Articles in the Budgeting category

Proposed USDA rules on snack foods will burden school districts

Every U.S. school district will be affected by new rules on school snacks proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

No state currently has standards that fully comply with the Department’s proposal for “competitive foods,” which include foods sold in vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines , said NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman.

The rules are part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue mandatory standards for competitive foods. The proposed rule sets requirements for calories, total fat, saturated fat, transfat, sugar and vitamin or nutrient content of all foods sold outside the school meal programs, on the school campus and at any time during the school day.

Further, school districts would be burdened by new reporting and monitoring requirements, Gettman said. Maintaining receipts, nutrition labels and product specifications for competitive food service would apply throughout the campus, not just to the school food authority.  NSBA is carefully analyzing the proposal and plans to send comments to the USDA.

NSBA has had ongoing concerns about the impact of the law, known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, and the ensuing regulatory standards. Restrictions on competitive foods, for one, could dramatically lower revenues used to fund athletics and extracurricular activities.

“The USDA is regulating in the dark when it comes to the impact on instruction and school revenue from competitive food sales, because there is no comprehensive data on how much revenue schools raise and how it is used,” Gettman said.

The USDA, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to what traditionally has been a local issue, noted in its announcement that the proposed regulations would still allow parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations.

The proposal also would allow schools to continue “infrequent” fundraisers and bake sales, as long as they are not conducted in the cafeteria or during regular meal times. And foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities would not be subject to the requirements.

The USDA characterizes the proposed rule as a minimum standard.  Additional state or local standards may impose more stringent requirements if they are consistent with the Department’s final rule.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

NSBA urges White House to protect federal K-12 funding

The economic impact of federal budget cuts now scheduled for early March would lead to long-term damage to investments in education and the nation’s infrastructure, White House economic advisers told representatives from Washington organizations at a Feb. 6 meeting.

National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in the White House meeting to discuss ways that the impending federal budget cuts could be halted for education and other domestic policy programs.

The sequester, which is the automatic across-the-board cuts amounting to about 5.1 percent reductions in all federal programs, will take place in March unless Congress approves a new plan. The sequestration was scheduled as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The White House officials said that a total of about $4 trillion needed to be cut from the federal budget over the next 10 years, and were confident that tax increases and budget cuts that were approved to avoid the first deadline on Jan. 2 should cover up to half that amount, although other estimates have put the savings at $1 trillion or less. The White House has pushed for a “balanced, rational approach,” and has lobbied Congress to make changes to the plan, but neither Republican nor Democrat leaders have been able to craft a plan that could pass both chambers of Congress.

“The long-term impact of cuts to education programs, particularly those for students with disabilities and students from low-income homes, would hurt the quality of education in many school districts,” said Gentzel.  “NSBA is committed to working with the White House and members of Congress so that they understand the potential damage these cuts would inflict on our schools and on our nation’s economy.”

The White House advisors also expressed concerns that new plans floated by members of Congress would have a detrimental impact on education and other domestic programs. Specifically, Gentzel said the advisors warned groups to be skeptical of a plan that would give agencies flexibility in how to manage the cuts, as that would not have significant benefits.  They also warned the group that if the sequester takes place, the cuts might not appear to have a large impact immediately, but over the course of the 10-year schedule the reductions would significantly damage the nation’s economic infrastructure.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, estimates that the planned cuts to K-12 programs would only amount to about .0007 percent of the total federal budget.

“Education cuts would have very little impact on the plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, but these cuts would have a dramatic long term effect on local school district budgets,” said Resnick.  “This is not a strategic way of managing the economy.”

Some 700 school boards have passed resolutions to oppose the sequester, and NSBA is encouraging all school board members to contact their members of Congress and urge them to spare education programs. For more information and sample resolutions, visit NSBA’s Stop Sequestration web page.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 11th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , |

Longer school days do not always boost student learning

Are more school hours worth the cost?

It depends, but so far research hasn’t always justified the expense, says Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE), in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Adding hours to a school day seems logical, and often is popular with parents and policymakers. But it’s costly and research on the practice has been mixed, she writes. Studies so far indicate that the success of extended time depends on how the time is used—whether it is for academics or extracurricular activities—and the quality of curriculum and teaching.

“The gains aren’t always spectacular especially in relation to the expense,” Barth writes for the blog.

