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The same Leading Edge content you know and love has moved to a new page! Please continue to follow our blog in its new home, here. Be sure to bookmark it for easy access, or you can always find it under the Policy & Advocacy tab on the AASA.org homepage.

Thank you!

--Your AASA Policy & Advocacy Team

AASA Supports House Bill to Reauthorize Child Nutrition Act

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Today, AASA sent the following statement to support the House bill to reauthorize the child nutrition act.

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to support the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003). Providing healthy meals and snack options for school children is critical. AASAs’ members are proud of their strong nutrition programs and are looking for a reauthorization that provides districts with increased flexibility from certain elements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The nutrition study, as prescribed in this bill, takes the politics out of the standards and keeps the focus where it belongs: on what is best for our nation’s schools and students.

David R. Schuler, AASA president and superintendent of High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ill, and Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, issued the following statements:  

“I strive to serve my students nutritious meals, but the current nutrition standards, as written, are so burdensome that I had to withdraw from the federal nutrition program and find other ways to feed my students. The flexibilities allowed and the changes that may come through this bill will provide some much-needed relief to districts around the country struggling to balance the needs of their students and the regulations from DC.” – David R. Schuler

AASA has deep concerns over the changes to the Community Eligibility Provision eligibility threshold and the increase in verification of free and reduced price lunch eligibility.

“This bill is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the committee to make further improvements to the legislation. We are pleased to see the continued investment in school meals and focus on supporting schools and districts over politics, and hope to work with the committee to pass a bill we can continue to support.” – Daniel A. Domenech 

More than 250 National Organizations Sign Letter Opposing Balanced Budget Amendment

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AASA joined more than 265 other national organizations in a letter to Congress opposing any balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. AASA has blogged about this effort previously, and you can refresh your memory here.

AASA remains opposed to efforts related to a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution for the damaging impacts on the economy and implications for future economic stability. As written in the letter:

A balanced budget constitutional amendment would damage the economy, not strengthen it. Demanding that policymakers cut spending and/or raise taxes even when the economy slows is the opposite of what is needed to stabilize a weak economy and avert recessions. Such steps would risk tipping a faltering economy into recession or worsening an ongoing downturn, costing large numbers of jobs while blocking worthy investments to stimulate jobs and growth and address urgent needs in infrastructure and other areas...Our Constitution has served the nation well in part because it has focused on enduring principles of government, rather than attempting to dictate fiscal policy for current and future generations. Policymakers should be providing leadership on fiscal policy, rather than avoiding doing so and seeking to cover themselves by writing a highly ill-advised, economically damaging balanced budget amendment into the Constitution.

Read the full letter.

AASA Joins National Organizations in Response to Proposed Changes to Community Eligibility Provision

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On Tuesday, April 19 AASA joined the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) for a Congressional briefing on the Community Eligibility Provision. This program is a powerful federal option that enables high-poverty schools and districts to provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.

Enacted in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and available nationwide since school year 2014–15, Community Eligibility has been adopted in more than 18,000 high-poverty schools in nearly 3,000 school districts, reaching more than 8.5 million students, according to a new report from FRAC and CBPP.  As it considers reauthorizing the child nutrition bill, the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed to change the rules for eligibility for CEP. Currently, schools and districts with more than 40 percent of students identified for free and reduced price lunch eligibility through direct certification (such as through SNAP or TANF) are eligible. The House proposal is to change that threshold to 60 percent, which would cause 7,000 schools around the country to lose eligibility.

The briefing kicked off with a welcome from AAP President Benard Dreyer and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Education and the Workforce Committee. Both expressed the extreme need for CEP, and how we can move it forward, instead of going backwards on school meals for students.

“CEP is helping schools, it’s helping teachers and, above all, it’s helping address child poverty and reduce the stigma associated with being a child who is food insecure,” said Dreyer.

Congressman Scott, a CEP champion and a leader for access to quality early-, secondary- and higher-education for all of America’s children, said “If you have [CEP], you don’t have the stigma of people having to qualify for free and reduced lunch and produce paperwork at the checkout counter that identifies them as low or moderate income and it just makes it much better.”

“We have a report that goes into detail about the good of the Community Eligibility Provision and why it needs to be maintained – and maybe even improved – but certainly not go backwards because education is at risk and the wellbeing of millions of children,” said Scott.

In addition to providing an overview of the Community Eligibility Provision, a panel of education leaders was also there to share their experiences with the program, and what it would mean for the enrolled schools if the program was taken away. The group included Vonda Cooke, director of child nutrition programs, Pennsylvania Department of Education; Lisa Kyer, business administrator, Lansingburgh Central School District (N.Y.); and Morris Leis, superintendent, Coffee County School System (Ga.).

AASA member Superintendent Morris Leis implemented the program in his district in 2014 and has provided students in 11 of his 12 schools with free breakfast and lunch since. If the proposed eligibility changes are made, six of his schools will no longer be able to remain in the program.

“The CEP is changing lives in a positive way in our community,” said Leis. “The things that are happening because of this program are amazing.”

The community in Coffee County is made up of 43,000 people, which includes 7,700 students that are being educated in the district’s 12 schools. 75 percent of those students are considered economically disadvantaged.

“We’re finishing our second year of CEP and if these changes go through, six of our schools will no longer be eligible,” said Leis. “We’ve got a lot of [students] who fall above the threshold for free and reduced [lunch], but if we didn’t have this program their children wouldn’t eat.”

According to Leis, in the middle school, prior to this program, students simply would not eat because they didn’t want the stigma of being a student eating a free lunch.

Since implementation of CEP, Leis said that students are going to the cafeteria to eat and that the entire school atmosphere has changed tremendously.

“Kids are eating and the whole strata of ‘free,’ ‘reduced’ and ‘paid’ is gone. They’re all the same,” said Leis.

The mission of Coffee County School System is to provide an equitable and excellent education for every student – which is being done through CEP.

“We provide [students] books, we provide them with transportation, we have nice buildings for them to come to, we have good teachers to teach them - and under the old system we’d get them here and make them pay for lunch,” said Leis. “Well now with CEP, we don’t classify. We have equity in our school system.”

For more information on the Community Eligibility Provision, visit frac.org.

Message from Dan Domenech: Good News: The E-Rate Application Deadline Has Been Extended

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AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech shared the following message with the entire AASA membership via email. We cross post it here for your reference.

Dear Colleague: 

I write today to relay critical information related to the FY16 E-Rate application window. 

We have heard from school superintendents across the country about difficulties their districts are having navigating and completing the revamped application for the E-Rate program. In response, AASA joined 17 other national organizations—as part of the broader EdLiNC coalition—in sending a letter to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), requesting an extension of the E-Rate application. 

The letter reads as follows: "EdLiNC's members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full text of the letter. 

On Friday, USAC announced that it was, indeed, extending the application deadline. You can read the full statement here, and here are some highlights: 

 

  • USAC is extending the window for all applicants by four weeks, and the new closing date is May 26, 2016. 
  • USAC continues to roll out additional updates to the online portal and application. You can read an explanation of the additional changes here
  • When the extended window closes on May 26, USAC will open a second filing window for consortia and libraries, closing on July 21, 2016. 
  • Neither the extension nor the second window are expected to delay application review or funding decisions. 
  • USAC analysis shows there should be sufficient funding for all plausible demand scenarios for this application year. Filers should not worry about losing funds as a result of the second window. 
  • Please direct any application-related inquiries to the Client Services Bureau at 1-888-203-8100. 

 

Please let us know if you have any questions. Direct any inquiries to Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy & advocacy at nellerson@aasa.org. 

 

Thank you. 

 

Negotiated Rulemaking: The Sausage Making Stage of ESSA Legislation

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The Advocate is a monthly column by the AASA advocacy team. It is shared with our state affiliate executive directors who share it with membership. We cross post the articles to the blog given their relevance to AASA advocacy. This month's article is about negotiated rulemaking.
Four months ago, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While the bill is more than 1,000 pages in length, it lacks the level of detail necessary to fully support successful implementation at the local level, and that is where the regulatory process comes in. 
Negotiated rulemaking—the specific version of regulation playing out right now—is the in-person version of regulation. A committee of approximately 25 stakeholders representing the education, civil rights, disabilities and other related communities convene to review specified topics in the hopes of reaching consensus on what shape the regulations should take. In this round, negotiated rulemaking (“neg reg”) is focused on assessments and supplement/supplant, with the broader assessments bucket capturing computer adaptive assessment, assessment for English learners, alternate assessment, exception for advanced mathematics assessments in 8th grade and the high school assessment flexibility pilot.
AASA joined eight other national organizations in a letter to Secretary King encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the final product be consistent with the scope and spirit of ESSA and represent, to the extent possible, broad support from the neg reg committee. In particular, the groups encourage USED to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress designed to empower communities. 
Mr. Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools in Georgia and an AASA member, is a member of the committee, appointed to represent the voice of school board and district leaders. AASA’s advocacy team has covered the first six days of neg reg (Mar 21-23 and Apr 6-8), and the group will convene one final time, April 18-19. As much as I would like to be wrong, it seems unlikely that the group will be able to reach consensus. What are some of the sticking points?
  • Alternate Assessment: You’ll recall that AASA advocated very intensely to ensure students can take tests that are developmentally appropriate. The set of items under consideration would limit the flexibility at both the state and local level, should the rate of identification for alternate assessments exceed 1 percent. Further, there is a push for a national definition of ‘students with the most severe cognitive disabilities.’ AASA opposes the attempt to change the carefully negotiated statute and believes that the intent is clear, for state and local education agencies to have some flexibility in how they place students for alternate assessments. Further, to the extent that ESSA did not create a definition, it is not something that should be created through regulation. 
  • Supplement, Not Supplant (SNS): This is one of three fiscal tests that districts and states have to meet to ensure the integrity of Title I dollars. The three tests are maintenance of effort, supplement/supplant and comparability. ESSA made changes to SNS, but not the other two tests. AASA is concerned that the proposed regulations blur the lines between the two distinct tests of SNS and comparability. AASA believes that the new reporting requirements around teacher salary need time to play out before unnecessarily tying them into an SNS proposal that has ‘mission creep’ into the equity function of comparability.
  • Computer Adaptive Assessment: Under the proposal, computer-adaptive tests used for accountability would have to be able to determine whether a student is on grade level.
  • Eighth Grade Assessments: Under the proposal, students who take a higher-level math test for accountability purposes (i.e. an Algebra test, usually given to high schoolers) must be given access to accommodations if they are English language learners, or students in special education.
  • Local High School Assessment: The debate is circling on how to define ‘nationally recognized.’
  • English Learner Assessment: The proposed regulations say states need to come up with a common test to measure English-language proficiency.
For purposes of moving forward, the committee will have two considerations: SNS will be considered on its own, and the assessment pieces will be considered in one joint bucket, with all five items to be voted on collectively, an ‘up’ or ‘down’ vote. 
Stay tuned to the AASA Leading Edge blog as the rest of the neg reg process plays out. And, as a point of reference, we are regularly asked some of our go-to resources for education policy news. They’re listed here:

Guest Blog Post: Unlocking the Key to School Improvement Success under ESSA

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Today's guest post comes from Chelsea Straus, Policy Analyst for the K-12 Education Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

During the recent signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), President Barack Obama remarked that the new education law “focuses on a national goal of ensuring that all of our students graduate prepared for college and future careers.” To help meet this goal, ESSA requires that states and districts take action in their lowest-performing schools to dramatically improve student outcomes.

While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) prescribed specific actions for every struggling school, ESSA gives district leaders significant flexibility in selecting school improvement strategies. However, the law does require that district leaders implement “evidence-based” practices in these schools. 

Unfortunately, there are a limited number of school improvement strategies supported by substantial evidence. The key question is: Now that districts are in the driver’s seat, where should they look for help when crafting school improvement plans and selecting effective intervention strategies? The answer is fairly simple: follow the lead of districts that have successfully turned around low-performing schools. 

A new report from the Center for American Progress investigates how three districts – Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Lawrence, Massachusetts – improved their schools using a specific set of evidence-based practices. These practices include data-driven instruction, excellence in teaching and leadership, a culture of high expectations, frequent and intensive tutoring, and an extended school day and year.

All three of these districts were able to improve student achievement in many underperforming schools. Through strategic preparation and perseverance, these districts overcame barriers associated with allotting sufficient planning time, recruiting and training exemplary teachers, financing the reforms, and securing stakeholder investment. These districts were able to achieve success through increased planning time, school-level budgeting, aggressive recruiting tactics, and word-of-mouth around the effectiveness of these practices. 

As other districts contemplate how to improve low-performing schools under ESSA, they should use CAP’s report as a guide to help ensure a smooth and effective school improvement process. 

ESSA gives districts a new opportunity to take on the challenges of turning around their lowest-performing schools, without the restrictive mandates of NCLB. Although this flexibility can be overwhelming, district leaders can and should follow in the footsteps of their peers in places like Houston, Denver, and Lawrence. These three districts help shed light on the types of practices that have evidence of effectiveness and they have created a path forward for other districts. 

Now districts should seize ESSA implementation as an opportunity to infuse these practices into their low-performing schools. Improving underperforming schools with evidence-based practices will help move us closer to ensuring that all students graduate college- and career-ready. 

 

 

AASA Joins 17 Organizations in Request for E-Rate Application Extension

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AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting an extension to the E-Rate application filing deadline.

"EdLiNC has long championed the E-rate and supported the recent modernization and overhaul of the program, recognizing the positive impact on our members’ ability to provide high-speed broadband connectivity. EdLiNC recognizes such significant changes to the program require applicants to also navigate and respond to changes to both the application and the application process. EdLiNC’s members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • 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 Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

AASA ESSA Resource on Transportation for Students in Foster Care

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AASA, in collaboration with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, has released a guide on the new ESSA provisions focused on transportation for students in foster care. In contrast to the majority of assessment, accountability and funding provisions in ESSA which are effective beginning the 2017-2018 school year, ESSA’s foster caretransportation provisions are effective December 2016. This guide willhelp you understand the responsibilities both child welfare agencies and school districts have for transporting children in foster care, specifically which aspects are optional and which aspects are requirements. In addition, we provide a series of questions to guide the development of local transportation procedures.  This is the first of many ESSA resources we will producing for AASA members.

AASA's Statement on Every Student Succeeds Act Hearing

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In response to Tuesday's Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on ESSA implementation, AASA released the following statement in the press release below.

--

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
James Minichello
703-875-0723
703-774-6953 (cell)
jminichello@aasa.org


Alexandria, Va. – April 12, 2016 – AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in advance of the April 12, 2016 Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from the U.S. Secretary of Education.
 
“AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is proud of its endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and remains committed to working with both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education as we move forward to support successful ESSA implementation. Our organization represents the nation’s more than 13,000 school system leaders and we are watching closely to ensure that the regulations and guidance that will further shape the law remain aligned and consistent with the underlying statute.
 
“Congress acted very deliberately in its broad, bipartisan work to make changes in certain areas while leaving others untouched. With a bill so clearly focused on positioning state and local educational agencies as the drivers of policy decisions, while ensuring the role of the federal government to support and strengthen the nation’s schools, it is critical that the U.S Education Department (USED) refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine.
 
“To the extent that ESSA establishes definitions and requirements, there are policy decisions crafted with significant input from broad, diverse constituencies, including educators, the civil rights community and the disability community. To the extent that ESSA refrains from a national definition or requirement should remain a state and local decision, unless there is consensus that federal clarification is needed. ESSA anticipated and addressed this very tension, and ‘prohibit[s] any such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or outside the scope of the law.’ New federal definitions through regulation would represent new requirements and would be outside the scope and intent of the law.
 
“In particular, we are deeply concerned that the proposed regulations represent a serious overreach in the areas of ‘supplement, not supplant’ and alternate assessment.

  • Supplement Not Supplant: Supplement, not supplant is one of three federal provisions aimed at preserving the integrity of Title I funding. Maintenance of Effort evaluates the dollar amount; supplement not supplant addresses the construct/methodology of allocation; and comparability addresses equitable allocation. They are distinct statutory provisions, and ESSA changed only one: Congress was as deliberate in its move to modify supplement not supplant as it was to leave both maintenance of effort and comparability unchanged. We are concerned that the proposed regulations reflect a ‘mission creep’ focused on getting changes that Congress denied in statute through regulation. Further, the proposal will unnecessarily burden schools, impact day-to-day operations, result in forced transfers of teachers, and disrupt various methods of school budgeting, including weighted student formulae.
  • Alternate Assessments: The alternate assessment language in ESSA represents a very carefully negotiated compromise between the various groups represented in the negotiated rulemaking committee. We are concerned that the proposed regulations change ESSA statute before it has even been implemented. Echoing a sentiment listed above, we are also concerned with an effort to establish a national definition for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities. The previous law, No Child Left Behind, represented a much more prescriptive role for the federal government in education and did not define the term. To see a definition in the proposed regulation runs counter to the intent of the underlying ESSA statute, which is clear in its focus on state and local decision making and was deliberate in not defining the term. It is a term that has, to date, been defined at the state and local level, and this is an approach that is appropriately deferential to the role of the individualized education program team in crafting these decisions.  The 1 percent cap on alternate assessments remains in place and is a guiding mark. Under ESSA, it remains a litmus test that strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring that students are not disproportionately identified for alternate assessments; preserving the role of the IEP team and the significance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in driving alternate assessment decisions;  and providing limited flexibility to those schools who may find they have an atypically high rate of students who need to take an alternate assessment. We remain optimistic that USED can and will revise its regulations to more closely reflect statutory intent.”

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For specific questions about ESSA implementation, please contact Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.

AASA Joins 8 National Organizations on Letter to USED About ESSA Implementation

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AASA has joined eight other national organizations on a letter to the U.S. Department of Education regarding negotiated rulemaking and the regulatory process for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Read the full letter here

Joining AASA on the letter: 

  • National Governors Association 
  • National Conference of State Legislatures 
  • National Association of State Boards of Education 
  • Council of Chief State School Officers 
  • National School Boards Association 
  • American Federation of Teachers 
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Education Association

 

AASA Urges Careful Consideration of FEMA Proposal to Establish a Deductible

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File this under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy: AASA joined four other national organizations in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to its proposal to establish a deductible for its public assistance program.

FEMA’s proposal is considering the establishment of a disaster deductible, requiring a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a recipient (grantee) before FEMA would provide assistance under the public assistance program when authorized by a Presidential major disaster declaration.  FEMA believes the deductible model would incentive recipients to make meaningful improvements in disaster planning, fiscal capacity for disaster response and recovery, and risk mitigation, while contributing to more effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

AASA, in coordination with the Association of Educational Services Agencies, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, and the National Rural Education Association sent a response urging caution and restraint. The public assistance program has historically been a federal program and this policy would shift federal responsibility to the state and local level, arguably at a time (post-disaster) that they can least afford it. Further, as sub-grantees, school district's ability to receive FEMA disaster funds would be impacted by their state's willingness/ability to meet or address the deductible. The groups expressed concern that this proposal stands to disproportionately and negatively impact the neediest.

Read FEMA's proposal.

Read the full letter here

AASA Joins 17 National Organizations on Letter to FCC Responding to Changes in Lifeline Program

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to consider changes that would modernize it's Lifeline program. (Quick background: Lifeline is a sister program to E-Rate, one of the four programs funded through Universal Services Fund. Lifeline helps provide phone connectivity to low-income people, and the proposed changes include allowing the program to provide broadband home access. AASA supports this effort, as it provides an opportunity to address the homework gap, and ensure that more students have access to internet connectivity at home.)

AASA advocates for the E-Rate program in close coordination with EdLiNC, the Education and Library Networks Coalition. As part of EdLiNC, AASA supports the proposal to include broadband as an eligible and supported Lifeline service because we believe it an important step in assisting students to gain access from their own homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education. AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a letter to the FCC outlining our support and identifying areas within the proposal for further improvement. 

You can read the full letter here.

Joining AASA on the letter:  

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • nternational Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association 
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA 
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Guest Blog Post: Education for Upward Mobility

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Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Petrilli,President of The Fordham Institute. He writes today about his most recent publication, a book where he and a dozen leading scholars and policy analysts address the questions "How can we help children born into poverty transcend their disadvantages and enter the middle class as adults? And in particular, what role can our schools play?"

Poor and working class Americans have gotten hammered. Here’s how to help their children do better.

Whatever you think of this year’s presidential election, it’s undeniable that Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ populist messages have struck a chord, particularly with poor and working class voters. As Charles Murray put it in the Wall Street Journal, “For someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.”

None of this is news to educators, who work with children and families every day who face the challenges that decades of economic upheaval have brought.

State and national leaders have warned since at least the 1980s against leaving people behind, and the need to “build a bridge to the 21st century.” Then-Governor Lamar Alexander said in 1986, “What has suddenly riveted everyone’s attention on our education system is that our standard of living is threatened…we’re not going to have the jobs and the good incomes in America if we don’t have the good skills.” That was thirty years ago.

And to be sure there have been lots of school reform efforts over the years, most well-meaning, and some even effective. But it hasn’t been nearly enough. While NAEP scores have risen at the 4th and 8th grade levels, they remain stubbornly flat at the end of high school. Fewer than forty percent of our graduates leave school ready for college—not just four-year universities but community colleges too. The numbers are much, much worse for kids growing up poor and working class. We saw the challenge coming—the need to equip a vastly larger number of people with stronger skills—and we didn’t get the job done.

So here we are, with low-income and working class voters who have gotten hammered, and are falling further behind their college-educated neighbors, and are letting their anger be heard.

The question for us is whether there’s anything our schools can do to reverse these trends. What can we do to make sure that the next generation develops the skills they need to compete for middle-class and high-wage jobs?

Our schools can’t do it all, or all by themselves, but there’s a least a handful of actions we can take which would do a world of good. For example: balance our obsession with four-year college degrees with renewed attention to high-quality Career and Technical Education; make sure we remember the “strivers”—the low-income, well-behaved, higher-performing students, who are rarely made a top priority; and teach the “success sequence”—finish high school, work full time, and get married before having children. 

While our education system alone cannot solve the stubborn, tragic problem of persistent poverty and the growing gaps between working class and college-educated Americans, there’s much it can do for the children entrusted to it. But first we have to change the way we think about the problem and its possible solutions.

 

Michael J. Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. This essay is drawn from his new edited volume, Education for Upward Mobility, which was released this week.

AASA Joins 10 National Organizations Supporting Increased FY17 Funding for Title I

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AASA joined ten other national organizations in a letter addressed to the House and Senate appropriations committee, urging strong support for increased funding for Title I, with an assurance towards avoiding any decrease in local level allocations:

"Without action by the Appropriations Committee, virtually every school district in the nation will unexpectedly find their local Title I allocation cut in school year 2017-18 just as they begin to implement the new law. The Education Department’s proposed Title IA funding levels for federal fiscal year 2017 (FY17) along with the requested proviso language would merely mitigate the severity of these local Title I allocation cuts...President Obama proposed a $450 million ‘increase’ for Title IA in FY17. We are deeply concerned that, for reasons outlined below, this amount is insufficient and will actually result in a projected cut of at least $200 million at the local level ([1]).  The proposal does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of statutory changes in ESSA related to program consolidation, state set aside, and the hold harmless provision. 

ESSA consolidates the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program into Title I. SIG was funded at $450 million in FY16, accounting for the full amount of the President’s proposed increase. More succinctly, these dollars are already in schools, and proposal is merely shifting the funding from SIG to Title I. 

The effective cuts to school districts come from a change in state set aside for school improvement. ESSA raises the state set aside from four to seven percent for school improvement and removes the Title I state set-aside hold harmless requirement for FY17. Under No Child Left Behind, the hold harmless provision ensured that local level allocations would not be reduced as a result of the state school improvement set-aside. States had to ensure level funding for school districts before taking the set aside, and recent funding realities created a scenario where the money that remained available for the state set aside was below four percent. Increasing the set aside to seven percent, in coordination with lifting the hold harmless, will create a funding vacuum, whereby dollars flow first to the state and then to the local level. The fiscal pressure of meeting the increased set aside under ESSA and backfilling funds for states that were operating with less than a four percent set-aside will result in significant cuts to local Title I programs. The Education Department’s Title I budget request at best would translate into a $200 million shortfall for local level allocations and at worst a significantly greater shortfall...

We strongly urge Congress to fund Title IA at a level $450 million above the President’s proposed level, an aggregate increase for school districts in their local level subgrant allocations for school year 2017-18, and ensure that no school district receives less Title I funding to implement the first year of ESSA."

Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter include: 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

Request for Nominations of Individuals to Serve on Regional Advisory Committees

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The U.S. Secretary of Education (Secretary) invites interested parties to submit nominations for individuals to serve on the Regional Advisory Committees (RACs).

Purpose of the RACs: The Secretary is seeking nominations to serve on the RACs in order to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions[1] served by the Regional Educational Laboratories as part of the Comprehensive Centers program.  The RACs will seek individual committee members’ input regarding the need for the technical assistance activities described in section 203 of the Educational Technical Assistance Act (ETAA) and how those needs would be most effectively addressed.  In order to achieve this purpose, the RACs will seek input from chief executive officers of States; chief State school officers; educators, including teachers and administrators; local educational agencies (LEAs); librarians; businesses; State educational agencies (SEAs); and other stakeholders within each region. 

The process for the RACs outlined in this notice is different from the process used to convene the RACs in prior years.  Specifically, we are no longer seeking consensus recommendations and instead are seeking the technical advice of each individual RAC member.  Not later than six months after each RAC is convened, it will submit a report based on this needs assessment to the Secretary.  This report will contain an analysis of the educational needs of the region and each individual’s technical advice to the Secretary regarding how those needs might be most effectively addressed.  The RAC members will not attempt to reach consensus on their recommendations and will instead submit their individual technical advice.  The Secretary shall establish priorities for the next cohort of comprehensive centers, taking into account these regional needs identified by individual RAC members and other relevant regional surveys of educational needs, to the extent the Secretary deems appropriate.  

RAC Membership: Section 206(b) of the ETAA requires that the membership of each RAC contain a balanced representation of States in the region and include not more than one representative of each SEA located in the region.  The membership of each RAC may include the following:  Representatives of LEAs, both rural and urban; representatives of institutions of higher education, including individuals representing university-based education research on education and university-based research on subjects other than education; parents; practicing educators, including classroom teachers, principals, administrators, school board members, and other local school officials; representatives of business; and researchers.  Each RAC will be composed of no more than 25 members.

RAC Member Responsibilities: The Secretary will appoint members for the life of the committee, which will span approximately five months.  Each committee will meet no more than three times.  Any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the full term for which the member’s predecessor was appointed will be appointed for the remainder of such term.  Members will serve without compensation.

Nomination Process: Any interested person or organization may nominate one or more qualified individuals for membership.  If you would like to nominate an individual, including yourself, for appointment to one of the following RACs, please submit the following information to the Department’s School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group listed in this notice:

  • A copy of the nominee’s resume; 
    • A letter that provides the reason(s) for nominating the individual;
    • Contact information for the nominee (name, title, home and business address, phone number, and email address); and 
    • The group(s) the nominee may qualify to represent from the following categories (list all that apply):
      • SEA
      • LEA
        • Rural LEA
        • Urban LEA
      • Practicing educator
        • Classroom teacher
        • School principal 
        • Other school administrator
        • School board member
        • Other local school official
      • Parent
      • Institution of higher education
        • University-based research on education
        • University-based research on subjects other than education
      • Business
      • Researcher

In addition, the cover letter must state that the nominee (if you are nominating someone other than yourself) has agreed to be nominated and is willing to serve on one of the RACs.  Nominees will be appointed based on technical qualifications, professional experience, demonstrated knowledge of issues, demonstrated experience, integrity, impartiality, and good judgment.  

Nomination Deadline: Nominations for individuals to serve on the RACs must be submitted by April 20, 2016.

Process for Submissions: You may submit nominations, including attachments, by any of the following methods:

  • Electronically:  Send to OESE.RAC@ed.gov (specify in the email subject line, “Regional Advisory Committee Nomination”).
  • Mail, express delivery, hand delivery, messenger, or courier service:  Send to the following address:  U.S. Department of Education, School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3E206, Washington, DC 20202, Attn: Britt Jung.  Express mail or hand delivery is encouraged to ensure timely receipt of materials. : 

For more information: If you have any questions regarding this process, you may contact Britt Jung, Group Leader, School Support and Rural Programs, (202) 205-4513 or email questions to OESE.RAC@ed.gov.

AASA joins 23 National Organizations Urging FY17 Investments in IDEA

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Earlier today, AASA joined 23 other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional appropriators, urging them to prioritize investment in IDEA. You can read the full letter.

In urging increased federal investment above and beyond the President's proposed freezing of IDEA, the groups write: "Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment was 18 percent in 2005. This means that the President’s proposed funding level for FY 17 is below that of more than a decade ago. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from." 

