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Articles in the Federal Programs category

NSBA President speaks on unfunded mandates

The National School Board Association’s (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County, Ky., school board, spoke to his local Rotary Club about the need to relieve local school systems from inflexible federal laws that do not come with enough funding to successfully implement.

Massey explained the need for local school board members and other education advocates to become involved in lobbying their members of Congress in a presentation to members of the Florence, Ky. Rotary Club last week.

“A lot of congressional members just get snippets of information,” he said in a story published at the Cincinnati Enquirer’s community website. “Because they are not educators, they don’t understand the issues in depth.”

The Boone County school board and members of the Kentucky School Boards Association have recently worked with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.


Joetta Sack-Min|July 23rd, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |

House bill protects Title I, IDEA funds but cuts other K-12 programs

The U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee for education appropriations has approved a funding bill for Fiscal Year 2013 that includes a cut of more than $1 billion to K-12 programs. However, the bill would provide a $500 million increase for special education and would maintain current funding for Title I grants.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) lobbied for increases to both special education and Title I grants. Earlier this week an action alert to school board members asked them to contact their representatives and urge them to develop a balanced budget that protects education investments, in lieu of the across-the-board cuts (a.k.a. sequestration) that are scheduled to occur in January 2013 because of the Budget Control Act.

The bill, passed July 18, would eliminate the School Improvement Grants ($534 million), Race to the Top ($549 million), and Investing in Innovation grants ($149 million).

The House Appropriations Committee may consider the subcommittee bill next week, according to NSBA’s legislative advocacy department. If the legislation is not considered on the House floor, it’s likely that an education funding bill would be included in a larger appropriations bill later this year. NSBA will continue to lobby for increases in special education and Title I in a final funding bill.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|

In July’s ASBJ: An investment for a lifetime

What if I offered you a sure-fire investment that would pay $3 to as much as $16 for every dollar wagered? Would you think it was some kind of Ponzi scheme?

But wait! It gets better: This can’t-miss opportunity doesn’t just benefit you  — it benefits society.  We’re talking about preschool.  That $2 to $15 profit represents increased tax receipts over the lifetime of children who attended preschool, as well as reduced use of such things as social services, special education, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.

We don’t generally discuss raising our children in such crass commercial terms, but maybe we should. Because as I found out researching my July ASBJ story — Early Learning, Long-Term Benefits — all our sentimental talk about caring for children and their futures hasn’t spurred the nation into providing critical opportunities for many of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers, state-level preschool funding fell by $145 per child last year and $700 per child over the past decade. Part of this is surely do to the poor economy over much of that period, but when that economy improves, as it must sooner or later, will the nation put up the kind of money it needs to match its rhetoric?

There are some positive signs. Throughout the country, forward-thinking school districts are putting new emphasis on the quality of their students’ lives before kindergarten. And they’re realizing that to be successful they don’t have to do this alone — indeed, that they must have the support of a wide community network, the creation of which promises dividends every bit as rich as the kind of numbers mentioned above.

For the July story, I visited one of these districts close to ASBJ’s home: the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, a large, urban, highly diverse district where 90 percent of 12th graders graduate from high school and 77 percent of these graduates go to college.

Many other districts across the country that are doing the same thing and working to make preschool a seamless part of their now-PreK-12 curriculum.

You could say they’re doing it because “children or our future” or something equally heart-warming. Or you could just all it a smart investment.

Lawrence Hardy|July 13th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Federal Programs, Preschool Education|Tags: , , |

Senate committee passes K-12 budget, but gains could be lost

Updated to reflect June 14 vote by Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education passed its Fiscal Year 2013 funding recommendations on a party-line vote on June 12, giving Title I, Race to the Top, and other federal K-12 programs a modest increase. However, those gains could be wiped out by across-the-board cuts that are scheduled to occur in January because of the Budget Control Act.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure on June 14 on a party-line vote.  The National School Boards Association is asking school board members to contact their Senators and ask them to preserve investments in Title I and special education (IDEA) and to develop a balanced budget that protects education.

“As state education aid continues to be impacted by state budgets that have not fully rebounded from the recession, it is even more critical that local K-12 educational programs receive the needed federal investment,” NSBA Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy Michael A. Resnick writes in a June 8 letter to members of the subcommittee. “Since Fiscal Year 2011, federal funding for elementary and secondary education programs has been reduced by more than $835 million through program eliminations and cuts. Any further cuts would affect core instruction and cause even larger class sizes that do not facilitate differentiated instruction and other specialized curricula that many students need.”

