Articles tagged with Michael A. Resnick

Veteran school board lobbyist retires after 44-year career at NSBA

When Michael A. Resnick joined the National School Boards Association as a legislative specialist in 1969, Richard Nixon was president. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The U.S. Army began pulling troops out of Vietnam, and Jimi Hendrix sang at Woodstock.

And most Americans believed the nation’s public education system was the best in the world.

Over the next 44 years, much would change — and not just for the nation at large. In the realm of education, Resnick, who is retiring this week as head of NSBA’s Office of Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, has witnessed profound changes in state and federal education policy and in the challenges facing school boards nationwide.

Some of those changes were promising, such as the higher priority the nation placed on the academic success of all students, particularly the most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved. Slowly but persistently, the public schools raised student academic performance, narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority students, and raised high school graduation rates to a historic high.

Other changes, however, have been less welcome. Critics of public education have eroded confidence in our public education system. State and federal mandates have been increasingly intrusive and even damaging. Top-down reform efforts have undermined local school governance.

All of this has had an enormous impact on the roles and expectations of the nation’s more than 14,000 school boards, Resnick says.

“If you go back to the 1960s and 1970s, school boards generally served a trustee role, overseeing the budget, making sure finances were in good order, overseeing personnel and student matters — but leaving to the school district administration with limited authority over much of what went on in the educational program.”

That limited role for the school board gave way over the years as the nation embarked on a decades-long debate about student academic performance. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) put academic accountability at the forefront of state and federal policy.

“While board members aren’t designing or running their schools’ academic program,” he says, “they certainly have to be familiar with it at a pretty technical level — so they can respond to issues surrounding student achievement and the need to meet accountability requirements for the school district.”

NCLB had good intentions, Resnick says, but it brought about a seismic shift in the federal government’s role in education policymaking. States and school boards had long been subject to federal rules in order to participate in categorical programs such as Title I.

However, NCLB mandated states to enact more sweeping and prescriptive policies and requirements that had a direct impact on districts overall and on how boards did their work.

That federal overreach has continued under the Race to the Top program, which offers the promise of significant federal aid to states that agree to enact policies favored by federal education officials.

NSBA has been fighting overreach of top-down policy direction, he says, making clear to Congress and U.S. Department of Education officials that the flood of mandates and regulations are increasingly onerous and limit the flexibility of school officials.

But there are other forces at work, making it harder for advocates of local school governance to influence state and federal policymaking, Resnick says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the principal players in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill were the institutional professional education groups — those representing teachers, administrators, and school boards.”

Today, however, there are a host of new advocacy groups making their voices heard — ideology-driven think tanks, industry-backed advocacy groups, business leaders, and other special interests.

These new groups make it more difficult for the institutional associations to be heard, Resnick says. One of the more damaging policy directions that some groups have encouraged is to promote alternatives to the traditional public school system, he says.

Supported by business interests that hope to tap into the billions of dollars spent on education, these groups have helped accelerate state and federal policies in support of vouchers and charter schools.

NSBA has “had to find ways to increase our effectiveness in terms of the knowledge we can bring to the table but also raise our level of advocacy,” he says.

Resnick’s earliest strategies to strengthen NSBA’s advocacy was the creation of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) in 1970 — an initiative to enlist school board members as outspoken constituents of their federal House and Senate members.

Today, NSBA is working to expand the number of board members participating in legislative advocacy, Resnick says. NSBA also has launched the National School Boards Action Center, designed to broaden school board advocacy to impact Congress, the media, and the public. The center includes the Friends of Public Education network to bring together other local leaders and concerned citizens to advocate on behalf of public education and sound federal policies.

“With the increase in competing voices in the policymaking debate, it becomes harder for your voice to be heard,” he says. “It requires marshalling a different set of resources, and the level of information you must provide has to be greater, as does the level of political punch behind you.”

It doesn’t help the cause of school boards, however, that Congress is politically deadlocked and struggling to fulfill its responsibilities, he says. Federal lawmakers have failed to adopt an annual federal budget for several years and the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) still is winding its way through the legislative process.

“Years ago, it was a time of more predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill, without the partisan rancor of today,” he says. “The political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made. One role of NSBA was to help broker those compromises.”

The political stalemate in Congress has created a vacuum in federal policy-making — one that the Education Department is too willing to fill with rigid regulations that are eroding local policymakers’ authority, Resnick notes. But, whatever the merits of any particular policy initiative, the department’s efforts lack the level of accountability or public input that would occur if federal policies were under the legislative oversight of Congress.

