Articles in the Federal Advocacy category

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: , , , , , , , |

School boards urge the U.S. Senate to act on the Bipartisan Budget Act

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel urged the U.S. Senate to pass the plan known as the Bipartisan Budget Act that would restore many of the cuts to prek-12 education in this statement:

We are at a critical juncture. House passage last week of the bipartisan budget deal is a step in the right direction. NSBA urges the Senate to take the steps necessary to avoid a government shut down in January and prioritize education.

Approval of the Bipartisan Budget Act is essential if we are to help mitigate the impact of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration and restore programs to public schools across the nation. 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 abilities to prepare our next generation of students for career and college readiness in today’s complex global economy. That foundation begins at prek-12 levels.

NSBA urges members of the U.S. Senate to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act this week, and continue the bipartisan groundwork laid by the U.S. House of Representatives. We especially thank Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray for their vision and leadership, and applaud their sustained focus toward developing a long-term solution and balanced budget that will sustain investments in prek-12 education and put America’s students first.

Alexis Rice|December 17th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

NSBA praises new budget plan for prioritizing public education funding

Thomas J. Gentzel, the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), released the following statement on the bipartisan plan from Congressional leaders that would stop the automatic across-the-board cuts created by sequestration for two years:

“We are pleased to see leaders of Congress reach a budget compromise. This plan is an essential first step in the right direction for prek-12 education and public schools across America. NSBA is urging school board leaders to call upon Congress to approve this plan and stop the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, which already has reduced funding from K-12 programs and Head Start by $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2013.

“This plan would sustain important educational programs that help close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and foster innovative learning environments. NSBA also is calling for a permanent end to sequestration, which has been a disinvestment in our nation’s students and schools.

“We thank Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for their bipartisan collaboration to restore federal investments in our public schools. This important budget deal is welcome news to many of our school districts and school boards, because it will help to prevent teacher and staff layoffs, continue important after-school programs, and restore essential purchases for classrooms. We value lawmakers’ initial actions to support the success of our nation’s students, and hope to see future plans go even further.”

NSBA is encouraging school board leaders to call both of their senators and their representative regarding the budget agreement and urge them to vote “yes”, in support of the measure that will stop sequestration for two years. School board members can contact their members of Congress through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Alexis Rice|December 11th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

U.S. Department of Education official discusses federal education priorities with NSBA

A top federal official outlined the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities and upcoming initiatives at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2013-14 Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 6, 2013.

Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), oversees more than 100 prek-12 programs, including early learning, accountability, mental health, literacy, civic education, and school safety; as well as programs for disadvantaged students, including Title I, and programs for homeless and migrant students.

Delisle emphasized the need for local control and flexibility as she spoke to the group of school board leaders and NSBA staff. She discussed topics including flexibility to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and noted that there currently there are 37 separate accountability systems. She also touched on college affordability and funding; the increasing number of homeless kids in college; and school climate and safety, including the agency’s Project Serve.

Delisle also discussed the disparate suspension rates among students living in poverty and students with disabilities, a topic of interest to NSBA. She referred to evidence in civil rights data collected by the agency–as an example she spoke of a school that suspended an African-American kindergartener for five days for pulling a fire alarm; a similar incident in another school resulted in a one-day suspension for a student who was white.

And Delisle pointed to the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as an example of the need for enhanced mental health support.

The Department of Education also is examining ongoing “opportunity and expectation gaps,” and the ongoing need to deal responsibly with equity issues, she noted in her remarks.

NSBA is represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in bi-monthly meetings with top Department of Education officials and leading education organizations, which include AASA, the School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The meetings serve as a platform for the groups’ executive leadership to convene to discuss various issues, share new policy and update the entire group on happenings within each organization.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

NSBA commends bill to offer schools flexibility on school nutrition programs

Update: The legislation, HR 3663, was introduced on December 5.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends and supports new legislation that offers public schools added flexibility in meeting the mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.The Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, offers relief to school districts on some of the federal mandates that have created soaring operational costs along with other unintended consequences, such as school lunches that leave students hungry in cases where serving sizes are inadequate or students do not like the food mandated and are refusing to eat it.

