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Articles in the Educational Legislation category

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: , , , |

NSBA to host State of the Union Twitter chat at #EdSOTU

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will be hosting our second annual Twitter chat during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, starting at 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Join the Twitter chat by using hashtag #EdSOTU and share your thoughts about the president’s speech and his plans for K-12 education.

By using #EdSOTU in your tweets, you will become a part of this virtual conversation. To see the entire conversation stream just go to Twitter and search #EdSOTU.

Alexis Rice|February 11th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|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: , , , , , |

NSBA joins state and local government groups to push for ESEA reauthorization

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to a letter urging key members of Congress to pass a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year.

The Feb. 4 letter was coordinated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and was signed by nine groups representing state and city leaders and elected officials. It was sent to leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

The ESEA reauthorization “is truly ‘must pass’ legislation,” according to the letter. It notes that the current law is flawed and shifts too much control away from states and local governments and focuses on punishments rather than rewards.

The letter states: “Only a full reauthorization of ESEA can adequately address the challenges state and local governments face in education. Policymakers at the state, local, and school district level need a long-term resolution and solution to NCLB. As we struggle to reallocate scarce federal resources and face economic uncertainty, we need greater federal funding flexibility. Most of all, we need federal policies that authentically support state and local innovation so that every student will be prepared for college or careers.”

The coalition, which includes NGA, NSBA, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments, National League of Cities, International City/County Managers Association, National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, and National Association of State Boards of Education, wrote two similar letters in 2012 pushing for an ESEA reauthorization.



School boards ask Congress to revamp regulatory process and prevent overreach

More than 700 school board members and state school boards association leaders are meeting with their members of Congress today and urging them to co-sponsor legislation, developed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education. The leaders took part in NSBA’s 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference and spent the final day, January 29, lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The proposed legislation would ensure that the Department of Education’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that the agency would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials. The legislation is also designed to more broadly underscore the role of Congress as the federal policy-maker in education and through its representative function.

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.

The proposal also is intended to provide Congress and the public with better information regarding the local impact of Department of Education’s activities through annual reports.

“We must ensure that the decisions made at the federal level will best support the needs and goals of local school systems and the communities they serve,” said Gentzel. “Local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts.”




Joetta Sack-Min|January 29th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, School Boards|Tags: , , |

ESEA Reauthorization key for NSBA this year

Urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and seeking sponsors for a bill to shield local school board control from federal intrusion —are key initiatives of NSBA this year.

That was the message delivered by Reginald Felton, NSBA’s assistant executive director for congressional relations, at a Monday policy briefing at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C.

When school leaders visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers, they need to emphasize the importance of putting the ESEA reauthorization back on track, he told conference attendees.

“They need to know how intensely you want to move the bill forward,” Felton said. “You have to give them a reason to help them get moving.”

In response to intense criticism over the use of sanctions, as well as other flaws, in the No Child Left Behind Act—the last reauthorization of ESEA—the U.S. Department of Education has responded with waivers to ease some of the excesses of the law. But that’s not enough, Felton insisted.

“We don’t want a quick fix. We don’t want reauthorization to go away [as a priority]. We need a bill that addresses what we need done so the law is more effective.”

At least one audience member expressed frustration with lawmakers, who offer their support yet have repeatedly failed to advance a reauthorization bill to a vote. Felton acknowledged the problem but said that, if school board members don’t make their voices heard, lawmakers certainly will put reauthorization on the backburner.

But when school leaders are face-to-face with lawmakers, he warned, they should not settle for a general statement of support—what’s needed is a specific commitment, whether it’s a promise to co-sponsor legislation or lobby fellow lawmakers to support action.

“If they say, ‘I’m with you,’ then define what ‘I’m with you’ means,” he said.

Meanwhile, Felton also encouraged school leaders to seek co-sponsors for NSBA’s new legislative proposal to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter‐productive federal intrusion from the federal education department.

The bill would require the Education Department to establish that new regulations, grant requirements, and other regulatory material is consistent with the intent of federal law and are “educationally, operationally, and financial supportable at the local level.”