Other groups signing the letter include: 

  • American Art Therapy Association
  • American Council for School Social Work
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Pupil Services Administrators
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of School Nurses
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association 
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education AssociationNational School Boards Association

 

Guest Blog: AAP Resources on Poverty

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Today's guest blog comes from AASA's Children's Programs Department, highlighting the American Academy of Pediatrician's resources on poverty.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on March 9th. Titled “Policy and Child Health in the United States,” AAP recommends that pediatricians routinely screen all children for poverty risk factors during checkups, and advocates for protecting and expanding state and federal anti-poverty programs. AAP also released a technical report describing the pervasive threat poverty poses on children’s health and development. 
“With almost half of U.S. children poor or near-poor, we pediatricians see the negative impact of poverty on children every day. It causes, underlies, or exacerbates many of the issues affecting the health and wellbeing of children,” wrote AAP President Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP in a letter regarding the new recommendations. Read the letter
The AAP calls for pediatricians to commit to helping 1 in 5 U.S children access the resources they need to survive and thrive.  By asking the single question “Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?” pediatricians are better able to identify families at the poverty level, and link them to resources. 
AAP developed new resources to raise awareness on the impact of poverty on child health and development. Visit aap.org/poverty, which compiles these resources, relating to the policy and technical statement including a social media toolkit, state and federal resources, practice tips for pediatricians, an article highlighting interviews from pediatrician experts,  and a press release outlining the new recommendations. 
Like AAP, AASA is committed to assisting children most in need. Our Children’s Programs Department  has a focus on equity to address the needs of children most in need. From school discipline reform to alternative school breakfast and from coordinated school health to ensuring that children connect to health care coverage, AASA’s work emphasizes addressing poverty. AASA applauds the AAP’s efforts to address poverty through their members, pediatricians

Links to Additional Resources

Guest Blog: How does a popular measure of teacher effectiveness hold up under scrutiny?

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This guest blog post comes from our friends at Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd.

Some states that evaluate teachers based partly on student learning use the student growth percentile model, which computes a score that is assumed to reflect a teacher’s current and future effectiveness. However, a recent study conducted in Nevada by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West finds that half or more of the variance in teacher scores from this model is due to random or otherwise unstable sources rather than to reliable information that could predict future performance. Even when derived by averaging several years of teacher scores, effectiveness estimates are unlikely to provide sufficient reliability for high-stakes decisions, such as tenure or dismissal.

The report, Analysis of the Stability of Teacher-Level Growth Scores From the Student Growth Percentile Model, shows how the methods and findings of this study can be used to judge the accuracy of different designs for teacher evaluation systems. It concludes that states may want to be cautious about using scores from the student growth percentile model as measures of teacher effectiveness for high-stakes decisions. The report, authored by Andrea Lash, Reino Makkonen, Loan Tran, and Min Huang by REL West at WestEd for the Institute of Education Sciences.

The full report can be seen at this link.

Guest Blog Post: A Moment in Time: Ready to Be Counted

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This guest blog post comes from Rebecca Arnold, of Transforming Education.

We are in a moment where practice, policy, and research have aligned to highlight the importance of developing and measuring students’ non-cognitive/social-emotional skills.  Survey data indicate that 88% of teachers are in schools that are working to develop students’ social-emotional skills. At the same time, under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, states must include at least one indicator of school quality or student success in their accountability and continuous improvement systems, which shows that the definition of student and school success has broadened.  Moreover, a compelling longitudinal research base now shows that non-cognitive/social-emotional skills are critical for students’ academic, career, and life outcomes.

Our organization, Transforming Education (TransformEd), supports educators and education systems to develop and measure students’ non-cognitive skills. In order to contribute to the knowledge base in the field regarding the impact of non-cognitive skills on academics, career, and life outcomes, we recently issued a paper entitled, Ready to be Counted: The Research Case for Education Policy Action on Non-Cognitive Skills.”  The paper synthesizes multiple longitudinal and well-controlled studies that have demonstrated that non-cognitive competencies in childhood are important predictors of long-term outcomes, including high school and college completion, employability, earnings, financial stability, avoidance of criminality, and physical and mental health.  In several cases, the data show that these non-cognitive skills matter as much as or even more than cognitive or academic skills in predicting positive life outcomes.  Below is a sample of the key findings in the paper, which are from the landmark Dunedin Study

 

  • Academics: Even at the first major milestone in academic attainment—completing high school—differences among Dunedin Study subjects were large. While about 95% of the top quintile in self-control earned a high school diploma, little more than half (58%) of those from the lowest quintile did so.
  • Career: The level of childhood self-control was also powerfully predictive of socioeconomic status, income, and financial stability in adulthood. For example, while 10% of the high-self-control group was categorized as “low income” (below ~$15,000 US per year) at age 32, more than three times as many (32%) of the low-self-control group had low incomes.
  • Well-being: Children in the lowest quintile of self-control were 2.5 times more likely (27% versus 11%) to suffer from multiple health problems by their 30s. Low self-control also strongly predicted recurrent depression and substance abuse. By age 32, almost half (43%) of those in the lowest quintile of self-control had been convicted of a crime, while barely more than one in 10 (13%) of those in the top quintile were convicted criminals.
Supporting Districts to Take Action on this Compelling Research

 

TransformEd is the lead strategic advisor on social-emotional learning to the CORE Districts – a group of school districts that serve more than one million students in 1,500 schools across California. Six of the CORE Districts chose to act on the research showing the importance of students’ social-emotional skills by systematically measuring these skills alongside academic outcomes and school climate/culture in their federally approved accountability and continuous improvement system. 

In partnership with the CORE Districts, TransformEd has administered common measures of four social-emotional competencies (growth mindset, self-management, self-efficacy, and social awareness) through a field test with nearly 500,000 students. The ultimate goal of this effort is to provide educators with the data they need to make informed choices in systematically adopting scalable, evidence-based approaches to develop students’ social-emotional competencies.  

The data from this field test shows that these skills are statistically significantly predictive of students’ GPA, test scores, attendance, and suspension rates.  We will be issuing a policy paper highlighting these findings in more detail in spring 2016, as well as releasing open source social-emotional measures, so follow us on Twitter (@Transforming_Ed) to ensure that you receive the announcements.

For more information

 

  • Read the full “Ready to Be Counted” paper to learn more about the impact of social-emotional skills.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which curates social-emotional research, practice, and popular press articles. Check out our website, which includes resources for educators on strategies to develop students’ social-emotional skills.

Sources

Bridgeland, Bruce & Hariharan (2013) The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools. 

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Poulton, R., Roberts, B. W., Ross, S., Sears, M. R., Thomson, W. M.,& Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693–2698.

Guest Blog: Using 'Fit' as an Attribute to Select Principals

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This guest blog post comes from AASA member Brandon Palmer, Vice Principal of Little Rock High School in Littlerock, CA.

Although the school principal’s role has been growing in importance, the methods used to select principals have changed little since the 1950s. Moreover, researchers have seldom scrutinized principal selection methods; yet, significant procedural issues exist. The concept of fit has been used within principal selection for decades, but researchers appear to disagree on whether fit is an effective criterion and whether its use may foster discrimination. This primarily qualitative study explored the perceptions and practices of top-level district administrators regarding the use of fit within principal selection processes through a conceptual framework of cloning cultures which raise significant equity issues for non-Caucasian selection participants. Results of this study indicate participants define fit both similarly and differently, they believe fit is an important attribute sought in selection, using fit within selection has both advantages and disadvantages, and selecting principals based on fit does not guarantee that a principal will fit the school and district community. Therefore, the concept of fit should be clearly defined and operationalized. In addition, objective assessment criteria should be developed if fit is to be used within principal selection processes to promote equality within selection practices.

In a recent study published in the 2016 CLEARvoz Journal (Center for Leadership and Equity Research), top-level school district leaders were asked a variety of questions concerning their use of “fit” as an attribute to select school principals.  “Fit” is considered to be of great importance to top-level school leaders when selecting school principals.  Interestingly, principal selection researchers disagree on its use.  Despite its perceived importance, researchers have also described “fit” as a means to exclude on the basis of race, gender, or other factors real or imagined.  

Results of this study indicated top-level school district leaders described “fit” in one of three ways: 1) some type of congruence between the principal and school-community, 2) specific character traits, or 3) a candidate’s understanding of the school-community.  While most top-level school district leaders deemed “fit” as important or very important, they also admitted the difficulty in ascertaining “fit” during selection.  

The use of “fit” was cautioned in favor of other attributes such as raising student achievement.  However, if “fit” is to be used, the specific traits that make-up “fit” should be assessed such as knowledge of curriculum and instruction or the ability to build relationships.  It was also suggested the use of “fit” may undermine equity concerns and that more objective methods should be used instead of solely relying on intuition to match school principals with the school-community.

The full research article can be accessed here:  http://journals.sfu.ca/cvj/index.php/cvj/article/view/22/27 

IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

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IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice for proposed rulemaking that would make substantial changes to how significant disproportionality is identified and remedied in states and districts.

Almost two years ago, the Department asked stakeholders to submit information on how the Department could ensure states appropriately identify districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement and discipline of special education students.  Much of the feedback AASA provided appears to be incorporated as we read through their proposed regulation. While AASA did not suggest regulation was necessary, we would prefer a statutory approach in the IDEA reauthorization to amending these provisions, we do think that the Department’s proposal has some merit.

For example, AASA has stated that it is unfair to districts and students to prohibit those identified as having significant disproportionality to have to set-aside 15% of Part B funds for early intervening services that can only be used for students not yet identified for special education. We urged the Department to allow districts to spend less than 15% if they could prove they were adequately using funds to address significant disproportionality or to ensure the funds could be used on students in special education as well as students not yet identified for special education. The Department chose to propose the latter option and now CEIS funding is not limited to non-special education students. While this does not address the concerns we have with how maintenance of effort provisions are impacted when districts do set-aside funds for CEIS, this is a step in the right direction.

In our comments, we also acknowledged that there needed to be more stringent parameters to ensure states were identifying districts for significant disproportionality. We acknowledge the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as only 356 districts were identified as having significant racial or ethnic disproportionality in the 2010-2011 school year. As a result of this data, we supported the conclusion drawn by the Government Accountability Office that “the discretion that States have in defining significant disproportionality has resulted in a wide range of definitions that provides no assurance that the problem is being appropriately identified across the nation.”

We asked the Department to issue guidance on states’ development of a definition of significant disproportionality that ensures they identify districts which have significant disproportionality, but have never been required to take action to address it. While the Department has chosen a regulatory approach, we believe their attempt to ensure significant disproportionality is remedied is somewhat appropriate. The Department proposes requiring states to use a risk-ratio method to compare disproportionality among racial and ethnic groups. Most states are already using risk-ratios, but they aren’t required to set reasonable risk ratios, which leads to few districts being identified for significant disproportionality. In determining a risk ratio, the state would have to work with stakeholders and analyze the data sets helpfully provided by the Department to analyze what an appropriate risk-ratio would be for the state. States also have the flexibility to choose to identify an LEA as having significant disproportionality only after an LEA exceeds a risk ratio threshold for up to three prior consecutive years. This is another positive change.  Finally, a state need not identify an LEA with significant disproportionality if the LEA is making reasonable progress in lowering its risk ratios, where reasonable progress is determined by the State. The Department’s wisdom to provide states with flexibility to honor the progress a district is making in addressing disproportionality is very appreciated by AASA.  We do have concerns by the requirement to use a standard national “n” size of 10 across all racial and ethnic subgroups as this “n” size is not used for ESSA or other federal accountability provisions, but at first glance the proposed regulations generally appear to be a positive development in ensuring significant disproportionality is identified and addressed with district and state flexibility and superintendent input.

AASA will be reviewing the regs once they are formally published on the Federal Register and inviting all members to join us in commenting on the proposed regs. 

 

Support AASA Nominations for ESSA Rulemaking Committee

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The U.S. Department of Education is engaged in the early stages of the regulatory process related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The first round of regulation and rulemaking will engage current education practitioners and leaders, and USED is accepting nominations to fill out their roster. AASA is submitting two nominations to represent the nation’s public school superintendents and local system administrators in this very important process. AASA will ask that Dr. Gail Pletnick, Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District in Arizona and AASA President-Elect, and ASAA Executive Director Dan Domenech serve on the rulemaking body.

Please see the endorsing statements below that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to support Gail Pletnick and Dan Domenech’s nominations for the ESSA rulemaking committee and then complete the two short forms to endorse Dan and Gail.  

You can read Dan’s qualifications here and Gail’s qualifications here.

Endorsing Statement for Dan Domenech:  I support the nomination of Daniel A. Domenech to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Domenech has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 40 years, 27  as an administrator. Dr. Domenech is well-equipped to represent the nation's public schools, whether urban or rural, small or large. His work experience enables him to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Daniel Domenech's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Dan, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1h9jV8bL7RQ3XClI2ieZquaGdxz2kjOfQ9pHn2ciJ4C0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link 

Endorsing Statement for Gail Pletnick: I support the nomination of Gail K. Pletnick to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Pletnick has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 9 years as a superintendent and nearly 30 years as a school administrator. Dr. Pletnick has worked in public and private school settings and in both suburban and rural communities. Her federal education policy knowledge and work experience enables her to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Gail Pletnick's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Gail, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1tc5TumkSx4e7neopFZfKKdNVv6gc2f9jQEqO9TLtUE0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link

Thank you! 

 

 

AASA 2016 Legislative Agenda Adopted

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Last week, the AASA Governing Board adopted the 2016 Legislative Agenda. Last year's successful reauthorization of ESEA brought about a significant change in the structure of the legislative agenda. In previous years, we have organized our positions by topic area: ESEA, IDEA, student data and privacy, etc. This year, we reorganized our legislative agenda into sections around policy goals rather than topics. Since many of our goals are shared among different topics, we were able to streamline the legislative agenda through this reorganization. 

Our positioning remains steady throughout this agenda. Some of the main priorities continue to be equity, an appropriate federal/state/local balance, adequate funding and a focus on the total child. 

Find the new legislative agenda here, and a tri-fold summary which is perfect for sharing with your legislators here, with a printable version here

AASA Files Comments in Response to Impact Aid Regulations

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AASA filed comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Impact Aid. Many of the Impact Aid regulations hadn't been updated since 1995, and AASA welcomed the opportunity to weigh in. AASA applauds the multiple positive proposed changes within the NPRM, including those that would expedite the payment process for both Federal Property and Basic Support school districts. Department staff and school administrators share the burden to ensure timely payments. As school administrators adjust to the Final Rule and explore opportunities to improve the timeliness of payments, the Department should also explore ways to improve its own systems and communication with school districts. 

You can read our full comments here.

Recap from NCE

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It was great seeing so many of you at NCE last week! In case you missed it, the presentations for all of the policy team’s sessions are available here:

USED Webinars on Rural Education

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USED has announced a set of three webinars focused on rural education, being held this week.

The team responsible for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is focused on increasing communication and collaboration among professionals at the Department of Education, and is hosting these stakeholder webinars as an overview of the rural education grant programs.

They have scheduled 3 separate one-hour webinars: 

  • February 16th, 1 pm ET
  • February 17th, 10 am ET
  • February 18th, 10 am ET

The logon information for each webinar is listed below.  To join a session, please click on the hyperlink listed below the session date. To hear the session, you will need to call in using the toll free number.  If you experience any problems or need additional information prior to the session date, please contact LaToya Harper-Williams (latoya.harperwilliams@ed.gov).

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 1: 
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Time: 1:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 747 774 951
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code.
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US)
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 2: Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 742 091 740
Session password: 12345 

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 3: 
Date: Thursday, February 18, 2016
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 749 021 177
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

 

 

AASA Joins National Organizations in Letter of Response to Proposed Changes to Overtime Pay

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AASA, The School Superintendents Association joined 19 other national organizations on a letter in response to the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed changes to the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLAS) overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative and professional employees (the 'white collar' exemptions).

As a reminder, the DOL proposes more than doubling the salary level required to qualify for the "white collar exemptions". You can read more background in our previous blog post

Signing groups represent state and local governments, public schools, public institutions of higher education and other pubic sector entities. You can read the full letter here, and we have excerpted the public school-specific section below:

These costs would be imposed at a time when many public entities have not recovered from the last economic downturn. Our nation's public colleges and universities are still attempting to mitigate the impact of recession and post-recession reductions in state funding to higher education. During the six-year period from 2006-2007 to 2012-2013, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student, while tuition and fee revenues increased by only $1,940, resulting in a shortfall of $430 per full-time student. Increasing costs of public colleges and universities at the levels proposed by the rule would put significant pressure on tuition levels and/or educational services. Municipalities face similar budget challenges. According to the National Association of Counties, only 65 of 3,069 county economies have recovered to their pre-recession levels. A similar reality for cities is evident in the National League of Cities 2015 City Fiscal Conditions Report, which shows that, while fiscal conditions continue to improve, they remain weakened nearly eight years after the start of the recession. This has government services already stretched thin. Despite a growth in population, government employment today is less than what it was prior to the recession. For school districts, which collectively are the largest employers in the nation, these thinly stretched state and local budgets translate to fixed school district budgets that cannot absorb unpredictable cost increases. Combine that with implementing the recently authorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which returns autonomy and flexibility to the state and local level, and state and local education agencies will be dealing with a myriad of regulations at the exact time they face the fiscal impacts of these DOL rules. The result will be reduced staffing at state education agencies and/or budget cuts at the exact time resources prove most critical to ensuring ESSA success.

2015 Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study Released

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Today, AASA released the fourth edition of the Superintendent Salary and BenefitsStudy. Some of this year’s survey's key findings included: 

    • Base salaries ranged from $55,000 to $322,171, with a median of $131,000 and an average of $140,021.
    • Respondents are predominately male (80 percent), White (92 percent) and from intermediate-sized districts (300-2,499 students, 52 percent) regardless of their gender.
    • Female respondents were, on average, older than male respondents (55 to 53 respectively).
    • A four-year trend of improving economic conditions continues. Slightly more than half of the respondents (53 percent) reported their districts’ economic conditions as stable, which holds steady from 2014; this has increased from 50 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012.

This year saw an increase in benefits, including contribution to retirement plans or annuities, medical coverage, and family medical coverage as well as a marked increase in the payment of national organization membership.

The use of legal counsel also increased this year. Legal services are used by boards 60 percent of the time, and by superintendents 25 percent of the time. Both of these are increases from previous years.

AASA members will receive a full members-only report, including a rich list of unique contract provisions via email today. A public version of the survey is available here.

Please contact Leslie Finnan, AASA senior legislative analyst, at lfinnan@aasa.org with any questions.

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 Off 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 filling out this form. 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.

A New IDEA: The Changes We Need In Federal Special Education Policy, Entry #1

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Administrators in public schools are well aware of the fact that the Department of Education issues "Dear Colleague" letters on many issues from time to time. Often these create controversy and confusion. One of these, the November 16  Letter about a free appropriate public education, is discussed below.

November 16, “Dear colleague” Letter by the US Department of Education about a FAPE: A school attorney’s response

By Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

 The seven-page Letter tells educators—presumably, general and special educators—that holding students with disabilities to “rigorous academic standards and high expectations” is a “shared responsibility for all of us,” and that these students should be taught the “same challenging academic content and achievement standards [as] all children in the State”… at the “grade level in which the child is enrolled” The Letter raises many concerns.

 First, it is unclear whether the general education teachers and administrators’ perspective was taken into account.  Their voice and leadership in this “shared responsibility,” especially as most services are provided in general education classrooms, is vital. Two special education Department offices authored this Letter—OSEP (Office of Special Education) and OSERS (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services). Where is general education’s OESE—Office of Elementary and Secondary Education?  While this Letter presumes to be about special education, it is also very much about general education.  OESE needs to be at the planning table especially since the Letter urges the same standards for all students “regardless of nature or severity of the disability.”  Without input from general education, this Letter is simply a one-sided approach—like the tail wagging the dog.   

 Second, while no one disagrees about the importance of holding all students to high standards and expectations, I fear that the Letter downplays the cornerstone of special education law—individualization.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides services to meet eligible students’ unique needs. Yet, this Letter appears to gloss over the reality that, even with similar curricular standards, students’ rate of learning and ability to master skills and concepts will differ, as they are impacted by the nature and severity of their disability.  The concept of “closing the gap” (Letter, at page 5), while prominent in this Letter, is inconsistent with the IDEA!    

Special education focuses on whether students make gains in their areas of need—not on how they measure up against others. For some students with disabilities, the gap between them and their non-disabled peers will widen over time.  That does not mean per se that they are failing to learn, or that their teachers are failing to teach them. Sadly, this Letter leads us to see failure even when students succeed—in direct contrast to the law’s mission and good education practice.

Third, in order to include students with disabilities in general education settings, this Letter favors the use of modifications of assignments, audio and other aids—inadvertently creating a trap for schools. Such methods often bypass the student’s unique needs and entitlement to a FAPE (free appropriate public education). The sad reality is that schools that follow this Letter’s approach may lose at due process hearings and in the courts because the approach can be viewed as a way to get students to “pass” and get “through” school—without providing the individualized benefit the law requires.   

In sum, general education teachers and administrators who currently work in our schools need to lead the effort and be at the table to build schools that truly educate all students—from the most needy to the most advanced.  Their input is especially vital now, given the Department’s push for inclusion to occur in general education classrooms.  The Department should aid schools in their efforts to comply with current legal mandates, not divert them to paths that contradict the law. 

 Miriam Kurtzig Freedman has written six books (including the influential Fixing Special Education) on law and education and has spent her career in public education as a teacher, hearing officer, and an attorney representing public schools.

USED Releases Guidance to States to Help Reduce Testing

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Today USED released guidance to States to help reduce and hopefully eliminate redundancy, unhelpful, or low-quality assessments for students.  It’s important to note that this guidance addresses the use of current federal dollars under NCLB during this school year and next school year, and that ED will be working to provide further clarification in the coming months regarding how funds under the new legislation—ESSA—may be utilized in the unnecessary testing arena.

Acting Secretary John King addresses this guidance in a short video also released today.

Politics K12 (EdWeek) has a good write-up on the guidance. Check it out.

AASA to Host Webinar on Student Privacy Feb 18, with NASBE and SIIA

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Over the past three years, many states have passed or implemented new student data privacy laws affecting schools, state departments of education, and school service providers. As this policy area continues to move at the state level and starts to gain traction at the federal level, this free webinar is a primer for policymakers, educators and school officials. It will highlight trends of requirements on schools, teachers, and service providers and privacy considerations for schools when adopting new technology.

This webinar is co-hosted by SIIA’s Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN), AASA, The School Superintendent’s Association, and the National Association of School Boards (NASBE).

The webinar will be held at 4 pm on Thursday February 18. Register today! 

Every Student Succeeds Act transition letter from US Department of Education

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Today, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter from Senior Advisor Ann Whalen to Chief State School Officers that addresses pressing questions concerning the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Specifically, the letter articulates the flexibilities available to states in the 2016-2017 school year designed to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA.  The letter is below for your reference.

For the latest information from USED on ESSA, visit www.ed.gov/essa.

Dear Colleague:

I appreciate the work you are doing to transition to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which the President signed into law on December 10, 2015, and which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  The ESSA provides an extraordinary opportunity to secure educational equity for all children. and I look forward to working closely with you and your team to ensure that this promise is realized.  Last month, I wrote to you about some of the most time sensitive transition questions for the 2015-2016 school year.  Today, I am writing to address some additional, pressing questions concerning the 2016-2017 school year.  Specifically, I would like to take this opportunity to articulate the flexibilities available to you in the 2016-2017 school year designed to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA.

As the U.S. Department of Education (ED) continues to analyze the ESSA, we will provide additional information at www.ed.gov/essa.  Additionally, I encourage you to sign up to receive updates on ESSA transition guidance by clicking here.  Please also know that specific information about the School Improvement Grants program in fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016 will be provided in the coming weeks.

In General: Use of FY 2016 Formula Funds in the 2016-2017 School Year

Under the ESSA transition provisions, as clarified by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, FY 2016 formula grant funds will be awarded and administered in accordance with the ESEA as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of the ESSA (i.e., the requirements promulgated under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)).  This means that ED formula grant allocations to States and local educational agencies (LEAs), as well as State subgrants allocated by formula to LEAs under ESEA formula grant programs, will be made in FY 2016, for the 2016-2017 school year, in the same manner and using the same allocation formulas as for the 2015-2016 school year.  It also means that, with the exceptions described below, formula grant recipients will continue to operate in the 2016-2017 school year under the plans, procedures, and requirements that are in place for the 2015-2016 school year. 

Exceptions: Ensuring an Orderly Transition to the ESSA in the 2016-2017 School Year 

Consistent with the transition provisions in the ESSA, including our authority to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA, ED is and will endeavor to enable States, LEAs, and schools to focus resources on continuing and refining the activities that remain most relevant during the transition.  To this end, during the 2016-2017 school year, there are certain exceptions to the general rule, described above, regarding formula funds; these relate to school and LEA interventions and supports; interventions for English learners; and additional information regarding orderly transition from NCLB provisions that are not in the ESSA.  

  1. School Interventions and Supports in the 2016-2017 School Year
    • For States Operating Under ESEA Flexibility
      For States currently operating under ESEA flexibility, ESSA section 5(e)(2)(ii) requires that, in the 2016-2017 school year, a school that is identified as a priority or focus school in 2015-2016 must continue to implement interventions applicable to such school.  In my letter last month, dated December 18, 2015, I explained that, consistent with ESSA’s orderly transition provisions and in order to support States during this transition year, States have the option to choose between (1) freezing their existing priority and focus school lists as of December 10, 2015, for use in the 2016-2017 school year or (2) refreshing their lists by March 1, 2016.  Please refer to that letter for additional detail.  As described in that letter, each State with ESEA flexibility should inform ED, through an e-mail to its State e-mail address, OSS.[STATE]@ed.gov, by Friday, January 29, 2016, of which of the above options it has selected.

      In order to ensure that LEAs in States that are implementing ESEA flexibility in the 2015-2016 school year are able to comply with the ESSA transition requirement to continue to implement interventions applicable to priority and focus schools during the 2016-2017 school year, ED will not require those States or LEAs to comply with the requirements in the following sections of the ESEA if they impede a priority or focus school from being able to continue to implement appropriate interventions in 2016-2017: 1003(a), which requires an SEA to distribute at least 95 percent of the funds it reserves to LEAs for use in Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring; 1114(a)(1), which requires that a school have at least a 40 percent poverty rate to be eligible to operate a schoolwide program; 6213(b), which limits the amount of certain federal funds an LEA may transfer between programs; 6224(e), which requires an SEA to permit an LEA that fails to make adequate yearly progress to continue to receive a Small, Rural School Achievement grant only if the LEA uses funds to carry out ESEA section 1116; and 1113(a)(3)-(4) and (c)(1), which requires an LEA to rank and serve eligible schools according to poverty and allocate Title I funds to schools in rank order of poverty.  Again, this allowance under the orderly transition authority is consistent with the flexibility allowed under ESEA flexibility to enable States to support intervention in priority and focus schools.

    • For States Not Operating Under ESEA Flexibility
      For States not operating under ESEA flexibility in school year 2015-2016, ESSA section 5(e)(2)(i) requires a school or LEA that was identified in 2015-2016 by the State as in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under ESEA as it existed prior to the enactment of ESSA (i.e., under NCLB) to continue to implement the same interventions in the 2016-2017 school year.  During the 2016-2017 school year, these States may, but are not required to, ensure that LEAs are providing supplemental educational services, public school choice and the related notice to parents for the 2016-2017 school year.  If these States choose not to require that their LEAs provide supplemental educational services and public school choice in the 2016-2017 school year, they must, in order to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA, develop and implement a one-year transition plan for ensuring that their LEAs provide alternative supports for the students eligible for supplemental educational services and the schools with the greatest need (e.g., schools with large numbers or percentages of students eligible for supplemental educational services).  I am sending an additional letter with more information to the eight affected States in the coming days.

  2. LEA Interventions and Supports for English Learners in the 2016-2017 School Year
    In my letter on December 18, 2015, I explained that, in order to facilitate an orderly transition to the ESSA, States will not be required to hold LEAs accountable for their performance against Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) 1, 2, and 3 under Title III of the ESEA, as reauthorized by NCLB, for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.  Accordingly, States must freeze district accountability under Title III based on the most recent AMAO calculations, and continue to provide those LEAs with the corresponding supports and interventions in the remaining months of the 2015-2016 school year and the 2016-2017 school year.

  3. Additional Orderly Transition from NCLB Provisions Not in ESSA
    In addition to the AMAOs mentioned above and the annual measurable objectives (AMOs) mentioned in my letter of December 18, 2015, there are additional provisions of the ESEA, as reauthorized by NCLB, along with their implementing regulations, that States are not required to implement in the 2016-2017 school year in order to facilitate an orderly transition to the ESSA.  These provisions are as follows: section 1119, which requires all teachers of core academic subjects in the State to be “highly qualified”1,2; section 2141, which requires LEAs not making progress toward all teachers being “highly qualified” to create and implement an improvement plan and requires the State to provide technical assistance to such LEAs; and section 1117, which requires States to provide certain types of school supports and recognition.   

Please note that the State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators that States submitted in spring 2015 to address ESEA section 1111(b)(8)(C), which requires that States ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers, remain in effect for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students.  I look forward to our continued partnership as we move ahead with this critical work. 

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Moving in the Senate

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Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act, a bill to reauthorize the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, through markup. The bill is expected to be fast tracked to the Senate floor, as they are hoping to pass the bill quickly before election season makes action difficult on the Hill. 

AASA opposed the bill as introduced. While it does provide some additional flexibility, these do not outweigh the increased administrative burden placed by other changes in the bill, and many could be better done through regulation. We hope to save the reauthorization process for a more comprehensive compromise.

