Articles in the Federal Advocacy category

New report finds Ohio charter schools are failing

A new report from the Ohio School Boards Association, “Guide to Charter or Community Schools,” says that while it was hoped that the freedom and flexibility provided to charter and community schools would raise student achievement, 22 years after the charter movement began, such expectations have yet to be realized.

The guide reports that while a few charter or community schools are among the best schools in Ohio, most of the lowest performing schools are charter or community schools. More than 60 percent of Ohio’s charter or community schools were rated “D” or “F” on 2012-13 State Report Cards. Only 20 percent of Ohio’s traditional public schools were rated “D” or “F.” The majority of Ohio’s traditional schools—more than 50 percent—were rated “A” or “B.” The guide says that when only test scores—including SAT and ACT scores—are considered, traditional public schools consistently outperform charters across the nation.

The guide also reports that deeper analysis of the data shows that charter or community schools focusing on student achievement and discipline can improve low-income student performance.

The guide points out that every Ohio student that leaves a traditional public school to attend a charter or community school takes $5,800 in tax revenue with them every year, which would have gone to the student’s school district, reducing resources to fund traditional schools.

Margaret Suslick|May 14th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , |

School boards disapprove of Congress’s attempt to expand charter schools

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), the leading advocate for public education representing more than 90,000 local school board members, is opposed to H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which is scheduled for a floor vote this week.

Decisions regarding charter schools should rest with the state and the local school board, not federal lawmakers, NSBA contends.  The legislation also fails to recognize that to protect student outcomes, charter schools should be authorized exclusively by the local school board.

“Charter schools absent school board oversight have far less accountability for student achievement than traditional public schools,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director.  “The school board governance model protects student outcomes for the many, not the few, and strives to resolve inequities in educational delivery and service.”

Further, lawmakers must focus on adequately funding the primary system of public education instead of creating a secondary system of education that siphons off essential funding. With multiple chartering authorities, local school districts can be adversely impacted as the per-pupil expenditures are re-allocated or deducted from operational revenue essential to maintain already cash-strapped school district operations.

America’s school boards agree that charter schools are facing challenges with overwhelming operational costs, facilities in need of repair or renovation, and technical support vital toward improved teaching and learning—yet traditional public schools grapple daily with these very same challenges.

“The future of America is dependent on ready access to a high-quality education,” said Gentzel. “If Congress passes legislation to help states and local communities improve the quality of their public schools absent federal intrusion, we applaud it, but this should apply to all students equally, not just those enrolled in charter schools. The call to action the legislation raises is that our nation must create a level playing field for public charter schools and traditional public schools alike.”

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

USDA oversteps authority with new school nutrition regulations, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate the financial impact the federal school nutrition law and proposed regulations will have on school districts and give waivers to school districts that prove the financial and regulatory burdens are insurmountable.

Having overstepped its regulatory authority, the USDA should also eliminate a proposed regulation that would subject all foods available in school—including those that are not sold on the school campus during the school day, such as treats brought from home for birthday parties–to meet the strict nutrition guidelines consistent with competitive food standards.

NSBA’s recommendations are part of comments to the USDA on its proposed regulations for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools to serve healthier meals and severely restricts the sale of high-fat, high-calorie foods but does not reimburse school districts for the much higher costs they face.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel pointed out in the April 28 letter that school board members are deeply committed to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential, and NSBA has participated in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools campaign.

“It is therefore disappointing to see yet another set of requirements from the Department that extends federal overreach at the expense of local school districts and the children they serve,” Gentzel wrote in the letter.

New cumbersome and costly reporting and recordkeeping requirements threaten to further diminish school districts’ abilities to operate their food services departments on sound financial footing.

NSBA also urges the USDA to propose a separate rule on the marketing of foods and beverages.

The USDA has proposed a sweeping plan that would regulate the types of foods and beverages that can be marketed on school property, although NSBA notes that the federal law only allows the USDA to regulate the marketing of foods included in the National School Lunch Program and the federal school breakfast program.

“Congress has not given the [USDA] the authority to regulate the marketing of foods that are not part of those food service programs,” the letter states. Furthermore, NSBA does not believe that the law “permits the Department to restrict through regulation or otherwise how a school district interacts with its vendors and community sponsors through its advertising of various foods and beverages, and finds that the proposed definition of marketing offered by the Department is too sweeping and will result in unintended consequences for school districts and students.”

