Parents, Teachers, Principals, States and School Districts to Collaborate During ESSA Implementation

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Today, AASA joined nine other national organizations representing states, school districts, educators and parents to announce our commitment to work together to ensure the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accelerates student learning in every classroom. The groups will also work to make certain that congressional intent is honored throughout the implementation process.

In an attached letter to Acting U.S. Education Secretary John King, the organizations wrote: “Although our organizations do not always agree, we are unified in our belief that ESSA is a historic opportunity to make a world-class 21st century education system. We are dedicated to working together at the national level to facilitate partnership among our members in states and districts to guarantee the success of this new law.

The letter marks the beginning of a partnership, the State and Local ESSA Implementation Network, that will:  

  • Work together to ensure a timely, fair transition to ESSA; 
  • Coordinate ESSA implementation by governors, state superintendents, school boards, state legislators, local superintendents, educators and parents; 
  • Promote state, local and school decision-making during implementation; and
  • Collaborate with a broader group of education stakeholders to provide guidance to the federal government on key implementation issues.
 Organizations supporting the letter:

AASA: The School Superintendents Association | American Federation of Teachers | National Association of Elementary School Principals | National Association of Secondary School Principals | National Association of State Boards of Education | National Conference of State Legislatures | National Education Association | National Governors Association | National School Boards Association

President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Proposal

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On February 9, President Obama released his federal fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal. FY17 runs from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017 and those federal dollars will be available to school districts for the 2017-18 school year.  The FY17 request for education includes $69.4 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over the 2016 appropriation. The Department's elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 16,900 school districts and approximately 50 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools.

AASA has reviewed the budget and completed an analysis. Here are some top-line take-aways as they relate to the FY17 education proposal:  

  • AASA commends President Obama for the consistency with which he continues to prioritize investment in education. Throughout his Presidency, education was a constant budget highlight, recognizing the important work and role of our nation’s schools and colleges in preparing our students for college and career readiness and success. His FY17 budget proposal continues this push. We in particular commend the proposed increase to Title I, Title III and teacher supports/investments. 
  • We have concerns with the President’s willingness to level fund IDEA and exacerbate the constant fiscal pressure local school districts face when left to cover more than half of the federal government’s commitment to educating students with disabilities. The FY17 proposal freezes the IDEA allocation at FY16 levels, meaning the federal government would be at 16%, less than half of its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs.
  • Just two months ago President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.  A bold reauthorization of the nation’s flagship federal K12 statute, the law embodies the return of authority and flexibility to the state and local level. We commend the $450 million increase to Title I of ESSA, but must flag some concerns with Title I and Title IV proposals, in particular:
    • We are concerned that the proposed $450 million does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of the ESSA statute, which includes a significant one-year change to a hold-harmless provision. We encourage the President or Congress to release data to demonstrate that the proposed funding level is high enough to offset the impact of changes to the hold harmless provisions as it relates to the state set aside for innovation/turn around. While lifting the hold harmless provision works to ensure that states are not underfunded from the get-go as it relates to state innovation, it creates a potential funding vacuum where the state set aside is funded at the expense of local district allocations. Title I must be funded at a robust enough level to ensure not only funding for the state set aside, but to also preserve at least level funding for local level allocations. 
    • AASA acknowledges that the President’s $500 million proposal represents a $147 million increase over FY16 funding levels for the remaining programs consolidated in Title IV under ESSA. This increase, though, is just one-third of the authorized Congressional amount of $1.6 billion. The Title IV block grant now represents the 3rd largest program in ESSA and was strongly bipartisan as the bill moved through Congress. It is the program by which school districts can implement programs related to well-rounded education, school safety and education technology, among others. The overall success of ESSA will be shaped in part by the successes (or stumblings) of Title IV. While the funds in Title IV are significantly more flexible in FY17, a prohibitively low budget request like this sets the stage for an overall funding level that not only mitigates flexibility, but is in direct conflict with Congressional intent. In addition to our concern with the prohibitively low funding level, AASA is opposed to the requested appropriations language that would allow states to limit or target the allowable uses in Title IV. By more adequately funding Title IV, the administration can eliminate the perceived need for this prescriptive language and can instead provide a funding level that more closely aligns with Congressional intent and the spirit of the legislation that President Obama himself signed into law.

Related Resources: 

Getting Excited for NCE!

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Your AASA Policy and Advocacy team members are getting excited to fly out to (warm!) Phoenix for NCE this week! We will be busy with presentations on a myriad of topics. Be sure to find us at the following presentations:

  • Thursday at 9:00 - ESEA and Appropriations: So Close Yet So Far (Noelle Ellerson)
  • Thursday at 10:15 - Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform (Jack Jennings)
  • Thursday at 12:00 - Federal Relations Luncheon with David Berliner (be sure to buy tickets, if you haven't already!)
  • Thursday at 2:00 - Why Rural Matters
  • Thursday at 3:00 - All Politics is Local: A State Policy Perspective (Bruce Hunter, Mike Lodewegen, Ryan Owens, Leslie Finnan)
  • Friday at 10:45 - Getting Past ESEA - AASA Policy Priorities for IDEA, Perkins, Child Nutrition and FERPA Reauthorizations (Sasha Pudelski, Leslie Finnan)
  • Friday at 2:45 - AASA Advocacy Outreach: Beyond Email, Leveraging the Voice of Superintendents (Deanna Atkins, Leslie Finnan)
  • Saturday at 8:00 - Mid-Decade Update of the Decennial Study of the American Superintendency (Bob McCord, Leslie Finnan, and a team of scholars on women in the superintendency)

Our materials will all be made available here. Just to whet your whistle, here is a sneak peak of two of our sessions:

Come find us all at the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter! @AASAHQ @Noellerson @SPudelski @LeslieFinnan and use the hashtag #NCE16

We look forward to seeing many of you there!

