Articles in the Federal Advocacy category

Advocacy Institute shows school boards how to be year-round advocates

More than 750 school board members are learning about national education issues and public engagement at the National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Institute, a three-day conference in Washington that includes visits to their Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.

The event focuses on building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance in public, legal, and legislative arenas. Advocacy Institute is the successor to NSBA’s popular Federal Relations Network conference and covers a wider array of topics.

Speakers at the Feb. 2-4 event include Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author; Rev. Bernice King, the orator and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and members of Congress. NSBA President David A. Pickler, a school board member from Shelby County, Tenn., welcomed the group and underscored the urgency of becoming year-round advocates.

“We must make sure that all public schools have the funding, resources, and support that is needed to educate all students in this rapidly changing world economy,” he said. “This is nothing less than a national security interest.”

NSBA also is honoring U.S. House of Representatives members Aaron Schock of Illinois, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin with the organization’s Congressional Special Recognition Award for their strong support for public education.

Schock, Meehan, and Kind worked together to introduce and promote the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, HR 1386, which would better establish local school boards’ authority and curb overreach by the U.S. Department of Education on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation. Provisions of the bill were approved as an amendment to the House version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), HR 5, which passed the House last summer.

“We are proud to honor Reps. Schock, Meehan, and Kind with NSBA’s Congressional Special Recognition Award for their tireless efforts to help improve school boards’ abilities to lead our public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “Their leadership on the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act and the ESEA reauthorization amendment are extremely important to public school leaders across the country who deal daily with federal regulations that hinder their abilities to improve student achievement. We appreciate their support for local school boards.”

Other Congressional speakers include Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania, a member of the House Education & the Workforce Committee; and Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions of the House Education & the Workforce Committee.

On Feb. 2, NSBA also unveiled its new advertising campaign promoting public education and discussed polling and public advocacy strategies for school board members.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 3rd, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Recognition Programs|

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

Following State of the Union, NSBA calls for prioritization of public education issues

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following statement following the 2014 State of the Union:

The National School Boards Association, working with our state school board associations and the 90,000 school board members across the country, looks forward to engaging with President Barack Obama and his administration on the education priorities raised in the State of the Union. We welcome the President’s proposals on early childhood education and high-speed Internet access for schools and we ask that the President work closely with local school boards as these initiatives are developed.

We share the President’s commitment to guaranteeing that every child has access to a world-class education and NSBA believes every community should have great public schools.

Public education must be a priority for the administration and the U.S. Congress. We are deeply concerned about maximizing federal investments in K-12 education. A lack of federal funding in tandem with cuts in state and local funding is jeopardizing local school district operations. This is having a devastating effect on our students by imperiling programs that directly impact student learning, including many programs that close achievement gaps; raise graduation rates; and improve teacher training, recruitment, and retention.

The U.S. Senate must take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act. School board members from across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation given that the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of ESEA reauthorization last year. America’s school boards can’t continue to operate under a failed ‘No Child Left Behind’ system. Local school boards need the flexibility to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance to prepare all students for post-secondary education or the workplace and ensure that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on community schools.

Alexis Rice|January 28th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind, School Boards|Tags: , |

NSBA host State of the Union Twitter chat on education issues at #EdSOTU

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will be hosting our third annual Twitter chat during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, starting at 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

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|January 27th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , , |

National Coalition for Public Education offers sample Tweets on vouchers

The National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) recently offered the following guide to using Twitter during National School Choice Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014.  NSBA is a member of NCPE, which is made up of more than 50 education, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations that work together to fight vouchers and promote strong public schools.

Thank you for engaging in NCPE’S twitter campaign during National School Choice Week. This information should be of use to anyone in your organization who has a twitter account and is interested in helping NCPE successfully counter the pro-voucher messaging that will be a major part of National School Choice Week’s campaign.

Tip #1: School Choice Week will be using the hashtag #SCW. While it’s unnecessary to use this hashtag for every tweet, consider emphasizing and borrowing the #SCW hashtag some of your tweets. This will allow NCPE to disrupt the narrative the Choice Week organizers are putting out and will make our social media campaign a success.