The USDA should also clarify, if the proposed food marketing rules are not deleted or changed, that those rules would not require school districts to breach existing contracts with their vendors, which could lead to litigation and liability, NSBA says.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2014|Categories: Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, School Boards, Wellness|Tags: , |

NSBA questions cost, validity of U.S. Department of Education study on fractions training for fourth-grade teachers

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has a straightforward response to a U.S. Department of Education (ED) plan to give 252 fourth-grade teachers special training in fractions during the fall semester and then assess that training by observing their students’ test scores the next spring:

Just do the math.

Commenting on the department’s request for what it called “data collection,” NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. said, “NSBA supports providing opportunities for teachers to receive professional development (PD) to become better educators for their students. However, NSBA is concerned that this Notice goes much farther than merely requesting permission to collect data. To obtain the data sought, ED will need fourth-grade teachers to participate in a PD program that would be squeezed into eight sessions during the already-short first semester of the coming 2014-2015 school year.”

NSBA was the only organization to file comments.

The comments also shared some concerning examples. If the teachers, who would be from Georgia and South Carolina, were expected to attend each three-hour training session during the school day, the time would total 24 hours. That’s “24 clock hours of PD x 252 teachers = 6,048 hours of substitute teacher coverage that will be required to permit the teachers’ attendance,” Negrón said. “Typically, substitute teachers are not paid by the hour, but by the half- or full-day of coverage.”

“This is a big expense that will have a direct financial impact on school districts,” Negrón wrote, “though ED states in its materials that it will not.”

What if the training were done after hours? Technically, teachers are “off contract” during this time and are not required to engage in any duties without being paid overtime, Negrón said. He said it’s unlikely that large numbers would sign up for such time-consuming training as non-compensated volunteers.

“As part of its randomized control trial study, is ED going to compensate these teachers for their 24 hours of PD class time plus the time they spend on ‘additional homework lessons?’’’ Negrón wrote.

If the training were to occur during the school day, Negrón said, NSBA is also concerned about the interruption to student learning that could be caused by a series of substitute teachers filling in for the regular teachers. Negrón noted that not all districts require substitutes to have teaching certificates, and some only require a high school diploma.

Negrón also questioned the validity of the data collected through tests of the teachers’ students in the spring. One question: If teachers had just been given the training in the fall, is it reasonable to assume their students would show significant improvement by the spring semester?

“Working with fractions is a skill that is expanded upon over several years as students progress through a school district’s mathematics curriculum,” Negrón wrote. “It is unclear what one assessment at the end of the fourth-grade year will show to justify the disruption to the educational growth of those students in the other areas of the curriculum.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 25th, 2014|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, School Law|Tags: , |

Pickler looks back on his presidency

AC_pickler

David Pickler, NSBA’s 2013-14 President, gave an overview of his year at the Second General Session on Sunday at NSBA’s Annual Conference.

“We said, nearly a year ago, that if we did not have a seat at the table, we could find ourselves on the menu,” he said. “We realized the power of our board members and stakeholders to stand up for public education and proclaim the real truth about public schools and the essential role of school board governance.”

He recalled the beginning of the Army of Advocates, which started out with about 3,700 members a year ago and now has more than 1 million members. “We have built a foundation to be a leading advocate for public education in America,” he said. “We are just getting started.”

Part of that foundation is NSBA’s national public advocacy campaign, “Stand Up 4 Public Schools“. Celebrity spokespeople such as Sal Khan, Montel Williams, and most recently, Magic Johnson, have brought the campaign to national prominence.

“Together, we will show the world the real voice of public education,” he said. “The power of partnership will become the power of possible.”

He pointed to NSBA’s partnership with the filmmakers of “12 Years a Slave” to distribute the movie to 30,000 high schools nationally at no cost to the schools. This partnership led director Steve McQueen to wear the signature Stand Up 4 Public Education red wristband while receiving his Academy Award for Best Picture.

State school board associations are recruiting their own local celebrities to personalize the campaigns for their states.

Pickler told the audience that NSBA was the only K-12 education group invited to testify in front of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on the 2015 federal budget.

“We were truly at the table, engaging in direct dialogue with elected leaders who determine the budget,” he said. “This invitation is recognition of NSBA growing in influence and importance. It established this federation as the leading advocate for public education in the U.S.”

He reaffirmed his belief that publication education is a civil for our children. “It is the great equalizer. It makes sure our children can make a living and lead a life of limitless potential.”

Pickler closed with his signature line: “Together we can. Together we must.”

Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Gentzel urges audience to ‘Stand Up 4 Public Schools’

nsba_gentzel

As the leading advocate for public education, NSBA has a mandate to “call attention to what’s working well, to promote our vision and needed changes, and to take on those who seek to dismantle the public schools of America.”

