Articles in the Policy Formation category

Education leaders discuss sequestration’s impact to public education

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President C. Ed Massey participated in a Feb. 27 press conference call to rally against the scheduled federal budget cuts, known as the sequester, that are schedule to take place on Friday. The call was organized by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 100 national education organizations including NSBA, to highlight the planned program cuts and teacher layoffs that will occur if Congress does not intervene.

Massey’s school district, the Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., would see particular impact on programs for disadvantaged programs. The 20,000-student school district will have to eliminate about 15 jobs funded by Title I grants and will have to scale back programs that help struggling students learn to read by providing reading coaches in classrooms.

“In those areas where we struggle the most, those are the areas where we will be hardest hit,” Massey said. “This takes away [disadvantaged students’] resources to make progress in this very competitive world we live in.”

On that call, CEF Executive Director Joel Packer said that the sequester would lead to the largest education cuts ever at the federal level, and would bring the total K-12 budget back to the level of the fiscal year 2004 budget.

Packer noted that Head Start, which provides early education services to low-income children, would see immediate cuts that would eliminate slots for about 70,000 children and cut 10,000 teacher jobs.

The U.S. Department of Education would see cuts of $2.5 billion, but because all K-12 programs except for Impact Aid are funded for the next school year, the effect of the cuts would not be seen until the 2013-14 school year.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 27th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , , |

School boards prepare for layoffs, program cuts as federal deadline looms

School boards across the country will be forced to lay off thousands of teachers and teacher aides in coming weeks as they create their budgets for the 2013-14 academic year because of the federal budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1.

The sequester, which will require across the board budget cuts for all federal programs on March 1, will eliminate about 5 percent of funding for K-12 programs and Head Start. However, representatives from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) pointed out in a press conference call this week that those cuts disproportionately affect school districts that are educating large populations of disadvantaged students.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, noted that many school districts are beginning to plan next year’s budgets, and in an informal survey, three-quarters said they would be issuing layoff notices this spring.

For some school districts, the process of issuing pink slips has already started.

Minnie Forte-Brown, a school board member in Durham, N.C., and chair of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, said her school district planned to eliminate 34 teacher and staff positions. Title I cuts would be about $800,000 of about $1.7 million in cuts that the 33,000 student school would endure for the next 10 years, special education would amount to another $600,000 each year.

The school board has already stopped filling vacant positions and has cut all travel and professional development.

“We are implementing extreme measures,” said Forte-Brown. “This is not the promise we made to our families when we said we were going to educate excellently.”

In rural Alabama, Steve Foster, vice president of the Lowndes County Board of Education, said his school district has already seen significant state cuts in recent years, and a further reduction from the federal government would diminish books and classroom supplies, teacher retention and professional development programs, and cuts to the library, where many parents and students who do not have home computers or internet access go to work on school assignments.

”Our school system has made great strides in the last 10 to 12 years. These cuts are going to affect the programs that help us make progress,” said Foster, who is also President of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

President Obama has frequently used education and early childhood examples in recent speeches about the impact of sequestration on the country. The White House released state-by-state estimates that include how much K-12 funding each state stands to lose, the number of teacher and staff jobs, the number of children that will lose access to Head Start, and other details. (The Washington Post published this graphic detailing the cuts.)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on February 24 to warn of the impact of the looming cuts to K-12 programs.

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the sequester. Go to NSBA’s website, www.nsba.org/stopsequestration, for sample letters, resolutions, and other activities for school boards.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA commends focus on education in State of the Union address

President Barack Obama called for a high-quality preschool education for all children in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12. He also announced a new program, based on the Race to the Top competitive grants, that would spur a redesign of the nation’s high schools, instill more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, and better prepare students for higher education and the workforce.

In response to the speech, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel released the following statement:

“We welcome President Barack Obama’s commitment to a high-quality education for all our students. We look forward to working with his administration on the priorities he brought forth, including early childhood education, rebuilding and modernizing school buildings, STEM education, and helping our students gain access to higher education.

“Like the president, we are deeply concerned about the federal funding cuts scheduled to take place next month. More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions advocating Congress to stop these across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration. The cuts to K-12 public education would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, the cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for programs that directly impact student learning, including programs that close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and retain highly effective teachers. Many school districts would not be able to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

Proposed USDA rules on snack foods will burden school districts

Every U.S. school district will be affected by new rules on school snacks proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

No state currently has standards that fully comply with the Department’s proposal for “competitive foods,” which include foods sold in vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines , said NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman.

The rules are part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue mandatory standards for competitive foods. The proposed rule sets requirements for calories, total fat, saturated fat, transfat, sugar and vitamin or nutrient content of all foods sold outside the school meal programs, on the school campus and at any time during the school day.

Further, school districts would be burdened by new reporting and monitoring requirements, Gettman said. Maintaining receipts, nutrition labels and product specifications for competitive food service would apply throughout the campus, not just to the school food authority.  NSBA is carefully analyzing the proposal and plans to send comments to the USDA.

