Articles tagged with Obama administration

NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs. Title I is similarly underfunded.  In order to adequately meet needs of the 10 million disadvantaged children who qualify for the program, the federal government would need to increase its Title I appropriation by more than $30 billion, according to the Committee for Education Funding.

Among the president’s proposals are $500 million to help states improve early childhood programs, and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for states that would be targeted toward reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those from middle-class and wealthy families.

Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Race to the Top (RTTT), Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA comments on Race to the Top early education grants

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has weighed in on a new $250 million federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant program for early childhood care and education, saying it shares the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to ensuring that all children arrive at school ready to learn. But NSBA is also urging the education department and its partner in the grant, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “require significant local education agency (LEA) involvement” in state applications for the competition.

In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius, director of HHS, which is also participating in the grant, NSBA Interim Associate Executive Director Reginald M. Felton noted that local school districts “are essential in the P-3 continuum of education and care, and the success of the RTT- preschool program will be improved by integrating the perspective of local schools boards.”

Underscoring the critical importance of school district involvement, Felton urged the education department to require that at least 80 percent of competitive grants awarded by the program “be disseminated to local eligible entities as subgrants.”

Duncan described the program as “a major new competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs, working with local communities and with states,” including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. He said the program is distinct from the RTT – Early Learning Challenge, which is designed to help the 20 state recipients increase the low-income number children, from birth to age 5, who are ready for kindergarten. By contrast, the new grant focuses specifically on preschool for 4-year-olds.

Felton noted, in the NSBA letter, the importance of maintaining local control for school districts receiving grants. Noting that school district capacity “has been overwhelmed with requirements” for other RTT state grants, he urged the education department “to support capacity building for local eligible entities, not just states.”And he said the department should not make receipt of the funds conditional on the development of new-nationally recognized standards.

In his announcement of the new competition, Duncan said any new program should include “comprehensive services and family engagement” and use RTT preschool grant funds to help programs meet “nationally recognized standards in those areas.”

According to an NSBA issue brief on early childhood education, NSBA said that federal legislation must: be voluntary; support the school district’s role in early learning; be adequately funded so as not to require a redirection of federal, state, or local resources for current K-12 programs; and support and permit maximum flexibility in the use of federal funds. In addition, NSBA said, this legislation must “respect local school board authority in school district matters such as personnel and workforce issues.”

Lawrence Hardy|February 28th, 2014|Categories: Preschool Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Board News, School Law|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Obama’s education budget (abridged)

Want to get the high points of President Obama’s K12 budget — that is, without sifting through all the numbers and the fine print? Read the Quick and the Ed post by Rikesh Nana on the “three key takeaways” from the Administration’s proposal. It’s an excellent synopsis of what the president is proposing and what it all means.

So what are those takeaways? In order: consolidation of Department of Education programs (something that’s been tried in past budgets but never adopted): continued funding of Race to the Top and other competitive grant programs; and — in the absence of congressional action — an administration-sponsored overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

OK, sports fans, this next column is not about Jeremy Lin. (But if we find one on the New York Knicks sensation that has to do with K12 education, we promise to include it next week.) Instead, Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham looks at the firing — and quick rehiring by another team — of NHL hockey coach Bruce Boudreau and what that says about the importance of professional “fit.” Hint: It applies to teaching as well as big-time sports.

Been to Cleveland recently? Even if you haven’t, or have no plans to do so, you’ll want to check out another interesting Quick and the Ed blog on the city’s “portfolio” system of managing schools. Schools would operate with greater or lesser autonomy depending on their performance. “Charter schools as well as district-operated ones would participate,” says the blog by Richard Lee Colvin, “with the goal of giving families a real choice among several good options in every neighborhood.”

Lastly, check out Mark Bauerlein of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the attitudes and academic habits of college freshman. Here’s an interesting paradox (actually a bunch of paradoxes): more than 70 percent of students placed their academic ability in the “highest 10 percent” or “above average,” but only 45 percent felt that confident about their math ability, and just 46 percent believed they were that stellar in writing.

Lawrence Hardy|February 17th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Budgeting, Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Pundits made a big deal about Rick Perry forgetting the name of one of the three federal departments he plans to eliminate if elected president– for the record, it was the Department of Energy — but blogger Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is more concerned about just what the Texas governor means when he says the Department of Education would also be “gone.”

“It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere),” Hess wrote. “So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?”

