November 20, 2017

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Support Operation Prevention

In October, Discovery Education announced a collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Milken Institute to announce a Drug Prevention Call to Action. Part of the announcement included referencing AASA's commitment to the pledge, and we look forward to working with Discovery on this effort.

AASA is pleased to support Operation Prevention to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. Operation Prevention's mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. In addition to the resources listed on the website, you can also access their PDF flyer.

November 16, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Statement on House Vote on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (HR 1)

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response the House passage of HR 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 227-205:

"AASA is deeply disappointed in the largely partisan vote in the House today. We know the intricacies involved in any legislative vote, and the pressures unique to a tax conversation. Like any budget or funding conversation, tax conversations are filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and today’s vote demonstrates that for 227 members of the House, they have little to no understanding of, or concern for, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. We remain optimistic that this is just the first step in a long process and that subsequent steps will be more deliberate, more transparent, and premised on passing common sense tax policy that works for our country, its people, and its public schools."

November 15, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

New Report Identifies How Congress Can Better Serve Rural Students

AASA and The Rural School and Community Trust's new partnership is already paying off for school leaders, with the release of the report, Leveling the Playing Field for Rural Students, which identifies how Congress can provide leadership and support to ensure students living in rural America receive a quality education and succeed in life beyond high school. 

Highlights from the report include five education policy recommendations that can be implemented immediately and will benefit the one in six children living in rural communities: 

  • Enabling Access to New, High-Quality Educational Opportunities;
  • Addressing Health Barriers to Learning;
  • Leveraging Career and Technical Programs for Economic Growth;
  • Ending Insecurity for Rural Children;
  • Adequately Investing in Rural Schools.

AASA is extremely excited about our new partnership with the Rural School and Community Trust and is looking forward to more collaboration on behalf of rural schools and the students they serve.

Read the full report, here.

November 15, 2017(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1)

AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives outlining our strong opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1). 

AASA represents public school superintendents, and we are concerned that this bill--as currently drafted--shows little to no regard for the impact of its confluence of changes on our nation's public schools, on the ability of state and local governments' ability to adequately support public infrastructure (including schools), on the reliance of deficit financing to pay for the tax cuts and the impact if will have on federal appropriations, and more. We are not opposed to tax reform as a whole, but believe the House can and must do better to ensure this bill/proposal is bipartisan, deliberate, and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and are deeply concerned that the bill being considered this week falls short of this threshold. Read our full letter, and key excerpts are below. As a reminder, earlier this week we led a letter with 42 other national education groups opposing the House and Senate tax bill.

“On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing more than 13,000 public school superintendents across the country, I write to express our opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). We sent a similar letter to the Ways & Means Committee earlier this month and were disappointed to see zero improvements as it relates to the tax bill and its impact on public schools. Our opposition is not to tax reform in whole; rather, it is to specific provisions within the broader proposal that undermine and threaten our nation’s public school system and the students and communities they serve. 

"We urge Congress to rewrite the plan to preserve the state and local tax deduction, to eliminate the proposed expansion of 529 accounts, to protect and preserve Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, and to ensure that in paying for its tax reform, the bill does not negatively or disproportionately impact non-defense discretionary funding, which provides for education. We are keenly aware that any tax conversation, like any budget or funding conversation, it filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and in this instance, there is no indication that this tax plan and those planning to vote for it have an understanding of, or care about, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in four categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts), preserving QZABs, and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding.

"As we wrote in our initial response to the proposal, “We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education—both long and short term—and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.” We urge the House to slow its effort to ensure a product that has solid policy footing and broad, bipartisan support. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Congress can—and must—do better. For these reasons, we are opposed to the legislation being considered this week.”

November 15, 2017

 Permanent link

CALL-TO-ACTION: Tell House and Senate to VOTE NO to Tax Reform that Guts Support for Public Education

 Both the House and Senate are considering comprehensive tax reform proposals. The House will vote as early as Thursday November 16th! AASA has reviewed both bills and is opposed to specific provisions which undermine federal support for public education and will negatively impact state and local funding for public schools. To that end, we have a two-prong call to action:

  1. Call the Congressional Switch board (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Senators/Representative. The person who answers is taking a tally of votes for and against, and the script you can read is below.
  2. Email the education staffer and legislative director for each of your Congressional delegation. It can even be one email! You want to send this email to the people in the office who are handling/tracking the policy specifics.

PHONE SCRIPT  

HOUSE

Hello! My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District in his district. I’m calling to let Congressman ______ know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community.

 My opposition to the tax reform is driven by two specific provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools. 

 First, this legislation would incentivize upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans to educate their children in private schools by providing them with a tax break as they can now utilize 529 accounts for private k12 education. These drastic changes would enable anyone, regardless of their wealth, to put aside significantly more dollars for use at private schools, at a greater expense to taxpayers and schools. 

Second, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 

 I urge Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

 SENATE

Hello! My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District which is located in xx part of state. I’m calling to let Senator _______  know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community.

 My opposition to the tax reform is driven by two provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools.

First, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 

 Second, I voice my strong opposition to the inclusion of any provisions that that create a federal voucher program or provide tax incentives for families that send their children to private school have no place in this legislation. Given current levels of public education funding we cannot divert revenues to support away from the school system that educates 90% of American children.

I urge Senator ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

 EMAIL TEXT

  • Do you need the name and email address of the education staffer and legislative director for anyone in your Congressional delegation? Let us know, or email your state association director. We gave them the full set of contact information.
  • Use the text below as the basis of your email, and feel free to personalize with details about your district or specifics on what the tax policy ramifications will mean for your state and district

SAMPLE HOUSE EMAIL 

Dear {INSERT NAME},

My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District in his district. I’m emailing to let Representative ______ know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community.

My opposition to the tax reform is driven by two specific provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools. 

 First, this legislation would incentivize upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans to educate their children in private schools by providing them with a tax break as they can now utilize 529 accounts for private k12 education. These drastic changes would enable anyone, regardless of their wealth, to put aside significantly more dollars for use at private schools, at a greater expense to taxpayers and schools. 

Second, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 

I urge Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

SENATE

Dear {INSERT NAME},

My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District which is located in xx part of state. I’m emailing to let Senator _______  know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community. 

First, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 

Second, I voice my strong opposition to the inclusion of any provisions that that create a federal voucher program or provide tax incentives for families that send their children to private school have no place in this legislation. Given current levels of public education funding we cannot divert revenues to support away from the school system that educates 90% of American children. 

 I urge Senator ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state.

 

 

November 14, 2017

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

School Kitchen Equipment Grant Threshold

The House Agriculture Appropriations bill included language lowering the threshold for USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grant purchases to $1,000, down from the current $5,000 requirement. AASA signed onto a letter to thank the committee for this change and to encourage the inclusion of the language in the final spending bill. This change will allow more flexibility to schools and will allow more schools and districts to take advantage of these grants for smaller but still important purchases, such as salad bars and automated slicers, that were previously not accessible through this grant program. 

 
Find more information on the School Kitchen Equipment Grant program here

November 13, 2017(2)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Responds to DeVos Priorities for Competitive Funding

Earlier this fall, Secretary DeVos announced 11 proposed priorities by which the US Education Department (USED) would award nearly $700 million in funding to schools. 

AASA submitted comments in response to the proposed priorities, outlining our continued opposition to competitive allocation of federal funds, particularly when this administration attempts to prioritize policies it eliminates funding for in annual appropriations. Our comments expressed opposition to the effort to expand and prioritize choice and privatization, and the disconnect on impact for rural schools and communities. 

November 13, 2017(1)

 Permanent link

The Advocate, November 2017

By Leslie Finnan, senior legislative analyst, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

 Early Learning Opportunities in Federal Legislation

While AASA has not historically worked much on early learning issues, we are hearing more superintendents discuss their programs or their desire for more quality early learning opportunities. We are tracking and commenting on several pieces of legislation that could impact early learning throughout the country. Many states have early learning provisions at the state level, but the conversation has also expanded further to the federal level. The Democrats in both the House and the Senate have released a bill, The Child Care for Working Families Act. This bill is intended to be a conversation-starter, since it does not have a chance of moving legislatively given the make-up of the Congress. The bill provides incentives and funding for states to create high-quality early learning programs, increases workforce training and compensation for early learning providers, and increases help for Head Start programs.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have approached early learning through increasing the Child Tax Credit. It would increase the annual credit for families with children by up to $600. They say that through this tax credit, families will have money available to spend on early learning and child care. However, the tax credit is only available to families earning enough money to pay enough in taxes to benefit from such a tax credit.

One last way that early learning is being addressed is actually through expanded requirements under ESSA. ESSA allows but does not require Title I funding to be used for early childhood education. Districts that receive Title I funding are required to increase coordination with early childhood programs, regardless of whether they use Title I resources for early childhood programming. States are also required to address early childhood education in their state plans; they must describe how they will assist LEAs and elementary schools that use Title I funds to support early childhood programs. The accountability system must also address the number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs.

ESSA establishes the Preschool Development Grants program, which authorizes competitive grant funding for states to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for low and moderate-income students up to age five. These grants are intended to support statewide needs assessments of availability and quality of existing programs and the numbers of students served and to develop strategic plans to ensure collaboration and coordination to improve quality and access in early education programs.

Under the Literacy Education for All program, states may provide targeted sub grants to early childhood education programs and LEAs to implement evidence-based literacy programs.

Under the Expanding Opportunity through Charter Schools Program, ESSA includes early education as an allowable use. These funds may be used to support charter schools that serve early childhood students.

We are partnering with the National Head Start Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and other education associations to develop and promote a toolkit for state and district leaders to understand the new early learning components of ESSA. The toolkit will be made available by the end of November, so be sure to watch for it. I am the lead on early learning policy for AASA, so if you have any thoughts or questions, please contact me (Leslie) at lfinnan@aasa.org.

November 13, 2017

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, November 2017

By Leslie Finnan, senior legislative analyst, AASA

Early Learning Opportunities in Federal Legislation

While AASA has not historically worked much on early learning issues, we are hearing more superintendents discuss their programs or their desire for more quality early learning opportunities. We are tracking and commenting on several pieces of legislation that could impact early learning throughout the country. Many states have early learning provisions at the state level, but the conversation has also expanded further to the federal level. The Democrats in both the House and the Senate have released a bill, The Child Care for Working Families Act. This bill is intended to be a conversation-starter, since it does not have a chance of moving legislatively given the make-up of the Congress. The bill provides incentives and funding for states to create high-quality early learning programs, increases workforce training and compensation for early learning providers, and increases help for Head Start programs.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have approached early learning through increasing the Child Tax Credit. It would increase the annual credit for families with children by up to $600. They say that through this tax credit, families will have money available to spend on early learning and child care. However, the tax credit is only available to families earning enough money to pay enough in taxes to benefit from such a tax credit.

One last way that early learning is being addressed is actually through expanded requirements under ESSA. ESSA allows but does not require Title I funding to be used for early childhood education. Districts that receive Title I funding are required to increase coordination with early childhood programs, regardless of whether they use Title I resources for early childhood programming. States are also required to address early childhood education in their state plans; they must describe how they will assist LEAs and elementary schools that use Title I funds to support early childhood programs. The accountability system must also address the number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs.

ESSA establishes the Preschool Development Grants program, which authorizes competitive grant funding for states to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for low and moderate-income students up to age five. These grants are intended to support statewide needs assessments of availability and quality of existing programs and the numbers of students served and to develop strategic plans to ensure collaboration and coordination to improve quality and access in early education programs.

Under the Literacy Education for All program, states may provide targeted sub grants to early childhood education programs and LEAs to implement evidence-based literacy programs.

Under the Expanding Opportunity through Charter Schools Program, ESSA includes early education as an allowable use. These funds may be used to support charter schools that serve early childhood students.

