Articles in the Federal Programs category

Veteran school board lobbyist retires after 44-year career at NSBA

When Michael A. Resnick joined the National School Boards Association as a legislative specialist in 1969, Richard Nixon was president. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The U.S. Army began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and Jimi Hendrix sang at Woodstock.

And most Americans believed the nation’s public education system was the best in the world.

Over the next 44 years, much would change — and not just for the nation at large. In the realm of education, Resnick, who is retiring this week as head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, has witnessed profound changes in state and federal education policy and in the challenges facing school boards nationwide.

Some of those changes were promising, such as the higher priority the nation placed on the academic success of all students, particularly the most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved. Slowly but persistently, the public schools raised student academic performance, narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority students, and raised high school graduation rates to a historic high.

Other changes, however, have been less welcome. Critics of public education have eroded confidence in our public education system. State and federal mandates have been increasingly intrusive and even damaging. Top-down reform efforts have undermined local school governance.

All of this has had an enormous impact on the roles and expectations of the nation’s more than 14,000 school boards, Resnick says.

“If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, school boards generally served a trustee role, overseeing the budget, making sure finances were in good order, overseeing personnel and student matters — but leaving to the school district administration with limited authority over much of what went on in the educational program.”

That limited role for the school board gave way over the years as the nation embarked on a decades-long debate about student academic performance. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) put academic accountability at the forefront of state and federal policy.

“While board members aren’t designing or running their schools’ academic program,” he says, “they certainly have to be familiar with it at a pretty technical level — so they can respond to issues surrounding student achievement and the need to meet accountability requirements for the school district.”

NCLB had good intentions, Resnick says, but it brought about a seismic shift in the federal government’s role in education policymaking. States and school boards had long been subject to federal rules in order to participate in categorical programs such as Title I.

However, NCLB mandated states to enact more sweeping and prescriptive policies and requirements that had a direct impact on districts overall and on how boards did their work.

That federal overreach has continued under the Race to the Top program, which offers the promise of significant federal aid to states that agree to enact policies favored by federal education officials.

NSBA has been fighting overreach of top-down policy direction, he says, making clear to Congress and U.S. Department of Education officials that the flood of mandates and regulations are increasingly onerous and limit the flexibility of school officials.

But there are other forces at work, making it harder for advocates of local school governance to influence state and federal policymaking, Resnick says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the principal players in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill were the institutional professional education groups — those representing teachers, administrators, and school boards.”

Today, however, there are a host of new advocacy groups making their voices heard — ideology-driven think tanks, industry-backed advocacy groups, business leaders, and other special interests.

These new groups make it more difficult for the institutional associations to be heard, Resnick says. One of the more damaging policy directions that some groups have encouraged is to promote alternatives to the traditional public school system, he says.

Supported by business interests that hope to tap into the billions of dollars spent on education, these groups have helped accelerate state and federal policies in support of vouchers and charter schools.

NSBA has “had to find ways to increase our effectiveness in terms of the knowledge we can bring to the table but also raise our level of advocacy,” he says.

Resnick’s earliest strategies to strengthen NSBA’s advocacy was the creation of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) in 1970 — an initiative to enlist school board members as outspoken constituents of their federal House and Senate members.

Today, NSBA is working to expand the number of board members participating in legislative advocacy, Resnick says. NSBA also has launched the National School Boards Action Center, designed to broaden school board advocacy to impact Congress, the media, and the public. The center includes the Friends of Public Education network to bring together other local leaders and concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of public education and sound federal policies.

“With the increase in competing voices in the policymaking debate, it becomes harder for your voice to be heard,” he says. “It requires marshalling a different set of resources, and the level of information you must provide has to be greater, as does the level of political punch behind you.”

It doesn’t help the cause of school boards, however, that Congress is politically deadlocked and struggling to fulfill its responsibilities, he says. Federal lawmakers have failed to adopt an annual federal budget for several years and the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) still is winding its way through the legislative process.

“Years ago, it was a time of more predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill, without the partisan rancor of today,” he says. “The political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made. One role of NSBA was to help broker those compromises.”