AASA Organizes 2016 National Rural Education Advocacy Summit

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On March 14th and 15th, rural education leaders will assemble in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with leading federal policymakers to discuss issues of great interest and concern to rural schools and communities. The Rural Education Policy Summit is convened by the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC) to outline the policy and funding priorities for rural education leaders in Congress.  During the day and half long gathering, attendees will meet with leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss areas of policy and funding importance for rural schools. In addition, the group will meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Rural Education Achievement Program and the impact of recent policy changes issued by the Department on rural schools. The group will also meet with nationally recognized policy experts to discuss recent research on improving rural teacher recruitment, graduation rates and efficiency of state and local resources. After these meetings, the group will gather to develop the 2016 Legislative Agenda and discuss how to best support their policy goals over the next year. 

There is no cost to participate in the Washington D.C. convening for rural education leaders. Registration will close on February 5, 2016. For the complete schedule and accommodations details, please email, me, Sasha Pudelski (spudelski@aasa.org) or call (703)-875-0733. 

AASA Work on Child Health Insurance Highlighted in USED-HHS Toolkit

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Last week in the blog we relayed information about a recent joint effort by the US Education Department and Department of Health and Human Services to highlight impact opportunities to support healthy students. You can read the full post here.

When USED and HHS started the process, the contacted a variety of groups and organizations to solicit input and regulations. AASA's Children's Programs department provided information related to AASA's health insurance work, work ultimately identified as a high impact activity.

In the final toolkit, Mountain View School District (Calif.) is cited as an example of how school districts can identify uninsured children and increase their capacities to link eligible students with the proper health insurance coverage. The district participates in AASA Children's Programs' and the Children's Defense Fund's Children Health Insurance initiative

The AASA/CDF collaboration on enrolling eligible children in health coverage is an example in High-Impact Activity #1. As a result of working with AASA and CDF, the Mountain View Superintendent reports that over 1,200 uninsured children were referred and that the number of students with health insurance has increased dramatically, that attendance increased, and that attendance has consistently been above 96 percent (district wide) for the past three years.

USED & HHS Release Guidance Highlighting High Impact Opportunities to Support Healthy Students

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In a new letter sent today to governors, chief state school officers, state health officials and state Medicaid directors, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recognize the critical role that healthcare coverage and health services play in ensuring all students are ready and able to learn, and recommend action steps to better coordinate health and education services for all students and their families.

ED and HHS also released a new toolkit that details five high impact opportunities for states and local school districts to support stronger communities through collaboration education and health sectors, highlighting best practices and key research in both areas.  

The letter and toolkit are available at www.ed.gov/healthystudents. For additional enrollment information visit: www.healthcare.gov

Healthy Students, Promising Futures (PDF) provides state and local action steps/practices that can improve school-based health. It outlines 5 specific high-impact opportunities, listed below.

 

AASA Statement on ESSA Implementation

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Today, the U.S. Department of Education held the first of two public hearings on regulating the Every Student Succeeds Act. Education Week summarized the responses here. Speaking for AASA, Dan Domenech gave the following statement: 

"Good afternoon. I am Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. AASA is the national professional organization representing the nation’s 10,000 public school superintendents. As I recently penned in a thank you note to the Congress members who led the effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): 

'I started at AASA in 2008, when Congress was just one year (in what would prove to be an 8 year effort) into ESEA reauthorization. Reauthorization has long been a priority of our members, who were focused on revising No Child Left Behind and delivering a comprehensive and updated piece of legislation that provided federal parameters while returning autonomy and authority to the state and local level. Our members prioritized an approach that preserved a federal focus on equity that strengths and supports—rather than prescribes and dictates to—our nation’s schools. In ESSA, Congress delivered both.'

AASA looks forward to working with the Department as you move forward with ESSA regulation. We appreciate the expediency with which the Department is undertaking the regulation process and strongly encourage the Department to move regulations that are in line with the spirit of the ESSA statute and that reflect the input and feedback of stakeholders. By focusing the federal role on strengthening and supporting public schools, and avoiding any tendency to unnecessarily prescribe and dictate, the Department can and must work to implement ESSA in a manner that reflects the expanded authority and flexibility now granted to the education experts at the state and local level.

ESSA makes clear Congress’ intent that states be solely responsible for the development and implementation of, and decisions regarding, all aspects of their State accountability systems.  Section 1111(e) clearly states the Secretary may not add any requirements or criteria outside the scope of this Act, and further says the Secretary may not take any action that would “be in excess of statutory authority given to the Secretary. This is an idea with broad bipartisan support, as the conference report itself writes, 'While it is the intent of the Conferees to allow the Secretary to issue regulations and guidance to clarify the intent and implement the law, Conferees intend to prohibit any such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or outside the scope of the law.'

The Department kicked off the regulatory process with a pair of public hearings and a quick 30-day comment period on Title I regulations. Title I is where many of the onerous, punitive elements of NCLB originated. ESSA represents the first time in 15 years that state and local education agencies can demonstrate what they can do in the accountability and assessment arena absent federal overreach and prescription, while preserving student-sub group accountability and graduation rate data. AASA urges the Department to start its regulatory process by remembering that state and local educators are in the business of education to serve children, that they are professionals much better positioned to know the intricacies of local systems and implementation, and to practice restraint in designing their regulations to ensure that USED efforts do not overstep the intent of ESSA or move to recreate elements of the broken NCLB.

This is also an excellent opportunity for the Department to assume a leadership role in advocating for the transformative changes that technology and personalized learning can bring to education. By re-examining the rules and regulations that, for example, tie credit-bearing courses with seat time requirements, perpetuate the agrarian school calendar in the twenty-first century, and ignore competency based accountability systems in favor of standardized testing, USED can lead by empowering school districts to implement critical technology and personalized learning opportunities in flexible ways that best meet the needs of the schools and students they serve.

Thank you for convening this public hearing, and I appreciate the opportunity to share these comments today. We look forward to working with USED on, and ensuring the involvement of our nation’s public school superintendents in, the many facets of ESSA implementation. "

Legislative Corps Newsletter from December 22

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Please enjoy this week's edition of the Legislative Corps newsletter. In this newsletter, we keep you updated on activities on the Hill and the Department. If you are a member and are not receiving the newsletter, email me at lfinnan@aasa.org to get added to the list. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act is Signed into Law

On December 10, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This marks the end of the No Child Left Behind era. We have written extensively of the new law here and will continue to provide updates as more is released through regulations and as more is known in implementation. For more information, you can also check out an AASA presentation and a webinar on ESSA implementation.

Obama Signs Omnibus Spending Bill

Last week, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2016, officially avoiding a shutdown this year. The bill includes slight increases to education – a $1.2 billion increase overall. It includes a $500 million increase to Title I and a $415 million increase to IDEA as well as increases in Head Start, charter school grants, NAEP, rural education and others. School Improvement Grant funding was cut and Investing in Innovation (i3) was flat-funded. The Committee on Education Funding put out a table of the spending levels, available here.   

While not funding-related, the bill also included a two year delay for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act Excise (“Cadillac”) Tax and an extension of the E-Rate Anti-Deficiency Act exemption through 2017.

Tax Extender Bill

Along with the Omnibus bill, Obama also signed a law extending several tax breaks. This law includes three education-related tax cuts. First is the allowance for teachers who spend their own money on supplies for the classroom to take a $250 deduction. Also made permanent is the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $2,500 a year in tax credits for eligible college students. Finally, the tax package includes a two-year extension of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program providing $400 million in QZAB bond allocations per year in 2015 and 2016 to the states and school districts for school renovation and repair.

AASA Reports

Economic Impact Survey: Education Cuts Have Yet to Heal: How the Economic Recession Continues to Impact Our Nation’s Schools

AASA Releases 5-Year Study on the American School Superintendent

Education Groups Applaud 1-Year Anniversary of FCC Vote to Modernize E-Rate  

Looking Ahead to 2016

While Congress got a lot done in the last month of 2015, they are promising an eventful 2016 as well. The Senate HELP Committee is expected to introduce a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act in January. AASA's Perkins reauthorization recommendations can be accessed here.   

The Senate Agriculture Committee is also expected to release a child nutrition reauthorization in January or early February.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely shift attention to the Lifeline Order (related to closing the homework gap, with activity expected in Feb/March) and the Education Broadband Services (EBS) program, though that likely falls low on the totem pole.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has emerged, once again, on the issue of regulations related to PCBs in light ballasts, which would impact municipal buildings, including schools. Want a refresher? Check out this blog post from March 2014.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated an interest in reversing course on seat belts on school buses, pushing regulation through if districts don’t abide by their recommendations.  We are concerned about this for a number of reasons, which we will make known.

We look forward to keeping you updated on these and any other issues in the New Year. Happy holidays from the whole AASA advocacy team!

 

2015 Advocacy Wrap Up

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This item is cross posted from our final 2015 Advocacy Update. It covers ESSA, appropriations (including tax extenders and a few other riders) as well as a look forward at what to expect in 2016. As always, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

ESSA: Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, bring the 8+ year effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind to a close. We have covered the contents of the bill extensively on the blog. You can access an AASA slide show (with audio) with an overview of ESSA, as well as view an archive of Implementing ESSA: What to Expect in 2016, hosted by the Fordham Institute and featuring AASA advocacy.
Specific to rural and RNEAC priorities, we want to flag four things:
  • Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP): REAP was reauthorized as a standalone program with changes endorsed by NREAC and AASA, including adjusting the sliding scale, updating locale codes, and allowing recipients to choose which program  the receive funding under.
  • USED Rural Study: ESSA requires USED to conduct a study to determine how they serve rural communities.
  • Consolidated Grant Applications: Rural schools can now submit consolidated grant applications. While this has been practice in some states (including Colorado), this codifies the practice for all states and gives cover to local education agencies and educational service agencies working to exercise this flexibility.
  • Title I Formula: The Title I formula remains unchanged. NREAC was at the front of the push for a Title I formula rewrite, forcing the conversation about how to best ensure that Title I dollars are allocated in a manner that focuses on concentration of poverty. Our championed approach (the All Children Are Equal Act, by Rep Glenn Thompson, R-PA) was the basis of what was included in the House bill, but varied from the Senate proposal. The final bill maintained the current formula, did NOT update the quintiles, and requires Congress to conduct a study of the title I formula, its various weighting mechanism, how they do (not) target dollars to the neediest schools, and how they impact small/large/urban/rural schools.
The next push related to ESSA will be implementation, which will include regulations and guidance to further flesh out federal definitions and parameters. USED released a Dear Colleague Letter to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking advice and recommendations concerning topics under Title I of the new law for which regulations are required/expected. It is an important opportunity for stakeholders—like AASA—to provide specific feedback on what those regulations should establish and require.

Appropriations: Congress avoided a shutdown. Congress had failed to complete its appropriations work before the federal fiscal year expired on September 30, and had adopted a short term continuing resolution that expired on December 11. They punted with one more 5-day CR before adopting a final omnibus spending bill. The final FY16 bill totals $1.1 trillion and includes slight increases to education, with discretionary education funding increasing by just over $1.1 billion. AASA continues to serve on the board, and as the past president, of the Committee for Education Funding, which released a table of spending levels.

Tax Extenders: The omnibus did not pass on its own; it was coupled with a package of tax extenders, including three we want to flag for you here:
  • The extenders package permanently extend the teacher tax credit, allowing educators to claim a $250 deduction, allows it to increase for inflation and expands the credit to cover both classroom supplies and professional development courses for educators.
  • The second related tax extender is the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $2,500 a year in tax credits for eligible college students.
  • The tax package includes a two-year extension of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program providing $400 million in QZAB bond allocations per year in 2015 and 2016 to the states and school districts for school renovation and repair.  

Also in the omnibus, but not necessarily funding or tax related: The bill delayed (for two years) the implementation of the Excise (“Cadillac”) Tax under the Affordable Care Act and extends the E-Rate exemption from the Anti-Deficiency Act through 2017. When it comes to school nutrition, the omnibus maintains the language from prior appropriations legislation that allows waivers of the whole grain requirement and postpones full implementation of the sodium requirement. Also, there had been a push to include Child Nutrition Reauthorization on the omnibus, a move that ultimately failed. CNR is expected to be considered early next year under “regular order” with a markup in the Senate Agriculture Committee on a free-standing bill.

Looking Ahead to 2016: Agencies

  • AASA: AASA is working very deliberately on a suite of member and state affiliate supports to position school superintendents as the go-to source for ESSA implementation at the local level. Stay tuned.
  • Agencies
    • USED: USED will be busy with regulations related to ESSA. This will include a coordinated effort with LHHS for the new early education program.
    • Federal Communications Commission: As Commissioner Wheeler enters his final year, his staff are working to determine what priorities he will tackle, and we will be keeping an eye on the Lifeline Order (related to closing the homework gap, with activity expected in Feb/March) and the Education Broadband Services (EBS) program, though that likely falls low on the totem pole.
    • Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA has emerged, once again, on the issue of regulations related to PCBs in light ballasts, which would impact municipal buildings, including schools. Want a refresher? Check out this blog post from March 2014.
    • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The Obama administration has indicated an interest in reversing course on seat belts on school buses, pushing regulation through if districts don’t abide by their recommendations.  This position change is extremely concerning for our members on multiple levels, primarily with the obvious question about liability and the increased costs to schools to purchase new buses or retrofit their current fleets. There is also great concern that seat belts cause as many problems as they solve in regards to safety. Stay tuned.

Other:

The Advocate: ESSA: That’s a Wrap, and We’re Five for Five

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AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech pens a monthly article for the Executive Directors of our state affiliates. We periodically share them on the AASA blog, especially when they have a strong advocacy bend. The December 2015 edition details AASA's advocacy successes in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

You have no doubt heard that Congress passed—and the President signed into law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the first iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to reach the President’s desk since December 2001.

ESSA represents a significant improvement over current law. The legislation takes the pendulum of federal overreach and control, and returns it back to state and local education agencies. 

ESSA reauthorization was no small feat. The effort started (August 2007) shortly before I did at AASA (July 2008). It plodded along, like the Little Engine That Could, moving forward ever so slowly through Congress, and picked up with a particular vigor early this year. While the politics and momentum seemed against us, the effort persevered. And it is with a happy smile that I can write this post, and detail our advocacy efforts and victories. 

As a small sampling of our advocacy effort, I want to highlight what we featured in the letter we sent to the conference committee as they worked to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills, and what the final ESSA included. You can read our priority position in the letter. I use the remainder of this article to detail the final verdict. 

  • Accountability: Despite repeated efforts to create AYP 2.0, the final version of ESSA does NOT include 100 percent proficiency, adequate yearly progress or annual measurable objectives. We had compromised and accepted the mandatory identification of and intervention in low performing schools, but drew a line at mandatory intervention based on sub-group performance targets. Unlike NCLB where subgroup accountability triggered labels of ‘failing’ and triggered intervention, ESSA requires states to establish and report on—but not structure as a trigger—subgroup targets. 
  • Portability: There are neither vouchers nor portability in ESSA. As we like to say at AASA, “Public dollars. Public schools. Hard stop.” And, “When the question is vouchers, the answer is no.” 
  • Expanded Data Collection: The final Title I reporting includes a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate versions. We were able to push back on the expanded Title IX collection to the extent that NONE of it made it into the final ESSA. 
  • Title I Formula: While the formula change we pushed through did not make it in the bill, we did get legislative language requiring Congress to evaluate the existing four Title I formulas, the role of number and percentage weighting, how those weights impact small/large/urban/rural schools, and how the current formulas address/exacerbate the inequitable allocation of dollars in a way that allows larger, less poor districts to receive more Title I money, per pupil, than smaller, poorer schools. 
  • Alternate Assessment: ESSA includes a state-level participation cap (1 percent) with language to explicitly forbid the secretary or state to translate the state level cap into a local cap. IEP teams are free to determine alternate assessment as driven by IDEA, without fear of repercussion. Should a state breach its 1 percent cap, it can pursue a waiver. 
As you can see, our advocacy efforts proved fruitful but our work, is far from over. We are now moving full steam ahead with efforts to support ESSA implementation. With expanded authority and flexibility comes increased responsibility. We look forward to supporting our state affiliates and members, and position them as the go-to leader. 

Guest Blog: Push for National Convention Would Put Constitution Up for Grabs and Lead to Major School Funding Cuts

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Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Leachman, Director of State Fiscal Research, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

As state legislative sessions begin, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and related groups are ramping up a nationwide  campaign to convene a  constitutional convention that would propose amendments stripping the federal government of much of its power and leading to damaging funding cuts for the nation’s schools and other priorities.

Here’s the background.  Under Article V of the Constitution, Congress must call a convention to propose constitutional amendments if two-thirds of the states formally request one.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many states passed resolutions calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget amendment.  At one point, 32 states had passed resolutions along these lines, close to the 34 states required.  But over the next 25 years, no more states passed resolutions and half of the states that had passed resolutions formally rescinded them, fearing that a convention would throw open the Constitution to harmful changes. 

The tide turned in 2010 as ALEC and its allies began pushing anew for state resolutions.  Since then, 11 states have adopted new resolutions calling for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment.  Some proponents claim that 27 states have “live” applications, including those passed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s but never rescinded.  They’ve targeted another 13 states for the coming year.  If they succeed in seven of these states – a real possibility – they could claim to have met the 34-state threshold that forces Congress to call a convention. 

In the past year, a separate but similar effort to use Article V to call a constitutional convention also has gained momentum.  It’s being pushed by the Convention of States Project, whose model resolution calls for a convention to propose amendments “that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”  Alabama, Alaska, Florida, and Georgia passed this sort of resolution in the last two years, and the Convention of States Project is targeting other states. 

The movement has the vocal support of some well-known hard-core conservatives.  ALEC claims that legislative leaders in some 30 states are committed to the effort.   

These unfolding events are highly alarming.  The Constitution provides for no authority above that of a convention, so once a convention is called it’s not clear that anyone could stop it from proposing any number of drastic changes to our system of government. 

Indeed, constitutional experts from the late Chief Justice Warren Burger to Justice Antonin Scalia to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe have warned that a constitutional convention would place the nation in uncharted territory, putting the Constitution up for grabs.  Delegates could even choose to alter the rules for ratifying amendments — just as the 1787 convention that drafted the Constitution did — such as by calling for ratification by national referendum rather than approval by three-fourths of the states. 

Further, no rules have been established for conducting this sort of convention.  How would delegates be selected?  Would each state get the same number of delegates?  How many votes would be needed to approve a proposed amendment?  With so much at stake, these issues would likely be fought out in a highly partisan atmosphere heavily influenced by large political donors.  And with Congress and 31 state legislatures under full Republican control, the rules could be set in a way that helps ALEC and its allies advance radical changes they’d never get through normal legislative procedures. 

At the very least, these changes likely would include balanced budget amendment, which alone would be a disaster for the nation's schools and the economy more broadly.  During a major recession, this sort of amendment would likely lead to massive cuts in federal support for schools and other public services delivered at the state and local levels.  Large cuts in federal spending, in turn, would worsen job losses during recessions, causing unnecessary pain for families across the country – pain that would add to stress and other difficulties for children in school. 

Even if the effort to call for a convention fails, it could build momentum for Congress to propose a balanced budget amendment or other harmful amendments directly to the states. 

ALEC and its allies are working hard to convince state lawmakers that a convention is safe and that states can easily control it.  That’s simply not the case, and a large number of groups are gearing up to educate state lawmakers about the dangerous realities of a constitutional convention. 

With state legislatures in session over the next few months, now is a good time to connect with others concerned about these resolutions in your state.  You can do so by contacting the group in your state belonging to the State Priorities Partnership (our network of state fiscal policy organizations) or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  There’s a great deal at stake. 

Guest Blog: Changes to Federal Procurement to Impact Local Purchasing

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Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at SIIA. SIIA is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, representing approximately 700 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA members include the leading publishers and innovative developers of digital products and services for K-20 education, including instructional materials, education software and applications, professional development and related technologies and services for use in education.

New procurement rules from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will impact schools and districts around the country. In an effort to streamline processes, improve cost effectiveness, and reduce waste/abuse, OMB consolidate 8 previous procurement guidelines into a single set of requirements. This new process will apply to any federal, state or local agency, including school districts, spending a federal grant, such as Title I or Perkins CTE Act.

While the new rules are slightly more specific in detailing specific procurement procedures, for the most part, the new rules will not be a huge change from current practice as many states already require some of these practices in place. The U.S. Department of Education provided clarification on a few of the changes that school procurement officials should be aware of:

  1. All contracts for products or services equal to or greater than $150,000 must be put through a competitive bid – eliminated sole-source contracting except when necessary and documented.
  2. RFP’s may not specify product brand names but instead must utilize product specifications to allow for equal competition. However, there are limited exceptions where a school or district’s existing technology or infrastructure requires specifying a brand name.
  3. Pilot programs also must follow the new rules on competition and be put through a competitive bidding process if the cost is equal to or greater than $150,000.
  4. School employees who “select, award, and administer” contracts may not receive any “tangible personal benefit” from the service provider. Tangible benefits include improved employment opportunities which may in some cases impact the level of professional development a provider may offer such employee.
Though technically effective since December 26, 2014, non-federal entities, including schools and LEAs, are under an implementation grace period for two (2) fiscal years after the effective date. For example, a school with a fiscal year start of July 1 will need to shift to the new rules by June 30, 2017.

For more information, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has made its fact sheet on the procurement rule changes available to AASA and its members. Please reach out to Brendan Desetti, SIIA’s director of education policy, with any questions.

ESSA Presentation, With Audio

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AASA's Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, Noelle Ellerson presented on ESSA at the annual conference for AESA. At the request of the members, those slides are available with an audio narrative.. The presentation is 44 minutes long.

Powerpoint presentation, only (no audio)

Full recording (slides and audio):

Speak Up: Final Week to Complete Survey, Opportunity for Early Peek at Data

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AASA is once again pleased to partner with our friends at Project Tomorrow as they administer the Speak Up survey, which gives education stakeholders the opportunity to share their viewpoints about key educational issues, particularly concerning digital learning and the use of technology to support future ready schools. The 2015 survey closes this Friday, December 18, meaning this is the last week for you to participate. 

Here are the participation numbers as of COB Friday December 11:

Speak Up 2015 Counts to Date: 401,034 total surveys
Students: 
329,261 Teachers: 33,286 Administrators: 3,791 Parents: 29,242 Community Members: 5,454

Update – Quick Facts

  • Online surveys open now for K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, school site administrators, district administrators, technology leaders and community members. New this year, special surveys for Science Teachers and Communication Officers.
  • Surveys opened on Oct 1 and will remain open until Dec 18
  • New questions this year include topics such as: Homework gap, ultimate science classroom, print vs. digital, videos and movies within instruction, communications and engagement, and data privacy.
  • Speak Up is all over Twitter this year – follow us @SpeakUpEd or follow Julie @JulieEvans_PT for updates and news about all things Speak Up
  • Our Speak Up America Campaign was a huge success with over 80,000 surveys taken during the weeklong promotion and celebration event. At the request of many we have extended our social media campaign and book giveaways into next week.
  • Check out our new online interactive map with real time updates on state by state participation:  http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/participationmap.html - is your home state on the map? 

Sneak peek at some preliminary Speak Up 2015 data! 

In celebration of our Speak Up America campaign, we have pulled a special snapshot of preliminary data for students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members. Click on the links to view each of our special snapshots.

Two things that you can do today to support Speak Up

 

  1. Complete a Speak Up survey yourself as a parent or community member.  With our community member survey, everyone who cares about K-12 education has the opportunity to share his or her ideas about digital learning.  Take your community member survey or the parent survey here:   http://www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2015.   Share this link within your organization and through your social media networks as well.   I have attached some sample text to share out as well.
  2. Promote school or district participation in Speak Up to your customers and partners.  Our biggest challenge is getting the word out about Speak Up to school and district leaders.  Speak Up is a service to them – but they cannot take advantage of it if they don’t know about it.  Here are some ways that you can help with that:

 

    • Put Speak Up information and the survey link on your website  
    • Send out information in newsletters, listservs, emails about Speak Up 
    • Include Speak Up information in your webinars or at your meetings and conferences all next week
    • Reach out to key influencers in your organization to help spread the word about Speak Up

Study of the American Superintendent: 2015 Mid-Decade Update

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Today, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released the Study of the American Superintendent:2015 Mid-Decade Update to follow up on The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study, a comprehensive study on the demographics, background and experiences of American school superintendents. 

This year’s report includes a supplementary section on gender and the superintendency. Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • The pattern of an aging superintendency continues from the 2010 study; one-third of superintendents plan to retire within five years.
  • While increases have been made throughout the years, females only make up 27 percent of the superintendency, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force.
  • Superintendents most often see politics as inhibiting their performance, with school board members, staff and community as the greatest contributors.
  • Career satisfaction remains high; over 80 percent of present superintendents would choose to be a superintendent again. This number is lower for female superintendents, at 78 percent.

 

A summary of findings is available here. Members can access the full report here.

Any questions can be directed to me at lfinnan@aasa.org.

Is your school district #FutureReady?

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This blog post comes from our friends at Future Ready.

Dear AASA Member:

As a national coalition partner of Future Ready, we appreciate your interest in helping your schools transform teaching and learning with the effective use of digital learning strategies. 

We encourage you to join the movement by signing the Future Ready District Pledge. As you know, by signing the pledge, you’ll join more than 2,000 superintendents who have committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their district and to share what they have learned with other districts.  Upon signing the pledge, you are provided free access to summits, an interactive planning dashboard, and will gain access to ongoing professional learning opportunities through virtual events, mentoring and free resources.

With your help, we hope to reach the goal of more than 2,000 pledge signers by December 9, so we can announce that this one-year goal for FRS has been met. To see who has already signed the pledge in your area, click here. Please also help us spread to word by forwarding this note to at least five superintendents and encourage them to pledge.

Sincerely,

Future Ready Schools Team (Sara Hall and Tom Murray) 

The Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education Team (Richard Culatta and Katrina Stevens)

UPDATED: Senate Prepares to Vote on ESSA, AASA Letter of Support

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UPDATED: The Senate voted on cloture (ending debate and moving forward on a final vote) for ESSA. The vote will be at 10:45 on Wednesday December 9. The cloture vote was 84-12. Here is a list of the no votes (all Republican): Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Lee (UT), Paul (KY), Sasse (NE), Vitter (LA), Crapo (ID), Moran (KS), Shelby (AL), Blunt (MO), Scott (SC), Daines (MT), and Risch (ID).

Following up on last week's House action to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Senate is set to vote--likely today--on the bill, which would then proceed to the President's desk to become law.

Read AASA's letter of endorsement.

The Association of Educational Service Agencies, National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition and National Rural Education Association issued their own endorsement letter, calling attention to specific provisions in the bill that address the unique opportunities and obstacles facing rural schools. 

Shared Blog Post: Bridging the Gap Between K-12 and Community College

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This blog post originally appeared in the Hobson's Education Blog, Education Advances, on November 19, 2015. It was penned by Stephen M. Smith, President, Advising & Admissions Solutions.
 
Community college serves as an important bridge between K-12 and higher education, as well as an important driver for workforce readiness and economic growth. However, despite these important roles community colleges play, we seldom talk about how to improve that transition between K-12 and community college to ensure more successful outcomes.

 

 
That’s why, earlier this year, Hobsons, in partnership with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) made a commitment to action at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to explore opportunities and challenges that exist in creating effective success bridges between K-12 and community college. Through this collaboration, Hobsons and AASA seek to identify critical barriers to success that students face as they transition from high school to community college and to equip both K-12 and community college administrators with tools and resources to meet their respective needs.

 

 
Today, we’re pleased to report some of the progress towards that commitment.

 

 
Earlier this summer, Hobsons and AASA, in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), hosted a convening of school district superintendents and and community college presidents. The group discussed ways to address the issues of college access, readiness, persistence, and completion of a community college program or degree.

 

 
During the convening, attendees shared success stories, best practices, and innovative programs that are advancing effective practice in bridging K-12 and higher education.

 

 
Programs like the Gulf Coast PASS initiative in Texas are bringing together high schools and community colleges across the state to help increase college readiness among high school graduates, ease the transition between high school and community college, and increase student success in community college developmental courses.

 

 
The New Jersey Council of County Colleges is using support from the Kresge Foundation to partner with high schools to conduct academic “boot camps” to improve student performance in developmental education courses and move them through the courses more quickly.

 

 
And, the Missouri Innovation Campus is a progressive collaboration between the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and the University of Central Missouri (UCM) that allows students to take community college courses in high school, graduate with an associate’s degree, and be eligible to complete a bachelor’s degree from UCM in only two years.

 

 
Other initiatives in Texas, Washington, Arizona, New York, and Florida are also expanding pathways between K-12 and community college. For a deeper look at this work and other ways to move the needle to promote college access and success, download our convening report.

 

 
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re proud to be a part of this conversation and to be fostering change in how K-12 districts work with their community college partners. We look forward to more progress in the near future.

 

AASA Endorses ESSA

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Earlier this week, AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech issued a statement of support for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As the House is slated to vote on ESSA later this afternoon, Dr.Domenech and AASA President David Schuler submitted a formal letter of support

"AASA, The School Superintendents Association represents 13,000 school system leaders across the country and strongly SUPPORTS ESSA. The federal government has a critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools. ESSA is a strong representation of this policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones such as equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible. 