We are partnering with the National Head Start Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and other education associations to develop and promote a toolkit for state and district leaders to understand the new early learning components of ESSA. The toolkit will be made available by the end of November, so be sure to watch for it. 

November 13, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA, AFT Lead 41 Orgs in Joint Letter Opposing House and Senate Tax Plans

AASA partnered with AFT and 41 other national organizations in two joint letters--one each to the House and the Senate--opposing the tax reform bills.

We write "...to express our opposition to the tax bills currently being considered in Congress that are based on the White House and congressional Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” These proposals would undermine funding for our public schools, colleges and universities."

You can read the full letter here.

November 10, 2017(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments in Response to Proposed Changes to E-Rate

Last month, AASA issued a call to action to superintendents, urging them to respond to a set of proposed changes to the E-Rate program by the FCC. The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. To that end, AASA provided a template response, and more than 400 educators from schools and libraries across the country. 

You can read AASA's formal comments here.

November 10, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Applauds Introduction of Public Funds for Public Schools Act

Last spring, AASA and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a scathing report called Public Loss, Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education where we described how taxpayers in nine states are able to profit from their donations to private school voucher programs. In our report, we recommended Congress introduce legislation to close this voucher tax shelter that diverts millions of dollars away from federal coffers and back into voucher proponents’ pockets.

We are excited to share that Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) has introduced legislation to close the voucher tax shelter. AASA, along with 33 national education, civil rights, religious and disability organizations sent a letter in support her bill called the Public Funds for Public Schools Act (H.R. 4269). Already it has garnered three additional co-sponsors. Alabama is one of the nine states where wealthy taxpayers have a financial incentive to support private school voucher programs because they are able to take a federal deduction on a donation for which they also received a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. This enables them to avoid paying federal taxes on a “charitable contribution” that costs them nothing thereby allowing them to pay less in taxes.  

Sewell sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and she spoke about her bill during the Committee’s mark-up of the tax bill. Her staff also put together a great one-pager on the bill that you can read here.  

November 6, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, Recommends Improvements

In advance of today's markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, AASA sent a letter to the House Ways & Means committee to express our opposition to the bill as currently drafted and to recommend improvement. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in three categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts) and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding. Additional detail can be found in the attached letter. 

 

  • State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D): As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation's public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion's share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction--even the partial elimination in the proposal--would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. State and local funding accounts for approximately 90% of funding for K12 schools. Reduction of state and local revenues--an all but certain reality under this tax plan--would mean certain cuts to public education. We remain opposed to any changes to the original SALT deduction and urge the Committee to ensure that any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the SALT deduction as a matter of national priority.
  • Privatization and Vouchers: The bill expands 529 accounts to be used for private K-12 educational expenses of up to $10,000. This is a major change from current tax policy where Coverdell accounts, which are income-restricted, were the only tax-free account available to parents for private school expenses. The new bill will enable very wealthy Americans to set aside money for private school expenses furthering the appeal for them to educate their children in private schools. This is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and the revenues that stand to be lost under this 'benefit' would be far more efficiently and effectively invested to support public schools, via federal formula programs like Title I and IDEA, programs driven by equity and working to support teachers and education personnel, to reduce class size, to support instruction and more. AASA is opposed to this expansion of 529 policy and urges the Committee to strike the revision. 
  • Tax Plan Pay For: AASA urges the Committee to ensure that any tax reform act prudently to ensure that tax reform is paid for--not adding to the federal debt--and that in looking for pay-fors, work to preserve parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding. AASA is concerned that should a tax plan that is deficit-financed move forward, Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and that those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending. Congress already struggles to avoid deep cuts to important education programs as they work to comply with existing federal funding caps and constraints; a debt-financed tax reform would only exacerbate this tension and the depth of cuts to important education programs.
We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.

 

November 2, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Amicus Brief in South Dakota vs Wayfair

While AASA does not maintain counsel, we do from time to time engage in the Supreme Court process when a pending case has implications for public schools. Last term, we filed in the Endrew Case, related to special education. We just recently signed onto an amicus brief (from 'amicus curiae', which means 'friend of the court'), a process by which someone who is not a party to the case can provide information or context that bears on the case. A summary of the most recent amicus brief is below, written by Lisa Soronen, of the State & Local Legal Center. Her organization led the effort, which was also supported by the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, among others.

State and Local Legal Center Asks Supreme Court to Accept Sales Tax Case 

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear South Dakota’s petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to hold that states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the SLLC stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the Supreme Court. In September South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the Supreme Court to overrule it. In October South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill.   

The SLLC amicus brief makes two main points. First, it explains why this is the right case for the Court to take. In recent years numerous cases (and state laws) have challenged Quill at the margins. This case directly asks the Court to decide whether to overturn Quill without any distractions like factual issues. Second, now is the right time for the Court to consider overturning Quill because states and local governments are failing to collect billions of dollars in tax revenue annually at an increasing rate due to rising online sales.

The brief cites a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the International Council of Shopping Centers which estimated that in 2015, uncollected sales taxes from remote sales were almost $26 billion. Of this $26 billion, over $17 billion uncollected taxes were projected to be from electronic sales.    

At this point all South Dakota and its amici, including the SLLC, are asking the Supreme Court to do is agree to hear this case. Supreme Court review is discretionary; four of the nine Supreme Court Justices must agree to hear any case. If the Supreme Court refuses to do so, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional will stay in place.  possible the Court could hear this case this term meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.    

November 1, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Save SALTD: Support Public Education

Tomorrow, the House is expected to unveil the details of the anticipated tax reform package. As mentioned previously in the blog (and in an AASA press release), it is likely the proposal will include the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). Last week, AASAs joined 4 other national organizations in a joint statement expressing our continued opposition to any elimination of SALT-D. 

AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. 

What can you do? Make sure your delegation understands what SALT-D means to your community. Here is a pretty comprehensive set of resources for you to draw on:

AASA Talking Points (from the call to action)  

  • We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  • SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  • Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  • The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  
  • Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

AASA Memo: Education and Tax Reform  

  • Over the summer, I worked with a colleague form AFT to better understand the myriad ways that tax reform--SALT-D and other areas--could impact schools. That learning/research is summarized in this memo.

Americans Against Double Taxation: This is the coalition we are active in. They have rich resources

  • Calculator: How would the elimination of SALT-D impact the average homeowner in YOUR zip code and zip codes in your school district? THIS calculator will tell you. 
  • Congressional District Impact: What does it mean for tax payers in your Congressional district? This report has the numbers 

 

 

 

 

 

October 27, 2017

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

National Education Groups Issue Statement On Proposed Elimination Of SALT-D

AASA was pleased to join four other national education groups representing superintendents, school boards, school business professionals, rural schools and communities, and educational service agencies issued the following statement in response to Congressional action related to moving forward with President Trump’s proposed tax reform, which includes the  proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT):

“We believe any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the state and local tax (SALT) deduction as a matter of national priority. The SALT revenue is invested in local communities to fund vital needs including infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and public schools, which educate almost 90 percent of students in our country. Representing public education leaders entrusted with the important responsibility for educating students, we are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support. Eliminating the SALT deduction endangers public education and our students’ future. 

“State and local tax deductions ensure a stable local tax base that public schools rely on to educate students and provide needed services, such as health care and related needs. The current proposal to eliminate the SALT deduction as part of broader tax reform would cripple this ability and damage state and local economies.  

“Policymakers can support tax reform and preserve this deduction. For the sake of our nation’s students and their future, we urge Congress to preserve and protect the SALT deduction.”

In alphabetical order, representatives from the national organizations included: 

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    Joan Wade, Executive Director
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
    John Musso, Executive Director
  • National Rural Education Association
    Allen Pratt, Executive Director  

 

National School Boards Association

Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO 

 

October 24, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up! 2017 is Open: Tell Your Technology Story

The Speak Up 2017 surveys are now open! Each year the Speak Up research project for digital learning asks K-12 students, parents and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. If you have not yet registered your school/district, there is still plenty of time! Surveys will close on January 19, 2018.

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning. More than 5 million participants have made Speak Up the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration. National-level reports inform policymakers at all levels.

Educators from more than 30,000 schools have used Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for the next generation of learning. You can too! Learn more about how to register as the primary contact at http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/registration.html today to participate in Speak Up.

To see what our top Speak Up top schools and districts have to say about why they participate in Speak Up, and learn how they utilized their school/district’s data, visit the Speak Up in Action page here.

Surveys take less than 20 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous. Join more than 500,000 people from more than 10,000 schools to be sure your voice is heard this year! 

As part of Speak Up, we (AASA) are offering two opportunities to win a complimentary registration to our 2018 National Education Conference. Check out Speak Up America and Speak Up Appreciation Week for more on these offers.

Surveys are open through January 19, 2018, and schools and districts can still sign up to get promotional materials and their free data: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/MainContactInformation.html

 

October 10, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, October 2017

By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Federal Policy Triple Threat: CHIP, E-Rate and SALT

Children’s Health Insurance Program: The CHIP Program expired on September 30. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. AASA supports five -year extension of the program.  CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. 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. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them. The full call to action is on the blog.

State and Local Tax Deduction: The president’s tax reform plan includes a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. The full call to action is on the blog.

E-Rate: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments. The full call to action—including a template response—is on the blog.

We’ve called 2017 the Year of Superintendent Advocacy and encouraged superintendents to commit to making contact with the members of their delegation once per month. For the month of October, we ask you to consider to take one advocacy step each week. One week, reach out to your delegation about CHIP. The next week, file comments on ERate and why it matters. To complete your hat-trick of October advocacy, let your delegation know you oppose any tax plan that changes/eliminates the SALT deduction.

As always, reach out to Sasha, Leslie or Noelle for additional information, including contact information for your hill staff.


 

October 9, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

E-Rate Call to Action: FCC Considering Cut to Category 2 Funding

Quick Summary: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments.

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. In fact, 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! 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, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is, and we want to make sure Congress knows 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. Congress needs to understand that the changes of the 2014 modernization are just starting to meaningfully reach schools and libraries, and that any substantive changes would be premature and poor policy. 

Specific to what the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, are considering: When the FCC modernized the E-Rate program in 2014, it focused funding on broadband Internet service (Category 1) and Wi-Fi and internal connections (Category 2). For Category 2, E-Rate provides schools with a formula distribution of $150 per pupil, which is supposed to last schools for 5 years. Since the modernized E-Rate with a higher spending cap rolled out in 2015, schools have made active use of their Category 2 allotments. Evidence suggests that, as of today, 94% of schools meet the FCC’s interim broadband goal of 100 Mbps/1000 students, a considerable jump from 2013 when that number stood at only 30%.

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Bureau launched a Public Notice seeking comment on Category 2 budgets. Specifically, this public notice asks how schools have used their allotments and whether schools made Wi-Fi purchases without E-Rate support. The public notice also asks why some schools have not used their allotments yet and whether they planned to do so before the end of the 5-year formula cycle. This last question may arise from data gathered by Funds for Learning that shows that “more than a third (37%) of participating sites have not touched their Category Two (“C2”) budgets, and another quarter (23%) have used less than half of their budgets. Only a relatively small percentage of sites (18%) have maxed out their C2 discounts.” In total, $2.35 billion in Category 2 funds remain unclaimed and unspent by schools.

What’s at stake? There is a growing concern that the FCC is not asking these questions merely for data-gathering purposes but for another end in entirely. The Connect America Fund (CAF), a universal service program (like E-Rate is) that provides subsidies for rural telecommunications carriers, remains underfunded and could use a funding increase. The apparent surplus in Category 2 dollars may look tempting to the FCC and CAF supporters, leading to calls to transfer unused E-Rate dollars to CAF. The data collected in this rulemaking may stand as evidence that schools are not using or do not need some or all of their Category 2 funds, providing the FCC pretext to transfer E-Rate dollars to CAF. Once those dollars are transferred out of E-Rate, they may be gone forever and stand as a precedent for lower overall funding for E-Rate for years to come.

