Articles in the Educational Legislation category

What generation gap?

With music and art classes facing cuts by schools forced to deal with budget shortfalls, BoardBuzz has commented frequently on the importance of arts education. One fact we often hear cited by supporters of music education is that it improves math scores – but maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis says instead that math classes help people with music. A strong proponent of arts education, Marsalis speaks often about the value of music education in our schools. In his 2009 address before a Congressional Committee on Arts Advocacy Day, he says “music is Superman” because it integrates everyone, no matter their age or background. In Marsalis’ view a strong education in the arts erases the generation gap and gives kids — and students of all ages — the ability to “converse and face the world with confidence.”

Take a look at this remarkable speech:


 

Wynton Marsalis will be the keynote speaker at the 2010 NSBA Annual Conference in Chicago on April 11, where he will not only share more thoughts on arts education but also give a special musical performance.

Barbara Moody|January 6th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

NSBA ornament brightens White House Holiday decor

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education is depicted on NSBA's White House ornament.The landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was the theme of NSBA’s hand decorated ornament at the White House this year.  Initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama and coordinated by the National Policy Alliance and others, non-profit organizations were invited to decorate ornaments that commemorate local American landmarks.  Kanisha Williams-Jones and Myra Maxwell of NSBA selected the U.S. Supreme Court as a landmark and used decoupage to decorate an ornament with items depicting the 1954 court case that struck down segregation in schools and propelled educational and social reform throughout the United States.   

Hundreds of landmark ornaments decorated the White House, but BoardBuzz has it on good authority that the NSBA ornament was prominently placed for easy viewing.  NSBA board members and several staff had an opportunity to see the ornament during a tour of the White House in December.  Another of the 26 trees at the White House was a Wish Tree made of recycled cardboard and constructed so that visitors could write down a wish and insert it into the tree’s branches. 

BoardBuzz hopes everyone’s wishes come true in 2010 and congratulates all those who participated in this celebration of equity and excellence in education.

Lucy Gettman|December 25th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Law|

Closing the achievement gap is a principle responsibility of…principals

With the introduction of S 2896,  the “Principal Recruitment and Retention Act,” Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) hope to close the achievement gap by assuring that high need schools have highly qualified principals who can improve instruction, assessments and the use of data, and can recruit and retain effective teachers.  Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA 53rd) and Todd Platts (R-PA 19th) introduced a companion bill in the House (HR 4354). 

Research shows that school leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors in its impact on student learning – that’s why the Minnesota School Boards Association and NSBA are on the record supporting the legislation.  The bill creates a grant program for school districts (and to other entities, such as non-profits and universities, that establish partnerships with school districts) for high-quality training programs that prepare principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools.  Each grantee will recruit, train and support aspiring and/or current principals who commit to serving at least four years in high-need schools. 

However, “We cannot expect schools to go it alone,” Senator Franken stated on the Senate floor. “We also need to improve social services in low-income communities to help students address the numerous challenges they face outside of the classroom that make it difficult to learn. At the same time, we cannot absolve schools of their responsibility to improve considerably.” 

BoardBuzz wonders – What is the balance of school and community responsibility for academic success?  And aren’t school board members part of both groups?  As school and community leaders, school board members are uniquely positioned to foster healthy schools and communities for the benefit of all.

Lucy Gettman|December 23rd, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

NSBA endorses bill on use of restraints and seclusion

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, H.R. 4247,  sponsored by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), will provide—for the first time—federal legislation to reduce or eliminate the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion in both public schools and private schools served by federal funds.  Michael Resnick, NSBA associate executive director, spoke in support of the bill as a balanced approach between federal policy to ensure a safe learning environment for all students and school personnel and the authority and flexibility local school districts need to address unique circumstances.  (Watch the press conference, select “click here to watch” in first paragraph and if you fast forward approximately 16 minutes into the presentation, you will see Mike Resnick).  Reggie Felton, NSBA’s director of federal relations, worked with the committee staff and other education organizations to ensure legislation acknowledges the role and authority of local school boards.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 14th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Security|

Differences in state standards

BoardBuzz just checked out this post over at The Edifier about a report that was just released by the Department of Education that compared each state’s standard for proficiency on their state assessments. The report shows that what each state considers proficient varies from state to state. BoardBuzz is certain that some will use this report to argue for national standards, Gadfly I’m looking at you, but Edifier makes a good point. What matters most is if the standards meet the needs of their students and not necessarily if they are the highest. Each state has their own needs and the variation in state standards may just reflect this fact. For example, what students need to know and be able to do in Michigan may be a whole lot different than what students need to know and be able to do in Hawaii.