“America’s school boards are wholly committed to serving inviting, nutritious meals for all students, but many schools are struggling to meet the overly prescriptive and unnecessary federal mandates and balance the prohibitive cost against other essential student needs,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We are pleased that this legislation includes recommendations from NSBA and school boards across the country to develop a school lunch program that gives schools more flexibility to address local needs.”

NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman added, “The forward-thinking legislation Rep. Noem proposes would allow local school officials to design flexible school meal programs that meet the needs of local students and local communities to ensure that all of America’s students gain access to tasty, healthy meals at school.”

Noem said the legislation would help schools “ensure our kids get the nutrition they need to be healthy and successful throughout the day.”

“As a mother of three, I know every kid has a different activity level and different nutrition needs, so forcing schools into a one-size-fits-all school lunch program doesn’t work for our schools or our students,” said Noem. “Current school lunch standards place an unnecessary burden on school administrators, especially in some of our smaller school districts, our poorest counties and our reservations, and send many of our kids home feeling hungry.”

Joetta Sack-Min|December 2nd, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity|Tags: , , , , |

Veteran school board lobbyist retires after 44-year career at NSBA

When Michael A. Resnick joined the National School Boards Association as a legislative specialist in 1969, Richard Nixon was president. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The U.S. Army began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and Jimi Hendrix sang at Woodstock.

And most Americans believed the nation’s public education system was the best in the world.

Over the next 44 years, much would change — and not just for the nation at large. In the realm of education, Resnick, who is retiring this week as head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, has witnessed profound changes in state and federal education policy and in the challenges facing school boards nationwide.

Some of those changes were promising, such as the higher priority the nation placed on the academic success of all students, particularly the most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved. Slowly but persistently, the public schools raised student academic performance, narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority students, and raised high school graduation rates to a historic high.

Other changes, however, have been less welcome. Critics of public education have eroded confidence in our public education system. State and federal mandates have been increasingly intrusive and even damaging. Top-down reform efforts have undermined local school governance.

All of this has had an enormous impact on the roles and expectations of the nation’s more than 14,000 school boards, Resnick says.

“If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, school boards generally served a trustee role, overseeing the budget, making sure finances were in good order, overseeing personnel and student matters — but leaving to the school district administration with limited authority over much of what went on in the educational program.”

That limited role for the school board gave way over the years as the nation embarked on a decades-long debate about student academic performance. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) put academic accountability at the forefront of state and federal policy.

“While board members aren’t designing or running their schools’ academic program,” he says, “they certainly have to be familiar with it at a pretty technical level — so they can respond to issues surrounding student achievement and the need to meet accountability requirements for the school district.”

NCLB had good intentions, Resnick says, but it brought about a seismic shift in the federal government’s role in education policymaking. States and school boards had long been subject to federal rules in order to participate in categorical programs such as Title I.

However, NCLB mandated states to enact more sweeping and prescriptive policies and requirements that had a direct impact on districts overall and on how boards did their work.

That federal overreach has continued under the Race to the Top program, which offers the promise of significant federal aid to states that agree to enact policies favored by federal education officials.

NSBA has been fighting overreach of top-down policy direction, he says, making clear to Congress and U.S. Department of Education officials that the flood of mandates and regulations are increasingly onerous and limit the flexibility of school officials.

But there are other forces at work, making it harder for advocates of local school governance to influence state and federal policymaking, Resnick says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the principal players in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill were the institutional professional education groups — those representing teachers, administrators, and school boards.”

Today, however, there are a host of new advocacy groups making their voices heard — ideology-driven think tanks, industry-backed advocacy groups, business leaders, and other special interests.