Call to Action: The FCC has asked for the public to submit initial Comments on this Public Notice by October 23rd and Reply Comments by November 7th. Schools, districts, educators and parents should file comments in the next month that tell the FCC: Hands-off E-Rate Category 2 funds. A strong response from the education community might prevent the FCC from taking action to transfer E-Rate funds.

How to File Comments with the FCC

  • COMMENTS ARE DUE October 23
  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template. Format your response as a Word/PDF document (include district letter head!).
  • Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings 
  • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 13-184
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
  • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form.

If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than Friday October 20, with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’

 

October 9, 2017(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Save SALT-D: Tax Reform Impacts Schools!

Call to Action: Save #SALT-D! (Tax Reform Impacts Schools)

 

TELL CONGRESS SALT MUST BE PRESERVED: 
NOT LIMITED, RESTRICTED OR MODIFIED IN ANY WAY

 

BACKGROUND: When it comes to tax reform, AASA is engaged in an effort to preserve the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech responded to the proposed elimination of SALT-D in a statement last month: "AASA is deeply opposed to the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies." AASA is a proud member of the Americans Against Double Taxation, a coalition of state and local government organizations, service providers and other stakeholders dedicated to protecting the state and local tax deduction (SALT), a federal tax deduction claimed by 44 million American taxpayers that supports vital investments in infrastructure, public safety, home ownership and education.

CALL TO ACTION: There were multiple reports last week suggesting that a variety of alternative proposals may be on the table to restrict, limit or modify SALT rather than eliminate it entirely as the “Big Six” first proposed. Our allies in the House have confirmed these reports, and told us these talks are progressing rapidly.  

This is the first of several critical crossroads we expect to face, and we need your help to make calls to Congress immediately, urging Members to fully preserve SALT, and reject proposals that undermine this deduction which has been a central tenet of our federalism for over 100 years.  

The good news is that the talk of alternatives to eliminating SALT means our voices are being heard by Members of Congress, and they now know there is strong and widespread opposition to taking away SALT.  However, we must remain vigilant and fully engaged because so-called compromise proposals can sound reasonable, but they also can be harmful to homeowners, middle class taxpayers, state and local governments and the public services they provide, much like full repeal of SALT.  

The SALT messages we need to deliver are:  

 

  1. We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  2. SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  3. Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  4. The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  

Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

 

October 9, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Update on LGBTQ Student Rights and Policies

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at GLSEN. Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to Sarah Munshi (sarah.munshi@glsen.org).

Much has transpired over the past year related to transgender students’ rights – in the courts, in public policy, and in public debates. At GLSEN, we want every student, in every school, to be valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We believe that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow.

With so much happening in America today, it is more important than ever that every student, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, understand that their school is a safe, welcoming place in which they can learn and thrive. As superintendents and school leaders are faced with critical decisions in their communities that deeply impact students’ school experiences and their success, we want to be sure that accurate information for creating inclusive and non-discriminatory schools and classrooms is readily accessible. Even as the law continues to evolve regarding protections for transgender students, there is clearly nothing that as a matter of law should preclude policy and practice that is educationally grounded and research-based.   

Resources to support your schools include the U.S. Department of Education’s guide, “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students,” and GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s “Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.” Policies such as these have transformed the educational experience for transgender students while critically avoiding any disruption or harm to the educational experience of other students. Thousands of schools across the country have successfully implemented these policies.*   A growing body of evidence shows that districts and schools that adopt and implement all-inclusive policies and practices – including restroom policies – are effective in establishing physically and psychosocially safe schools, resulting in better health and education outcomes for transgender students. 

As the leading national education organization working to create safe and affirming schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, or gender expression, GLSEN is proud to lead the effort. Working with school leaders, teachers, parents, and students—as well as national education organizations and associations whose memberships and constituents work directly in schools every day—we seek to provide practical and actionable support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students. And with an extensive Chapter network, currently comprised of nearly 40 Chapters across the country, GLSEN and our volunteers stand ready to work with you ensure that schools are safe and affirming for all, through the resources listed above, direct support, and professional development from GLSEN staff and Chapters.

* GLSEN and Movement Advancement Project, “Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities,” April 2017.  http://lgbtmap.org/transgender-youth-school.

 

October 2, 2017

 Permanent link

Action Alert: Support Extension of Children's Health Insurance Program

The CHIP Program expired on September 30th. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn.

CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. A lapse in coverage for children places more barriers on their ability to come to school ready to learn. During a time of great uncertainty in the healthcare system, children need the consistent, reliable health coverage CHIP provides today.

More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs. Fifteen states exclusively use CHIP funds to extend their Medicaid programs, meaning all children who qualify for CHIP receive identical services and benefits as their traditional Medicaid-counterparts. In most states a substantial portion of children served by CHIP receive Medicaid services and benefits protections. Districts in these States bill Medicaid for health services they provide to CHIP eligible children. This funding stream is critical to ensuring that healthcare services can be delivered to eligible students in the school building.

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. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them.

Write or Call Your Representatives and Senators With the Following Message:

  • The CHIP program ensures low-income children are healthy enough to learn by covering basic health screening, immunizations and many other critical health services.
  • Schools rely on CHIP funding to supplement the healthcare services they provide to students. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services low-income children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn.
  • More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs.
  • School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this current school year. The failure of Congress to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them.
  • Support the bipartisan bill to extend the CHIP program for five years in your chamber. 

 

September 21, 2017

(ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up 2017: Why Your District Should Participate

Each year, the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning asks K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. Speak Up is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning.

Why should your schools participate in Speak Up? 

  • Gain a better understanding of what your school’s technology needs are and make more informed funding decisions.
  • Learn about the aspirations for your teachers for using technology more effectively – and what is holding them back.
  • Find ways to improve school-to-home communications using new technology tools.
  • Ensure that your students and parents have a voice in national, state and local decisions about education.
  • It’s free.

Speak Up 2017 will be open for input from October 16, 2017, through January 19, 2018. Participate at any time during that window.

Surveys take 15-20 minutes to complete. All information is 100 percent confidential. No identifying information is collected. All local data is ONLY shared with the registered primary contact. Registered schools/districts receive all of their data – for free – in February, plus national data for comparison. Speak Up is facilitated by Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization.

Register today: tomorrow.org/speakup.

September 19, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

I know this seems like a bad case of deja vu, but we need superintendents from the following states to step up again and make some noise about Medicaid in schools and how important it is to the children you educate. If you live in AK, AZ, ME, NC, ND, OH, or WV please take 5 minutes out of your schedule to make a call to your Republican Senator(s). 

Here is your script: 

  • As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of Graham-Cassidy. 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.   
  • Graham-Cassidy 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.   

Email your Senators 

Calling is much more effective, but if you choose to write your elected officials, use this template.

Dear Senator xxx,

As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose Graham-Cassidy, 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 higher-education.

The current proposal would be devastating to schools and children, particularly those children with disabilities. Graham-Cassidy 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.  

I urge you to reject the Graham-Cassidy, and any subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.

September 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Back in Action: Congress Has A Full Plate this Fall

With Congress back in session for its first full week since July, it’s time for a quick recap of what unfolded over the August recess and last week. First thing, though, some context:

Congress has a lot on its plate for this month, and only 12 (!) working days, including the ones from last week. On their to do list? 

 

  • FY18 appropriations work: If Congress worked according to the rules, they would pass each of the 12 appropriations bills independently, and do so prior to October 1. Congress hasn’t completed the process in this order and on this timeline since the mid-90s. Their options are to either complete the work, have a shut down, or pass a short-term bill to fund government (called a ‘continuing resolution’ or ‘CR’).
  • Emergency funding for Harvey, Irma and wildfires: Congress will need to take explicit action to provide emergency funding to the millions of people impacted by this confluence of natural disasters. This triple whammy adds its own set of political calculations and pressures which will be at play for the other items on this to-do list. 
  • Debt Ceiling: Congress has to take action to raise the debt ceiling to the nation can continue to borrow to pay down debt (payments for debt already accrued). 
  • Raising Funding Caps: Much of the funding pressure at play right now stems from the continued pressure of funding caps—established through the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the subsequent ‘sequester’. While Congress is bound to these caps, they are the ones that can raise the caps, or address revenue and spending pressure through nuanced conversations about tax policy, rather than blunt, across-the-board cuts. Specific to education, these caps results in federal allocations that leave the FY18 investments below the levels of FY10.
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: This is something we are following. I would love to tell you that Congress has this on their radar. While there is broad bipartisan AND bicameral support (WHAT?!?!), it needs a push to be moved. This will need to be attached to a larger vehicle (think: appropriations bill). You can read our related blog post and call to action here.
  • Defense Authorization: This is an annual defense policy bill that has to be considered. It will consume both time and political chits. 
  • Continued efforts related to Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal/Replace: While the bill momentum has slowed immensely, this week could be one final push. Led by Senators Cassidy and Graham, there could be a push that would turn ACA’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid funds intro a block grant program.  Part of the concern here is that media attention and public pressure are diverted to the other political conversations and natural disasters. How quickly Congress seems to have forgotten how unpalatable it was to cut Medicaid or make it a block grant. Need a reminder, or want to share it with your delegation? Check out the AASA Medicaid report.
  • DACA: President Trump announced his plans to end the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and then announced he wouldn’t take action for six months, essentially kicking the can down the road and forcing the hand of Congress to address their intentions related to protecting these children/young adults. 

So where do we stand? Last week, Congress passed—and the President signed—combination legislation that provides short-term federal funding (Avoiding a shutdown), temporarily raises the debt ceiling, AND provides $15.25 billion in emergency funding for Hurricane Harvey. December 8 is now the date to watch: the CR AND the debt ceiling will expire on this day. 

While this agreement is progress, it complicates an already complex Congressional calculus: December was already crunch time in a chamber that wanted to rewrite tax code by the end of the year. This overall December debate could grow more complicated if it includes Democrats pushing for increased spending in domestic programs in exchange for Trump’s military increases; Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico; and the aforementioned DACA debate.

For the rest of FY18, check out this side-by-side comparison of Trump’s FY18 proposal, compared to that of the House and Senate. In a nutshell, Trump’s proposal is draconian, the House proposal is less bad (but not good!) and the Senate proposal is the least bad. It is important to know that Congress is bound to the pressures of the funding caps, which limits their ability to invest in programs. I am not going to go into detailed analysis of the House and Senate bills because: while the House bill has passed the full chamber it is unlikely the Senate bill will ever be voted on. The overall number with which the House and Senate started were different. From that overall number, the allocations to the various subcommittees also varied. So, in addition to the fact that the Senate bill, for education, was less bad and had different allocations and priorities, it is in part because they are summing to different baselines.

When you factor in that they have already agreed to a short term CR, it opens up the likelihood that we have another short term CR, and a small chance for a year-long CR. When we have a CR, programs are level funded. That is, FY18 programs would be funded at FY17 levels. Which would be ok, except for the fact that the FY18 caps are BELOW the FY17 level, meaning that unless there is explicit action within a CR, there could be a chance for across-the-board cuts to bring us into compliance with the FY18 caps. Which reiterates the importance of Congress to address the funding caps by a balanced effort to raise the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary funding. It also increases the likelihood that the House and Senate will instead negotiate a middle-ground FY18 deal, though I can’t yet read if that middle-point would be above or compliant with the caps. 

In short, as per usual, the funding conversation has a lot of moving pieces. While we have avoided a shut down until December 8, this year has a very significant number of additional political stressors that will up the ante and ‘politicking’. Your voice will be important in helping Congress understand the importance of adequate and appropriate investment in education. 