According to NSBA’s advocacy department, the subcommittee voted to increase funding for Title I grants by $100 million and to increase funding for IDEA by $100 million. Race to the Top would be funded at $600 million, a $51 million increase over current funding. Among other programs, Head Start would receive a $70 million increase; and School Improvement grants, Teacher Quality grants, Impact Aid, Rural Education grants, and Investing In Innovation (3i) would be funded at the same level.

Unless Congress intervenes before January, the Budget Control Act is slated to cut most federal programs by about 8 percent, which would impact almost every school district. NSBA wants to emphasize the importance of communicating these issues with members of Congress before that law goes into effect.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 14th, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|

House committee approves two ESEA bills favoring local control

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved two bills to reauthorize portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The committee approved each of the measures on a 23-16 party-line vote, with Republicans in favor, on Feb. 28.

NSBA supported the measures, which would give school districts much more flexibility in meeting accountability guidelines. The first, the Student Success Act, would end the adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements for subgroups of students and give states authority to build their own accountability systems.

The second bill would require states and districts to create teacher evaluation systems and would give block grants to states and districts in lieu of several smaller education programs.

NSBA sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) noting that the proposed ESEA bill “will advance student achievement by promoting high standards, rigorous assessments, effective accountability, disaggregated data for informed local decision making, and improved practices in teaching and school leadership in a manner that will enable the state and local levels to effectively perform their roles to achieve the laudatory federal goals and framework set forth in this legislation.”


Joetta Sack-Min|March 1st, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, School Board News|

NSBA, AASA leaders look back, ahead

The relationship between school boards and the superintendents they hire is continuously evolving, with built-in opportunities for issues to be fruitful, fractious, or both. But the leaders of the two national organizations serving these groups believe working together is more critical than ever.

Anne L. Bryant, National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) executive director, and Dan Domenech, who holds the same position for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), discussed board/superintendent relations and many other topics during a 60-minute session at AASA’s annual conference in Houston.

The annual session originally was titled “The Changing Nature of School Board Governance and Leadership,” but the AASA audiences knew it would be another edition of “The Dan and Anne Show.” (Billing is reversed at NSBA’s conference.) And while that changing landscape was covered during the 60 minutes, the informal conversation also served as an overview of Bryant’s NSBA career.

Bryant, who was the executive director of the American Association of University Women prior to coming to NSBA, said she is proudest of three things during a 16-year tenure that will end with her retirement in September:

The Key Work of School Boards, an eight-part framework for governance launched in 1999.

• The creation of the Center for Public Education, created in 2006 to “translate research that’s not Democrat, not Republican, not spin, but telling the truth in public education.”

• The organization’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill. “We have a strong lobbying team,” she said. “When we send out an alert and 6,000 to 8,000 school board members e-mail their members of Congress, that’s power. And we need that grassroots advocacy now.”

Both Bryant and Domenech expressed concerns with Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as well as increased “federal intrusion” into local schools.

“It’s awful. It’s terrible,” Bryant said of the politics that have seeped into public education since she came to NSBA in 1996. “It’s gone from bantering to bickering, from back slapping to back stabbing, and there’s a meaner sense out there. … On my pessimistic days I wonder if we’ll ever get a good reauthorization of ESEA. On my good days, I think we might.”

Domenech agreed with Bryant that “clearly we’re at a point where politics is doing more harm than good.”

“A lot has to do with the fact that the politicians who are trying to lead the charge of education reform are not focusing on the very things they value,” said Domenech, who was superintendent of school districts in New York and Virginia prior to coming to AASA in 2008.

Other highlights from the session:

• Bryant discussed her interview with the search committee, which was seeking a successor to Thomas A. Shannon. “I said I wanted to know if they were an organization that was about defending school boards or an organization that wants to make school boards more effective, and they asked me to leave the room,” she said.

“When I was asked to come back in the room, the committee members said, ‘We’ve been an organization about defending school boards. We want to be an organization that’s about effective school board governance.’ And the board has never waivered from that. They have been absolutely committed to the concept of effective governance, and that is what has driven me and driven our board.”