These new groups make it more difficult for the institutional associations to be heard, Resnick says. One of the more damaging policy directions that some groups have encouraged is to promote alternatives to the traditional public school system, he says.

Supported by business interests that hope to tap into the billions of dollars spent on education, these groups have helped accelerate state and federal policies in support of vouchers and charter schools.

NSBA has “had to find ways to increase our effectiveness in terms of the knowledge we can bring to the table but also raise our level of advocacy,” he says.

Resnick’s earliest strategies to strengthen NSBA’s advocacy was the creation of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) in 1970 — an initiative to enlist school board members as outspoken constituents of their federal House and Senate members.

Today, NSBA is working to expand the number of board members participating in legislative advocacy, Resnick says. NSBA also has launched the National School Boards Action Center, designed to broaden school board advocacy to impact Congress, the media, and the public. The center includes the Friends of Public Education network to bring together other local leaders and concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of public education and sound federal policies.

“With the increase in competing voices in the policymaking debate, it becomes harder for your voice to be heard,” he says. “It requires marshalling a different set of resources, and the level of information you must provide has to be greater, as does the level of political punch behind you.”

It doesn’t help the cause of school boards, however, that Congress is politically deadlocked and struggling to fulfill its responsibilities, he says. Federal lawmakers have failed to adopt an annual federal budget for several years and the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) still is winding its way through the legislative process.

“Years ago, it was a time of more predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill, without the partisan rancor of today,” he says. “The political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made. One role of NSBA was to help broker those compromises.”

The political stalemate in Congress has created a vacuum in federal policy-making — one that the Education Department is too willing to fill with rigid regulations that are eroding local policymakers’ authority, Resnick notes. But, whatever the merits of any particular policy initiative, the department’s efforts lack the level of accountability or public input that would occur if federal policies were under the legislative oversight of Congress.

“What we see is an overreach of authority from the Department of Education — not only in terms of the federal role but also in the role of the agency itself,” he says.

That’s why NSBA earlier this year proposed the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, designed to protect local school districts from unnecessary and counter-productive federal regulations. Key provisions of this legislative proposal were incorporated into the House of Representatives’ bill to reauthorize ESEA, which passed in July.

Yet there is much more to be done, Resnick says. NSBA will be working more closely than ever with state school boards associations to support their advocacy efforts in state legislatures and courts “because that’s where many of the policy debates have gone — to the state level.”

As he steps down after four decades advocating on behalf of school boards, Resnick expresses some worry that the next generation of school board members may come to see the current state and federal intrusion into local policymaking as the norm, rather than a recent development that runs counter to the traditional policy of local school control.

“Over time, if we continue in this current framework, without knowing the history and evolution of recent education policymaking, we may find that new school board members assume it has to be this way,” he says. “But there are better approaches — emphasizing local school governance — with tools to increase student achievement with less top-down management.”

Del Stover|November 26th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Featured, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Publications, NSBAC|Tags: |

NSBA, AASA back Employment Non-Discrimination Act in U.S. Senate

A bill that passed the U.S. Senate barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been strongly supported by NSBA and AASA: The School Superintendents Association.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate today by a 64 to 32 vote.

In a Nov. 1 letter to each senator, NSBA and AASA noted that they “have long prioritized the elimination of discrimination in schools, for both students and employees.”

“By voting to support ENDA, you will affirm and strengthen the American ideal that individual employees are hired, evaluated and promoted on the basis of their ability to perform their job, and not an arbitrary act of prejudice or discrimination,” said the letter, which was signed by AASA Associate Executive Director Noelle Ellerson and NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick.

While the bill passed the Senate easily, it confronts a tougher road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which includes many social conservatives who are opposed to the measure, the Washington Post said. But for the moment, those in the Senate majority could celebrate an historic vote.

“Let freedom ring,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, the bill’s chief sponsor, before the vote.

