Articles tagged with Lucy Gettman

NSBA expert discusses educational technology on South Korea radio show

President Barack Obama recently lauded South Korea as a model for educational technology and internet accessibility on a recent visit to a U.S. school. But South Koreans aren’t convinced their schools are worthy of the praise.

A broadcast on TBS eFM’s “This Morning” in Seoul queried Lucy Gettman, the National School Boards Association’s Director of Federal Programs, on the federal e-Rate program and the need for more technology in U.S. schools.

Gettman discussed the challenges that U.S. schools face in fully utilizing the internet and educational technology, including getting high-speed internet connections to all U.S. schools, ensuring instructional content is high quality, and ensuring teachers are supported with proper training and tools.

Outside the classroom, most students are already well-versed in using technology, so for U.S. schools, “our opportunity is to engage students in a more meaningful way,” Gettman said.

Listen to the Aug. 19 interview on “This Morning,” a Korean radio show that discusses news and current affairs.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Proposed USDA rules on snack foods will burden school districts

Every U.S. school district will be affected by new rules on school snacks proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

No state currently has standards that fully comply with the Department’s proposal for “competitive foods,” which include foods sold in vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines , said NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman.

The rules are part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue mandatory standards for competitive foods. The proposed rule sets requirements for calories, total fat, saturated fat, transfat, sugar and vitamin or nutrient content of all foods sold outside the school meal programs, on the school campus and at any time during the school day.

Further, school districts would be burdened by new reporting and monitoring requirements, Gettman said. Maintaining receipts, nutrition labels and product specifications for competitive food service would apply throughout the campus, not just to the school food authority.  NSBA is carefully analyzing the proposal and plans to send comments to the USDA.

NSBA has had ongoing concerns about the impact of the law, known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, and the ensuing regulatory standards. Restrictions on competitive foods, for one, could dramatically lower revenues used to fund athletics and extracurricular activities.

“The USDA is regulating in the dark when it comes to the impact on instruction and school revenue from competitive food sales, because there is no comprehensive data on how much revenue schools raise and how it is used,” Gettman said.

The USDA, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to what traditionally has been a local issue, noted in its announcement that the proposed regulations would still allow parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations.

The proposal also would allow schools to continue “infrequent” fundraisers and bake sales, as long as they are not conducted in the cafeteria or during regular meal times. And foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities would not be subject to the requirements.

The USDA characterizes the proposed rule as a minimum standard.  Additional state or local standards may impose more stringent requirements if they are consistent with the Department’s final rule.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 12th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

New federal nutrition rules caused a ‘buzz’

So many parents have complained that school meal portions are too meager—and that their children are hungry and tired by the end of the school day—that Congress is beginning to pay attention.

That’s one of several developments that are keeping policymakers busy more than two years after passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, said Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs.

Speaking at a Saturday briefing to NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) in Washington, D.C., Gettman told urban education leaders that the new federal rules on school meals that went into effect this year caused “quite a buzz.”

Although some expected the biggest complaint would center on inadequate financial support for new and costly mandates, Gettman said the most notable criticism has focused on the size of federally reimbursable school meals as mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Designed as a tool to combat the nation’s childhood obesity problem, the strict calorie limits on meals has prompted tens of thousands of letters and phone calls to members of Congress.

“Parents, students, and other citizens were giving their members of Congress an earful,” Gettman said, noting that one online music video mocking the meal rules has gotten more than 1 million viewers.

The protests prompted the House Committee on Education and Workforce to send a letter asking the U.S. Government Accounting Office to look into the impact of the new law and the USDA rules.

In the letter were a “pretty thorough list of questions, and I think it will really be helpful to Congress once they get a report back,” Gettman said. “It can guide Congress on future policy.”

The public outcry already has prompted the USDA to grant schools some relief in meeting federal guidelines, she added, “but the relief is only temporary” as that the rules were waived only for the rest of this school year.

Another issue still unresolved is what federal standards will exist for “competitive foods”—food sold in vending machines or at concession stands at school athletic events, Gettman said. Those rules—which USDA has yet to release in draft form—could affect the revenue that schools use to support athletic, food-service, and other programs.

School policymakers also are waiting for draft rules concerning the training and certification of food-service personnel.

