Articles in the Federal Programs category

Watch live: NSBA President to testify on the funding needs of America’s public schools

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President David A. Pickler has been invited to testify on education funding issues today, March 25, 2014, before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Pickler is the only witness selected from the K-12 community to address specifically the funding needs of America’s public schools.

“Providing informed testimony around public education before a key U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations subcommittee is a great honor,” said David A. Pickler, board president, National School Boards Association. “As subcommittees are the ‘workhorses’ of Congress, school boards are the ‘workhorses’ of America’s public schools. Our inclusion in this federal fact-finding process lends voice to America’s 50 million public schoolchildren.”

The hearing started at 10 am EST and you can watch it live right now on Ustream.

Pickler is one of 22 witnesses scheduled to testify, starting at 10 a.m. EDT in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. Other education groups represented include colleges, health organizations, charitable groups, and various health and human services organizations.

In his testimony, Pickler, a 16-year member of the Shelby County Board of Education in Memphis, Tenn., will speak on challenges confronting public schools, including the impact of federal budget sequestration on school finances, issues concerning competitive grant programs, and the need for the federal government to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Although much of the funds affected by federal budget sequestration have been restored in Fiscal Year 2014, many school districts have suffered a significant loss of resources. K-12 programs and Head Start were affected by a reduction of almost $2.8 billion in Fiscal Year 2013.

Because strong public schools are essential to America’s economic stability and global competitiveness, Pickler will ask Congress to develop a plan to protect the nation’s educational investment in Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond.

Alexis Rice|March 25th, 2014|Categories: Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA makes recommendations on Race to the Top Preschool Development Grants

Lucy Gettman, Director of Federal Programs at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) spoke at a public meeting on the Race to the Top Preschool Development (RTT-Preschool) Grants, which was held at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C. on March 20.

The public meeting gave an opportunity for several education community voices to go on record with recommendations and priorities for the Department of Education and the Department of Health & Human Services as well as reply to questions from constituents about the upcoming grant competition.

Although ED has rolled out a new website to handle constituent feedback, NSBA wanted to ensure the public would be heard during this process. Gettman urged Department leadership to institute new processes for handling public feedback.

“Given the high interest in and importance of early learning, NSBA first and foremost recommends that implementation of the RTT-Preschool program include a formal Public Comment and rulemaking process through the Federal Register,” said Gettman. “This will ensure reliability for stakeholders submitting Comments, as well as transparency and responsiveness to public input.”

As part of the meeting, Gettman also stated NSBA’s six top-level recommendations to the Department to ensure local governance is getting the support needed to implement. NSBA urges the agencies to:

· Require significant local educational agency involvement in the development and implementation of state RTT-preschool applications;

· Support capacity building for local eligible entities, not just states;

· Refrain from conditioning receipt of funds on development, adoption or implementation of new nationally-recognized standards;

· Preserve local authority with regard to workforce issues;

· Require at least 80 percent of competitive grant funds be disseminated to local eligible entities as sub-grants;

· Publicly release the required report to Congress.

To listen to Gettman’s full statement, please navigate to the 10:00 minute mark on the recorded public meeting.

Learn more about NSBA’s position on early education.

 

 

Staff|March 21st, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, Preschool Education|Tags: , , |

Education, health, and social welfare coalition urges Congress to boost K-12 education spending

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined more than 1,000 groups asking Congress to restore funds to the appropriations bill that includes education and related programs to the fiscal year (FY) 2010 level of $163.6 billion.

A letter signed by 1,065 groups representing the health, education, labor and social services sectors, based in Washington and in each state, was sent to Congressional leaders on March 13. The letter noted that despite the profound impact on the country’s health, education, and productivity, the budget for the federal programs and services remains below FY 2010 levels and the impacted groups are buckling under the weight of increased demand. Specifically, the FY 2014 allocation remains 3.6 percent below FY 2010 in nominal dollars, and almost 10 percent lower than FY 2010 when adjusted for inflation.

The increasing costs of “must pay” programs—such as nonprofit student loan servicers and support for unaccompanied refugee children from war-torn areas—erode discretionary funding available for other programs in the 302(b) allocation to the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, the letter stated. NSBA urges Congress to examine how more funding could ease the student achievement gaps by race and socioeconomic status. Restoring the lost funding could improve the United States’ standing compared to our industrialized counterparts in student achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance and completion rates.

The letter urged the chairman and ranking members of the Committee on Appropriations for both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the value of health, education, job training, and social services in improving global competitiveness.

 

Staff|March 14th, 2014|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , |

School boards encourage FCC to modernize E-rate program

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following statement on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Notice on the Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-rate Modernization to modernize the E-rate program and increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools.

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 also is steadfast in its support for the ConnectED initiative and Broadband deployment in education, so that students are prepared to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace.

To assure that these goals can be met, NSBA renews its call for the FCC to address the funding needs of schools and libraries. 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.

Modernization of E-rate is essential to increasing the quality and speed of Internet connectivity and to close technology gaps that remain, and NSBA will carefully consider the FCC proposal to explore a new future for the program. However, NSBA cautions against redirecting static resources without regard to the impact on the beneficiaries of the E-rate program – high-need students, schools and libraries.

