Articles in the Federal Programs category

School boards pleased with Obama’s plan to improve schools’ Internet access

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) praised President Barack Obama’s new initiative, ConnectED, to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.

“Broadband has an important role to play in education, from digital learning resources to professional development for teachers, remote instruction, and data-driven decision-making,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Increasing high speed Internet connectivity is vital to provide 21st century skills and prepare students and communities to be competitive in a global economy.”

Obama’s plan calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal and to get Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages.

“To assure that ConnectED is successful, it is important to provide adequate resources to schools,” added Gentzel. “Requests for assistance by high need schools and libraries are more than double the current resources in the E-rate program.”

Gentzel concluded, “High speed Internet connectivity is vital for bringing new learning opportunities in rural areas. We must increase the quality and speed of connectivity in all our nation’s schools and address the technology gaps that remain.”

Alexis Rice|June 6th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA asks Senate leaders to rethink Title I change in new ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a report calling on the U.S. Senate to reconsider a provision in its new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that seeks to ensure school districts give equitable support to students in high-poverty schools.

The ESEA legislation would change the current method for determining how school districts allocate comparable resources to their Title I schools. Based on NSBA’s report, “The Challenges and Unintended Consequences of Using Expenditures to Determine Title I Comparability,” the provision in the Senate bill will not achieve its goal.

“NSBA supports the concept of ‘comparability’ and ensuring that students in Title I schools receive equitable services,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, the proposal for the Title I comparability provision would be burdensome for school districts and it could even unintentionally harm Title I schools and other schools that have high operational costs or special services.”

As a condition for receiving Title I funding, ESEA requires that school districts show they are providing comparable services from local funds to their Title I schools through measures such as teacher-student ratios. The purpose is to show that the federal money is used in addition to local resources for Title I schools. Under the Senate bill’s plan, school districts would have to take into account new factors, such as the cost of each teacher’s salary and benefits, and other expenses that are not tied to student learning, such as transportation.

NSBA’s report found that the plan could force local school districts to shift money away from Title I schools because the provision does not account for wide variances in expenses such as student transportation, the availability of social services or grant funding to some schools, or other building-related costs.

As part of the report, NSBA surveyed school officials on the comparability provision in the Senate bill from the last Congress. Nearly 300 Title I program administrators and school business officials and other school officials responded. These on-the-ground practitioners reported that the proposed requirement was too difficult to administer and contained too many variables to make valid expenditure comparisons between Title I and non-Title I schools.

NSBA’s report shows that the proposed methods in Senate’s 2011 bill and the bill introduced this week are flawed because of wide variances in teacher salaries and benefits as well as other expenses in a school district. For example, factors such as variances in teachers’ salaries, employer-paid heath premiums, matching pension contributions and experience do not necessarily correlate to teacher effectiveness.

While the new Senate provision does not require the involuntary transfer of teachers, the provision would still appear to cause the bookkeeping problems raised in NSBA’s report and could still result in teacher transfer issues.

The new Senate provision seeks to respond to NSBA’s concerns regarding how certain expenditures that are not relevant to student learning would be accounted. It would allow school districts to adopt a method based on education expenditures that is of an equal or higher standard. However, those alternatives must be developed before the reauthorization is enacted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy noted, “That option simply passes the buck to the federal agency to define what would still be a difficult to administer expenditure-based comparability system and would still result in the various unintended consequences cited in our report. There are far better approaches to ensure that all Title I students are receiving effective teachers and adequate educational resources.”

NSBA’s report was praised by the AASA, The American Association of School Administrators.

“NSBA’s report clearly shows that Congress needs to reject this provision and focus on supporting local efforts that will add to the resources needed for education rather than spending resources on bookkeeping and other adjustments that really aren’t on target to reach the intended goal,” said Bruce Hunter, AASA’s  Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy and Communications.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Congress takes first steps toward ESEA reauthorization

Democrats in the U.S. Senate introduced their bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, and the National School Boards Association’s advocacy team is hopeful that efforts to reauthorize the massive K-12 law could progress this summer.

“In conversations with key staff members, it’s clear they are eager to move a bill through the committee in short order” said Michael A. Resnick, the Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy at NSBA. “But some of the philosophical divide will need to be resolved.”

A key issue will be the role of the federal government in education policy, in addition to assessments and other accountability measures.

