Articles in the Federal Programs category

NSBA urges House committee to boost IDEA funding

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging members of the U.S. House of Representative’s Appropriations Committee to continue to sustain and protect spending for federal K-12 education programs, particularly the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the nation’s main special education law.

Below is language from a June 9 letter sent to members of the committee by NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel:

On behalf of the 90,000 school board members and the state school boards associations representing more than 49 million public school students throughout the nation, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is writing regarding the FY2015 Labor-Health & Human Services-Education Appropriations bill.

Your leadership to restore the majority of the budget cuts from sequestration for FY2014 was extremely vital to our students, school districts and communities; and, we urge you to sustain these key investments in Fiscal Year 2015.

NSBA greatly appreciates the Subcommittee’s efforts to protect key education investments that are helping improve student achievement, such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students and special education. Foremost, NSBA urges you to provide the highest possible allocation for grants under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Local school district budgets continue to face cuts while special education costs are increasing. Special education expenditures by local communities take up higher percentages of school budgets each year, often forcing school districts to either raise taxes or dip into general education budgets to make up the shortfall. A path toward full funding of IDEA is needed to help districts fulfill the federal IDEA requirement that has existed for almost 40 years, but has never been fully funded. For FY2014, the average federal cost share per student under IDEA is less than 16 percent, rather than the 40 percent promised by Congress when IDEA was first enacted in 1975. Protecting funding for this priority, as well as Title I, will help our school districts and states avoid reductions to the scope and delivery of education services and advancement.

A Fiscal Year 2015 funding bill that will enable our states and school systems to thrive without making further cuts to curriculum is essential. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you as the FY2015 appropriations process moves forward.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 10th, 2014|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Policy Formation, Budgeting, Federal Advocacy|

E-Rate must expand, focus on neediest schools, coalition says

The E-rate program needs a major funding boost to meet demand and should continue its focus on high-need school districts and libraries, a letter signed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC should permanently raise the E-rate’s annual funding cap, now at $2.4 billion, as annual demand is estimated to be double that amount, the letter states. Further, the program must be expanded to ensure adequate bandwidth reaches every classroom and student–not just the school building door, which was the program’s intent when it was first created to provide low-cost connectivity as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and four other commissioners by EdLiNC, The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition, which advocates for the E-rate program on behalf of national education associations. It was signed by NSBA and 18 other organizations.

The lack of support for internal connections “is creating major roadblocks” for students and educators to have enough bandwidth to participate in activities such as online research or digital learning classes, the letter states.

The letter also urges the FCC to continue the E-rate’s poverty-based funding formula rather than proposed allocations that would spread funding by students, buildings, or school districts.

“A change to the current funding formula would undermine the E-rate program’s focus on equity for the nation’s underserved schools and communities, particularly those in rural areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The E-rate has been tremendously successful in helping high-poverty and rural areas access technology, and the FCC should build on that success by increasing funding to meet demand.”

The FCC is considering changes to the program and is expected to issue a Report and Order to modernize E-Rate sometime this year. For more information, read NSBA’s Issue Brief on the E-rate.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 29th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Budgeting, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

NSBA urges U.S. House members to oppose school voucher bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel sent a letter today to members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging them not to support the CHOICE Act as it would provide federal resources for voucher schemes and fund private schools that are not fully accountable to the same laws and civil rights that govern public schools.

Representatives Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) are expected to introduce the CHOICE ACT on Thursday, May 29, 2014. The bill would provide vouchers to students educated under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students who reside in military installations, and students enrolled or waiting for vouchers through the DC Opportunity Scholarship program.

The letter notes:

On behalf of the 90,000 school board members who govern our nation’s public school districts which educate nearly 50 million students, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is writing in strong opposition to the CHOICE Act (Creating Hope and Opportunities for Individuals and Communities through Education Act) that is scheduled for introduction on May 29. Therefore, we urge you not to support the CHOICE Act.

NSBA urges Congress to maximize resources for our public schools, which serve all students regardless of gender, disability or economic status, and adhere to federal civil rights laws and public accountability standards. Hence, NSBA opposes private school vouchers and urges Congress to reject using any federal funds or incentives for a national voucher program, including any special education vouchers for military children and/or specific subgroups of ,students. NSBA also opposes amendments to make vouchers part of a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or other legislation.

An overwhelming majority (70 percent) of Americans oppose private school vouchers, according to the 2013 PDK Gallup poll. Likewise, based on the policies adopted by our Delegate Assembly, NSBA opposes any efforts to subsidize tuition or expenses at elementary or secondary private, religious, or home schools with public tax dollars. Specifically, NSBA opposes vouchers, tax credits, and tax subsidies for use at non-public K-12 schools. Public funds should not be used directly or indirectly through tax credits, vouchers, or a choice system to fund education at any elementary and/or secondary private, parochial, or home school.

NSBA supports federal investments in our public school students and applauds Congress’ work to improve our nation’s public schools.