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. The Public Notice acknowledges NSBA’s position that local decision making has been one of the hallmarks of the E-rate program. Any changes to the E-rate program should not undermine innovation by local school districts through mandates and should maximize local flexibility.

Alexis Rice|March 6th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs. Title I is similarly underfunded.  In order to adequately meet needs of the 10 million disadvantaged children who qualify for the program, the federal government would need to increase its Title I appropriation by more than $30 billion, according to the Committee for Education Funding.

Among the president’s proposals are $500 million to help states improve early childhood programs, and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for states that would be targeted toward reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those from middle-class and wealthy families.

Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Race to the Top (RTTT), Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and AASA express concern about new restraint and seclusion bill in U.S. Senate

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued a joint statement today in response to new legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The new bill would reduce the authority of states and local school districts to decide the appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. Restraint and seclusion are used as a last resort in situations that may endanger the safety and welfare of students, teachers and other school personnel.

We agree with Harkin that routine use of restraint and seclusion is indeed inappropriate. However, we believe this legislation is a federal overreach—it fails to recognize the need for local school personnel to make decisions based on their onsite, real-time assessment of the situation. This includes school officials’ consideration of lesser interventions before making the decision to use restraint or seclusion. Our primary concern must be the safety of all students and school personnel.

Seclusion and restraint are only exercised to protect students and school personnel when other measures fail. A 2011 survey of AASA members found that 70 percent of districts invest local funds in annual training to ensure that school personnel use seclusion and restraint judiciously, first engaging in de-escalation techniques and other nonviolent crisis intervention strategies.

Of equal importance, we’re also concerned that the bill would allow parents to go to court without first exercising administrative procedures afforded to them under the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This bypass encourages litigation and diminishes congressional intent that parents and school districts collaborate to address student special needs. We’re also concerned that the federal court system does not have the capacity to take on these additional cases.

Even with limited funding, local school board and school administrator policies continue to demonstrate best practices beyond state requirements on the use of seclusion and restraint. This is further supported by a 2011 survey, in which nine out of 10 superintendents said their school districts would benefit from additional funding to implement school-wide positive behavioral support and intervention systems and nonviolent crisis interventions.

We urge Harkin to reconsider his position and work closely with local school boards and superintendents to develop legislation that ensures maximum authority to local school districts while ensuring safety for all students.

Alexis Rice|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA honors House members for work on ESEA, federal overreach

U.S. House of Representatives members, Aaron Schock of Illinois, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, were honored this week with the Congressional Special Recognition Award, given by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) 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.”

The awards were announced at NSBA’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, which focuses on building year-round advocates for public education and local school governance in public, legal, and legislative arenas. More than 750 school board members are attending the three-day conference, which includes visits to their members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 5th, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Conferences and Events, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , , , |

NSBA urges federal courts to correctly apply IDEA

Working with two state school boards associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to amicus briefs in cases that would impact school districts’ ability to provide special education services to students.

These amicus briefs—one filed in the U. S. Supreme Court in two California cases, the other in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dealing with a Kentucky case—ask the courts to reconsider rulings that misinterpret the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In the Supreme Court brief, which addresses two consolidated cases, Tustin Unified School District v. K.M. and Poway Unified School District v. D.H., NSBA and the California School Boards Association encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear these cases, contending that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit misapplied the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), rather than correctly applying IDEA, to a case involving a California student with a hearing impairment.

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit deferred to an interpretation of the ADA urged by the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that school districts have additional obligations under the ADA’s “effective communication” regulation, even when they have put in place Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that meet the IDEA’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

“It is important for the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case, as the Ninth Circuit opinion ignores 20 years of precedents on special education law and represents yet another example of a federal agency exceeding its authority over educational decision making,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

In each of the California cases, the school district denied the request of a high school student with hearing disabilities to use a word-for-word translation service in the classroom, but offered other accommodations. In each case, both the administrative hearing officers and the district court found that the school district had fully complied with the IDEA. However, the Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiffs, saying that the ADA imposes additional obligations not covered under IDEA.

Under IDEA’s cooperative team approach to assessing the appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities, a multidisciplinary IEP team determines a student’s educational needs based on comprehensive evaluations by specialists in the field.  Under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, NSBA argues, school districts must give “primary consideration” to the parents’ desire for specific services, programs, placements or supports—regardless of whether they are appropriate.

In a third case, Boone County Board of Education v. N.W. , NSBA is joining with the Kentucky School Boards Association in urging the Sixth Circuit to reverse a district court decision involving a student with autism and a speech disorder. The issue before the court is whether a school district must  pay for a private school placement unilaterally chosen by the student’s parents when the district has made a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) available to the student.

“The decision in Boone County Board of Education v. N.W., as it stands, would force cash-strapped school districts to bear the high costs of private placements during litigation, even when a court ultimately rules that the district has made FAPE available in a public school setting,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “The lower court’s decision sets a terrible precedent that prolongs due process and court proceedings and discourages informal resolution of special education disputes through mediated settlement. It must be reversed.”

 

Alexis Rice|February 4th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

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.

 

 

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