2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge
With a new year, a new Congress, and a new administration, now is as good a time as every to issue an advocacy challenge. Each month of this year, our team will identify a topic or two—whether driven by the AASA legislative agenda or by current goings on with Congress or the administration—and provide advocacy support. That is, we’ll give a bit of quick background on the topic, explain the relevant policy proposals and implications, and then share a few talking points that you can use to weigh in with your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both your Senators). You can take that information to craft your monthly outreach—contacting one office per week—to your Congressional delegation, to relay the policy priorities in the context of what it means for your schools and the students you serve.
We stand by ready to answer any questions you may have. Do you not know the name or email address of the education staffer in your Senator’s office? We can provide that for you. Are you interested in seeing who from your state serves on certain House or Senate committees? Did your Congress member reach out with a different question, and you’d like information about that? We can get that to you.
April - Appropriations
This month’s advocacy focus is all about funding. It is a
little longer than usual, because we spent a little more time providing
background. It is also divvied into two parts. This part is focused on annual
appropriations in general, and the second part will be talking points by
content area (ESSA, IDEA, rural education, ed tech, etc…) As always, let us know if you have any
questions, or if you need any additional information (including the name and
email address of the appropriate staffer).
month’s ‘background’ section makes a little more sense when listed as a set of
year is it? For purposes of this update, you will see reference to
federal fiscal year (FY) 2016, 2017 and 2018. Federal fiscal years run from
October 1 through September 30. FY17 started on October 1, 2016 and runs
through September 30, 2017. This month, April 2017, is in FY17 and FY17 dollars
will be in your schools for the 2017-18 school year; FY16 dollars are currently
in your schools; and FY18 is the budget proposal just released by President
Sequester: Sequester is the set of across the board cuts that was applied to the federal
budget—including education—in 2013. The cuts of sequester stem from the Budget
Control Act of 2011, a law passed by Congress. The BCA implemented ten years of
budget caps AND triggered sequester when Congress was unable to identify cuts
on its own. The budget caps and sequester cuts (and continued pressure) are at
the center of the broader federal education funding conversation. The budget
caps are very real and Congress is legally bound to operate within those
and Non-Defense Discretionary Funding: Within the federal budget, there
is mandatory and discretionary funding. We are in the discretionary slice of
the pie. Within discretionary funding, there is defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary (NDD).
Education funding is a part of non-defense discretionary funding. When the cuts
of sequester applied, they applied equally between defense and non-defense
From the first application of sequester, there was a concerted push to raise
the cap (amount of funding available) for defense discretionary funding. The
cuts of sequester are absolute, meaning the only way to raise funds for defense
discretionary were to make further cuts to NDD (eek!) or to raise the overall
cap. Most preferably, the goal would be to raise the cap and provide equal cap
raises for both defense AND NDD. This is parity. President Barack Obama was
rock-solid on parity. When he was approached with the idea of raising defense
discretionary funding, he was agreeable so long as there was a comparable
increase available for non-defense discretionary funding.
Process: If this were ‘School House Rocks’, here’s how the federal
appropriations process works: The President introduces a budget proposal; the
House and Senate use/refer to this budget proposal in drafting/revising their
respective budget proposals before adopting their respective budget
resolutions. These budget resolutions are used to determine allocations for
each of the 12 appropriations sub committees (education funding is in the
Labor, Health, Human Services Education And Other, or LHHS, appropriation). Sub
committees use these allocations to provide funding (whether a cut or an
increase) to specific programs. All 12 subcommittees would adopt and pass a
stand-alone appropriation, which would then be adopted on the full chamber
floor, and all before the October 1 start of the federal fiscal year. This is
NOT a ‘School House Rocks’ process kind of Congress, though. (the last time
Congress completed the traditional appropriations process on time was more than
20 years ago).
Resolution: When Congress is unable to complete its annual
appropriations process on time, there is a threat for a federal government
shutdown. Congress can avoid a shutdown by exercising a continuing resolution
(CR), which provides short-term funding to buy Congress additional time to
complete its appropriations work. A CR is straight, level funding. If the
program was funding in the previous year, it will be funded in this new year, at
the exact same level. The CR does not include program/policy changes or changes
to funding level. A CR can include anomalies, which may account for some
changes, but the most common type of CR is a ‘clean’ CR, which just extends and
level funds programs.
Year 2017 (FY17): FY17 runs Oct 1, 2016 thru Sept 30, 2017. Congress
did NOT complete its appropriations work for FY17 on time, and instead adopted
a CR, and the current CR expires on April 28. Congress will need to complete
its appropriations work ahead of April 28 if it wants to avoid a shutdown. What
are its options? Each is listed below, along with a brief explanation of why it
may (not) be relevant:
Stand Alone Appropriations Bills:
Congress could pick up the work it had started, and move to consider and adopt
each of the 12 appropriations bills independently. This is highly unlikely.
