Articles tagged with 2012 elections

Election-year paralysis reigns in Washington

When political scholar Norman Ornstein took to the podium Sunday, he spent a surprising amount of time impersonating a stand-up comedian—sharing political joke after political joke with his audience.

Then he explained why: Everyone should have a good laugh, because now that he was turning serious, “it’s all downhill from this point on.”

The first general session speaker at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference, Ornstein told his audience of school board leaders that there wasn’t much good news to report out of Washington, D.C., these days. Politics in the nation’s capital is dysfunctional, with this year’s Congress the least productive in more than 60 years.

And now that the nation has entered a presidential election year, it is even less likely that the nation’s economic and political problems will be addressed.

“So there’s not much going on, and I don’t expect much through the remainder of this [year].”

That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of noise and fireworks, said Ornstein, who writes a daily column for Roll Call, the newspaper that extensively reports on Capitol Hill. The nation’s leaders still must address their decision to allow automatic federal budget cuts to take effect next January, part of a deal last fall to create a Super Committee that unsuccessfully sought to shrink the ballooning federal deficit.

The presidential campaign may be a serious roadblock to compromise, Ornstein said, but adding to the political dysfunction are this year’s state primaries for congressional seats and some Senate races. The risk of primary challenges only adds to the pressure of lawmakers to stake out positions favored by their most ideological constituents.

“It will be harder for members of Congress who want to [compromise] … it’s leading to the reality of the last several years, which is the collapse of the [political] center so there’s no real place where you can find common ground.”

All of this means Washington politicians will be less likely to resolve issues of concern to school boards, he said. And this political paralysis could make things worse. The spiraling federal budget deficit has encouraged proposals to turn over some of the federal government’s problems to state lawmakers.

For example, there are proposals to cut the federal budget through savings in Medicaid, which allegedly would come from funding the program through block grants to the states.

But, Ornstein said, the proposal still means less federal funding for state Medicaid programs—at a time when elderly health care is rising and unemployment is high. That means the financial pressure on states to provide basic services—such as education funding—will be all the greater.

It would be nice if, with fewer financial resources, school officials could find new and innovative ways to maintain their services to children, he said. “But we know what it will mean is a deterioration of services, a squeeze on extracurricular activities … on all areas outside of the core curriculum and a lot of others things that are going to make life for everybody in the trenches in the educational world more challenging.”

So school board members have a tough task ahead of them, Ornstein said.

“Part of the challenge isn’t just to come away with ways you can deal with this age of austerity … but to try to convince policymakers, who have a very different mindset, not to do things because of short-term interests … but in the interests of our children, grandchildren, and the future of this great country.”

Del Stover|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , |

Passing ESEA is critical, NSBA says

Under the banner of “ESEA Now: Our Schoolchildren, Our Economy, and Our Future,” NSBA leaders outlined the past year’s legislative successes and upcoming issues at the opening session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Sunday.

Pushing for a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be the most critical action school board members will take this week in Washington, D.C., NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick told the more than 700 FRN participants attending the three-day meeting. Closely tied to that action is adequate funding for core federal programs including Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Educators have been working tirelessly for five years to get a new version of the now decade-old No Child Left Behind Act passed, and the House and Senate are finally moving toward passage of ESEA legislation in the respective chambers, NSBA President Mary Broderick said.

“Congress’ timing is particularly fortunate for us to make a mark on the process,” Broderick said. “While both bills make significant improvements over existing law, neither is perfect, and this stage of the legislative process is the ideal time to make those changes.”

Having successfully overcome proposals to make large-scale cuts in the education budget this year, FRN participants must be aware of initiatives such as the Budget Control Act, which would instill a 7.8 percent across-the-board cut in federal programs. Further, proposals within the ESEA reauthorization would create formulas for future program funds that do not take into account the increasing numbers of students living in poverty and students with special needs.

Resnick reminded attendees that national polls during this election year show that the majority of voters are largely ambivalent about whether their members continue to serve, and some 90 House representatives coming up for reelection for the first time. Keeping this in mind, school board members should push the importance of passing an ESEA reauthorization as a major achievement.

“Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s children? Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s future?” he asked.

Resnick also announced plans for the National School Boards Action Center, a 501-c4 organization, which will help further push NSBA’s advocacy agenda and allow for more targeted lobbying and endorsements. One of the center’s first issues will be promoting NSBA priorities and education issues for the 2012 campaigns.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |
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