The NAPT has long been an active and effective advocate for the pupil transportation industry. Public policy makers at the local, state and national levels consistently seek the opinions of the association and its members about the impact that new proposals would have on the industry. As a consequence, our Public Policy team is constantly evaluating opportunities to ensure that school transportation receives the attention it deserves.
How do we pick our positions? Sometimes we can’t; we have to react or respond to something — rather than initiating the activity — and have to do it quickly, so we don’t have a lot of options. But when we can, we prefer to be proactive and utilize some commonsense guidelines to gauge our chances of success.
The first thing we think about is the policy-making process itself. We have learned over time that knowing when to move, where to move, how to move, and with whom to move makes all the difference. We have also learned over time that the quality of the information we have is one of the most important things we can bring to the table. You will therefore see us reaching out to our members more often than ever in an effort to learn more about them personally. If, for example, we know who lives near a politician, has a relationship with a politician, has a relative who is a politician or has a neighbor who is on a politician’s staff and can access this information easily and quickly, we become an extremely valuable ally — or an extremely frustrating opponent.
By the same token, we must be pragmatic. Some of our members are not interested in doing anything that could even remotely be called “lobbying.” We therefore try to remember that a professional commitment to an issue is essential, but it’s not enough. There has to be a solid, personal commitment as well.
There are times when we need help from people after work hours, and if the people we call upon do not have a personal stake in the success of the operation — if they do not believe what they do is important not only to the industry, company or organization but to their own well-being — they might not find the time to help out. This is another reason that we will be reaching out to our members more: to learn about their professional and personal school transportation priorities.
We try to pick and choose our battles carefully, to fight the ones we think we can win, as opposed to fighting every one we could be in. Some companies or organizations expect to win every time with a grand-slam home run. They want a 100-percent victory every time. More often than not, that strategy will lead directly to disappointment; no one wins all the time.
We have learned that we have to help our members understand that those on the other side of an issue also have to come away from the table with something. The results of a shared victory, a fair compromise, may last far longer than a 100-percent win. You will therefore see us developing a new process to analyze public policy issues and select them for action.
From time to time over the course of the months ahead, the NAPT Public Policy team will initiate activities to encourage pupil transportation professionals — and NAPT members in particular — to take action on behalf of the nation’s school bus industry. Members of the NAPT Public Policy Committee, Board of Directors and staff will continue to go to Washington, D.C., on a regular basis to discuss, debate and promote a variety of school bus safety issues in Congress and with important transportation safety agencies, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security and the National Transportation Safety Board.
We hope that you will join us in these efforts and help us create a dynamic and extensive grassroots network that will help shape an exciting future for our industry.
Remember that NAPT also has an online School Transportation Advocacy Center, where visitors can utilize the nation’s premier legislative information service to quickly and easily send Congress an e-mail or letter to reinforce the grassroots voice of the industry. Visit www.napt.org for additional information.