 

September 6, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Joins 4 Other National Organizations in Joint Statement Supporting Public Education, Urges Other Organizations to Sign on!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary Principals, and the National Education Association issue this joint statement in support of public education, and we call on other national education associations to sign on in support. We will use this joint statement to highlight the broad, diverse support that exists for our nation’s public schools as we continue to advocate for federal policy and supports that strengthen our schools and the 50 million students they educate. AASA is including this effort as part of our broader year-long 'I Love Public Education' campaign and we are pleased to have the support of our colleague organizations in this latest effort.

Please join AASA, AFT, NAESP, NASSP, and NEA in supporting this statement. You can join today! Sign up now. 

Joint Statement in Support of Public Education

"We issue this joint statement in support of public education and our continued commitment to the highest quality public education for all students.

"Public education is the foundation of our 21st-century democracy. Our public schools are where our students come to be educated in the fullest sense of the word as citizens of this great country. We strive every day to make every public school a place where we prepare the nation’s young people to contribute to our society, economy and citizenry. 

"Ninety percent of American children attend public schools. We call on local, state and federal lawmakers to prioritize support for strengthening our nation’s public schools and empowering local education leaders to implement, manage and lead school districts in partnership with educators, parents, and other local education stakeholders and learning communities.  This support would also provide for such necessities as counseling, extra/co-curricular activities and mental health supports that are critical to help students engage in learning.

"We support and value inclusive and safe high-quality public schools where children learn to think critically, problem solve and build relationships. We support an environment where all students can succeed beginning in the earliest years, regardless of their zip code, the color of their skin, native language, gender/gender identity, immigration status, religion, or social standing. 

"We promote advancing equity and excellence in public education, and implementing continuous improvement and evidence-based practices. Every child has the right to an education that helps them reach their full potential and to attend schools that offer a high quality educational experience.

"We support stable, equitable, predictable and adequate funding for great public schools for every student in America so that students have inviting classrooms, as well as well-prepared and supported educators. These educators include teachers, paraprofessionals and principals who provide a well-rounded and complete curriculum and create joy in learning. Our school buildings should have class sizes small enough to allow one-on-one attention and have access to support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them.

"We believe that public tax dollars should only support public schools that are publicly governed and accountable to parents, educators and communities. In no way should local, state or federal funding be taken away from public schools and given to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. 

"We reiterate our love for public education and pride in our public schools. We will continue to promote the promise and purpose of public education, to elevate the great things happening every day in our public schools, and to engage communities about strategies that help students succeed.  We affirm our commitment to fight for resources and policies that would undermine these values."

Signed this, the 6th day of September, 2017: 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary Principals
  • National Education Association

 

 

September 5, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Partners with CoSN for 2017 Infrastructure Survey

It's back to school, which means a LOT of things. Including time for the annual AASA/CoSN infrastructure survey. For the past several years, we have collaborated with CoSN on this survey as a way to assess the current state of broadband and technology infrastructure in U.S. school systems. The survey gathered insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, to assess key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

The survey has been distributed. We switched formats this year, and each district is receiving it's own, distinct URL. It was deployed to the main contact in the CoSN database, and we are writing this blog post to put this on your radar and to encourage you to check with your tech/IT team to ensure your district response is captured. 

Dear Education Leader: 

AASA, in partnership with education researchers at MDR and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), recently launched the fifth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. 

This year, CoSN has partnered with Forecast5 Analytics to provide premium results in an online workbook of visual data analytics that will allow you to compare to districts across the country on IT infrastructure strategies.

Last week, we sent a custom survey link to your technology director. We ask that you follow up with your Technology Department to ensure that your school district is represented. The deadline is Friday, September 25th. 

Districts that participate in this survey will receive a report giving a high level overview of the survey results. You will also have an opportunity to request detailed survey results from Forecast5 once you have completed the survey.

Thank you for your help! 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com. 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com.

September 5, 2017(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Stand Up, Speak Up, Act Now for Secure Rural Schools

Congress must fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Congress is funding many programs in Fiscal Year 2017 but has not yet funded SRS for the 9 million students in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states across the country.

The SRS safety net has unraveled in 775 counties and 4,400 school districts serving 9 million students in 41 states. Congress has failed to act on SRS and forest management.  The Secure Rural Schools program a safety net for forest communities in 41 states has expired.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements begun in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity. 

Congress must extend and fund the SRS safety net until the federal government produces long overdue sustainable active forest management systems. Lacking SRS 2016 authorization the National Forest Service issued 25% payments of timber receipts to states based on the 1908 Act.  The 2016 payments actually based on timber receipts are substantially below SRS funding forcing local school district and county budget cuts.        

Without immediate Congressional action to fund SRS for the short term and to establish forest policy, forest counties and school districts are cutting irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.

SEPTEMBER ACTION: STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR SRS: ASK your Senators and Representative to STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR Secure Rural Schools as Congress funds FY 2018 and disaster relief. Tell your Member what lost SRS funds and 2016 funding based on shared timber receipts mean for students, and for roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs.

 

  • Ask your REPRESENTATIVE to STAND UP, SPEAK UP AND ACT NOW FOR SRS. Needed: Immediate action on short term SRS funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services.
  • ASK your House REP. to join Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to cosponsor H.R.2340 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK your Senators to join Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) to cosponsor S. 1027 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability. 

PLEASE STAND UP, SPEAK UP ACT NOW For SRS. Congress can and must fund SRS short term for 2016-2017. Forest county communities are losing irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. 

 

September 5, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Leads CHIP Funding Extension Letter

Today, AASA led a letter on behalf of the 35 national organizations who belong to the Save Medicaid in the Schools Coalition, expressing our support for a full, clean extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years at current funding levels. We are writing to Congress because if CHIP is not appropriately expedient and robustly funded then every child educated in public school districts will be harmed.

More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs. Fifteen states exclusively use CHIP funds to extend their Medicaid programs, meaning all children who qualify for CHIP receive identical services and benefits as their traditional Medicaid-counterparts. In most states a substantial portion of children served by CHIP receive Medicaid services and benefits protections.  If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for these children’s healthcare then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. 


September 1, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Join Your Colleagues in San Francisco to close Attendance Awareness Month!

This guest blog post comes from Lee Funk, Executive Director of the Attendance Institute

The Attendance Institute, a non-profit agency dedicated to promoting student engagement, is hosting its second annual summit, “Cultivating Success,” in San Francisco on September 29, 2017. This event will focus on multiple routes to successful student performance and will take place on Friday, September 29, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis.

The goal is to bring together innovators, scholars, and result-minded leaders who have real solutions for increasing student achievement and, ultimately, success in life. The forum will stress what proven results are possible—not years in the future, but now.

Ryan J. Smith, the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization, will deliver the keynote address and Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer, the Associate Deputy Director for the Bureau of Indian Education, will speak during the luncheon.

The Institute’s research staff will unveil the results of a study involving over 70 districts and more than 700,000 students on the effectiveness of systemic interventions for reducing chronic absenteeism and improving graduation rates.

For more information go here: http://attendanceinstitute.org/.

August 30, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Dan Domenech: Show Your Support for Public Education

Today's guest blog comes from AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech, and he calls on local school districts to consider and adopt their own version of the 'I Love Public Education' resolution adopted by AASA at our advocacy conference this summer. Please direct any questions to Tammy Barbara (tbarbara@aasa.org) and Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org). 

In July, AASA launched the I Love Public Education campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight the success and opportunities of public education and demonstrate how public schools develop future generations of successful students. 

Following the AASA governing board's unanimous adoption of the Resolution in Support of Public Education, it's time to take the message to the local level: school districts

AASA is working with other national and state organizations to adopt a multi-organization "I Love Public Education" resolution that we can leverage on Capitol Hill. But, when it comes to amplifying the message, the power lies with our members. At the local level, there is nothing stronger than a unified message from the nation's public school districts, each proclaiming 'I Love Public Education'. 

To that end, we ask our members to work with their local school board to make the resolution a meeting agenda item, and that the board and superintendent work together to adopt their district's 'I Love Public Education' resolution this fall. You can adopt the AASA version unedited, you can modify this version, or you can use our version as a starting point for your district's unique 'I Love Public Education' resolution. Whatever you adopt, we want to hear about it. Please submit your district resolution via email to LovePublicEducation@aasa.org, fax to 703-528-2146 or mail to AASA, attn: Tammy Barbara, 1615 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. 

Steps

 

  1. Review the AASA resolution
  2. Add the resolution to a school board meeting agenda this fall. 
  3. Work with your board to adopt your district's version of the resolution. 
  4. Share your resolution with AASA.  

 

Looking to do more? There's a lot more at the local level than just the school district. Could your town or county board adopt the resolution? Can your mayor or town official adopt a version of the resolution? Could you generate a 'community partner' version, open to local officials, the chamber of commerce, and other local entities? 

At a time when education policy is undermining the rich history of our public schools and the roles they play in preparing students to be productive adults, we need your help to lead, shape and grow a broad dialogue and support for public education. Beyond adopting a resolution, you can join the conversation on Twitter by using the #LovePublicEducation hashtag. 

We appreciate the work you do to ensure the children of this country receive the best education possible. Let us know how we can help you. 

August 28, 2017

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Supporting What Matters: As schools reconvene, will Congress support public education, mirroring public opinion?

Guest blog post by AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech

The end of summer means the start to another school year. It means time for this year’s annual PDK poll. Each year, for the last 49 years, PDK has polled the public’s attitudes toward public schools, and each year, the results are a telling insight to shifts and mainstays as it relates to public support for public schools. This year is no exception.

When it comes to our nation’s schools, the overarching message from the public remains steady: academic achievement isn’t the only mission, and as such they support investments in career preparation and personal skills. Much like the shift from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was about clarifying that a child is more than a test score, this year’s results echo the idea that a child’s education is more than just academics. 

This summer, AASA launched its ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign, a year-long effort to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. The campaign is designed to facilitate deliberate conversations and strong, meaningful actions on the efforts to bolster our schools to best support the students they serve. We are working to reshape the current national dialogue on public education to highlight the critical role public schools play as the bedrock of our civic society and their work to prepare students to be successful, contributing members of their local, national and global communities. It’s a campaign central to our work supporting public school superintendents, and it is in strong parallel to a big takeaway from the annual poll, that parents’ main concern remains wanting to ensure their children are prepared for life after they complete high school. 

The public continues to support public schools. We are all too familiar with the quick-draw that negative headlines garner for public schools. But, as the PDK poll has long documented, people support and give good grades to the schools they know. And this year? The proportion of Americans who gave their community’s public schools an A grade is at its highest point in more than 40 years of PDK polling: 15 percent of Americans gave their local schools an A, up from 9 percent a decade ago. In tandem with increased support:

  • 49 percent of Americans gave their local public schools an A or B grade, matching the average since 1999;
  • 22 percent of Americans refer to a lack of funding as the biggest problem facing their local schools;
  • Americans continue to oppose rather than favor using public funds to send students to private school (52 percent to 39 percent), and opposition rises to 61 percent when the issue is discussed with more nuance/detail.

School isn’t the only thing that gets back to session in September. This support for public education will prove critical as Congress returns from their summer work session (sometimes called ‘recess’). With less than 50 work days remaining in the year, there is a lot on their plate. They must address the annual appropriations process and avoid a shut down, and there is a very good chance they will have to navigate the debt ceiling debate. How can Congress invest funding in the career preparation and personal skills of students when the current funding caps are so low—below 2010 levels? Despite the public’s documented support for public schools and non-academic programming, Congress is considering eliminating ESSA Title II and deep cuts to more than a dozen other programs. Layer that on top of an administration that has prioritized investment in privatization and voucher programs—at direct odds with public opinion—and you can see how important the ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign becomes in ensuring that the voices and priorities of the public, and the public schools, are reflected in federal policy.

 

You can access my full statement on the release of the PDK poll here. You can access the full 2017 PDK poll here

August 28, 2017

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: U.S. Superintendents Excited About Their District's Future

This post originally appeared at www.gallup.com/poll/217088/superintendents-excited-district-future.aspx and is posted here with permission.

