Articles in the Federal Advocacy category

School boards call on the FCC to strengthen E-Rate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modernize the E-rate program, increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools, and address the technology gaps that remain.

NSBA urges the FCC to address the funding needs of schools’ and libraries’ Internet connectivity. In comments to the FCC on proposed rules to modernize the program, NSBA notes that, other than inflationary adjustments authorized in 2010, there has been no increase in the $2.25 billion cap on E-Rate resources since the program’s inception in 1996, and demand has consistently been much higher than the available funding. The current demand is $4.9 billion.

“The E-rate program is critical to schools and libraries to maintain their internet services, and Congress must address this program’s unmet needs before expanding its eligibility to other areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “E-rate has greatly expanded the use of internet connectivity and services in schools and libraries throughout the country, particularly those in rural areas, and the FCC should build on the E-rate program’s tremendous success by permanently increasing funding to meet the need for schools and libraries.”

NSBA recommends streamlining the administration of the program through multi-year applications, electronic filing and other improvements to increase its cost-effectiveness. NSBA also cautions the FCC against phasing down some of the longstanding components of the program, particularly telephone services, because universal Broadband has not yet been achieved. And NSBA urges the FCC not to mandate district-wide eligibility or applications.

“E-Rate has been successful largely because it allows school boards and other district and school leaders to make decisions based on their students’ and local communities’ needs,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy. “Any changes to the E-Rate program should not undermine innovation by local school districts through mandates and should maximize local flexibility.”

Alexis Rice|September 19th, 2013|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Technology Leadership Network|

School boards urge U.S. Senate to rethink No Child Left Behind

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Senate to take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, S. 1094.

In a letter, NSBA asks the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to schedule the bill for a Senate floor vote within the next 30 days so that the bill could be considered in a joint conference committee. In addition, further delays could mean that the U.S. Department of Education would initiate another round of waiver requests early next year only for local school districts to subsequently have the new ESEA law take them in a different direction. Reauthorizing ESEA now would “avoid confusion and waste of resources locally to the extent legislative policy differs from waiver requirements,” the letter states.

“There has been no movement on the Senate bill since it was approved by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee three months ago,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “As the new school year begins and districts continue to grapple with the unreasonable requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, school board members across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation.”

NSBA had asked the members of the HELP Committee to make substantive changes in the measure during committee discussions. However, not enough changes were made to warrant NSBA endorsement at that time. NSBA hopes such concerns will be resolved during the Joint Conference Committee deliberations.

“Local school boards across the nation appreciate the fact that S. 1094 contained many of the positive provisions that are in the current No Child Left Behind law such as early childhood development, teacher and principal effectiveness through preparation and professional development, rigorous college and career-ready standards with valid and reliable aligned assessments,” the letter states. “However, school board members were disappointed that S. 1094 contained many requirements that would significantly increase the requirements for local data collection, reporting, and plan development and implementation.”

NSBA also signed on to a Sept. 12 letter put forth by numerous government and education organizations, including the National Governors Association and the National Council of State Legislatures, that also urges Senate leaders to bring the ESEA bill to a floor vote.

View NSBA’s ESEA advocacy resources.

Alexis Rice|September 12th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA mourns death of longtime colleague Gus Steinhilber

Gus Steinhilber

Gus Steinhilber

August W. Steinhilber Jr., NSBA’s former General Counsel, Associate Executive Director, and head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Relations, died on August 20 at age 81.

Steinhilber, who was known as “Gus,” helped build NSBA’s Federal Relations Network and greatly expanded the organization’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He worked at NSBA from 1968 to 1998, and prior to NSBA, he served in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as the deputy assistant commissioner of education for legislation.

“Over the 28 years we worked together he fought every day for cause of public education and loved every minute of it,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy.

During his tenure as NSBA General Counsel, he filed over 50 amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court, advanced the organization’s legal advocacy efforts, and provided leadership for NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA).

After retiring from NSBA, Steinhilber continued to be involved in school law through NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys, and he also worked as a counsel for the Maryland law firm of Reese & Carney, LLP. In 2005, COSA honored Steinhilber with its Lifetime Achievement Award for exemplary leadership and distinguished service. He is remembered as a strong advocate for public education and the school law profession.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 23rd, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Council of School Attorneys, Federal Advocacy, School Law|Tags: , , |

School boards concerned about federal proposal to expand school data collection

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is opposing a burdensome and confusing expansion of data collected on students and school districts proposed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

NSBA questions whether some of the requested data would be relevant to OCR’s duties—as well as whether OCR has the legal authority to request certain data—in a letter  to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has asked for public comment before it determines whether to allow the expansion. Such an expansion also would place an expensive and time-consuming burden on schools and create confusion between OCR’s interpretations of federal law and public school districts’ actual obligations under their own state laws, NSBA’s letter notes.

“The Office for Civil Rights does not have the authority to collect data in some of these proposed areas, nor should it need that data to conduct its job,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “By expanding the scope of inquiry further into a school district’s operations, the Office for Civil Rights is forcing a school district to expend time and resources on extracting and reporting data that won’t assist in the improvement of students’ educations or civil rights compliance by districts.”