The political stalemate in Congress has created a vacuum in federal policy-making — one that the Education Department is too willing to fill with rigid regulations that are eroding local policymakers’ authority, Resnick notes. But, whatever the merits of any particular policy initiative, the department’s efforts lack the level of accountability or public input that would occur if federal policies were under the legislative oversight of Congress.

“What we see is an overreach of authority from the Department of Education — not only in terms of the federal role but also in the role of the agency itself,” he says.

That’s why NSBA earlier this year proposed the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, designed to protect local school districts from unnecessary and counter-productive federal regulations. Key provisions of this legislative proposal were incorporated into the House of Representatives’ bill to reauthorize ESEA, which passed in July.

Yet there is much more to be done, Resnick says. NSBA will be working more closely than ever with state school boards associations to support their advocacy efforts in state legislatures and courts “because that’s where many of the policy debates have gone — to the state level.”

As he steps down after four decades advocating on behalf of school boards, Resnick expresses some worry that the next generation of school board members may come to see the current state and federal intrusion into local policymaking as the norm, rather than a recent development that runs counter to the traditional policy of local school control.

“Over time, if we continue in this current framework, without knowing the history and evolution of recent education policymaking, we may find that new school board members assume it has to be this way,” he says. “But there are better approaches — emphasizing local school governance — with tools to increase student achievement with less top-down management.”

Del Stover|November 26th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Featured, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Publications, NSBAC|Tags: |

White House announces new career education program

The White House announced a new $100 million competitive grant program this week that will help educators redesign high schools to better prepare students for high-tech and STEM careers.

The U.S. Department of Labor is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education to give 25 to 40 Youth CareerConnect grants, part of President Obama’s State of the Union and budget proposals to provide industry-relevant education and skills high school students will need for successful careers. The funding comes from the H1-B visa program.

NSBA is reviewing the details of the programs to assess the operational impact on states and local school districts. Additional comments will be provided as the information becomes available.

According to the White House, the Youth CareerConnect schools will strengthen America’s talent pipeline through: Integrated academic and career-focused learning; work-based learning and exposure to the world of work; robust employer engagement through mentoring and engagement; individualized career and academic counseling; and integration of postsecondary education and training into the high school curriculum.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 21st, 2013|Categories: Educational Research, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: |

School boards call on the FCC to strengthen E-Rate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modernize the E-rate program, increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools, and address the technology gaps that remain.

NSBA urges the FCC to address the funding needs of schools’ and libraries’ Internet connectivity. In comments to the FCC on proposed rules to modernize the program, NSBA notes that, other than inflationary adjustments authorized in 2010, there has been no increase in the $2.25 billion cap on E-Rate resources since the program’s inception in 1996, and demand has consistently been much higher than the available funding. The current demand is $4.9 billion.

“The E-rate program is critical to schools and libraries to maintain their internet services, and Congress must address this program’s unmet needs before expanding its eligibility to other areas,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “E-rate has greatly expanded the use of internet connectivity and services in schools and libraries throughout the country, particularly those in rural areas, and the FCC should build on the E-rate program’s tremendous success by permanently increasing funding to meet the need for schools and libraries.”

NSBA recommends streamlining the administration of the program through multi-year applications, electronic filing and other improvements to increase its cost-effectiveness. NSBA also cautions the FCC against phasing down some of the longstanding components of the program, particularly telephone services, because universal Broadband has not yet been achieved. And NSBA urges the FCC not to mandate district-wide eligibility or applications.

“E-Rate has been successful largely because it allows school boards and other district and school leaders to make decisions based on their students’ and local communities’ needs,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy. “Any changes to the E-Rate program should not undermine innovation by local school districts through mandates and should maximize local flexibility.”

Alexis Rice|September 19th, 2013|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Technology Leadership Network|

School boards urge U.S. Senate to rethink No Child Left Behind

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Senate to take action on its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, S. 1094.

In a letter, NSBA asks the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to schedule the bill for a Senate floor vote within the next 30 days so that the bill could be considered in a joint conference committee. In addition, further delays could mean that the U.S. Department of Education would initiate another round of waiver requests early next year only for local school districts to subsequently have the new ESEA law take them in a different direction. Reauthorizing ESEA now would “avoid confusion and waste of resources locally to the extent legislative policy differs from waiver requirements,” the letter states.

