislative knowledge and should prove to be a powerful tool for IECA in the future.

The Government Relations Committee is now creating the building blocks for an effective long-term legislative affairs program for the association, beginning with identifying our legislative priorities. 

The Government Relations Committee’s first priority is legislation that seeks to regulate the work of IECs. The second priority is legislation that impacts IECA members’ ability to run our businesses. These are the issues that we will look out for most carefully and will potentially warrant the most significant action.

In addition to our two primary legislative priorities, the Government Relations Committee is monitoring potential legislative topics that may impact members across the spectrum of IECA specialties, including the college, learning differences, schools, and therapeutic consulting categories. We are watching for activity related to financial aid policies, college access, mental health issues for college students, privacy issues, DACA, international students, and any other potential legislation that will impact college enrollment. We also track potential legislation concerning learning differences, neurodiversity, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), F-1 Visa requirements, and accommodation issues. Additionally, we monitor potential legislation impacting therapeutic consultants, such as licensure of therapeutic programs, insurance advocates and insurance parity, and youth transport. 

Beyond following potential legislative topics of interest, the Government Relations Committee has begun advocacy work. The committee has started sending out regular updates to the IECA Member Network and the IECA blog, and we are committed to continuing to do so. We have also begun developing a mechanism for a grassroots call to action for IECA members. Should potential legislation arise that would benefit from a grassroots response from the IECA membership, such as a letter-writing campaign or calls to elected officials to advocate for a position on a particular piece of legislation, the Government Relations Committee would alert members and provide a user-friendly way to identify members’ local elected officials as well as a sample letter or phone script.

Finally, the IECA Government Relations Committee is working to build long-term relationships with elected officials in Washington, DC and the states. To this end, working with our lobbyists at Pillsbury, the committee has begun to articulate talking points to introduce IECA to elected officials. In the next 12 months, we hope to conduct targeted meetings with key elected officials and staff. Our long-term goal is to leverage these relationships into an annual Lobby Day in Washington, DC for all members to participate in on behalf of the association. We believe these relationships will serve us well in the future when and if future legislation arises that impacts our association and our members.

By Steven Mercer, EdD, IECA (CA), Chair of the IECA Government Relations Committee

Steven Mercer, Mercer Educational Consulting, LLC, can be reached at [email protected]