Tip #2: Try not to overload your tweets with hashtags. If you’ve used #voucher, you don’t really need to add #voucherfail at the end.  The more concise the tweet, the higher the likelihood others will re-tweet you.

Sample Tweets

DC schools couldn’t account for more than 1 in 5 students given taxpayer-funded vouchers. #voucherfail  http://bit.ly/1bWbx5V

#Vouchers have helped spread the teaching of junk creationist “science.” http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

DC’s voucher schools vary drastically because the system lacks basic quality controls. #voucherfail  http://wapo.st/1cBCCid

Taxpayer-funded tuition tax credits in Georgia fund schools with anti-gay policies and curriculum.  http://nyti.ms/1dwHHpH #schoolchoicefail

Test scores shows that students in Milwaukee public schools outperformed students in #voucher schools http://bit.ly/1ghHKJt

Voters don’t like vouchers: over 30 years, voucher ballot measures have been defeated every time they appeared on a ballot #voucherfail

#Voucher schools often discriminate against students with special needs http://bit.ly/1eHLKla

Religious freedom provisions in many state constitutions bar vouchers for religious schools http://bit.ly/1bSdf8q  #voucherfail

Florida voters rejected a constitutional amendment to funnel public funds directly to religious schools in 2012 http://bit.ly/1aIejvV #voucherfail

Public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the taxpayers. #voucherfail

Your taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund #vouchers for schools that teach creationist “science” or debunked “Christian nation” history.

#Vouchers are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, and deprive students of rights provided to public school students #voucherfail

Public funds for public schools! Tax dollars should fund education for everyone, not a select few. #voucherfail

Our public schools deserve support. They’re safe, neutral zones where students can learn free of discrimination #voucherfail

#Voucher schools use your tax dollars. So what do they teach? http://on.msnbc.com/1eHJ8E7

Sectarian #voucher schools can discriminate against students based on special needs, sexual orientation, and gender.

#Voucher schools don’t solve social inequality. They contribute to it: http://bit.ly/1er5YPU

In North Carolina, #vouchers give taxpayer money to homeschool families, too. http://bit.ly/1hwhHC0

Private school #vouchers don’t actually guarantee students a safe, quality education.

#VoucherFail Tumblr

Also, we welcome you to link to our #voucherfail tumbr at http://voucherfail.tumblr.com/.  We already have relevant articles posted there.  And, we have some funny memes from last year that you might want to direct people to again this year.  Keep checking it too, as we will continue to update it during school choice week.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, School Reform, School Vouchers, Social Networking|Tags: , , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA participates in White House meeting to plan State of the Union

National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel took part in a meeting with White House officials this week to help glean ideas and themes for President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

The White House called together leading K-12 groups for their input on the annual speech and gave participants the opportunity to present their priorities.

Gentzel pressed the White House officials to call for increased funding for K-12 education, and also include funding for early education services, and again called for a push to finish the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

He also made the point that more than 90 percent of children in the United States attend public schools, and asked that President Obama show support for school boards and public education.

“With the continuing focus on choice—vouchers, charters, and other options—it would be good for the president to acknowledge the hard working teachers, school staff, and school board members who do their jobs every day,” Gentzel said after the meeting.

NSBA will be discussing issues surrounding school choice during National School Choice Week, which is held Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 and is sponsored by groups promoting vouchers and taxpayer funded expansions of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 17th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , |

NSBA urges high court to review “I Heart Boobies” case

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by other leading education groups and a state school boards association, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Easton Area Sch. Dist. v. B.H for review and to reverse the appellate court’s decision as contrary to well-established Supreme Court precedent.

The case focuses on a school district decision to require two female  students at a Pennsylvania middle school  to remove bracelets with the slogan, “I  ♥ Boobies KEEP A BREAST,” because of reports that the bracelets were causing a distraction for students, including instances of possible sexual harassment.