Lawrence Hardy|November 7th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Diversity, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy|

School boards encourage Congress to make education a priority following federal government shutdown

With the agreement to reopen the federal government and avert a debt default, Thomas J. Gentzel, the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association, released the following statement:

While there is now an agreement to fund the government until Jan. 15, 2014 and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014, the shutdown demonstrated a lack of leadership in the U.S. Congress and reflects a much larger and long-term problem on how the budget process is currently funding K-12 education programs.

Long term budget solutions are needed as Congress continues to pass budgets built on continuing resolutions with education programs funded at the same levels as the year before or cut because of sequestration. This process does not adequately fund the high-priority education programs that will impact student learning, and public schools across the U.S. deserve better from our leaders in Washington.

Future funding bills need to help sustain and continue public schools’ progress to improve student learning, increase graduation rates, and prepare all students for college and careers. It’s time for Congress to support their local schools districts and make education investments on behalf of America’s schoolchildren.

Additionally, now that the shutdown is over, the U.S. Senate needs to take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, S. 1094. School board members across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation following the U.S. House of Representatives passing its version of ESEA reauthorization earlier this year.

Alexis Rice|October 16th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |

School leaders: Tell your story and ‘saddle up’

We have a story to tell, Reginald Felton, assistant executive director for Congressional Relations for NSBA, told urban school board members gathered this week to attend NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting ends Saturday.

Felton, a keynote speaker on Friday, urged board members to tell their story of public school success. “We are in crisis,” he said. “We are under more attack than in the past. Every bad example that can be publicized is publicized. Communities would rather believe our urban schools provide no opportunities for advancement, but we know that’s not true. We have a story to tell. We can’t back off telling that story if we want to get out of crisis.”

He discussed the importance of school board members getting involved in the political process – including advocating for public education to their state and federal representatives. This is crucial now when federal government “believes that it can tell us at every level what needs to be done to succeed. We say, you can establish the ultimate goal, but you’ve got to let us work for our kids,” he said. “We need to have the flexibility but we need to tell our story. Some in Washington believe we don’t have a story to tell. Except for the one on the 6 o’clock news.”

Felton told the audience: Having a strong relationship with members of Congress promotes value of public education and enhances member accountability.

CUBE Steering Committee Chair Minnie Forte-Brown also spoke at the conference on Friday. She talked about the temptation as a board member to “get tired” – feel exhaustion in the face of what seems like insurmountable obstacles, especially the societal difficulties that many students face.

It’s this temptation to give up on the system, she said, that drives parents and communities to try charter schools or support vouchers.

However, she said, board members must fight this temptation. “On this day, these decisions that damage our schools will not tempt me to be tired. We will be fired up and take this back, energized and ready to fight,” she said.

Forte-Brown, a member of North Carolina’s Durham School Board, closed by encouraging her fellow board members. “Nobody said it was going to easy. School board leadership is not for sissies,” she said. “You have been chosen. I want you to saddle up and let’s go.”

 

Kathleen Vail|October 5th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Conferences and Events, CUBE, CUBE Annual Conference2013, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards, Urban Schools|

School boards call for adequate funding for public education, instead of government shutdown

With the federal government shutdown spurred by Congress’ lack of agreement on significant budget issues, Thomas J. Gentzel, the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association, released the following statement:

Much of the attention surrounding the federal government shutdown has revolved around the lack of agreement between parties on the Affordable Care Act. However, this shutdown reflects a much larger and long-term problem with Congress and the budget process for K-12 education programs.

For several years Congress has passed budgets built on continuing resolutions with education programs funded at the same levels as the year before or cut because of sequestration. This process does not adequately fund the high-priority education programs that will impact student learning, and public schools across the U.S. deserve better from our leaders in Washington.

The National School Boards Association urges Congress’ swift bipartisan action to pass a funding bill that will help sustain and continue public schools’ progress to improve student learning, increase graduation rates, and prepare all students for college and careers. As a key priority for our children, education investments should not be stalled because of partisanship.

Alexis Rice|October 1st, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |
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