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Articles in the School Boards category

As students go back to school, schools prepare for unaccompanied immigrant children

This post appeared in the National School Boards Association’s Legal Clips. Since this post came out, NSBA has also been featured on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” and on NBC-owned local affiliates:

As reported in the USA Today, the arrival of 50,000 unaccompanied immigrant children since last fall is creating uncertainty among some school districts. “We haven’t started school yet, so we are all just holding our breaths to see what’s going to come on the first day of school,” said Caroline Woodason, assistant director of school support for Dalton Public Schools in Georgia. Georgia received more than 1,100 unaccompanied minors this year, as of July 7, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Under federal law, all children are entitled to a free public education, regardless of their immigration status. Public schools in states such as Florida, Texas and Georgia know the unaccompanied minors are already in their states, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. What they don’t know is how many will end up enrolling in their schools.

Last school year, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland enrolled 107 unaccompanied minors and has “no expectations” about how many could enroll this school year, said school district spokesman Dana Tofig. Maryland saw more than 2,200 unaccompanied minors arrive this year, as of July 7, according to the ORR data.

“We don’t know the educational background (of the students), if they’ve even been to school, the language issue and operational issues that could raise costs beyond those raised initially through state funding,” said Francisco Negrón, General Counsel for the National School Boards Association.

The Department of Education did not provide USA TODAY Network with specifics on guidance to school districts. The agency has a team to take “inquiries received from the field” and identify resources for school districts, according to an e-mail from Dorie Nolt, DOE press secretary.

School districts receive Title III funding under the No Child Left Behind Act for students with limited English proficiency. States can set aside up to 15% for districts that experience a “significant increase” in the number of immigrant students. Texas sets aside 6% of its Title III funding, or $5.9 million, said DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. New York sets aside 10.5% or $5.2 million and California sets aside 5% or $8 million, reports Education Week. But it’s unclear if the current school district budgets are enough.

Miami-Dade County School District requested additional federal funding last week to support what it expects to be a flood of new students. Miami is home to the country’s largest Honduran population, and in the last three months of the school year, the district enrolled 300 children from Honduras, said superintendent Alberto Carvalho. The district has plenty of English-as-second-language teachers, as well as relationships with local social services. But “there’s an unknown factor” of how new students will impact the district financially, Carvalho said. Miami-Dade estimates it spends an additional $1,959 in local funds on immigrant children, Carvalho said in a July 30 letter to Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In addition to health screenings, students need social and psychological services because of the “dramatic conditions they left behind of violence or gang violence or poverty, coupled with what is often a traumatic experience during their journey,” Carvalho said.


Using Title III funds, Dalton Public Schools in Georgia set up what it calls a “Newcomer Academy” this year when it saw that about 30 students needed English training. Last year, the district received $200,000 in Title III funding for its 1,800 English language learners, about a quarter of the overall student population, Woodason said.

Whitfield County Schools, also in Georgia, set up a similar academy over the summer. Last school year, the district enrolled 13 unaccompanied immigrant children from Guatemala and El Salvador. Most don’t speak Spanish but their native Mayan dialects, said Eric Beaver, spokeswoman for the school district, in an e-mail.

Source:  USA Today, 8/6/14, By Jolie Lee

[Editor’s Note:  In June 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article from The Star-Ledger, which reported that the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey had filed lawsuits against seven New Jersey school districts, alleging that the districts are discriminating against families on the basis of their immigration status. The suits charge that the districts are requiring government-issued identification from parents before they will enroll their children.

In February 2014, Legal Clips reported on the announcement by the Southern Poverty Law Center that it had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice asking the department to conduct an investigation into two school districts in North Carolina, claiming that the districts discriminated against an immigrant child by denying, delaying, or discouraging enrollment. The complaint describes how “unaccompanied” immigrant children – who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian and are placed in the care of a sponsor, such as a family member – were turned away from the schoolhouse door because of their limited English proficiency, age, or national origin.]

Alexis Rice|August 11th, 2014|Categories: Immigrants, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , |

Education organizations call on U.S. Supreme Court to curb lengthy IDEA litigation

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), today filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of M.R. v. Ridley School District. At issue in the case is whether school districts must continue paying for a student’s private placement once a court finds the school district provided the child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under the stay-put requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts must pay for a disabled child’s current educational placement while legal proceedings continue to resolve a dispute between parents and schools.