Congress has a finite amount of floor time available for this debate before
April 28—including a 2 week Easter/Spring recess. Further, Congress (and the
Senate, in particular) has other demands for floor time that limit the
likelihood of this scenario: normal business, ongoing confirmations for the new
administration, FY18 conversations, and confirmation of the Supreme Court
nominee. Quite simply, they don’t have enough floor time for this option.
Omnibus: Congress could pass the 12
stand-alone bills independently in committee, and then pile them together into
one big ‘up or down’ vote. This is increasingly less likely to happen, given
Minibus: In this scenario, Congress would
pass some of the stand alone appropriations bills (typically those that are
slated for funding increases, so not necessarily LHHS), and then use a
year-long CR for the remaining bills. This is somewhat likely, but also
concerning. Given the absolute nature of the budget caps, a funding increase
for some would mean a funding cut for others (including our LHHS bill). In a
mini-bus scenario, LHHS doesn’t even get on the bus.
Year-Long CR: In this scenario, Congress
will extend the CR to last through September 30. A year-long CR means level
funding for any program currently being funded. As each day goes by, this looks
ever more likely. It is the path of least resistance: by not opening up the 12
individual bills, Congress avoids debate, and avoiding debate will be key to
getting any of these done on time. A year-long CR will require certain
anomalies (or conforming language) particular to education. FY16 funded No
Child Left Behind; FY17 will fund the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act.
ESSA had some programmatic restructuring that would not be realized under an
FY16/NCLB construct; anomaly language would allow FY16 dollars amounts to flow
through an FY17 construct.
Year 2018 (FY18): On March 16, President Trump released his FY18
budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30,
2018; these are the federal dollars that will be in your schools for the
2018-19 school year). Referred to as a ‘skinny budget’, the proposal covers
only the discretionary portion of the budget (NOT mandatory programs) and even
in that, does not indicate the proposed funding level for all federal
Overview & Analysis: As
expected, the framing lens for the President’s budget is his proposal for a $54
billion increase in defense discretionary funding. (As a reminder, the cuts of
sequester applied only to the discretionary portion of the budget, and applied
equally to both defense and non-defense discretionary funding. Education
programs are in the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget. From
the onset of sequester, President Obama was a staunch protector of ensuring
parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding; any time there
was a push to increase funding for defense discretionary funding, he was
agreeable only if there was a commensurate increase for the NDD slice of the
pie.) President Trump blows the concept of parity out of the water. He proposes
paying for his $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding by making
a $54 billion cut in NDD. As a frame of reference, that is approximately 10% of
the overall NDD allocation. Looking more specifically at the K12 education
portion of the proposal:
Cuts funding to the US Education Department by
$9 billion (13 percent)
Provides $1.4 billion increase in school choice
$1 billion increase for Title I, for state and districts
to use for vouchers/choice/portability
$250 million for a new voucher program
$168 million increase for the charter school
ALL new proposed education funding in President
Trump’s budget is for choice/privatization. All other programs (for which
detail is provided) are either cut or level-funded.
IDEA is level funded ($12.7 billion, or approx.
16%, less than half of federal commitment to 40%)
Every Student Succeeds Act Title II (Supporting
Effective Instruction State Grants)
ESSA 21st Century Community Learning
Eliminates or cuts 20 other categorical
programs. Those listed include:
Teacher Quality partnership
Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property
International Educational Programs
There is much that remains
unanswered, both in terms of the mandatory programs in the budget and other
programs we care about in the K12 budget (including, but not limited to,
Perkins/Career Tech, Rural Education Achievement Program, ESSA Title IV). Please note that this summary includes all
detail that is currently available. If you do not see a program referenced, it
means the budget does not reference it. We cannot predict, at this point,
whether that means an increase, cut or level funding.
FY18 Looking Ahead: Two big
questions remain to be answered: How committed is President Trump to this
budget? That is, does this proposal represent his serious funding priorities or
is it a compilation of campaign promises parading around as a federal document?
Second, how does Congress react to this proposal? It is a proposal based
heavily on cuts, many of which may make the proposal ‘dead on arrival’ on
Capitol Hill. We have to see if Congress takes any/all/none of it into
consideration as it starts its FY18 appropriations work.
Talk to your members about the importance of
continued investment in education. Investing in education builds a stronger
nation. We need a well-trained and educated workforce ready to compete in a
global economy and support our military.
The best way to reduce the deficit is to spur
economic growth. Yet we can’t run businesses, schools and universities, or the
public sector if our children don’t grow into adults equipped with the tools
they need to succeed.
