Articles in the Policy Formation category

NSBA to Court: School officials must be given flexibility in handling student harassment

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to rule that school districts should not be held financially liable for harassment related to a student’s disability if school officials took appropriate steps to stop it.

NSBA, along with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), the Alabama School Boards Association, and the Georgia School Superintendents Association, has filed an amicus brief in Long v. Murray County School District asking the court to uphold the standard set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case Davis v. Monroe when determining whether school officials are liable under federal civil rights laws for peer harassment. The Davis precedent allows victims to collect monetary compensation when school officials are deliberately indifferent to known harassment based on a protected category that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive harassment that it denies the victim access to the educational program.

“It is important that the court recognize that local school officials, who work closely with students and parents on a regular basis, are knowledgeable about community resources, and understand their students’ educational and emotional needs, know best how to prevent and respond to harassment in their own schools,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

The parents’ legal arguments rely on informal guidance given by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) through a October 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter that stated school district officials could be held responsible for claims of unreported harassment. In a December 2010 response to that letter, NSBA warned that the guidance overstepped the Supreme Court standard set by Davis and that it vastly expanded the definition of discrimination and harassment, circumventing precedent established by the courts. In a March 2011 letter to NSBA, OCR officials dismissed concerns that the guidance would lead to numerous and costly lawsuits against school districts; however, this case has proven otherwise.

“The federal government wants a one-size fits-all approach, but such a rule would require school districts to implement strategy after strategy even when the misconduct was isolated or minimal,” said Negrón. “The federal government’s approach creates an illusion of safety that would subject thousands of school districts to costly and unnecessary lawsuits diverting vital resources away from the classroom.”

Among other claims, the case will determine whether the Murray County school district in Georgia should be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act for money damages as a result of the suicide of a student with Asperger’s Syndrome. After the student reported incidents of peer bullying during his freshman and sophomore years, school officials responded effectively to all known occurrences at school. The student committed suicide at home during his junior year.

A date for oral argument date in the case has not been set yet. Phil Hartley and Martha Pearson, members of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys, and partners in Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, LLP, are representing the Murray County school district. Hartley also serves as General Counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association.

Joetta Sack-Min|November 30th, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Council of School Attorneys, Crisis Management, Discipline, Policy Formation, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , |

NSBA supports Louisiana school boards in voucher case

A lawsuit filed by school boards will determine the fate of Louisiana’s school voucher plan, which may already be jeopardized after a federal court ruling this week.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is supporting a lawsuit filed in state court by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), the state’s main teachers’ organizations, and 43 school districts that challenges the constitutionality of a plan to provide vouchers to Louisiana students in low-performing schools. The first hearing on this lawsuit is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, La. LSBA’s Legal Counsel Robert Hammonds will be arguing the case on behalf of LSBA’s members.

The law allows students to attend any private or parochial school that is approved by the Louisiana Department of Education, and many of these teach specific and in some cases extremist religious philosophies. Further, the program does little to hold these schools accountable for student learning or financial management of taxpayer funds—for instance, schools that accept less than 40 students with vouchers are not subject to rigorous accountability requirements for student achievement. State legislators and educators have questioned the state’s process to choose the private and parochial schools that are eligible for public funds, while state officials have launched an advertising campaign to promote the plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In a separate but related court ruling on Monday, a federal judge halted the voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish schools, saying that portions of Jindal’s education plan conflicts with a desegregation agreement because the school choice provisions would lead to more segregation in schools. That ruling in New Orleans-based U.S. District court could affect other school districts that are under desegregation orders. State superintendent John White has said the administration will appeal that ruling. It was unclear what the ruling would mean for the students who are already attending schools with vouchers this year.

In a letter to the editor of the The Advocate in Baton Rouge, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard notes that the voucher program will siphon resources away from public schools with little or no accountability to local school district governance.