NSBA is joined by AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) in asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and reaffirm that school officials have authority to determine that messages such as “I Y Boobies” disrupt the school environment and interfere with the rights of others.

“NSBA is representing the voices of parents and others who want their children focused on education and protected from lewd speech while attending public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This important amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize the authority of school officials to regulate student speech during the school day if such speech disrupts the school environment or interferes with the responsibility of schools to teach civil discourse as an inherent democratic value and to protect the rights and sensibilities of other students.”

“The Third Circuit ruling forces school officials to jettison educational judgments for highly legalistic ones in a way that jeopardizes the day-to-day work of public schools and potentially harms students,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This ruling misreads Supreme Court precedent recognizing that school officials have the authority to determine what is appropriate speech in schools and to limit student expression that is contrary to their educational mission.”

The appellate court introduced a new standard that conflates language from two separate Supreme Court cases in a way that leaves school officials subject to litigation and restricts their ability to maintain harassment-free school environments. It replaces well-established precedents with a legally complex test that requires school officials to discern whether the student speech is “plainly lewd” or “ambiguously lewd.” If the speech falls into the latter category, it may not be regulated if it could be interpreted as political or social commentary.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Leadership, School Law|Tags: , |

NSBA applauds USDA action on school nutrition regulations

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to make permanent the temporary relief from a provision of the federal school lunch program that limited lean protein and whole grains at school meals.  However, NSBA is still urging USDA to make other regulatory changes to give school districts more flexibility in the operation of the program.

“We applaud USDA for listening to parents and school leaders who said these restrictions were unnecessary and not in the best interests of students’ health,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The program still needs additional changes to give school districts more flexibility to provide nutritious school meals and ensure that students won’t go hungry because of unreasonable limits on the amount of food schools may serve.”

A permanent provision on whole grains and lean protein was one of four changes requested in the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, which was introduced in December by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and is endorsed by NSBA.

“The USDA’s announcement comes after a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, school administrators, and Congress,” Noem said. “What they are offering is a step in the right direction and adopts some of the provisions offered in my bill to give relief. A more permanent legislative fix and even greater flexibility is needed, however, in order to give parents and school administrators the tools they need when planning our kids’ lunch programs.”

Among the other issues Noem’s bill addresses are flexibility for school districts struggling to comply with new standards for school breakfast; items sold outside the federal school meal program such as those in vending machines, fundraisers and school stores; and federally mandated prices for unsubsidized school meals.

Lawrence Hardy|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness|Tags: , , |

With budget passage, America’s school boards encourage Congress to prioritize education funding

Here is the statement from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel praising the U.S. Senate for passing the budget plan known as the Bipartisan Budget Act, which seeks to restore many of the cuts to prek-12 education:

NSBA thanks the U.S. Senators who put partisan differences aside and approved the Bipartisan Budget Act today. This measure will help mitigate the impact of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration and restore critical programs to public schools across the nation. We are pleased that President Barack Obama has pledged to quickly sign the bill.

This budget is particularly critical for America’s public schools to continue to improve and educate a growing and diverse population of students. Our economy is dependent on our ability to prepare our next generation of students for college and career readiness in today’s complex global economy. That foundation begins at prek-12 levels.

As Congress now moves forward with the remaining work of the FY14 appropriations process, we urge the Appropriations Committees to write funding bills that prioritize federal education programs that are crucial to helping our most disadvantaged students, specifically Title I and grants for students with disabilities. These federal programs are essential to support long‐standing federal commitments and help offset the recent budget cuts, which have forced school districts to cut academic programs and have disproportionately hurt our neediest students and schools.

We especially thank Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray for their leadership in finding a solution that will help America’s public schools. We support their continued leadership to develop a long-term solution that will sustain federal investments in prek-12 education and put our students first.

Additionally, NSBA, along with other leading national education groups, sent a letter to members of Congress this evening to encourage that education priorities and federal commitments are addressed in the appropriations process.

Alexis Rice|December 18th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , , |
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