Articles in the Federal Programs category

Join our army of advocates

The following is NSBA President David Pickler’s column from the July/August issue of American School Board Journal.

This is a particularly exciting year to take the reins as NSBA President. I am excited and energized to work with our new Executive Director, Tom Gentzel, and see his vision for this organization take hold.

We are living in exponential times of change in NSBA, and the opportunities that lay ahead are incredible. You’ve probably already heard about what we’re calling the New NSBA in this column and at NSBA events. The NSBA Board of Directors has worked to restructure and recreate our organization. Under the leadership of Tom and our new Chief Operating Officer Marie Bilik, we are transforming NSBA’s internal operations to establish structure that is efficient, effective, and fiscally viable.

We now must transform NSBA’s external advocacy and outreach to meet challenges at the federal, state, and local level. Chief among these are efforts to privatize our nation’s public schools through charter school expansion and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Charters remain an unproven experiment. And while we embrace the right of each parent to have a choice for their child’s education, taxpayer-funded school vouchers represent a subsidization of private schools with public school dollars. Neither charter schools nor voucher programs require the same accountability that is imposed on our public schools. Another challenge is federal regulators’ growing encroachment into local school board governance.

Now is the time to change the conversation about public education and school board governance. We know our public schools are not failing — each of us witnesses their tremendous accomplishments taking place each day. As school board members and community leaders, we must take a stand for our public schools.

How can we do that?

If you share my belief that public education is a civil right and cornerstone of our democracy, then we must embrace our responsibility to be vigilant advocates. Failing to act will lead to the loss of this great American institution of public schools for all children.

At NSBA, we are working to strengthen our advocacy in Washington and in each state, aligning and focusing our resources and providing more relevant services to our state associations.

Our voice is already gaining resonance. We are going on offense in an effort to change the conversations about public education. NSBA wrote legislation, “The School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,” that would boost local school board authority and curb the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach. This bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March and now has 20 cosponsors.

We are creating advocacy strike forces to combat those who seek to privatize our schools or impede local decision making. NSBA worked with the Louisiana School Boards Association to provide legal, communications, and advocacy support during its recent lawsuit to stop the state’s taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. The state’s Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in May, but we know that is not the end of the story. School choice proponents—backed by wealthy entrepreneurs and for-profit investors —are cooking up new ploys in Louisiana and several other states. NSBA and your state association will be there to stave them off.

While NSBA has been a visible player in Washington politics for years, we have yet to achieve our potential as an advocate and ambassador for public education. We must lead the conversation about public education and school board governance and fight for the futures of our more than 50 million schoolchildren.

To do so, we will create an army of advocates that will go to battle, though the courts and legislatures, for public education and school board governance. We will build strong partnerships with state association members, corporate stakeholders, and other national groups to increase our effectiveness.

We need your help. As a school board member, you are an influential community leader. Through your leadership, we will engage parents, educators, and community and business leaders as core stakeholders. We will move beyond issues that divide us and forge alliances around the opportunities that can unite us.

I encourage each of you to join our army of advocates. Never forget your significance as we move forward. Never forget the power of one person to make a difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.

Now multiply one by 90,000—the number of school board members in the U.S.

With this power, we will be that voice for public education to ensure that our public schools empower our nation to fulfill its potential — one child at a time. Together, we can.

 

Staff|July 10th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NSBA secures time to assess school district impact of new regulations for food sold in schools

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) release of their new Interim Final Rule on Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued this statement:

“NSBA praises USDA’s decision to follow NSBA’s recommendation to issue an Interim Final Rule rather than a Final Rule. NSBA will carefully be reviewing the Interim Final Rule for financial and operational impact on school districts.

“America’s school boards are deeply committed to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential. Most school districts have already taken meaningful steps to improve the quality of foods available from vending machines, a la carte lines, and other non-National School Lunch Program sources.

“Yet, we must acknowledge the budget and labor constraints that school districts already face in light of sequestration and the ongoing fiscal crisis for our schools, communities, and states. At a time when education is acknowledged as a priority for America’s success and competitiveness, it is imperative that federal policy—including implementation of the child nutrition regulations—assures that educational systems are supported, not undermined by unfunded mandates or under-resourced requirements. School nutrition programs simply cannot be successful unless the school districts providing them have sufficient resources and local authority to administer them effectively.

“NSBA expressed concerns about the draft Rule during the public comment period and submitted a letter on April 9, 2013 to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. NSBA’s recommendations encouraged an Interim Final Rule be developed to review the financial and operational impact and unanticipated consequences of the new standards to reflect a better understanding of on-the-ground impact before a Final Rule is issued.

“NSBA will provide additional feedback to the USDA to urge that this and all other provisions of the reauthorization will not challenge America’s schools with a new funding burden at a time when there are critical budget shortfalls.”
- See more at: http://www.nsba.org/Newsroom/Press-Releases/NSBA-Secures-Time-to-Assess-Impact-of-New-Regulations-on-Local-School-Districts.html#sthash.1O3PUyPh.dpuf

Alexis Rice|June 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Wellness|Tags: , , , |

NSBA lauds House ESEA bill, but calls to eliminate funding restraints

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) offered support for a House bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which the Education and the Workforce Committee passed June 19. But NSBA is concerned that its funding provisions would stifle federal and state education funding.

This week NSBA sent a letter to Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller that praised the legislation’s provisions that would help restore local governance and give local school districts more flexibility to improve student achievement based on local needs.

“H.R. 5 builds on the constructive features of [the No Child Left Behind Act] and eliminates many of those requirements that have negatively misdirected the federal role,” the letter states. “However, in supporting passage of the bill out of committee, we strongly urge that the state maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions be reinstated and the hard freeze on authorized funding levels over the six-year duration of the legislation be raised.

The letter also asks that H.R. 5 include the language of the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, which is the NSBA-backed bill that 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.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 18th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

Local flexibility is needed in ESEA reauthorization, says NSBA

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking the U.S. Senate to make changes in its legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). On Tuesday, June 11, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will mark-up this bill.

NSBA sent a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the HELP Committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, the ranking minority member. The letter notes NSBA is pleased that the Senate is taking action on the much-needed reauthorization. However, NSBA is concerned that some provisions in the bill would create a much larger federal role that would hamper school districts’ innovation and flexibility, and other provisions that would create additional bureaucracies at the expense of student achievement.

“NSBA is unable to support the legislation in its current form and urges that the bill be revised and brought back to committee,” the letter states. “Local educational agencies remain very concerned that this bill contains many requirements that must be redesigned or eliminated due to their negative impact on improving academic success as well as whether they are operationally and fiscally workable.”

Alexis Rice|June 10th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, No Child Left Behind, Policy Formation, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

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: , , , , |
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