The program “is diminishing public school systems’ ability to provide necessary services for all students by diverting public funds to private and parochial entities under the guise of ‘choice,’” he wrote. “What’s wrong with giving parents a choice of where their children go to school under the current voucher program? The private or parochial schools that accept vouchers will not be held to high standards for students’ learning nor the taxpayer dollars they spend — if at all.”

Public schools—governed by local school boards—are best equipped to meet the needs of all students, Richard continued. But those schools need a resources to implement programs that will improve student achievement, including early education, strong interventions for students who are falling behind, and highly qualified teachers and staff.

“LSBA is not defending the status quo in our public schools,” Richard wrote. “We need our elected officials to commit to ensuring that Louisiana has the best public school system available to all of its families and the infrastructure to support it — for the sake of our children and our state.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey will attend the state trial and bring a letter of support from NSBA to Baton Rouge at the start of the trial on Wednesday.

“It is clear this law was not created with the best interest of all children in mind; instead it promotes a narrow political agenda and will harm community public schools that serve the best interest of all children,” Massey said. “It also deprives the public schools of valuable resources that are necessary to carry out the mandate to provide a free and appropriate public education.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

School boards can help NSBA lobby to avoid fiscal cliff

Political pundits are already warning President Barack Obama and members of Congress not to spend too much time basking in their Nov. 6 victories. Beginning next week, Congress and the White House will start the tough negotiations to deal with the process of sequestration, which is the cancellation of budgetary resources.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 will impose across-the-board cuts of approximately 8.2 percent to education and other domestic programs in FY2013 unless Congress intervenes by Jan. 2, 2013. Most school districts would not see any impact until the 2013-14 school year, but those consequences will be severe. Districts that receive Impact Aid funds would see immediate cuts.

More than 100 school boards already have passed resolutions urging members of Congress to stop sequestration, which is also being called the fiscal cliff. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking school boards to pass a resolution, write letters to local newspapers and take actions to publicize schools’ plights. NSBA also wants your stories about how these cuts could impact your students and schools. Learn more on the NSBA’s “Stop Sequestration” webpage for  a list of actions for local school board members and more information about the threats.

NSBA’s Advocacy department also has compiled these facts about sequestration:

  • For every $1 million of federal aid districts receive, they would lose $82,000; and, while districts can vary widely, on average, for every 5,000 students enrolled, districts would lose about $300,000.
  • The impact of an 8.2 percent cut to programs such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students would mean a cut of more than $1 billion, affecting nearly two million students.
  • Special education grants would be reduced by more than $900 million, impacting nearly 500,000 children with disabilities.
  • English Language Acquisition grants would be cut by approximately $60 million, affecting an estimated 377,000 students.
  • These budget cuts to education programs would take place during 2013-14 school year, with the exception of Impact Aid, with which cuts would become effective during this school year.
  • Sequestration’s budget cuts to these and other education programs would mean increased class sizes and less access to programs for children with special needs, as well as summer school, college counselors, early childhood education and after-school programming.
  • Certain school bond programs would also be affected by a 7.6 percent reduction in federal subsidy payments.
  • In addition to school systems losing federal education funds, there are two indirect impacts. First, federal cuts for programs to state and local governments in other areas may result in those units cutting their aid to schools as they scramble to make up the difference. Second, in communities with a large federal presence, such as military bases or government contracts, the across-the-board budget cuts could be devastating to their economies in terms of lost sales and property tax revenues that are often used, in part, to finance education.

If you have any questions or if you would like to send in a resolution, please contact Kathleen Branch, NSBA’s Director of National Advocacy Services at kbranch@nsba.org or (703)838-6735.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 7th, 2012|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Policy Formation, Public Advocacy|Tags: , |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

New Charter School Resource Center helps school boards assess information on charters

With the rapid growth of charter schools and their increasing implications for traditional public schools, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched the Charter School Resource Center, an online resource containing practical information and research to help state school boards associations and local school board members respond to charter legislation and policy in their states.