That was the message of NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the association’s Annual Conference First General Session Saturday as he reflected on his eventful first year as executive director, which included seeing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cite NSBA’s brief in a major employment law case and seeing NSBA’s “fingerprints” in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also announced the launch of the Stand Up 4 Public Schools national campaign.

Gentzel explained that this national grassroots campaign will raise public awareness through credible spokespeople and powerful personal messaging.

“[Last year], we promised to mobilize our forces – you, the school board members of America, along with colleagues and other friends of public education – to take the offensive,” said Gentzel. “Our goal was to set the agenda for education, and not simply to react to what others think. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”

Gentzel announced celebrities Sal Khan, Montel Williams, and Magic Johnson are on board as official spokespersons for the campaign. Johnson will address the conference audience on Monday. Gentzel spoke about the importance of the message these luminaries have to share:

“These spokespersons are able to say, honestly, that their lives were shaped in powerful ways by the public schools they attended.  They each have great stories to tell. We want to speak directly to the public that hears a barrage of unwarranted criticism about our schools. The truth is that today’s public schools really are better than ever.”

Gentzel encouraged the audience and public school students, educators, and school boards across the county to get involved to define their story and share gains in student achievement, graduation rates and school performance. This campaign, he explained, is for people who’ve dedicated their lives to public education.

“Here’s what we’re NOT saying: Public schools are perfect. They’re not, and we must acknowledge that we have work to do in some schools that are struggling to serve students well.”

Sharing the real stories of public education will be easier, Gentzel promised, with the rollout of the new NSBA website, which was unveiled at the conference. The new site features a robust search function, better functionality, including a responsive “mobile-friendly” design, and better content organization for easier access.

“We want to encourage every state association and local school district to join in this campaign,” explained Gentzel. “All these efforts are linked together and serve a common purpose: To fulfill our commitment to be the leading advocate for public education, to call attention to what’s working well, to promote our own vision and needed changes, and to take on those who seek to dismantle the public schools of America.”

Staff|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

Delegate Assembly approves NSBA advocacy agenda

NSBA Delegate Assembly

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly approved the association’s hard-hitting advocacy agenda around public education at its business session Friday in New Orleans. The meeting was held right before the start of NSBA’s Annual Conference, which opens Saturday.

“This will now form the basis for NSBA’s advocacy efforts and become part of our enduring beliefs,” said David Pickler, the 2013-14 NSBA President. He referred to the three core policies voted on by the assembly as the three “legs” of the association’s aggressive and ambitious advocacy agenda.

The first “leg” is opposition to unlawful expansion of executive authority. According to the resolution, NSBA supports “an appropriate federal role in education.” However, it opposes the “federal intrusion and expansion of executive authority by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies” in the absence of authorizing legislation, viewing it as an “invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Such overstepping has had a detrimental effect on schools and districts, including imposing unnecessary financial and administrative requirements and preventing local school officials from making the best decisions for their students based on their close knowledge of community needs and priorities.

The second “leg” is opposition to privatization — vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter schools not authorized by local school boards. Privatization has resulted in a “second system of publicly funded education” that sends tax-payer money to private schools, fails to hold private schools accountable for evaluating and reporting student and financial performance and abiding by open meeting requirements, and often has the effect of resegregating schools.

High academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards, are the topic of the third “leg.” NSBA supports high academic standards, including Common Core, when they are voluntarily adopted by states with school board input and when the standards are free from federal directions, mandates, funding conditions or coercion.

Local school boards are responsible for the implementation of any new academic standards. Instruction and materials should be locally approved, to reflect community needs. In the resolution is a “call to action” to states to provide the financial and technical support that school districts require to implement voluntarily adopted rigorous standards in an effective and timely manner.

Also at the meeting, the assembly elected NSBA’s new officers and regional directors. They will take office on Monday, April 7.

The 2014-15 NSBA President, Anne Byrne of New York, was formally sworn into office at Delegate Assembly. “I promise to work hard for you to advance the mission of NSBA,” she told the group. “Leading children to excellence is my theme. To me, it is a deep commitment to the children we all serve.”

The Delegate Assembly is the policy-making body of NSBA, and it consists of delegates chosen by state school board associations. This year, changes in the Delegate Assembly meeting included holding small-group briefing sessions so delegates and state association leaders had a chance to fully understand and debate the issues around the three core elements.

Also new was an online forum for the delegates to review and debate the issues before they arrived in New Orleans.

Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Common Core State Standards, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , , , |

NSBA provides FCC with recommendations to improve E-Rate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following comments on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Notice on the Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-rate Modernization to provide key recommendations to modernize the E-rate program and increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools and libraries.  NSBA applauds the FCC’s proactive efforts to ensure efficient operation and integrity of E-rate; increase the quality and speed of connectivity in our nation’s schools; and address the technology gaps that remain.

Gentzel’s full comment are available and an excerpt of the recommendations are below:

“For nearly twenty years, NSBA has supported the goals of the E-rate program to increase Internet connectivity and provide digital learning opportunities to underserved students, schools and libraries. NSBA is steadfast in its support for the ConnectED initiative and applauds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) focus on broadband deployment in education, so that students are prepared to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace.

“To successfully usher in a new future for E-rate, NSBA urges the FCC to ground modernization of E-Rate in the individual circumstances of the nation’s 14,000 school districts and 98,000 public schools. Put eloquently by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association: School entities across the nation are diverse in their composition and their needs. Local decision-making and local flexibility should be maximized in implementation of the E-rate program.

“Further, NSBA’s recommendations are predicated on the need for additional resources in the E-rate program. Simply repurposing or rearranging priorities for the $2.5 billion E-rate program is not sufficient to achieve the ambitious goals of the ConnectED initiative, and could impact school district finances and operations in ways that make it even more difficult for low-income and rural schools and libraries to meet the instructional needs of their students. Therefore, in addition to NSBA’s filings of September 16, 2013 and November 8, 2013, we recommend the following:

“1. Focus $2 billion in one-time funding for E-rate on Priority 2 services for broadband deployment, and assure that additional schools and libraries have access to the funds. The onetime funding described in paragraph 7 is best suited for initial and one-time investments in broadband deployment such as internal connections, as opposed to ongoing operating costs. Further, there has been a dearth of funding for Priority 2 in recent years, so that only a small number of schools benefit. NSBA recommends that affirmative steps be taken to assure that a one-time infusion of Priority 2 funds is disseminated to schools and libraries that have not had access to such funds in the last five years.

“2. Voice and other legacy services – Establish a menu of options for schools and libraries making transitions to broadband. NSBA supports refocusing E-rate on broadband connectivity, but cautions against eliminating eligible uses of E-rate funds without support for school districts during the transition. An across-the-board approach to elimination or phase down of support for legacy services as described in paragraphs 40 – 46 is not responsive to school districts, whose current equipment, hardware, connectivity, access to broadband, contracting obligations, and other circumstances will vary. NSBA recommends a case-by-case approach and flexible timeframes for transitioning E-rate eligibility to broadband.

“3. Demonstration and pilot programs – Eliminate demonstration programs, pilots, or other carve outs from E-Rate 2.0 unless they are resourced by other Universal Service or alternative funds. While there is great potential in the innovations described in paragraphs 55 – 61 to streamline E-rate and make the program more efficient and effective at meeting the needs of schools and libraries, they should not come at the expense of the School and Libraries Fund itself, which is severely oversubscribed.”

View NSBA’s Issue Brief on E-rate.

 

Alexis Rice|April 4th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Rural Schools, School Boards, School Buildings|Tags: , , , |

NSBA encourages Congress to support full funding for IDEA and Title I

The National School Board Association (NSBA), along with other education organizations, signed on to coalition letters urging Congress to maximize education investments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by establishing a path toward fully funding the federal share promised more than three decades ago. The groups also urge Congress to strengthen investments in Title I grants for disadvantaged students.

NSBA believes that investing in public education is one of the single most effective ways to not only help students succeed in an increasingly competitive global workplace, but also a way to help stabilize and grow the nation’s economy.

Title I ensures that critical federal education dollars reach and support students with limited resources and provides additional educational supports for more than one million students that have disabilities. Special education and related services generally cost about double what it costs to educate a student without disabilities. Since 1975, IDEA has included a commitment that the federal government to pay up to 40 percent of this excess cost to help local school districts appropriately educate children and youth with disabilities. Today, the federal share is less than 16 percent.

Funding for competitive grant programs should be weighed against the need to address Congress’ promise to fund the federal share of a 39-year-old mandate for IDEA that has superseded other local budget priorities for the majority of school districts and communities. For both IDEA and Title I, local school districts still need capacity-building support for professional development, curriculum development, course materials and instructional changes to meet federally sponsored standards and assessments.

Alexis Rice|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, School Boards, Special Education|Tags: , , |
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