Articles in the Federal Programs category

Election-year paralysis reigns in Washington

When political scholar Norman Ornstein took to the podium Sunday, he spent a surprising amount of time impersonating a stand-up comedian—sharing political joke after political joke with his audience.

Then he explained why: Everyone should have a good laugh, because now that he was turning serious, “it’s all downhill from this point on.”

The first general session speaker at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference, Ornstein told his audience of school board leaders that there wasn’t much good news to report out of Washington, D.C., these days. Politics in the nation’s capital is dysfunctional, with this year’s Congress the least productive in more than 60 years.

And now that the nation has entered a presidential election year, it is even less likely that the nation’s economic and political problems will be addressed.

“So there’s not much going on, and I don’t expect much through the remainder of this [year].”

That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of noise and fireworks, said Ornstein, who writes a daily column for Roll Call, the newspaper that extensively reports on Capitol Hill. The nation’s leaders still must address their decision to allow automatic federal budget cuts to take effect next January, part of a deal last fall to create a Super Committee that unsuccessfully sought to shrink the ballooning federal deficit.

The presidential campaign may be a serious roadblock to compromise, Ornstein said, but adding to the political dysfunction are this year’s state primaries for congressional seats and some Senate races. The risk of primary challenges only adds to the pressure of lawmakers to stake out positions favored by their most ideological constituents.

“It will be harder for members of Congress who want to [compromise] … it’s leading to the reality of the last several years, which is the collapse of the [political] center so there’s no real place where you can find common ground.”

All of this means Washington politicians will be less likely to resolve issues of concern to school boards, he said. And this political paralysis could make things worse. The spiraling federal budget deficit has encouraged proposals to turn over some of the federal government’s problems to state lawmakers.

For example, there are proposals to cut the federal budget through savings in Medicaid, which allegedly would come from funding the program through block grants to the states.

But, Ornstein said, the proposal still means less federal funding for state Medicaid programs—at a time when elderly health care is rising and unemployment is high. That means the financial pressure on states to provide basic services—such as education funding—will be all the greater.

It would be nice if, with fewer financial resources, school officials could find new and innovative ways to maintain their services to children, he said. “But we know what it will mean is a deterioration of services, a squeeze on extracurricular activities … on all areas outside of the core curriculum and a lot of others things that are going to make life for everybody in the trenches in the educational world more challenging.”

So school board members have a tough task ahead of them, Ornstein said.

“Part of the challenge isn’t just to come away with ways you can deal with this age of austerity … but to try to convince policymakers, who have a very different mindset, not to do things because of short-term interests … but in the interests of our children, grandchildren, and the future of this great country.”

Del Stover|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , |

Passing ESEA is critical, NSBA says

Under the banner of “ESEA Now: Our Schoolchildren, Our Economy, and Our Future,” NSBA leaders outlined the past year’s legislative successes and upcoming issues at the opening session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Sunday.

Pushing for a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be the most critical action school board members will take this week in Washington, D.C., NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick told the more than 700 FRN participants attending the three-day meeting. Closely tied to that action is adequate funding for core federal programs including Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Educators have been working tirelessly for five years to get a new version of the now decade-old No Child Left Behind Act passed, and the House and Senate are finally moving toward passage of ESEA legislation in the respective chambers, NSBA President Mary Broderick said.

“Congress’ timing is particularly fortunate for us to make a mark on the process,” Broderick said. “While both bills make significant improvements over existing law, neither is perfect, and this stage of the legislative process is the ideal time to make those changes.”

Having successfully overcome proposals to make large-scale cuts in the education budget this year, FRN participants must be aware of initiatives such as the Budget Control Act, which would instill a 7.8 percent across-the-board cut in federal programs. Further, proposals within the ESEA reauthorization would create formulas for future program funds that do not take into account the increasing numbers of students living in poverty and students with special needs.

Resnick reminded attendees that national polls during this election year show that the majority of voters are largely ambivalent about whether their members continue to serve, and some 90 House representatives coming up for reelection for the first time. Keeping this in mind, school board members should push the importance of passing an ESEA reauthorization as a major achievement.

“Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s children? Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s future?” he asked.

Resnick also announced plans for the National School Boards Action Center, a 501-c4 organization, which will help further push NSBA’s advocacy agenda and allow for more targeted lobbying and endorsements. One of the center’s first issues will be promoting NSBA priorities and education issues for the 2012 campaigns.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

Leadership, FRN conferences held in Washington

Over the next four days, School Board News Today will be covering the top events and sessions at NSBA’s annual Leadership Conference and its Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference, held in Washington, D.C.