This comprehensive online tool focuses on the following key areas:

• Understanding of various state policies for charter schools and how they impact local school districts differently.

• Information on how to work with state legislatures when considering whether charter schools should be created and/or expanded.

• Guidance on assessing charter school applications and authorizing decisions with suggested questions and issues school boards should consider.

• Research addressing various elements of charter schools including student achievement.

“With a variation of state policy governing the oversight, operation and funding of charter schools, local school districts’ experience with charters varies substantially based on how state policy affects traditional public schools, “ said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. “School board members can use the information on this website to respond to legislation in their states and to assess whether charters are a good fit in their communities.”

NSBA supports charter schools as a tool to renovate and boost student achievement, provided they are authorized by the local school boards in the communities where they are located. School boards currently authorize more than half of the nation’s 5,600 charter schools. The local school board is already the steward of public funds and accountability and should have the authority to decertify or not renew the charter of any school that fails to meet criteria set forth in the charter or as otherwise specified by the local school boards. NSBA also believes charter schools should have to abide by the same environmental, labor, due process, and fiscal laws as community public schools.

The Charter School Resource Center includes the following contents:

• Charter School Guide for School Board Members: Two new documents developed by NSBA give practical advice to school boards: “A School Board’s Guide To Understanding Charter Schools and Their Variations Across States” shows various types of charter schools and how they can impact traditional public schools; “A Charter School Toolkit for School Board Members” guides school boards in reviewing charter applications, including suggested questions school boards should ask and consider.

• NSBA Advocacy: NSBA’s position on charter schools, advocacy messages and happenings on Capitol Hill.

• Research: Information on research and articles about charter schools, including studies from NSBA’s Center for Public Education on a wide range of issues such as their impact on student achievement.

• In the News: Postings of charter school happenings across the country.

• State policy: Resources for charter school policy across the states.

The website will be updated as new information emerges. You can access it at www.nsba.org/charterschools. Please contact Katherine Shek, NSBA’s legislative analyst  with questions or suggestions.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 15th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Educators must engage minority male students, CUBE speaker says

When urban school leaders ask themselves why young men of color are not doing well in their schools, they may be asking the wrong question.

The real question may be why school leaders—on their watch— are allowing so many of these students to struggle in their schools.

That was the provocative beginning of the two-hour opening session of the 45th annual conference of the Council of Urban Board of Education (CUBE), which opened Thursday in Atlanta.

As she began talking of the role of school leaders in helping these students, speaker Sonya Gunnings–Moton, an assistant dean at Michigan State University’s College of Education, hammered home a series of damning facts regarding the school experience of many African-American and Latino students.

Academic performance is lower on average for minority male students compared to their white peers, she said. These students are more likely to end up suspended or expelled, assigned to a special education program, or enrolled in an under-resourced school.

They also are less likely to be enrolled in gifted and talented programs.

This reality is disturbing enough to fuel action, Gunnings-Moton said. But, in her mind, she added, there was a more-compelling reason for her audience to return home from the conference and address the issue.

“It’s happening under our watch … this is not a history lesson,” she argued. “These are our realities today—the realities with our children.”

“One of the things I want you to be very clear about … we are responsible. This is our responsibility.”

So where to begin? Start with the research that shows that many minority male students don’t drop out of school because of poor academics, as is commonly believed, Gunnings -Moton said.

According to research, “what large populations of [these students] really did not believe, did not internalize, was the belief that going to school and being educated was going to make a difference in the outcome of their lives,” she told urban school leaders

Society, she added, has sent these students a consistent message that they will not succeed in school—and they have responded by deciding there is no need to make the attempt.

“Now that has profound implications around what we may need to think about … what it means to engage African-American males in education.”

To address this reality, urban school leaders need to go beyond the focus on instructional and management issues that has been the centerpiece of school reform efforts for the past decade, she said. Now it’s time for educators to focus on the very real social and emotional needs of young urban male students.