ESSA provides our nation’s schools and the students they serve with a modernized, flexible approach to federal education policy.  We strongly support ESSA and urge swift passage in both the House and Senate." 

Full text of the letter available here.

AASA ESSA Call to Action

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Congress is poised to vote on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as early as Wednesday, December 2. As such, AASA is issuing this call to action to ensure that members of Congress have the voice of school superintendents on record. For further information, you can read AASA’s ESSA overview  or endorsing statement.

CALL TO ACTION: When it comes to advocacy on this proposal and the related legislation, we subscribe to ‘better safe than sorry’. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the entirety of your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both Senators) to urge them to support the conference proposal to reauthorize ESEA. Top-line talking points are embedded below, and we can share a Congressional Directory with email addresses for the education staffer in each office as well as phone numbers. When it comes time for the final rush, it is important to email not only the education staffer (they are the ones who inform the boss of the policy) but also to call the front desk (the interns are inundated with calls and are merely tallying Yes and No). 

WHAT TO DO

  • Contact each of your Congressional offices. Urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can use the Congressional Directory shared by AASA or find your member of Congress here: http://aasa.org/legislative-action-center/# (Scroll to “Find Your Elected Officials”) 
  • Talking Points: You can craft your own talking points or a summary of the proposal based on AASA ESSA overview memo. You can also refer to some of these more general talking points: 
    • Reauthorization is crucial to providing the nation’s schools with relief from current law, which is both broken and lacking in the flexibility states and local school districts need to support student learning and achievement .
    • This proposal is a strong step in the right direction because it restores a more proper balance between federal, state and local government in public education. 
    • This framework takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and places it more squarely in the area of state and local expertise and autonomy. 
    • This effort recognizes the importance of empowering state and local leaders to use their professional knowledge and proximal location to make the decisions necessary to successfully adhere to their educational missions. 
    • This is not a perfect bill, but it gets far more right than it gets wrong, and our nation’s schools and students deserve a complete reauthorization and to be free from the limited, conditional nature of ESEA waivers.   
    • We are hopeful that the federal government is now prepared to take the next steps based on our experience with the current ESEA to restore more authority (or shared authority) to local government. 
    • We are encouraged to see proposed needed changes to ESEA.  We are prepared to build upon the original intent of the ESEA authorization while reducing the excessive testing and mandates that have limited the creative local solutions to improving student achievement. 
    • We encourage our legislators to take the necessary steps advocated in the recent proposed re-authorization language for ESEA. 

Stay tuned to the Blog! We will have additional talking points and sample social media items. AASA’s The Leading Edge (www.aasa.org/aasablog.aspx)  

AASA Overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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Late last month, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team shared a summary of the framework and preliminary call to action related to the proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In the two weeks that have since passed, Congress has released the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to reauthorize ESEA that reconciles the differences between the House and Senate proposals voted on earlier this summer.

We are pleased to report that the summary of the framework was overwhelmingly accurate in its depiction of what would be in the actual bill. This memo is an overview of the legislation and is designed to both inform you and support any outreach you may do to your Congressional delegation as both the House and Senate are expected to consider ESSA before adjourning in the middle of the month. Do not be fooled by the similarity in format to the previous memo. While there is a lot of the same information, there is enough new information (including further detail and clarification) to warrant a complete read of the memo. 

TOPLINE: ESSA is a significant improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. ESSA is the epitome of compromise, reconciling differences between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. In reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.”  

AASA has endorsed ESSA, which you can read about in our endorsing statement. Domenech addressed the critical balance in ESSA, “The federal government has a very critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools. ESSA is the embodiment of this very policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones like equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.” EdWeek did a great write up on how various groups are responding to ESSA, and cited AASA Past President David Pennington (Ponca City Schools, OK). 

Timeline and Next Steps: The House of Representatives could vote as early as this Wednesday, and the Senate could vote as early as next week. This sets up the possibility of President Obama signing the bill into law before the end of 2015.  “Next steps” are outlined in the AASA call to action, available here

You can read the full ESSA analaysis and overview here.

AASA Endorses Every Student Succeeds Act

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Earlier today, Congress released the Every Student Succeeds Act, the conferenced bill to reauthorize ESEA, reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions from this summer. AASA is pleased to endorse the bill and sent a letter of support to the hill today. Here is the press release detailing our support:

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, strongly endorses the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representing the nation’s more than 13,000 school system leaders, AASA has been deeply engaged in efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). AASA is pleased to see Congress advance such a comprehensive, bipartisan piece of legislation that focuses on policies that support and strengthen our nation’s schools and the students they serve.

As the sole organization to oppose No Child Left Behind from the beginning, AASA has long endorsed an approach to federal education policy that takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and returns it to state and local control. ESSA strikes a very appropriate balance of power between the federal, state and local levels.

The federal government has a very critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. “ESSA is the embodiment of this very policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones like equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.”

ESSA is a significant improvement over current law. “In sharing bill text of ESSA, Congress demonstrated its commitment to seeing ESEA reauthorization to completion. This legislation builds on 8 years of momentum, and carries forward the very strong bipartisan sentiment of more recent efforts,” said David Schuler, AASA president. “Our nation’s schools and the students they serve want and deserve more than the broken, outdated remnants of No Child Left Behind. It is imperative Congress not only pass ESSA, but do so in an expedient manner and deliver this bill to the President’s desk before the New Year.”

Even More ESEA!

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In addition to the summary from last week and updated in a blog post this morning, here’s what you need to know about what happened in ESEA Land last week, and what to expect moving forward.

 

  • First, please note there were clarifications re: SIG and ed tech funding in the memo. The memo was updated to reflect that the state set aside in Title I (when SIG and Title I are consolidated) is 7%, a sum of the current 4% set aside and the approx. amount of the SIG allocation. Also, the memo is updated to reflect that the cap on education technology device purchases within the Title IV block grant is 15%, not 5% (typo, apologies).
  • The highly qualified teacher (HQT) provisions are eliminated.
  • You can access the AASA summary here. You can also access a handy run down of the programs included with in the ESEA framework and their authorized funding levels.
  • The conference committee met on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, before voting to move forward with the conference report. Legislative language for the bill, called Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) will be available Nov. 30. There is a leaked version currently available (here) and that is a good place to start in terms of reviewing the bill.
  • The Conference Committee considered nine amendments. Seven were adopted and two were rejected. AASA had weighed in on the amendments (read our conference committee letter) and the two we supported were adopted.
  • Rep Thompson Title I Study Amendment – Rep Thompson (PA) is the long-time champion of the Title I formula rewrite on the House side. His complete rewrite was filed and not offered, and instead, he advanced this study, which would require the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director to complete a study of the effectiveness of the formulas and weighting of formulas under Title I within 18 months. The goal of the report is to provide information on if funds are going to the neediest students, and evaluating the efficacy and equity within number and concentration weighting.
  • Sen Mike Enzi Early Childhood Amendment – The amendment would require a review and report to Congress within two years from enactment on possible elimination, overlap, and duplication of early childhood programs.
  • Other Adopted Amendments:
    • Rep Bonamici STEM Amendment – To expand the list of allowable activities under Title IV, including allowing an integration of STEM and the arts and support for other interdisciplinary programs.
    • Sen Bennet Overtesting Amendment – To allow states to place a target cap on the amount of time spent on testing. It is important to note that this is permitted, but not required.  
    • Rep Messer Title II Amendment – To allow Title II funds to be used in support of educating teachers in the use of student data.
    • Rep Wilson DropOut Amendment – To help schools improve dropout and prevention programs by creating an additional use of Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) funds to provide schools funding for dropout prevention.
    • Rep. Polis ELL Amendment – To add an allowable use of Title III funds to provide dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment opportunities for English Language Learner (ELL) students to take college courses or earn an associate's degree. 
     

 

ESEA Reauthorization: Summary of Conference Framework and Call to Action

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This blog post is longer than usual and is two-fold: The first half details what we know about the framework and the second half is a call to action. At this point, the proposal is something that AASA would endorse, should the outline mirror what is in the statute. The call to action is designed to support your advocacy—your outreach to your entire Congressional delegation—as a way to educate them on the importance of supporting an ESEA reauthorization and why this proposal is a very strong starting point.

You can access a printable version of this summary here. (WORD)

AASA has worked with hill staff, reporters and advocates to piece together what we know about what is (and isn’t!) in the proposal. The summary here within is subject to change, given that this is based on conversations and summaries, and there is not yet an actual bill. 

TOPLINE: This conference framework is an improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. The framework represents a compromise between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. IN reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.” 

DETAILS:  

  • Assessment: The framework maintains annual assessment, meaning testing every child in grades 3-8 in math and ELA each year and once in high school, and three assessments in science (one per grade span). 
  • Standards: You have to high standards. The state and locals make a decision. There is no federal role or incentivization for a specific set of standards. The state can choose Common Core, can use Common Core but call it ‘UnCommon Core’, can acquire another set of generated standards or can work to make their own standards.  
  • Accountability: This is where a lot of the ‘whittling back’  of federal overreach can be found: 
    • These plans would go into effect for the 17-18 school year. The 15-16 school year would be the last year states and LEAs would have to submit data as currently required. This means that the 16-17 year could serve as a soft/trial run for all or pieces of the new/proposed state accountability workbook. 
    • States must continue to disaggregate data by student sub group and must continue to calculate graduation rates using the adjusted cohort graduate rate as established in the 2008 regulations. 
    • There are two additional buckets in accountability that will trigger action:
      • States must identify and intervene in schools in the bottom 5% and in high schools that graduate less than 67% of their students. States will generate this list every three years, and states will establish the exit criteria (meaning if you can improve student learning/achievement in one year, you could—if the state structures it this way—be off the list in one year, rather than being stuck there for three). 
      • States must include provisions related to intervention in consistently underperforming schools. For LEAs in this bucket, as determined by the state the LEA will come up with a plan for improvement. The state will determine the number of years an LEA with this designation can go without showing improvement, and then the state will require additional supports/intervention. There are NO prescribed turn around models; states and LEAs determine those options/combinations. 
    • The state accountability plan must include sub-group performance targets. This is NOT annual measurable objectives in that the data on these targets is merely reported; it triggers no action. That is, a school that struggles to meet these targets will NOT trigger intervention. These targets will be long-term and interim, and must include targets for graduation rates, reading and math scores and English Language proficiency for English Language Learners.  
    • The accountability construct empowers state and local education agencies to shape their accountability workbooks in a way that diminishes continued overreliance on high-stakes, one-time standardized testing. In designing an accountability workbook, academic factors must represent more than half (at least 51%)  of all indicators, meaning that up to 49% of the accountability construct can be focused on whole-child and other critical, non-academic, indicators.  
  • Title I:  
    • School Improvement Grants are consolidated into Title I. The funds previously available under SIG will flow through the regular Title I formula. There will be a set-aside of approx. 7%, representing the current 4% set aside for school improvement under Title I PLUS the state's SIG amount. States must move at least 95% of that 7% to schools for innovation. States can choose whether to allocate these innovation dollars through competition or formula.  
    • Portability IS OUT. 
      • The framework does include a weighted student formula for Title I. This proposal will allow an LEA to aggregate its state and local dollars with its federal dollars (From Titles I-IV) This pilot program will apply to 50 LEAs, who can use these pooled dollars and design their own allocation formula in a manner that allows them to better target dollars to the neediest schools. This is NOT portability. This pilot will NOT change allocations at the state or district level. Rather, it allows districts greater authority over where the dollars flow in their schools. There is a requirement LEAs participating in this pilot demonstrate that needy schools receive at least as much under the weighted formula as they did before the pilot. 
      • We anticipate Republicans will tout this as ‘backpack funding’ or portability. While this is an increase in local control of spending, it is at the district level. True portability would have the money follow the child to the school of their choice regardless of actual need or levels of concentration, and the placement of that child would be determined by the family. In this pilot, the LEA is the entity allocating the dollars and will factor in concentrations of poverty with the added caveat of ensuring that the neediest schools don’t see an exodus of funding. This is in stark contrast to actual portability, where dollars would be diluted to a per-pupil level and allocated blindly to the schools based on enrollment, not concentration of poverty.  
    • Maintenance of Effort is IN. The House bill had eliminated this critical element and we are pleased to see that state and local education agencies will continue to have to invest at least 90% of what they did the year before in order to receive federal dollars. 
    • The Title I formula will be unchanged. Both the House and Senate proposals included formula rewrites, neither of which made it through. This means that Title I dollars will continue to be allocated in a manner that allows larger, but less poor, districts to receive a higher allocation of Title I dollars per child than their actual concentration of poverty would indicate. That said, we are OK with the status quo because we had reservations about what a compromised formula rewrite would look like. 
      • We are fairly confident the bill will include a requirement for Congress to do a study of the Title I formula, taking a very critical look at the issue of number and percentage weighting, and its impact on small, large, urban and rural schools. This is the exact research we have been advocating with in our efforts on the Title I formula and we are pleased to see formal movement by Congress. 
      • Precedent in ESEA reauthorization would include an update of the quintiles in the Title I formula. The quintiles are the enrollment ‘buckets’, where each threshold represents approximately 20% of the nation’s students. We had deep reservations about updating the quintiles without reworking the formula, because the threshold for the upper bound would have fallen by 10,000, meaning that more larger (bot not necessarily poorer!) districts could max out under number weighting, further exacerbating the impact of inequitably allocating dollars away from smaller, poorer schools. No update of the quintiles reinforces the pressure to accurately address the very real, but unintended, consequences of the current formula. 
    • Rural Education
    • AASA helped pen the original Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) in 2001, and we are pleased to see that the changes we have long advocated are reflected in this bill. In a reauthorization that consolidated and eliminated many programs, it is wonderful to see REAP remain as a stand-alone program.  
    • The US Education Department will have to do a study to evaluate how they are <not> serving rural schools. 
    • Also, Rural School Consolidated Grant Applications are in, meaning that small, rural schools can coordinate to submit consolidated applications. This may be through their local education service agency.  
  • Funding Caps: The bill includes funding caps, though those numbers are written to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which would be there is room for small increases in the years of this authorization. This authorization is for four years.
  • Early Education: ESEA will now include an early education component. This will be administered jointly through the Health/Human Services Department and US Education Department, with HHS acting as the fiscal agent. This program is in addition to Head Start and Child Care Development Bloc Grants. 
  • Alternate Assessment: AASA’s preferred position was no cap on alternate assessments. That is, we think that the local IEP team is best positioned to determine which students qualify for/need an alternate assessment. We are pleased with the compromise in the framework. Alternate assessments will be capped at 1% at the STATE level. Local IEP teams will work to make their determinations as driven by IDEA. There are explicit prohibitions on both the Secretary and the state from forcing a local cap (as in current practice). LEAs will have an alternate assessment rate determined by need and the state is responsible for monitoring LEAs individually to determine the overall state level. Should a state find it has an alternate assessment rate above 1%, the state can pursue a waiver.  
  • Student Privacy: FERPA is out. The proposed commission to analyze/study student data and privacy is also out. That is, no student data/privacy reauthorization reference in this bill. 
  • School Climate: Programs in Title IV are consolidated into a bloc grant. This bloc grant will be formula to state and formula to local. LEAs must use at least 20% of this allocation for well-rounded education and at least 20% for safe/healthy programming.  Technology is an allowable use in this title. Spending on technology devises/equipment/software would be capped at 15%, but LEAs could use up to 60% of their grant under this program for technology-related activities, including  training teachers to use technology, blended learning, personalized learning, buying content, etc. 
  • Foster Care: Foster care provisions are what was included in the Senate bill, which in my understanding is that any additional transportation costs to be incurred would be assumed by the LEA only if they were being reimbursed by the child welfare agency, agreed to share the costs with child welfare or if the district decided to cover those costs.  
  • Expanded Data Collection Under Title IX (Gender Equity): Eliminated. 
  • Title II Formula: The Title II formula WILL be revamped. It uses the Senate-adopted version, with tweaks to  change the poverty population to a sliding scale, and to include the ramp down/hold harmless.  
  • Background Checks: The framework includes language related to the unfavorable practice of ‘pass the trash’ but stops short of the high level of prescription and redundancy with current state/local practice that had been considered. This is language we are ok with. 
  • Comparability: Maintained current law (We were opposed to a proposal to include teacher salary in the calculation).  

CALL TO ACTION: When it comes to advocacy on this proposal and the related legislation, we subscribe to ‘better safe than sorry’. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the entirety of your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both Senators) to urge them to support the conference proposal to reauthorize ESEA. Top-line talking points are embedded below, and we can share a Congressional Directory with email addresses for the education staffer in each office as well as phone numbers. When it comes time for the final rush, it is important to email not only the education staffer (they are the ones who inform the boss of the policy) but also to call the front desk (the interns are inundated with calls and are merely tallying Yes and No). 

You can see, based on a quick review of our conference letter alone, that this proposed framework includes many AASA priorities. This proposal is a significant improvement over current law and we are comfortable with supporting it moving forward and anticipate that we will be in a position to support the legislation, pending final review (The devil is always in the detail). 

  • WHAT TO DO
    • Contact each of your Congressional offices. Urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can use the Congressional Directory shared by AASA or find your member of Congress here: http://aasa.org/legislative-action-center/# (Scroll to “Find Your Elected Officials”) 
    • Talking Points: You can craft your own talking points or a summary of the proposal based on the content in this memo. You can also refer to some of these more general talking points: 
      • Reauthorization is crucial to providing the nation’s schools with relief from current law, which is both broken and lacking in the flexibility states and local school districts need to support student learning and achievement 
      • This proposal is a strong step in the right direction because it restores a more proper balance between federal, state and local government in public education. 
      • This framework takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and places it more squarely in the area of state and local expertise and autonomy. 
      • This effort recognizes the importance of empowering state and local leaders to use their professional knowledge and proximal location to make the decisions necessary to successfully adhere to their educational missions. 
      • This is not a perfect bill, but it gets far more right than it gets wrong, and our nation’s schools and students deserve a complete reauthorization and to be free from the limited, conditional nature of ESEA waivers.   

AASA Policy Priorities for Perkins CTE Reauthorization

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The Senate is beginning to work on a bill to update the Perkins CTE Act. The re-authorization of Perkins provides Congress with a critical opportunity to reinforce the importance of effective, high quality CTE programs in schools that are aligned with college-and-career-readiness standards, as well as the needs of employers, industry and labor. AASA believes every adolescent should graduate from high school prepared for college or fulfilling careers, but Congress must increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs as well make important changes to the Perkins Act if we hope to accomplish this goal. Below you will see a summary of the recommendations we submitted to the Senate Education Committee as they consider the reauthorization of Perkins. The full document is available here

AASA Priorities

 

  • When contemplating any updates to the Perkins program, it is essential to consider the federal funding context for Perkins first and foremost. To propose extensive new mandates for districts when there is little likelihood that Perkins will receive an influx of new federal funding would be foolish and unfair.
  • While AASA appreciates the funding needs of post-secondary institutions, critical partners in fulfilling the career pathway partnership, we firmly oppose any efforts to mandate funding set-asides for post-secondary at the federal or state level or allowing regional entities the discretion to determine the secondary/post-secondary allocations.
  • AASA strongly supports greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in our CTE programs. Employers must be critical partners in evaluating the areas in which district CTE programs must improve and to assist districts in ensuring they are using the relevant standards, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials and current technology and equipment necessary to align with skills required by local employment opportunities.
  • AASA supports encouraging districts to direct greater funding to providing career planning and counseling to all students. Greater career counseling and planning would ensure that local CTE programs effectively reach traditionally under-enrolled students and assist them in understanding their options, creating a plan for coursework, laying out goals, and accessing the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions about their future career plans.
  • In light of the funding dynamics, AASA believes it is essential that a reauthorized Perkins law place less emphasis on compliance and reporting and instead focus on incentivizing best practices and relevant secondary program performance goals. We caution the committee from considering new accountability measures that are neither easy for districts to collect nor easily comparable between districts and states.
  • Perkins is an education program, not a jobs program. The goal for our CTE programs is undoubtedly to have as many students complete programs of study as possible, but any attempts to frame the Perkins accountability system in a way that discourages students from taking one or more CTE classes is educationally unsound. 

 

 

How are current IDEA MoE provisions hurting students?

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On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf 

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act--that we highlighted in an earlier blogpost. Below are a few examples from the GAO report of how the current IDEA MoE provisions are negatively impacting students. 

 

  •  A Michigan district said that when they had difficulty hiring a staff psychologist they had to contract for psychologist services, which turned out to be less costly than what the district spent on those services previously, causing challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • An official in one Texas district said that although their special education director recommended expanding their integrated athletics program for children with disabilities, they chose not to because they did not want to commit to the increased costs in an environment of ongoing budget uncertainty. 
  • A Virginia state education official said that districts feel penalized for complying with IDEA’s directive to serve more students with disabilities in general education classrooms since this more inclusive model can be less costly than placing all these students in special education classrooms; yet the MOE requirement is not flexible enough to allow for this without putting districts at risk of failing to meet MOE. 
  • Several district officials noted that protecting special education funding does not necessarily equate to protecting or improving special education services. For example, a Minnesota district official said the 100 percent MOE requirement may discourage districts from striving to make students with disabilities as independent as possible if such actions would reduce special education spending. He was concerned that not enough attention was being given in the IEP process to encourage greater independence and inclusion and that the process was being driven by maintaining expenses rather than responding to the evolving needs of students. 
  • A New Jersey district official said his district failed to meet MOE after reorganizing to share the cost of a special education director with another district. 

 

  

 

 

MOE can discourage efforts to implement efficiencies that could help reduce costs and can lead to unnecessary spending to comply with the requirement. For example, one Wisconsin district official commenting on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 NPRM said that because of state legislative changes that required reductions in their contributions to teacher benefits, they had to find other ways to spend money on special education to meet MOE regardless of whether the expenditures were needed. 

AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Signing Amicus Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Fisher vs. the University of Texas

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AASA joins the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and six other state, national and international organizations in signing an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Fisher vs. the University of Texas case. We are hopeful that it will assist the Court in making a positive decision for America’s school children. Read the filing.

Organizations joining AASA and the NSBA on the brief include:

  • Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Associations of School Business Officials International
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • PDK International

AASA has also signed on to an earlier iteration of this amicus brief.

Tweeting on Federal Education Policy

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Today's blog entry comes from AASA's Deanna Atkins, online technologies and advocacy specialist, the newest member of the AASA advocacy team.

Policy influencers, EPFP alumni and educators tuned in to EPFP’s Twitter chat on federal education policy on Tues., Oct. 27. The conversation was led by EPFP alumni Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association and Mary Kingston Roche, director, public policy, Coalition of Community Schools, IE, and additional tweeters chimed in during the discussion from a variety of organizations using the hashtag, #epfpchat.

Questions were based around ESEA reauthorization, education funding and the 2016 presidential campaign season, which made for an exciting and extremely important conversation detailing what House Speaker John Boehner's departure means for ESEA reauthorization; why Education Secretary Arne Duncan's departure is less consequential when it comes to ESEA reauthorization; what the next big federal education policy topic will be after ESEA; why education issues have a limited role in the presidential debates; and more.

If you missed the Twitter chat, you can view the archived conversation here and check out highlights from the discussion below. Should you have any further questions, please contact Noelle Ellerson.

Flurry of USED Resources

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In the last few weeks, USED has flexed its paper-pushing muscles, releasing a variety of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters/resources/documents. We’ve captured a handful of them here in an effort to get them on your radar:

 

  • Chronic Absenteeism: The administration announced Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. It is designed as a joint effort among the White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) to combat chronic absenteeism. It will call on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16). The available resources include a Dear Colleague letter, a resource toolkit, and a fact sheet. Read related press release.
  • Testing: In a rather unanticipated move, the Administration release its Testing Action Plan, a push for ‘fewer and smarter assessments’. Keeping in mind that this is the same administration that had a line in the sand over maintaining annual assessment in ESEA reauthorization discussions, they are now messaging about ways to reduce over-testing. USED will review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. They encourage state and local education agencies to work in a similar manner, and message on ESEA, suggesting a cap on testing time, better information for parents, use of multiple measures and supporting state/local assessment audits.   Read AASA’s response to the proposal. You can read full detail and the fact sheet here.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resource Guide: USED released this set of resources to help educators, schools leaders and communities/community organizations better support undocumented youth. The effort is aimed at debunking misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The reality is that the action of K12 schools here is pretty clear: you cannot ask a child their legal status. The impact of this resource guide is more notable for higher education actors. Read the Superintendent Dear Colleague Letter. Read the DACA Press Release.
  • Graduation Rates: USED released updated graduation rate information, showing that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners. States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. Through the press release, you can access the provisional data files for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
  • USED Statement on Learning Disabilities: In a blog post, released guidance to state and local education agencies clarifying that students with specific learning disabilities — such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia — have unique educational needs. It further clarifies that there is nothing in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in a student’s evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education and related services, or in developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP).  We read this as ‘You are neither mandated to do this, nor forbidden from doing this. As you were, unless you want to change.’ If anything, it gives cover to those IEP teams who wanted to go further in clarifying/identifying these specific disabilities in an IEP, and clarifies when that is appropriate.
  • Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: The department also released information about an experimental dual enrollment project today. In this pilot, the Department would allow students to use Pell grants for dual enrollment courses while in high school. The courses must apply toward a potential post-secondary (Bachelors or Associates) degree to be eligible. This is part of the administration's efforts to keep college costs down and increase access to post-secondary opportunities.

New GAO Report Highlights Critical Need for BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act

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On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act. Here are a few we wanted to highlight: 

  • To promote innovation and efficiency while safeguarding special education funding, GAO suggests that Congress consider options for a more flexible local MOE, such as adopting a less stringent maintenance requirement.  
  • GAO believes districts need more exceptions for reducing MOE. GAO identified various circumstances related to cost reductions—such as local actions to implement efficiencies—as key challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • GAO found stringent MOE requirements can have negative consequences for all students. Prioritizing special education spending to meet MOE during a period of budget constraints can result in cuts to general education spending that affect services for all students, including the many students with disabilities who spend much of their days in general education classrooms.  
  • The GAO report revealed that some district officials found that MOE can discourage efforts to implement innovations or expand services. For example, some leaders said that because of MOE, they did not want to commit to a higher level of spending to implement innovative services, despite other provisions in IDEA that are intended to encourage innovation.  
  • The GAO investigation uncovered that in the 2014-2015 school year, 9 states believe almost half of all districts in the state will struggle to maintain special education funding levels, and 25 states acknowledged that some districts will face challenges in meeting the MOE requirement in 14-15.  
  • The GAO found that at least some districts faced challenges in meeting the requirement, despite exceptions intended to help in such situations. Specifically, the current exceptions do not address the key challenges that districts face, including factors that are outside of their control and that do not affect the level of services provided to students with disabilities. In these situations, it was unclear whether funds spent on special education to comply with MOE resulted in enhanced services for students with disabilities. 
  • In their survey, GAO found that districts cited reductions in state funding of K-12 education and reductions in the state contribution to funding for special education as a major factor in not meeting MOE. State funding for elementary and secondary education has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession and long-term budget challenges are likely to persist. 
  • In addition, rural districts are disproportionately struggling to keep up funding for special education. Of the districts surveyed by GAO, 57.8 percent of districts that had anticipated having trouble meeting MOE were rural. 

 

AASA Supports Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

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Congress faces two significant tasks before the end of the year: raising the debt ceiling (which expires Nov 3) and completing its annual appropriations work  to avoid a federal shutdown (the current continuing resolution ends Dec 11). Recent history would indicate that Congress would legislate by crisis, waiting until the 11th hour on both proposals, bringing the nation to the brink of a shutdown.

Not this week, though. Breaking recent trends of both last-minute legislation AND highly partisan approaches, Congress is set to vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and replace sequester/raise draconian funding caps, setting the stage for far-less contentious discussions for wrapping up the annual appropriations work. 
 
On Monday, a surprisingly-well guarded round of discussions between House and Senate leadership and the White House was released, called the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. You can read the full budget agreement here

You'll recall that when it comes to FY16 funding, AASA has three priorities: replace/repeal sequester, advance a short-term continuing resolution to buy Congress more time to negotiate raising the caps, and then provide appropriations bills that invest in (Rather than cut!) education. To date, Congress had adopted a clean continuing resolution through December 11. In announcing the BBA, Congress replaces sequester for two years and raises the caps, putting Congress on a path to more adequately invest in education. 

What do you need to know about the deal? 

  • AASA supports the BBA. Read our letter of support. AASA is a member of the Committee for Education Funding, and I serve as President. CEF also endorsed the BBA; read their letter of support.  
  • The deal replaces sequester caps for two fiscal years (FY16 and FY17). In raising the caps, the deal maintains the very important principle of parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, raising caps for each by $33 billion in FY16 and $23 billion in FY17.
  • Raises the debt ceiling through March 15, 2017
  • This represents, potentially, the last budget negotiation of the Obama administration. 

What are the next steps?