“There has been no movement on the Senate bill since it was approved by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee three months ago,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “As the new school year begins and districts continue to grapple with the unreasonable requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, school board members across the country are anxiously awaiting progress on this important legislation.”

NSBA had asked the members of the HELP Committee to make substantive changes in the measure during committee discussions. However, not enough changes were made to warrant NSBA endorsement at that time. NSBA hopes such concerns will be resolved during the Joint Conference Committee deliberations.

“Local school boards across the nation appreciate the fact that S. 1094 contained many of the positive provisions that are in the current No Child Left Behind law such as early childhood development, teacher and principal effectiveness through preparation and professional development, rigorous college and career-ready standards with valid and reliable aligned assessments,” the letter states. “However, school board members were disappointed that S. 1094 contained many requirements that would significantly increase the requirements for local data collection, reporting, and plan development and implementation.”

NSBA also signed on to a Sept. 12 letter put forth by numerous government and education organizations, including the National Governors Association and the National Council of State Legislatures, that also urges Senate leaders to bring the ESEA bill to a floor vote.

View NSBA’s ESEA advocacy resources.

Alexis Rice|September 12th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind|Tags: , , , , , , |

New school law webinars examine the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA)  is hosting a two-part webinar series on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FEPRA). Register today to learn more about this important topic.

Here are details on the sessions:

September 11, 2013 – FERPA Session 1: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Inside and Out

Veteran in-house counsel Margaret-Ann Howies presents an engaging look at FERPA through the lens of a very real and traumatic school shooting. Here’s your chance to learn – or brush up on – the ins and outs of the federal law that permeates school district operations, FERPA. We’ll start with the basics: What is an education record covered by FERPA? When can personally identifiable information about a student be released and to whom? Are emails education records? Then, we’ll move into recent questions: May a school district store student records in “the cloud?” When does an “emergency” cease, thereby triggering the consent requirement? What if the student is deceased? What if the student has changed names? Become FERPA conversant in just over an hour.

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EDT)

Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys

Presenter: Margaret-Ann Howie, General Counsel, Baltimore County Public Schools

January 15, 2014 – FERPA Session 2: School Videos and Student Privacy – What’s the Final Rule?

Few issues have caused such widespread consternation for school districts and their attorneys than the following: to what extent are school videos education records covered by FERPA? NSBA requested clarification from the U.S. Department of Education years ago. Join a seasoned school lawyer for a distillation of the current state of the law and “unofficial” guidance from the Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office.

Time: 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EST)

Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys

Presenter: Sarah Craven Clark, Deputy Director of Legal Services, Ohio State Association Counsel

Learn more and register now.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 10th, 2013|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, Federal Programs, Governance, School Law|Tags: , , , , |

School boards concerned about federal proposal to expand school data collection

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is opposing a burdensome and confusing expansion of data collected on students and school districts proposed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

NSBA questions whether some of the requested data would be relevant to OCR’s duties—as well as whether OCR has the legal authority to request certain data—in a letter  to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has asked for public comment before it determines whether to allow the expansion. Such an expansion also would place an expensive and time-consuming burden on schools and create confusion between OCR’s interpretations of federal law and public school districts’ actual obligations under their own state laws, NSBA’s letter notes.

“The Office for Civil Rights does not have the authority to collect data in some of these proposed areas, nor should it need that data to conduct its job,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “By expanding the scope of inquiry further into a school district’s operations, the Office for Civil Rights is forcing a school district to expend time and resources on extracting and reporting data that won’t assist in the improvement of students’ educations or civil rights compliance by districts.”

For instance, OCR is asking to collect information on absenteeism rates, an item that NSBA’s letter notes may be valuable for other purposes but does not pertain to civil rights issues in the areas monitored by OCR.

Further, some of the definitions in the proposed data expansion raise concerns about the quality and integrity of the data to be collected because the categories are ill-defined and confusing. For instance, a category that would require school districts to report “incidents triggering discipline” directs schools to count “criminal act[s],” a definition that will engender divergent reporting due to variances in state criminal codes.

“This lack of clarity creates a subjective interpretation of the definitions of incidents, and would likely lead to misreporting or double counting of certain incidents because there is no guidance on the new categories,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The proposed changes imply that the agency is searching for data to support preconceived hypotheses about public schools.”