The groups urge the Court to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit extending the stay-put obligation through completion of all appeals—a departure from previous court rulings that limited the stay-put obligation only until a trial court issued a decision.

The amici argue that the Third Circuit’s decision risks inflicting significant harm on school districts and the students they serve. By extending school districts’ obligation to pay for private school placements until all appeals are exhausted, the decision creates an incentive for parents to prolong litigation rather than to work collaboratively with school districts to resolve disputes without delay; the increased liability for private tuition and legal fees from needlessly prolonged litigation imposes an untenable burden on the already-strained budgets of local school districts and diverts resources away from providing educational services to all children. The brief contends that one legal dispute could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars expended on an unnecessary placement and legal fees and innumerable hours of professional educators’ time spent in legal proceedings rather than the classroom.

“Parents and educators should collaborate to develop appropriate education plans for student with disabilities and to resolve disagreements quickly,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “Schools should not be forced to spend public funds intended to provide educational services to all children on an unnecessary placement for one child or on increased legal fees caused by excessive litigation.”

“IDEA requires school districts to provide a child with disabilities a free appropriate public education, not to fund the parents’ preferred private placement,” said NSBA Associate Executive Director and General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “Once a district court determines that a school district has provided FAPE, its obligation to pay for the stay-put placement should end.”

According to Negrón, the Third Circuit ruling requires immediate Court resolution: “We risk violating the public trust when we prolong expensive private school placement at public expense. Granting review of this important case would serve the needs and interests of many children, not a select few.”

Alexis Rice|July 29th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , , |

Share how your school district earns trust

School districts that earn the trust of their key stakeholder groups are more likely to win bond referendums, successfully implement their plans, and enjoy a better relationship with their communities than those districts where trust is lacking.

But what creates trust? Is it science? Can a process be found that works every time? Or must you tailor the process to fit your district’s size and location, the socioeconomic status of your constituents, and other factors?

Uncovering which elements of trust are shared, which are unique, and which can build successful school district/stakeholder group relationships is the purpose of The Trust Project. The study is a cooperative venture of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and Patron Insight, Inc.

You can contribute to the accuracy of this important study by taking The Trust Project’s 10-minute, online survey on trust. All responses are confidential. (Please be aware that the survey is set up to limit responses to one per computer address, so if you “exit the survey” before you have completed it, you will not be able to return later.)

A copy of the survey’s results will be sent directly to anyone who provides optional contact information. Survey results will be made available to the public at a later date.

The survey will be open through the end of August.

Margaret Suslick|July 12th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, School Boards, School Climate, Teachers|Tags: , |

School boards encouraged by E-Rate modernization plan, but further improvements are vital

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomes the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve the long oversubscribed E-rate program, while also noting remaining funding gaps. This was reinforced by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who announced that the FCC will consider added funding for E-rate in a future call for public input.

“The FCC made key revisions to its E-rate modernization proposal,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Though we must solve for remaining funding gaps, NSBA is very pleased with the FCC’s commitment to advance WiFi and broadband in America’s public schools and libraries and its willingness to seek public input for future E-rate funding.”

For the past two decades, NSBA has proactively supported the goals of the E-rate program. As a member of the Education and Libraries Network Coalitions (EdLiNC), NSBA expressed concern about proposals that rewrite the program’s need-based dissemination of funds, which risks hurting school districts and libraries with the greatest need.

Gentzel calls for sustained focus: “Absent a meaningful increase in funding, NSBA has long argued that the future of E-rate is undermined. E-rate’s need and demand is double its current funding cap of $2.4 billion. Clearly the program must continue to be expanded to ensure that adequate bandwidth does not stop at selective schoolhouse doors, but rather reaches every classroom and student across our great nation.”

Alexis Rice|July 11th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Online learning, Policy Formation, School Boards|Tags: , , , |

Investigation finds poor results at Michigan’s charter schools

Michigan taxpayers spend nearly $1 billion annually to support the state’s 370 charter schools, but there’s little transparency in how that money is spent—and many poor-performing charters aren’t held accountable.

Those are among the findings of a recent Detroit Free Press investigation that has put the spotlight on failures in Michigan’s charter school policy.