Alexis Rice|May 28th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Privatization, School Vouchers, Policy Formation, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: |

NSBA calls for research, not mandates, to help public schools serve ELLs

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in a National Roundtable on English Language Learners at the U.S. Department of Education this week, where he discussed the needs of students whose primary language is not English.

Gentzel emphasized the need for the federal government to focus on providing technical assistance and disseminating best practices rather than imposing new mandates on school districts.

“Changing demographics are affecting school districts of all sizes in every part of the country,” Gentzel said after the discussion, which included representatives of nearly a dozen national and statewide organizations, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and several other officials from the Department of Education.

The U.S. student population is growing in diversity, and about 10 percent of students are ELLs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In schools in southern and western states, more than half of students in prekindergarten through 12th grade were minorities, according to 2011 data from NCES. And that same year, the U.S. Census reported that, for the first time, the majority of children under one year old in the United States were minorities, which will further impact diversity in public schools.

To continue to meet the needs of these students, local school districts will require greater collaborative support from other federal, state and local state agencies to ensure these students and their families have the appropriate support to succeed.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 28th, 2014|Categories: Diversity, Federal Programs, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

School boards encourage local school district flexibility for school meals

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is encouraging the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations to provide funding for school kitchen equipment modernization and flexibility for school districts struggling with child nutrition regulations. Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of NSBA, sent a letter today regarding NSBA’s concerns on school meals to Appropriations committee members before they consider FY 2015 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The vote on this is expected to happen on Thursday, May 29, 2014.

The letter notes:

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), representing more than 90,000 local school board members across the nation, working with and through our state school boards associations, writes to express support for local school district flexibility and modest regulatory relief for school meal programs in the FY 2015 Appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Students need healthy meals and adequate nutrition to achieve their potential in the classroom, and school board members are committed to ensuring all students are prepared to learn. However, school boards cannot ignore the higher costs and operational issues created by
mandates in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (PL 111-296). Therefore, NSBA supports two important measures in the legislation that the Committee will consider on May 29, 2014:

• NSBA supports the appropriation of $25 million for school meal equipment grants, which will help schools prepare and serve healthier meals, and improve food safety.

• NSBA also supports a provision requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a process by which a state shall grant a temporary waiver from compliance with national nutrition standards.

The waiver provision offers relief to school districts from some of the federal mandates that have led to soaring operational costs along with other unintended consequences, such as plate waste and reduced participation.

NSBA looks forward to working with Congress and the Secretary to assure that school districts can successfully comply with the law and also serve the very best meals and provide excellent nutrition to children.

Alexis Rice|May 28th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Federal Programs, Nutrition, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , |

Gentzel calls for school board oversight of charters in USA Today letter

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) said that federal legislation on charter school law should recognize the need for accountability for student performance in charters, given the low performance of the majority of charter schools. His letter to the editor was published in the May 21, 2014 issue of USA Today.

Gentzel wrote, “In 2013, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed that only 25% and 29% of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading and math assessments, respectively. These low percentages were actually an improvement over the 2009 data. CREDO attributed many of the improvements to the actions that authorizers — key among these local school boards — are taking to close down ineffective charter schools.

“Strong local governance matters. It cannot and should not be excluded from education reform initiatives. To give America’s schoolchildren strong accountability centered on student outcomes, the National School Boards Association calls for local school boards to serve as the sole authorizers of charter schools.”

USA Today also published comments from Twitter related to charter schools. Read more.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 21st, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Privatization, Educational Research, Board governance, Policy Formation, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , |

House funding bill gives school relief from nutrition mandates

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) successfully supported language in the U.S. House of Reprepesentative’s fiscal year 2015 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant flexibility and relief from certain requirements for school meals and competitive foods standards.

The bill, approved by subcommittee this week, would require USDA to establish a waiver process for schools that cannot comply with national nutrition standards without incurring a net loss in the food operation. NSBA is supporting additional flexibility provisions when the bill is considered by the Appropriations Committee next week.

“Students need healthy meals and adequate nutrition to achieve their potential in school, and school board members are committed to ensuring all students are prepared to learn,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, school boards cannot ignore the higher costs and operational issues created by the rigid mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

In a May 19 letter to the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, NSBA urges revisions to federal requirements for school meals and competitive foods, including:

  • Retaining the current requirement that 50 percent of grains offered for lunch and breakfast be whole grain rich rather than further increasing the requirement to 100 percent;
  • Retaining the July 1, 2014, Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend implementation of further reductions of sodium levels unless and until scientific research supports such reductions for children;
  • Eliminating the requirement that students must take a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable breakfast and/or lunch, in order to reduce plate waste and program costs;
  • Allowing any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food, in order to eliminate unnecessarily complex and duplicative standards for food items sold in schools.