Efforts are needed to engage young male students in school, convince them they can succeed academically, and provide more supports to help them with the very real emotional and social issues that these students must address in a poor urban community.

Winning support to put scarce resources into such an effort can be a challenge, Gunnings-Moton agreed, but she said school leaders can argue that such efforts serve the needs of all students—and shouldn’t be looked at as an intervention solely for minority male students.

“You have a tremendous amount of data that all students who receive socio-emotional support and prevention services achieve better academically, regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” she said. “It makes sense for all students.”

Del Stover|October 5th, 2012|Categories: Governance, High Schools, Immigrants, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , |

NSBA creates Action Center to boost lobbying and advocacy in Washington

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), a 501(c)(4) organization that will enable NSBA to expand its advocacy efforts and to increase its lobbying to include public advocacy activities not previously available. NSBAC is also designed to serve local school board members as an important resource for grassroots advocacy and for information on the political process and candidates.

Although NSBAC will not endorse specific candidates, it will analyze information and identify differences among the political candidate positions so that local school board members will be able to determine what candidates best serve the interests of our public school students.

As part of its mission to raise awareness of school boards’ top issues to candidates for federal offices, NSBAC has released an analysis of President Obama’s and Gov. Mitt Romney’s K-12 proposals. For more information, go to www.nsbac.org.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 28th, 2012|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Announcements, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Public Advocacy, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: , , |

New voucher study doesn’t live up to hype, NSBA says

A new study released today by the Brookings Institute and Harvard University researcher Paul E. Peterson shows that low-income students who participated in a three-year voucher program in New York City in the late 1990s overall fared no better in college enrollments than their peers in public schools. However, the study found that African-American students did attend college at higher rates than those who did not receive vouchers.

Although the study was relatively small and narrowly focused, the authors and voucher proponents are using it to lobby for expanding voucher programs across the country. Peterson and researcher Matthew M. Chingos published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal calling on the Obama administration to support the voucher program for students in Washington D.C. Their claims have been challenged by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“The grandiose statements made in the executive summary are not substantiated by the data,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. One undetermined factor, she added, is the level of parental involvement with a child’s education, which research shows makes a significant difference in the child’s academic achievement.

“Clearly the parents who chose this program were dedicated, and parent involvement is key,” Bryant said.

The study examined longitudinal data from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 each year to as many as 1,000 low-income families. Those vouchers were primarily used at Catholic schools, and in most cases parents also paid a portion of the tuition. However, 22 percent of the students who were offered a voucher never used it, and most of the students returned to public schools for reasons unknown, some after the first or second year, noted Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

Several of the report’s methodologies are particularly troublesome, he noted:

  • The study neither isolates the impact of private schools nor school choice on students going to college;
  • The study never took into account what happened to those students who left the voucher program to return to the public school;
  • Results do not show that expanding vouchers programs will necessarily result in higher college going rates for low-income students in urban schools, even black students;
  • While the findings about African-American students appear impressive, the actual impact may in fact be minimal due to a large margin of error. An offer of a voucher may only increase a black student’s chances of going to college by as little as .4 percentage points but could be as large as increasing their chances by 13.8 percentage points. A more robust study is needed to more precisely determine the true impact that a voucher offer has on the enrollment of black students in college;
  • The more years a student uses a voucher does not necessarily mean a student is more likely to go on to college.

NSBA opposes publicly-funded vouchers for private schools because such programs abandon public schools, which are required to serve all students regardless of abilities, and eliminate public accountability for those tax dollars. Read more in NSBA’s issue brief.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 23rd, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Reports, School Board News, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , , , |

More flexibility needed in bill regulating use of restraints on students, NSBA tells Senate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking for more flexibility for local school officials in a bill designed to prevent the improper use of restraints and seclusion to manage students with disabilities.

In testimony submitted in anticipation of a hearing on July 12, NSBA is asking the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to reconsider portions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). The bill, which is supported by many special education and disability rights advocates, would ban certain types of restraints and require school districts to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Local school boards want to be assured that federal legislation addressing the use of restraints and seclusion provides maximum flexibility and authority to states and local school boards in its implementation,” reads NSBA’s testimony.

