Articles in the Federal Programs category

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.

 

 

NSBA participates in White House meeting to plan State of the Union

National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel took part in a meeting with White House officials this week to help glean ideas and themes for President Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

The White House called together leading K-12 groups for their input on the annual speech and gave participants the opportunity to present their priorities.

Gentzel pressed the White House officials to call for increased funding for K-12 education, and also include funding for early education services, and again called for a push to finish the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

He also made the point that more than 90 percent of children in the United States attend public schools, and asked that President Obama show support for school boards and public education.

“With the continuing focus on choice—vouchers, charters, and other options—it would be good for the president to acknowledge the hard working teachers, school staff, and school board members who do their jobs every day,” Gentzel said after the meeting.

NSBA will be discussing issues surrounding school choice during National School Choice Week, which is held Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 and is sponsored by groups promoting vouchers and taxpayer funded expansions of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 17th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , |

NSBA applauds USDA action on school nutrition regulations

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to make permanent the temporary relief from a provision of the federal school lunch program that limited lean protein and whole grains at school meals.  However, NSBA is still urging USDA to make other regulatory changes to give school districts more flexibility in the operation of the program.

“We applaud USDA for listening to parents and school leaders who said these restrictions were unnecessary and not in the best interests of students’ health,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The program still needs additional changes to give school districts more flexibility to provide nutritious school meals and ensure that students won’t go hungry because of unreasonable limits on the amount of food schools may serve.”

A permanent provision on whole grains and lean protein was one of four changes requested in the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, which was introduced in December by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and is endorsed by NSBA.

“The USDA’s announcement comes after a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, school administrators, and Congress,” Noem said. “What they are offering is a step in the right direction and adopts some of the provisions offered in my bill to give relief. A more permanent legislative fix and even greater flexibility is needed, however, in order to give parents and school administrators the tools they need when planning our kids’ lunch programs.”

Among the other issues Noem’s bill addresses are flexibility for school districts struggling to comply with new standards for school breakfast; items sold outside the federal school meal program such as those in vending machines, fundraisers and school stores; and federally mandated prices for unsubsidized school meals.

Lawrence Hardy|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness|Tags: , , |

School boards urge the U.S. Senate to act on the Bipartisan Budget Act

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel urged the U.S. Senate to pass the plan known as the Bipartisan Budget Act that would restore many of the cuts to prek-12 education in this statement:

We are at a critical juncture. House passage last week of the bipartisan budget deal is a step in the right direction. NSBA urges the Senate to take the steps necessary to avoid a government shut down in January and prioritize education.

Approval of the Bipartisan Budget Act is essential if we are to help mitigate the impact of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration and restore programs to public schools across the nation. This budget is particularly critical for America’s public schools to continue to improve and educate a growing and diverse population of students. Our economy is dependent on our abilities to prepare our next generation of students for career and college readiness in today’s complex global economy. That foundation begins at prek-12 levels.

NSBA urges members of the U.S. Senate to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act this week, and continue the bipartisan groundwork laid by the U.S. House of Representatives. We especially thank Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray for their vision and leadership, and applaud their sustained focus toward developing a long-term solution and balanced budget that will sustain investments in prek-12 education and put America’s students first.

Alexis Rice|December 17th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

U.S. Department of Education official discusses federal education priorities with NSBA

A top federal official outlined the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities and upcoming initiatives at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2013-14 Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 6, 2013.

Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), oversees more than 100 prek-12 programs, including early learning, accountability, mental health, literacy, civic education, and school safety; as well as programs for disadvantaged students, including Title I, and programs for homeless and migrant students.

Delisle emphasized the need for local control and flexibility as she spoke to the group of school board leaders and NSBA staff. She discussed topics including flexibility to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and noted that there currently there are 37 separate accountability systems. She also touched on college affordability and funding; the increasing number of homeless kids in college; and school climate and safety, including the agency’s Project Serve.

Delisle also discussed the disparate suspension rates among students living in poverty and students with disabilities, a topic of interest to NSBA. She referred to evidence in civil rights data collected by the agency–as an example she spoke of a school that suspended an African-American kindergartener for five days for pulling a fire alarm; a similar incident in another school resulted in a one-day suspension for a student who was white.

And Delisle pointed to the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as an example of the need for enhanced mental health support.

The Department of Education also is examining ongoing “opportunity and expectation gaps,” and the ongoing need to deal responsibly with equity issues, she noted in her remarks.

NSBA is represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in bi-monthly meetings with top Department of Education officials and leading education organizations, which include AASA, the School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The meetings serve as a platform for the groups’ executive leadership to convene to discuss various issues, share new policy and update the entire group on happenings within each organization.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

NSBA commends bill to offer schools flexibility on school nutrition programs

Update: The legislation, HR 3663, was introduced on December 5.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) commends and supports new legislation that offers public schools added flexibility in meeting the mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.The Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, offers relief to school districts on some of the federal mandates that have created soaring operational costs along with other unintended consequences, such as school lunches that leave students hungry in cases where serving sizes are inadequate or students do not like the food mandated and are refusing to eat it.

“America’s school boards are wholly committed to serving inviting, nutritious meals for all students, but many schools are struggling to meet the overly prescriptive and unnecessary federal mandates and balance the prohibitive cost against other essential student needs,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We are pleased that this legislation includes recommendations from NSBA and school boards across the country to develop a school lunch program that gives schools more flexibility to address local needs.”

NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman added, “The forward-thinking legislation Rep. Noem proposes would allow local school officials to design flexible school meal programs that meet the needs of local students and local communities to ensure that all of America’s students gain access to tasty, healthy meals at school.”

Noem said the legislation would help schools “ensure our kids get the nutrition they need to be healthy and successful throughout the day.”

“As a mother of three, I know every kid has a different activity level and different nutrition needs, so forcing schools into a one-size-fits-all school lunch program doesn’t work for our schools or our students,” said Noem. “Current school lunch standards place an unnecessary burden on school administrators, especially in some of our smaller school districts, our poorest counties and our reservations, and send many of our kids home feeling hungry.”

Joetta Sack-Min|December 2nd, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity|Tags: , , , , |
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