 

 

New Legislative Trends Report: State Special Education Laws

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With the recent re-authorization of ESEA, attention on Capitol Hill is beginning to focus on another long-overdue federal education statute: IDEA. For the winter edition of the AASA Legislative Trends Report, we decided to examine whether there were any state legislative trends pertaining to special education students, programs and personnel since 2013. Specifically, we wanted to trace whether there were any trends related to dyslexia and IEP processes that could potentially impact discussions on these issues at the federal level during IDEA reauthorization. Our findings are here: http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/DisabilityStateTrendsWinter2016.pdf

USED Kicks of ESSA Rulemaking Process

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The Education Department (ED) has posted a notice of intention to establish a negotiated rulemaking (sometimes called "neg reg") committee to prepare proposed regulations in issues related to two topical areas: 1) assessments, and 2) supplement/not supplant, and it can be found here. The notice will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, and that direct link is here

What will be covered in "neg reg"?

  • Prepare proposed regulations that would update existing assessment regulations to reflect changes to section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA, including:
    • Locally selected nationally recognized high school assessments, under section 1111(b)(2)(H);
    • The exception for advanced mathematics assessments in 8th grade, under section 1111(b)(2)(C);
    • Inclusion of students with disabilities in academic assessments, including alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, subject to a cap of 1.0% of students assessed for a subject;
    • Inclusion of English learners in academic assessments and English language proficiency assessments; and
    • Computer-adaptive assessments.
  • Prepare proposed regulations related to the requirement under section 1118(b) of the ESEA that title I, part A funds be used to supplement, and not supplant, nonfederal funds, specifically:
    • Regarding the methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate State and local funds to each title I school to ensure compliance with the supplement not supplant requirement; and
    • The timeline for compliance.

There will be two "neg reg" sessions, each in DC, scheduled for March 21-23 and April 6-8, 2016 There is an optional third session April 18-19.  In addition to The notice also requests nominations for individual negotiators who represent key stakeholder constituencies for the issues to be negotiated to serve on the committee. AASA will be submitting nominations and reaching out to members to support these nominations. AASA expressed its interest in being a neg reg participant in our earlier response to the Department's request for information (here). Should you be interested in submitting a nomination, or being nominated, please reach out to Noelle (nellerson at aasa.org). The deadline for submitting nominations is February 25th, 2016. 

E-Rate Funding Year 2016 Application Filing Window Opens Feb 3

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This guest post comes from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech. Dan serves on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which oversees the four programs of the Universal Service Fund, including E-Rate.

Tomorrow, February 3, marks the beginning of the 2016 application filing window for the E-Rate program. The filing window will be open through April 29, meaning school districts will have 87 days (nearly two weeks longer than normal!) to submit an E-Rate application.

2014 was a big year for the E-Rate program, bringing both a program modernization and an increase in the funding cap. The updated program came with a new application process, and USAC is currently in the middle of migrating the E-Rate information technology system and forms to a new platform.

Last year (2015 application window), applicants expressed frustration with the new application forms and portals. While USAC has tried to remedy these shortcomings, there may still be some hangups. We encourage you to give us feedback as you work through this year's application to submit your E-Rate forms. Tell us what worked and what didn't; let us know what went according to plan and where there is room for improvement. 

Share these comments with us by contacting Noelle Ellerson (nellerson@aasa.org). You can also submit your feedback to USAC via EPCfeedback@usac.org. 

You can read USAC's announcement on the 2016 application window here.

The Start of a New Blog Series---A New IDEA: The Changes We Need In Federal Special Education Policy

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Now that we are finished lobbying members of Congress to fix ESEA, AASA’s Policy and Advocacy team is beginning to explore the areas in IDEA that must be addressed in the next reauthorization. To assist us and to spur conversation and discussion with our superintendents, it is with great excitement that we launch a monthly series of blogposts by professors, lawyers, education researchers and other experts on issues to consider for IDEA reauthorization (with a focus on ways to improve IDEA). Our first post, below, is a very important one because it tackles the recently released guidance by the Department of Education on the provision of a “free appropriate public education” and the obligation of school districts to incorporate high expectations for students with disabilities into IEPs. If you haven’t read this, please read the guidance itself as well as our post below. In a nut-shell, the Dear Colleague letter proposes that districts adopt standard based-IEPs for all students with disabilities. As we begin to discuss IDEA reauthorization, this Dear Colleague letter will certainly be a boon to advocates who would like to mandate a standards-based approach to IEPs, and as such, a deep look at this letter is a terrific way to start our series examining how IDEA can/must be improved as well as, importantly, how it should not be changed.