For instance, OCR is asking to collect information on absenteeism rates, an item that NSBA’s letter notes may be valuable for other purposes but does not pertain to civil rights issues in the areas monitored by OCR.

Further, some of the definitions in the proposed data expansion raise concerns about the quality and integrity of the data to be collected because the categories are ill-defined and confusing. For instance, a category that would require school districts to report “incidents triggering discipline” directs schools to count “criminal act[s],” a definition that will engender divergent reporting due to variances in state criminal codes.

“This lack of clarity creates a subjective interpretation of the definitions of incidents, and would likely lead to misreporting or double counting of certain incidents because there is no guidance on the new categories,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The proposed changes imply that the agency is searching for data to support preconceived hypotheses about public schools.”

NSBA is also urging the OMB to reject a mandate that school districts provide OCR with the contact information for a district’s civil rights coordinator, and encourages OCR to engage in the better practice of working through a district’s attorney when carrying out enforcement obligations or investigating claims.

Alexis Rice|August 22nd, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , |

NSBA expert discusses educational technology on South Korea radio show

President Barack Obama recently lauded South Korea as a model for educational technology and internet accessibility on a recent visit to a U.S. school. But South Koreans aren’t convinced their schools are worthy of the praise.

A broadcast on TBS eFM’s “This Morning” in Seoul queried Lucy Gettman, the National School Boards Association’s Director of Federal Programs, on the federal e-Rate program and the need for more technology in U.S. schools.

Gettman discussed the challenges that U.S. schools face in fully utilizing the internet and educational technology, including getting high-speed internet connections to all U.S. schools, ensuring instructional content is high quality, and ensuring teachers are supported with proper training and tools.

Outside the classroom, most students are already well-versed in using technology, so for U.S. schools, “our opportunity is to engage students in a more meaningful way,” Gettman said.

Listen to the Aug. 19 interview on “This Morning,” a Korean radio show that discusses news and current affairs.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Americans support for public schools, yet skepticism on testing, PDK/Gallup poll finds

The general public is quite skeptical about school vouchers, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations using student test scores, according to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, released August 21. But those surveyed continued to give record-high grades to their local public schools and showed strong support for charter schools.

The general public also overwhelmingly feels that schools are safe, and supports more funding for mental-health services instead of hiring security guards.

This year, 53 percent of the public gave their local schools a grade of A or B, the highest percentage recorded in the poll’s 45-year history. Public education as a whole received an average of a C, consistent with recent polls.

Public school parents named “lack of financial support” and “overcrowding” as the biggest problems facing public schools. PDK/Gallup reported that three concerns have risen on the list of the biggest problems facing public schools: lack of parental support, difficulties in getting good teachers, and testing requirements and regulations.

The poll also showed that a majority of the public believes charters do a better job educating students than traditional public schools, and two of three respondents support opening more charters in their communities. Yet, support for private school vouchers was extremely low, with only 29 percent of the respondents said children should be allowed to attend private schools at public expense.

And in a question that was sharply divided on partisan lines, 55 percent of respondents oppose providing a free public education to children of illegal immigrants. A majority also support home-schooling and support allowing home-schooled students to attend public school part-time and participate in athletic programs.

The poll also showed a growing skepticism toward standardized testing in schools, where 36 percent of those questioned said increased testing was hurting the performance of their local schools, 41 percent said it had made no difference, and 22 percent said it helped. In 2007, 28 percent of respondents said testing had helped their schools.

William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll, said in written remarks, “Americans’ mistrust of standardized tests and their lack of confidence and understanding around new education standards is one the most surprising developments we’ve found in years. The 2013 poll shows deep confusion around the nation’s most significant education policies and poses serious communication challenges for education leaders.”

Further, the public knows very little about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—slated to go into effect in 2014—and those who do still don’t understand it, the poll found. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had never heard of CCSS, and of the remaining 38 percent, most believed that the federal government was forcing states to adapt the standards and that the standards covered more subjects than English/language arts and mathematics.

NSBA and the major administrators’ groups issued a statement in May that supported the principles behind Common Core but warned states and districts face “very real obstacles” to align their curricula with the new standards and administer the required tests.

In June, the Learning First Alliance, a coalition of 16 education groups including NSBA, called on lawmakers to give states and school districts more time to transition to the Common Core, noting that there needs to be more time to develop the proper resources for students and teachers, including curriculum, assessments, and professional development.

The 2013 PDK/Gallup poll results are available at www.pdkpoll.org.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, National Standards|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and other major education organizations call for increase to E-Rate funding cap

The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of 15 leading education associations representing more than 10 million parents, educators, and policymakers which the National School Boards Association is a part of, applauds recent initiatives to modernize the E-Rate program, including the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) approval of the E-Rate Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on July 19, 2013.

E-Rate has played a critical role in supporting school connectivity and student learning since it was initially enacted in 1996. However, given advances in telecommunications and education technology that have occurred since its inception, the need for E-Rate has grown significantly. Currently, the program receives requests for assistance that more than double the resources available for it.