Guest Blog by Tim Hodges, Gallup

Download the full report for free here: www.gallup.com/reports/217103/gallup-k-12-superintendent-report-201708.aspx

K-12 students returning to class this fall are being welcomed back by leaders who are optimistic about the future of their school district. Eighty-five percent of U.S. public school district superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about their district's future. These attitudes are largely unchanged from 2015, when 86% responded positively to the same question.

While school leaders are largely positive about their local situation, this optimism is much harder to find in their opinions of the overall K-12 public education system. About one in three superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about the future of U.S. public education, down sharply from 44% just two years ago. The percentage who either disagree or strongly disagree is up from 24% to 38%, with those most negative about the future of the nation's public school system increasing from 6% to 15%.

Several factors influence leaders' opinions about the future of education. The latest Gallup survey of superintendents suggests that the most pressing challenges facing school districts are changing.

In the past four years, concern has risen among school leaders about improving the academic performance of underprepared students, and this is now the top concern of those tested. Fiscal challenges remain a significant source of concern for superintendents, as was the case in 2013. Superintendents also report high levels of concern about the effects of poverty on student learning (a question asked for the first time in 2017). Complete results for all issues tested this year appear at the end of this article.

At the same time, concern about meeting rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level has moved down in the rankings. Possibly related to this, revamping curriculum is also less of a concern for school leaders than it was in 2013 -- a time when the Common Core State Standards and new federal legislation increased attention on student assessments.

Bottom Line

Public school superintendents begin the new school year optimistic about their own local district, although they are less confident in the nation's schools overall. Local district leaders still struggle to manage difficult fiscal situations and are increasingly focused on the challenges of reducing achievement gaps for underperforming students and addressing the needs of students in poverty. These and other challenges will continue to have the attention of leaders as the nation's students return to school.

About the Study

Gallup developed this research study of K-12 superintendents of public school districts in the U.S. to understand their opinions on important topics and policy issues facing education. Since 2013, Gallup has conducted the survey at least annually. The 2017 report addresses a variety of issues, including:

  • the workplace engagement of superintendents
  • human capital needs in the district, such as recruiting, selecting and retaining talented teachers and principals
  • factors in teacher performance evaluations
  • federal, state and local education policy issues
  • superintendent-board relations

The full report is available for download here.

SURVEY METHODS

This survey is an attempted census of U.S. public school district superintendents. Gallup used a purchased sample list of 12,432 K-12 school districts across the U.S. to email their superintendents to invite them to participate in a web survey. Gallup conducted 2,326 web interviews from June 15-July 9, 2017, achieving a 19% response rate. The sample of superintendents was weighted to correct for possible nonresponse bias by matching the obtained sample to targets for all U.S. school districts from the National Center for Education Statistics database on district enrollment, geographical region and location of the district in a city, suburb, town or rural area. The weighted sample thus can be projected to represent public school district superintendents nationwide.

 

August 3, 2017

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate: August 2017

The summer of 2017 has been one to remember. From shake-ups at the White House to intense health care debates, it’s never been more difficult to keep track of everything happening in Washington. While the health care votes during the week of July 25 were a sign that sometimes policy can trump politics, we are not out of the woods yet. There are still backroom deals purportedly underway to try and dismantle Medicaid.

Though  much of the attention appears to be on Obamacare and fixing the problems related to the coverage in the exchanges, we can’t  forget that a majority of House members and more than  40 Senators support the idea of block-granting Medicaid dollars to states. These high numbers mean that our work to educate Congress about school-based Medicaid is far from over.

We can and should relish in our highly-publicized and highly-regarded efforts to educate leaders on Capitol Hill, numerous state and national partners and millions of citizens across this country about school-based Medicaid. But, we need to keep educating and advocating.

Even if the House and Senate wash their hands of the Medicaid entitlement conversation for the rest of this Congressional session, there is a newfound appetite to “trim” Medicaid funding. Let’s be clear: any trim to the Medicaid program will hit schools, which are not front-line healthcare providers, first. We can never compete with hospitals, long-term care facilities, insurers, and other key health care players for limited Medicaid funding. That’s why these talking points on the importance of Medicaid in schools should be ones you remember for a long, long time.

In addition to fighting to preserve Medicaid, there is a smaller battle being waged to protect health care for kids who receive it through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Before the end of September, Congress must decide whether to extend funding for CHIP, which provides health insurance for 9 million children.

CHIP provides health care coverage for kids not quite poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid. In 15 states, kids eligible for CHIP look the same as kids eligible for Medicaid, and school reimbursement for services for CHIP kids as well as Medicaid kids is identical. In 29 states, a smaller portion of CHIP kids are treated as Medicaid beneficiaries and districts can also reimburse for the services they provide them.

The stakes are high if Congress fails to reauthorize—every  state will exhaust its  federal CHIP allotments at some point in fiscal year 2018 and a few states are expected to exhaust their federal CHIP allotments by December 2017. As a result,  millions of kids will lose health care. Consequently, your district may lose critical Medicaid dollars and be forced to provide basic health care services for even more kids to keep them healthy enough to learn. Outreach is underway  in both the House and Senate to urge them to support the extension of  funding for this program.

On the positive side, if Congress continues to treat Medicaid as an entitlement program for the near future there is a great opportunity for states and districts to pull down even more Medicaid funding, thanks to the reversal of the “free care” rule.

In December 2014, the “free care” rule prevented districts from being reimbursed by Medicaid for providing any service that is ordinarily provided for free to the community at large, even if Medicaid would cover these services for its beneficiaries in other contexts. For example,  if a school nurse examined  a Medicaid-eligible student as part of a universal screening, federal funds could not be used to cover that exam because all students would be able to access the service without being charged. The rescinding of this rule means that the child’s examination would be covered and reimbursed by Medicaid.

States are already in the process of seeking approval from CMS to start billing, so it’s worth connecting with other health and education advocates in your state to pursue whether your state is amending its plan to allow districts to start billing for these services as well. 

July 19, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy in Action: Week of July 17

Fresh off of last week's successful AASA/ASBO legislative advocacy conference (all conference materials and the evaluation can be accessed here) we hit the ground running for another busy week on Capitol Hill. And it is only Wednesday!

ESSA: On Tuesday, AASA President Gail Pletnick testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. You can access her testimony and an archive of the hearing here.

Appropriations: Today, the House appropriations committee considers the FY18 LHHS appropriations bill, which would provide funding for schools in the 2018-19 school year. AASA sent a letter expressing our concern with the proposal to the subcommittee last week and a similar letter to the full committee. Here’s a quick overview of what is in the bill, and we've linked to a comparison chart.   

  • Provides $66 billion for USED, down $2.4 billion from the current budget.
  • The House bill does NOT fund the Trump request for $1 billion for a portability/open enrollment provision in Title I, Part E, nor does it provide funding for a proposed $250 million voucher program.
  • IDEA Part B receives a $200 m increase
  • Title I is level funded
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers is cut by $200 m
  • Charter Grants increase $28 m
  • ESSA Title IV is funded at $500 m
FCC/E-Rate: Today, the Senate will confirm Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Ben Carr as Commissioners in the FCC. Ajit Pai is a carry over from the Obama administration and will serve as Chairman; Jessica Rosenworcel returns to the FCC after her term expired, and Ben Carr joins the FCC as a first-time commissioner. Pai and Carr are joined by Michael O’Rielly as the Republican members, and Rosenworcel returns to join Mignon Clyburn as the Democrats on the commission.  You'll recall that Commissioner Rosenworcel was a tireless champion of E-Rate, schools, connectivity and the homework gap in her previous term and AASA is beyond thrilled to have the chance to work with her again. Read our letter of support.
Webinars: In the last month, AASA held two webinars related to advocacy/policy, including one just this week. Both are linked below: 
  • Get the Lead Out: Testing for and Removing Lead in School Water Systems (Archive)
  • Financial Transparency Requirement in ESSA (Archive)

 

July 13 ,2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response to House LHHS FY18 Bill

On July 13, the House Appropriations LHHS subcommittee is set to mark up its FY18 proposal, which includes funding for USED, and will largely provide funding for schools in the 18-19 school year.

You can read AASA's letter of response

July 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

We are deep into Day Two of the AASA/ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference. We are beyond pumped to have nearly 300 school system and business leaders in town, advocating FOR schools, FOR students, and FOR public education. Can't be here? Follow along on twitter: #AASAadv, #LovePublicEducation, @SPudelski, @LeslieFinnan, @AASAhq, and @Noellerson.

If you are on the Hill today, be sure to tell us how it went! 

And, as promised, here are the meeting materials:   

We also referenced a few other resources on during the Wednesday panels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29, 2017

(WELL-BEING, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Joins 53 Groups on Children's Budget Letter to Support Funding for Critical Programs that Nurture Children

AASA is one of 54 cosigners on a Children's Budget Coalition Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 18) Budget letter that urges the House and Senate Budget Committees to support robust funding for programs that impact children's development and well-being. 

The Children's Budget Coalition is made up of more than 60 children-focused organizations who are collectively committed to ensuring that our nation's top leaders prioritize robust federal investment in the critical programs that nurture children.

Read the full letter, here.

June 27, 2017

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Our Independent Review of State ESSA Plans and What We Found

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success. This blog post in is coordination with the release of their broader review of ESSA plans. The Collaborative partnered with Bellwether Education to convene more than 30 bipartisan education policy experts to review state plans.

Several weeks ago, we told you about our independent peer review of state ESSA plans. Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems.

That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success  teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of these plans. Our effort looks beyond compliance, and focuses in on how states can improve their accountability systems. Our goal is to provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback to help ensure that state systems are serving all students and providing a more equitable learning environment that fosters success. We assembled a list of phenomenal expert peer reviewers who boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. 

Today, we will release the results of this peer review process.

Our findings already went to state departments of education and Governor’s offices. It is our goal to be as transparent as possible – this is not a “Gotcha” exercise, but it is an advocacy tool. We believe that by using our peer review process, the 17 states that have already submitted a plan can improve upon it, and that the 34 states that will submit a report in September can apply our recommendations. We sincerely hope that through implementation efforts at the state, district and school level, these ideas will help improve classroom results for students, parents, and teachers. 

Here are some high-level findings, beginning with some noteworthy strengths across the state plans

 

  • We saw much more robust measures of school quality (e.g. including science, art, physical education). Several states were looking to promote more holistic views of school quality;
  • At the high school level, states are pursuing a number of innovative college- and career-readiness indicators (AP, IB, SAT/ ACT, industry certifications, etc.) and refocusing efforts to ensure students are prepared for life after high school;
  • All 17 states included some measure of student growth; and 
  • Even though states could opt to include new, additional indicators of school quality, they are continuing to place strong weight on academics 

 

You will see that we have gone to great lengths to highlight the best practices we found in the 17 state plans so far, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also push for plan improvements

 

  • Too many states had goals that were untethered to the state’s long-term visions or were ignored in the accountability system;
  • There is a troubling shift across states towards normative accountability systems, focused on how schools compare with one another, not an external standard; and  
  • Our peers believe that state plans can do more upfront to ensure student subgroups are not overlooked or overshadowed. Our peers had a strong equity lens and as a result, no state received the highest mark possible for having adequate checks in place to ensure all students and subgroups are tended too. 

 

Lastly, an important point to make which has direct impact on district leaders: these state plans had vague or underdeveloped school improvement plans, with only one state earning the highest mark possible for its proposals to actually turn around low-performing schools. This is a key area where states must do better, as the primary purpose of accountability systems is to drive school improvement.