NSBA asks that any requirements for teacher and staff training and certification “be structured in a manner that is reasonable, affordable and effective,” and that Congress ensures that data collecting and reporting requirements are minimized, given the limited capacity of school districts and the U.S. Department of Education to collect and analyze such data.

The testimony asks for specific changes to the bill, including:

  • Remove or rewrite the threshold for restraints, based on the definition of serious bodily injury adopted by IDEA in 2004, which is not feasible in emergencies and takes away other opportunities to train staff and prepare for its use;
  • Modify the requirement for a debriefing session within five days, as this is burdensome and costly to schools and would create conditions well beyond the control of the school. NSBA recommends that personnel should be allowed to submit information verbally, in writing and electronically since all parties may not be able to physically participate;
  • Ensure that the bill allows flexibility to address unanticipated threats to students’ safety;
  • Remove a stipulation that prohibits any reference to the use of physical restraints into a student’s education plan; and
  • Allow states that have successfully created policies dealing with restraints and seclusion to be exempt from new federal mandates.

The bill was introduced in December but its chance of passage seems unlikely, given its lack of progress in the House and the lack of time remaining in Congress in an election year.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 27th, 2012|Categories: Crisis Management, Discipline, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA urges action on ESEA, organizes “call-in day”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Congress to complete its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act before it adjourns later this year.

Through its “ESEA Now” campaign, NSBA is urging school board members and other educators to contact their Washington representatives on Wednesday, May 9 to push for an overhaul of the law, which is now five years past due. The House and Senate education committees have passed bills that, while not perfect, would be a large improvement over the existing law. NSBA is calling on both chambers to pass these bills and quickly reconcile their differences.

“Nobody believes that the No Child Left Behind law is working the way it was intended, and Congress needs to complete its work and relieve all schools from its flawed accountability measures,” said NSBA President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County Board of Education in Kentucky. “We need to move toward a system that emphasizes 21st century skills and common core standards rather than testing and ineffective sanctions.”

Working with a coalition of nine other major organizations of state and local government officials, NSBA also is calling on Congressional leaders to move forward now on a floor vote for ESEA reauthorization.

A resolution passed by NSBA’s Delegate Assembly, which includes state association leaders representing the more than 90,000 school board members across the country, last month urges Congress to include the following provisions in a comprehensive reauthorization:

  • Ensure states and local school districts have greater flexibility to make educationally sound decisions, and be free of mandates that unnecessarily or counterproductively hinder school districts from achieving their goals (i.e., mandating the expansion of charter schools and standardized tests as a measure of accountability, and conditioning federal funding on the adoption of state-led common core standards);
  • Ensure the accountability systems accurately and fairly report student, school, and school district performance; Ensure high-quality, valid, and reliable assessments for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities;
  • Support the use of multiple measures of academic achievement that will more accurately determine students’ knowledge and performance that reflect a well-rounded education necessary to be successful in the 21st century economy, as opposed to judging success on their performance on a single assessment;
  • Permit the use of growth models and other measures of student achievement that more accurately reflect student and school performance; Facilitate strategic interventions that are designed at the local or state level and are targeted to students and schools most in need, rather than impose ineffective and costly sanctions;
  • Provide support to states and school districts and ensure their flexibility to establish programs to enhance teacher/principal quality focusing on preparation, recruitment, retention, and evaluation;
  • Provide support to school districts to give all children, including migratory children, the opportunity to reach their full potential;
  • Support efforts by school districts, through a separate funding stream, to develop, expand, coordinate, and enhance the quality and availability of voluntary preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year old children; and
  • Fully fund the law, along with other federal assistance programs that are critical to successfully achieving the goals of the new law, and limit the expansion of competitive grants where such expansion would result in level funding of formula-based grants so critical to students in poverty.

 

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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