For their money, the newspaper makes clear, state taxpayers aren’t finding that charter schools offer any improvement in student academic performance. Although many excellent charters exist, 38 percent fall below the 25th percentile in state rankings, compared to 23 percent of traditional schools.

What’s more, the Free Press uncovered a pattern of wasteful spending, financial conflicts of interest, and interference in the efforts of charter school boards to provide oversight.“Michigan laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest,” it reports.

Some of the state’s problems appear to be related to the proliferation of for-profit management companies, which today operate more than 60 percent of the state’s charter schools. “The state’s failure to insist on more financial transparency by for-profits—teacher salaries, executive compensation, vendor payments and more—is particularly troubling to charter critics because the for-profit companies receive the bulk of the money that goes to charter schools.”

Charter school board members who have attempted to demand some accountability for these funds reportedly found themselves threatened or forced out of office by the school’s authorizers.

Failures by the Michigan Department of Education to hold charter school authorizers accountable also came to light. According to the Free Press, a majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in the state have been open for a decade or more.

At the same time, state officials reportedly have never suspended a charter school authorizer for the poor performance of its schools.

In response to the Free Press’ findings, the state’s school superintendent, Mike Flanagan, gave public notice that he was ready to hold charter school authorizers accountable for the poor performance of their schools and was willing to “suspend an authorizer’s ability to open new charter schools.”

Check out how state charter school policies are shaping the charter school and education landscape, read the American School Board Journal article and view the video.

Del Stover|July 10th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Reports, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , |

NSBA names Michael C. Zola as head of federal advocacy and public policy

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) announced today that veteran education policymaker Michael C. Zola will join the organization as its Associate Executive Director, Federal Advocacy and Public Policy.

Zola will oversee NSBA’s legislative advocacy division, including the National School Boards Action Center, NSBA’s 501(c)(4) organization, and the Center for Public Education, NSBA’s research arm.

“We are very pleased that Michael Zola will lead the National School Boards Association’s federal advocacy initiatives,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “Michael’s extensive experience in federal policy and government management will further strengthen NSBA’s relations with Congress and the White House on behalf of state school boards associations and the more than 90,000 school board members across the country.”

Zola comes to NSBA from Capitol Hill, where he was the Deputy Staff Director/Senior Counsel for the Education and the Workforce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Zola previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs and has served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the Education and the Workforce Committee. He also has held several positions in the U.S. Government Accountability Office, including: Assistant Director and Certified Fraud Examiner, Senior Attorney, Legislative Advisor, Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst, and Investigator.

“It is such an honor to lead federal advocacy efforts at the National School Boards Association at such a vital time for America’s public schools,” said Zola.

Zola is a graduate of Catholic University’s Columbia School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 10th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, National School Boards Action Center, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: , |

Washington state seeks NCLB exemption

The Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) is asking the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for an exemption to a requirement that would cause almost every school district in Washington to send letters to parents stating that their schools are failing.

ED imposed the “failing” schools letter requirement when it cancelled the state’s waiver exempting it from funding penalties for not meeting the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have been granted such waivers, and none are expected to meet their adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements under NCLB, but Washington state is the first to have its waiver revoked.

WSSDA says that while districts would be required to send the “failing” schools letters out to parents at least 14 days before the start of school, finalization of the year’s AYP measures for districts will last well into August, and some schools are scheduled to open before the end of the month.

“Many of these schools have been recognized for improved graduation rates, closing achievement gaps, high scores on national tests like the ACT and SAT and other signs of excellence,” said David Iseminger, a Lake Stevens school director and member of the WSSDA Board of Directors. “That 14-day letter does nothing to further any education goals. In fact, it does quite the opposite.”

Margaret Suslick|July 2nd, 2014|Categories: No Child Left Behind, School Boards, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

School boards call for more sensible school nutrition rules

school lunch

NSBA is calling on Congress and USDA to allow schools flexibility to meet new mandates

As school districts are bearing higher costs and more rigid requirements for school meals, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools flexibility to meet new mandates.

New regulations for the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that take effect July 1, 2014 will further restrict school districts’ abilities to offer a variety of palatable foods for their students. In a press teleconference yesterday, NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel noted that the layers of new federal regulations were hampering the goals of the federal school nutrition programs.

For instance, the 2010 law requires schools to increase and analyze the nutritional content of foods not only sold in school cafeterias but also vending machines and other school venues not a part of the federal school meal programs. The law also requires new training and educational standards for food service workers.