NSBA has had ongoing concerns about the impact of the law, known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, and the ensuing regulatory standards. Restrictions on competitive foods, for one, could dramatically lower revenues used to fund athletics and extracurricular activities.

“The USDA is regulating in the dark when it comes to the impact on instruction and school revenue from competitive food sales, because there is no comprehensive data on how much revenue schools raise and how it is used,” Gettman said.

The USDA, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to what traditionally has been a local issue, noted in its announcement that the proposed regulations would still allow parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations.

The proposal also would allow schools to continue “infrequent” fundraisers and bake sales, as long as they are not conducted in the cafeteria or during regular meal times. And foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities would not be subject to the requirements.

The USDA characterizes the proposed rule as a minimum standard.  Additional state or local standards may impose more stringent requirements if they are consistent with the Department’s final rule.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

NSBA urges White House to protect federal K-12 funding

The economic impact of federal budget cuts now scheduled for early March would lead to long-term damage to investments in education and the nation’s infrastructure, White House economic advisers told representatives from Washington organizations at a Feb. 6 meeting.

National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in the White House meeting to discuss ways that the impending federal budget cuts could be halted for education and other domestic policy programs.

The sequester, which is the automatic across-the-board cuts amounting to about 5.1 percent reductions in all federal programs, will take place in March unless Congress approves a new plan. The sequestration was scheduled as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The White House officials said that a total of about $4 trillion needed to be cut from the federal budget over the next 10 years, and were confident that tax increases and budget cuts that were approved to avoid the first deadline on Jan. 2 should cover up to half that amount, although other estimates have put the savings at $1 trillion or less. The White House has pushed for a “balanced, rational approach,” and has lobbied Congress to make changes to the plan, but neither Republican nor Democrat leaders have been able to craft a plan that could pass both chambers of Congress.

“The long-term impact of cuts to education programs, particularly those for students with disabilities and students from low-income homes, would hurt the quality of education in many school districts,” said Gentzel.  “NSBA is committed to working with the White House and members of Congress so that they understand the potential damage these cuts would inflict on our schools and on our nation’s economy.”

The White House advisors also expressed concerns that new plans floated by members of Congress would have a detrimental impact on education and other domestic programs. Specifically, Gentzel said the advisors warned groups to be skeptical of a plan that would give agencies flexibility in how to manage the cuts, as that would not have significant benefits.  They also warned the group that if the sequester takes place, the cuts might not appear to have a large impact immediately, but over the course of the 10-year schedule the reductions would significantly damage the nation’s economic infrastructure.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, estimates that the planned cuts to K-12 programs would only amount to about .0007 percent of the total federal budget.

“Education cuts would have very little impact on the plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, but these cuts would have a dramatic long term effect on local school district budgets,” said Resnick.  “This is not a strategic way of managing the economy.”

Some 700 school boards have passed resolutions to oppose the sequester, and NSBA is encouraging all school board members to contact their members of Congress and urge them to spare education programs. For more information and sample resolutions, visit NSBA’s Stop Sequestration web page.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 11th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA joins state and local government groups to push for ESEA reauthorization

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to a letter urging key members of Congress to pass a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year.

The Feb. 4 letter was coordinated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and was signed by nine groups representing state and city leaders and elected officials. It was sent to leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

The ESEA reauthorization “is truly ‘must pass’ legislation,” according to the letter. It notes that the current law is flawed and shifts too much control away from states and local governments and focuses on punishments rather than rewards.

The letter states: “Only a full reauthorization of ESEA can adequately address the challenges state and local governments face in education. Policymakers at the state, local, and school district level need a long-term resolution and solution to NCLB. As we struggle to reallocate scarce federal resources and face economic uncertainty, we need greater federal funding flexibility. Most of all, we need federal policies that authentically support state and local innovation so that every student will be prepared for college or careers.”

The coalition, which includes NGA, NSBA, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments, National League of Cities, International City/County Managers Association, National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, and National Association of State Boards of Education, wrote two similar letters in 2012 pushing for an ESEA reauthorization.

 

 

FRN meeting kicks off with rally to protect federal funds, promote school board governance

Participants in the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network will focus on stopping planned budget cuts to federal K-12 programs, advocating for a bill to promote local school board governance, and pushing yet again to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

At the opening session the more than 700 attendees also learned about what NSBA leaders are calling the “New NSBA,” the organization’s plan to focus further on advocacy for school board governance and public education.

With Congress having “kicked the can” on dealing with the debt ceiling and sequestration’s across-the-board program cuts now slated to take effect around March 1, FRN attendees have come to Washington at an opportune time to influence members on Capitol Hill, said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. The session served as the kick-off point for the annual FRN conference meeting, where attendees selected by their state associations spend two days being briefed on current topics and then lobby their members of Congress.