The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and co-sponsored by the Democratic members of the committee. The ranking Republican member of that committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, is expected to offer the Republicans’ version of the ESEA reauthorization when the bill is marked-up in committee. NSBA is currently addressing the legislation. The Democrats’ bill, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, which is more than 1,100 pages long and the Republicans” bill, the “Every Child Ready for College and Career Act,” is less detailed at 200 pages.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is now six years overdue and each attempt to overhaul the massive federal education law has floundered in Congress.

Members of the House education committee also have recently told NSBA’s lobbyists that they plan to introduce an ESEA reauthorization bill, Resnick said.

On May 21, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee queried U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal. Duncan noted that the Department of Education is committed to working with Congress to get an ESEA reauthorization completed this year.

At that hearing, some Republican members were more interested in questioning the secretary about his budget priorities, particularly President Obama’s initiative to greatly expand prekindergarten education. Some said the money would be better spent to fully fund the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s President discusses the New NSBA and school board leadership on Education Talk Radio

David A. Pickler

David A. Pickler, President of the National School Boards Association and member of Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education, was a guest on Education Talk Radio for a two part interview. Pickler discussed the “New NSBA,” school board leadership, vouchers,  the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, and his experiences and leadership on his local school board.

Listen to the interviews:

Part 1:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

Part 2:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio
Alexis Rice|May 30th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Buildings, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

National school leadership organizations urge “adequate time” for Common Core implementation

States and school districts need adequate time, professional development, and the technical infrastructure to properly transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the assessment requirements, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the major organizations representing school administrators say in a joint statement on the issue.

“Strong educational standards can be an important tool for improving student achievement, but states and school districts must be well prepared to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “For the standards to succeed, states and school districts must have the financial resources and the infrastructure to manage online assessments, and they must be able to provide school administrators and teachers with the professional development.”

NSBA, AASA (the School Superintendents Association), the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals wrote the document. It notes that states and districts face “very real obstacles” to align their curricula with the new standards and administer the required tests.

“Getting this transition right can mean the difference between getting and keeping public and educator support for the Common Core or a loss in confidence in the standards and even the public schools, especially if as expected the first-year scores will disappoint,” the statement notes.

There are further technical challenges surrounding the online assessments, which are scheduled to be put in place in 2014-15–including bandwidth, infrastructure and professional development. The concept of online assessments is widely supported by educators, but the timeline “could derail the good work already in place through the CCSS and deny the assessments the opportunity to provide the same academic benefits,” according to the document.

Currently 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the CCSS. In supporting the development of the CCSS, NSBA believes that the standards should be adapted voluntarily by the states and not mandated as a condition for receiving federal education program funds.

Alexis Rice|May 29th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Programs, National Standards, Policy Formation, Public Advocacy, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA, Impact Aid districts warn of consequences of federal budget cuts

Federal budget cuts are coming for every school district this fall—but the reality of teacher layoffs and program cuts already are here for school districts that receive Impact Aid.

Two district officials who already have endured the first round of scheduled cuts shared their experiences in a teleconference organized by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS).

NSBA is continuing to lobby Congress through its grassroots network to stop or mitigate sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts that took place when Congress failed to pass a budget in March.

“We urge Congress to develop a plan that not only protects education as a civil right but also as a national security interest,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler, who added that while “federal dollars are going away, the mandates remain.”

Pickler, a member of the Shelby County school board in Memphis, said his district plans to lay off instructional coaches, who work with struggling learners and help prepare students for tests, and behavioral interventionists, who help students with significant behavioral issues.

Impact Aid, the fund that reimburses school districts that lose tax revenue because of federally controlled land, was the only major K-12 program that saw immediate budget cuts; other K-12 programs will be pared down about 5 percent beginning Oct. 1 and will see scheduled decreases over the next 10 years. Some Impact Aid districts have had to cut academic programs, teachers, and paraprofessionals in the middle of the school year.

Karen Gray, the president of the Silver Valley Unified School District’s board, said the district’s preschool that serves many special-needs children had seen the brunt of this year’s cuts. The Yermo, Calif., school district includes a military base, and educating students whose parents are deployed creates additional challenges, Gray noted.

“Our board and staff continuously adjust our finances,” she said. The district has avoided teacher layoffs so far by eliminating jobs through attrition.

Roy Nelson, a school board member in the Red Lake Independent School District in Red Lake, Minn., said his district had eliminated seven teacher jobs and three paraprofessional jobs and scaled back elementary music and tutoring programs.

