Every quarter, the NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center recognizes outstanding volunteer advocates who dedicate their time to advancing the policy and civic priorities of school leaders, public education, and students across America. The Principal Advocate Champion is someone who has made a powerful impact on the direction of public education policy through their personal engagement with state and federal policymakers and their ability to organize grassroots support behind NASSP advocacy initiatives.
The NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center is excited to announce that Jason Mix has been named the second quarterly Principal Advocate Champion of 2019!
Advocating for school leaders, students, and educators with state and federal policymakers is something that comes naturally to Jason Mix, principal of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School in Howard Lake, MN. Even prior to becoming a State Coordinator, the lead volunteer advocate for NASSP in the state, this past July, Principal Mix had already been a recognized face and voice in both Saint Paul, MN, and Washington, D.C.
“Part of our responsibility as leaders in our schools, states, and communities is to advocate for our kids,” Mix said in an interview. “That’s through the process of creating relationships in the schools, with the parents and in the communities, but it’s also with the decision makers who have a huge impact on what we’re able to do or not able to do in our schools. As an NASSP State Coordinator, I have the opportunity to work closely with elected officials and advocate on behalf of students and schools.”
Principal Mix has made building those relationships with policymakers and their staff a personal priority in recent years. He visits Washington, D.C., at least three times a year for advocacy work through NASSP and other organizations, and every time he does, he makes a point to stop and visit the offices of Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). By repeatedly communicating and visiting with his congressional offices, Mix established himself as a known validator and a trusted resource for them. Now, when Minnesota’s congressional staff need to talk to a principal about policy or legislation that will impact schools, they’ll often call Principal Mix to get his input.
“I’ve found that legislators and their staff are often making decisions about education policy based on their personal experience in school,” Mix said, “Because schools are changing rapidly, it’s important that they are constantly getting updated information from educators who are currently on the ground and know the issues that schools are facing today.”
In Minnesota, one of the issues at the top of Principal Mix’s list of talking points is equity. He often tells his elected officials that while the state has very high-performing schools overall, it also has the largest achievement gap in the nation between white students and black students. Closing that gap is a priority for many school leaders, and Mix is determined to ensure that it is always top of mind for his congressional delegation.
In addition to his ongoing personal communication with policymakers, Principal Mix has assumed a leadership role with the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP), and he makes it a consistent priority to train and empower other school leaders to be grassroots advocates. At the MASSP summer and winter conventions, Mix provides a federal advocacy update to all members. He also presents regularly at quarterly board meetings, regional division meetings, and other times when they convene. Being a constant presence in front of his state’s school leaders has kept them informed about policy that will affect Minnesota schools, and it has allowed Mix to recruit more advocates and train them how to do the same outreach that he is conducting. Ever-committed to delivering this information, when record cold temperatures this winter threatened to prevent Mix from presenting at one of MASSP’s meetings, he recorded a video update instead to ensure that school leaders still received their policy and advocacy update.
Additional advocacy and professional development opportunities provided by NASSP have also helped hone Mix’s skills. At the 2019 NASSP Advocacy Conference and Capitol Hill Day, he connected with colleagues from another state school leader association about the annual lobby day they conduct with the state legislature. That networking connection has proved invaluable for Mix as he sets out to initiate a similar event in Minnesota. In the run-up to this year’s Advocacy Conference, Principal Mix also utilized his connections with congressional offices and took the lead on setting up 11 meetings for the nine Minnesota elementary and secondary school leaders attending the conference. Together, they delivered a strong message to Congress about the importance of funding key federal education programs, like Title II and Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, supporting enhanced school safety programs, and incorporating the priorities of school leaders into reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
For more on the great work that Jason Mix is doing in Minnesota to advocate for excellent public education, be sure to follow him on Twitter at @PrincipalMix.