Articles in the Educational Legislation category

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: , |

Ohio legislation fallout may impact labor relations

When Ohio lawmakers approved a sweeping overhaul of collective bargaining for public employees, the teachers unions quickly led a counterattack that that saw the controversial legislation overturned in a statewide referendum.

But the battle is far from over—and the fallout from the state’s 2011 legislative session may still have profound implications for local school boards, according to labor relations experts with the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) who led a Monday workshop at NSBA’s annual conference on education labor law and contract negotiations.

Under Senate Bill 5, a conservative-minded legislature two years ago attempted to curb collective bargaining rights, said Renee Fambro, OSBA’s deputy director of labor relations. The law prohibited teacher strikes, abolished tenure for future teachers, eliminated salary schedules, and limited the range of issues that could be negotiated by unions.

“The law hit unions on a very powerful level,” she said. “Their response was, if we can’t strike, what power do we have?”

Joining forces with other public employees, the unions ran an aggressive referendum election campaign that saw the law overturned by a sizable margin. But, noted Van Keating, OSBA’s director of management services, the controversy over Senate Bill 5 meant that teachers largely overlooked another potentially game-changing piece of legislation: House Bill 153.

That law mandated a new statewide teacher evaluation system that, as developed by state education officials, will rate teachers according to student academic growth as well as a number of other measures. All teachers will end up with a rating of accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

One potentially controversial side effect of this new system is that, right now, these teacher ratings will be a matter of public record, Keating says. And that raises some interesting political challenges: What if a school has two sixth-grade teachers—one rated proficient and one rated ineffective? And exactly will you assign students to those two classrooms?

“I’m going to have about 50 percent of my parents pretty angry with me,” he said. “As a school district, assigning half of my kids to an ineffective-rated teacher, how are we manage the results that are going to come out of this?”

Del Stover|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Teachers|

School board legislation gains new support in the U.S. Congress

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has signed on to the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, a measure proposed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The bill, H.R. 1386, is designed to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 21 by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) It is now cosponsored by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.).

NSBA is now seeking an original sponsor for the legislation in the Senate, and it is urging school board members to contact their members of Congress to support the bill while the lawmakers are in their home districts next week.

“As a former school board president, I believe that the combination of parents, educators, employers and the local community must work together to ensure all children develop the skills and acquire the educational tools they will need to become successful. I believe a big part of this is ensuring local school boards do not have their authority eroded by regulators in Washington,” said Schock. “Not all education regulations are misguided, but the ones that are need to be taken off the books. The focus has to be expanding the opportunity to learn; not tying the hands of local administrators with more red tape by federal bureaucrats. My legislation ensures this encroachment does not continue and restores the local authority school boards need.”

Members of Congress are at home in their districts/state until Monday, April 8. This is an excellent opportunity to communicate with your members of Congress the importance of co-sponsoring the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act. Make sure you call, email, or meet with your members of Congress to discuss the importance of co-sponsoring this bill.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 29th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , |

NSBA urges La. Supreme Court to strike down vouchers

In a closely watched Louisiana Supreme Court case that began today, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the court to rule that the state’s voucher program violates the state constitution because it diverts taxpayer funds to private schools.

NSBA has filed an amicus brief in the case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana, which could have national implications for the school choice movement. The lawsuit brought by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) and other education groups challenges the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana State Legislature in 2012, including a law that provides vouchers to students in low-performing schools. Under the law, a centerpiece of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda, the state board of elementary and secondary education is required to pay 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 “failing” public schools and send them to a participating private school.

The trial court ruled in favor of the education groups and school districts, and the State of Louisiana now seeks an expedited review by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The voucher program undermines this country’s longstanding commitment to public education and harms the state’s children by depriving poorer school systems of scarce resources, NSBA writes in the brief. Further, most of the private schools receiving public tax dollars under the program are not subject to the same accountability requirements as public schools.

“These vouchers have allowed tax dollars to be diverted from public education to private individuals and entities that are not subject to the same academic, operational, and accountability standards as public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These laws are part of a national campaign by special interest groups to promote a narrow political agenda over the needs and well being of the schoolchildren of Louisiana.”

The program allows 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.

“Louisiana already has a system of school choice through community public schools and charter schools, and we need our elected officials to ensure that our state has the best public school system available to all of its families,” said LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard. “Local school boards are responsible to provide public schools to their communities that are open to all students and reflect community needs. Vouchers have taken away critical state and local funding from Louisiana’s public schools, which the vast majority of our students attend.”