“What we see is an overreach of authority from the Department of Education — not only in terms of the federal role but also in the role of the agency itself,” he says.

That’s why NSBA earlier this year proposed the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, designed to protect local school districts from unnecessary and counter-productive federal regulations. Key provisions of this legislative proposal were incorporated into the House of Representatives’ bill to reauthorize ESEA, which passed in July.

Yet there is much more to be done, Resnick says. NSBA will be working more closely than ever with state school boards associations to support their advocacy efforts in state legislatures and courts “because that’s where many of the policy debates have gone — to the state level.”

As he steps down after four decades advocating on behalf of school boards, Resnick expresses some worry that the next generation of school board members may come to see the current state and federal intrusion into local policymaking as the norm, rather than a recent development that runs counter to the traditional policy of local school control.

“Over time, if we continue in this current framework, without knowing the history and evolution of recent education policymaking, we may find that new school board members assume it has to be this way,” he says. “But there are better approaches — emphasizing local school governance — with tools to increase student achievement with less top-down management.”

Del Stover|November 26th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Featured, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, NSBA Publications, NSBAC|Tags: |

New on ASBJ.com: Disaster preparation and recovery

Seven schoolchildren, along with their teacher and her baby, died when a tornado ripped through their school building in Moore, Okla., in May.  This deadly storm, ferocious even by Tornado Alley standards, devastated the town and the school district.

ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr was on the ground in Moore after the storms.  She documents the physical and emotional aftermath of the storm   in this issue’s cover story,  “Storm Recovery in Oklahoma,”  online now at ASBJ.com.

Also in the November/December issue, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy takes a look at how school security has changed in the year since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings.

NSBA’s “advocate-in-chief”  (and ASBJ’s On the Hill columnist) Michael A. Resnick is retiring after a 44 years. Read his perspective on how times have changed in the national education arena in our interview.

While you’re on ASBJ.com, check out our bonus articles and vote in our Adviser poll.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|November 20th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Publications, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA asks Senate leaders to rethink Title I change in new ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a report calling on the U.S. Senate to reconsider a provision in its new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that seeks to ensure school districts give equitable support to students in high-poverty schools.

The ESEA legislation would change the current method for determining how school districts allocate comparable resources to their Title I schools. Based on NSBA’s report, “The Challenges and Unintended Consequences of Using Expenditures to Determine Title I Comparability,” the provision in the Senate bill will not achieve its goal.

“NSBA supports the concept of ‘comparability’ and ensuring that students in Title I schools receive equitable services,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, the proposal for the Title I comparability provision would be burdensome for school districts and it could even unintentionally harm Title I schools and other schools that have high operational costs or special services.”

As a condition for receiving Title I funding, ESEA requires that school districts show they are providing comparable services from local funds to their Title I schools through measures such as teacher-student ratios. The purpose is to show that the federal money is used in addition to local resources for Title I schools. Under the Senate bill’s plan, school districts would have to take into account new factors, such as the cost of each teacher’s salary and benefits, and other expenses that are not tied to student learning, such as transportation.

NSBA’s report found that the plan could force local school districts to shift money away from Title I schools because the provision does not account for wide variances in expenses such as student transportation, the availability of social services or grant funding to some schools, or other building-related costs.

As part of the report, NSBA surveyed school officials on the comparability provision in the Senate bill from the last Congress. Nearly 300 Title I program administrators and school business officials and other school officials responded. These on-the-ground practitioners reported that the proposed requirement was too difficult to administer and contained too many variables to make valid expenditure comparisons between Title I and non-Title I schools.

NSBA’s report shows that the proposed methods in Senate’s 2011 bill and the bill introduced this week are flawed because of wide variances in teacher salaries and benefits as well as other expenses in a school district. For example, factors such as variances in teachers’ salaries, employer-paid heath premiums, matching pension contributions and experience do not necessarily correlate to teacher effectiveness.

While the new Senate provision does not require the involuntary transfer of teachers, the provision would still appear to cause the bookkeeping problems raised in NSBA’s report and could still result in teacher transfer issues.

The new Senate provision seeks to respond to NSBA’s concerns regarding how certain expenditures that are not relevant to student learning would be accounted. It would allow school districts to adopt a method based on education expenditures that is of an equal or higher standard. However, those alternatives must be developed before the reauthorization is enacted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy noted, “That option simply passes the buck to the federal agency to define what would still be a difficult to administer expenditure-based comparability system and would still result in the various unintended consequences cited in our report. There are far better approaches to ensure that all Title I students are receiving effective teachers and adequate educational resources.”