How can you help? As part of our announcement today we are also launching a new website, CheckStatePlans.org. This interactive, user-friendly website will help parents and community members make sense of complicated state ESSA plans. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 

 

June 22, 2017

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AASA Supports Bipartisan Perkins CTE Reauthorizatoin

Today the House will vote on a bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. Yesterday, AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives commending them for their work to reauthorize the Perkins. While the bill is not perfect (see letter for more details), there is much to like and we are thrilled to see so many of our policy priorities incorporated into the legislation.

June 21, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Rural Education: We’re Stronger Together

The House Rural Education Caucus, under the leadership of Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) hosted a rural education briefing on Capitol Hill, open to hill staff and the broader public.  More than one-half (53%) of the nation’s public school districts are categorized as rural in the 2013-14 NCES Rural Education in America. As public schools educate more than 50 million students each year, it is critical that federal education policies address the needs of all our students, including the unique opportunities and obstacles faced in rural communities.   

  • Nearly 8.9 million students attend rural schools—more than the enrollments of the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago—and incredibly, the nation’s next 75 largest school districts combined. 
  • More than one in four schools are rural, more than one in six students attend schools in rural areas, and more than one in four rural students is a child of color. At least half of public schools are rural in 13 states.
  • Half the nation’s rural students live in just 10 states. The largest rural enrollments are in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, and Michigan.
  • Half of rural school districts in 23 states have enrollment smaller than 485 students (the national median enrollment for rural districts).  

This briefing highlighted federal education programs critical to supporting rural education, including Impact Aid, the Rural Education Achievement Program, and Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties, as well as more general federal education policies with impacts on rural communities, including ESSA, Medicaid, Perkins Career/Tech, E-Rate, and federal appropriations.

The materials from the briefing are available below: 

June 19, 2017

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What States receive the most money for school-based Medicaid?

By Sasha Pudelski

The GOP health care proposal to change Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant could mean that school districts are cut off from receiving Medicaid reimbursement permanently. With a significant shortage of federal funding to support Medicaid, districts will be in the unenviable position of competing with hospitals, doctors and other providers for limited reimbursement from states. While districts receive less than 1% of the federal Medicaid allocation, that money represents the third largest federal funding stream in education.  

Here are the states that will lose the most most school-based Medicaid funding: 

#1 by a wide margin is Texas. Districts in Texas receive about $444 million dollars annually from the Medicaid program (250 million of which comes from the feds).

#2 is my home-state of NJ which captures about $286.6 million annually. Yeah Jersey!

Coming in right behind NJ is IL, which is #3. IL school districts receive $286.4 million annually.

#4 is New York with $273.6 million in school-based Medicaid reimbursements.

PA is #5 with $253.3 million heading back to school districts. As a state with one of the most expensive special education budgets in the country, I’m sure PA districts are eager to have this funding to support their students.

#6 is Michigan. Michigan school leaders have relied on Medicaid billing for health and special ed services or decades and its billing rate for school-based Medicaid ($250.2 million) is therefore not surprising.

#7 is Wisconsin, with $187.7 million, which IS surprising. Given it’s not a super populous state, the billing rate for school-based Medicaid is considerably high.  Of note is that the feds contribute a sizeable amount, $107 mil, each year.

#8 is California with $180.3 million each year. You would think they would be higher, huh?

#9 is Massachusetts with $147 million split evenly between the states and the feds.

And last, but not least is North Carolina with 142 million where the feds pitch in about $87.2 million annually.

Please note that all these numbers are from a CMS doc that looks at FY15 numbers. Capturing the school-based Medicaid dollars uniformly is not easy (and my guess is that this is a pretty good underestimation) since states can authorize billing for certain things (and deny billing for others) and districts aren’t always aware of all the money they can be pulling down. As school leaders know, the decision to invest in the infrastructure, training/PD and technology to bill Medicaid is expensive and difficult and districts won't do it unless it makes a lot of financial sense. We don’t know exactly what districts in each state bill (the state departments may be able to help with that info) but if you want a quick list of Medicaid eligibility by school district click here. If only the conversation in D.C. was about how to make sure every district with high proportions of Medicaid eligible kids was billing, so they could maximize services for kids with disabilities and kids in poverty. Unfortunately, it’s not.  

 

June 13, 2017

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If you're a supt who hasn't taken action to protect Medicaid in schools now, you're missing a major opportunity to make a difference in the debate on Capitol Hill

As a school leader you know school-based Medicaid programs are really important to students, to school personnel and to communities. We need Congress to understand this point now more than ever. Please take 5 minutes. Make a call, send an email, do whatever you can to weigh in with your Senators. If you miss the opportunity to protect school-based Medicaid programs you are missing an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this debate. 

Below are your talking points. Download this sample letter and make it your own. If you prefer to call, there is also a script for that below. If you aren’t sure how much money you get as a district, feel free to refer to the state numbers that I have attached. Please share this widely with your staff and other school leaders you know.

General Talking Points

·   Medicaid provides critical health care services to children across the country in a variety of settings, including in schools.

·   Medicaid pays for some services in school settings for eligible Medicaid-enrolled students. This is an efficient and impactful delivery system because schools are where children are. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care AND educational outcomes.

·   Medicaid funding to schools is critical to ensuring access to services for these students. Without Medicaid funding, schools will be unable to meet student need and already strained school budgets will not be able to keep up.

·   Proposals to cap federal funds directly shift costs to state budgets—and state budgets are already strained.

Consequences of Block Grants or Per Capita Caps

·       Cuts or changes to Medicaid funding could undermine Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT). The goal of EPDST is to assure that health problems are diagnosed and treated as early as possible, before the problems become complex and treatment more costly.  Changes to the funding structure of Medicaid could limit the availability of critical and cost-saving preventative care.

·       Together with CHIP, Medicaid has been enormously successful in providing access to health services to more than 44 percent of our nation’s children. From vaccinations, well-child check-ups, and chronic disease management, to oral health, vision care, and prenatal care for expectant mothers, Medicaid ensures that children get the services they need to grow, develop, and go to school ready to learn.

·       Children constitute approximately 44 percent of the Medicaid beneficiaries, but only about 19 percent of the costs for Medicaid. Current proposals to cap or limit state funding are misguided and threaten to disproportionately harm children’s access to care.

·   Block granting Medicaid could result in reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost-sharing by beneficiaries — all of which would reduce access to care.

·   Reduced funding via block grants or per capita caps will disproportionately harm our nation’s children.

·      Per capita cap serves only to cut federal costs by setting arbitrary limits on federal Medicaid spending. This would be equally devastating for the vulnerable populations that rely on Medicaid, including primarily, low-income children, and the disabled.

Sample Call Script/Talking Points

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the switchboard operator to be connected to your Senator’s office.

Once connected, be sure to introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent.

“I am calling to urge Senator [XXX] to reject any proposal that significantly cuts Medicaid and institutes a block grant or per capita caps. School-based Medicaid serves as a lifeline for children who can’t access critical healthcare and services outside of their school. This proposal will have devastating effects on children, especially those with disabilities that we serve in my district. I urge Senator xxx to oppose any effort to restructure Medicaid and jeopardize the ability of school districts to continue to receive Medicaid funding on an as-needed basis. Thank you for passing this message along to the Senator.”

 

 

 

June 12, 2017

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

So-called “soft skills” have hard-hitting value in the workplace.

Today's guest blog comes from AASA friend Maria Ferguson, executive director at the Center on Education Policy.

If “college and career readiness” was the catchall phrase for the education reform movement circa 2008-2016, “the skills gap” is on deck to take its place for 2017. It seems everyone these days is talking about skills and competencies and their value in the labor market. Although rigorous academic preparation and college readiness remains a constant target for educators, employers are becoming increasing active and vocal about the skills gap and what it means to be career ready.  

Despite widespread agreement among educators and policymakers that students need to be prepared for the demands of both academia and the workplace, there has always been divide between what it means to prepare for college vs. work. 

Often referred to as “soft skills,” workplace skills and competencies often end up on the wrong side of the divide for a range of reasons. Part of the divide is purely practical: How can one system prepare students for college while giving them the experiences they need to develop workplace skills and competencies? In other ways the divide is much more class-based, with low performing students (often poor and at risk) directed towards career and/or technical education and stronger students aiming for college. And finally there is the issue of measurement. There is still no widely accepted, fully validated measurement tool for assessing skills and competencies. 

A new report from the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University (the organization I lead) reminds us why the divide between academic and career readiness is increasingly antiquated. The report, Building Competencies for Careers, finds that most jobs and careers require individuals that have both academic knowledge and one or more common skills and competencies. 

The report drew on information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database. O*NET uses surveys data from employees and occupational experts to determine the characteristics of more than 900 occupations, including the important knowledge, skills, abilities and work styles required for each occupational area. The report finds that among the 301 occupations in CEP’s sample of O*NET occupations, all required one or more of six competencies that are essential for students to master as they prepare for both college and career. 

To conduct the study, CEP researchers used the six deeper learning competencies develop by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:  mastering core academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively; communicating effectively; learning how to learn; and developing academic mindsets. CEP “linked” these competencies to similar O*NET categories and analyzed how relevant each of the deeper learning competencies were for a range of jobs and occupations. 

While all of the jobs analyzed by CEP require one or more of the deeper learning competencies, experts found several competencies to be most important. Developing an academic mindset, a competency about which prominent education researchers like Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth have written extensively, was highly prized across all of O*NET’s jobs and occupations. Also important were personal initiative and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. 

These competencies were found to be important for what O*NET calls Bright Outlook occupations – those that are expected to grow rapidly, have a large number of openings or are new or emerging. The deeper learning competencies also were more important for occupations requiring higher levels of experience, education and training than for entry-level type jobs. The study suggests that schools that can provide students with the opportunity to learn these kinds of skills and competencies along with subject area content will help better prepare graduates for a wide range of jobs and careers. 

But providing all students with the opportunity to develop these skills and competencies (in addition to learning rigorous academic content) is not so easy to do and requires an array of resources. If education and business leaders are serious about closing the skills gap, schools can’t be solely responsible for fixing the problem. Families, communities and business leader also have to do their part to help ensure students are both college and career ready. 

I predict the conversations about closing the skills gap will not end any time soon. Although the NCLB era is behind us, there is still reluctance among policymakers to value any skill or competency unless it can be adequately measured. While part of that reluctance may be justified, it is also important for education leaders to heed employer feedback about the range of knowledge, skills and experience needed to keep the U.S. economy strong and vibrant. College and career readiness should not be a zero sum game. 

For a copy of the report plus additional resources, please visit CEP at www.cep-dc.org

June 7, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

June Advocacy Challenge, Part 2: ESSA Title II Funding

This month's second advocacy challenge--all about funding for Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)--is  a little different than earlier versions (all available here). For the second June 2017 advocacy challenge, we are asking our members to participate in a coordinated national Title II Day of Action (on June 14) to advocate for the policies that could significantly impact school leaders, principals, teachers, other educators and the students they serve.
AASA is pleased to partner with 
AFSA, NAESP, NASSP, Learning Forward, ASCD, 
and New Leaders for a National Day of Action. This is in response to President Trump's proposed budget for FY18. You can read AASA's full response and analysis on the blog.

                                            3 Simple Ways to Participate in Advocacy on June 14
  1. Send a prewritten letter to Congress: Use our easy advocacy tool to send this pre-drafted letter to Congress about the importance of Title II, Part A of ESSA, which is critical to providing professional development for school leaders and educators. (You can also send a pre-loaded letter using NASSP's Legislative Action Center, which is open to non-NASSP members.)

    Dear ____,

    I am writing as a constituent, as a leader in my school, and as a leader in my community to strongly urge you to provide full funding for the Title II, Part A program in FY 2018.

    As a school leader, I was encouraged when Congress passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. ESSA provided new opportunities for schools to invest in principal leadership and support for our previously overlooked profession. In fact, many states have wisely already taken advantage of the optional 3 percent state set aside of Title II, Part A funds for school leadership specific activities.