USDA has indicated it’s going to do “everything in its power so that these standards won’t be costly,” Gettman said. “But the proof is in the pudding.”

Del Stover|January 27th, 2013|Categories: CUBE, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership Conference 2013, Legislative advocacy, Nutrition, Obesity, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

Compensating talented staff

School board members attending the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference had a number of opportunities to learn about the various congressional and cabinet-level efforts to improve teacher efficacy through innovative recruiting, retention, and compensation models.

Led by NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman, one of Monday’s final sessions recapped the proposed and draft versions of these federal efforts and, more importantly, drew audience members into a strategic discussion on the issue.

“What are some of the things you have done or would like to do to recruit, retain, or compensate talented instructional staff?” Gettman asked the board members in attendance.

One board member said her Arizona district had been struggling with declining enrollment and subsequent declining funding for years. To make sure student achievement didn’t decline along with it, she said star principals were identified and placed in the most difficult schools. “And good teachers will follow good principals,” she said. “It doesn’t matter they don’t get extra pay or have a challenging job, they are really happy to work with them.”

In San Francisco, one board member said that district leadership has engaged in a multi-year and multi-layered effort to improve the quality of teaching. Voter-approved tax hikes and bonds, for instance, have provided a slight increase for all staff, as well as, those who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools or fill chronically vacant positions. In return, the district has raised their standards above the state of California and made it easier to remove ineffective teachers, removing 18 of them last year alone with the union’s blessing.

“The key is you need to link higher standards to compensation,” she said.

But what happens when additional funding just isn’t available? One board member in suburban Omaha, Neb., said his district maintain its competitive edge in recruiting top-quality candidates by emphasizing its size.

“We say, ‘even though we can’t pay you what others can, we consider ourselves to be the right size district for you,’” he said, referring to its smaller student-to-teacher ratio and district population.

Naomi Dillon|February 6th, 2012|Categories: FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, Teachers|Tags: , |

Support but don’t mandate preschool

The federal government must support school boards in their efforts to provide high-quality pre-kindergarten programs—but must avoid mandates that restrict the flexibility of local officials to meet the specific needs of their communities.

That was the message of Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs, during a briefing session on pre-k issues at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday.

Legislation in the Senate—and proposals under discussion in the House—make clear that lawmakers are interested in raising the profile of early learning programs, she said. One Senate bill would, for example, reconfirm that preschool services are a legitimate use of Title I funds, as well incorporate provisions for the use of Title II and III funds for preschool teacher training.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education seeks to upgrade the role of pre-k programs with plans to create an Office of Early Learning, a step to fulfilling the department’s long-term strategic plan to “improve the health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes for all children from birth through third grade.”

One concern for NSBA is that, in their support for expanded early learning opportunities, federal officials don’t mandate programs and onerous regulations—and then fail to adequately support pre-k programs financially.

One concern is spurred by the Early Challenge Grants included in the Race to the Top program, Gettman said. The use of competitive grants threatens the premise of categorical funding that reserves funds for specific policy goals.

Without a separate federal funding stream for pre-k programs, she said, there is a danger that states would divert or redirect funds from existing programs to meet new federal demands for preschool programs.

“We don’t want states to get in the position of redirecting existing education funds from current programs to sustain Early Challenge Grants when lots of Title I-eligible children are not being served. We’re very, very concerned about policies that rob Peter to pay Paul.”

NSBA has been advocating on these issues for some years, and with support from the Pew Charitable Trust, helped found the Pre-K Coalition, a group that involves NSBA, American Association of School Administrators, Council of Chief State School Officers, the two national teachers unions, and other education groups to develop common principals for federal pre-k policy.

NSBA will continue to promote the importance of pre-k services and sound federal policies, Gettman said. And it also will make clear too policymakers that “school districts are in the best position to determine the needs, capacity, and resources of the communities they serve” on issues of pre-k programs.

Del Stover|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, Preschool Education|Tags: , , , |

Senate amendment would block costly rules on school meals

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to an agriculture appropriations bill that will protect the flexibility of school districts in selecting the vegetables served in school lunch and breakfast programs.

NSBA supported the amendment, co-authored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), that blocks the use of 2012 funding to implement “highly prescriptive” requirements on the use of vegetables in school meals, said Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs.

