Members of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) gathered in Memphis this week to hone their skills in advocating for urban schools and their students.
CUBE’s annual issues seminar included workshops on National Common Core Standards, sessions on best practices in the Memphis and Nashville school districts, and updates on the current top federal advocacy issues.
“We are working well with NSBA and our state associate to put the faces of our children in the forefront,” said Sandra Jensen, CUBE chair and president of the board of the Omaha Public Schools.
NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant outlined the successes that the organization has had recently with Congress and with getting regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind for school districts. “We’ve had victories, and victories feel good in this environment,” she said.
One of those victories was getting language added to the Child Nutrition Act, passed in the FY 2012 agriculture appropriations bill in June. NSBA warned that some of the demands of the act could cost school districts millions of dollars. “We were at the table advocating reasonableness,” Bryant said.
Another victory: NSBA, along with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for relief for school districts facing sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Duncan has indicated that he would consider this.
Both organizations had solicited support for a petition to remove the regulatory and reporting requirements of NCLB. “That’s the kind of power you have,” Bryant told attendees. “You are so articulate. You speak passionately about kids.”
Reginald Felton, NSBA’s director of Federal Relations, Advocacy, and Issues Management, gave attendees an overview of the current federal advocacy picture in Washington, D.C.
“Most of that stimulus money is gone,” said Felton. “It was important to get it, but we are approaching a funding cliff – you can’t sustain it.”
Congress’ intent is to cut money, and the education community will be affected. NSBA is concerned about the shift from formula-based funding to competitive grants, said Felton.
Felton also referenced the Child Nutrition Bill, saying that NSBA’s position was based on whether it was appropriate for federal government to create unfunded mandates instead of leaving those decisions to state and local officials. “It’s not about us wanting our kids to be healthy,” he said.
Attendees also heard about what they can and cannot do with student assignment plans after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Seattle and Louisville, Ky., decisions in 2007.
NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negron and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, told CUBE members about the implications for other districts of the two cases.
Racial balancing is “no longer permissible,” said Negron. “To the extent that you want to do student assignment, the only legally permissible reason is academic.”
Just using student assignment to avoid racial isolation will no longer stand up in the Supreme Court, said Worona.
“We are living in a post integration society,” said Negron. “Get rid of those words. You shouldn’t even think in those terms.”