The bill is a response to the Obama administration’s increasing practice to guide local and state education policy by tying access to federal funds to new rules and regulations designed to advanced administration policies—and not based on federal legislation that, at least, is more subject to public and legislative deliberation.

“We don’t want local school board authority to continue to be eroded because of what’s happening at the federal level.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Governance|Tags: , , , |

Get your legislators’ attention, school board members told

With legislative debates looming in Congress over sequestration, the federal debt ceiling, immigration reform, gun control, and more, school board members looking to influence federal education policy have their work cut out for them.

That’s the assessment of Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a respected observer of the national political scene.

“You’re going to need every talent you can muster when you go to [Capitol] Hill,” he told school leaders planning to visit federal lawmakers as part of NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. He spoke at the meeting on Sunday. “Be sure that you get your legislators’ attention.”

Members of Congress are distracted by more than just the legislative challenges that lie ahead, he said. Among Republicans, the re-election of President Obama has some party members questioning the GOP’s hard-line stance on some issues—a stance that some believe has hurt the party’s support among the young, minorities, and other constituency groups whose support will be needed to win future elections.

These questions are all the more unsettling to Republicans because, in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, some party leaders were convinced GOP candidate Mitt Romney had pulled ahead of the president in the polls—and thus his defeat was all the more shocking.

Amidst their soul-searching, some Republicans are questioning whether it’s time to show the American people some legislative accomplishments, even if it means some compromise with Democrats. It’s a position that has support among some older, influential members of the Senate who are looking to their legacy as legislative leaders.

One possible sign of this new attitude was the end-of-year compromise that put off across-the-board federal budget cuts—the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Ornstein says. In the Senate, 89 senators approved the deal, even though its passage led to an increase in some taxes. At the same time, a small group of senators from both parties is working on immigration policy reform.

“We have a very interesting dynamic at work,” he said.

None of this suggests that a new bipartisan attitude is taking hold in Congress, he warned. Partisan divisions still run deep, and lawmakers face formidable political pressure to hold to the party line. Among House Republicans, in particular, he said, the threat of a primary challenge from unhappy conservatives back home is potent.

What it does mean is that Congress may be stirring from its legislative gridlock and that school board members may face a challenge focusing lawmakers on education issues.

“To get the attention of legislators, to get them to focus on the long overdue need for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act … to make sure we continue to expand our ability to educate and prepare the next generation for our workforce … it is no easy task.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy|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,, 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: , , , , |

NSBA works with White House on school safety issues

President Barack Obama issued 23 executive actions today that he says will strengthen school safety and prevent gun violence. He also called on Congress to pass tougher gun-control measures, including banning some assault rifles and magazines and requiring  background checks for purchasing all guns, one month and two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the White House event. Obama announced a campaign entitled “Now is the Time” that outlines his plans for preventing gun violence.

The executive actions pertaining to school safety include:

  • Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers;
  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education;
  • Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations;
  • Launch a national conversation on mental health with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The orders and proposals were “based on an emerging consensus from all the groups we heard,” said Vice President Joe Biden. At the request of the president, Vice President Biden oversaw a task force designed to field recommendations from key stakeholder groups to curb gun violence in the United States. The White House has emphasized that local school leaders would be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit.

“We commend President Obama for his efforts to ensure that all schools are safe places,” Gentzel said. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress in a collaborative effort to address this important issue.”

NSBA called for the expansion of school safety zones and more school resource officers during a Jan. 9 White House meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who fielded recommendations from about a dozen major education groups as part of the vice president’s task force.

NSBA’s Director of Federal Legislation Deborah Rigsby participated in that session and also recommended greater access to mental health services and resources for greater coordination between law enforcement agencies and school districts.

Other organizations represented at the event included the American Association of School Administrators, National PTA, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, School Social Work Association of America, Council of Chief State School Officers, Mothers in Charge, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council for Exceptional Children, and Council of Great City Schools.

Some of the groups discussed ideas such as creating a federal interagency council on school safety, and training development and support for school principals on preparation and preparedness.

NSBA and some other groups did not take a specific position on gun control, but others expressed opposition to arming teachers with guns, Rigsby said.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 16th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Crisis Management, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , |
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