Guest Post: Credentialing Change Threatens Concurrent Enrollment

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Today's guest post comes from Fred Nolan, Executive Director for the Minnesota Rural Education Association. We share this post to gauge the extent to which other communities (rural and non-rural!) are having similar experiences. Dual/concurrent credit can be an excellent option to get students started on a college-bound path who otherwise might not consider such an option.

To the extent that you have a similar experience or relevant information to relay, please contact Fred at fred at e-f-services dot com. 

Minnesota’s growing concurrent enrollment (dual-credit) programs for high school students to earn college credit while attending high school is being threatened by recent actions of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Commission is proposing new credentialing requirements for Minnesota’s secondary teachers to teach these college courses under the auspices of a college or university.

MREA Working to Establish Coalition: MREA is very involved with the Center for School Change and Minnesota Association of School Administrators to create a broad coalition of school, business and public officials to protest this change and propose a Minnesota alternative for credentialing high school teachers to teach dual-credit courses. MREA worked successfully with these two education organizations in the 2015 legislature to advocate for an increase of $4.6 million in funding for concurrent enrollment and to strengthen local control over which students can enroll in dual credit courses. 

Southwest Minnesota State University Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator Kimberly Guenther says HLC’s action is a huge change. “Everyone is concerned,” she said. “There are not programs to get this credentialing in a manner that would work for teachers even if they wanted to [meet the requirements].”

HLC Accreditation Determines Grant Eligibility: While not well known, HLC has clout. It is a voluntary accrediting association of post-secondary institutions in 19 Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. It is authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit colleges and universities and thereby make their students eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants.

MREA thanks Senator Greg Clausen of Apple Valley, a former high school principal, who was chief author in the 2015 session for concurrent enrollment and is a leader in this current effort.

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AASA Supports The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015

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Today, AASA signed on to The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 (S. 1966), a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) aimed at making summer meals more accessible, especially to students in rural and remote areas.

The bill would introduce two additional models for summer food delivery: summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) or non-congregate feeding programs. With these improvements, as many as 6.5 million children who are underserved by the program currently could get the food they need during the summer months. These policies complement the site-based model and efforts to strengthen it, and would improve summer nutrition for low-income children no matter where they live.

This legislation is modeled on the successful demonstration projects USDA administered to test both program options. The extensive evaluations showed strong results, including significantly improved access to summer meals, decreased hunger, and improved consumption of healthy foods. 

For more information, find this summary or find the full bill text here.

 

 

 

AASA Joins 17 Other Nat'l Organizations to Comment on Lifeline Program and 'Homework Gap'

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AASA, in coordination with 17 other national organizations, submitted joint comments in response to proposed changes to the Lifeline program, weighing in on the role of access to connectivity in homes, what it means for students, and the opportunity to update the Lifeline program to potentially address this gap. 

"EdLiNC believes that providing broadband access to low-income families is a major step in the right direction to help close the educational equity gap that exists for students who lack access to Internet at home. Without broadband access at home, too many students lack the ability to complete digital homework assignments, perform academic or employment research, apply to college or for summer jobs, and gain access to basic government services. Without broadband access at home, parents may find it difficult to send and receive electronic communications with their children’s teachers or school leaders, access school websites, engage in school activities, and ensure the safety of their children online. Moreover, without broadband access at home, the tremendous work that the Commission did last year in modernizing the E-Rate program, thereby ensuring all k-12 schools and libraries enjoy robust WiFi and broadband connectivity, will be undermined."  Read the full comments.

The coordinating organizations--known collectively as EdLiNC--include:

  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association 
  • American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • American Library Association (ALA)
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA)
  • Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
  • Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
  • National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals  
  • National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association (NREA)
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC)
  • National School Boards Association (NSBA)
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

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AASA joined forces with 16 state and national organizations to file an Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse, asking the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit's erroneous decision making mandatory reports of child abuse vulnerable to federal lawsuits asserting First Amendment retaliation claims. Read the filing

National organizations joining AASA and the National School Boards Association on the brief include:

 

  • American Professional Society on Abuse of Children
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • School Social Workers of America Association

 

AASA Call-to-Action on the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act (HR 2965)

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While ESEA reauthorization continues to be the focus of AASA’s advocacy efforts this summer, we are doing a special call-to-action this month for superintendent-championed legislation amending IDEA’s maintenance of effort requirements. For years, superintendents, school business officials, special education directors and others, have lamented the rigidity of the maintenance of provisions in IDEA. The recession and its subsequent impact on school district finances brought to light the critical need for more flexibility in the federal statute.

In July, AASA successfully lobbied to have legislation introduced that would amend IDEA to grant districts additional exceptions to reduce the maintenance of effort requirements as long as the provision of special education services to students was not compromised. Rep. Walberg (R) of Michigan introduced the legislation, the Building on Local District (BOLD) Flexibility in IDEA Act (HR 2965), and we need YOUR help to attract additional co-sponsors in the House and companion legislation in the Senate.