She points to a recent CPE report, “Time in School: How Does the U.S. Compare?” that did not find a strong correlation between time and student outcomes in other countries—Finland, which boasts top rankings, requires the least hours compared to low-scoring Italy which requires the most, Barth says.

“Other research shows that more school time can relate to more learning, as long as the time is focused on academic learning,” she writes. “Year-round schooling can also be helpful by preventing summer learning loss and the need to spend the first weeks of school reviewing material that’s already been taught, which is arguably a waste of the time schools already have.”

Barth gives tips to schools that are looking to add more time or maximize students’ time already spent at school. Read the Huffington Post  for more advice.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 6th, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, School Reform|Tags: , , , |

With federal cuts to education looming, school board leaders head to Capitol Hill

More than 700 school board and state school boards association leaders are meeting with members of Congress on Tuesday. They will advocate that Congress protect education programs from across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration.

School board leaders from all parts of the country are currently in Washington D.C. to take part in the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference, being held Jan. 27-29, 2013.

With the sequestration looming, more than 700 school boards have passed resolutions advocating Congress to stop the across-the-board cuts that would dismantle key education programs in their school districts. These federal cuts to K-12 public education would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for programs that directly impact student learning year after year.

“The federal cuts to public education would impede on the ability of school districts and states to sustain resources for programs that close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and retain highly effective teachers,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “K-12 education programs have already been previously reduced on the federal level and the ability to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students is extremely limited for many school districts.”

In this school year, 26 states are providing less funding per student to local school districts than they provided a year ago. And in many states, this reduction comes on top of severe cuts made in previous years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Across-the-board cuts to education programs should not be legislated, especially for economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities,” said NSBA’s President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Board of Education. “Local school boards need to continue raising student achievement should not be consumed or overshadowed by record budget cuts. Key investments will help sustain and continue the progress school districts are making in school improvement, teacher and principal effectiveness, increased graduation rates, and college and career readiness.”

To learn what school board members can do to prevent sequestration go to NSBA’s Stop Sequestration resource at www.nsba.org/stopsequestration.

Alexis Rice|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Special Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Panel discusses research and relevancy of school boards

NSBA  brought its executive director and two researchers to debate the relevancy of school board governance on Monday at its Federal Relations Network (FRN) conference. For audience members, though, there was no question that school boards are not just relevant, but a much-needed democratic institution.

One big challenge is the public’s lack of understanding the role that school boards play, said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s new executive director. He emphasized that school board members hold official roles, not volunteer positions.

“We need to tell our stories about what the issues are,” he said.

Thomas Alsbury, professor of educational administration and supervision at Seattle Pacific University, has studied governance in other countries, most recently Taiwan. He said centralized control often leads to a less equitable education, fewer entrepreneurial programs, and overzealous focus on standardized test scores—a fact not lost on more than 600 members in the audience. Alsbury said some countries are looking to the U.S. for guidance in revamping their school governance structures.

“The local school board has it right—they understand what communities need,” said Alsbury, author of The Future of School Board Governance: Relevance and Revelation.

Cynthia G. Brown, vice president for education policy at the Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, was more critical. “Are [school boards] still relevant? Maybe,” she said. “It’s up to you to decide whether you want to remain relevant.”

Brown, who has advocated for more equitable state school funding formulas, believes school boards must do more to ensure equitable funding, services, and opportunities for all students. To remain relevant, she advised attendees to focus on student achievement and closing achievement gaps by implementing a strong curriculum and strengthening the role of teachers.

“The reality is the quality of a student’s education is dictated by their zip code, where they live, and that’s not your fault,” she said. But Brown riled the crowd when she insinuated that school boards do not distribute funding equitably within their districts and that state officials should control budgets and finance.

Gentzel and Alsbury noted that giving up fiscal responsibilities would erode local control, as state officials would use the purse strings to control other programs.

Alsbury noted that other countries funnel most of their funding to top-performing students, who are also most likely to be represented on international assessments. “The least equitable are the countries that are getting the top scores” on TIMSS and other international assessments, Alsbury said.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Research|Tags: , , , |

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website, www.au.org/voucherFAIL, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

Fiscal cliff deal still leaves K-12 funding in limbo

Education funding received a two-month reprieve from across-the-board budget cuts under the fiscal cliff measure passed by Congress this week. The National School Boards Association is continuing its campaign during this critical time to protect K-12 programs from the proposed cuts that could significantly harm public education.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign a measure that would relieve many of the individual tax increases that were scheduled to go into effect on January 2 in plans to avoid the nation’s debt ceiling. The deal reached by House and Senate leaders and the White House in the final hours of 2012 delayed the issue of the across-the-board budget cuts, also known as sequestration, for federal agencies until early March.