Education funding for K-12 education is less
than it was ten years ago. In a time of tight budgets, 23 states are on track
to provide less formula funding in 2017 than they did ten years ago, cutting
the largest source of support for elementary and secondary education. Yet federal
elementary and secondary education funding is still below the 2008 level even
though public school enrollment has increased by 2.3 percent over those ten
$1 invested in early childhood education saves
at least $7 down the road. Yet Head Start, the largest federal early childhood
education program, is so underfunded that it can serve only 4 out of every 10
eligible children from low-income families.
A greater education investment – spent wisely –
makes sense by increasing educational achievement. For example, funding that
allows for better teachers and smaller class size increases high school
graduation rates, especially for low-income students. Because of how education
is funded in the U.S., low-income students are likely to benefit most from federal
funding, much of which is targeted to schools in low-income neighborhoods and
to low-income college students.
Parity: Encourage your members of
Congress to advocate for—and support-continued parity between defense and
non-defense discretionary funding, and to oppose President Trump’s proposal to
increase defense discretionary funding by $54 billion, and to pay for it by
Title I: Fund Title I at a level $200 million
above President Obama’s proposed level. Title I must be funded at a robust
enough level to ensure at least level funding for district allocations. ESSA
includes an increase in the state set aside and lifts the Title I “hold
harmless” provision, meaning that even with the $450 million rollover from SIG,
the Title I allocation (as proposed by the President) leaves a $200 million
shortfall at the local level. AASA is opposed to any scenario where they FY17
allocation leaves school districts with less money in FY17 (the first year of
ESSA) than they had in FY16.
IDEA Funding: Congress must continue to increase
its investment in IDEA. Adjusted for inflation, the current proposals—the
President, the Senate, and the House—remain woefully underfunded, coming
nowhere near Congress’ commitment to providing 40% of the additional cost
associated with education students with disabilities. In fact, the current
proposals put the federal share at roughly 16%, which is less than half of what
Congress committed to, and below FY10 levels when adjusted for inflation.
ESSA Student Support and Academic Enrichment
Grants (SSAEG, Title IV-A): It is critical that Title IV, the flexible funding
block grant that allows school districts to invest in a variety of
programs—including well-rounded education, school climate, technology and
professional development—must be funded at high enough a level to support
meaningful formula allocation.
If Congress advances a year-long CR, the bill
must include anomaly language to reconcile policy changes between No Child Left
Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act, including authorizing the eliminated
School Improvement Grant (SIG) money to flow through the Title I Part A base
formula, and to allow the program changes in the new Title IV.
FY18: Much of the advocacy for FY18 will
be further shaped by what Congress does in response to President Trump’s FY18
Urge your delegation to OPPOSE the draconian
cuts in the President’s budget.
Express deep concern with a budget proposal that
cuts $9 billion (13%) from the Department of Education.
Express deep concern with a budget proposal
where EVERY.SINGLE.NEW. dollar (all $1.4 billion of them!) are for choice and
privatization. Encourage your delegation to support that increase, but to
prioritize investment of those dollars into key formula programs that support
all students and schools, including IDEA, Title I and Perkins.
OPPOSE the President’s proposal to use $1
billion in new funding for Title I for portability or vouchers. Any new money
in Title I must flow through the base formula.
AASA remains opposed to continued reliance on
competitive allocation of funding. All dollars must remain available to all
schools and all students, and any reliance on competitive allocation reinforces
a system of winners/losers, rather than addressing opportunity gaps.
Check out this handy
chart from the Committee for Education Funding, which shows the total
amount of discretionary funding available at the Department of Education. As a
point of reference: the FY16 allocation (the dollars currently in your schools)
is above where we were in FY12, but below where we were in FY10. Think about
your student population today; do you have more students in poverty? More
English Learners? More students with disabilities?
For a better look at trends in state funding (HINT: 35
states put in less money in 2014 than they did in 2008!) check out this
report from our friends at Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.
Appropriations Part II is coming! This will include more program-specific talking points.
March (2) - Medicaid Cuts
Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced
a bill that would dramatically change Medicaid’s structure impact the ability
of students with disabilities and students in poverty to receive many critical
health services in schools that enable them to learn. These services include
speech-language pathology, occupational and physical therapy, mental and
behavioral health services, vision and hearing screenings, diabetes and asthma
management and wheelchairs and hearing aids.
Schools are able to provide these services, professionals
and equipment because they can receive reimbursement from Medicaid to cover the
majority of these costs. However, the Republican Medicaid plan “The American
Health Care Act” would dramatically change the financing structure of Medicaid
and would jeopardize the critical health care that students receive in schools.
AASA and 41 national education, healthcare, disability and
child welfare organizations sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee
urging members of Congress to oppose.