As the FCC moves forward with the rulemaking process, LFA urges the Commission to approve a significant and permanent increase to the E-Rate funding cap. This increased funding will ensure that our nation’s students gain access to high speed broadband and digital learning opportunities that will help them acquire the skills necessary for success in the global community.

LFA also recommends careful consideration of the goals and other aspects of E-Rate in the context of the changes in the telecommunications landscape that have occurred since the initial enactment of the program.

LFA urges interested parties to provide feedback on the NPRM. Comments will be accepted until September 16, 2013.

In July, NSBA applauded the recent initiatives to strengthen the E-Rate program.

“E-Rate is a vital source of assistance for high-need schools in maintaining Internet connectivity, enhancing digital learning opportunities and helping school districts set and meet 21st Century technology goals,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “NSBA welcomes this opportunity to energize the process of updating E-Rate and meeting the needs of students and schools. To assure that E-Rate is successful, it is important to provide adequate resources to schools. Requests for assistance by high need schools and libraries are more than double the current resources in the E-rate program. NSBA supports 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.”

Alexis Rice|August 14th, 2013|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Rural Schools, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , |

School boards push for ESEA reauthorization

National School Boards Association (NSBA) and our state school boards associations are continually advocating for the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization in the U.S. Congress.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, posting on the Learning First Allianceblog promoted the need for Congress to move forward on ESEA noting:

In the 12 years since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted, we’ve seen firsthand how the federal role in education has expanded substantially, particularly by unilateral decisions made by the U.S. Department of Education to transform the educational delivery system through initiatives such as its waiver program.

Now, we have an opportunity to change this course through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National School Boards Association (NSBA) applauds Congress’ overall goal to ensure through legislation that all students are ready for college and careers. NSBA also is pleased to see that Congress is turning its attention to the growth of the federal role, including where it may adversely impact states and local schools.

Resnick continued:

NSBA believes that local school boards and educators have the know-how to meet local needs and conditions, and they are committed to the schoolchildren they serve to get the job done without the burdens and less effective top-down approaches. Ultimately, ESEA will be written in a House-Senate conference committee where, hopefully, the differences between the two bills can be worked out. Only time will tell if this can happen, but it’s an effort that Congress has a responsibility to make.

Along with many other education groups in Washington, we look forward to a new law that will support public education and our students.

Additionally, David Baird, Interim Executive Director of the Kentucky School Boards Association and Durward Narramore President of the Kentucky School Boards Association and a member of the Jenkins Independent School Board published an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leaderr urging the U.S. Senate to take up ESEA, noting:

The Senate’s bill to reauthorize ESEA, Strengthening America’s Schools, S. 1094, has yet to come to the floor for a vote. Our local communities have a great opportunity to reach out to our senators and urge them to:

■ Restore greater flexibility and governance to local school boards consistent with the House bill.

■ Schedule S. 1094 for a floor vote in September.

■ Include provisions in the Senate bill that would continue maintenance of effort requirements and eliminate any arbitrary caps on the federal investment in education.

We need Kentuckians to call Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule the floor vote on S. 1094 for September. Local school boards want ESEA reauthorization now.

 

Alexis Rice|August 13th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Public Advocacy, School Boards, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

New national grassroots public education network launches

Friends of Public Education, a new national grassroots network launched by the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), will bring together local leaders and concerned citizens from across the country to speak out on federal legislation to strengthen public education. The network, which can be accessed NSBAC website’s, www.nsbac.org, will help bolster support for a strong public education for all students.

“Federal legislation has direct policy and financial impact on local public schools and students,” said NSBAC Director Michael A. Resnick. “With the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization and other legislation being considered by Congress this year, it’s critical that our Washington lawmakers hear from their communities.”

By joining Friends of Public Education, members of the public will receive information on important federal education legislation, and they will be asked to contact their members of Congress at key times during the legislative process so that lawmakers will better understand how proposed policies would affect community schools.

“This is an important time for public education, and members of the public need a platform to speak out on national issues that are impacting the education of America’s schoolchildren,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, the executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). “NSBA is pleased that Friends of Public Education will be a strong voice to support our nation’s public schools.”

NSBAC is a not-for-profit organization founded by NSBA to advocate at the federal and national levels for the advancement of public education, local school board leadership, and excellence and equity in our nation’s public schools. Across the nation, 90,000 local school board members are responsible for governing nearly 14,000 school systems serving 50 million public school students.

Alexis Rice|August 5th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , |

NSBA expresses concerns on House K-12 budget proposal

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is disappointed in the House of Representatives’ proposed fiscal 2014 budget for K-12 programs and is calling on House members to restore funding.

The budget would create “devastating” cuts to many education programs, including $4.5 billion cuts to Title I and the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, if the budget cuts were to be applied across the board, according to NSBA.

In a July 24 letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, NSBA wrote, “Local school boards have grave concerns over the Subcommittee’s overall 302(b) funding allocation that would impose greater budget cuts to programs implemented at the local school district level. Local school boards are also concerned that federal funding to support K-12 education is being significantly reduced at a time when there should be increased investments in our nation’s future.”

The NSBA letter refers to the overall subcommittee allocation, which was approved by the full committee more than a month ago.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 25th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |
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