Articles in the Governance category

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.

LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.

“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”

Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.

Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

State school board leaders focus on transformative leadership at NSBA event

David Pickler

NSBA President David Pickler addresses Presidents’ Retreat

More than 80 state school board leaders gathered in Memphis, Tenn., last week to discuss school governance trends, hone their leadership skills, reflect on the fast-changing landscape, and learn from their colleagues at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) annual Presidents’ Retreat.

NSBA President David A. Pickler, a member of the Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education, hosted the retreat in his hometown for state school boards association presidents, past presidents, and state executive directors.

The retreat focused on transformational leadership, Pickler’s theme for his term as president and addressed the challenges in public education. Pickler encouraged school board leaders to become more effective advocates for public education and school board governance.

“This is our time to challenge conventional wisdom and embrace the possibilities ahead,” said Pickler. “We also must consider the challenges ahead with the efforts by well-funded and well-organized entities that want to dismantle our American institution of public schools and local school board governance. We must take on those who are trying to take away our students’ right to a great education and fight for the futures of more than 50 million schoolchildren.”

School board leaders participated in a highly interactive training event with staff from the Crew Training International (CTI), a Memphis-based company that specializes in human factors training used by commercial and military aviators to accomplish their complex missions. The facilitated training began with enhanced academics and culminated with a simulated space flight using CTI’s interactive, computerized training.

“This training gave school board leaders real skills to build teams, communicate effectively, and capture best practices so they can positively affect public education and the advocacy required to promote it,” said David Dufour, CTI’s Director of Operations who led the training program.

Following the leadership training, school board leaders participated in a wing-pinning ceremony recognizing their leadership training with Commander W. Brent Phillips of the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command. Phillips, before pinning the school board leaders, gave remarks and noted to the school board leaders, “My kids have benefited from your efforts. Thank you for all that you do”

Representatives from the National Governors Association, Northern Kentucky University, several state school boards leaders, and previous NSBA Presidents spoke about key leadership topics and vital issues in the states and federal level concerning K-12 education policy.

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady addressed the retreat’s closing session and discussed leadership and his experiences in the Vietnam War and longtime career with the U.S. Army.

Action News 5 – Memphis, Tennessee

Brady discussed that school board member’s are “key to the success to the future of America.” Brady noted that we must “teach young people the importance of charter and patriotism” and show them “they can be heros.”

Pickler announced a new NSBA partnership with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s (CMOHF) Medal of Honor Character Development Program. The program incorporates the ideals of courage and selfless service into the middle and high school curriculum to build character and promote responsible citizenship. The program offers Medal of Honor-related lesson plans that draw upon the ideals embodied in the Medal of Honor and their application in daily life. The program already is in 33 states and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe and the Pacific.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, praised the new partnership and noted, “We are honored to ally with the CMOHF to pursue our mutual goals of ensuring that students fully appreciate the value of these contributions and that they will be inspired to fulfill all their responsibilities as citizens of the United States. NSBA looks forward to working exploring partnership opportunities with the Foundation and to lend our active support to its mission.”

Brady’s address and the Presidents’ Retreat were featured on WMC-TV Action Five News in Memphis.

Alexis Rice|August 22nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Governance, Leadership|Tags: , , , |

State school board leaders to attend NSBA retreat on leadership

This week dozens of state school board leaders will meet in Memphis, Tenn., to discuss school governance trends and hone their leadership skills at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) annual Presidents’ Retreat.

NSBA President David A. Pickler, a member of the Shelby County, Tenn., school board, is hosting the retreat in his hometown from August 15 to 18 for more than 80 state school boards association presidents, past presidents, and staff directors.

The retreat is focusing on transformational leadership, Pickler’s theme for his one-year term as president.

“We are living in a world of exponential change, where technology is reshaping the way we work and communicate,” Pickler noted. “As school board leaders, we will oversee the transformation of public education to ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. This event will give us the opportunity to learn as well as explore ideas with our peers.”

The school board members also will participate in a highly interactive training event with staff from the Crew Training International, a Memphis-based company that offers training to develop the skills used by U.S. military aviators to accomplish complex missions. The facilitated training will explore several scenarios and allow participants to use CTI’s specialized hands-on, computerized training.

Representatives from the National Governors Association, Northern Kentucky University, and several state school boards leaders will speak about current topics in leadership and K-12 education policy.

And in a Sunday morning address, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady will speak about leadership and his experiences in the Vietnam War and longtime career with the U.S. Army.

“Each year this retreat gives our state association leaders a chance to reflect on the fast-changing landscape and learn from their colleagues,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We look forward to organizing a fantastic and productive event for our state leaders.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 15th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership|Tags: , , , , , |

COSA panel: Design school diversity policies to meet educational goals

School district policies to promote diversity are still viable, and recent Supreme Court rulings have bolstered existing laws that allow narrowly defined diversity policies. Districts must be careful, however, to design policies that meet these standards.