• After taking the job, Bryant met with state association executive directors, presidents, the NSBA staff and board of directors. She also met with executive directors for the various education organizations that are based in the Washington, D.C. area.

“I wanted to know why school board members run for office, what keeps them there, what motivates them, what keeps them satisfied, and it became clear after hundreds of conversations that they cared deeply about student achievement,” she said. “They really wanted to talk about student achievement.”

She recalled talking to Paul Houston, AASA’s former executive director, after the Key Work’s release, noting that he pulled together ten superintendents to work on creating a section of the guidebook that focused on the board/superintendent roles in creating a vision for districts.

• Collective bargaining can be one of the most contentious issues for school boards and superintendents. Bryant, noting that each state is different, said she is “very proud of how our state school boards associations have gone out on a limb and taken a lead role on this issue.”

“There is a fine line between protecting the jobs of teachers and some of the protections that were hurting education,” she said. “There’s a different culture in every state, and what we’ve got to focus on … is collective bargaining for student achievement.”

• Domenech noted that AASA was founded in 1865 — 75 years before NSBA — and “for many, many years was the only game in town.” Today, both executives are active in the Learning First Alliance, an organization of 16 education associations that meets monthly to discuss key issues affecting K-12 public schools.

“There’s this growing sense that there needs to be a voice for public education,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to do it, very often very individually, but we don’t have the resources that unfortunately that the critics of public education seem to have and bring to the table. It’s so important to come together and speak with one voice. We have to do more of that.”

Both Bryant and Domenech, who will have one more segment of this show at NSBA’s annual conference in April in Boston, said they are looking forward to a merged conference between the two organizations starting in 2013.

“I think it will be important,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show that our organizations are in sync and working to make sure the board and superintendent see itself as a team.”

Glenn Cook|February 20th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Key Work of School Boards, School Boards|Tags: , , |

Insights into transforming learning

Check out Mary Broderick’s, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the former Chair of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education, insights on Education Week’s blog, Transforming Learning.

In the posting, Broderick discusses the opportunity for America’s public schools to excel and challenges our schools are facing.  Broderick notes:

As our teachers and school officials try to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top programs, our children are being denied the inquiry and problem solving they crave. Our challenge as we go through the process to rewrite NCLB is to move to a model where we unleash curiosity, drive for excellence, and creative potential and generate a love of learning in our students and staff members.

School board members share the urgent sense that each and every child, no matter their circumstances, must have the opportunity to excel. We know we must ensure high quality experiences so that each child evolves fully. Only then will America continue to lead the world in innovative and creative solutions to the world’s problems.

BoardBuzz agrees, it’s time to remove the barriers to ensure all American students receive a world class education.

Alexis Rice|February 16th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Congress members say changes to ESEA are coming

Two former school board members and current U.S. Representatives promised Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference participants that changes are on the way for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Reps. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., vowed to support local control and local school boards in speeches at a luncheon session on Monday.

“I see a consensus,” said Thompson. “I have yet to find anyone on Capitol Hill who doesn’t believe [the No Child Left Behind Act] is broken and doesn’t need major changes.”

Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee continue to use four guiding principles as they work to create a bill to overhaul the mammoth ESEA: restoring local control; empowering parents (including offering school choice); letting teachers teach by removing the mandate for adequate yearly progress (AYP); and protecting taxpayers’ investments.

Biggert received a round of applause when she said NCLB had not worked the way it had intended.

“We really did overstep,” said Biggert. “AYP was not a good idea.”

She also promoted the need for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to grow the nation’s economy.

“We have to lay a foundation to equip our future,” she said.

Thompson, on the other hand, entertained attendees with stories about being a school board member and member of Congress, noting that he had to pay to have things fixed around his Pennsylvania home that he might have done himself before he had entered Congress.

NCLB was designed on the “false premise that every child will go on to a four-year college. But I believe that every child is different and there are many pathways to success in life.”

After having to pay to have repairs to his home, Thompson said he’d come to appreciate the value of career and technical education.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, STEM Education|Tags: , , , |

Avoiding bad charter school policies

Charter school laws vary from state to state—with some more flawed than others—but NSBA can help school boards by asking Congress to avoid legislation that encourages states to adopt more bad policies.

So NSBA is arguing against legislation that might encourage states to lift their caps on charter schools or expand the entities that can authorize new charter schools, said NSBA legislative analyst Katherine Shek, who spoke Monday on a panel about charter schools at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference.

