Articles in the Board governance category

Join our army of advocates

The following is NSBA President David Pickler’s column from the July/August issue of American School Board Journal.

This is a particularly exciting year to take the reins as NSBA President. I am excited and energized to work with our new Executive Director, Tom Gentzel, and see his vision for this organization take hold.

We are living in exponential times of change in NSBA, and the opportunities that lay ahead are incredible. You’ve probably already heard about what we’re calling the New NSBA in this column and at NSBA events. The NSBA Board of Directors has worked to restructure and recreate our organization. Under the leadership of Tom and our new Chief Operating Officer Marie Bilik, we are transforming NSBA’s internal operations to establish structure that is efficient, effective, and fiscally viable.

We now must transform NSBA’s external advocacy and outreach to meet challenges at the federal, state, and local level. Chief among these are efforts to privatize our nation’s public schools through charter school expansion and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Charters remain an unproven experiment. And while we embrace the right of each parent to have a choice for their child’s education, taxpayer-funded school vouchers represent a subsidization of private schools with public school dollars. Neither charter schools nor voucher programs require the same accountability that is imposed on our public schools. Another challenge is federal regulators’ growing encroachment into local school board governance.

Now is the time to change the conversation about public education and school board governance. We know our public schools are not failing — each of us witnesses their tremendous accomplishments taking place each day. As school board members and community leaders, we must take a stand for our public schools.

How can we do that?

If you share my belief that public education is a civil right and cornerstone of our democracy, then we must embrace our responsibility to be vigilant advocates. Failing to act will lead to the loss of this great American institution of public schools for all children.

At NSBA, we are working to strengthen our advocacy in Washington and in each state, aligning and focusing our resources and providing more relevant services to our state associations.

Our voice is already gaining resonance. We are going on offense in an effort to change the conversations about public education. NSBA wrote legislation, “The School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,” that would boost local school board authority and curb the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach. This bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March and now has 20 cosponsors.

We are creating advocacy strike forces to combat those who seek to privatize our schools or impede local decision making. NSBA worked with the Louisiana School Boards Association to provide legal, communications, and advocacy support during its recent lawsuit to stop the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. The state’s Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but we know that is not the end of the story. School choice proponents—backed by wealthy entrepreneurs and for-profit investors —are cooking up new ploys in Louisiana and several other states. NSBA and your state association will be there to stave them off.

While NSBA has been a visible player in Washington politics for years, we have yet to achieve our potential as an advocate and ambassador for public education. We must lead the conversation about public education and school board governance and fight for the futures of our more than 50 million schoolchildren.

To do so, we will create an army of advocates that will go to battle, though the courts and legislatures, for public education and school board governance. We will build strong partnerships with state association members, corporate stakeholders, and other national groups to increase our effectiveness.

We need your help. As a school board member, you are an influential community leader. Through your leadership, we will engage parents, educators, and community and business leaders as core stakeholders. We will move beyond issues that divide us and forge alliances around the opportunities that can unite us.

I encourage each of you to join our army of advocates. Never forget your significance as we move forward. Never forget the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.

Now multiply one by 90,000—the number of school board members in the U.S.

With this power, we will be that voice for public education to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill its potential — one child at a time. Together, we can.

 

Staff|July 10th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NSBA asks Senate leaders to rethink Title I change in new ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a report calling on the U.S. Senate to reconsider a provision in its new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that seeks to ensure school districts give equitable support to students in high-poverty schools.

The ESEA legislation would change the current method for determining how school districts allocate comparable resources to their Title I schools. Based on NSBA’s report, “The Challenges and Unintended Consequences of Using Expenditures to Determine Title I Comparability,” the provision in the Senate bill will not achieve its goal.

“NSBA supports the concept of ‘comparability’ and ensuring that students in Title I schools receive equitable services,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, the proposal for the Title I comparability provision would be burdensome for school districts and it could even unintentionally harm Title I schools and other schools that have high operational costs or special services.”

As a condition for receiving Title I funding, ESEA requires that school districts show they are providing comparable services from local funds to their Title I schools through measures such as teacher-student ratios. The purpose is to show that the federal money is used in addition to local resources for Title I schools. Under the Senate bill’s plan, school districts would have to take into account new factors, such as the cost of each teacher’s salary and benefits, and other expenses that are not tied to student learning, such as transportation.

NSBA’s report found that the plan could force local school districts to shift money away from Title I schools because the provision does not account for wide variances in expenses such as student transportation, the availability of social services or grant funding to some schools, or other building-related costs.

As part of the report, NSBA surveyed school officials on the comparability provision in the Senate bill from the last Congress. Nearly 300 Title I program administrators and school business officials and other school officials responded. These on-the-ground practitioners reported that the proposed requirement was too difficult to administer and contained too many variables to make valid expenditure comparisons between Title I and non-Title I schools.