The proposed rules would have limited the servings of some starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, lima beans, and corn, to one cup per student per week, and banned these vegetables from school breakfasts.

The rules also threatened to increase school district costs for providing meals, and in a letter supporting the Collins-Udall amendment, NSBA expressed concern to senators about the budget impact to local school districts.

“The financial and operational impact on local school districts could be immense at a time when they already are slashing their budgets in response to eroding resources,” NSBA stated. “The proposed rule could therefore force districts to curtail more education programming and take more teachers out of the classroom to pay for it. School district flexibility and authority are needed to assure that meal options are healthy, nutritious, responsive to the needs and preferences of local communities, and are cost-effective.”

NSBA’s letter of support was entered in to the Congressional Record after Sen. Collins mentioned it on the Senate floor, Gettman said.

“NSBA strongly supported the efforts of Sens. Collins, Udall, and others to ensure that school districts retain the flexibility to provide nutritious meals to students,” she said, adding that NSBA would continue to monitor the legislation as it works its way through the Senate. 

Del Stover|October 21st, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Nutrition, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

NA webinar illustrates collective power of one

NSBA lobbyists are hard at work explaining to Congress the many challenges facing local school boards—and how federal policy should be shaped to help local officials do their jobs better.

But members of Congress also care what their constituents have to say, so it’s vitally important that individual school board members make their voices heard by communicating personally with their elected representatives.

That was the message of NSBA’s advocacy team, which offered a briefing on federal education policymaking during Wednesday’s National Affiliate webinar, “The Power of One: What You Can Do to Change What is Happening on Capitol Hill.”

“We can’t do it alone,” moderator Kathleen Branch, NSBA’s director of national advocacy service programs, told participants early in the webinar. “We need you to join us … to become a resource for your members of Congress.”

To prepare school board members for that task, members of NSBA’s advocacy team offered a summary of legislative and regulatory efforts in the nation’s capital—and how those efforts could impact local school districts.

One of the most important legislative efforts under way today is the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, said Reginald Felton, assistant executive director for congressional relations.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers are tackling the reauthorization through a series of bills, and one promising proposal would give local school officials more flexibility and authority over the use of federal education funding, Felton reported.

Less promising was the recent passage of the Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act, which NSBA argued was approved without sufficient review and raises concerns about how much accountability will be demanded of charter schools.

Lawmakers also are talking about consolidating several federal education programs, which is not necessarily a bad thing, Felt said. But there also is a move to expand competitive block grants, at the expense of categorical programs.

That concerns NSBA because many school systems do not have the resources to compete with larger or more affluent districts in writing grant proposals.

It’s important that NSBA and local school boards continue their efforts to influence Congress and shape policy that’s in the best interest of local schoolchildren, Felton said. “We continue to lobby members of Congress, but we’re pleased when you come to Washington and help that dialogue—or you meet with members of Congress when they’re home in your communities. We need to keep the pressure on.”

Later, Deborah Rigsby, NSBA’s director of federal legislation, briefed webinar participants about the debate on Capitol Hill over the federal budget—and the need to urge Congress to protect funding for education.

“For 2011, K-12 programs were cut by $849 million,” she said. “But they were already underfunded, so we don’t want to go [through another round] of addition cuts for fiscal 2012.”

Finally, Lucy Gettman, director of federal programs, talked about the potential impact of the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids—last year’s reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act—and new regulations for school meal programs that could force local school districts to raise meal prices.

At least one school system already is looking to raise the price of school milk by as much as 25 cents, she says. “What we’re very concerned about at NSBA is the impact on children and families who can ill afford a price increase [in school meals] but, conversely, about the impact on school districts … if districts are required to supplement or offset a price increase with their own state and local funds.”

Concluding the webinar, Branch yet again encouraged listeners to become more involved in lobbying federal policymakers, and she shared a number of resources that NSBA makes available for board members who are new to education advocacy work. And she encouraged board members to participate in the National Affiliate Advocacy Network.

 Finally, she said, if board members aren’t certain what to say about today’s complex policy issues, they can just call her. “That is what NSBA is here for.”

Del Stover|September 22nd, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Leadership, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , |
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