    Title II already saw a drastic reduction this year when $249 million was cut from the program for FY 2017. Despite these already harmful cuts, President Trump has proposed to completely eliminate funding for Title II, Part A in his FY 2018 Budget Request. This is not only dangerously shortsighted, it would severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans, and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.

    Tile II, Part A provides critical funding to states for the purposes of preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining high-quality teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders. Given the unique role that principals play in ensuring that our nation's teachers are supported, and that our students have a high-quality learning experience through high school in order to be college and career ready, principals must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools.

    I am extremely disheartened by President Trump's proposal and urge you to fully restore funding for Title II, Part A in FY 2018.

    Thank you for your consideration, and for your support of our nation's educators and students.

    Sincerely,
    [Educator’s name]

  2. Tweet #TitleIIA, #FundTitleIIA @[Senators and Reps]
    Here are some sample tweets you can use:
    • #TitleIIA allows states and districts to improve teaching and school leadership through professional learning
    • #TitleIIA is critical for achieving the goals around equity and excellence in ESSA.
    • Fund #TitleIIA to support increased student achievement by promoting strategies to positively affect teacher and principal effectiveness.
    • Fund #TitleIIA, it is critical for school leaders and principals to do their jobs effectively, cuts threaten this ability
    • Millions of school leaders depend on #TitleIIA to improve schools and instruction in the classroom, fully #FundTitleIIA
    • #ESSA allows states to use 3% of #TitleIIA funds for PD for principals, cutting decreases the chances to seize this opportunity 
    • Fund #TitleIIA and give state #ESSA plans a chance to work!
  3. Call your members in Congress!  Unsure who your Representative is? – Visit the Find Your Representative tool. Unsure what to say? - Here is a script you can use when speaking to staff member of the office.
    • I am a [insert title and organizational affiliation] and I am calling to urge Senator/Representative [insert name here] to restore cuts made to Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which provides principals, school leaders and all educators with specific professional development opportunities. It also provides critical funding to states for the purposes of preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining high-quality teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders.
    • I am extremely concerned about the deep cuts made to Title II, Part A and believe this will severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans, and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.
    • Given the unique role that principals play in ensuring that our nation's teachers are supported, and that our students have a high-quality learning experiences in order to be college and career ready, principals must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools. 
    • I urge Senator/Representative [insert name] to restore Title II, Part A funding.
     
 

June 2, 2017

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, June 2017

By Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

The Latest on Federal School Choice Policy

A lot of education policy discussions on and off Capitol Hill are focused on the ways in which the Trump Administration can advance funding for private schools and the privatization of our education system. Should they propose a tuition tax credit scheme like the ones that exist in 17 states to be included in tax reform? Should they try and promote privatization schemes targeted at specific groups of students (military-connected and Native American to name just two). Should they expand programs like the D.C. voucher program and urge the adoption of voucher programs across the country? The answer I’m betting on is that DeVos and her team throw all these options against the wall and sees what sticks. For AASA and our partners in the National Coalition for Public Education that means we will have a very busy summer.

The first item up per President Trump’s recently released FY18 budget is to try and convince Congress to spend money on new school choice programs that states will create and manage. States can opt to compete for new federal dollars to start a traditional voucher program (or other voucher scheme) or even build-off the current voucher programs they may have. The Department has indicated they would be willing to spend up to $250 million on this new Race-to-the-Top style competition although some money would be set-aside to study the voucher programs and their success in connecting students with new private school options. It’s not clear what the funding prospects are for this program. Democrats will never agree to it, but with so much at stake (Medicaid and CHIP funding, Planned Parenthood, SNAP) even they must appreciate this is going to be a harder-to-negotiate budget deal. And $250 million isn’t a ton of money.

As for a much bigger and bolder proposal, there has long been speculation that the Trump administration will push to include a “tuition tax credit” program (modeled after Florida’s program) into the proposed tax reform or tax cuts that Republicans are working diligently to advance later this year. In May, AASA and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a scathing report looking at the federal legislative proposals introduced thus far as well as state tuition tax credit policies. We studied the current federal proposal introduced by school-choice proponents in the House and Senate which would provide a 100 percent tax credit (up to $4,500 per year for individuals or $100,000 for corporations) for donations to voucher nonprofits. We also looked at the state landscape where we uncovered that the seventeen states with tax credit voucher schemes divert more than $1 billion per year toward private schools via school voucher credits. For taxpayers in nine states with current dollar-for-dollar credits, the addition of a new federal tax credit would allow them to make $2 for every $1 contributed to a voucher program. Whether the Administration’s efforts are stymied by fears by conservative leaders that a federal tax credit scheme runs counter to principles of federalism remains to be seen. A federal tuition tax credit would clearly create new opportunities for corporations and successful investors to earn huge profits by transferring public funding to private schools.

Finally, there are threats of a micro-targeted voucher programs that would be attached to larger bills (like the National Defense Authorization Act) or that would seek to prey on a population of students that are not as well-supported by Congress and public education allies. The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, is also pushing to eliminate the Impact Aid program and instead give children of active-duty military an education savings account, so they can attend private school. We are also awaiting legislation to be introduced that would create a federally funded Education Savings Account program for students who attend schools managed by the Bureau of Indian Education. To say the BIE is struggling would be an understatement. Many analysts are unclear of how to keep the Bureau afloat amidst horrific underfunding and understaffing that has led to widespread mismanagement. However, public school advocates will need to stand ready to defend the autonomy of the BIE program, Impact Aid and other attempts to privatize substantial federal education funding streams. And if we’ve learned anything from state policy trends it is that voucher proponents initial attempt to introduce a small voucher program focused on one narrow population of students can quickly lead to vouchers for every student.

As leaders of public school systems, we must defend against these attacks to privatize K-12 education. We hope you’re following our advocacy team on twitter and reading our blog so you can stay up-to-date on this looming Congressional fight for public schools and the students we serve. 

May 30, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

USED Shares Preliminary FY 2017 State Allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A

USED has released preliminary FY 2017 state allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A. In a message to state chief school officers, they provide initial allocations for states via ESSA Title IV Part A:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017 was signed into law on May 5, 2017.  It appropriated funding for Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program State Grants. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 preliminary allocation, by State, can be found here.  While the amounts are not yet final, these estimates may be helpful in planning and informing decisions at the State level.  A final allocation table will be issued prior to the distribution of Grant Award Notification documents on July 1, 2017.

Additional information on this program may be found at https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/resources/essa-title-iv-part-student-support-and-academic-enrichment-non-regulatory-guidance-webinar.

Also, please note this program is part of the Revised State Plan Assurances Template released on May 17, 2017.  These assurances must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education by June 2, 2017, to ensure timely allocation of FY 2017 funds.

You may find more information about federal education funding by State at https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/index.html.

May 24, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response and Analysis for FY18 Budget Proposal

On May 23, President Trump released his federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal. Federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) starts October 1, 2017 and runs through September 30, 2018. These are the federal funds that will be in school districts for the 2018-19 school year. This year’s budget proposal is the first from the Trump administration and represents a marked departure from recent budget proposals. Unlike recent years, which prioritized and protected education investment, this proposal disinvests in education across the entire continuum, reducing support for early education, elementary education, and secondary education programs.

You can read AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech's statement in response to the proposal here.

Or, you can access AASA's written summary and analysis here.

 

May 16, 2017

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AASA Supports House Committee Action on Perkins CTE Reauthorization

Tomorrow the House Education and Workforce Committee will mark-up the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act  which reauthorizes the Perkins CTE Act.  AASA applauds the Committee for its work to improve on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in a bipartisan manner and we are grateful that many of hte priorities AASA pushed to have addressed were incorporated in this legislation. You can read the letter, which details our praise for the bill as well as a few outlying concerns with the legislation here.  Senate action to reauthorize Perkins CTE is not expected soon.

 

May 12, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, RURAL EDUCATION, WELL-BEING, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, May 2017

By Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, Policy and Advocacy, AASA

As April came to an end, we weren’t sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief or to buckle down for another exciting month of activity on Capitol Hill. If the first week of the month is any indication, the latter is our better option.

In a span of 48 hours, Congress passed the final FY17 funding bill and the House voted to advance the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which will now move to the Senate. Let’s unpack that and examine what that means for school superintendents and our federal advocacy.

In adopting the final federal fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget, Congress avoided a federal shutdown and completed the FY17 fiscal process, 7 months into (more than half way through!) the very year they were funding. As a reminder, FY17 dollars will be in your schools for the 2017-18 school year and will support the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation. You can read AASA’s letter in response to the package outlining our concerns and the areas we support. Here’s a quick run-down of what the final FY17 package means for education:

  • Provides $66.9 billion for USED (accounting for Pell rescission), a $1.1 b cut from FY16
  • ESSA
    • Title I increase of $550 million (includes $450 m from SIG consolidation and $100 m in new funding; will still leave school districts short $100 m for ESSA implementation)
    • Title II is cut by $294 m (13%)
    • Title IV is funded at $400 m, and states can choose to run it competitively
  • IDEA receives $90 m increase (Federal share just over 16%)
  • Impact Aid increase $23 m
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers increase $25 m
  • Head Start increase $85 million
  • Includes reauthorization of DC voucher program
  • Does NOT include funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program

Less than 48 hours later, the House voted to adopt the American Health Care Act (ACHA) to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AASA opposed the bill, given its draconian cuts to Medicaid and negative impact on students. Our letter of opposition—penned in coordination with the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, which AASA co-chairs, is available here. (The coalition also issued a statement after the bill was passed.)

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. ACHA will jeopardize students’ ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.

ACHA will 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.

We now pivot our efforts to the Senate. While the upper chamber will NOT be considering the House bill as passed, they will craft their own proposal, and we anticipate it will have strong similarities to the House bill. 

The rest of May will include the full details on President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, anticipated release of his tax reform, further consideration of the House proposal to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program, and more.

As always, please feel free to reach out to the advocacy team with any questions. We will have two separate monthly advocacy challenges in May—one on rural and one on the FY18 budget proposal. We remain very appreciative of everything you can do to support this challenge and commit to contacting your members of Congress once per month. 

 

 

May 11, 2017(2)

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

May Advocacy Challenge: Rural Education

This month's advocacy challenge (find the full 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge here!) is all about rural. And in fact, is just one of two options this month; we'll issue the second advocacy challenge the week of May 22, assuming President Trump does, indeed, release the full detail of his FY 2018 federal budget. In the mean time, on to rural!

This month’s advocacy challenge is focused on rural schools and communities, and highlights two specific programs that target and support rural districts. A third rural program—Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is featured in a separate post, and is more of an update related to a new application process. You can access that on the blog 

Impact Aid:  

  • Background (Hat Tip: USED). Impact Aid is designed to assist United States local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. Many local school districts across the United States include within their boundaries parcels of land that are owned by the Federal Government or that have been removed from the local tax rolls by the Federal Government, including Indian lands. These school districts face special challenges — they must provide a quality education to the children living on the Indian and other Federal lands and meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, while sometimes operating with less local revenue than is available to other school districts, because the Federal property is exempt from local property taxes.

    Since 1950, Congress has provided financial assistance to these local school districts through the Impact Aid Program. Impact Aid was designed to assist local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. The program provides assistance to local school districts with concentrations of children residing on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, or other Federal properties and, to a lesser extent, concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties who do not live on Federal property.

    Over 93 percent of the $1.3 billion appropriated for FY 2016 is targeted for payment to school districts based on an annual count of federally connected school children. Slightly more than 5 percent assists school districts that have lost significant local assessed value due to the acquisition of property by the Federal Government since 1938. More than $17 million is available for formula construction grants.

    Impact Aid has been amended numerous times since its inception in 1950. The program continues, however, to support local school districts with concentrations of children who reside on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, and other Federal properties, or have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties. The law refers to local school districts as local educational agencies, or LEAs.