Joetta Sack-Min|March 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Policy Formation, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

Education leaders discuss sequestration’s impact to public education

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey participated in a Feb. 27 press conference call to rally against the scheduled federal budget cuts, known as the sequester, that are schedule to take place on Friday. The call was organized by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 100 national education organizations including NSBA, to highlight the planned program cuts and teacher layoffs that will occur if Congress does not intervene.

Massey’s school district, the Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., would see particular impact on programs for disadvantaged programs. The 20,000-student school district will have to eliminate about 15 jobs funded by Title I grants and will have to scale back programs that help struggling students learn to read by providing reading coaches in classrooms.

“In those areas where we struggle the most, those are the areas where we will be hardest hit,” Massey said. “This takes away [disadvantaged students’] resources to make progress in this very competitive world we live in.”

On that call, CEF Executive Director Joel Packer said that the sequester would lead to the largest education cuts ever at the federal level, and would bring the total K-12 budget back to the level of the fiscal year 2004 budget.

Packer noted that Head Start, which provides early education services to low-income children, would see immediate cuts that would eliminate slots for about 70,000 children and cut 10,000 teacher jobs.

The U.S. Department of Education would see cuts of $2.5 billion, but because all K-12 programs except for Impact Aid are funded for the next school year, the effect of the cuts would not be seen until the 2013-14 school year.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 27th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , , |

School boards prepare for layoffs, program cuts as federal deadline looms

School boards across the country will be forced to lay off thousands of teachers and teacher aides in coming weeks as they create their budgets for the 2013-14 academic year because of the federal budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1.

The sequester, which will require across the board budget cuts for all federal programs on March 1, will eliminate about 5 percent of funding for K-12 programs and Head Start. However, representatives from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) pointed out in a press conference call this week that those cuts disproportionately affect school districts that are educating large populations of disadvantaged students.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, noted that many school districts are beginning to plan next year’s budgets, and in an informal survey, three-quarters said they would be issuing layoff notices this spring.

For some school districts, the process of issuing pink slips has already started.

Minnie Forte-Brown, a school board member in Durham, N.C., and chair of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, said her school district planned to eliminate 34 teacher and staff positions. Title I cuts would be about $800,000 of about $1.7 million in cuts that the 33,000 student school would endure for the next 10 years, special education would amount to another $600,000 each year.

The school board has already stopped filling vacant positions and has cut all travel and professional development.

“We are implementing extreme measures,” said Forte-Brown. “This is not the promise we made to our families when we said we were going to educate excellently.”

In rural Alabama, Steve Foster, vice president of the Lowndes County Board of Education, said his school district has already seen significant state cuts in recent years, and a further reduction from the federal government would diminish books and classroom supplies, teacher retention and professional development programs, and cuts to the library, where many parents and students who do not have home computers or internet access go to work on school assignments.

”Our school system has made great strides in the last 10 to 12 years. These cuts are going to affect the programs that help us make progress,” said Foster, who is also President of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

President Obama has frequently used education and early childhood examples in recent speeches about the impact of sequestration on the country. The White House released state-by-state estimates that include how much K-12 funding each state stands to lose, the number of teacher and staff jobs, the number of children that will lose access to Head Start, and other details. (The Washington Post published this graphic detailing the cuts.)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on February 24 to warn of the impact of the looming cuts to K-12 programs.

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the sequester. Go to NSBA’s website, www.nsba.org/stopsequestration, for sample letters, resolutions, and other activities for school boards.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA commends focus on education in State of the Union address

President Barack Obama called for a high-quality preschool education for all children in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12. He also announced a new program, based on the Race to the Top competitive grants, that would spur a redesign of the nation’s high schools, instill more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, and better prepare students for higher education and the workforce.

In response to the speech, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel released the following statement:

“We welcome President Barack Obama’s commitment to a high-quality education for all our students. We look forward to working with his administration on the priorities he brought forth, including early childhood education, rebuilding and modernizing school buildings, STEM education, and helping our students gain access to higher education.

“Like the president, we are deeply concerned about the federal funding cuts scheduled to take place next month. More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions advocating Congress to stop these across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration. The cuts to K-12 public education would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, the 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, including programs that close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and retain highly effective teachers. Many school districts would not be able to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

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: , , , |
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