NSBA’s report was praised by the AASA, The American Association of School Administrators.

“NSBA’s report clearly shows that Congress needs to reject this provision and focus on supporting local efforts that will add to the resources needed for education rather than spending resources on bookkeeping and other adjustments that really aren’t on target to reach the intended goal,” said Bruce Hunter, AASA’s  Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy and Communications.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, School Boards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Congress takes first steps toward ESEA reauthorization

Democrats in the U.S. Senate introduced their bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, and the National School Boards Association’s advocacy team is hopeful that efforts to reauthorize the massive K-12 law could progress this summer.

“In conversations with key staff members, it’s clear they are eager to move a bill through the committee in short order” said Michael A. Resnick, the Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy at NSBA. “But some of the philosophical divide will need to be resolved.”

A key issue will be the role of the federal government in education policy, in addition to assessments and other accountability measures.

The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and co-sponsored by the Democratic members of the committee. The ranking Republican member of that committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, is expected to offer the Republicans’ version of the ESEA reauthorization when the bill is marked-up in committee. NSBA is currently addressing the legislation. The Democrats’ bill, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, which is more than 1,100 pages long and the Republicans” bill, the “Every Child Ready for College and Career Act,” is less detailed at 200 pages.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is now six years overdue and each attempt to overhaul the massive federal education law has floundered in Congress.

Members of the House education committee also have recently told NSBA’s lobbyists that they plan to introduce an ESEA reauthorization bill, Resnick said.

On May 21, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee queried U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal. Duncan noted that the Department of Education is committed to working with Congress to get an ESEA reauthorization completed this year.

At that hearing, some Republican members were more interested in questioning the secretary about his budget priorities, particularly President Obama’s initiative to greatly expand prekindergarten education. Some said the money would be better spent to fully fund the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 6th, 2013|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

School boards prepare for layoffs, program cuts as federal deadline looms

School boards across the country will be forced to lay off thousands of teachers and teacher aides in coming weeks as they create their budgets for the 2013-14 academic year because of the federal budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1.

The sequester, which will require across the board budget cuts for all federal programs on March 1, will eliminate about 5 percent of funding for K-12 programs and Head Start. However, representatives from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) pointed out in a press conference call this week that those cuts disproportionately affect school districts that are educating large populations of disadvantaged students.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, noted that many school districts are beginning to plan next year’s budgets, and in an informal survey, three-quarters said they would be issuing layoff notices this spring.

For some school districts, the process of issuing pink slips has already started.

Minnie Forte-Brown, a school board member in Durham, N.C., and chair of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, said her school district planned to eliminate 34 teacher and staff positions. Title I cuts would be about $800,000 of about $1.7 million in cuts that the 33,000 student school would endure for the next 10 years, special education would amount to another $600,000 each year.

The school board has already stopped filling vacant positions and has cut all travel and professional development.

“We are implementing extreme measures,” said Forte-Brown. “This is not the promise we made to our families when we said we were going to educate excellently.”

In rural Alabama, Steve Foster, vice president of the Lowndes County Board of Education, said his school district has already seen significant state cuts in recent years, and a further reduction from the federal government would diminish books and classroom supplies, teacher retention and professional development programs, and cuts to the library, where many parents and students who do not have home computers or internet access go to work on school assignments.

”Our school system has made great strides in the last 10 to 12 years. These cuts are going to affect the programs that help us make progress,” said Foster, who is also President of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

President Obama has frequently used education and early childhood examples in recent speeches about the impact of sequestration on the country. The White House released state-by-state estimates that include how much K-12 funding each state stands to lose, the number of teacher and staff jobs, the number of children that will lose access to Head Start, and other details. (The Washington Post published this graphic detailing the cuts.)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on February 24 to warn of the impact of the looming cuts to K-12 programs.

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the sequester. Go to NSBA’s website, www.nsba.org/stopsequestration, for sample letters, resolutions, and other activities for school boards.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 26th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA urges White House to protect federal K-12 funding

The economic impact of federal budget cuts now scheduled for early March would lead to long-term damage to investments in education and the nation’s infrastructure, White House economic advisers told representatives from Washington organizations at a Feb. 6 meeting.

National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in the White House meeting to discuss ways that the impending federal budget cuts could be halted for education and other domestic policy programs.