The NSBA Leadership Conference, held Feb. 4 to 5, is a two-day networking and professional development event designed to explore issues and opportunities related to state school board association leadership and management. The conference brings about 200 people to Washington, D.C., including the NSBA Board of Directors, state school boards association officers as identified by the executive director, and NSBA international partner association officers.

The annual FRN Conference, which runs from Feb. 5 to 7, brings more than 700 school board members, selected by their state associations, and state association staff to Washington to learn about the most current federal policies and issues that will impact their schools. This year, Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) are scheduled to speak at the conference. Two new legislative action committees focusing on urban and rural school issues also will meet for the first time.

Participants will spend a day meeting with their representatives on Capitol Hill to further discuss federal issues and pending legislation and advocate for the needs of their school districts.

In addition, NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education members will meet concurrently on important issues for urban schools.

Keep reading School Board News Today for highlights from these activities.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 4th, 2012|Categories: Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Leadership Conference 2012, School Boards|

NSBA sees common ground in Obama’s State of the Union

NSBA was pleased that President Barack Obama showed a commitment to advancing public education and appeared to share several of NSBA’s goals in this week’s State of the Union speech.

In his Jan. 24 address, Obama said his education reform plan would offer more control for schools and states. Obama also praised the teaching profession, calling for more flexibility for local schools to offer differentiated pay and other incentives in exchange for accountability.

“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones,” Obama said. “In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant noted that stable funding is also critical to school districts’ success. School boards must be able to maintain high-quality education services for students without sacrificing effective programs that are raising student achievement, said Bryant.

“We must support America’s students and communities and prevent additional cuts to education funding,” she said. “It is vitally important that the president and Congress find long-term solutions to adequately fund education that will help ensure student success and prepare our next generation with the 21st century skills needed compete in the global economy. Now is the time for the president and Congress to support their local school districts.”

Further, Bryant called on Congress to finish the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A bill has passed the Senate’s education committee and House Republicans have released a draft of a bill that is expected to be voted on this spring.

Congress “needs to pass a bill that supports local flexibility to increase student achievement while eliminating counter-productive requirements contained in current flawed law,” she said.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Board News, School Boards|

What K-12 issues will Obama address in the State of the Union?

Education Week‘s Politics K-12 blog is speculating what education issues will be discussed in the president’s State of the Union address tonight.

Education Week‘s Alyson Klein noted, “In giving this election-year State of the Union speech, Obama may brag about some of the steps his administration has taken on education, including creating the Race to the Top education redesign competition, and offering states wiggle room under key parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if they agree to take-on the administration’s reform priorities.”

Klein went on to mention, “Last year, President Obama asked Congress to pass a bipartisan reauthorization of the law. But it never happened, and now the administration is moving ahead with a waiver package that Obama’s own secretary of education thinks is stronger than any of the legislation under consideration. So, if I were a betting woman, I’d guess there won’t be much talk about NCLB this time.”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will be hosting a Twitter chat during the State of the Union address tonight starting at 9 p.m. EST.

Join the Twitter chat by using hashtag #EdSOTU and share your thoughts about the president’s speech and his plans for K-12 education.

By using #EdSOTU in your tweets, you will become a part of this virtual conversation. To see the entire conversation stream just go to Twitter and search #EdSOTU.

Alexis Rice|January 24th, 2012|Categories: Educational Technology, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Pundits made a big deal about Rick Perry forgetting the name of one of the three federal departments he plans to eliminate if elected president– for the record, it was the Department of Energy — but blogger Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is more concerned about just what the Texas governor means when he says the Department of Education would also be “gone.”

“It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere),” Hess wrote. “So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?”

Then – wouldn’t you know it? – it gets complicated.

Would Perry try to eliminate federal funding for special education? Hess asked. How about Pell grants or Title 1?

“Many will think there are obvious right and wrong answers to these questions,” Hess writes after posing a few other queries “But I do want to know what the GOP candidate’s bold promises really mean.”

Remember nearly 10 years ago when Connecticut went to court over No Child Left Behind, claiming it would cost millions in unfunded mandates? Well, just look at what it could cost California in required “reforms” in order to be granted an NCLB waiver by the Obama Administration, writes This Week in Education’s John Thompson, and Connecticut’s decade-old legal gambit doesn’t seem that out of line.