  • The House is set to vote today on the bill. Once the Senate votes and it is signed into law, the next step is a return to the appropriations process.
  • Appropriations committees will receive their respective allocations (presumably with an increase, given the raised caps). These allocation numbers could be available later this week, and would give us an idea of what additional funding is available for education.
  • This process is far from over. The debt ceiling won't be breached, the funding caps were raised and the government shutdown was avoided. The negotiations for specific programs, though, can still be contentious and we have to see the extent to which policy riders (most recently best embodied in the debate over Planned Parenthood funding and the continuing resolution) rear their heads and threaten to 'disrupt the apple cart'

AASA Statement On The Decline In 2015 National NAEP Scores

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Today, the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) released The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and Reading The results from the 2015 assessment are compared to those from previous years to describe change in fourth and eighth-grade students’ performance in mathematics and reading over time. Performance results are presented as NAEP scale scores and as percentages of students at the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels. The report also includes information about the performance of different student groups, as well as performance gaps by gender and race/ethnicity. NAEP results date back to the early 1990s.

Generally speaking, the trend in NAEP performance has been one of significant growth since the early 1990s. There are small variations each year, and this year’s data is garnering a lot of headlines over a potential stalling in student growth. In mathematics, the 2015 average scores were 1 and 2 points lower in grades 4 and 8, respectively, than the average scores in 2013. These small declines remain well above initial scores, as scores at both grades remain  higher than those from the earliest mathematics assessments in 1990 by 27 points at grade 4 and 20 points at grade 8. In reading, the 2015 average score was not significantly different at grade 4 and was 2 points lower at grade 8 compared to 2013. As was the case in mathematics, scores at both grades were higher in 2015 than those from the earliest reading assessments in 1992 by 6 points at grade 4 and 5 points at grade 8. 

We must be responsible in our consumption of this data and resist the urge for drastic changes. This could be a one-year anomaly or it could be something more significant. However our students perform, we must remain focused on supporting their growth and learning, and resist the urge t point fingers and shift blame.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech released the following statement

“The headlines today write themselves and cover all the usual angles: Our schools are failing. Our students are failing. We need more tests. We need fewer tests. We need better tests. Common Core is working. Common Core is failing. We need more school choice.

“We have had—and continue to engage in—these conversations, all of which have their time and place. But today, in this moment, when NAEP—widely regarded as the Nation’s Report Card—indicates that our students aren’t making the growth and achievement we would expect, perhaps the conversation isn’t about what we are doing as much as what we are not doing. And in this instance, we must consider the extent to which this set of NAEP data was impacted by the significant cuts to education investment at the local, state and federal level stemming from the great recession and held in place by continued poor policy.

“When it comes to our nation’s schools and the students they serve, we know that education cuts do not heal. Though we’re past the end of the great recession, education investment has yet to reach pre-recession levels. That means that our nation’s K-7th graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 educational experience to date under a post-recession funding climate, and that our 12th-graders have spent half of their educational experience in that underfunded environment.

“In a broader context, the federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 11.6 percent (adjusted for inflation) since 2010. And while AASA doesn’t advocate unfettered spending as a silver bullet, we also do not deny that investment matters. Adequate funding is a critical component of any serious conversation about boosting student learning and closing achievement gaps, and today’s NAEP data might be one of the first times we are seeing a clear, national narrative highlighting the consequences of our recent education funding policy decisions.”

AASA Urges School Nutrition Flexibility

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Yesterday, AASA, along with the School Nutrition Association, sent a letter to the Hill urging members to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide schools with much-needed flexibility. The letter illuminates the higher costs associated with the new standards and the challenges found in a recent GAO report. 

The letter is available here

Please Complete the 2015 Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study

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Earlier this week, we sent out this year's survey for our annual Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study. This year will mark the fourth annual survey and report. Find previous reports here. We hope to get our highest response rate yet this year, strengthening our long-term analysis. 

Please help us out and take a few minutes to complete the survey before Friday, November 6. If you have any questions or need to receive the link again, please email or call Leslie Finnan (lfinnan@aasa.org or 703-875-0738).

Thank you so much to those of you who have completed the survey. I look forward to providing you with the next report, and hope it serves as a valuable resource.

 

UPDATE: AASA weighs in on D.C. voucher program and Title I Portability

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While it’s great that Congress wants to continue working to reauthorize overdue education bills, it’s unfortunate that they are rushing to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program known as the “D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program” by the close of the year. Speaker Boehner, the champion of the D.C. voucher program, is retiring and eager to ensure that one of his critical priorities—propping up financially depressed parochial schools in the D.C. area with federal funding—is maintained before his departure. There will be mark-up held in the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee tomorrow morning to continue the program despite the fact that reports by the Department of Education in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 found the program had no impact on student safety, satisfaction, motivation, or engagement, and no statistically significant impact on overall student achievement in math or reading. This week the D.C. Council sent a letter to the Committee stating that it is not the will of the people of D.C. to maintain this program and the funding for the program should be redirected to the public school system. Over $190 million of taxpayer funds have been directed to D.C. private schools since the program began in 2003.

AASA is proud to co-chair the National Coalition of Public Education, a coalition of over fifty national education, civil rights, religious, secular and disability organizations that sent a letter opposing thereauthorization of the D.C. voucher program. The group also sent a letter this week urging the ESEA Conferees to keep Title I portability out of ESEA

UPDATE: Tomorrow the House will vote on HR10, the legislation to continue the D.C. voucher program. AASA strongly opposes any effort to expanded the voucher program to new students. You can read the letter we sent to the House here

You're Invited: Rally to Raise the Caps (in person and remotely!)

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As part of our ongoing advocacy related to ensuring increased and appropriate federal investment in education--and against the preservation of the draconian cuts and fiscal pressure under sequestration--AASA remains committed to the idea that Congress can and should replace/repeal sequester. That means they need to #RaiseTheCaps, starting their annual appropriations discussions from a dollar amount that is not arbitrarily capped at post-sequester levels.

You'll recall that we have shared two toolkits related to #RaiseTheCaps: one for non-defense discretionary dollars (the broader portion of the budget that includes education funding) and one more specific to education. You should also check out the latest #RaiseTheCaps infographic, courtesy of our friends at the Committee for Education Funding.

 

  • The federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2% since 2010. Accounting for inflation the discretionary spending on children has decreased by 11.6% due to harmful sequestration cuts.
  • $80 billion: The amount federal education programs have been cut since 2010
  • $75 billion: the amount student financial aid has been cut since 2011
  • 11.6%: The decrease in federal spending on children, adjusting for inflation, since 2010
  • 50: The number of education programs that have been cut since 2010
  • American student rank well behind those in economically competitive countries on international tests: 17th in reading, 20th in science, and 27th in mathematics among the 34 Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  • $579 million: Cuts since 2010 to IDEA, which serves students 3-21 with disabilities, due to sequestration
  • 57,000: The number of children who lost Head Start services due to 5.7% cut thanks to sequestration
  • 60,000: The number of students in 18 states that could lose access to pre-school entirely as a result of defunding die to sequestration
  • 12%: The amount federal spending is down for Title I, the major assistance program for high poverty schools
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve increases to vital education programs.
  • Bottom line: Congress must raise the federal spending caps in order to make necessary education investments to support a high-skills workforce and grow the economy.

 

Now that Congress has averted a shutdown (At least until December 11), they are free to work on a more comprehensive approach to funding that MUST raise the caps for FY16. To that end, you are invited to participate in a Rally to Raise the Caps, in person or over social media, on Wednesday, October 7. The rally is being held at the US Capitol, East Front (the grassy area on the House side between the Capitol and the Library of Congress). 

Featuring House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and other Members of Congress from House and Senate (TBD).

This is a rain or shine, more the merrier event so please forward this invitation far and wide to your colleagues, friends, and family. Our goal is to have at least 300 advocates in attendance!

To help us ensure we’re reaching our goal, please RSVP here.

NDD United will produce a limited amount of signs for ralliers, but feel free to bring your own. Can’t join us in person? Rally with us online via Twitter by following @NDDUnited and #RaiseTheCaps! Sample tweets are available in the toolkits linked above.

With the future of budget negotiations hanging in the balance, it’s critically important that our community send a message to Washington that sequestration is unacceptable. Together, let’s tell them to work and Raise the Caps!

Guest Blog: Schools Struggle to Manage Cost of Nutrition Standards

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Today's guest blog post comes from Jean Ronnei, SNS, President of the School Nutrition Association and Chief Operations Officer, Saint Paul Public Schools, MN

View an infographic from SNA here.

Since new federal nutrition regulations took effect in 2012, school meal programs have been working hard to improve menus. However, a new School Nutrition Association (SNA) survey of meal program operators nationwide reveals that the cost of meeting the rules threatens school meal programs and their efforts to better serve students.

The survey revealed that despite widespread efforts to promote healthier choices to students, 58% of respondents reported that student lunch participation declined under the new standards. Nearly 93% of those respondents cite “decreased student acceptance of meals” as a contributing factor to this decline. 

Meanwhile, 74% of districts with a la carte service report that this revenue has decreased under new Smart Snacks in School rules, with 43% citing a strong decrease. This loss in revenue can cripple school meal programs, already struggling to manage higher food and labor costs due to the new rules. 

Alarmingly, nearly eight in every ten school districts have had to take steps to offset financial losses since the new standards were implemented, such as reducing staff, cutting reserve funds, canceling equipment investments and limiting menu choices. Schools are losing necessary resources to invest in innovative recipes using fresh, whole ingredients. 

The survey also revealed substantial benefits for schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools with a higher percentage of low income students to serve all students free meals.  About one in five districts report having at least one school that used CEP, and about two-thirds of those report that CEP participation has helped their program’s overall financial health. Districts participating in CEP were least likely to report a decrease in lunch participation.

SNA supports the overwhelming majority of the new rules, including caps on calories, saturated and trans fats and mandates to offer larger servings and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. To address challenges under the new rules, SNA is calling on Congress to increase the federal reimbursement for school meals by 35 cents and provide flexibility on a few of the new rules (see www.SchoolNutrition.org/PositionPaper).

AASA Letter on ESEA Conference Priorities

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Congress is back in session and working full tilt on avoiding a government shutdown. Beyond that, there is still strong momentum for completing ESEA reauthorization this fall. AASA is fully supportive of ESEA reauthorization and is engaged with hill staff on both sides of the hill and both sides of the aisle to reiterate our position of support and our priorities within conference.

Today, AASA sent its conference letter to the announced conferees (Senators Alexander and Murray and Representatives Kline and Scott).  The letter focuses on five specific priority areas and makes recommendations for (in)action: portability, accountability, expanded data collection, Title I formula and alternate assessment.

Earlier in the week, AASA reconvened with 9 other national education organizations to send a joint ESEA conference letter, urging Congress to advance a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization to the President's desk this fall. Read a related news article. Joining AASA on the letter:

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Education Association
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • National PTA
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals 
  • National School Board Association

USAC Letter to E-Rate Community

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Earlier today, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC, the entity overseeing E-Rate) released a letter to the E-Rate comm with an update on the pace of E-Rate funding and the new E-Rate portal. For FY2015, USAC is ahead of any previous funding year, but there is still work to do. USAC continues to see interest in the portal and remains focused on improving its functionality and being customer-friendly.

In the opening of the letter, Mel Blackwell (Vice President of the Schools and Libraries Program) writes:

"This is an exciting and important time of year for the E-rate Program as we move toward completion of all FY2015 applications, continue to implement the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and mark the beginning of the 2016 funding year with our in-person training efforts. These coming months are particularly important given the changes brought by the modernization orders and the implementation of EPC. We fully understand that change brings both opportunity and challenge to all of us in different ways. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to mitigate the challenges and deliver on the FCC’s goal of a faster, simpler, and more efficient E-rate Program. Transparency is a critical component of these enhancements and of managing through the change. Thus, I would like to discuss with you a couple of areas that are currently of particular interest --- the pace of FY2015 funding decisions and the status and performance of EPC."

You can read the full letter here.

AASA and ASBO ESEA Memo on Potential Consequences of Title I Portability

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Today, AASA and our friends at ASBO, released a memo addressed to the Conference Committee focused on ESEA reauthorization detailing the potential effects of the inclusion of Title I portability provisions found in the House ESEA bill on Title I programs. Specifically, we asked our respective memberships to explain how a requirement to make Title I dollars "follow a child" within a state or school system could impact five aspects of district Title I programs: planning, hiring and retention, administration, and the quality and equitable distribution of funds to students in the district. The memo can be accessed here

I Hate a Song....Er, Policy

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Today, I was at the AESA legislative meeting and PDK Executive Director Josh Starr was there as a keynote speaker. His presentation was compelling, but one slide in particular resonated with me.

He had a poster with the text of Woody Guthrie's "I Hate a Song". In particular, he excerpted:"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good....I am out to fight those songs to my last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing the songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

And he challenged us, in the context of education thinking and policy, to replace the word 'song' with 'policy', and to recognize just how intimate the impact of policy can be on students.

Just something to think over.

Guest Blog: Impact Aid Districts on Edge Over Talk of Government Shutdown

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Today's guest blog comes from Jocelyn Bissonette, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). For more information on Impact Aid: 202/624-5455 or Jocelyn@nafisdc.org.

Headlines in recent Washington Post articles include: “Get Ready: Experts Say a Government Shutdown is Likely,” and “The Time to Dust Off Shutdown, Furlough Plans is Approaching.” Each year begins with optimism that Congress will complete its Appropriations work on time, by the beginning of the October 1 Fiscal Year (FY). But since 1996, Congress has resorted to a stopgap measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to buy time to finish its work. On several occasions, this inability to complete the process or agree on a CR has led to a government shutdown, as was the case in 2013 following sequestration. For most public school districts, the posturing, brinksmanship, CRs and shutdowns are par for the course and do not immediately impact a school district’s financial situation. Impact Aid is a major exception. 

Impact Aid, ESEA Title VIII, was signed into law in 1950. The program’s purpose is to offset the loss of local revenue for school districts that have nontaxable Federal property within district boundaries, such as military installations, Indian Trust or Treaty lands, national grasslands or laboratories. Roughly 1,200 school districts receive funding from the $1.2 billion program each year. Unlike other Federal education programs, Impact Aid funding goes directly to school districts, bypassing the State, and can be used for any general fund purpose. At NAFIS, we often describe Impact Aid as Uncle Sam’s tax bill to federally impacted school districts.

Another difference from Federal education programs: Impact Aid is not forward-funded. FY 2016 funds for programs like Title I and IDEA are for the 2016-2017 school year, but for Impact Aid they are for the 2015-2016 school year. This means a CR has an immediate impact on Impact Aid-recipient school districts. To date, the U.S. Department of Education has received over 100 “early payment requests” in anticipation that limited Impact Aid funds will be available under a CR. Impact Aid may comprise upwards of 30-percent of a school district’s operating budget. Without a payment early in the school year, these districts may face a cash flow shortage, meaning they would have difficulty funding day-to-day operations, instructional expenditures, utility payments, or payroll. Occasionally, due to cash flow deficits, school districts must defer payroll, dip into their fund balances, or borrow money while they wait for Impact Aid to arrive. This issue is acute for school districts with limited reserves or those where State aid or county tax revenues are not allocated until December.

This situation is exacerbated during a government shutdown, since the Impact Aid payment timeline is further delayed. In addition, this is the time of year when school districts are collecting and compiling data for the Impact Aid application due each January. During a shutdown, U.S. Department of Education staff cannot report to work, and therefore cannot provide valuable technical assistance. 

In the end, Congress must complete its Appropriations work, even if it means relying on the temporary solution of a CR. Avoiding a government shutdown in that process would prevent a gap in important government functions, including funding and technical assistance for federally impacted school districts.

NAFIS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of school districts from throughout the United States. Founded more than 40 years ago, NAFIS works to ensure the needs of federally connected school districts, and the students they educate, are met through adequate Federal funds. (P) 202/624-5455 (W) www.nafisdc.org (T) @NAFISschools

Sequester 2.0, AND: When it comes to Federal Education Funding, It's Time To Raise the Caps!

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We are in September and it is looking increasingly likely that Congress will not only NOT complete its appropriations work on time, but that we will also have a shutdown. Shutdown politics and implications aside, it is important to understand how a common funding mechanism (the continuing resolution or CR) can translate into a sequester cut for our portion of the budget.

When the government does not complete its work on time, it can use a CR to keep government running by simply level funding all programs at their current level. We are in FY15 and the fiscal year that needs to be wrapped before it starts October 1 is FY16. A long-term (or year-long) CR would level fund government for the full fiscal year. A long-term CR, whether to avoid a shut-down or as a resolution to end one, is problematic. Level funding for our portion of the budget (non-defense discretionary, or NDD) would actually be above the FY16 sequester caps, meaning we would face an across-the-board cut of 1.5% While the Congressional Budget Office has yet to officially release these numbers, the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities has indicated this very real threat.  

We all know the damages of sequester. It is easy enough to avoid; Congress has to complete one of its primary functions, passing the appropriations bills. But it is about more than that: even if the across the board cut is avoided, the FY16 budget proposals represent the third year of level funding. The continued funding pressure of the budget caps means that NDD and education funding have to continually do more with less.Which is why it is time for Congress to raise the caps.

Like our previous post supporting the NDD coalition and resources supporting #RaiseTheCap indicated, we now have education-specific resources you can use in communicating with your members of Congress. Thank you to our friends at the Committee for Education Funding (www.cef.org) for putting these together:

Access as a word document.

General Overview of the Appropriations Caps and Sequestration

 

  • While total non-defense appropriations will increase slightly in 2016 even if sequestration is fully implemented, that increase will fall far short of what would be needed just to keep up with inflation or address high-priority needs, let alone make up for any of ground lost over the past several years. 
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011, which established the appropriations caps and sequestration, specifies that sequestration cuts in 2014 and all subsequent years are to be implemented by reducing the caps that would otherwise apply (rather than by across-the-board cuts as in 2013).  For 2016, the pre-sequestration caps were scheduled to increase by 1.9 percent, but sequestration will eliminate almost all of that increase. 
  • Without sequestration relief, the cap on non-defense appropriations for 2016 will be just 0.2 percent ($1.1 billion) above the 2015 level.  That’s $8.6 billion less than what would be needed just to keep up with even the modest level of expected inflation.  The defense situation is similar:  an increase of just 0.3 percent or $1.8 billion. 
  • With the spending caps essentially flat, 2016 will be the sixth year of austerity in non-defense appropriations.  In four of the previous five years, the total has either decreased in actual dollar terms or increased only slightly. 
  • By 2016 the cumulative effect will be substantial.  When adjusted just for general inflation, the 2016 cap on non-defense appropriations will be 17 percent (or $103 billion) below the 2010 level.  The cumulative reduction in defense appropriations is only a little smaller: 15 percent or $94 billion.  These are, of course, only averages.  Within both categories some things have been cut considerably less and other things considerably more.   
  • The effects of the caps and sequestration are even more dramatic when measured relative to the size of the economy.  Outlays for non-defense appropriated programs are projected to be 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016—equal to the lowest percentage recorded at any point since 1962, which is as far back as data go on this basis.  With the caps and sequestration fully in place, the percentage is expected to then set a new record low in 2017 and to continue dropping in subsequent years. 
  • One result of these limits is that increases even for high-priority needs become difficult to accomplish, as almost any increases require offsetting cuts or savings.  After five previous years of cutting, feasible and acceptable cuts are getting harder and harder to find.  And even for things that haven’t been cut in dollar terms, the cumulative erosion of purchasing power is growing. 

Appropriations Caps and Sequestration as it Affects Education Programs:

  • Sequestration cuts resulted in a loss of $22.54 million from Individuals with Disabilities Act’s Part C program, which serves infants and toddlers with disabilities. Because of mounting fiscal pressure over the last two decades, States have narrowed the eligibility requirements for this voluntary program and any funding reduction means fewer children served.   
  • Last fall, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides needy families across the country with child care services.  Currently, sequestration levels mean that CCDBG provides services to about 1 in 10 eligible children. However, with the additional requirements brought about by this bill, even fewer eligible children will be able to receive these services unless the sequestration caps are lifted.   
  • Due to 5.27 percent cut in funding thanks to sequestration, Head Start, the federal pre-K education service for low-income families, was forced to eliminate services for 57,000 children last fall.  HHS data says that Head Start will have administered 1.3 million fewer days of service nationwide because of sequestration cuts.    
  • Sequestration could de-fund preschool programs in 18 states, causing 60,000 children to lose access to preschool entirely 
  • The federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2 percent since 2010, accounting for inflation the discretionary spending on children d has decreased by 11.6 percent (First Focus: Children’s Budget 2015) 
  • Federal education programs have been cut by more than $80 billion since 2010 with the elimination of more than 50 education programs
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve important increases in the President's budget such as  
    • $1.5 billion to expand Head Start for low-income children; 
    • $1 billion increase for Title I education funds to improve services for students in high-poverty schools; 
    • $1.8 billion over the 2015 level for the Housing Choice Voucher program to expand access for affordable housing; and  
    • New investments in research and development throughout the government (including additional funding of $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $379 million for the National Science Foundation).  
     
  • Discretionary funding for education programs—excluding Pell grants—has been cut by over $3.714 billion since FY 2010 and non-Pell grant funding for the Department of Education is below FY 2008 
  • The suggested level of nondefense appropriations for FY 2016 is similar to the amount appropriated in FY 2006, when adjusted for inflation, despite that there has been a consistent rise in enrollments of children attending K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education coupled with the increase of more low-income children attending school since FY 2006 (link
  • Federal funding for Title 1 of ESEA—the major federal assistance program for high-poverty schools—is down 12% since 2010, after adjusting for inflation, and funding for education for students with disabilities is down 11%.  
  • Sequestration resulted in approximately $579 million in federal funding cuts to IDEA special education services for children ages 3 to 21.   
  • Congress has never lived up to its commitment to cover 40% of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. After sequestration, Congress is only meeting 14% of the cost to educate students with disabilities, the lowest level since 2001.   
  • Both the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bills cut funding for Pell grants, which will likely jeopardize the maximum award starting in Fiscal Year 2017. The Senate bill also cuts Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study. 
  • Since Fiscal Year 2011, funding for student financial aid programs have been cut by $75 billion.  

 Sample Tweets to Use After September 10th:

  • We need to invest in education, public safety, medical research, & infrastructure [insert member twitter handle]. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • Our economy depends on increasing fed funding for education. We need to #RaiseTheCaps in order to create opportunities for every child 
  • #EduCutsDontHeal. Investment in education matters and the time to act is now. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • [insert member twitter handle], over 2,500 groups want you to #RaiseTheCaps for discretionary investments! 
  • National #security means investing in kids, education, public health, & infrastructure. [insert member twitter handle] make sure to #RaiseTheCaps! 
  • A secure #America needs more than #military might! [insert member twitter handle] make sure there to #RaiseTheCaps for #education! 
  • Our government spends less on NDD programs & is the lowest share of the economy since the Eisenhower Admin #RaiseTheCaps 
  • (MOC), don’t put your own interests ahead of America’s children. Raise the spending caps so we can better fund our #Education programs 
  • US population has grown over the last decade, esp. in school enrollment, but our spending on education has NOT. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • Tell your Congressman to vote to #RaisetheCaps today. Our children’s #education shouldn’t be a political chess game. 
  • Continued sequestration could de-fund preschool programs in 18 states, causing 60K children to lose access to preschool entirely
  • Fed #education programs have been cut by $80+ billion since 2010, eliminating 50+ education programs #RaiseTheCaps
  • 50+ education programs have been eliminated since 2010. It’s time to #RaiseTheCaps
  • Since FY 2011, funding for student financial aid programs have been cut by $75 billion. Time to #RaiseTheCaps 

Twitter  Hashtags and Handles:

  • #RaiseTheCaps 
  • #Education 
  • #EduCutsDontHeal 
  • @edfunding 

 

 

AASA, CoSN Partner on 3rd Annual Infrastructure Survey

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AASA is pleased to once again be partnering with our friends at Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) on a school infrastructure survey. We're working together to gather data from school districts around the country on E-Rate, broadband, and internal network infrastructure in order to communicate district needs to Congress and the FCC. We urge you to complete the survey and to tell us: What are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-Rate program working for you? Is there anything else we should know?

The survey closes on Friday, September 18. If you have yet to complete the survey (or need to receive the survey URL) please email Noelle, and she will send you the link. (nellerson at aasa dot org).

Raise the Cap! Sequester, Appropriations and FY16

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Federal fiscal year 16 (FY16) starts October 1, and all signs point to Congress (once again) failing to complete its appropriations work on time. We won't have a shut down, but we will likely have a series of continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to patch us through the interim, until a final appropriations bill is adopted. 

I've written before, and it holds true, that the delay of the currently considered but not adopted appropriations bill (and the LHHS appropriations bill, in particular, which includes funding for education) is a good thing. A good thing? To not have federal funding on time? Yes. The overall funding levels in place are very bad. The overall level funding scenario translates into cuts at the education program specific level and the opportunity for Congress to rethink its proposals gives an opportunity for them to raise the overall funding level (or cap).

The current funding caps were established in 2011, as part of the Budget Control Act. Comprehensive and bipartisan, it is law, and was passed as a way to raise the debt ceiling, avoid a government shutdown, and to catalyze a conversation on spending caps and cuts. This piece of legislation also triggered the process of sequester, and set the caps that we are currently operating under. The sequester cap for FY16 represents a third year of level funding. To people running schools systems, level funding paired with growing enrollment and increasing costs mean the perfect storm of truly having to more with less, and that is without reference to your state and local funding realities.

The portion of the federal budget that includes education funding is non-defense and discretionary. Put together, it is the far less than catchy 'Non Defense Discretionary' (NDD) slice of the pie, and our appropriations advocacy has included efforts to support broader NDD funding as a way to support broader education funding. Read more about the NDD Coalition.

Earlier this week, the NDD Coalition hosted a webinar and released a toolkit, both focused on a call to 'Raise the Caps'.  The preface of the toolkit sums it up best: "NDD United is the only organization speaking out on behalf of all of the thousands of programs funded by discretionary funds that have been decimated by budget cuts over the past five years. It’s critical that every NDD United member know where the organization stands. United, we can raise our voice on behalf of the public services Americans rely on. But budget cuts and sequestration are difficult topics to message around: before you can even get to the meat of the problem – that public services Americans rely on are being decimated – you have to engage in a lot of preliminary explanation. And it’s the problem, the solution, and how NDD United is working toward that solution that should form the building blocks of all of NDD United’s messaging. This handbook provides the tools to maximize your public presence and raise your voice on behalf of NDD programs. It offers sample documents for major communications pieces: an op-ed, blog post, press release, media advisory and pitch email. It also offers tips on spreading your message in a way that engages the press, the public and our leaders."

Please use the information made available here to inform your conversations with your full Congressional delegation, letting them know to support raising the caps, that education cuts don't heal, and that our children deserve support and investment, not cuts and eliminations.

AASA will be releasing a related education-specific toolkit in the coming week, in coordination with the Committee for Education Funding. 

AASA Survey - Principal Preparation Programs

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Last week, we sent a survey to all superintendents as a part of a project examining what is and is not working in educator development, including teachers, principals and superintendents. In this survey, we are looking to look more closely at how public and private universities and their principal preparation programs are—or are not—meeting the needs of the candidates they prepare and the communities they serve.

If you have not yet completed the survey, please take a few minutes to do so. Your participation would be greatly appreciated, as every response we get increases the quality of our data. The responses from the survey will be published in a report and will inform the future of the project.

Please email me at lfinnan@aasa.org for a link to the survey or with any questions.

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.

Learn More

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. 

UPDATED: Call to Action: Support Dan Domenech Nomination to USAC Board

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This post was updated to reflect the support of additional national organizations.

AASA's Executive Director, Dan Domenech, is again up for nomination to the USAC Board (the body related to the FCC that oversees the E-Rate Program). You’ll recall this is a role he currently serves in, a nomination he received broad support from the field in both 2012 and 2013. 

He has once again been nominated for the seat that represents schools and libraries. Dan’s nomination comes with the support of AASA, along with that of AESA, NREA, NREAC, ASBO, AFT, CoSN, ISTE, NAESP, NAIS, NASBE, NCEA, NEA, National PTA, NASSP, ALA , and NSBA.

CALL TO ACTION: Individual school districts and state affiliates are submitting letters of support, as well, and we encourage you to do the same!

While we are confident in Dan being the final choice for the role he currently holds, we do now want to take anything for granted and would appreciate letters of support akin to those he has received in previous years. Please take a few moments--whether as an AASA member, superintendent, E-Rate supporter, or education stakeholder--to submit a letter of your own. This could be a numbers thing when it comes down to it, and we'd welcome support from the field.

What to do?

  • Letters must be filed by August 17.
  • Refer to AASA’s template nomination letter you can use as a starting point for your own letter.
  • In drafting your own letter, please copy verbatim the address block and subject line, including the docket number (96-45 and 97-21).
  • Feel free to borrow liberally from the letters provided, starting with that text and personalizing with appropriate letter head and changing organization names as necessary.
  • When it comes to filing, you have two options:
    • You can either file it as instructed in the FCC notice (see below) or email it to me (Noelle) and I can file it for you. Please email me your final letter (nellerson@aasa.org) no later than Aug. 15, with the subject line 'Please file ERate/USAC letter'.
     

How to File Comments with the FCC (LETTERS ARE DUE Aug 17.)  

  • Draft your letter. You can create your own or work from AASA’s template letter (see above).
  • Go to www.fcc.gov/ecfs
  • Choose “Submit A Filing” and you will be taken to an online submittal form
  • For the Proceeding Number, use all of the following proceeding numbers: 97-21 and 96-45
  • Under the 'details' section, check the box marked 'Comment'
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form
  • Upload your letter at the bottom of the form.