NSBA’s report shows that the proposed methods in Senate’s 2011 bill and the bill introduced this week are flawed because of wide variances in teacher salaries and benefits as well as other expenses in a school district. For example, factors such as variances in teachers’ salaries, employer-paid heath premiums, matching pension contributions and experience do not necessarily correlate to teacher effectiveness.

While the new Senate provision does not require the involuntary transfer of teachers, the provision would still appear to cause the bookkeeping problems raised in NSBA’s report and could still result in teacher transfer issues.

The new Senate provision seeks to respond to NSBA’s concerns regarding how certain expenditures that are not relevant to student learning would be accounted. It would allow school districts to adopt a method based on education expenditures that is of an equal or higher standard. However, those alternatives must be developed before the reauthorization is enacted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy noted, “That option simply passes the buck to the federal agency to define what would still be a difficult to administer expenditure-based comparability system and would still result in the various unintended consequences cited in our report. There are far better approaches to ensure that all Title I students are receiving effective teachers and adequate educational resources.”

NSBA’s report was praised by the AASA, The American Association of School Administrators.

“NSBA’s report clearly shows that Congress needs to reject this provision and focus on supporting local efforts that will add to the resources needed for education rather than spending resources on bookkeeping and other adjustments that really aren’t on target to reach the intended goal,” said Bruce Hunter, AASA’s  Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy and Communications.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s President discusses the New NSBA and school board leadership on Education Talk Radio

David A. Pickler

David A. Pickler, President of the National School Boards Association and member of Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education, was a guest on Education Talk Radio for a two part interview. Pickler discussed the “New NSBA,” school board leadership, vouchers,  the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, and his experiences and leadership on his local school board.

Listen to the interviews:

Part 1:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

Part 2:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio
Alexis Rice|May 30th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Buildings, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

ASBJ bonus article offers sound advice for boosting meeting participation

Tired of spending hours in meetings only to walk out and wonder, yet again, “What was our net gain?” This week’s ASBJ bonus article can help. Read along as a retired superintendent with 50 years of service in public schools outlines a three-phase planning process that leads to truly effective meetings — the kind of meetings that produce results that meet or exceed your expectations.

Learn how stepping back and listening to some wise voices from an earlier generation can help us develop and encourage more staff and community ownership and participation in the meetings we lead and attend.

Feel free to browse through our growing archive of valuable and wide-ranging bonus articles, all of which are designed to help school board members do their jobs. And while you’re on ASBJ.com, don’t forget to take this month’s Adviser poll!

Margaret Suslick|May 29th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, NSBA Publications, School Boards|

NSBA, Impact Aid districts warn of consequences of federal budget cuts

Federal budget cuts are coming for every school district this fall—but the reality of teacher layoffs and program cuts already are here for school districts that receive Impact Aid.

Two district officials who already have endured the first round of scheduled cuts shared their experiences in a teleconference organized by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS).

NSBA is continuing to lobby Congress through its grassroots network to stop or mitigate sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts that took place when Congress failed to pass a budget in March.

“We urge Congress to develop a plan that not only protects education as a civil right but also as a national security interest,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler, who added that while “federal dollars are going away, the mandates remain.”

Pickler, a member of the Shelby County school board in Memphis, said his district plans to lay off instructional coaches, who work with struggling learners and help prepare students for tests, and behavioral interventionists, who help students with significant behavioral issues.

Impact Aid, the fund that reimburses school districts that lose tax revenue because of federally controlled land, was the only major K-12 program that saw immediate budget cuts; other K-12 programs will be pared down about 5 percent beginning Oct. 1 and will see scheduled decreases over the next 10 years. Some Impact Aid districts have had to cut academic programs, teachers, and paraprofessionals in the middle of the school year.

Karen Gray, the president of the Silver Valley Unified School District’s board, said the district’s preschool that serves many special-needs children had seen the brunt of this year’s cuts. The Yermo, Calif., school district includes a military base, and educating students whose parents are deployed creates additional challenges, Gray noted.

“Our board and staff continuously adjust our finances,” she said. The district has avoided teacher layoffs so far by eliminating jobs through attrition.

Roy Nelson, a school board member in the Red Lake Independent School District in Red Lake, Minn., said his district had eliminated seven teacher jobs and three paraprofessional jobs and scaled back elementary music and tutoring programs.

Parents, though, are concerned about school safety given last year’s shootings in Connecticut and a shooting in 2005 that killed seven students at a Red Lake high school, Nelson said. But the district cannot afford to hire more security guards.