“We now see that new reporting and compliance requirements are unfunded and otherwise problematic,” Gentzel said. “School boards now are asking for relief from some of the most inoperable regulations and unintended consequences.”

“School boards across the country know the importance of a healthy school meal,” said NSBA President Anne M. Byrne. “Our schools see many students who do not get good nutrition at home and do not have a steady and dependable supply of healthy foods.”

Students whose families serve less nutritious, low-quality foods are more likely to be obese, added Byrne, a member of the board of the Nanuet Union Free School District in New York and a retired registered nurse. In Nanuet, elementary school students are wasting a lot of nutritious food, such as whole-grain bread, because they are unfamiliar with it, she said.

Byrne and Katy Smith Campbell, President of the Alabama School Boards Association, noted that the new regulations will ban chocolate milk, even though their schools serve low-fat versions. Both agreed they would rather children drink chocolate milk than go without.

“There are no provisions for extra servings,” said Campbell, a member of the Macon County Board of Education in Tuskegee, Ala. “In many cases that’s not enough, especially for athletes.”

The federal law is similar to state regulations, which Alabama districts found have taken several years for students to get used to eating healthier fare. However, Smith-Campbell noted that the federal regulations are more restrictive.

Rocky Ahner of Lehighton Area School Board in Pennsylvania noted that his district began offering low fat, low sugar foods in 2010, and saw their lunch totals tick upwards. However, when the more stringent federal requirements went into effect, the district lost $110,000 because students who were eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches no longer wanted them.

“We are concerned about the kids who don’t buy lunches,” he said.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 24th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Nutrition, School Boards, School District Reorganization|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Center for Public Education report finds no gains in mayoral control

Collaboration between mayors and school boards, not mayoral takeovers, can lead to better school governance and student achievement, according to a new report by the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Toward Collaboration, Not A Coup: What the research says about mayoral involvement in urban schools,” explores the intersects between effective school boards and involved mayors. In its review of existing research on mayoral control, the report categorizes the various existing forms of mayoral involvement, examines benefits and challenges for school districts, then argues for effective relationships between school boards and mayors.

Through secondary analysis, CPE found that mayoral takeovers are “a rare, and largely urban phenomenon,” and out of more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., only about 20 have come under formal mayoral control in the last 20 years. Researchers have been unable to determine conclusively whether the mayoral governance model actually improves academics and student achievement.

The report also found that mayors can provide great benefits to public schools in other ways, especially by enabling better integration and coordination of services for children and families.

“What this research suggests is that while the interest of mayors in public schools can bring benefits to public education, a mayoral takeover risks disengaging community interests and disregards the governance responsibility of elected school board leaders,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director.

The report recommends several steps for mayors and school boards to work collaboratively to improve student achievement, including:

• Formal and informal processes for coordination between the mayor’s office, school boards and superinten¬dent.

• Clearly defined areas of responsibility for the school board, mayor’s office, and other agencies that are involved;

• Media coverage and community outreach to increase voter participation in school board elections; and

• Professional development for school boards and other leadership teams.

“Nothing indicates that students would necessarily benefit if public schools were run by mayors,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But takeovers come with a high risk of disenfranchising parents and other community members. A better approach for districts would be the collaborative involvement of mayors, school leaders and the communities they serve.”

Alexis Rice|June 11th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

California School Boards Association speaks out on teacher tenure ruling

Today, a California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles judge issued a decision on Vergara v. California, ruling that state laws regarding teacher tenure and dismissal are unconstitutional as they infringe upon poor and minority students’ right to an equitable education. The lawsuit is expected to have national implications as its backers are examining teacher-tenure laws in other states.

California School Boards Association (CSBA) President Josephine Lucey issued a statement today on the Vergara decision:

Today’s Vergara v. California court decision is a call for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that all of California’s 6 million school children have an equal opportunity to a quality education.

We should not and cannot afford to wait for the appellate courts to address these critical issues. Regardless of the legal outcome, the education community should immediately begin working with the Governor and the California Legislature to resolve these important issues of inequality in education.

CSBA has worked for years on these issues and remains committed to true reform by working with all of our education partners to meet the needs of our children.

Alexis Rice|June 10th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School Reform, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |
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