What flexibilities are provided to districts under the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act?

Districts can reduce MoE if they can demonstrate that (1) they are increasing the efficiency of their special education programs and there is no impact on the provision of special education services to students or (2) the reduction in expenditures is related to employment-related benefits provided to special education personnel (such as pay, retirement contributions, health insurance, etc) as long as the reduction does not result in a reduction in special education services to students.

Districts can also apply to the State for a waiver to reduce MoE if they are facing a serious financial crisis, but only if the districts provide evidence they are still providing FAPE to students. 

5 Reasons Why This Bill Is Helpful to You and Your District

Reason #1: District leaders have an obligation to leverage local education funding in a manner that best serves the maximum number of students. IDEA must provide districts with the flexibility to ensure they are not wrongly penalized for changes in their special education funding levels that in no way impact the provision of special education to students with disabilities. 

Reason #2: Districts should be encouraged to “do more with less” and re-negotiate contracts with vendors, repurpose equipment, change staffing schedules, and find other budgetary efficiencies that do not compromise student services without jeopardizing the federal maintenance of effort requirements. School system leaders have a responsibility to provide academic services to their students as well as a fiduciary responsibility to allocate resources economically to the taxpayers in district. These flexibilities bring these two responsibilities into balance.

Reason #3: States that have enacted reforms that have changed the requirements for districts regarding their contributions to employee pensions or health care should be allowed to reduce IDEA MoE since these budgetary changes do not impact the provision of services to students.

Reason #4: When state and federal IDEA funding levels decline dramatically or a major economic crisis affects a community’s overall resources, districts must be allowed to apply for a waiver to the state to reduce IDEA MoE on an individualized, annual basis. Title I of ESEA enables districts to apply for a waiver when these unfortunate circumstances arise, and IDEA should be aligned to Title I to provide districts with the same flexibility.

Reason #5: Special education students are general education students first. Savings that districts realize in their local special education expenditures should be reallocated to the general education budget, so administrators can dedicate these resources in a manner that best serves all of their students. Artificially maintaining special education funding levels because of an inflexible federal requirement does not allow districts to efficiently allocate limited resources to serve the maximum number of students.

Please take a moment to reach out to your Congressional Delegation and ask them to support this important bill. Feel free to include our one-pager, which is available here.  

19 National Organizations Endorse Domenech to USAC Board

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Nineteen national education associations--representing state and local associations, educators, districts, rural communities and more--submitted letters in support of AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech's nomination to the USAC Board.

You'll recall that Dan has served on the USAC Board--the entity that oversees the E-Rate program--since 2012. As the voice of schools and libraries on the USAC board, he is the conduit to ensure that the program has a direct infusion of practitioner-based feedback and input. 

You can file a letter of support from your association or independent school district until August 17. Details here.

In addition to AASA, the endorsing organizations include: (The groups were on two letters, one representing broader school/libraries groups and one representing rural communities.)

  • American Federation of Teachers 
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
  • American Library Association 
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • Organizations Concerned About Rural Education
  • Rural School and Community Trust 

 

 

USED Releases Guidance for Title I Supplement-Supplant Compliance

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USED released guidance on the ‘supplement not supplant’ portion of the Title I formula in ESEA. ‘Supplement not supplant’ is a long-standing provision in Title I requiring that education funding from the federal government be in addition to—not in place of—funding that would otherwise be available from state and local funds. Center for American Progress and American Enterprise Institute released a pretty good primer on supplement/supplant in 2012. How the Supplement-Not-Supplant Requirements Can Work Against the Policy Goals of Title I reviews the origins of the provision and shares examples of how the rule impacts Title I program implementation. Current statute can substantially limit how LEAs may spend their Title I funds and the ways that Title I funding can support at-risk students. Compliance with supplement/supplant comes with administrative burden. While LEAs can operate school-wide Title I programs, the field continues to have some confusion about what can and cannot be done with Title I funds as it relates to running a school-wide program and being compliant with the supplement/supplant provision. The latest guidance seeks to clarify the confusion.

The guidance is a clarification for current law, though in our read it also aligns with proposed changes to ESEA. In a nutshell, the guidance highlights a compliance test that can be used in running a school wide program. Current law measures compliance with a cost-by-cost basis, meaning LEAs have to demonstrate that each cost is aligned with an activity they would not have administered with state or local funds.  This test doesn’t fit in a school-wide model, and the guidance clarifies the compliance tests that can/should be used in that instance. For someone managing dollars (like a school system leader) this emphasis on the use of school-wide programs is more flexibility. For someone who is a program coordinator (Think: Title I program coordinator) this could be an increased burden. No longer looking at specific costs or services within Title I, this clarification gives more room to innovate; it makes it easier to try something new, and to step away from the status quo. Pages 4-6 offer good examples of misconceptions about running school-wide programs, and pages 9-10 offer concrete examples of ways to calculate supplement/supplant in a school wide system.