Articles tagged with Capitol Hill

Bryant: Time to make our voices louder for public education

Strong public schools are the best investment Congress can make—and it’s time for advocates to raise their voices even louder, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Anne L. Bryant says in a commentary for District Administrator.

The extremely slow process to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and a sense that Washington is broken cannot discourage school officials from getting involved in the political process, she says.

“We can’t get too discouraged by the politics,” Bryant writes. “We must instead take the initiative to get more involved, for the sake of our schools and the children we serve.”

Personal contact is key to persuading Washington lawmakers to take action, she adds. More than 750 school board members attended NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference in February to learn about top issues in education and meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill. But any school board member can take action by contacting their lawmakers, whether federal, state, or local, and talking about their school district’s successes and their needs.

The commentary was published in the March, 2012 issue of District Administrator.


Joetta Sack-Min|April 2nd, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Legislative advocacy, FRN Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

Pre-K Coalition calls for more federal support, greater integration, for early education

C. Ed Massey Photo

C. Ed Massey, president-elect of NSBA, addresses the Capitol Hill Pre-K Coalition Briefing

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  and six other leading national education organizations are urging the federal government to take a more active leadership role in assuring that all children have access to quality preschool education.

At a briefing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the group — known as the Pre-K Coalition — released a report titled Ensuring America’s Future: Policy Statements and Recommendations from National Education Organizations. It calls on local, state, and federal policymakers to “come together to design an early childhood financing system that ensures equity, supports quality and effectiveness, fosters collaboration, and does not take funding away from any other existing education programs.”

A major step in that direction is for Congress to expand the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to include early education practices and interventions, the report said. “The reauthorization of the ESEA offers a unique opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to take full advantage of high quality pre-K,” the coalition said.

At Tuesday’s briefing, several speakers said preschool is an integral part of the education process, providing young children with critical social and academic skills that will influence their success in elementary school and beyond.

“We believe if we have them ready to learn in those important years, it will have a huge effect on the years they’re in the [K-12] system,” said C. Ed Massey, president-elect NSBA and a member of the Boone County (Ken.) Board of Education.

“Pre-K is not separate, apart from K-12,” Massey said. “It is a part of that process.”

The days when researchers and advocates had to explain why preschool is important are, for the most part, over. But despite groundbreaking programs in many states, several speakers said policymakers have a long way to go to create a nationwide system that truly integrates preschool into the broader education process. And that means creating an environment in which preschool teachers are looked upon as true peers of their counterparts in the K-12 system.

“We need to stop drawing this firewall between teachers who teacher preschool education and those who are in the K-12 arena,” said Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. (NASBE), one of the coalition members.

And this will require concerted leadership from the top – at all levels of government: federal, state and local, several speakers said.

“We often talk about distributing best practices,” Welburn said. “We don’t talk enough about distributing model policies.”

In the past 10 years, preschool enrollment has grown by more than 70 percent and public schools are involved as never before. But even in model programs, such as the one at Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minn., Principal Jon H. Millerhagen said it takes considerable effort to get all groups with a stake in early education to come to the table.  For example, curriculum directors need to collaborate with preschool teachers to ensure the most effective alignment of the preschool curriculum with the rest of the elementary school program, Millerhagen said at the news conference.

Another issue is the stability of funding. Washburn’s preschool program has been widely praised, and it is supported by grants from several foundations. But in order for all public preschool programs to be sustainable in the long run, they must have a reliable source of funding, Millerhagen said.

In addition to NSBA and NASBE, the coalition includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association.

Lawrence Hardy|October 4th, 2011|Categories: Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, Reports|Tags: , , , |

Tough talk to combat tough love approach called for toward education

“Education is poised to win big under the stimulus plan hurtling through Congress,” a Washington Post editorial announced grandly last week. Then the all-but-inevitable qualifier:

“But it remains to be seen whether America’s schoolchildren really will be helped by the huge investment of public funds that is being planned. After all, it seems that much of the billions of new federal spending is aimed at continuing programs and policies that largely have failed to improve student achievement.”

So it “seems.” And, unfortunately, how it seems to the Washington Post and other members of the tough love cognoscenti is how many members of Congress will see it. The Post’s solution? Well, “tough new national standards,” of course. Apparently, No Child Left Behind hasn’t been nearly punitive enough.

It’s that attitude that members of NSBA’s Federal Relations Network  will be combating as they spend today advocating for financially strapped, over-regulated school districts today on Capitol Hill. Wish them luck.

“Be polite,” said Reginald Felton, NSBA’s director of federal regulations, speaking to FRN members yesterday.  “But they’ve got to understand you’re upset.”

Upset that schools don’t have the resources they need for things like special education. Upset that NCLB is more directed at punishing low-performing schools than helping them. And upset that so many observers think the answer is to tie adequate funding to even more federal requirements.

“Don’t get us wrong.” The Post editorial says, also all-but-inevitably. We think education’s important. Blah. Blah. Blah. Well, don’t get me wrong, either. I understand when the Post complains about ineffective teachers and when Post columnist Richard Cohen brays on about the problem with teacher unions and restrictive teacher tenure laws. The problem with these arguments, and their tone, is that there is an implication that school boards are somehow the great enablers of this situation, that they love the status quo, and that only by making things much tougher for them can we improve the public schools.

Good luck today, FRN members. I hope you set the record straight.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|February 3rd, 2009|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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