A panel of prominent education attorneys gave their advice on how build policies and programs that meet the current legal standard during a July 16 webinar organized by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA).

A ruling last month in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin upheld a 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in university admissions if such policies were narrowly tailored. That decision, as well as a 2007 ruling in PICS v. Seattle School Dist., has made diversity a more complex—but not impossible–area for school districts to navigate.

“Diversity is still in place and still very much supported by the federal government,” Anurima Bhargava, Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the audience of school attorneys.

NSBA was pleased with the Fisher ruling because schools are able to put into place diversity policies that advance students’ educations and did not erode the existing laws, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

The panelists offered advice to help clarify the new ruling and how to create policies that will support student learning in a diverse environment. The first step, all agreed, is clearly defining the desired outcomes.

“As school districts consider voluntary diversity policies, it’s important to articulate why you have an interest in diversity,” said Negrón, who added that research shows a diverse student body can improve student learning and test scores. NSBA and the College Board filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case that noted diversity could promote 21st century education goals and that policies considering many student characteristics, including race and diversity, are essential for achievement.

School leaders also need to shift their thinking and view diversity as a means to their educational goals, not the district’s demographics or quotas, panelists said.

And institutions must be prepared to show very clearly that they considered race-neutral alternatives before instituting a race-conscious policy—they have to be clear that none of the race-neutral alternatives would work as well, the panelists said.

School districts also must periodically review their policies, particularly considering changing demographics and enrollments, noted John W. Borkowski, a partner with the Hogan Lovells law firm in Washington, D.C.

“You can’t have a policy that is permanent,” he said.

But the Fisher case is not the end of the story. Diversity policies also will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s 2013-14 term through Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that will determine the fate of a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to prohibit discrimination in public agencies, including public schools and universities. NSBA will argue in an amicus brief that the measure would restrict a school district’s abilities to use race-conscious policies to achieve diversity.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Governance, School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Law|

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 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 board member reflects on testing and Teacher Appreciation Week

Neil Putnam, a member of the National School Boards Association’s Board of Directors, writes about Teacher Appreciation Week for his hometown newspaper in Mitchell, S.D.

In “Teachers are more than tests,” he reflects on his past teachers and how teachers now must look for ways to teach skills beyond the rote memorization needed for some standardized tests.

Neil Putnam

Putnam writes: “Today, as a parent and a school board member, I have developed a respect for educators. As a parent, I appreciate what they are doing to prepare my children for their futures, and I visit with other parents who concur with my appreciation. As a board member, particularly being involved in state and federal education policy, I am concerned about some of the fixation on test scores as the sole measurement of the quality of teaching. I would contend a more subjective measurement should be whether students leave the classroom more curious, creative, cooperative, collaborative, and have the character and citizenship to participate in society.”

Read more in The Daily Republic.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 8th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |

Louisiana Supreme Court strikes down voucher law, NSBA praises ruling

The National School Boards Association is thrilled that the Louisiana Supreme Court has deemed the state’s school voucher law to be unconstitutional.

The one-year-old program has diverted taxpayers’ money from public schools to private individuals and schools that are not subject to academic, operational, and accountability standards.

Working with the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), NSBA pushed to overturn the law through an amicus brief in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. State of Louisiana. That lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of several measures adopted by the Louisiana legislature, including the ploy to give vouchers to students in low-performing schools. The NSBA brief noted that the voucher scheme further aggravates the plight of academically challenged schools by taking away much-needed funds from low-performing public schools, thus perpetuating its own survival.

“These kinds of gimmicks undermine our country’s longstanding commitment to public education and steal resources from public school students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These are not grassroots efforts being proposed by residents who are concerned about the education and future of the state’s most vulnerable children, these are the products of out-of-state special-interest groups looking for profits.”

Under the provisions of the voucher law, Louisiana gives public funds to private schools, including religious schools, as “scholarships” to cover the tuition and fees of students whose parents choose to remove their children from public schools deemed “failing.” However, the plan goes so far as to allow parents to use vouchers for their children as early as kindergarten, even if the child never attended a public school or the school is highly ranked.

“We are pleased that the Louisiana Supreme Court has reaffirmed a basic tenet of the state Constitution: that taxpayer money should go to public schools that are open to all students,” said LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard. “We hope all state residents can understand the dangerous precedent that a voucher program has set and how such a program undermines our local community schools. LSBA will continue to work towards its mission of service, support and leadership for local school boards and to ensure a quality public education for all students.”

NSBA opposes private school vouchers and tuition tax subsidies, which have continuously failed to improve student achievement. NSBA is committed to defeating legislation and initiatives that unconstitutionally divert taxpayers’ funds from public schools to private and religious institutions that can exclude students for any reason.

“NSBA stands for strong public school system for all students. Vouchers undermine that fundamental principle and, as the court concluded, violate constitutional principles, too,” said NSBA President David A. Pickler.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 7th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, School Vouchers|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: , |
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