Under this plan, every child would receive a capped amount
of funding for their healthcare needs regardless of how sick they are, how
disabled they are or the services they need to be healthy and learn. School
districts may be totally cut out of the Medicaid reimbursement process as
States will be in the drivers’ seat except they have 600 billion dollars less
from the federal government to spend on Medicaid eligible kids. Reliable
healthcare experts believe this will lead to rationed health care options for
children, and cutting schools out of Medicaid reimbursement is an obvious
choice for States to make when dollars are scarce and schools are competing
with hospitals, primary care physicians and front-line providers for limited
Take action now to stop America’s most vulnerable children
from losing vital healthcare services in schools.
Call your Senators and Representative and urge them to
reject legislation that places arbitrary caps on how much Medicaid funding a
- As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage
of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the
rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the
health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability
of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and
students in poverty.
- Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet
represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school
districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need
the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor
regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The
current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive
care at schools and create barriers to access.
- The American Health Care Act would undermine critical
healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to
layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the
Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education
programs to compensate for these cuts.
WRITE Your Elected
Calling is much more effective, but if you choose to write
your elected officials, use this template.
The Honorable [Name]
U.S. Senator/U.S Representative
Dear Senator/ Representative:
As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose The
American Health Care Act, which would radically change Medicaid as we know it
through block grants, per capita caps, or repealing the Medicaid expansion that
has served as a lifeline to millions.
Specifically, a per capita cap system will undermine states’
ability to provide America’s neediest children access to vital healthcare that
ensures they have adequate educational opportunities and can contribute to
society. Medicaid is a cost-effective and efficient funder of essential health
care services for children. In fact, while children comprise almost half of
Medicaid beneficiaries, less than one in five dollars spent by Medicaid is
consumed by children. Accordingly, a per capita cap, even one that is based on
different groups of beneficiaries, will disproportionally harm children’s
access to care, including services received at school.
A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students
with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest
potential with unmet health needs. As such, school district personnel regularly
provide critical health services to ensure that all children are ready to learn
and able to thrive alongside their peers. Schools deliver services effectively
and efficiently since school is where children spend their days. Increasing
access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care and
educational outcomes for students. Providing health and wellness services for
students in poverty and services that benefit students with disabilities
ultimately enables more children to become employable and attend
The current proposal would be devastating to schools and
children, particularly those children with disabilities. The American Health
Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to
children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for
new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general
education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these
I urge you to reject the American Health Care Act, and any
subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.
We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action, encouraging you to make contact with each office. This month, we focus on E-Rate!
As we go through the year, if you would like talking points and background on a topic other than what we feature, JUST ASK! We are more than happy to provide that information, to ensure you are able to relay the information more relevant for you. We are also happy to share the name and email address of the education staffer for your members of Congress; just ask!
Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC)
Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, we want to ensure that they know what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. The goal of this month’s call to action is an awareness campaign, to put this issue on Congress’ radar as a program to know and a program to support!
- Though Congress has no role in determining the changes to E-Rate, they do engage in conversations with the FCC Commissioners. As such, make sure your Senators and Representatives know the critical role that E-Rate dollars play in school connectivity and how important those dollars will be as schools prepare for the online assessments.
- Did you know? E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state!
- E-Rate played a critical role is the rapid and significant expansion of connectivity in schools, and the 2014 modernization was a much needed update to ensure more schools and libraries are connected to broadband.
- Talk about how your district uses its E-Rate funding, how it supports your district’s learning and teaching, and what it would mean if E-Rate were cut.
February - Intro/Call to Action
We are using the February advocacy challenge to make an introduction and extend an invite. Congress is adjourned for recess at regular intervals, meaning they will be in their home district frequently. Recess is an opportune time to invite your elected official (and/or their education staffer) to see your schools in action. Highlight your programs that are excelling (After school? English Learner support? Early education? Credit Recovery?). Give examples where you could do more with better federal support (High class room sizes? Teacher shortages? Limited opportunity for CTE?). Facilitate a community conversation with stakeholders about ESSA (or education technology, or school nutrition, or rural education….).
- Introduce yourself, and your district. Enrollment, free/reduced lunch rate, community type, etc….
- Introduce your state association, and their role in helping facilitate/convene conference calls and round table conversations with member superintendents.
- Introduce AASA as the national organization for school superintendents (and feel free to copy one of us on your outreach!)
- Extend the invitation for the visit, and ask who you should coordinate with to set it up.
- Extend the opportunity for them to reach out to you as they have questions and consider various policies in Congress; let them know that you’d be happy to tell them what it would look like in your district and for specific things to consider.
- Indicate that you will be reaching out over the course of the year on federal advocacy priorities, and that you look forward to working with them.
It is an introductory round this first month, and will be more substantive and policy-specific next month.
Thank you, in advance, for your continued advocacy efforts and support for AASA advocacy. And, as always let us know if you need anything.