“The pressure is now increasing on members of Congress to start identifying areas that can be cut,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. “NSBA will be on Capitol Hill continuously lobbying legislators to protect education funding, as public schools cannot withstand any further cuts without significantly impacting their academic programs and student achievement.”

Working with NSBA and its state school boards associations, more than 600 school districts now have passed “stop sequestration” resolutions urging lawmakers to protect K-12 education funding as an investment in the nation’s economy.

Learn more about sequestration and the Budget Control Act of 2011, and actions that school board members can take to advocate for their school districts, at NSBA’s Stop Sequestration web page.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 3rd, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

Fiscal cliff cuts would further strain public schools, NSBA warns lawmakers

As lawmakers reconvene to discuss alternatives to the fiscal cliff, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is again urging Congress and President Barack Obama to forge a bipartisan solution that puts our children’s education first and protects their future, as well as the future of our country.

With the fiscal cliff looming, more than 600 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the across-the-board cuts that would have a detrimental impact upon their school districts through the sequestration process. These federal cuts would total more than $4 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and greatly impact our schools, eroding the base of funding for key programs year after year.

“The federal cuts to education would be a regression to the progress our school districts have made in student achievement, from deep cuts to Title I grants for disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to House-passed legislation that would impose mandatory reductions eliminating automatic eligibility of 280,000 low-income students for free school lunches,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Public Policy and Federal Advocacy.

K-12 education programs have already been reduced on the federal level with cuts to elementary and secondary education funding in Fiscal Year 2011. The ability to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students is extremely limited for many school districts.

“An agreement is urgently needed now that protects education, as federal investments in education yield returns that result in greater productivity, global competitiveness, higher revenues, and increased employment,” said NSBA’s President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Board of Education.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 28th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , |

Kentucky district reassesses role of resource officers after Conn. shootings

Boone County Schools in Kentucky, home of National School Boards Association President C. Ed Massey, was featured in a Bloomberg story last week on the timely issue of arming school officials.

The National Rifle Association spurred a controversy on December 21 when it called for armed security guards in every U.S. public school in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Connecticut.

Boone County Schools has hired nine sheriff’s deputies, armed with Glock .40-caliber pistols and tasers, to patrol its 23 schools, according to Bloomberg. The school board determined the policy after a 17-year-old high school junior killed his parents and two sisters, then held a class hostage at his high school.

While the focus has been on preventing violence at the middle and high schools, Superintendent Randy Poe told Bloomberg that the district is considering shifting some of its officers’ time to elementary schools. “It’s a new day,” Poe said. “You have to think differently here.”

Boone County was also featured in a Dec. 23 story by the New York Post on the school safety.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Bullying, Crisis Management, Governance, High Schools, School Security|Tags: , , |

NSBA urges House to reject “Plan B” legislation to avoid fiscal cliff, GOP leaders cancel vote

A GOP-backed “fiscal cliff” compromise bill, which is opposed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), appeared to be in jeopardy when Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly cancelled a vote Thursday evening.

NSBA sent a letter to all House members of urging them to strike down the Budget Control Act, more commonly known as part of the “Plan B” legislation. The Budget Control Act would ease some of the tax hikes that are slated to occur on Jan. 2, 2013, but would also significantly cut K-12 education and other programs. The Washington Post reported that House leaders were unable to secure enough votes for passage.

The act of sequestration, across-the-board budget cuts that are scheduled as part of last year’s deficit reduction plan, would cut all federal education programs about 8.2 percent, or $82,000 for every $1 million a school district receives in federal funds. According to the Post, the lack of a vote “throws into chaos efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff, just 11 days before more than $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts are set to take effect. Unless Congress acts, many economists predict the nation will again descend into a recession.”

The bill “would impose record budget cuts to elementary and secondary education programs, which would be well beyond the reductions legislated in the Budget Control Act,” the NSBA letter states. “From deep cuts to Title I grants for disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to mandatory reductions that would eliminate automatic eligibility of 280,000 low-income students for free school lunches, these measures would be a regression to the progress our school districts have made in student achievement.”

NSBA is continuing to monitor any action by Congress. Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene on Dec. 27. For more information and resources, visit NSBA’s Stop Sequestration website.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |
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