Parents, though, are concerned about school safety given last year’s shootings in Connecticut and a shooting in 2005 that killed seven students at a Red Lake high school, Nelson said. But the district cannot afford to hire more security guards.

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions asking Congress to pass a budget that fully funds K-12 education programs. Go to NSBA’s Stop Sequestration webpage for more information and sample resolutions.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 23rd, 2013|Categories: Arts Education, Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

Marketplace Fairness Act could help schools gain sales tax revenues, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging lawmakers to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require all online or catalog companies collect taxes from internet purchases. The measure would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the legislation on May 8. The bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and would require online retailers to collect and remit sales and use taxes to states and local governments, commensurate to brick-and-mortar businesses. Overall, S. 743 seeks to level the playing field between online retailers and local “Main Street” retailers, thereby establishing a level of parity and addressing erosion of local and state tax systems.

The bipartisan bill would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities. S. 743 would exclude small online retailers with annual revenues less than $1 million.

Under the legislation, each state that is a part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement would be authorized to collect remote sales and use taxes. Likewise, states that are not a member under the Agreement could collect remote sales and use taxes, provided they implement simplification requirements such as establishing a single entity responsible for tax administration, return processing and audits and establishing a uniform sales and use tax base among a state and its local taxing jurisdictions.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

More lawmakers sign on to NSBA bill

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) legislative proposal which would establish a framework for improved recognition of local school board authority when the U.S. Department of Education acts on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), has now garnered 16 co-sponsors.

Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, the bill had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and David Valadao of California. Since then, 11 more members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on: Reps. Lou Barletta (PA), Jo Bonner (AL), Kevin Cramer (ND), Jim Gerlach (PA), Bob Gibbs (OH), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Kenny Marchant (TX), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Stevan Pearce (NM.), Ted Poe (TX), and Marlin Stutzman (IN).

School board members are encouraged to contact their House members to become co-sponsors. Increased focus is now being directed to urge senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, and school board members also are encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to sponsor similar legislation.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA seeks to stop erosion of local control

The erosion of local school board authority is on the minds of many board members these days, and NSBA has responded with the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, which seeks to rein in the U.S. Department of Education’s use of rules and regulations to intrude on the role of local school policymakers.

“What local school boards need is the flexibility and freedom to govern education in a way that reflects the needs and values of their own local community,” Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy, told attendees at Saturday’s National Network Luncheon at NSBA’s annual conference.

The federal government has engaged in “significant overreach” in the past decade, he said. No longer content to administer federal legislation, federal officials are attempting to implement their own policy agenda.

One strategy to accomplish this has been to write grant rules and regulations so officials can use the promise of federal funding to encourage states and school districts to experiment with charter schools, close so-called failing schools, and adopt unproven teacher evaluation systems.

It’s a carrot-and-stick approach that undermines local school governance and representative democracy, he said. “You as board members represent your community. Our legislation is intended to rectify that problem.”

To do that, the bill, H.R. 1386, would limit the U.S. Department of Education’s authority to issue rules and regulations that impact local schools unless these rules are required to implement federal legislation—and it limits unfunded mandates or rules that unduly conflict with the authority of the school board, Resnick said.

The bill also would require a 60-day comment period so that school boards and others in the education community can comment on the impact of any new rules, and it puts additional restrictions on the department before any rules go into effect.

All of this is necessary because the continuing federal intrusion is a slow but increasing threat to local school board authority, Resnick says. “I liken it to the frog in the kettle. You put it in and turn up the heat one degree at a time, and the frog never realizes he’s being cooked.”

“We believe we’ve got to stand up at this point and really stop this erosion of local control right now.”

Asked about progress on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Resnick was cautious in making predictions. He said that, although there are legislators working to push the legislation forward, there are complex and fundamental issues to the law that lawmakers are still debating.

That said, NSBA would continue to lobby for Congress to act—and deal with a number of issues that would improve provisions of the law for local school boards.

He also encouraged school board members to take a more active role in this lobbying effort. Although NSBA will makes its presence felt on Capitol Hill, “when it comes to the lobbying process, members of Congress are more responsive to the people they’re familiar with.”

So it’s critical that board members, working in conjunction with their state school board associations, “really make a point of telling their federal representatives how necessary this legislation is.”

Del Stover|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Public Advocacy|
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