NSBA is also urging the OMB to reject a mandate that school districts provide OCR with the contact information for a district’s civil rights coordinator, and encourages OCR to engage in the better practice of working through a district’s attorney when carrying out enforcement obligations or investigating claims.

Alexis Rice|August 22nd, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , |

NSBA expert discusses educational technology on South Korea radio show

President Barack Obama recently lauded South Korea as a model for educational technology and internet accessibility on a recent visit to a U.S. school. But South Koreans aren’t convinced their schools are worthy of the praise.

A broadcast on TBS eFM’s “This Morning” in Seoul queried Lucy Gettman, the National School Boards Association’s Director of Federal Programs, on the federal e-Rate program and the need for more technology in U.S. schools.

Gettman discussed the challenges that U.S. schools face in fully utilizing the internet and educational technology, including getting high-speed internet connections to all U.S. schools, ensuring instructional content is high quality, and ensuring teachers are supported with proper training and tools.

Outside the classroom, most students are already well-versed in using technology, so for U.S. schools, “our opportunity is to engage students in a more meaningful way,” Gettman said.

Listen to the Aug. 19 interview on “This Morning,” a Korean radio show that discusses news and current affairs.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA expresses concerns on House K-12 budget proposal

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is disappointed in the House of Representatives’ proposed fiscal 2014 budget for K-12 programs and is calling on House members to restore funding.

The budget would create “devastating” cuts to many education programs, including $4.5 billion cuts to Title I and the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, if the budget cuts were to be applied across the board, according to NSBA.

In a July 24 letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, NSBA wrote, “Local school boards have grave concerns over the Subcommittee’s overall 302(b) funding allocation that would impose greater budget cuts to programs implemented at the local school district level. Local school boards are also concerned that federal funding to support K-12 education is being significantly reduced at a time when there should be increased investments in our nation’s future.”

The NSBA letter refers to the overall subcommittee allocation, which was approved by the full committee more than a month ago.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 25th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

NSBA praises House passage of ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  is pleased that Student Success Act, H.R. 5, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 221-207. H.R. 5 is the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

Key elements of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, were incorporated in H.R. 5, with some provisions included in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce bill and others in an amendment on local school district flexibility offered by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).

“The Student Success Act provides states and local educational agencies with the flexibility they need to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance to prepare all students for post-secondary education or the workplace ,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “School boards are pleased that the bill focuses on specifically ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance.”

Gentzel continued, “NSBA supports the bill’s overwhelming shift in direction to ensure that greater flexibility and governance will be restored to local school boards during this Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  The bill clearly acknowledges that the footprint of the federal government in K-12 education must be reduced.  Despite NSBA’s concerns with several provisions, NSBA supports final passage of the bill given the overall benefits of the final legislation.”

Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R -Va.) Title I portability amendment, which NSBA opposed, passed by voice vote this morning.  This provision, as well as funding concerns with the House bill, will be addressed after the U.S. Senate passes its ESEA bill, and both the House and Senate ESEA bill goes to conference.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , , |

NSBA praises Senate bill to boost K-12 funding

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) supports a budget plan passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee that would increase funding for K-12 education, including Title I grants and special education. Most importantly, the bill would reverse the automatic budget cuts that will impact all K-12 education programs by this fall, known as sequestration.

A July 10 letter sent to all Senators noted that the proposed fiscal 2014 budget blueprint would help sustain targeted investments, and praised its increases to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the main federal special education law, and early education. “Protecting baseline funding for these priorities, and providing the increases needed to help address existing shortfalls, will help our school districts and states avoid reductions to the scope and delivery of education services and advancement,” the letter states. However, more money for IDEA is needed, the letter adds.

The bill also emphasizes early education by allotting a $1.6 billion increase for Head Start, including funds to expand Early Head Start and build a new Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships to serve children and families from before birth through age 3.

According to NSBA’s advocacy team, Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said that she will push to get the bill on the Senate floor for debate. The last time an education funding bill was debated by the Senate was 2007, she stated.

The House Appropriations Committee has adopted an overall allocation for the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee that could reduce funding for education by more than 18 percent, which would equate to more than a $4.5 billion cut to Title I grants and special education, according to NSBA’s advocacy team. The future of that measure is uncertain.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 12th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , |
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