Lastly, we turn to two timely blogs from NSBA’s Center for Public Education.  In one Mandy Newport, a former teacher, Center intern, and graduate student at George Washington University, takes the Heritage Foundation to task for it’s ill-conceived idea that paying teachers less will result in education improvements.

Then there is Research Analyst Jim Hull’s blog on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, the title of which I absolutely love:

“Using research to inform policy without understanding the research.”

Sort of like, “Vowing to eliminate the Department of Education without understanding what the Department of Education does?”

Lawrence Hardy|November 19th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

NSBA backs Pres. jobs bill, hopes Congress will too

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends President Barack Obama’s speech Thursday, during which he unveiled the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package that would help struggling school districts retain teachers and address the antiquated state of many public schools.

“Our school children deserve a quality education and that cannot happen when their teachers are getting laid off and their school buildings are in need of repairs and upgrades that keep getting postponed due to budget cuts,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “In the face of massive budget shortfalls and education layoffs at school districts across the country, this new funding would provide necessary aid to America’s schools.”

Breaking down the numbers, 31 percent of Obama’s jobs proposal would be allocated to infrastructure and local aid, with $25 billion earmarked for modernizing public K-12 schools and $35 billion committed to preventing 280,000 teachers and emergency responders from being laid off.

“The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools,” Obama detailed in his speech. “It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed internet in classrooms all across this country.”

According to Education Week, the school construction monies would be divided among the neediest states, which would have until Sept. 30, 2012 to decide how to divvy it up, though the largest 100 districts would receive a direct grant.

Obama challenged the notion that America can prosper as a society by simply dismantling Big Government.

“Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges?” Obama asked Congress members.

“No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another.”

The question that now remains is will Congress live up to those responsibilities?

Naomi Dillon|September 9th, 2011|Categories: Educational Finance, Federal Programs, School Board News, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA in the News: “The problem school boards have with the public”

Michael Rochholz, school board president of the Schoolcraft Community Schools in Schoolcraft, Mich. and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards, has penned a commentary, “The problem school boards have with the public,” for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. Rochholz is concerned that community members really don’t understand the public education system, how it works, how it’s changed, and the many successes that take place. He writes, “Based on my board work and the public education initiatives I’ve been involved in at the local, state and federal levels, I see that the public doesn’t know enough about public education and therefore, is not insisting on adequate representation in the political and policy arenas. It’s easy for others to bash public education when there’s no one to defend it.” Read more in the Washington Post.

Also, NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman weighed in on a recent move by the Department of Agriculture to regulate costs that school districts charge to their own cafeterias. Gettman tells Education Week that the USDA rule is a premature and potentially problematic move that could lead to more administrative costs for school districts.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 26th, 2011|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Federal Programs, Food Service, Governance|

NSBA supports ESEA flexibility bill in House

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved a bill on July 13 that would give local school boards greater flexibility within certain federal programs.

NSBA supports the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, which would allow school boards to re-direct federal funds from some education programs to support other initiatives that would help increase student achievement and help serve the students with the greatest needs. The legislation is one of several parts of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) is spearheading. (Read NSBA’s letter of support here.)

“For many years local school boards have asked for expanded flexibility to best meet their students’ needs,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy and Public Policy. “At a time when districts are facing tight budget constraints and increased accountability under federal and state laws, this legislation would help school leaders to meet those obligations.”

The measure would expand two existing provisions: The Rural Education Achievement Program, which gives greater flexibility to rural school districts in the redistribution of federal funds; and Transferability Provisions, designed to give greater flexibility to all local school districts to re-direct federal funds from certain selected programs to support other initiatives.  The bill would expand such flexibility to all local school boards as well as expand the number of the federal programs where federal funds could be re-directed.

School districts will continue to be accountable for achievement of students from low-income families, English language learners, and other at-risk groups under federal, state, and local accountability requirements. The measure would not remove achievement goals or requirements for program compliance, including civil rights.

The committee last month passed a bill increasing federal funding for charter schools and school choice as part of the ESEA reauthorization. Kline is planning to put forth two more bills as part of the ESEA reauthorization, which will deal with accountability and teacher issues, then bundle the measures into one package for a vote by the full House of Representatives. Resnick said that final language may need to be modified once other related bills have been approved by the Education and the Workforce Committee.