On sequestration, Resnick noted that after the deal reached to raise tax levels at the new year, federal programs will be subject to an across-the-board cut of 5.9 percent on March 1, and those cuts will continue for the next nine years. That means for every 5,000 students in a school district, those districts will lose about $250,000, or more if they receive Title I funds for disadvantaged populations.

But keep in mind K-12 programs make up less than one percent of the entire federal budget, and while cuts would be significant to school operations it would be miniscule to managing federal debt, Resnick said.

“When it comes to education we will not sacrifice the vehicle our children need to tackle the economic situation ahead,” he said. “A child does not get to re-do an inadequately funded third-grade education, or the years after.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey emphasized that public education is being attacked by people who want to privatize systems for their own profit.

“I am so tired of hearing about the cost or expense of education,” Massey said. “Education is not a cost or expense—it is the greatest investment our public can make.”

NSBA has also proposed legislation that would seek to prevent the U.S. Department of Education from overreaching its authority. The proposed bill prohibits the Education Department, in the absence of specific legislation, from issuing a regulation or grant condition that would interfere with local governance, require the Education Department to go through a more rigorous process that would allow school boards and others to comment, and each year require an annual report to Congress on public education law.

Massey also introduced new NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, who joined the organization in December. Massey noted that the NSBA Board of Directors undertook an exhaustive process to find a leader.

Gentzel spoke about the increased legislative advocacy of the new NSBA based on the phrase “from, with and through.” That means more legislation and other initiatives will come from NSBA, the organization will partner with other like-minded groups to promote legislation and other initiatives. Most importantly, he noted, NSBA will mount a strong defense against any proposal that would harm public education or school board governance.

“They’re going to have to come through us to get that done,” Gentzel said. Further, he added, “We are facing a critical moment right now in terms of public education.”

Resnick also noted that in spite of naysayers who use terms such as “failing schools,” data and test scores show that public school students are improving.

And while some naysayers criticize the institution of school boards, Resnick noted that local school board members, the vast majority of whom are elected to their jobs, have proven to be a far more effective governance structure than Congress, which continues to stall on dealing with the debt ceiling and budget cuts, favors continuing resolutions instead of new budgetary guidelines, and has not reauthorized ESEA in 11 years.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 27th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website, www.au.org/voucherFAIL, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA works with White House on school safety issues

President Barack Obama issued 23 executive actions today that he says will strengthen school safety and prevent gun violence. He also called on Congress to pass tougher gun-control measures, including banning some assault rifles and magazines and requiring  background checks for purchasing all guns, one month and two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the White House event. Obama announced a campaign entitled “Now is the Time” that outlines his plans for preventing gun violence.

The executive actions pertaining to school safety include:

  • Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers;
  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education;
  • Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations;
  • Launch a national conversation on mental health with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The orders and proposals were “based on an emerging consensus from all the groups we heard,” said Vice President Joe Biden. At the request of the president, Vice President Biden oversaw a task force designed to field recommendations from key stakeholder groups to curb gun violence in the United States. The White House has emphasized that local school leaders would be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit.

“We commend President Obama for his efforts to ensure that all schools are safe places,” Gentzel said. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress in a collaborative effort to address this important issue.”

NSBA called for the expansion of school safety zones and more school resource officers during a Jan. 9 White House meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who fielded recommendations from about a dozen major education groups as part of the vice president’s task force.

NSBA’s Director of Federal Legislation Deborah Rigsby participated in that session and also recommended greater access to mental health services and resources for greater coordination between law enforcement agencies and school districts.

Other organizations represented at the event included the American Association of School Administrators, National PTA, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, School Social Work Association of America, Council of Chief State School Officers, Mothers in Charge, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council for Exceptional Children, and Council of Great City Schools.

Some of the groups discussed ideas such as creating a federal interagency council on school safety, and training development and support for school principals on preparation and preparedness.

NSBA and some other groups did not take a specific position on gun control, but others expressed opposition to arming teachers with guns, Rigsby said.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 16th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Crisis Management, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , |

New law will help provide better education services to foster children

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) praised the passage of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which allows school districts to provide educational records to child welfare agencies that are legally responsible for the care and protection of a student, including the educational stability of a child in foster care. This new law, signed by President Barack Obama on Monday, amends provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

“Assuring the educational success of vulnerable children, such as those in the child welfare system, is an important priority for local school boards,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Public Policy and Federal Advocacy. “Federal policy increasingly calls for public school districts to collect and share data on individual students. Federal initiatives require data collection to ascertain, among other things, individual student progress, student demographics, and student disciplinary actions.”

While it is important to respect a student’s privacy, NSBA recognizes that this data collection and sharing may be necessary to achieve important goals such as interagency collaboration in youth services, closing the achievement gap, and improving instruction and student outcomes.

“The Uninterrupted Scholars Act is a step forward in assuring successful educational outcomes for some of our most vulnerable children,” said Resnick.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 15th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |
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