Speaking of Education
In recent years we have enjoyed a number of successes in the public policy arena. We initiated the Graduate Psychology Education Program, obtained recognition of psychologists as primary-care providers, obtained inclusion of psychology in the National Health Service Corps, obtained support for campus-based psychological services, and grew our Federal Education Advocacy Coordinators (FEDAC) network to 168 campus training representatives nationwide. However, despite the hard work of APA Education Directorate staff and our grassroots network, we have continued to face significant barriers in the advocacy process. Barriers to advocacy have existed because APA is tax exempt pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code--a provision that prohibits any political campaign activity and limits the amount of lobbying. Years ago our colleagues in the APA Practice Directorate experienced similar problems--resolved by the APA Council of Representatives establishing a companion organization, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). In June 2005, APAPO's Board of Directors established a mechanism to help overcome barriers to education advocacy as well. The establishment of the Education Advocacy Trust culminated three years of collaboration among Education and Practice Directorate staff, the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP).
What is the Education Advocacy Trust (EdAT)? The EdAT is a legal structure within the APAPO--a 501(c)(6) tax-status organization. Its mission is to promote the mutual professional interests of psychologists in advancing education in psychology and psychology in education through advocacy activities that cannot be conducted legally within the APA. Yet the trust is not a political action committee. The Association for the Advancement of Psychology (AAP), an APAPO affiliate, operates psychology's bipartisan political action committee to support federal candidates sympathetic to the concerns of psychologists.
Why is the Education Advocacy Trust necessary? APA cannot legally engage in any form of political campaign activity, even for candidates who support our initiatives. Yet to build influence and convince members of Congress to champion issues on our advocacy agenda, we must increase the visibility and influence of the psychology education and training community. Garnering champions in Congress is critical but extremely difficult without the kind of coordinated effort allowed by a 501(c)(6) structure.
How will the Education Advocacy Trust be funded? The trust will be supported by voluntary contributions to a designated fund. The 2006 APA dues statement, distributed to members this fall, will include information as to how to become a constituent of the trust.
Why can't APA dues be used to support the Education Advocacy Trust? Since APA is a 501(c)(3) organization, it would be illegal for APA dues or funds to be used to support activities related to political campaigns, or to give funds to a 501(c)(6). The trust must be funded independently of any APA funding.
Why will the Education Advocacy Trust be required to solicit contributions? The Education Advocacy Trust needs its own source of funding. Without funds, it will not be able to build up legislative support for quality psychology education, including the appropriation of funds to federal grant programs that support psychology education. In addition, funding will be required so that the trust can work to gain access to key policy-makers to promote psychology as an essential health profession and as an integral part of our nation's educational system.
What is the relationship of the Education Advocacy Trust to APAPO? The Education Advocacy Trust is a grantor trust of APAPO. The same individuals who serve on the BEA will also serve as the administrative oversight group for the trust and report to APAPO's Board of Directors, who are the same individuals as the APA Board of Directors. Thus, the trust is governed in a structure parallel to that in which those who serve on CAPP oversee the practice activities of APAPO. Some Education Directorate staff will provide services to the trust, for which the trust will reimburse APA, and will not engage in activities that compete with either APA or other components of APAPO.
It is also important to note that payment to the Education Advocacy Trust is not a substitute for the Practice Assessment that licensed psychologists pay to support the practice activities of APAPO. For those of us who engage in education and training as well as practice, it is vital to support both. The activities of the EdAT are unique, yet we anticipate many opportunities for synergy with our practitioner colleagues. And if psychology is to be successful in promoting its overall advocacy agenda, it is important that all facets of the diverse psychology advocacy agenda be fully supported.
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