NSBA also is supporting the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, HR 3663, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. The legislation would provide options for school districts struggling to comply with some of the more problematic mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 20th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, Obesity, Nutrition, Food Service, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , , , |

Coalition urges Senate to keep funding bond program for school renovations

The Rebuild America’s Schools coalition is supporting legislation to extend the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program, which helps give low- or no-interest financing to school districts for school renovations and upgrades.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a member of Rebuild America’s Schools, a coalition of national education and civil rights groups and 42 large-city school districts that works to create federal support to help local communities build, renovate and modernize schools.

“QZABs and other low-cost federal financing programs provide crucial assistance to budget-conscious school districts so that they may provide better facilities and technology upgrades that help foster student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

A bill in the U.S. Senate would extend the authorization of QZABs, which began in 1997, for another two years. In a May 12 letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance, Rebuild America’s Schools notes that QZABs are being used by school districts in every state.

QZABs and a similar program, the Qualified School Construction Bond, “are helping repair, renovate and modernize America’s school infrastructure and stimulating and creating jobs in Oregon and every state,” according to the letter written by Rebuilding America’s Schools Chairman Bob Canavan to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “These jobs are generated in the construction industry among suppliers, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing, heating and cooling contractors and other skilled construction workers who modernize, renovate and repair schools. Modern, energy efficient schools are helping local communities increase opportunities for all students to develop the educational skills necessary to achieve and succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

The extension for QZABs is part of S. 2260, the Expire Act, which would extend federal tax credits and deductions for a wide variety of programs.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 15th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized, Educational Legislation, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Urban Schools, School Buildings, Budgeting|

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

School board member blasts fed’s rescission of NCLB waiver for Washington state

In a strong and incisive letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Washington school board member David Iseminger has decried the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to rescind the state’s waiver of some of the more onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind, a move that will cause nearly all state schools to fail to reach the law’s student achievement benchmarks and require school districts to send “failure letters” to parents if they want to receive critical federal funds.

Last week, the department said it was rescinding the wavier because the state has not moved fast enough on its promise to use student test data to evaluate teachers and principals. The waivers allow states to escape from the law’s requirements that all schools educate 100 percent of their students to proficiency and math and language arts by this year–a provision widely criticized by educators and researchers as nearly impossible to meet.

In his letter, which was published on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, Iseminger characterized Duncan’s action as arbitrary and detrimental to schools and students.

“Your reason for revoking our waiver: we didn’t pass legislation you wanted,” wrote Iseminger, a board member for both the Lake Stevens School District and the Washington State School Directors’ Association. “More precisely, we passed legislation, but it didn’t have the wording (actually, one specific word) you wanted.”

Noting that Washington, D.C., is nearly 3,000 miles from his state, Iseminger offered to tell Duncan about “this other Washington” where “we have strong leadership in our board rooms, schools, and classrooms” and students who “are capable, confident, and work extremely hard.”

“In Lake Stevens — and in school districts across America — we lead by example,” Iseminger said. “We create confidence, capacity, knowledge, and opportunity for everyone in our community. There is a palpable and ubiquitous culture of excellence in Lake Stevens, where it’s common knowledge that each individual is supported, challenged, engaged, and empowered. Such things don’t appear overnight, they’re not accidental, and I have no intention of having our work undermined by distant labels and bracketed explanations.”

Among the schools that the education department would have the state call “failing” are “Schools of distinction one of them four years running,” Iseminger said, as well as Washington Achievement Awards schools and a Reward School. He said Lake Stevens has won a Magna Award from the National School Boards Association (NSBA)’s American School Board Journal and is a recognized Board of Distinction.

With NCLB reauthorization languishing six years in Congress, the law “has been subverted into a name-calling, label-applying bully pulpit,” Iseminger said.

“We tried to help,” Iseminger said. “With input and work from many education advocates, Congress was provided an extensive list of fixes that would make NCLB workable and forward-thinking, and keep us all accountable. I was there too — as a member of the (NSBA’s) Federal Relations Network (FRN), I made the trek to Washington D.C., multiple times to ask our members to reauthorize, year after year. While there, many of us from Washington also met with people from your Department of Education, in your building, trying to create relationships and press for a change in policy and tone: ‘Stop telling our students and educators they’re failing,’ I said.”

Iseminger works for Microsoft in its Business Intelligence Group, part of the Cloud + Enterprise Division. He said if the Education Department follows up the rescinding of its waiver by withholding Title I money and other key funds, disadvantaged students will suffer.

“If you pull our funding, you’ll be forsaking Washington’s most needy students — the very students for whom the original ESEA legislation was passed 50 years ago,” Iseminger wrote. “You’ll be abandoning those students, but we won’t. In Lake Stevens — and in every district across America – we’ll do whatever we must to ensure no child is left behind, waiver or not.”

Joetta Sack-Min|May 6th, 2014|Categories: Teachers, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Finance, School Reform, Board governance, Budgeting, Assessment, NSBA Recognition Programs, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |
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