 

Districts Leading the Way on Course Access

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Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at the Foundation for Excellence in Education and EducationCounsel and relays information about the Course Access programs. This information was initially made available to the AASA Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, and we felt our general membership would appreciate the information, as well.

Districts across the country face a host of pressures to meet the needs of today’s students and harness the opportunities of the 21st century. Superintendents need to think about meeting new rigorous college and career ready standards, customizing and personalizing learning experiences, closing long-standing opportunity and achievement gaps, creating advancement opportunities for teachers, and leveraging innovative technologies – not to mention stretching tight budgets. Navigating these currents requires creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to do things differently. New “Course Access” programs present an opportunity for states and districts to do just that.   

Course Access is a state-level policy that provides public school students with expanded course offerings across learning environments from diverse, accountable providers.  Participating students have a right to enroll in qualifying courses and earn full class credit for courses completed through the program. Many Course Access opportunities are delivered online, but some states also allow for in-person and blended Course Access options. 

Patrice Pujol, Superintendent in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, explains, “Districts today have to think creatively about budgets, including how to address a growing array of student interests and needs in the most effective and efficient way possible. That requires you to think outside the four walls of your school and to consider other partners in the effort.” Ascension is working with a local industry certification provider and utilizing Louisiana’s Course Access program as a cost-effective and efficient way to provide new career and technical education courses to its students to give them a new opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an industry-recognized credential. 

To illuminate how leading districts are making these programs work, the Foundation for Excellence in Education and EducationCounsel recently released Leading in an Era of Change: On the GroundIt profiles nine districts and one charter management organization across seven states utilizing Course Access or Course Access-like strategies to maximize the use of resources, better serve students, and ensure districts are evolving with the needs of the 21st century student.  

Importantly, these profiles demonstrate that Course Access can look different in different contexts.  For example, the paper shows that rural and remote districts tend to use Course Access to offer core curriculum (particularly for hard-to-staff subjects like world languages), while larger districts tend to use Course Access to serve certain populations of students more effectively (e.g., students who want to accelerate through AP or dual enrollment courses, students who need to catch up, and students with specialized interests).  But, as Patrick Murphy, Superintendent in Arlington County, Virginia, observed at the paper release event, "Regardless of what environment you come from, Course Access is going to be the future of K-12 education. State policies are needed to create a structure enabling school districts to connect their students with high-quality courses.”

States are responsible for creating Course Access policies and the infrastructure that supports them (e.g., provider review and approval processes, a consolidated online course catalog).  But districts are often the key to the success for students, both as to serve as potential providers of Course Access opportunities for out-of-district students and to support their own students enrolled in Course Access courses.  

The innovative school systems profiled in the paper demonstrate what’s possible through Course Access – which we hope will serve as inspiration for districts and states alike.   

Resources to learn about Course Access include: 

August Recess: A Time for Action!

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This is a longer blog post, but very relevant to the August recess and the way school system leaders can best use the time that Representatives and Senators spend in their home district (during the month of August) to engage on critical federal policy topics. Especially relevant this summer? ESEA reauthorization and appropriations.

This blog post has 3 sections:

  • Your advocacy matters.
  • Congressional To-Do List for 2015.
  • AASA August Call to Action
    • ESEA
    • School Nutrition
    • IDEA Maintenance of Effort
    • Appropriations/Sequester

Your Advocacy Matters

  • When it comes to advocacy, your voice matters. No one is better positioned to tell your district’s story than you are, and in a time where Congress is driven by anecdotes and a desire to pull a story out of their back pocket, why not have them tell YOUR district’s story? They make these decisions whether you weigh in or not; help them make the better decision.
  • The nation’s public schools are the largest employer in the country. No one employs more people than the nation’s schools. At the local level, most of you work for your community’s single largest employer. That is an important role, something you can and should leverage in your advocacy.
  • Beyond the size of local education agencies (LEAs) as employers, school system leaders are uniquely positioned: Not only are you all positioned to detail the impact of policies on your school; you are also in direct contact with a series of other important constituencies. In you, elected officials have an education expert and a community leader, someone who can report on the students, parents, local business, community trends, and more.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of your role in advocacy!

Congressional ‘To Do’ List, Fall 2015: Congress does not enjoy a stellar reputation, something public opinion polls bolster. When they come back from recess this year, their ‘to do’ list for the remainder of 2015 is intense, and that is putting it politely. See related Politico Article. Post-Labor Day thru the end of 2015, here’s what’s on their dance card:

  • A continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. This would need to be completed by September 30. 
  • The debt ceiling – deadline now not until November/December
  • Tax extenders that expire on December 31
  • The highway bill, which will expire again on October 31
  • Export-Import bank – already expired
  • Budget reconciliation related to repealing the Affordable Care Act
  • The ESEA conference
  • The conference report on the Defense authorization bill.
  • The Iran nuclear deal – a 60-day clock is ticking
  • Other issues including cybersecurity, the CURES bill, Toxic Substances Control Act rewrite, energy legislation, etc. 

Recess Call to Action: There’s a lot for them to work on this fall. It’s important that your FULL delegation hear from you and your colleagues while they are home to visit. With that in mind, here are the top-line messages to carry to them. Please make sure to check back to the blog, as the ESEA-related items will be increasingly detailed as we get into and through ESEA conference.

  • ESEA: Contact your full delegation about ESEA Conference (full details below). The asks are simple. Reaching out to both your Senators and your Representative, please relay:
    • Complete ESEA Reauthorization. We need Congress (both sides of the Hill, both sides of the aisle) to work together to deliver our nation’s schools and the students they serve a comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA. It is imperative that members support the deliberate work of the ESEA conference committee and vote for ESEA reauthorization. (There are some caveats to this, namely the inclusion of vouchers, but those chances are slim and we would communicate with you about those.)
    • When it comes to conference specifics, use this list to relay priority positions:
      • NO to vouchers and portability.
      • NO to expansion of federal accountability. We support what was in the Senate ESEA bill, and would be opposed to efforts to increase federal mandate/prescription in accountability, which would represent a step back to AYP 2.0 and high-stakes testing.
      • Alternate Assessment: Maintain current law. The Senate bill includes language that would limit the number of students who can take alternate assessments at 1%, a significant tightening of current law, which allows students to take the tests determined appropriate by the IEP team, but only using 1% of alternate assessments in accountability.
      • Maintenance of Effort: We support current law, as written in the Senate bill. We are opposed to the House bill, which eliminates MoE.
      • Funding Caps: ESEA is authorizing statute, and the authority to determine program funding level should rest with the appropriators, those in charge of allocating federal dollars. We are OPPOSED to the House version’s funding caps.
  • School Nutrition
    • Increase reimbursement rate by 10 cents per meal to offset some additional spending required by increased nutrition standards.
    • Return whole grain requirement to 50% from current 100%.
    • Keep sodium limit at Target I, cancelling increases planned in 2017 and 2022.
    • Allow anything that can be sold as part of the reimbursable meal to be sold a la carte, no matter the day of the week.
    • Change fruit and vegetable requirement from “must take” to “may take” to allow students to only take fruits or vegetables they intend to eat, which will decrease plate waste and wasted spending.
  • IDEA Maintenance of Effort
    • Legislation to make critical improvements to IDEA’s maintenance of effort provisions was introduced in July by Rep. Walberg (R-MI). The bill is called the Building on Local District (BOLD) Flexibility in IDEA Act (HR 2965). The bill would do the following:
    • Allow districts to reduce MoE if they can demonstrate that they are increasing the efficiency of their special education programs and there is no impact on the provision of special education services to students
    • Allow Districts to reduce MoE if they can demonstrate 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. 
    • Allow districts to apply to the State for a waiver to reduce MoE if they are facing a serious financial crisis. Waivers will only be granted to districts if they provide evidence they are providing a free appropriate public education to all eligible students.
    • Ask your House members to co-sponsor the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act (HR 2965). Ask your Senators to introduce companion legislation. 
  • Appropriations/Sequester:
    • Congress must work to resolve/replace the sequester. If they cannot do that, they must ensure continued parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding. That is, defense discretionary should not be exempt at the direct expense of non-defense discretionary funding, which includes education.
    • If Congress cannot/will not replace sequester, they need to at least negotiate a budget/appropriations compromise (much like the Murray/Ryan budget deal) that raises the current funding caps to ensure that our programs don’t continue to struggle at sequester level caps. 
    • OPPOSE House and Senate LHHS proposals and work with colleagues to negotiate a budget deal that raises the overall funding caps.

Secretary Vilsack (USDA) and Secretary Duncan (USED) Issue Joint Letter on School Nutrition Community Eligibility Program

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Yesterday, USDA Secretary Vilsack and USED Secretary Duncan issued a letter to chief state school officers related to the school nutrition program and the expanded opportunity to use the Community Eligibility option. We share it here, as AASA members may be interested in using the Community Eligible model in an effort to expand participation in school breakfast and lunch programs.

Dear Superintendents:

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) nationwide now include a new universal meal service option, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which has been phased in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past several years.  CEP was created through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and allows qualifying high-poverty local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students without requiring families to complete an annual household application.  CEP is a powerful tool to both improve child nutrition and reduce administrative burdens at the LEA and school levels.  We applaud the thousands of LEAs already participating in CEP for providing the nutrition and energy children need to be healthy and ready to learn.  In addition, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all eligible LEAs to consider CEP for the 2015-2016 school year.

As of the 2014-2015 school year, the first year that the provision was available nationwide, CEP has been successfully implemented in approximately 14,000 schools, reaching more than 6 million students.  The feedback from teachers, administrators, parents, and students has been overwhelmingly positive.  Participating schools have had few administrative burdens and simultaneously experienced benefits including higher school meals participation. 

On May 1, 2015, each State released a list of schools eligible to participate in CEP (available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision-status-school-districts-and-schools-state).  We encourage you to review this list, and the data available to you from your school nutrition department, and determine whether CEP is a good fit for schools in your LEA.  Many administrators have found it helpful to speak to another LEA that has successfully implemented CEP.  This could be beneficial to you as you make the decision.  If you have already implemented CEP in some of your schools, consider bringing in more schools to expand access to school meals for children in your LEA.  LEAs must apply to their State-level agency administering the Federal school meal programs by August 31, 2015, to ensure implementation of CEP for the 2015-2016 school year.  LEAs that need more time to transition to CEP may contact their State agency to find out if it will accept a mid-year application as permitted by USDA. 

Eligible schools or LEAs that choose to participate in CEP receive the Federal free reimbursement rate for up to 100 percent of meals served, depending on the school’s or LEA’s percentage of “identified students”—students who automatically qualify for free meals based on their family’s enrollment in other programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Head Start.  If enrollment in your schools or LEA comprises 40 percent or more identified students, they are eligible to participate in CEP.  A higher percentage of identified students results in additional Federal funds, which may be necessary to allow your school to serve all students without additional local funds.  Eligibility may be determined on a district-wide basis, for a group of schools within an LEA, or for individual schools.   

Although the USDA administers Federal school meal programs, we recognize that NSLP data is used in a variety of contexts under programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and CEP has implications for those uses.  Perhaps most significantly for schools, programs operated under Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, often use NSLP data to carry out certain Title I requirements, including in determining school eligibility and allocations.  ED has developed, and recently updated, guidance (available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/updated-title-I-guidance-schools-electing-community-eligibility) to help LEAs understand how they can successfully implement Title I requirements using NSLP data that incorporate CEP data.  Fortunately, a variety of schools across the country have successfully navigated this issue, and our staff have best practices they can share with you.  If you have questions about how this guidance applies to your circumstances, please send them to OESEguidancedocument@ed.gov.  ED has also developed guidance regarding CEP and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/school-lunch-program.pdf).  This guidance clarifies that when allocating the portion of LEAs’ IDEA Part B subgrants based on “the relative numbers of children living in poverty,” States may continue to use NSLP data for LEAs in which all or some schools participate in CEP.  In addition, the guidance clarifies that States continue to have the discretion to use other methods for measuring poverty. 

We encourage eligible LEAs to visit USDA’s web site for additional tools and resources including updated guidance on a range of CEP-related policies and practices.  Resources are available on Title I, as well as the Federal e-rate program, State and local funding issues, and strategies for successful implementation of CEP (available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision).  As schools and LEAs elect to participate in CEP, these materials can serve as a resource to engage with local officials and the whole school community about plans to elect CEP.  Additionally, your State educational agency and State Child Nutrition Offices are good resources for specific CEP eligibility questions. 

USDA and ED strongly support CEP, which gives students the opportunity to learn and thrive by ensuring that every needy child receives healthy school meals at no charge.  Thank you for your attention to this critically important issue, and, to each of you, best wishes for the upcoming school year. 

Sincerely, 

Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture 

Arne Duncan 
Secretary of Education 

AASA Joins 8 National Education Groups in Opposing New OSERS Guidance on Dyslexia

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Yesterday, AASA joined the Council of Administrators of Special Education, the National Education Association, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and several other groups in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services requesting that the Department not issue new guidance or directives to schools encouraging the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia or any other medical or mental health diagnostic term within the context of IDEA procedures. This letter was in response to a letter sent in June by the National Center for Learning Disabilities and 13 other disability advocacy groups that maintains that guidance is needed because “schools may be reluctant” to use terms like dyslexia in a child’s IEP, instead opting to refer to the disability as a “specific learning disability.” They claim that "without indicating the specific terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia when appropriate, this phrase [specific learning disabilities] on an IEP is simply too vague a description to communicate to a teacher that the child needs intensive, explicit, systematic, evidence-based instruction to make progress."

The rationale used to justify the requested guidance is of concern to AASA and other organizations because it assumes that the inclusion of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in an IEP will “ensure that the interventions goals and objectives outlined in the IEP match with the students’ specific needs.” In particular, there is an implication that "a diagnostic label alone dictates instructional programming which is completely counter to the individualization of instruction mandated by the IDEA. IDEA does mention dyslexia as an example of a medical or mental health diagnosis that might lead to a determination of IDEA eligibility in the category of learning disabilities along with perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia. However, it is not necessary for schools to include any of those terms in a student’s IEP to ensure appropriate services are provided because schools must already consider medical and mental health diagnoses in their eligibility determinations and instructional programming."

We believe advocates are requesting this guidance, and specifically clarification regarding the inclusion of these terms in an IEP, because they want to use these labels to force the hand of districts to use specific instructional methodologies or demand new or different services for students with learning disabilities that are not specific to “dyslexia” for example. However, the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are derived from reference materials like DSM-V and ICD that represent medical and psychiatric criteria for diagnosis and classification. If OSERS were to use guidance that accepts a DSM-V for these specific issues as equivalent to assessments conducted under the guidelines set forth in IDEA, then eligibility for services would potentially be opened for all diagnoses contained within this manual. IDEA already mentions dyslexia as an example of a medical or mental health diagnosis that might lead to a determination of IDEA eligibility in the category of learning disabilities, so it is not necessary for schools to include any of those terms in a student’s IEP to ensure appropriate services are provided. Moreover, the body of research districts rely on to educate students with specific learning disabilities is well-established thanks to the National Reading Panel, the What Works Clearninghouse, etc., so the process, accommodations and services districts provide to students with specific learning disabilities would be unchanged.

 

AASA Urges Congress to End D.C. Voucher Program

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Many Americans are unaware that every year a very small portion of their tax dollars are directed towards a school voucher program operated in the District of Columbia. This program, known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, has been in existence since 2004 and almost 200 million dollars have been directed to D.C. students, so they can attend private, predominantly parochial, schools with taxpayer funds. Given its unique relationship to Congress, the D.C. voucher program is the most studied voucher program in the nation, yet all four of the congressionally mandated USED studies that have analyzed the D.C. voucher program have concluded that it did not significantly improve reading or math achievement. The studies also indicate that many of the students in the voucher program are less likely to have access to key services such as ESL programs, learning supports, special education supports and services, and counselors than students who are not part of the program. Moreover, the D.C. program administrators have struggled to provide accurate information to parents about the quality of the participating private schools, certify the schools met basic safe and health standards, and ensure the program operated with basic accountability measures and quality controls. It fails to offer D.C. students better educational resources, greater opportunities for academic achievement, or adequate accountability to taxpayers.

In July, the Senate committee which oversees the reauthorization of the D.C. voucher program, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, held a field hearing in Wisconsin praising the Milwaukee voucher program and the D.C. voucher program. AASA is deeply concerned that the Committee will attempt to expand the D.C. voucher program during this reauthorization and we sent this letter to the Committee today to express our firm opposition to the continuation of this failing program. 

How Will President Obama’s New Overtime Regulations Affect Your District?

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AASA Advocacy is pleased to share this joint blog post, penned in coordination with our friends at ASBO International

Last month, President Obama announced his proposal to raise the overtime salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which would extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million Americans next year. In his executive order, President Obama instructed the Department of Labor (DOL) to make specific changes to the FLSA, including raising its current salary threshold for overtime pay from $23,600, which is below the poverty level for a family of four, to $50,400. In other words, workers who earn less than this new threshold must be paid time and a half for each hour they work beyond the typical 40-hour work week.

As a quick refresher, the FLSA determines how employees are compensated and the standards for minimum wage and overtime pay (unless an employee meets one of the available exemptions). The FLSA was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on June 25, 1938 to “end starvation wages and intolerable hours,” and set a national minimum wage in the U.S. for the first time. It also established a 44-hour work week (which was later decreased to 40 hours), but anything beyond that required employers to pay their employees time and a half. However, DOL Secretary Tom Perez notes that the overtime regulations “haven’t been meaningfully updated in decades,” and the salary threshold has been eroded by inflation over the years. No statistic highlights the underlying problem as well as this: in 1975, more than 60% of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime pay; today, only 8% qualify under the current threshold.

“We've got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve,” President Obama said in a Huffington Post op-ed. “That's partly because we've failed to update overtime regulations for years—and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year—no matter how many hours they work.”

With the President’s proposal, the salary threshold would be adjusted so that managers and executives can qualify for overtime pay. While these employees have been exempted in the past, this effort partially aims to counter employers who deliberately use the title “manager” for employees in low-wage occupations to avoid paying for overtime. At this point, the proposal is expected to impact nearly 5 million workers, but you can see how many workers would be affected state-by-state here. It should be noted however, that employees who make more than $122,000 a year will continue to remain exempt from overtime pay.

So what does this mean for schools?

Generally speaking, teachers, principals, and superintendents will not be affected by this change, thanks to the FLSA’s “learned professional” exemption. The “learned professional” exemption applies to employees who are compensated with a salary of $455/week or more, whose performance of work requires advanced knowledge that is primarily intellectual in character, and whose knowledge is in a field of science or learning and is acquired via “a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.” Teachers are exempt from overtime pay regulations if their primary duty is “teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing in the activity of imparting knowledge, and if they are employed and engaged in this activity as a teacher in an educational establishment.” This includes regular academic teachers, Pre-K and K–12 teachers, gifted and special education teachers, music teachers, and others. 

School administrators are also exempt in most cases, thanks to the “administrative” exemption under FLSA. To qualify, the employee must earn a salary of $455/week or more, and his or her primary duties must involve office or non-manual work that is “directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer,” and must require them to exercise discretion and judgment on significant matters. Primary duties involve working in areas like finance, accounting, budgeting, auditing, purchasing, quality control, personnel management, and related fields—all of which relate to the duties of the school business official in particular. For more information, please refer to this FAQ (see questions 16–22) about exemptions for administrators, district leaders, and other non-curriculum school staff. 

Learn more about the FLSA and President Obama’s new overtime proposal with these related resources:


AASA Commends Leaders as ESEA Reauthorization Negotiations Begin

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Today, AASA released the following press release as Senators Alexander and Murray and Representatives Kline and Scott meet to begin negotiations on a final ESEA reauthorization bill. 

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement today commending U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and U.S. Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) for their continued leadership and commitment to our nation’s schools and students as they meet today for the first time to begin the deliberate and critical discussions necessary to move the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization one step closer to completion. AASA represents more than 13,000 school system leaders across the country and has listed ESEA reauthorization as a top legislative priority since the day the most recent iteration (No Child Left Behind) was passed into law.  

“As the only national organization to have opposed NCLB from its onset, we are keenly aware and appreciative of this group’s concerted efforts for comprehensive reauthorization. This group of leaders is the one responsible for moving ESEA reauthorization to its furthest point in 15 years. They know, as well as anyone, the importance of balancing personal and party policy priorities with the needs and priorities of the broader group and that compromise is central to the ultimate goal of complete reauthorization. 

“As a former superintendent having worked in schools under NCLB, and today, as the leader of the national organization representing our nation’s public school superintendents, the schools they lead and the students they serve, I am confident that our nation’s students will be in a better position under this legislative work product than their peers who went before them under NCLB. Schools open their doors to students regardless of the quality of federal policy and I am looking forward to an ESEA reauthorization that bolsters and strengthens educators’ unwavering commitment to teaching, learning and achievement.

“Earlier this month, AASA joined nine other national education organizations to urge Congress to work quickly to complete the ESEA conference process. As the letter states, there is still more work to be done. We strongly urge you to build on the momentum generated this month around ESEA reauthorization by proceeding to conference as soon as possible. Today’s meeting is a big step in the right direction. We at AASA stand ready to support this process.”

For specific questions about ESEA reauthorization, please contact Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

AASA Sends Letter of Support for the School Lunch Price Protection Act

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Today, AASA sent a letter of support regarding the School Lunch Price Protection Act (S 1805). This act, introduced by Senators Inhofe and King, would prevent financially solvent school nutrition programs from being forced to raise meal prices, under the Paid Lunch Equity rule of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. AASA applauds the Senators for their commitment to increasing district control.

Sign On Letter: Help Stop Sequestration!

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You will recall that AASA has been very active in its efforts to urge Congress to avoid, repeal and replace sequester. We have advocated against it since before it was law and remain involved in ongoing efforts to spur Congress to repeal/replace the very failed policy they themselves wrote into law.

As such, we have once again signed on to the NDD (Non Defense Discretionary) Coalition letter, which is open to national, state and local associations and agencies (but NOT individual people). AASA has signed on to this letter, in conjunction with our friends at AESA, NREA, and NREAC. 

We encourage you (within your school district and state associations) to consider signing on to this letter, urging replacement/repeal of sequester and the damaging/very limiting budget caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). The current budget framework under which the House and Senate are writing their appropriations bills abides by the sequestered BCA caps. The inadequacy of these levels has been proven time and time again through appropriations bills that fail to make the necessary nondefense discretionary (NDD) investments that protect all Americans and promote a strong economy.  If these cuts are to be avoided, Congress must work with the President to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Such sequestration relief should maintain the parity principle set in the “Ryan-Murray” Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) and reverse sequestration for both defense and nondefense.

  • If these cuts are to be avoided, Congress must work with the President to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Such sequestration relief should maintain the parity principle set in the “Ryan-Murray” Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) and reverse sequestration for both defense and nondefense. . Details below:
  • Link to letter: http://www.publichealthfunding.org/uploads/NDDSignOnFall2015_Final.pdf 
  • Link to sign-on form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CKU-w_ZTXpCUH64grdIEO1utOuEYVfyXwX9_ZB6gNHQ/viewform?usp=send_form 

Below are the text of the letter and instructions to sign on. The letter is also available online at the link above. Due to the large number of signatures, they WILL NOT be accepting any edits. Organizations must sign on to the letter “as is.”

INSTRUCTIONS TO SIGN-ON (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY)

  • This sign-on letter is for national, state, and local signatures ONLY. Individual citizens CANNOT participate and WILL NOT be listed.
  • When adding your organization’s name, please write it EXACTLY HOW YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO BE LISTED ON THE LETTER. Please double check your spelling before you submit your form. Note that if your organization’s name begins with the word “The,” it will be listed with the other organizations that begin with the letter “t.”
  • Please confirm that you are in fact authorized to sign on for your organization by checking the appropriate box on the form. Only organizations with authorized individuals completing the form will be listed on the letter.
  • We have added a section of the sign on form that asks you to identify the nondefense sector with which your organization most closely identifies. While your organization may identify with more than one, please choose the one that is MOST applicable. This question is meant for administrative use and will not appear on the letter sent to Congress.
  • Due to the large number of signatures, we WILL NOT accept edits. Organizations must sign on to the letter “as is.”
  • To sign on, complete the form in the link at the top of this email. The DEADLINE TO SIGN ON IS AUGUST 21! We aim to get this letter to the Hill in September. 

AASA Submits Letter Supporting Education Items in Tax Extenders

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Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Finance considered a package of tax extenders. AASA follows two items in the broader package, including the educator deduction and the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). In our letter, we supported the proposals to provide two-year extensions to both both programs. 

I am pleased to report that the Senate Finance Committee approved a $95 billion tax extenders package extending 52 expired tax provisions for 2 years, including both the educator deduction and QZABs. 

The educator deduction is a $250 above-the-line deduction for teachers and other school professionals for expenses paid or incurred for books, supplies, and materials. QZABs provide tax credits to assist the financing of school renovation, repair and modernization projects.  


AASA Joins 9 National Organizations Urging Congress to Complete ESEA

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Earlier today, AASA joined forces with nine other national education organizations to urge Congress to work quickly to complete the ESEA conference process, bringing ESEA reauthorization to a close and providing the nation's schools and the students they serve an updated, current ESEA.

You'll recall that these same ten groups--American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, The School Superintendents Association, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, Association of School Business Officials International, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National School Boards Association, National Parent Teacher Association and National Association of State Boards of Education--joined forces last month in a press conference urging Congress (both the House and Senate) to #PutKidsFirst and move their respective bills for a final vote. Both chambers did so within the last two weeks, and today's letter is a similar type of pressure and message for the next step: conference. In 'conference', the House and Senate conferees have to work together to reconcile differences between the two bills.

The unified message is simple and clear: "...Educators and parents cannot wait for a reauthorized ESEA. This bill is long overdue, and we do not have a moment to waste. We are now closer than we have been in the last 8 years to producing a new law as both Houses of Congress have passed ESEA reauthorization proposals. However, as you are well aware, there is still more work to be done before we reach our goal. To this end, we strongly urge you to build on the momentum generated this month around ESEA reauthorization by proceeding to conference as soon as possible."

You can read the full letter here.

AASA members attend White House event on school discipline

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School superintendents from around the country were in attendance at a White House event today titled "Convening to Rethink School Discipline." The White House is hosting Rethink School Discipline, a national convening and conversation on improving school discipline policies and practices. At the meeting, participants will discuss new tools and resources to be released by the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, an interagency initiative launched by the Administration in 2011, along with data and research that underscores the need for further action. School leaders across the country will share best practices used to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by fostering safe, supportive, and productive learning environments that keep kids in school and out of the juvenile justice system. The White House has a series of documents that may be of interest to superintendents interested in this topic: 

Impact of Advocacy: 112 Offices Visited!

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On Wednesday, July 8, AASA and ASBO members took to Capitol Hill to advocate for public education. According to the responses on our google doc (if you haven’t filled it in yet and you were at the conference, please do so here!), we visited 112 offices! In the graphs below, the orange bars show meetings with the Senators or Representatives themselves (29 and 45, respectively), and the purple bars show meetings with staff members.

2015 advocacy offices

 

This kind of direct contact has real consequences. While we cannot take full credit, the members whose offices we visited voted for ESEA reauthorization (HR5 in the House and S1177 in the Senate) at high rates – 68 percent of the offices we visited voted for the bills, much higher than the 56 percent support overall.

Your visits didn’t only focus on ESEA; you had the chance to highlight other important issues and communicate with your Members of Congress the need for federal action on a myriad of issues. These were the topics discussed most often: 

 2015 advocacy topics

Please stay in touch with your Members and their staff - persistence is key - and let us know how we can help you maintain these relationships and encourage action!

 

Senate and ESEA: That's a Wrap!

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Earlier today, the Senate voted (81-17) to pass the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). As a strongly bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the bill is a welcome step forward, bring an overall ESEA reauthorization effort nearly 8 years in the making the closest its been to the finish line. Today’s Senate vote follows last week’s House vote, and the bills now go to conference (to reconcile differences) before hopefully making it to the President’s Desk.

AASA was pleased to support the bill and provided daily updates and calls to action on the blog. You can find the final status of all amendments as filed in this spreadsheet. Amendments without a listed action were not considered. 

With a final vote of 81-17, 14 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted against the bill. Voting against the bill were Blunt (R-MO), Booker (D-NJ), Crapo (R-ID), Cruz (R-TX), Daines (R-MT), Flake (R-AZ), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Murphy (D-CT), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Rubio (R-FL), Sasse (R-NE), Scott (R-SC), Shelby (R-AL), Vitter (R-LA), and Warren (D-MA). Those not voting included Graham (R-SC) and Nelson D(FL).