The sequester, which is the automatic across-the-board cuts amounting to about 5.1 percent reductions in all federal programs, will take place in March unless Congress approves a new plan. The sequestration was scheduled as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The White House officials said that a total of about $4 trillion needed to be cut from the federal budget over the next 10 years, and were confident that tax increases and budget cuts that were approved to avoid the first deadline on Jan. 2 should cover up to half that amount, although other estimates have put the savings at $1 trillion or less. The White House has pushed for a “balanced, rational approach,” and has lobbied Congress to make changes to the plan, but neither Republican nor Democrat leaders have been able to craft a plan that could pass both chambers of Congress.

“The long-term impact of cuts to education programs, particularly those for students with disabilities and students from low-income homes, would hurt the quality of education in many school districts,” said Gentzel.  “NSBA is committed to working with the White House and members of Congress so that they understand the potential damage these cuts would inflict on our schools and on our nation’s economy.”

The White House advisors also expressed concerns that new plans floated by members of Congress would have a detrimental impact on education and other domestic programs. Specifically, Gentzel said the advisors warned groups to be skeptical of a plan that would give agencies flexibility in how to manage the cuts, as that would not have significant benefits.  They also warned the group that if the sequester takes place, the cuts might not appear to have a large impact immediately, but over the course of the 10-year schedule the reductions would significantly damage the nation’s economic infrastructure.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, estimates that the planned cuts to K-12 programs would only amount to about .0007 percent of the total federal budget.

“Education cuts would have very little impact on the plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, but these cuts would have a dramatic long term effect on local school district budgets,” said Resnick.  “This is not a strategic way of managing the economy.”

Some 700 school boards have passed resolutions to oppose the sequester, and NSBA is encouraging all school board members to contact their members of Congress and urge them to spare education programs. For more information and sample resolutions, visit NSBA’s Stop Sequestration web page.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 11th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Uncategorized|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: , , , , , |

WH sidesteps Congress, offering relief from NCLB

The Obama administration has unveiled its plans to offer states and local school districts some regulatory relief from the more onerous mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act—a policy move that NSBA calls encouraging.

First proposed this summer, the initiative will allow states to request waivers to specific NCLB mandates in exchange for “serious” reform efforts designed to close achievement gaps and boost accountability.

For local school boards, such waivers could offer greater flexibility in the use of federal funds—or the elimination of the highly unpopular requirement that local districts set aside 20 percent of Title I funds for school choice and supplemental tutorial services.

States also can seek relief from NCLB’s accountability system, with its unrealistic expectation that all students will be 100-percent proficient by 2014, and from such punitive sanctions as forcing a low-per-forming school to fire its principals and teachers or close down.

The waivers will come at a price. The White House says states and local school districts will need to embrace new accountability standards, create tougher and more meaningful teacher evaluation systems, and make greater efforts to ensure all graduating students are college and career-ready.

“The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” Obama said in a statement released Friday.

NSBA has long campaigned for federal policymakers to fix the flaws of NCLB, and NSBA officials welcomed the Obama administration’s latest initiative.

“The proposed NCLB regulatory relief plan is a positive step as it could provide much needed assistance to local school district efforts to improve student achievement,” says Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.

Still unclear, however, is whether individual local school boards will see the regulatory relief they want.

“The effectiveness of the plan will depend upon the details of the application requirements, the specific locally needed relief states ask for, and whether the merit of a state’s application is judged adequate by the U.S. Department of Education to receive the relief that it asks for,” Bryant notes.

The administration’s waiver program might yet need to take another step forward, suggests Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.

“NSBA believes that federal requirements that are educationally, financially, or operationally counter-productive at the school house level should be eliminated as a matter of policy not as a condition for states qualifying to meet new conditions,” Resnick says. “We encourage the U.S. Department of Education to provide local relief along those lines should its state-based approach fall short of the local relief needed.”

Administration officials said they’ve acted because of delays in Congress over NCLB’s reauthorization. Under the law, schools are facing increasingly serious sanctions as they approach the 2014 deadline for bringing 100 percent of the nation’s students to proficiency levels in reading and math.

One federal estimate is that 82 percent of the nation’s schools will miss that target.

“The states are desperately asking for us to respond,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last month.

Most states have indicated they will apply for waivers. The White House says the first waivers could be granted by early 2012.

 

Del Stover|September 23rd, 2011|Categories: Board governance, School Board News, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |
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