“It is important that federal education programs meet their goals of focusing on the students with the greatest needs,” said Resnick.  “Even in these tough economic times, school boards are ensuring that student achievement is increasing for all students.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 13th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Policy Formation|

NSBA analyzes final fiscal year 2011 budget and program cuts

NSBA’s advocacy department has provided the following analysis of the final appropriations bill (H.R. 1473) for fiscal year 2011, which will fund the remaining six months of this fiscal year. President Obama signed the bill on April 15.

While the measure does not impose the range of cuts to domestic programs that was debated earlier this year, it reduces funding across most federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, by more than $38 billion.

In addition, elementary and secondary education programs are subject to a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut that could total about $836 million. The FY2011 Continuing Resolution directs the Education Department and other agencies to submit in-depth expenditure or operating plans to the House and Senate appropriations committees within 30 days of the bill’s enactment “for fiscal year 2011 at a level of detail below the account level.” Therefore, the exact funding levels for programs including Title I grants, special education (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and Impact Aid may not be available from the Department until mid-May.

The law also directs the Education Department to share findings from program evaluations of Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, “including impact evaluations and interim progress evaluations, of activities conducted using funds previously obligated” under the economic stimulus.

While the law continues funding for newer competitive grant programs and provides increases for early childhood education, it reduces and eliminates funding for other education programs.

Increases to new and existing programs:

Specifically, $700 million is provided for another round of Race to the Top competitive grants program to states, as well as a new grant program for “improving early childhood care and education” that would be administered jointly between the Departments of Education and Health & Human Services. Based on the law’s provisions, grants would be available to states to help create and improve high-quality early learning programs and services and increase enrollment among infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The program would be based on earlier legislation that NSBA supported in FY2010 for an Early Learning Challenge Fund.

Other program increases include $150 million for another round of grants under the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, a $20 million increase for Promise Neighborhoods grants ($30 million total), and a $340 million increase for Head Start ($7.56 billion total).

Reductions
Program cuts listed within the law include a $475 million reduction to Teacher Quality State Grants (remaining funding approximately $2.46 billion). Within this program, a new component of competitive grants totaling approximately $29 million would be available to groups that provide teacher certification services.  (One of the previous FY2011 short-term continuing resolutions eliminated specific funding for teacher certification boards.)

Other program reductions/eliminations include:

  • The elimination of the Enhancing Education Through Technology State Grants ($100 million);
  • A $138 million reduction to Career and Technical Education grants, which may include the elimination of the Tech Prep component that supports a transition from high school to postsecondary institutions for academic education and career/technical training and education;
  • Elimination of Smaller Learning Communities ($88 million);
  • A $79 million cut to Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Programs;
  • Elimination of the Striving Readers program ($250 million);
  • Elimination of Arts in Education ($40 million);
  • Elimination of Even Start ($66.5 million), which helps integrate early childhood education, adult education, and parenting programs;
  • A $15 million reduction to English Language Acquisition grants (remaining funding approximately $735 million);
  • A $10 million reduction to School Improvement grants (remaining funding approximately $535 million);
  • Elimination of Reading is Fundamental ($24.8 million).

NSBA will provide an updated chart reflecting the Department’s most recent calculations as soon as possible. Also, NSBA’s letter to Congress regarding H.R. 1473 is available here. The letter expressed strong opposition to the continuance of the District of Columbia voucher program, which was included in the April 8 continuing resolution, and urged Congress to reconsider increases to programs that are competitively funded when cuts are imposed to key programs, such as Title I grants that benefit more students.

The House of Representatives’ roll call on the passage of H.R. 1473 by a vote of 260 -167 is available here. The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 81 to 19.

Funding for Voucher Program for District of Columbia Included in Continuing Resolution

NSBA thanks you for responding to our calls to action to defeat the proposal to fund the District of Columbia Voucher program. Despite a broad-based, ongoing lobbying effort by NSBA (in addition to our  extensive coalition efforts with the National Coalition for Public Education), the Continuing Resolution for FY2011 adopted by both the House and Senate on April 14, included an extension and expansion of vouchers in the District of Columbia, as passed by the House in H.R. 471 and introduced by House Speaker John Boehner. The voucher program would extend vouchers of up to $7,500 per student, in a set aside of up to $15.5 million per year for the next five years.

Voucher amendments have only been successful as “riders” to CRs, and have not been passed by both chambers as free-standing bills. Only when included in a massive, all-encompassing bill have vouchers been enacted into law. NSBA will keep you apprised of any additional voucher proposals as they surface on Capitol Hill and necessary action steps.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 20th, 2011|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, School Board News, School Vouchers|
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