Highlights from the floor debate: As you’ll recall, more than 200 school system leaders were in town last week for the AASA advocacy conference and were on the hill when both the House and Senate were considering their respective b for ills. There were eight large priorities we were watching, and we are pleased to see that AASA was 8 for 8 with these in the Senate debate:

  • Student Data Privacy: Sen. Vitter withdrew his student data/privacy bill, which was overly prescriptive/limiting and linked ESEA and student data privacy too closely. The Hatch/Markey commission as adopted by amendment was something AASA endorsed, and calls for a report to examine what information Congress needs to make appropriate federal education policy related to student data/privacy.
  • Vouchers and Portability: The Senate defeated TWO amendments calling to allow Title I dollars to be restructured as vouchers or to follow a child to a school of their choice. AASA is strongly opposed to both vouchers and portability, and AASA’s Sasha Pudelski co-chairs the national coalition that leads the charge against vouchers and portability.
  • Accountability 2.0: AASA was actively engaged in efforts to defeat proposals that wanted to increase federal requirements related to accountability. Proposals (Murphy/Booker) included mandating the identification of schools in the bottom 5%, identifying schools graduating less than 67% of their students, expanded data disaggregation, and more. We were pleased to see these amendments either defeated or withdrawn.
  • Student Bullying: AASA actively supports legislation aimed at educating staff and students alike on how to avoid, identify and respond to instances of bullying. The Franken amendment under consideration in the Senate, however, included a private right to action, to which AASA was opposed. We were pleased to see this amendment defeated and welcome the chance to work in conference with any members interested in policy related to bullying.
  • Equity: There was an amendment (the Kirk amendment) looking to expand the way in which schools evaluate/report the equitable allocation of all resources within a school district, including facilities and library resources. AASA absolutely supports conversations around equity, but we were concerned with data collection expanded beyond what is already collected under the Office of Civil Rights (which in and of itself has expanded significantly in recent years). We were pleased to see this amendment defeated.
  • Title I Formula Change: AASA was able to ultimately endorse the Senator Burr proposal, which was adopted. Through a series of late revisions, the amendment’s new formula structure only goes into effect when allocations exceed $17 billion and then apply only to dollars exceeding that amount. This eliminates the ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ that would have dominated in an immediate implementation. We see room for additional improvement, but commend Mr. Burr for his continued focus on equity in ESEA allocation formulas.
  • Community Schools: AASA was proud to support TWO amendments related to community schools, both of which were adopted. As a long standing member of the Coalition for Community Schools, these amendments are strong affirmations of the importance of educating the total child and engaging community partners. These amendments included one related to community school coordinators and the full-scale program.
  • Edu-Flex: Sen. Cornyn and Warner introduced this amendment, the reauthorization of a pilot program that has been well received among participating states and schools as a way to allow states/districts more autonomy in leveraging state and federal resources in a flexible manner. Ed-flex is a program that delegates to states the authority to grant waivers of certain federal requirements. This bill reauthorizes the program and allows it to move forward; absent explicit reauthorization, the program would go away.


AASA Supports ECAA and Burr Amdt #2247

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Today the Senate will vote on whether to proceed with ESEA reauthorization and move to Conference the Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, with HR5. There is no emailed update today as the message remains the same: urge the Senate to pass the Every Child Achieves Act. We did, however, send a note to the full Senate detailing our position on one of the major amendments that will be voted on today. Feel free to reference AASA's position in any outreach you do today.

 Burr Title I Amendment: Senator Burr’s (R-NC) amendment modifies the Title I formula in an effort to ensure the critical dollars are more accurately targeted to the neediest of students. You can read our initial analysis and response below in our blog. While we were initially neutral, the changes reflected on the floor today garner our support. More specifically: delaying the implementation of the new formula until the Title I appropriation level reaches $17 billion and then applying the new formula only to dollars above that level opens up the formula to the critical improvements necessary and eliminates the issue of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ that would play out in the current funding level. We look forward  to working with conferees to make even more improvements to the Title I formula to further—and more accurately—target Title I dollars. 

 

Senate ESEA Call to Action

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AASA Call to Action:

Please ask your Senators to support ESEA reauthorization and vote in favor of the Every Child Achieves Act. There are a number of Senators who may be unhappy with the process because they didn’t get votes on their various amendments given the shortened timeline for debate. It is imperative that the Senate vote this bill out with a large bipartisan majority if we hope to have any traction in conferencing this bill with the House. As a reminder, this bill does not contain any of the provisions that we firmly disapprove of in the House ESEA bill: Title I portability, maintenance of effort elimination and funding caps. Even if the amendments that we oppose below are incorporated today, we will still remain supportive of the bill overall as it is imperative to keep the process moving forward.

Here are the amendments we anticipate will come up for a vote today and AASA’s positions on them. Please reach out to your Senators one last time and voice your opinion on these amendments.

Murphy 2241 (Expanded accountability): OPPOSE
AASA is opposed to any expansion of federal accountability as proposed by Sen. Murphy. Much of the frustration with NCLB lies with the overly prescriptive nature of accountability. The very deliberate effort of clearing the field of this overreach should not be reversed before state and local education professionals have an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do for their schools and students with the bill’s current accountability provisions, which preserve the critical federal guardrails of data disaggregation and graduation rate calculation. The reality is that any effort to expand federal accountability metrics presumes that state and local educators are out to ‘get’—rather than to support and serve—our nation’s students.

Kirk/Reed 2161 (Resource Equity): OPPOSE
AASA welcomes conversations about equity, as ensuring all students have access to resources critical to learning is a foundational piece to student achievement. As stated in our previous letter, we are opposed to any effort to expand data collection beyond what is currently collected, and we have concerns that this amendment will create new, significant administrative burdens for districts. While CRDC does require districts to report the number of certified social workers, nurses and school psychologists, it does not collect certification status for specialized instructional support personnel as this amendment proposes. CRDC does not collect data on the “availability of dedicated school libraries and modern instructional materials and school facilities” and it is a total mystery as to how these terms would be defined. For example, is a textbook published 3 years ago considered a modern instructional material? CRDC also does not collect information on the “availability of health and wellness programs” and again, it is unknown how a wellness program would be defined. Beyond the expanded reporting, these terms would need significant definition/clarification, triggering yet another round of rulemaking/regulations.

Brown 2100 (Community Schools): SUPPORT
AASA supports this amendment which would establish a full-service community schools grant program in ESEA. Community schools improve student achievement and strengthen family and community engagement. Community schools respond to each community’s unique context and are in high demand across the country and we have long supported the incorporation of a Community Schools Grant program in ESEA.

Heitkamp 2171 (Mental Health Integration: SUPPORT
We support an amendment to include the Mental Health Integration Program in ECAA. This program has helped enhance, improve, and develop collaborative efforts between school-based service systems and community mental health service systems to provide diagnosis and treatment services to students. It has also enhanced the availability of crisis intervention services, appropriate referrals for students potentially in need of mental health services, and ongoing mental health services.

In case you are asked, we are staying neutral on the following amendments also expected to be voted on today:
Casey: Early education/prekindergarten
Burr: Title I formula change, read AASA’s analysis below.
Warren: Requiring states to make anonymized student data available in a format that can be cross tabulated

Advocacy Conference Materials - Updated

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Thank you to everyone who attended the advocacy conference last week. We hope you learned a lot and made an impact in your meetings with your representatives. Please make sure you have filled in the google doc (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1nAunkft_wYqiaBiUBFa6NOVha9U8NG_dL0Xhd_wLfZs/viewform) to let us know how the meetings went and what we should do to follow up.

All of the materials from the conference are available here, now including the slides from the presentation by Maree Sneed and Michelle Tellock.

Presentations:

 

 

Talking points and information:

Senate ESEA Update and Call to Action

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This afternoon, the Senate voted 45-51 to incorporate an amendment by Sen. Scott that would allow Title I funds to be made portable to private and public schools. AASA strongly opposed this amendment and this victory is a testament to the many conversations with Senate staff that school superintendents have had over the past year on this topic.

There is a call-to-action regarding Senate Amendment #2093. This amendment by Senator Franken would add the Student Non-Discrimination Act into the ESEA reauthorization bill. SNDA contains a private right of action and lacks a requirement that a student who may be harassed or discriminated against go through an intermediary agency like OCR prior to launching a suit. Leaving OCR out of the process is bad for both harassed students and schools. OCR specializes in investigating discrimination and harassment claims and by ensuring that no wrongdoing is happening by the school to one student or groups of students. By litigating immediately, OCR would never know if there was a pervasive culture or climate problem in the school that is causing other students to be harassed or discriminated against. Moreover, this amendment does not protect against frivolous litigation, and schools would be responsible for any attorney’s fees incurred by students. We strongly support adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and requiring schools to treat discrimination and harassment claims for these categories of students the same as they would for any other protected student population, but we cannot support this amendment as written. 

Please take a few minutes to reach out to your Senators about this amendment. The vote will occur sometime after 4 pm ET. 

We are still waiting for word on when amendments related to expanded data collection, accountability and data disaggregation requirements will be on teh floor. These are key amendments for AASA and we will keep you posted as we learn the final details of these amendments and when they will be up for a vote tomorrow. You can download a spreadsheet of all the amendments filed so far and AASA's positions. 

 

 

Of ESEA, Title I Formula, and Equity

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This blog post comes from AASA's Noelle Ellerson and Marty Strange, former policy director Rural School and Community Trust and former coordinator of the Formula Fairness Campaign involving over 20 organizations seeking more equity in the Title I formula.

Senator Burr has introduced an ESEA amendment that overhauls the Title I formula. The bill revamps the current formula structure, making six assumptions to revamp the current formulas into one singular formula.

Those changes are:

  • Funds available to states and LEAs are provided only through the EFIG formula, as opposed to providing funds through the four formulas in current statute.
  • Funds distributed through EFIG will use ‘formula child’ quintiles that have been updated to reflect roughly 20% of all children
  • Grants are calculated using the national average per pupil expenditure
  • The EFIG factor included in current law is NOT used in the calculation of the grant
  • Funding for Puerto Rico is capped at its estimated FY2015 share
  • All LEAs must have a formula child rate at or above 20% to benefit from the weights in the 4th and 5th quintiles of the number-weighting matrix 
  • Read the related CRS analysis/report as prepared by the Congressional Research Services (CRS).

This set of changes is different than the Title I formula fight AASA has championed on the House side. That bill—All Children Are Equal (ACE) Act—focuses on ensuring that Title I dollars are targeted based on concentration of poverty, not presence of poverty. It looks at allocations within states, touching only the EFIG and targeted formula, leaving basic and concentrated alone. 

Here are the key takeaways from the proposed changes:  

  • It shifts money both between and within states. Some states win, some state lose, some districts win, some districts lose. Overall, about 600 districts lose all of their Title I funding. 9,000 lose something, and 4,600 gain. At the state level, 15 states (CT, IL, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV and WI) lose. Please see the attached one pager for the state-specific impact. We also have access to school-level runs.
  • The cost to revamp the Title I formula under this proposal while holding schools harmless is upwards of $970 million.
  • The bill shifts from state average per pupil expenditure to national per pupil expenditure. This is in large part what forces the shifting of dollars between states – away from high-spending states and toward low-spending states.
  • The bill preserves number weighting, which drives the shifting of dollars both between and within states. Larger districts in states that gain due to use of statewide per pupil expenditure gain mightily, even if they are low percentage poverty districts.  Larger districts that lose because they are in high-spending states lose less than smaller districts in the same states.
  • It updates the quintiles, setting enrollment breaks at the very levels where one-fifth of students are enrolled. Under this change, school districts reach the top enrollment bracket at 26,000 rather than the current 35,000. This becomes problematic only in the context of number weighting. It aggravates the effect of number weighting because very large districts have even more of their students weighted at the top weight.  Otherwise, it is simply adjusting quintiles to reflect student enrollment.
  • This proposal rewards inequitable and inadequate state funding formulas.

AASA does not endorse this bill as introduced. We applaud Senator Burr for his focus on updating and modernizing the Title I formula. We applaud his efforts to work to target dollars more closely to the neediest districts. All formula fights are tough, as there are winners and losers. The need for a revamped formula trends with times of fiscal limitation; scarce dollars have a way of highlighting formula inequities.  As such, we welcome the opportunity to explore the following changes to the Burr proposal: 

  • Set a floor of national per pupil average, in terms of what a state can receive. Allow for variance above that amount to reflect (and not disproportionately punish) states where it truly costs more to educate students or where they have invested more significantly.
  • Eliminate number weighting. The continued presence of number weighting—and this is the core issue of our long-running work on ACE—is that it allows larger, less poor districts to receive a higher per-pupil allocation than their concentration of poverty would warrant. Smaller school districts (both rural and urban) struggle most under this. Their poverty level is higher, but the critically needed dollars they qualify for are usurped by larger, less poor districts that fill students in the upper brackets, where (under this bill!) the student can be weighed up to 6x the average!  
    • Under current law, a system preserved in the Burr amendment, there are two weighting brackets: one weighted based on the count of students in poverty (“number weighting”) and one weighted based on the percentage of students in poverty (“concentration weighting”). School districts evaluate their poverty level based on count and percentage, and depending on which bracket maximizes their per-pupil allocation, that is what they receive. While this seems inherently fair in that every district seemingly ‘maxes out’, the reality is that number weighting disproportionately favors larger, less poor districts who are able to fill the very top levels of the weighted bracket, warranting more money, per pupil, than actual concentration of poverty would warrant. Districts are far more likely to ‘max out’ in the number weighting bracket than to do so under concentration weighting.
    • There is a difference between the mere presence of poverty and a deep concentration of poverty. Take, for example, two school districts, both with 100 students living in poverty. School District A enrolls 500 students, while School District B enrolls 2,000. Under number weighting, both schools would receive the same allocation per child, though their actual concentrations of poverty are far apart (20% in School A, 5% in School B%). A low presence of poverty is not where the compounded impacts on education occur; rather, it is in the concentration of poverty. The real issue lies when you compare very large (whether suburban or urban) school districts who have very large enrollments and can place lots of students in the highest number weighting bracket. Nobody is denying that they have a large COUNT of students in poverty; the issue is that their large count is not necessarily a large CONCENTRATION, and is often in fact a lower concentration than their current Title I allocation, under a percentage weighting schema, would warrant. That is, they likely end up in the upper levels of a number weighting bracket, with a higher per-pupil allocation than they would receive if funds were allocated based solely on concentration of poverty. 
    • When an unintended consequence in federal policy is found to not allocate resources in the most effective manner based on the stated purpose (which, in Title I, is concentration of poverty), any effort to improve allocations should address-rather than preserve—that flaw, which in this instance would mean eliminating number weighting.  
  • We recommend a study of this approach and that of ACE to see which elements of each proposal truly are most equitable and how those elements can be combined. This could be accomplished through a secondary amendment calling for a report.
  • We recommend that any Title I formula change has a multi-year implementation, especially when funding isn’t expected to increase. We would also explore the option of a hold harmless provision.

Other related resources:

 

Teacher Voice Survey Results

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A new report looks at how educators and policy experts can work together to bridge the gap between their two very different but interrelated worlds. 

Teacher Voice: The Current Landscape of Educator and Policy Expert Communication and it's related blog/website are dedicated to bringing more teachers to the policy table. You'll find information that can be useful for teachers, school leaders, and policymakers.

The report is filled with great, helpful information, with the added bonus of solid infographic work. 

Education Cuts Don't Heal

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This blog post originally appeared in the June 2015 The Advocate article, and is reprinted here:
 
When it comes to federal appropriations, the reputation of the U.S. Congress leaves much to be desired. While the nation’s public school superintendents run balanced, on-time budgets, the last time Congress completed the full appropriations process on time (meaning 12 appropriations bills reviewed and adopted before the October 1 start of the federal fiscal year) was 1994. That means children born in the year that Congress last completed its appropriations work on time are now old enough to drink.

Of late, the appropriations process has been a series of actual and threatened government shutdowns, sequestration and continuing resolutions. The funding for the programs we advocate for are in the Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Other (LHHS) appropriation bill. While Congress has advanced budget proposals, which outline the overall funding level, policy makers haven’t provided details at the LHHS appropriations level in several years. 

From an advocacy point of view, this is very frustrating. We can see what the overall trend is, but do not have the information critical to making Congress accountable for its actions. We see a big disconnect between members of Congress who say they support investment in education but then vote for the very draconian budgets of late—budgets that level fund the government and set up scenarios that disproportionately and negatively impact education. Lack of a stand-alone LHHS proposal (even if it ends up in an omnibus/combination appropriation bill) means that Congress gets to vote for budgets that limit or cut funding at the overall level without having to necessarily detail what they mean at the programmatic level in a way that allows advocacy and discourse.
More succinctly, the lack of a stand-alone LHHS bill denies educators the opportunity to see how Congress would allocate its cuts to critical education programs. It lacks the transparency and accountability that should be a cornerstone of the federal appropriations process by glossing over impacts on entire sectors of the budget.
Fortunately, or not, that momentum has shifted this year. Last month, the House Appropriations Committee released the text of and a summary of its draft FY 2016 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. 
The numbers are as dismal as can be expected given the overall budget: The bill cuts discretionary funding for the U.S. Education Department by $2.8 billion. That is a bigger cut than occurred in the 2013 sequester. Details are still being confirmed, but we know that 20+ plus programs are eliminated or receive funding cuts, including SIG, safe/drug free program, Investing in Education, Magnet School Assistance, Gifted/Talented, and AP (all eliminated) and Pell discretionary, and teacher quality state grants (funding cuts). Five programs receive an increase (Impact Aid Basic Support Payments, +$10 million; Indian Education, +$20 million; Charter school grants, +$4.8 million; IDEA state grants, +$502 million; and Head Start, +192 million). Many more are level funded, including Title I, migrant education, neglected/delinquent, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and more, along with some program specifics still being confirmed.
Don’t get us wrong, a $502 million increase for IDEA is welcomed, critical and well past-due. In the context of broader cuts that run deeper than any IDEA increase can cover, this is an appropriations bill focused on cutting funding to our nation’s schools and disinvesting in the future. We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and have meaningfully engaged in conversations around spending cuts, restraint and more. There are two sides to responsibility. However, cuts of this magnitude are deliberate and irresponsible. 
This appropriations bill has a Senate counterpart, not all that different. President Obama is expected to veto this LHHS bill (if not other appropriations bills ahead of it), which puts us back on the path of continuing resolutions and potential shut downs. Congress does not get to take credit for doing the work of appropriations when its work is so deliberately debilitating and a deal breaker from the start. It is imperative that Congress works to replace the sequester (through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases) and works to ensure continued investment in critical federal programs, including education. From where we sit, this budget/appropriations cycle is bad news for our nation’s schools and the students they serve.

Tracing Federal Involvement in Education

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Today's blog post comes from AASA Past-President David Pennington, Superintendent of Ponca City Schools (OK). He writes about the importance of public education and our nation's long-term support for public education. 

“There is no mention of education in the U. S. Constitution.” During the past few years, this sentiment has become a popular refrain among members of Congress looking to justify their support for reductions or in some cases elimination of federal funds allocated to our nation’s public schools. Although it’s true that the Constitution does not mention education, there is a historical precedent for the federal government’s involvement in funding public education dating back to the late 1700s. 

Federal involvement in public education can be traced back to the laws that comprise the Northwest Ordinances: the Land Ordinance of 1784, the Land Ordinance of 1785, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. These laws were enacted by the Second Continental Congress to organize and govern the Northwest Territory. This land, ceded to the United States government by England at the end of the Revolutionary War, consisted of more than 260,000 square miles north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.  

The Northwest Ordinances were critical to the creation of our nation as we know it today, as they helped promote and manage the country’s westward expansion. The Ordinance of 1785 required that the Northwest Territory be surveyed and organized into townships. Each township would be 36 square miles in size and would be divided into 36 sections of one square mile each, with each section comprising about 640 acres. Each section of the township save one was to be sold to the public for $1 per acre. Thus, this legislation provided a means for the government to raise much-needed revenue. 

What if that one section that was to be set aside from public sale? Setting the precedent for providing support for public education, Congress decreed that Section 16 in each township be set aside for the maintenance of public schools. When states were carved out of the Northwest Territory, this same strategy was also a part of the Enabling Act of each of the newly formed states. Beginning in 1850 Congress set aside Sections 16 and 32 in each territory for the support of public schools. The exceptions were the territories of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, where four sections of land in each township were set aside to support common schools. 

As a result of this set aside of land specifically for public schools, billions of dollars were earmarked to support the public schools of this nation. Even as the nation grew and debates over the rules for the settlement of territories and the admittance of those states into the Union became more and more contentious, this practice was never contested. In fact, many of the original states added provisions to their state constitutions putting land in trust to support public schools

Why would a Congress desperate for revenue set aside millions of acres to support public education? Many of our Founding Fathers recognized the need to develop a system of education for all citizens if our democracy was to flourish. Many of them wrote about the importance of an educated populace to the survival of the democratic republic they created. The Founding Father who is most well-known for his support of education is Thomas Jefferson, who was the author of the Ordinance of 1785. In fact, in a letter to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson said he hoped public schools would become “the keystone in the arch of our government.” 

 

I believe that although public education is not mentioned in the Constitution, our Founding Fathers fully intended to provide support for public education for as long as the nation exists. 

DAVID PENNINGTON served as AASA’s president for 2014-15. Twitter: @DavidPennid


Advocacy Conference Wrap Up: House Passes ESEA!

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Capping off a great week for AASA’s annual advocacy conference—this year in conjunction with our friends at ASBO International—the House and Senate both moved forward with their ESEA proposals. The Senate continues to debate amendments, and the House passed the Student Success Act (HR 5).

HOUSE: The House considered 18 amendments during debate before passing the final bill by a slim 5-vote margin, 218-213. (See how your Representative voted!) Read AASA's letter of support. The House is now waiting for the Senate to pass the Every Child Achieves Act, so the two bills can be conferenced and sent to the President's desk. 

Thanks to the pressure from AASA members, an amendment to incorporate the A-PLUS Act, failed by a vote of 195-235. The A-PLUS Act would have allowed states to take any and all federal funding they receive and direct these funds to private schools. You can read the letter AASA sent asking the House to oppose A-PLUS here.

SENATE: The Senate entered day three of ESEA debate, completing another round of amendments. The Senate is expected to complete amendment debate and final vote on the bill early next week. Keep the pressure on your Senators! Here is the latest summary of all introduced amendments. Read AASA's letter of support! No more votes till Monday.

The Senate took a vote to incorporate the A-PLUS Act on Thursday morning, and it, too, failed by a vote of 44-54.

 

Data Quality Campaign Releases Excellent 'What Is Student Data?' Resources

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Our friends at the Data Quality Campaign are releasing 'What is Student Data', a set of resources designed to help parents, teachers, and everyone with a stake in education to increase the understanding of what types of student data exist, how they are used, the requirements for safe and effective use, and the people who stand to benefit from the effective use of student data. 

Information, in the right hands, at the right time, is power. And for those involved in education—parents, teachers, community, state and federal leaders, and students themselves—having the power to support learning is critical.  But what does this information look like and how is it used? See the related info graphic.

What Is Student Data?   breaks down the basics about what the types of student data are and how they can work together to help us form a fuller picture of student information. Watch now

AASA Advocacy Conference Update: ESEA

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The review and analysis of House and Senate ESEA activity on July 7 is pulled from AASA resources as well as outside resources.

Please note that the chart of amendments is for both the House and Senate. The FOUR House amendments are at the bottom, in the rows shaded grey. The list of amendments is comprehensive for the House and as complete as possible for the Senate. For the Senate amendments, some are filed and some are pending. We only report the AASA position so you can effectively communicate with your delegation.

SENATE: As the Senate kicked off what is expected to be a two week (ish) long process of debating ESEA, opening comments were just that—more comments than substantive debate. No ESEA-related votes were taken. HELP Committee leadership made opening remarks detailing the collaborative effort that has been a cornerstone of the bill so far.

As we expected, the issue of accountability emerged as a talking (sticking?) point, divided along the lines of supporting the current state/local focus language in the base bill and an effort to reinstate elements of accountability that bring the bill closer to the high-stakes testing climate people claim to be ‘over’.  Specific elements of the expanded accountability are those AASA detailed in our legislative conference earlier today: requiring states to ID the bottom 5%; requiring states to identify/intervene in schools with graduation rates below 67% and some element we are trying to confirm related to ‘other gaps’. AASA is opposed to any proposal that would expand accountability beyond the critical guardrails already built into the Every Child Achieves Act: data disaggregation by student subgroup and adjusted cohort graduation rate.

A handful of amendments have been filed and votes will start at 12 noon on Wednesday. Please see the related AASA letter and amendment summary, noting that the summary of amendments for the Senate will be continuously updated as additional amendments are filed.

HOUSE: The House Rules Committee met on Tuesday evening and cleared four amendments for consideration, in addition to 10 amendments still awaiting roll call votes from the February debate. Votes will start at 5 pm on Wednesday. See the related AASA letter and amendment summary.

RESOURCES:

  • Text of Senate manager’s amendment
  • White House Statement of Administrative Policy: “The Administration appreciates the bipartisan effort that produced this legislation and wants to work with the Senate and House on a bipartisan basis to ensure that important changes are made to protect the most vulnerable students.”
  • White House Report on Waivers: As mentioned in the conference on Tuesday afternoon, the White House released a report detailing the academic gains of states receiving ESEA waivers.

AASA Advocacy Materials

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We hope it's been a great first day of the advocacy conference, for all of you who were able to join us. You are here on an especially important week, and we are excited to put you to work on the Hill tomorrow! All of our one pagers and talking points are available below, for your information or to share with your Congressmen or their staff. 

Once you have completed your meetings, please be sure to fill in the google doc (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1nAunkft_wYqiaBiUBFa6NOVha9U8NG_dL0Xhd_wLfZs/viewform) to let us know how the meetings went and what we should do to follow up.

 

Enjoy your time on the Hill tomorrow, and if you need any assistance, please let us know!

 

 

AASA Letter on A-PLUS Act

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AASA sent the following letter to the House of Representatives this evening urging them to vote "no" on the incorporation of the A-PLUS Act into HR5. If the House chooses to incorporate the A-PLUS Act into the Student Success Act, AASA will be unable to continue supporting HR5. The A-PLUS Act would allow a state to use federal resources for any educational purpose permitted by state law. This means that a state with a state voucher program could redirect the bulk of its federal resources away from public schools towards private, religious schools as long as the state indicates they intend for the resources to assist “disadvantaged” students.

AASA Joins 9 National Organizations to Support Senate ESEA Bill

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Today AASA, in coordination with a local governance coalition, joined nine other national organizations on a letter of support for the Senate ESEA proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act.

As ECAA moves on the Senate floor this week, AASA joined the National Governor's Association, National Council of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, International City/County Managers Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education and National School Boards Association in signing the letter, applauds ECAA for restoring the balance necessary for the federal-state-local partnership in education to succeed and for paving the way for a long-term, stable federal policy that ensures all students are better positioned to achieve from early learning all the way into the workforce. 

Read the full letter. 

UPDATED: Initial Analysis & Response to Senate-Proposed Title I Formula Rewrite

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This blog post comes from AASA's Noelle Ellerson and Marty Strange, former policy director Rural School and Community Trust and former coordinator of the Formula Fairness Campaign involving over 20 organizations seeking more equity in the Title I formula.

Senator Burr has introduced an ESEA amendment that overhauls the Title I formula. The bill revamps the current formula structure, making six assumptions to revamp the current formulas into one singular formula.

Those changes are:

  • Funds available to states and LEAs are provided only through the EFIG formula, as opposed to providing funds through the four formulas in current statute.
  • Funds distributed through EFIG will use ‘formula child’ quintiles that have been updated to reflect roughly 20% of all children
  • Grants are calculated using the national average per pupil expenditure
  • The EFIG factor included in current law is NOT used in the calculation of the grant
  • Funding for Puerto Rico is capped at its estimated FY2015 share
  • All LEAs must have a formula child rate at or above 20% to benefit from the weights in the 4th and 5th quintiles of the number-weighting matrix 
  • Read the related CRS analysis/report as prepared by the Congressional Research Services (CRS).

This set of changes is different than the Title I formula fight AASA has championed on the House side. That bill—All Children Are Equal (ACE) Act—focuses on ensuring that Title I dollars are targeted based on concentration of poverty, not presence of poverty. It looks at allocations within states, touching only the EFIG and targeted formula, leaving basic and concentrated alone. 

Here are the key takeaways from the proposed changes:  

  • It shifts money both between and within states. Some states win, some state lose, some districts win, some districts lose. Overall, about 600 districts lose all of their Title I funding. 9,000 lose something, and 4,600 gain. At the state level, 15 states (CT, IL, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV and WI) lose. Please see the attached one pager for the state-specific impact. We also have access to school-level runs.
  • The cost to revamp the Title I formula under this proposal while holding schools harmless is upwards of $970 million.
  • The bill shifts from state average per pupil expenditure to national per pupil expenditure. This is in large part what forces the shifting of dollars between states – away from high-spending states and toward low-spending states.
  • The bill preserves number weighting, which drives the shifting of dollars both between and within states. Larger districts in states that gain due to use of statewide per pupil expenditure gain mightily, even if they are low percentage poverty districts.  Larger districts that lose because they are in high-spending states lose less than smaller districts in the same states.
  • It updates the quintiles, setting enrollment breaks at the very levels where one-fifth of students are enrolled. Under this change, school districts reach the top enrollment bracket at 26,000 rather than the current 35,000. This becomes problematic only in the context of number weighting. It aggravates the effect of number weighting because very large districts have even more of their students weighted at the top weight.  Otherwise, it is simply adjusting quintiles to reflect student enrollment.
  • This proposal rewards inequitable and inadequate state funding formulas.

