Articles in the Educational Legislation category

Veteran school board lobbyist retires after 44-year career at NSBA

When Michael A. Resnick joined the National School Boards Association as a legislative specialist in 1969, Richard Nixon was president. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The U.S. Army began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and Jimi Hendrix sang at Woodstock.

And most Americans believed the nation’s public education system was the best in the world.

Over the next 44 years, much would change — and not just for the nation at large. In the realm of education, Resnick, who is retiring this week as head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, has witnessed profound changes in state and federal education policy and in the challenges facing school boards nationwide.

Some of those changes were promising, such as the higher priority the nation placed on the academic success of all students, particularly the most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved. Slowly but persistently, the public schools raised student academic performance, narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority students, and raised high school graduation rates to a historic high.

Other changes, however, have been less welcome. Critics of public education have eroded confidence in our public education system. State and federal mandates have been increasingly intrusive and even damaging. Top-down reform efforts have undermined local school governance.

All of this has had an enormous impact on the roles and expectations of the nation’s more than 14,000 school boards, Resnick says.

“If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, school boards generally served a trustee role, overseeing the budget, making sure finances were in good order, overseeing personnel and student matters — but leaving to the school district administration with limited authority over much of what went on in the educational program.”

That limited role for the school board gave way over the years as the nation embarked on a decades-long debate about student academic performance. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) put academic accountability at the forefront of state and federal policy.

“While board members aren’t designing or running their schools’ academic program,” he says, “they certainly have to be familiar with it at a pretty technical level — so they can respond to issues surrounding student achievement and the need to meet accountability requirements for the school district.”

NCLB had good intentions, Resnick says, but it brought about a seismic shift in the federal government’s role in education policymaking. States and school boards had long been subject to federal rules in order to participate in categorical programs such as Title I.

However, NCLB mandated states to enact more sweeping and prescriptive policies and requirements that had a direct impact on districts overall and on how boards did their work.

That federal overreach has continued under the Race to the Top program, which offers the promise of significant federal aid to states that agree to enact policies favored by federal education officials.

NSBA has been fighting overreach of top-down policy direction, he says, making clear to Congress and U.S. Department of Education officials that the flood of mandates and regulations are increasingly onerous and limit the flexibility of school officials.

But there are other forces at work, making it harder for advocates of local school governance to influence state and federal policymaking, Resnick says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the principal players in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill were the institutional professional education groups — those representing teachers, administrators, and school boards.”

Today, however, there are a host of new advocacy groups making their voices heard — ideology-driven think tanks, industry-backed advocacy groups, business leaders, and other special interests.

These new groups make it more difficult for the institutional associations to be heard, Resnick says. One of the more damaging policy directions that some groups have encouraged is to promote alternatives to the traditional public school system, he says.

Supported by business interests that hope to tap into the billions of dollars spent on education, these groups have helped accelerate state and federal policies in support of vouchers and charter schools.

NSBA has “had to find ways to increase our effectiveness in terms of the knowledge we can bring to the table but also raise our level of advocacy,” he says.

Resnick’s earliest strategies to strengthen NSBA’s advocacy was the creation of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) in 1970 — an initiative to enlist school board members as outspoken constituents of their federal House and Senate members.

Today, NSBA is working to expand the number of board members participating in legislative advocacy, Resnick says. NSBA also has launched the National School Boards Action Center, designed to broaden school board advocacy to impact Congress, the media, and the public. The center includes the Friends of Public Education network to bring together other local leaders and concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of public education and sound federal policies.

“With the increase in competing voices in the policymaking debate, it becomes harder for your voice to be heard,” he says. “It requires marshalling a different set of resources, and the level of information you must provide has to be greater, as does the level of political punch behind you.”

It doesn’t help the cause of school boards, however, that Congress is politically deadlocked and struggling to fulfill its responsibilities, he says. Federal lawmakers have failed to adopt an annual federal budget for several years and the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) still is winding its way through the legislative process.

“Years ago, it was a time of more predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill, without the partisan rancor of today,” he says. “The political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made. One role of NSBA was to help broker those compromises.”

The political stalemate in Congress has created a vacuum in federal policy-making — one that the Education Department is too willing to fill with rigid regulations that are eroding local policymakers’ authority, Resnick notes. But, whatever the merits of any particular policy initiative, the department’s efforts lack the level of accountability or public input that would occur if federal policies were under the legislative oversight of Congress.

“What we see is an overreach of authority from the Department of Education — not only in terms of the federal role but also in the role of the agency itself,” he says.

That’s why NSBA earlier this year proposed the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, designed to protect local school districts from unnecessary and counter-productive federal regulations. Key provisions of this legislative proposal were incorporated into the House of Representatives’ bill to reauthorize ESEA, which passed in July.