Then – wouldn’t you know it? – it gets complicated.

Would Perry try to eliminate federal funding for special education? Hess asked. How about Pell grants or Title 1?

“Many will think there are obvious right and wrong answers to these questions,” Hess writes after posing a few other queries “But I do want to know what the GOP candidate’s bold promises really mean.”

Remember nearly 10 years ago when Connecticut went to court over No Child Left Behind, claiming it would cost millions in unfunded mandates? Well, just look at what it could cost California in required “reforms” in order to be granted an NCLB waiver by the Obama Administration, writes This Week in Education’s John Thompson, and Connecticut’s decade-old legal gambit doesn’t seem that out of line.

Lastly, we turn to two timely blogs from NSBA’s Center for Public Education.  In one Mandy Newport, a former teacher, Center intern, and graduate student at George Washington University, takes the Heritage Foundation to task for it’s ill-conceived idea that paying teachers less will result in education improvements.

Then there is Research Analyst Jim Hull’s blog on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, the title of which I absolutely love:

“Using research to inform policy without understanding the research.”

Sort of like, “Vowing to eliminate the Department of Education without understanding what the Department of Education does?”

Lawrence Hardy|November 19th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

The week in blogs

Reauthorizing the federal education bill has been a little like the reverse of that old saying:  “hurry up and wait.” No, when it comes to renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — something that was supposed to happen, oh, four years ago — it’s been more like: “wait — now hurry up.”

The hurry-up happened Thursday, when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, voted 15 to 7 to approve a bill that greatly reduces the federal role by dispensing with a complicated and flawed accountability system for determining which schools need “improvement” and which do not.

That, and many other provisions of the bill, were welcomed by NSBA, state school boards associations, and school districts that had been laboring under the strictures of ESEA’s latest iteration: No Child Left Behind. But while NSBA was happy about that — and pleased that, after waiting so long, the Senate was finally addressing these issues — it cautioned against moving too fast in committee on a bill that still has a lot of bugs.

“The bill also contains many operationally unrealistic features that will need to be addressed,” NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick wrote in a letter to the committee this week. “For example, it contains extensive data collection and reporting requirements, as well as overbearing specificity in several key programs areas that cross well into the micro-management of our schools.”

 NSBA didn’t get the delay in the mark-up it wanted, but the committee did accede to a call from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, to hold a hearing on the bill on Nov. 8.

The blogosphere has been all over the map on this process, and, rather than try to make sense of it myself, I’m going to just give you the links and … .well, you can tell me what it all means. For starters, there was the unusual agreement between Paul, a Tea Party favorite, and liberal blogger Susan Ohanian, about the need for more time.

Then there was the Progressive Policy Institute – from the so-called reformist camp – charging that the law, as currently revised, “guts school accountability.”

Alexander Russo, of This Week in Education, asked “where was [Arne] Duncan?” He said the education secretary didn’t press the committee for a bill with a more robust federal role. Meanwhile, at the Fordham Institute, Mike Petrilli said much the opposite, asserting that Duncan’s influence helped make it all happen (so far). Petrilli also called the bill an improvement over the current law.

So reaction was indeed divided, which is not surprising given the complexity of the issues and the laborious process itself. But will there be a finished product soon, and will it pass?

Not likely, Education Sector’s Anne Hyslop told the Christian Science Monitor. With this divided and sometimes sclerotic Congress, she doesn’t see a bill passing the House until well after the 2012 campaign.

Lawrence Hardy|October 21st, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

The week in blogs

President Obama’s “American Jobs Act” – part of the $477 billion legislative package he proposed to Congress Thursday night – includes $30 billion in new funds to prevent more teacher layoffs and  another $25 billion in school construction money that could help rebuild 35,000 schools.

Sounds great. But is it too good to be true? Afraid so, writes Alison Klein in Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog:

“There’s almost no chance that Republicans—who generally think the $100 billion for education in the stimulus was a giant waste of money—will rush to support this,” Klein writes. “Remember, the administration had a very tough time getting Congress to approve $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund back in the summer of 2010, when Democrats had healthy majorities in both chambers.”

For a simpler, graphic representation of the above analysis, see Tom Toles’ cartoon Friday in the Washington Post.

But do schools really need that $25 billion in construction funds. Well……yes, writes the Post’s Valerie Strauss. She notes that decades of research have shown a link between the condition of buildings and student health, attendance, teacher recruitment, and, most critically, student achievement.

