Articles tagged with FRN

Budget Freeze Could Mean ‘Fierce Battle’ for Boards

Suggesting a freeze in discretionary federal spending was a responsible-sounding proposal when made by President Obama during his recent State of the Union Address.

But such a freeze could one day put public education advocates in the middle of a fierce political battle to protect federal education spending.

So warned Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, during a Sunday session of NSBA’s Federal Relations Network Conference in Washington, D.C.

Many of his remarks to conference attendees dealt with the political realities facing federal policymakers. He also offered an explanation of the current budgetary challenges facing them.

But near the end of his remarks, he pointed out the potential implications of Obama’s idea of a spending freeze after the next fiscal year.

Such a budget freeze isn’t going to curb spending in defense, homeland security, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and a number of other protected federal programs, he said. So “you’re creating a fiscal zero-sum game with everything else.”

In a worst-case scenario, a freeze means school board members lobbying Congress not only will need “to make the case for how to build a first-class education system, you’re going [to need] to start making the case why we should be doing that in lieu of other priorities.”

The fight for a slice of the budget pie, Ornstein said, could be all the more challenging in the dysfunctional political environment stymieing fiscal restraint on Capitol Hill today.

The ideological divide in the nation and between political parties already is discouraging compromise and bipartisanship, he said. Conservatives are threatening a primary election challenge against Republican lawmakers who even consider tax increases, while Democrats face a similar risk from liberals if they talk of program spending cuts.

Indeed, much of the political posturing of the past year in Washington, D.C., has been about “struggling to figure out how we can act responsibly … when the incentive for political figures is not to bring short-term pain for long-term gains.”

Whether there’s a way out of this gridlock remains to be seen, Ornstein said. But political leaders know that, among voters, “there is a great desire to get beyond this partisanship … to get things done.”

Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., commented on Ornstein’s idea at his blog, EdLabor Journal.

Del Stover, Senior Editor

Del Stover|January 31st, 2010|Categories: School Boards, FRN Conference 2010, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, School Board News|Tags: |

NSBA Leaders Motivate Grassroots Advocates

The Federal Relations Network (FRN) helped secure many legislative victories for school boards in 2009 and is now tasked with even more pressing advocacy efforts this year, NSBA’s leaders said at the FRN opening session.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, securing federal funding in light of state budget shortfalls, and President Obama’s challenge for schools to provide a world-class education for all students will highlight this year’s advocacy efforts. It comes after a year with significant victories—most notably helping secure the $100 billion in federal stimulus funds—but also a time in which the Obama administration took more control of the federal role and pushed through several initiatives without Congressional approval.

“We’re here to make sure Congress gets its role right,” Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director, told the 900 attendees (minus a few who were stranded after Saturday’s snowstorm). “ESEA must be reauthorized now, and reauthorized right.”

Because 2010 is an election year—and a particularly volatile election year — members of Congress should be more motivated to overhaul the main federal K-12 law, he added. Education is a more politically palatable issue for voters of both parties than some of more divisive issues, such as immigration.

Expect lawmakers to show a sharp focus on the achievement gap and proposals to strengthen the teaching force, he added. One issue that NSBA is watching is discussion on moving more K-12 funding from formula grants to competitive grants, along the lines of the Race to the Top program. That could severely hinder districts that are unable to afford top-notch grant writers, Resnick noted.

Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director, said that school boards must show leadership to stave off public education critics and naysayers.

“These times demand leadership,” she said. “Leadership is not for the faint of heart; it means stepping up and may cause heartburn.”

With so many people out to make a profit selling questionable services and products under the radar to one individual, school boards must scrutinize those dealings and protect local interests.

She praised President Obama’s remarks on providing a world-class education during his State of the Union address, but added that the White House must help districts achieve those goals.

“We need this federal funding more than ever,” she said. “It will be hard to deliver a world-class education without federal support.”

Joetta Sack-Min, Online Editor

Joetta Sack-Min|January 31st, 2010|Categories: School Boards, FRN Conference 2010, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Board News|Tags: |

Improving School Meals Tops List for District

When a school cafeteria menu calls for peaches, it’s not uncommon for a school district’s food services department to purchase canned fruit soaking in corn syrup.

But that’s not how the officials in Baltimore, Md., like to do things. Working to provide the healthiest meals possible, the city’s school cafeterias—when peaches are needed—turn first to locally grown fruit plucked fresh from a tree.

Few school systems in the nation are doing more to improve school meals than the Baltimore City Public Schools, and urban school leaders learned more about the district’s exiting initiatives Saturday at an Issues Forum of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE). The session was an early bird meeting for representatives who will attend the Federal Relations Network Conference that starts Sunday.

The school system’s award-winning effort began several years ago with a far-ranging policy discussion launched by the school board about providing more nutritious school meals and combating childhood obesity, city school board member George VanHook Sr. told forum attendees.

Adopting a good policy is a crucial, but its ultimate success depends on the energy put into its implementation, VanHook said. And Baltimore was lucky to find just the man to oversee the district’s food and nutrition program: Anthony Geraci, a former chef and food service consultant who had successfully revitalized a New Hampshire district’s food services program.

In Baltimore, Geraci has worked to improve the quality of school meals that students used to describe as “nasty.” He’s emphasized the purchase of Maryland-grown produce, and is building a central kitchen for the school system where food-service personnel will prepare fresh meals from scratch.

Also on his agenda has been involving students in meal planning, operating a 33-acre farm so students can learn where food comes from, and starting a Great Kids Café to introduce students to careers in the food industry, he told urban school leaders.

Most important, however, is putting healthy food in front of students, particularly those living in an urban environment, Geraci said. Too many are not eating healthy meals at school—or at home.

“It’s not that our children aren’t willing to eat good, fresh food, it’s that they don’t have access to good, fresh food,” he said. “Many of our kids are growing up in ‘food deserts.'”

Del Stover, Senior Editor, Publications

Del Stover|January 30th, 2010|Categories: School Boards, Leadership Conference 2010, Wellness, Educational Finance, Urban Schools, School Board News|Tags: , |
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