Yet there is much more to be done, Resnick says. NSBA will be working more closely than ever with state school boards associations to support their advocacy efforts in state legislatures and courts “because that’s where many of the policy debates have gone — to the state level.”

As he steps down after four decades advocating on behalf of school boards, Resnick expresses some worry that the next generation of school board members may come to see the current state and federal intrusion into local policymaking as the norm, rather than a recent development that runs counter to the traditional policy of local school control.

“Over time, if we continue in this current framework, without knowing the history and evolution of recent education policymaking, we may find that new school board members assume it has to be this way,” he says. “But there are better approaches — emphasizing local school governance — with tools to increase student achievement with less top-down management.”

Del Stover|November 26th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Featured, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Publications, NSBAC|Tags: |

Arizona school boards pleased with ruling in school finance case

The Arizona School Boards Association is applauding the unanimous Arizona Supreme Court decision in Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey, which upheld the legal provision in Proposition 301, the referendum passed by Arizona voters in 2000, that requires the Arizona Legislature to fund the K-12 education budget to annually account for inflation.
 
“Today, after four years of lobbying and legal challenges to get the Legislature to do not just what’s right for Arizona, but what’s required by law, we are gratified by the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision,” said Dr. Tim Ogle, executive director of ASBA. “First and foremost, this is a victory for the voters of the state of Arizona, but, by extension, it is also a victory for the children of our state, who have seen their educations de-funded because of disregard of the law. We hope our elected representatives get the message loud and clear: When the voters pass something, you are bound to uphold it.”
 
ASBA, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting locally elected governance of public education and continuous improvement of student success, led the coalition of education organizations in the legal effort to compel the Legislature to fulfill its obligation to fund inflation.
Joetta Sack-Min|September 26th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

School boards urge U.S. Senate to rethink No Child Left Behind

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Senate to take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, S. 1094.

In a letter, NSBA asks the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to schedule the bill for a Senate floor vote within the next 30 days so that the bill could be considered in a joint conference committee. In addition, further delays could mean that the U.S. Department of Education would initiate another round of waiver requests early next year only for local school districts to subsequently have the new ESEA law take them in a different direction. Reauthorizing ESEA now would “avoid confusion and waste of resources locally to the extent legislative policy differs from waiver requirements,” the letter states.

“There has been no movement on the Senate bill since it was approved by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee three months ago,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “As the new school year begins and districts continue to grapple with the unreasonable requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, school board members across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation.”

NSBA had asked the members of the HELP Committee to make substantive changes in the measure during committee discussions. However, not enough changes were made to warrant NSBA endorsement at that time. NSBA hopes such concerns will be resolved during the Joint Conference Committee deliberations.

“Local school boards across the nation appreciate the fact that S. 1094 contained many of the positive provisions that are in the current No Child Left Behind law such as early childhood development, teacher and principal effectiveness through preparation and professional development, rigorous college and career-ready standards with valid and reliable aligned assessments,” the letter states. “However, school board members were disappointed that S. 1094 contained many requirements that would significantly increase the requirements for local data collection, reporting, and plan development and implementation.”

NSBA also signed on to a Sept. 12 letter put forth by numerous government and education organizations, including the National Governors Association and the National Council of State Legislatures, that also urges Senate leaders to bring the ESEA bill to a floor vote.

View NSBA’s ESEA advocacy resources.

Alexis Rice|September 12th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA expresses concerns on House K-12 budget proposal

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is disappointed in the House of Representatives’ proposed fiscal 2014 budget for K-12 programs and is calling on House members to restore funding.

The budget would create “devastating” cuts to many education programs, including $4.5 billion cuts to Title I and the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, if the budget cuts were to be applied across the board, according to NSBA.

In a July 24 letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, NSBA wrote, “Local school boards have grave concerns over the Subcommittee’s overall 302(b) funding allocation that would impose greater budget cuts to programs implemented at the local school district level. Local school boards are also concerned that federal funding to support K-12 education is being significantly reduced at a time when there should be increased investments in our nation’s future.”

The NSBA letter refers to the overall subcommittee allocation, which was approved by the full committee more than a month ago.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 25th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

NSBA praises House passage of ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  is pleased that Student Success Act, H.R. 5, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 221-207. H.R. 5 is the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

Key elements of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, were incorporated in H.R. 5, with some provisions included in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce bill and others in an amendment on local school district flexibility offered by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).

“The Student Success Act provides states and local educational agencies with the flexibility they need to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance to prepare all students for post-secondary education or the workplace ,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “School boards are pleased that the bill focuses on specifically ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance.”

Gentzel continued, “NSBA supports the bill’s overwhelming shift in direction to ensure that greater flexibility and governance will be restored to local school boards during this Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  The bill clearly acknowledges that the footprint of the federal government in K-12 education must be reduced.  Despite NSBA’s concerns with several provisions, NSBA supports final passage of the bill given the overall benefits of the final legislation.”

Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R -Va.) Title I portability amendment, which NSBA opposed, passed by voice vote this morning.  This provision, as well as funding concerns with the House bill, will be addressed after the U.S. Senate passes its ESEA bill, and both the House and Senate ESEA bill goes to conference.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , , |

House approves NSBA-backed local flexibility measure in ESEA bill

The U.S. House of Representatives began debate on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was pleased that an amendment on local school district flexibility that includes key provisions of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 239-187 vote on July 18. The amendment was put forth by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and additional provisions of NSBA’s bill were included in the bill the Committee on Education and the Workforce took to the floor.

H.R. 5, with local school district flexibility amendment, focuses on specifically ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance.

On Wednesday, NSBA sent letters to all House members to urge them to support H.R. 5.

H.R. 5, “makes significant improvements to restore greater flexibility and governance to local educational agencies that will enable these agencies to better meet the unique needs and conditions of their local schools and students. It also re-affirms the appropriate roles and responsibilities between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government that are vital to the representative decision-making at the federal level that under girds public education as a democratic institution across all three levels of government,” the letter stated.

NSBA is opposed to Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) Title I portability amendment as it would require school districts to reallocate Title I funds on a per-pupil basis and set up a system of public school choice. The vote on that amendment is expected on July 19.

NSBA wants to thank school board members for contacting their members of Congress. On July 19, please call your representative at (202) 224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) and follow-up with a letter to vote NO on the Cantor Title I portability amendment and YES for final passage of the bill. The consideration of additional amendments continues through Friday.

Alexis Rice|July 18th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, No Child Left Behind, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , |

NSBA urges House to approve ESEA bill this week

In anticipation of a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives later this week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has written to all House members to urge them to support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. Specifically, NSBA is supporting an amendment that would  give school districts greater input in the development of federal regulations, and it would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from extending its authority to make regulations outside specific legislative authority.

NSBA also has concerns about the funding authorizations included in the bill, H.R. 5. It has urged House members to support the reinstatement of Maintenance of Effort requirements to ensure that schools receive adequate state funding in an era of tight budgets.

Finally, NSBA announced its opposition to an amendment that would require school districts to reallocate Title I funds on a per-pupil basis and set up a system of public school choice. “Title I portability would cause irreparable harm to high-needs schools and the students they serve,” the letter states.

H.R. 5, also called The Student Success Act, “makes significant improvements to restore greater flexibility and governance to local educational agencies that will enable these agencies to better meet the unique needs and conditions of their local schools and students. It also re-affirms the appropriate roles and responsibilities between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government that are vital to the representative decision-making at the federal level that under girds public education as a democratic institution across all three levels of government,” the letter states.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

NSBA praises Senate bill to boost K-12 funding

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) supports a budget plan passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee that would increase funding for K-12 education, including Title I grants and special education. Most importantly, the bill would reverse the automatic budget cuts that will impact all K-12 education programs by this fall, known as sequestration.

A July 10 letter sent to all Senators noted that the proposed fiscal 2014 budget blueprint would help sustain targeted investments, and praised its increases to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the main federal special education law, and early education. “Protecting baseline funding for these priorities, and providing the increases needed to help address existing shortfalls, will help our school districts and states avoid reductions to the scope and delivery of education services and advancement,” the letter states. However, more money for IDEA is needed, the letter adds.

The bill also emphasizes early education by allotting a $1.6 billion increase for Head Start, including funds to expand Early Head Start and build a new Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships to serve children and families from before birth through age 3.

According to NSBA’s advocacy team, Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said that she will push to get the bill on the Senate floor for debate. The last time an education funding bill was debated by the Senate was 2007, she stated.

The House Appropriations Committee has adopted an overall allocation for the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee that could reduce funding for education by more than 18 percent, which would equate to more than a $4.5 billion cut to Title I grants and special education, according to NSBA’s advocacy team. The future of that measure is uncertain.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 12th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , |

NSBA lauds House ESEA bill, but calls to eliminate funding restraints

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) offered support for a House bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which the Education and the Workforce Committee passed June 19. But NSBA is concerned that its funding provisions would stifle federal and state education funding.

This week NSBA sent a letter to Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller that praised the legislation’s provisions that would help restore local governance and give local school districts more flexibility to improve student achievement based on local needs.

“H.R. 5 builds on the constructive features of [the No Child Left Behind Act] and eliminates many of those requirements that have negatively misdirected the federal role,” the letter states. “However, in supporting passage of the bill out of committee, we strongly urge that the state maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions be reinstated and the hard freeze on authorized funding levels over the six-year duration of the legislation be raised.

The letter also asks that H.R. 5 include the language of the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, which is the NSBA-backed bill that 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.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 18th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|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: , , , |
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