Public Policy

Debra Fitzpatrick has a proven track record of working effectively with policy-makers across political parties and levels (congressional, gubernatorial, judicial and state legislative), government agencies, community members and nonprofit organizations to advance systemic, institutional and policy change.

Designing and Implementing Paid Family Leave & Medical Leave Insurance

With funding from the 2015 legislature and under contract with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Debra Fitzpatrick was the project lead and lead author of the nation’s most comprehensive report detailing design and implementation options for a Minnesota paid family and medical leave insurance program.  Using the study recommendations as a foundation, she worked with legislative counsel to draft legislation, advised chief authors, coalition members and the Governors office on policy decisions and negotiations, prepared floor and committee remarks for authors and advocates and testified in multiple committees as the key subject matter expert.  The bill cleared five committees eventually passing the Minnesota Senate in 2016 and passed through a record 11 House committees to pass the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2019.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance:  Options for Designing and Implementing a Minnesota Program
Paid Family and Medical Leave:  Why? What? How? Webinar Briefing for Legislators

With support from the Ford Foundation, Debra built on the DEED Options for Designing and Implementing a Minnesota Program report to conduct an engaged policy analysis and design process in rural Minnesota communities.  The process involved stakeholder interviews, a literature review, secondary data analysis and a community review and input meeting; all culminating in a Research Brief shared with legislators and others working on paid family and medical leave legislation in Minnesota. The brief and the policy design recommendations included were largely incorporated in Minnesota’s 2019 paid family and medical leave legislation, ultimately passed by the Minnesota House on April 25, 2019 as part of an omnibus spending bill.  The brief has been shared with every member of the Minnesota legislature and at every committee stop (11 between the two bodies) and on the House floor where it has been frequently referenced and informed the debate. The brief has also been shared on a National Work and Family Coalition call and by national advocates with rural members of Congress during discussions about the federal FAMILY act.

Providing Economic Stability for Rural Minnesota Families, Employers and Communities during Family and Medical Leaves

Women’s Economic Security Act and the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security

As a lead researcher, policy architect, bill drafter and testifier, Debra Fitzpatrick played a pivotal role in passage of the nation-leading, comprehensive Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA).  She was also a founder and is a current Executive Committee member of the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security — over 50 organizations and individuals representing women, children, low income communities, communities of color, seniors, LGBT communities, labor unions and faith.  Since passage of WESA, the Coalition has hosted annual summits and working to pass additional policies that advance economic security for women and their families.

More information on Debra’s role and the Women’s Economic Security Act and the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security

Press coverage related to WESA

(Debra testifies on the Women’s Economic Security Act)

Earned Sick & Safe Time and African American Families

Debra Fitzpatrick co-developed and implemented a Minneapolis Foundation funded multi-disciplinary community-based participatory research project focused on implementation of paid sick leave and African-American families.  Implementation included focus groups, facilitated multi-media engagement of African-American families in related state-level policy debates and co-development of a quantitative survey instrument being currently administered.  Project approach and preliminary results were presented at 2017 National Council on Family Relations Conference by PhD candidate Renada Goldberg and a proposal has been accepted for a presentation at the 2018 National Working Families Research Network conference (Community Perception of Paid Sick Leave Policy: Combining Community-Based Participatory Research and Policy Analysis)

Center for School Change

As a Program Director and Associate Director at the Center for School Change, Debra worked with educators, parents, business people, students, policy-makers and other concerned people throughout the United States to increase student achievement and strengthen communities through building stronger working relationships among educators, parents, students and other community members.

  • Improved state level school choice policy in partnership with the National Governors Association and the US Department of Education by leading a project designed to pass and implement “best practices” in state level policy, including ongoing assistance to states, advice to Governors and their teams and Policy Institutes
  • Drove policy and organizational improvements in the areas of parent involvement, post-secondary enrollment options and teacher education by conducting research, authoring reports, and implementing follow-up strategies including bill drafting and testimony

Minnesota Senate Committee Administrator and Legislative Assistant

As a Legislative Assistant and Committee Administrator, Debra:

  • Supported broad participation in the legislative process by communicating orally and in writing with the public, state agencies, interest groups and the media in a variety of ways: explaining committee actions, issues under legislative consideration, status of bills, long range policy considerations and other information
  • Addressed critical state challenges by analyzing and recommending public policy approaches, drafting legislation and making a research-based case for proposed solutions
  • Helped set public priorities through the development of major budget bills and committee agendas
  • Ensured effective implementation of laws and development of rules by maintaining strong relationships with state agencies

Master’s Degree in Public Affairs

Debra received her Master’s Degree in Public Affairs in 1996 from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.  Master of Public Policy graduates work with quantitative and qualitative information to develop, assess, and evaluate alternative approaches to current and emerging issues.  As part of her degree program Debra completed coursework and demonstrated competency in management of organizations, politics of public affairs, economics and policy analysis, financial analysis and management, and quantitative methods (including multiple regression analysis).