AASA does not endorse this bill as introduced. We applaud Senator Burr for his focus on updating and modernizing the Title I formula. We applaud his efforts to work to target dollars more closely to the neediest districts. All formula fights are tough, as there are winners and losers. The need for a revamped formula trends with times of fiscal limitation; scarce dollars have a way of highlighting formula inequities.  As such, we welcome the opportunity to explore the following changes to the Burr proposal: 

  • Set a floor of national per pupil average, in terms of what a state can receive. Allow for variance above that amount to reflect (and not disproportionately punish) states where it truly costs more to educate students or where they have invested more significantly.
  • Eliminate number weighting. The continued presence of number weighting—and this is the core issue of our long-running work on ACE—is that it allows larger, less poor districts to receive a higher per-pupil allocation than their concentration of poverty would warrant. Smaller school districts (both rural and urban) struggle most under this. Their poverty level is higher, but the critically needed dollars they qualify for are usurped by larger, less poor districts that fill students in the upper brackets, where (under this bill!) the student can be weighed up to 6x the average!  
    • Under current law, a system preserved in the Burr amendment, there are two weighting brackets: one weighted based on the count of students in poverty (“number weighting”) and one weighted based on the percentage of students in poverty (“concentration weighting”). School districts evaluate their poverty level based on count and percentage, and depending on which bracket maximizes their per-pupil allocation, that is what they receive. While this seems inherently fair in that every district seemingly ‘maxes out’, the reality is that number weighting disproportionately favors larger, less poor districts who are able to fill the very top levels of the weighted bracket, warranting more money, per pupil, than actual concentration of poverty would warrant. Districts are far more likely to ‘max out’ in the number weighting bracket than to do so under concentration weighting.
    • There is a difference between the mere presence of poverty and a deep concentration of poverty. Take, for example, two school districts, both with 100 students living in poverty. School District A enrolls 500 students, while School District B enrolls 2,000. Under number weighting, both schools would receive the same allocation per child, though their actual concentrations of poverty are far apart (20% in School A, 5% in School B%). A low presence of poverty is not where the compounded impacts on education occur; rather, it is in the concentration of poverty. The real issue lies when you compare very large (whether suburban or urban) school districts who have very large enrollments and can place lots of students in the highest number weighting bracket. Nobody is denying that they have a large COUNT of students in poverty; the issue is that their large count is not necessarily a large CONCENTRATION, and is often in fact a lower concentration than their current Title I allocation, under a percentage weighting schema, would warrant. That is, they likely end up in the upper levels of a number weighting bracket, with a higher per-pupil allocation than they would receive if funds were allocated based solely on concentration of poverty. 
    • When an unintended consequence in federal policy is found to not allocate resources in the most effective manner based on the stated purpose (which, in Title I, is concentration of poverty), any effort to improve allocations should address-rather than preserve—that flaw, which in this instance would mean eliminating number weighting.
  • We recommend a study of this approach and that of ACE to see which elements of each proposal truly are most equitable and how those elements can be combined. This could be accomplished through a secondary amendment calling for a report.
  • We recommend that any Title I formula change has a multi-year implementation, especially when funding isn’t expected to increase. We would also explore the option of a hold harmless provision.

Other related resources:

 

 

AASA Executive Director: When it comes to kids, legislating by crisis is not leadership.

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AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech penned this piece after recent ESEA momentum once again fell apart, leaving our nation's schools and the students they serve clamoring for an updated, current law. It is a strong complement to today's press event, where 10 national organizations (including AASA) came together to urge continued action on ESEA and for Congress to 'Put Kids First'.

Congress, as the legislative body for our representative democracy, is designed not to pass countless laws but rather, stop bad laws from passing. The current trend in legislating at the federal level has confused leadership with ‘legislating through crisis’ where final action is rife with politics, posturing and movement only when faced with stiff, absolute consequences or deadlines.

 

 
No Child Left Behind, the current authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) lacks an expiration or ‘must act by’ date, and is now nearly 8 years past due. Our nation’s K-7 graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 education experience under a broken, outdated federal law. Yet, no crisis. 

 

 
We write to express our deep disappointment and frustration with Congress’ seemingly willingness to displace and ignore our nation’s schools and the students they serve. This year alone, we have found serious ESEA reauthorization proposals bumped from floor consideration over cyber security, the trade deal and appropriations, among others. 

 

 
Our nation’s schools continue to open their doors and serve their students regardless of Congressional (in)activity. We are left to wonder what type of crisis it will take for ESEA and schools to warrant the type of consideration that it takes to complete reauthorization. 

 

 
We have heard and agree with the idea that education is the civil rights issue of this generation.  Education is an unparalleled lever out of poverty and continued inaction on ESEA means yet another missed opportunity to invest in and support the needs of the schools and the students that need it the most.

 

 
Perhaps more frustrating is the reality that we (advocates, educators, policy makers and parents) agree on far more than we disagree on. Yet it is that small portion that keeps ESEA from reaching the finish line. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and we must all remember that complete reauthorization—when done right—will involve compromise which, by definition, means everyone will be a little unhappy. Education policy and support for our schools and students has no room for ‘zero sum’, ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ policies. 

 

 
As AASA wrote in a joint statement with its 49 state affiliates, “…ESEA reauthorization…represents an opportunity to breathe new life into federal education policy, incorporating the latest research and actual experience to improve student outcomes and eliminate achievement gaps. Those efforts are under way….{and we} urge Congress to move forward with the very critical work of reauthorizing ESEA and providing all of the nation’s schools with workable federal education policy that supports state and local innovations. Our students want and deserve more.”

 

 
All 50 states and every congressional district have schools and students, meaning education and ESEA should be a broad, bipartisan priority, not a political football. Congress must turn away from its recent trend of making education and our students a 2nd tier priority, and use this opportunity to move forward in a deliberate manner to commit to supporting the success of every student, school and community.  Again, our students want and deserve more.

 

AASA Joins 9 National Organizations to Urge Senate Action on ESEA

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Earlier today, AASA joined nine other national organizations to urge Congress to 'Put Kids First' and to focus on ESEA reauthorization. AASA was joined by leaders from the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National School Boards Association, the National PTA, and the National Association of State Boards of Education. 

Read the press release, which includes statements from each organization. You can follow a record of the event on Twitter, using the hashtag 'PutKidsFirst'.

 

 

UPDATED: AASA Joins Three National Organizations to Oppose House and Senate FY16 LHHS Bill

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This blog post has been updated to include links to the groups' letter to the Senate. 

AASA joined AESA, NREA and NREAC in a joint letter of opposition to the House FY16 LHHS appropriations bill. Read the full letter.  

UPDATED: The groups also collaborated on a letter to the Senate appropriations committee. The letter was virtually identical to the House letter, and is available here.

On behalf AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, I write to express our strong and unified opposition to the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor-Health-Human Services-Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill as reported from subcommittee on June 16. 

Collectively, our groups represent superintendents, school system leaders, educational service agency leaders, and rural educators, including parents, teachers and administrators. We cannot support a bill like this one, based on sequester level caps, essentially freezing funding for non-defense discretionary programs, which include critical education funding. This bill eliminates 27 education programs, cuts funding to 10, increases funding for 21 programs, and freezes funding for 29 programs. In total, funding for K12 programs are cuts by $2.03 billion, an amount uncomfortably close to the deep cuts of sequester. 

We would normally applaud and welcome the proposed $502 million increase for IDEA (among others) as critical and well past-due. In the context of broader cuts and freezes that run deeper than any IDEA increase can cover, though, this is an appropriations bill focused on cutting funding to our nation’s schools and disinvesting in the future. We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and have meaningfully engaged in conversations around spending cuts, restraint, revenues and more. There are two sides to responsibility, though, and cuts of this magnitude are deliberate and irresponsible.

It is imperative that Congress work collaboratively to identify a blend of revenue increases, spending cuts and mandatory program reform to replace sequester. Our groups have actively advocated against—and demonstrated the deep, damaging cuts stemming from—sequestration and its impact on our nation’s public schools, impacts which are only amplified by the cuts in this appropriations bill. 

The cuts within this bill harm our nation’s global competitiveness and economic future by completely undermining progress on improving student achievement, closing achievement gaps and increasing high school graduation and post-secondary education attendance. 

We urge you to VOTE NO on the FY16 LHHS Appropriations bill and to support negotiations that raise the caps on NDD spending so that LHHS programs can receive funding increases that invest in our nation’s schools and students, rather than undermining their future.


ICYMI: AASA Exec Dir Stmt on Proposed House Funding Levels

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Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement  regarding the draft fiscal year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill.  

“The House released an LHHS appropriations bill, detailing proposed funding levels for federal health, education, and labor programs, among others. While this represents the first time in a handful of years that the committee has provided this level of detail in a public manner, we are deeply disappointed in the Committee—and the House in general—for continuing to deeply undermine the work of the nation’s schools by allocating deep, damaging cuts.

“We would normally applaud and welcome the proposed $502 million increase for IDEA (among others) as critical and well past-due. In the context of broader cuts and freezes that run deeper than any IDEA increase can cover, though, this is an appropriations bill focused on cutting funding to our nation’s schools and disinvesting in the future. We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and have meaningfully engaged in conversations around spending cuts, restraint, revenues and more. There are two sides to responsibility, though, and cuts of this magnitude are deliberate and irresponsible.”

AASA Joins Partners to Push Congress on ESEA Reauthorization

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AASA is happy to participate in a media event tomorrow. Ten national education groups, representing educators, principals, school boards, superintendents, chief state school officers, parents and PTAs, and school business officials, will come together Tuesday to urge the U.S. Senate to bring the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill to the floor for a vote.

The Senate reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, passed unanimously through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on April 16. No date has been set for debate and vote by the full Senate. ESEA has been expired since 2007.

The event will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23 at 11:00 ET. Join us in person at the National Press Club Zenger Room, 529 14th St. NW, 13th floor or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AASAHQ and https://twitter.com/Noellerson

 

 

AASA Sends Letter of Support for the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act

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The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010, covers the school lunch program as well as school breakfast, summer meals and more. The law as written and through related regulations has strict nutrition rules that are difficult to meet for school districts around the country. 

In response to these burdensome restrictions, Senators Hoeven (SD) and King (ME) and Representative Davis (IL) introduced the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act in both the Senate and the House. These companion bills permanently cut the whole grain requirement from 100 percent to 50 percent, the original USDA requirement. They would also keep the sodium requirement at Target 1 levels, eliminating increased sodium restrictions scheduled to go into effect in 2017 and 2022.

Read AASA's letter of support here and here.

Future Ready Online Event - Wednesday, June 24th, Register Now

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We invite you to join us for the annual School Leadership Summit, held online, and this year focused on the pillars of the U.S. Department of Education's Future Ready Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment by district leaders to work with educators, families, and community members to make all schools in their districts Future Ready: setting a vision and creating the environment where educators and students access the tools, content, and expertise necessary to thrive in a connected world. A great program with great speakers, and at no cost. All are encouraged to register in order to attend or watch the recordings: http://www.FutureReady.education


AASA Submits Proposal on EBS Program

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Today, AASA filed an ex parte notice to the FCC regarding the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). In this filing, AASA proposed a new paradigm for issuing EBS licenses, which would open the licenses, along with the internet connectivity and leasing revenue, to more schools throughout the country. 

Read our comments here.

Connect with Supts about Enhancing Summer Learning Opportunities in Your District

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As the school year comes to a close, I know many superintendents are focused on ensuring their students have summer learning opportunities, and I thought many of you may benefit from networking with other district leaders to share information on how to increase access to high-quality, sustainable summer learning opportunities in your district. 

New Vision for Summer School Network (NVSS Network) is an affinity group of school districts hosted by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), a national organization exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to effective summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works, offers expertise and support for communities and programs, and advocates for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education.The NVSS Network consists of more than 30 school district members and national partners committed to a broad vision for summer learning—one that engages more children and youth, boosts academic achievement, and influences teaching and learning throughout the year. Together with their community partners, these districts are committed to closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that all young people have access to high-quality summer learning experiences that help them succeed in college, career and life.

NVSS Network members commit to regularly participating in NVSS Network activities facilitated by NSLA, leading presentations or conversations with peers in their areas of expertise or interest, and contributing to annual research and data collection activities aimed at better understanding the national summer learning landscape.

For information about the NVSS Network, please contact nvss@summerlearning.org.

 

Guest Blog: Exec Dir Daniel Domenech on Fading ESEA Prospects

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Today's guest blog post comes from AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech. Originally composed for his monthly Advocate article, it is being shared here for its relevance. 

It is not going to happen. ESEA will not be reauthorized any time soon. I have been a skeptic throughout the entire process. ESEA could have been easily reauthorized during the first two years of the Obama administration when the Democrats held a majority in both houses of Congress but that clearly was not a priority. After the 2011 midterm election, the Democrats lost the House and chances for reauthorization diminished. After the 2015 midterm elections, when the Republicans gained control of both legislative chambers, the possibility emerged that the Republicans had the votes to pass bills in both Houses but the threat of a Presidential veto loomed large.

Truth be told, there really are no significant policy issues between the two parties when it comes to education. The reality is that the House and Senate, whether Democrat or Republican, agree on far more than not, and that the grid lock is more aligned with adults and politics than with students and schools. At one time there was a clear delineation between Democrats and Republicans on issues like school choice, vouchers, teacher tenure and seniority, and education reform. Today those lines are blurred and the differences have become political rather than pedagogical. Last year the House passed a partisan ESEA reauthorization bill that AASA endorsed. There were many elements of the bill that we were not happy with but at least it was movement in the right direction. Steps would be taken to reduce federal intervention at the local level and accountability and assessment decisions would go back to the states, where they belong.

This year’s legislative session started with the hope that Senators Alexander and Murray would forge a bipartisan bill in the Senate and that the House would again deliver a bill as they had done last year. Indeed Alexander and Murray did what most observers of the Washington scene did not think would be possible and forged compromises between the two parties that signaled the potential passage of a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill and did so with unanimous, bipartisan support in committee. The surprise, however, has come from the House side. As Congressman Kline moved to reintroduce last year’s House bill, he was confronted with opposition from his own party. Over 40 Republicans in the House indicated that they would not vote for the bill. He quickly pulled the bill and during the Easter break, AASA and many of our members and state executives were making phone calls in an attempt to get the recalcitrant Republicans to change their minds.

The House was anticipated to pass the exact same bill it passed last Congress, a seemingly easy feat given that this is the chamber that has passed more than a dozen attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is the chamber where things were expected to perhaps fall apart – they were the ones doing the hard work of not only comprehensive reauthorization, but doing so in a bipartisan effort. To be where we are now, with the House struggling with the easy route and the Senate completing the infinitely harder task with flying colors, is a ‘Dunce and Golden Child’ scenario.

It takes two to tango and without House and Senate bills we will not have a reauthorized ESEA. With next year being a Presidential election year, we will have to wait until after the elections for our next opportunity. I would love to be proven wrong but in the meantime, waivers anyone?

Safe, Healthy and Ready to Learn Report Released

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AASA is proud to partner with Futures Without Violence to release a new report, “Safe, Healthy and Ready to Learn.” This report focuses on policy solutions to help children exposed to violence as well as their families and communities. The recommendations in the report include early investment in parents and young children, ensuring schools promote positive school climates, increased alignment and coordination of service agencies, and increased public awareness.

Read the full report or executive summary here.

 

AASA Endorses Bill to Repeal Excise (Cadillac) Tax Under Affordable Care Act

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AASA is pleased to support Rep. Joe Courtney's (D-CT) Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act, designed to repeal the excise (or 'Cadillac') tax under the Affordable Care Act. Though the tax doesn't go in effect until 2018, employers--including superintendents--find themselves considering a range of options to avoid the unintended consequences of the excise tax. School districts operate with finite, balanced budgets and failing to repeal the excise tax forces schools to choose between maintaining benefits and paying the excise tax or making changes to available health care plans. Read the full letter.

AASA does not take a position on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety, though we continue to monitor three specific components that directly impact school districts: 
  • 30 v 40 Hours as Full Time: ACA requires employers to provide benefits to employees working more than 30 hours. School superintendents recognize the important role that compensation and benefits play in ensuring districts' abilities to recruit and retain a high quality staff. That said, the current 30-hour threshold poses a burden and obstacle to school administrators who must balance their district staffing needs within their operating budget. The forced 30 hour threshold undermines long-standing local hiring decisions. School administrators have long negotiated salary and benefit conversations at the local level, and the ACA regulation represents a seemingly arbitrary cap with very real consequences. AASA endorses the Save American Workers Act, which would push the threshold to 40 hours per week, aligned with the long-standing construct of '40 hour work week'. Read the related blog post.
  • Excise Tax: Set to go in effect in 2018, the excise tax will apply to employer-based health insurance that exceeds certain amounts. While envisioned to apply only high-end and overly generous health plans, the tax is far more likely to be based on factors other than benefit richness including age, gender and geography, among others.
  • Employee Contribution Threshold (9.5%): ACA, as it relates to employer-provided insurance, looks to address both access AND affordability. In an effort to reign in affordability, employers can be penalized if the plans they offer include employee contributions that exceed 9.5% of their wages. 

 

Superintendent of the 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shares a Few Insights

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By Francesca Duffy
 
At last night's National Teacher of the Year recognition dinner in Washington, D.C., AASA member Rod Schroder (Amarillo, Texas) gave a few words of advice to the state teacher-winners: "You all  have a say in education policy at a high level. I hope you take advantage of the platform you have been given." Schroder is the superintendent of Shanna Peeples, the 2015 national teacher of the year who was honored at a White House ceremony yesterday afternoon.

Schroder also spoke about how he recently visited with Peeples' students to ask what it was that made their teacher special. Here are a few of their comments that he shared:

*She uses puppets and funny voices from characters in books. (Schroder made sure to explain that Peeples teaches high school students!)

*She dances in class!

*She wants us to learn for ourselves, not for a test.

Her students see authenticity in her, and she understands their stuggles, added Schroder. "But she will also tell you that she is just a representative of all the teacher warriors in her district and state," he said.

When it was Peeples' turn to speak, she told her fellow colleagues to continue to tell the stories of the students in their classrooms. "Our critics love cliches and manipulated data. But stories are different. We advocate for our kids and professions when we tell our stories."

People are notoriously difficult to standardize, she said, but stories stay after data fades.

For more background on Peeples, check out this article from Education Week Teacher.

Rod Schroder     Shanna Peeples
 Superintendent Rod Schroder, Amarillo, Texas               2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, Amarillo, Texas
  

USED Office of Civil Rights Releases Title IX Guidance Package

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Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a guidance package emphasizing the responsibility of school districts, colleges and universities to designate a Title IX coordinator. The package also contains an overview of the law’s requirements in several key areas, including athletics, single-sex education, sex-based harassment, and discipline. 

The suite of guidance includes three resources:

  •  Dear Colleague Letter to school districts, colleges, and universities reminding them of their obligation to designate a Title IX coordinator.
  • letter to Title IX coordinators that provides them more information about their important role. 
  • Title IX resource guide that includes an overview of Title IX’s requirements in several key areas, including recruitment, admissions and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; and discipline – all topics that frequently confront schools and their Title IX coordinators 

We Need Your Stories: How Are the Changes to the E-Rate Program Benefitting Your Schools?

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The application for FY15 E-rate applications recently closed. The FCC is now looking to collect stories/anecdotes on how the changes to the E-rate program are benefitting schools.
 
Please take a few moments to write back with a sentence, anecdote or narrative about what your district is able to do/plan on/apply for given the structural and funding changes in the E-rate program. Have you historically not had access to funding for internal connections, but the new changes mean you now do? How will your district harness/leverage the expanded connectivity?

Please send stories and anecdotes to Noelle Ellerson at nellerson@aasa.org.

Survey on Technologies in the Classroom

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AASA is pleased to partner with a major technology vendor to the education industry in support of their survey about technologies in the classroom. Your voice is critical to the conversation about education technology. The survey should take about 6-7 minutes to complete. All of your feedback is anonymous--no respondent or company will be identifiable by individual answers.

A limited number of people are being asked to participate, so your feedback is critical to the success of this study. This is strictly a market research survey and will be used to understand the growing use of tools and software in classrooms, and how effective they are.        

Simply click on THIS LINK to begin the survey.        

Please complete the survey before Sunday, April 26, 2015. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your opinions with us.

USED Dear Colleague Letter on Due Process

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Last week, the US Education Department issued a Dear Colleague letter to school districts related to filing due process complaints against parents who have gone directly to the state with a disagreement. The letter cautions against such activity, as it short-circuits a parent's ability to complain directly to the state about a special education dispute.

You'll recall that IDEA's due process is a core component of AASA's IDEA reauthorization priorities. Read our white paper.

EdWeek has a more detailed write up on the Dear Colleague letter. AASA is looking into this further.

UPDATED: Senate ESEA Materials: Bill Summary, AASA Analysis, and Letter of Support

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Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is set to begin mark of up Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015, the bipartisan proposal to reauthorize ESEA.

AASA's been busy putting together an analysis, side-by-side, letter of response and a quick summary of the filed amendments. Stay tuned to the blog and follow Noelle on twitter (@Noellerson) for live tweeting of all the ESEA fun.

Related Materials

 

 

AASA and 49 Affiliated State Superintendent Associations Release Joint Letter on ESEA Reauthorization

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Today, AASA and 49 affiliated state superintendent associations sent a joint letter on ESEA reauthorization to the U.S. House and Senate.

In a related statement, AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said “ESEA expired more than seven years ago. This means that our nation’s K-6 graders have spent every day of their K-12 experience under an outdated and broken law. Our students want and deserve more. We cannot continue to ask our nation’s schools and the students they serve to live under the approach offered by the administration’s waivers. Congress alone can and should address the shortcomings of the current law and the waivers. We (AASA and our state affiliates) are urging Congress to move forward with the very critical work of reauthorizing ESEA. We need legislation that supports state and local innovations that strike the appropriate balance between federal government authority, and state and local autonomy.”

From the letter:

"...Though Congress has been engaged in efforts to reauthorize ESEA for the past seven years, we cannot continue to ask our nation’s schools and the students they serve to live under the patch-work approach offered by the administration’s waivers."

"..Public schools in every corner of America are making remarkable strides in student learning. Individual school districts and schools are developing and innovating ways to improve student outcomes for all students.  ESEA reauthorization always represents an opportunity to breathe new life in to federal education policy, incorporating the latest research and actual experience to improve student outcomes and eliminate achievement gaps.Those efforts are under way: The House has moved its proposal—The Student Success Act (HR 5)—out of committee and is waiting for full floor action. The Senate committee is working through bi-partisan negotiations for a bill that will be marked up in the coming weeks. AASA has endorsed the House bill and is optimistic the Senate draft will make improvements on HR5 and further advance the ESEA reauthorization effort..."

"..We (the undersigned associations) urge Congress to move forward with the very critical work of reauthorizing ESEA and providing all of the nation’s schools with workable federal education policy that supports state and local innovations by striking the appropriate balance between federal government authority and state and local autonomy."

Legislative Update: Budget, Appropriations, Forest Counties, and More

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Budget & Appropriations: Last week, the House and Senate each adopted their FY16 budget resolution. You'll recall that the Congressional FY16 budgets, while lacking specifics for education funding, are so severe AASA opposes both. They are so cut-heavy that it is hard to imagine any scenario where either the House or the Senate are able to advance an LHHS appropriations bill that adequately supports the nation’s public schools and the students they serve. Read AASA’s letter of opposition.  

The Senate had a good old vote-a-rama, considering dozens of amendments in the process. I flag one of particular interest for the way it addresses sequester. Sen. Kaine’s (VA) amendment puts the Senate on record that the sequester caps for both FY16 and FY17 for both defense and non-defense discretionary dollars should be listed as equal, and that offsets should include both targeted spending cuts and cuts in tax expenditures. The amendment passed with bipartisan support, including Sens. Alexander, Ayotte, Collins, Corker, Graham and McCain. AASA sent a ‘thank you’ email to each of these Republican Senators for their support for the amendment.   

 Here are some fact sheets on the budgets, including a map of the consequences and state fact sheets.     On the appropriations front, AASA sent a letter with our FY16 funding priorities to the House and Senate LHHS appropriations subcommittees, calling for them to resolve sequester and invest as much as possible in IDEA, TItle I, education technology teacher development and rural education.  

Secure Rural Schools (Forest Counties): Buried within the House budget was crucial language to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Communities (Forest Counties) act. The House language provides a two-year extension of the program, a portion of which is retroactive, as funds had expired in September 2014. The program provided $270 million to 729 counties in the year ending in Sept. 2014. The two-year extension is located in section 524 of HR 2, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The SRS extension was included in a broader health care bill, the so-called ‘doc fix’. The Senate did not vote on the bill before adjourning for their Easter Recess, but is expected to do so when they return. AASA sent a letter of support, in coordination with the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition.  

 IDEA Letter: AASA was pleased to coordinate 14 other national organizations in a letter of support for increased investment in IDEA in FY16. You can read the full letter, which expounds on this excerpt: "While special education funding has received significant increases over the past fifteen years, including the one‐time infusion of IDEA dollars in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funding has leveled off recently and even been cut. Federal funding has never come close to reaching the promised 40%,causing states and local school districts to find ways to pay for needed services. This means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, at the direct expense of local district needs and expenditures, and/or increasing local taxes, which is an especially high burden in times of fiscal austerity and uncertainty. Collectively, level funding through the appropriations process and the cuts of sequestration have exacerbated the need for school districts to raise taxes or use local budget dollars to cover an ever‐growing share of the federal contribution to special education. Investing in IDEA, a federal flagship formula program designed to help level the education playing field for students with disabilities, is an investment in our nation’s students and their future, and represents an indication that Congress is serious in meeting its commitment to helping school districts meet the needs of all students. Therefore, we strongly support full funding for IDEA."

Supporting groups included: American Federation of Teachers; American Speech‐Language‐Hearing Association; Association of Educational Service Agencies; Council for Exceptional Children; Council of Great City Schools; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Directors of Special Education; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Education Association; National PTA; National Rural Education Association; National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition; and National School Boards Association. 

USED Releases Guidance on Funds for Unaccompanied Children

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Earlier today ,the US Education Department announced the availability of funds for States who have at least one county where, during calendar year 2014, HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement placed 50 unaccompanied children or more with an appropriate sponsor while the children's immigration cases were being resolved. 

The purpose of these funds is to provide additional monies to local school districts in helping them meet the needs of these immigrant children and youth.  At total of $14 million is available to eligible States.  

This information was relayed to the states via a letter to each state's respective chief state school officer. They also received an FAQ document detailing which States are eligible for a portion of these funds, as well as the process for accepting them. 

If you have specific questions regarding either of these documents, please contact Supreet Anand, at supreet.anand@ed.gov

AASA Appropriations Update: Letters of Support

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As the budget and appropriations process gets under way, there is always a flurry of letter writing. Groups organize sign-on letters, addressed to appropriators, highlighting priority programs. Members of Congress circulate 'Dear Colleague' letters, looking for support for key programs, also addressed to appropriators. AASA is regularly involved in letters that prioritize investment in Title I, IDEA, Impact Aid and education technology.

Related to these letters, I have two items I want to share with you:

Education Technology: This year, our group sign on letter for education technology is open to state-level associations. Please share this information with your state association for consideration. This letter supports funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program at $200 million for FY16, the same amount requested in the Administration's FY16 budget. The letter will be sent to both the Senate and House Labor, HHS and Education Subcommittees. Please reply to hgoldmann@iste.org and ally@jbernsteinstrategy.com by March 24 if your organization would like to be listed on the letter.

IDEA Funding: Rep. Jared Huffman's office is coordinating a Dear Colleague letter for FY16 IDEA funding. The letter is being supported by Reps. Huffman, Scott, McKinley, VanHollen, Reichert, Walz, Gibson, Engel and Hanna. All signatures are due COB 3/23/15, and we can help round up some more names. See the hyperlink in the first line of this paragraph for the full text of the cover letter and the Dear Colleague letter itself. Please take 5 minutes to call your Representative and urge them to sign this letter.

AASA Letter of Opposition to House Budget Proposal

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Yesterday, House Republicans released their FY16 budget proposal. As a reminder, FY16 runs Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016, and FY16 dollars will be in schools for the 2016-17 school. You’ll recall that President Obama released his budget proposal in early February. AASA’s Leslie Finnan provided a comprehensive analysis and summary.

The House budget bears zero resemblance to the President’s. It does include policy riders broader than just general funding, including proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This proposal balances the budget in less than ten years by relying solely on spending cuts that will total $5.5 trillion. It asks each committee, including the House Education and the Workforce Committee, to identify $1 billion in funding cuts to programs over 2016 thru 2025.  It cuts non-defense discretionary programs by $759 billion over the next ten years, programs that include education, public health, job training, and public safety, among others, all programs currently funded at historically low levels. The proposal locks in the cuts of the sequester.  

Even absent specific details related to K12 education funding, AASA opposes this budget proposal, as it is so cut-heavy that it is hard to imagine any scenario where the House is able to advance an LHHS appropriations bill that adequately supports the nation’s public schools and the students they serve.

AASA sent a letter of opposition to the House budget committee in advance of today's mark up. Please review the letter and feel free to use it in conversations with your Representative. Also, see our related talking points on the sequester, including information on the cumulative impact of the cuts and caps. 

 

 

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