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions asking Congress to pass a budget that fully funds K-12 education programs. Go to NSBA’s Stop Sequestration webpage for more information and sample resolutions.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 23rd, 2013|Categories: Arts Education, Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA board member reflects on testing and Teacher Appreciation Week

Neil Putnam, a member of the National School Boards Association’s Board of Directors, writes about Teacher Appreciation Week for his hometown newspaper in Mitchell, S.D.

In “Teachers are more than tests,” he reflects on his past teachers and how teachers now must look for ways to teach skills beyond the rote memorization needed for some standardized tests.

Neil Putnam

Putnam writes: “Today, as a parent and a school board member, I have developed a respect for educators. As a parent, I appreciate what they are doing to prepare my children for their futures, and I visit with other parents who concur with my appreciation. As a board member, particularly being involved in state and federal education policy, I am concerned about some of the fixation on test scores as the sole measurement of the quality of teaching. I would contend a more subjective measurement should be whether students leave the classroom more curious, creative, cooperative, collaborative, and have the character and citizenship to participate in society.”

Read more in The Daily Republic.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 8th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |

Louisiana Supreme Court strikes down voucher law, NSBA praises ruling

The National School Boards Association is thrilled that the Louisiana Supreme Court has deemed the state’s school voucher law to be unconstitutional.

The one-year-old program has diverted taxpayers’ money from public schools to private individuals and schools that are not subject to academic, operational, and accountability standards.

Working with the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), NSBA pushed to overturn the law through an amicus brief in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana. That lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana legislature, including the ploy to give vouchers to students in low-performing schools. The NSBA brief noted that the voucher scheme further aggravates the plight of academically challenged schools by taking away much-needed funds from low-performing public schools, thus perpetuating its own survival.

“These kinds of gimmicks undermine our country’s longstanding commitment to public education and steal resources from public school students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These are not grassroots efforts being proposed by residents who are concerned about the education and future of the state’s most vulnerable children, these are the products of out-of-state special-interest groups looking for profits.”

Under the provisions of the voucher law, Louisiana gives public funds to private schools, including religious schools, as “scholarships” to cover the tuition and fees of students whose parents choose to remove their children from public schools deemed “failing.” However, the plan goes so far as to allow parents to use vouchers for their children as early as kindergarten, even if the child never attended a public school or the school is highly ranked.

“We are pleased that the Louisiana Supreme Court has reaffirmed a basic tenet of the state Constitution: that taxpayer money should go to public schools that are open to all students,” said LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard. “We hope all state residents can understand the dangerous precedent that a voucher program has set and how such a program undermines our local community schools. LSBA will continue to work towards its mission of service, support and leadership for local school boards and to ensure a quality public education for all students.”

NSBA opposes private school vouchers and tuition tax subsidies, which have continuously failed to improve student achievement. NSBA is committed to defeating legislation and initiatives that unconstitutionally divert taxpayers’ funds from public schools to private and religious institutions that can exclude students for any reason.

“NSBA stands for strong public school system for all students. Vouchers undermine that fundamental principle and, as the court concluded, violate constitutional principles, too,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 7th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

Marketplace Fairness Act could help schools gain sales tax revenues, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging lawmakers to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require all online or catalog companies collect taxes from internet purchases. The measure would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the legislation on May 8. The bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and would require online retailers to collect and remit sales and use taxes to states and local governments, commensurate to brick-and-mortar businesses. Overall, S. 743 seeks to level the playing field between online retailers and local “Main Street” retailers, thereby establishing a level of parity and addressing erosion of local and state tax systems.

The bipartisan bill would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities. S. 743 would exclude small online retailers with annual revenues less than $1 million.

Under the legislation, each state that is a part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement would be authorized to collect remote sales and use taxes. Likewise, states that are not a member under the Agreement could collect remote sales and use taxes, provided they implement simplification requirements such as establishing a single entity responsible for tax administration, return processing and audits and establishing a uniform sales and use tax base among a state and its local taxing jurisdictions.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

More lawmakers sign on to NSBA bill

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) legislative proposal which would establish a framework for improved recognition of local school board authority when the U.S. Department of Education acts on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), has now garnered 16 co-sponsors.

Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, the bill had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and David Valadao of California. Since then, 11 more members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on: Reps. Lou Barletta (PA), Jo Bonner (AL), Kevin Cramer (ND), Jim Gerlach (PA), Bob Gibbs (OH), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Kenny Marchant (TX), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Stevan Pearce (NM.), Ted Poe (TX), and Marlin Stutzman (IN).

School board members are encouraged to contact their House members to become co-sponsors. Increased focus is now being directed to urge senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, and school board members also are encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to sponsor similar legislation.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |
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