Speaking of student achievement, read Peg Tyre’s critique of standardized testing on Freakonomics. (Thanks to This Week in Education for highlighting it.)  You no doubt have heard a lot of arguments against standardized tests, but Tyre’s is the most unique — and intriguing — that I’ve read in recent months.

Of course, there’s another side. And that’s part of what makes education policy so interesting and, sometimes, maddening. For a positive reassessment of testing, see “Putting Myself to the Test,” by Ama Nyamekye, in Edweek.

Lawrence Hardy|September 10th, 2011|Categories: Budgeting, School Buildings, Teachers, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Not only is it lonely at the top, it’s stressful too. You have to watch your back and fight off challengers.

Yes, of course, we’re talking about baboons.

According to fascinating new research described in today’s New York Times, it’s not all that bad to be a beta male. In fact, it may help you live longer and perpetuate the species.

“After all,” says the Times, “when the alpha gets into another baboon bar fight, who’s going to take the girl home?”

And what does all this have to do with K12 education? Wait, I’m thinking… Yes, here it is: Who’s better equipped to survive those interminable school board budget meetings without burning out? Who’s more skillful at collaborating, finding consensus, and “speaking with one voice?”  Who not only “talks the talk,” or “walks the walk,” but truly “walks the talk?” (Answer: Beta males? And females?  It must be true; it’s in the New York Times.)

In other education news — actually, on a more serious note — read the Times’ Michael Winerip on Matthew, a young student with an attention problem who was allegedly “fired” from a New York City charter school because he didn’t fit in.

“Matthew’s story raises perhaps the most critical question in the debate about charter schools,” Winerip writes.  “Do they cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate — and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?

Also see Joanne Jacobs on “Why Math Tutors Prosper,” Yong Zhao’s provocative call to “Ditch Testing” in light of the Atlanta cheating furor, and Charlotte Williams of the Learning First Alliance on desegregation during the Obama years.

Lawrence Hardy|July 15th, 2011|Categories: Charter Schools, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

Feds launch initiative to stem sexual violence in schools

322-1222511197yhmWBetween 20 and 25 percent of college-aged women and six percent of men are victims of rape during their years at school.  Most perpetrators are not strangers— but acquaintances, friends or romantic interests.

Despite the prominence of sexual violence on college campuses, a startling number of attacks go unreported. The American Association of Women estimates that 65 percent of these cases are never brought to the attention of police or university officials.

Some common causes for this phenomenon are fear of retribution from the attacker, embarrassment and the victim’s belief that it was their fault. These are all psychological consequences of a traumatic event, perpetuated by the social stigma which dictates that these survivors should be ashamed.

It is certain that before more rape and harassment victims step forward, societal ideas about the crime and those who’ve lived through it have to change.

But another serious reason that some remain silent— the belief that their school won’t do anything about the incident—has barely been addressed. This can be especially problematic where institutional policies on sexual violence are lenient, poorly defined, or non-existent.

Hopefully, positive institutional changes will occur as a result of a new set of federal guidelines to prevent sexual violence in U.S. public schools.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden will disclose these suggestions, which are in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter clarifying and expanding upon Title IX, at the University of New Hampshire.
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Naomi Dillon|April 4th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Climate|Tags: , , |

Pen may be mighter than the sword, but not the federal budget

2576-1275491944laKRPersuasive writing, technical writing, creative writing, journalism—all have their place in education and are useful in different capacities. Yet, students across all fields of learning must develop basic writing skills in order to excel and communicate effectively.

So why then, did President Obama sign a bill to cut all federal funding to the National Writing Project earlier this month? This all-encompassing program is devoted to teacher development and strengthening writing skills across subjects for students at all grade levels.

The NWP’s 2009 annual survey reports that throughout the nation, program sites (see pages 12-15) are set up on the campuses of over 200 colleges and universities, with over 70,000 teachers serving the program’s objectives. Each year,  1. 4 million students and 130,000 teachers gain academic and professional development through the NWP.

It’s by no means a small program, and results have continuously showed that enrolled students displayed an improvement in basic writing skills by the end. In NWP’s 2010 study , about 92 percent of the NWP students surveyed across seven states showed higher increases in writing achievement than peers who had not participated in the program.
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Naomi Dillon|March 16th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |
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