That doesn’t mean that NSBA opposes charter schools as a matter of policy, she added. Instead, NSBA’s message to Congress is that the school board should be the sole authorizing body for charter schools, charter funding should not be at the expense of the traditional community schools, and charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as other schools.

This message is important to present because some members of Congress don’t fully understand the influence of bad policy—or how they can inadvertently encourage such policy at the state level, Shek said.

In its Race to the Top grant program, for example, a number of states lifted their caps on charters to improve their chances of winning grant money—“basically encouraging states to have a more charter-friendly policy without considering other factors,” she said.

What’s more, as it works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the House’s latest legislative proposal would give federal grant priority to states that supported multiple charter authorizers.

“So we’re having a conversation with members of Congress … there has been some evidence that multiple authorizers [in states] were associated with weaker student performance.”

Local school boards can help their advocacy efforts regarding charter schools by pointing out the fallacy of many myths that are circulated during legislative deliberations, said fellow panelist Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

There is a misperception that school boards oppose charter schools and are quick to deny charter applications, he said. That’s not true. In fact, he added, the data reveals that school boards are not adverse to approving new charters—and they take their duties very seriously.

“They spend a lot of time and energy being authorizers,” Hull said.

Nor are all school boards guilty of claims that they impede charter school organizers in acquiring adequate facilities for their schools, he said. Many state laws require school district assistance, and data indicates that it’s very common for school boards to provide charter schools with district facilities or financial support for acquiring facilities.

“There is no evidence that districts are an impediment to the expansion of charter schools.”

Finally, panelist David Stone, a board member in Baltimore, Md., shared his school district’s experience with charters.

His school board has embraced charters as one of many strategies for providing improved services to students—and many district-run schools now mirror some of the independent traits of charters.

“We strongly believe resources should be in the schools, with schools having autonomy and decision-making over its resources … and our central office is there to provide guidance and support and oversight,” he said. “In fact, we try to make every school [like] a charter school.”

But, to the clear envy of the audience, he acknowledged his school system has a distinct advantage over many school boards: Under Maryland law, the school board is the sole authorizing body of charters.

Del Stover|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Charter Schools, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

Boards face federal and state bullying rules

The national media has been highlighting incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, and for good reason – statistics show that many children are being bullied, electronically or otherwise.

Federal and state policy and lawmakers are trying to stop bullying of children through policies and legislation, which was the topic of a National Issues session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday. NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, outlined to audience how those state and federal actions could affect school boards and districts.

At the federal level, the Obama administration has focused on the topic of bullying and harassment. President Obama “is using the bully pulpit to make connections that are not made under the law,” said Negrón. “That spells untested liability.”

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), part of the U.S. Department of Education, sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter in October 2010. The letter had several problems, which NSBA responded to, saying it had “fuzzy standards of liability,” said Negron.

Those problems included:

# shifts the “actual knowledge standard” to “knows or should have reasonably known.”

# redefines Title IX requirements from responding to peer harassment in “a reasonable manner” to “eliminating harassment and a hostile environment.”

# requires school districts to publicly label incidents as “harassment,” which could violate students’ privacy rights if they are identified.

State legislatures also have been working in this area, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana. Worona told the audience about his experience with what is now the Dignity for All Students Act. He said that NYSSBA’s lobbyists respond to all education legislation that includes unfunded mandates: “If it’s unfunded, we don’t like it.”

Worona realized that a more nuanced approach would be required after he met with the head of the New York Civil Liberties, who asked him why the association was opposing the bill. Worona told her the training requirements would cost money and “our districts are broke.” She answered: “But kids are killing themselves.”

That’s not where school boards should be in these types of conversations, he said. “You need to be thinking about what your reaction will be that kind of legislation. Take some steps back to see what it’s all about.”

The OCR held a briefing on the bullying issue in May 2011. NSBA submitted testimony stressing the common goal of preventing and addressing bullying and harassment but cautioned that OCR’s approach was too broad. Federal initiatives can overburden districts when state and local initiatives appear to be working well.

Last September, OCR issued its findings and sent them to the president and Congress. NSBA’s testimony was included in those finding. “People get to see your perspective and why it’s important,” said Negrón. “A one-size-fits all federal mandate is not the answer.”

Kathleen Vail|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |
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