So before we get too excited over one report and rush into creating national standards, lets take a breath and determine whether each state asks enough of their students so they leave high school prepared for life after high school. If so, we could use our time and energy to actually help schools improve rather than spent arguing over national standards.

To learn more about the national standards debate check out the Center for Public Education’s A new national conversation on national standards? and for more information on NAEP achievement levels check out the Center’s The proficiency debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Jim Hull|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA Webinar features legislative updates

Want to know what Congress is doing with the education spending bill? When your school will get money for technology? How your state can compete for stimulus funds? You can find the answers to these questions at a Webinar hosted by NSBA‘s advocacy team next Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 11 am to 12 pm EDT.

With the health care debate driving most of Congress’ schedules, other critical actions  in education could be affected. It’s a good time to take a look at what will be ahead in Congress’ and the Administration’s agendas.

You can register for the Webinar here. Meanwhile, visit NSBA‘s advocacy Website for background information on different issues and legislation update.

Katherine Shek|October 22nd, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Tuition tax credits cost $21 million loss in state budget

There is the argument that private school tuition tax credits save the state money; then there are the numbers to show otherwise.  A recent analysis by the Arizona Republic showed that Arizona‘s tuition tax credit program, depsite what propononts have claimed, has resulted in a net loss of $21 million in state budget, see the article here.

The analysis concluded the failture of the program to save state money indicated that a large amount of scholarships funded by the tax credits went to students who would’ve attended private school regardless of the program.  What’s more, the state’s tuition tax credit program is under scrutiny by lawmakers who are considering changes to beef up oversight, see here.

The study is an example that private tuition tax credits programs do not do what proponents claim they do – saving the state money and offering options to students attending public schools.

NSBA continues to oppose private school tuition tax credits and vouchers which take public funds away from public school to benefit a few in private school. For more information against vouchers, visit NSBA‘s Voucher Strategy Center.

Katherine Shek|October 20th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization|

i3 funds focus on research based innovation

The U.S. Department of Education has released details of how school districts and nonprofit organizations can tap into the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) which is part of the economic stimulus package.  

Unlike the Race to the Top Fund and the School Improvement Grants, i3 funds will be distributed directly to school districts and their nonprofit partnerships. The official proposal will be published in the Federal Register soon, then the public will have 30 days to comment before the Department finalizes the proposal.

Although i3 is a relatively small program ($650 million) compared with the School Improvement Grant  ($3 billion) and Race to the Top ($4 billion), its funding goes directly to the school districts and it has a different focus from the other two programs. i3 provides seed money to school districts and their nonprofit partners to scale up effective practices and to support existing or new promising programs on school reforms. 

NSBA will be preparing comments on i3. Check out the Department’s website for more information.

Katherine Shek|October 7th, 2009|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA president Sonny Savoie shows Senate savoir-faire

BoardBuzz thanks NSBA president Sonny Savioe for delivering NSBA’s message to the U. S. Senate!  Savoie was invited to speak on behalf of school boards at a roundtable convened by Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR), chair of the Senate Rural Outreach Program and chair of the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee.  Also attending the roundtable were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Senators Kay Hagen (NC), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Jeff Merkley (OR) and Jon Tester (MT).  About a dozen organizational leaders were invited to discuss such topics as funding equity, transportation, after school education and teacher quality as they effect rural states and districts. Savoie spoke powerfully to the need to improve NCLB and recognize that the economic conditions in each community impact educational needs and decisions locally.  

NSBA president Sonny Savoie speaks with U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (right) and Betsy Landers, NPTA.

NSBA president Sonny Savoie speaks with U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (right) and Betsy Landers, NPTA.

Lucy Gettman|October 5th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Resources, tasks key to extended learning success

More school, less summer. That’s what the Obama Administration is advocating as a way to help students in the U.S. catch up academically with their counterparts in other countries who attend school as much as 30 percent longer, according to this Associated Press article.

In an interview with the AP, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he wants “to level the playing field” through extending the school year.

BoardBuzz thinks it’s a great idea to to lengthen the school year/day.  NSBA encourages school districts to partner with other educational entities and community organizations in developing extended learning opportunities, including summer programs, to improve students’ academic achievement.  However, school districts and schools cannot do this without adequate resources. As the AP article points out, extra learning time is not cheap.  Massaschusetts’ extended learning initiative, which adds 300 hours to the calendar in select public schools, cost an additional $1,300 per student.  Unfortunately, the increased cost of fuel last year and the economic downturn have prompted some school districts to adopt a 4-day school week, meaning longer but fewer days in class.

Besides, more school alone will not necessarily help improve academic achievement.  Research shows that the additional time must focus on instruction and learning or “time on task” in order to be effective.  Read NSBA‘s Beliefs and Policies on extended learning opportunities here.

Katherine Shek|September 29th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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