    AASA works in close coordination with the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) on all things related to Impact Aid. Here’s a really good Impact Aid primer (Hat tip: NAFIS!) NAFIS also shared an excellent one-page document summarizing the critical nature of investing in Impact Aid, and how the funding works.

  • Talking Points: Right now, the focus is on ensuring adequate and continued investment in Impact Aid, particularly as it relates to FY18. 
    • Impact Aid funds are efficient, flexible, and locally controlled.
    • Impact Aid funds are appropriated annually by Congress. The US Department of Education disburses the funding directly to school districts.
    • School district leaders decide how Impact Aid funds are spent, including for instructional materials, staff, transportation, technology, facility needs, etc.
    • The final FY18 budget allocation must include robust investment in Impact Aid. AASA is opposed to program cuts in the program, including the proposal to eliminate funding for the support payments for federal property program (within Impact Aid).  

Secure Rural Schools:  

  • Background: The Secure Rural Schools program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 41 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The expectation is that the federal government and Congress will develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management. Congress needs to act on active long term forest management programs generating local jobs and revenues.  Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, but has not funded SRS for 2016.  775 Counties and over 4,400 schools serving 9 million students in 41 states now directly face the grim financial reality of budget cuts and the loss of county road, fire and safety services, and reductions in education programs and services for students. The negative impact of lost SRS funds for counties and schools in Rocky Mountain states are compounded by reduced PILT payments.  All these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives in or visits forest counties. Congress must continue the historic national commitment to the 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Talking Points: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW: YOUR REPRESENATATIVES ARE IN THEIR DISTRICTS May 8-15 -- Contact your Member TO STAND UP, SPEAK OUT NOW FOR SRS. Tell what the loss of SRS funds means to schools, roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education programs, road, bridge, police, fire, and safety programs. 
    • Ask your Member to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW calling for immediate action on short term SRS and funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
    • ASK your House member to cosponsor H.R.2340 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK your Senator to cosponsor S. 1027 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability.   

 

May 11, 2017(1)

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Update: Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) has application for FY 2017

It has come to our attention that we failed to clearly understand and communicate a new requirement for the Small Rural Schools Achievement Programs (SRSA), under the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP).

BACKGROUND: The REAP program was reauthorized as Title V of the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is compromised of two grant programs, the Rural and Low Income Schools (RLIS) program and the SRSA program. School districts receiving REAP money are in fact receiving either RLIS or SRSA funding.

When it comes to these programs, RLIS is money that goes to the state. Details on how a district can receive RLIS funds will be provided by their state. The SRSA program flows directly from USED to school districts, and there is a critical change for FY 2017: Beginning in FY 2017, local education agencies (LEAs) will need to apply each year to receive SRSA grant funds. The FY17 SRSA application window will be open from May 1 thru June 30, 2017. Applications received after the deadline will be processed only to the extent that funds remain available.  

  1. Steps for Applying: Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number (if your LEA does not already have one).
    • LEAs can obtain a DUNS number for free through the Dun & Bradstreet Website. After submitting a request, you should receive a DUNS number within 1-2 business days. 
     
  2. If your LEA has a DUNS number, verify that the number is active in the System for Award Management (SAM).
    • For additional information and to verify that your district’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact SAM’s help desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time)  
     
  3. Complete the SRSA application on Grants.gov. Instructions will be included with the application on Grants.gov.
    • NOTE: The application will become available when the application period opens in May. The application will become unavailable when the application period ends. 
     

 DUNS number registration and re-activation

  • An LEA must be registered in SAM and have a DUNS number that is active in Sam and G5 at the time of application to register in Grants.gov and apply for an SRSA grant.
  • An LEA’s DUNS number must also be active for the LEA to be able to draw down the funds.
  • If your LEA’s DUNS number is nearing the end of its “active” status, it is best to reactivate the DUNS in SAM at least 7-10 business days prior to expiration date to allow time for the validation process.
  • To determine if your LEA’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact the SAM Federal Service Desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (EDT - 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.)
  • If your LEA does not have a DUNS number, you can submit a request for one on the Dun & Bradstreet website, www.dandb.com.

Why this change? The REAP SRSA program beneficiaries were routinely leaving $2 million unused. These funds went unclaimed, largely, because eligible schools did not know that they had money and/or they had not completed the process to obtain/verify their DUNS umber. For context, more than 1,600  SRSA grantees hadn’t received money they were eligible for. The new application procedure is aimed at addressing these shortcomings.  The application ensures appropriate and current contact information—which is critical in small rural districts who may experience above-average staff turnover/churn. One districts have their DUNS number, they will be able to receive their monies and draw down their funding.  USED has engaged in a series of webinars on the new application and process and will continue to hold these webinars—roughly two per week—throughout the duration of the application period. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION  

  • You can access the archived REAP webinars are the following URLs:  
  • Upcoming Webinars: To provide additional assistance, the REAP Team will begin hosting SRSA APPLICATION WALK-THROUGH WEB SEMINARS. During these seminars, a REAP program officer will walk participant LEAs through the SRSA Application while the LEAs complete the application in Grants.gov. The first walk-through web seminar for FY 2017 will take place on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. We will host additional walk-through web seminars every Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning Tuesday, May 16, 2017, until Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Tuesday web seminars will be held from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time, and Wednesday seminars will take place from 1-2  p.m. Eastern Time. You MUST register in grants.gov prior to the webinar.
  •  
  • To register for one of the dates listed below, click the corresponding hyperlink below. Participation is capped at 350 attendees per session, so be sure to register early!

May 11, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Letter from USED Re: FY2017 Federal Formula Program Allocations

Earlier this week, USED sent the following note to chief state school officers, with updated information about FY2017 federal formula program allocations. The text of the letter is as follows:

Now that there is a fiscal year 2017 (school year (SY) 2017-2018) appropriation, I am writing to provide a brief update on allocations, as some of you have asked about them.  The appropriation sets the funding levels for programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA), as well as other programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Therefore, for formula programs administered by ED’s Office of State Support and other offices, ED can now finalize SY 2016-2017 allocations and issue SY 2017-2018 preliminary allocations. 

SY 2016-2017 (Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A) 

As we have discussed in prior communications with you, the FY 2017 continuing resolution that was in effect before the final FY 2017 appropriation became law included an across-the-board reduction in the amount of funds provided through the FY 2016 appropriations act that became available on October 1, 2016.  The reduction resulted in revised SY 2016-2017 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A allocations that ED issued in October 2016 and reduced the amount of FY 2016 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A funds that ED awarded to States at that time.  (The reductions had no effect on Title III, Part A or State Assessment Grant allocations because the FY 2016 appropriations act made all of the funds for these programs available on July 1, 2016.)   

Now that the FY 2017 appropriation has superseded the continuing resolution, the cut is no longer in effect.  We anticipate issuing second revised final SY 2016-2017 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A allocations and supplemental grant awards very soon.  As in past years, to reflect the updated allocations, a State may either adjust the current Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A local educational agency (LEA) allocations for SY 2016-2017 or make the adjustment when the State determines SY 2017-2018 allocations to LEAs.  More information about adjustments will be provided in the allocation notification.    

SY 2017-2018 (Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; and State Assessment Grants (Title I, Part B)) 

ED expects to provide preliminary SY 2017-2018 allocations for Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; and State Assessment Grants before the end of May.  As in past years, updates to some data elements in the Title I, Part A formula (e.g., LEA finance data used in the Education Finance Incentive Grant formula) and Title II, Part A and State Assessment Grant formulas (i.e., State-level ages 5 to 17 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau) are expected to become available in June.  Therefore, in the second half of June, ED plans to issue final allocations for these programs based on the updated data elements and will use the final allocations as the basis for the grant awards that ED will issue on July 1, 2017.  Regarding Title III, Part A, it is unlikely that there will be any changes between the preliminary SY 2017-2018 allocations and the final allocations. 

May 4, 2017(1)

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

We're One Week into May, and there's a lot to share!

Lots of advocacy information to catch you up on: 

  • FY17 Budget: Congress agreed to a final spending bill for FY17, the federal dollars that will be in schools for the 17-18 school year. The bill is not good, but it is about as good as Congress can do given the current funding environment. AASA did not endorse the bill, given deep concerns we have with proposed cuts and inadequate funding to core programs, but we did not oppose the bill either, given that the bill was bipartisan and as good as Congress could do given the current funding caps (We can have an entirely separate conversation on how Congress alone can address the cap issue….they put the caps into place, they can resolve them.) But, for purposes for FY17, we were neutral on the bill, highlighting the good as well as the bad, and delivering a clear message that FY18 has to be better. The bill passed the House on May 3 and is being voted on in the Senate on May 4 (May the 4th be with you…..) Read the AASA letter
    • Quick Summary of Education impacts in FY17 omnibus
    • Provides $66.9 billion for USED (accounting for Pell rescission), a $1.1 b cut from FY16
    • ESSA
      • Title I increase of $550 million (includes $450 m from SIG consolidation and $100 m in new funding; will still leave school districts short $100 m for ESSA implementation)
      • Title II is cut by $294 m (13%)
      • Title IV is funded at $400 m, and states can choose to run it competitively
       
    • IDEA receives $90 m increase (Federal share just over 16%)
    • Impact Aid increase $23 m
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers increase $25 m
    • Head Start increase $85 million
    • Includes reauthorization of DC voucher program
    • Does NOT include funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program
  •  
  • ACHAThe House passed the bill to repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act on May 4. Here’s the latest call to action, which includes the priority members (those that are leaning no). While the bill passed the House, advocacy can sway that and we need to keep the pressure on for the Senate vote.  Details on the blog.
  • Perkins Career Tech: The House today introduced its bill to reauthorize the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bill is sponsored by Rep Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Other sponsors include Byrne (R-AL) Clark (D-MA), Ferguson (R-GA), Langevin (D-RI), Nolan (D-MN), and Smucker (R-PA). You’ll recall that AASA endorsed the 2016 version of the bill (here’s a good run down of that bill).  Key changes in the 2017 version (H/T EdWeek):
    • States have to set performance targets based on the process in their state plans. 
    • The bill says that two accountability indicators in the bill, those for "nontraditional" students and for program quality, now only apply to CTE "concentrators" who have taken two sequential CTE courses of study. In general, the bill defines CTE concentrators as those students who have "completed three or more career and technical education courses, or completed at least two courses in [a] single career and technical education program or program of study."
    • Maintenance-of-effort language has been changed that would now allow states to decrease their CTE funding by 10 percent in the year immediately following implementation of the new Perkins law. 
    • The U.S. secretary of education now has 120 days to review the plans, not 90 as in last year's bill.  
  • School Nutrition: Earlier this week, US Dept of Agriculture announced a partial rollback of regulations on the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, including delaying or weakening restrictions on salt and requirements for whole grains. This is a set of regulatory relief AASA has long championed. Check out Leslie’s blog post.
  • Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act: SRS/Forest Counties was NOT included in the FY17 funding bill. Your advocacy is working though because there is now Senate language to reauthorize the program. Sens. Hatch and Wyden introduced a bill to reauthorize the program for two years. Other Senators supporting the legislation include Crapo, Cantwell, Risch, Heinrich, Daines, Manchin, Gardner, Feinstein, Murkowksi, Sullivan, Tester, and Bennet.  WE MUST KEEP THE PRESSSURE ON CONGRESS TO ACT. Here is our call to action AND a recent social media campaign. Here’s a bulleted list of what’s in the bill:
    • Reauthorizes SRS payments for 2 years—retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
    • Clarifies the use of unelected title II funds;
    • Eliminates the merchantable timber pilot requirement (note:  this was never implemented by the Forest Service, and the Forest Service support its deletion);
    • Clarifies, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
    • Extends the time available to initiate title II projects and obligate funds for the 2-year reauthorization;
    • Title II and III Elections: For the 2-Year reauthorization, there won’t be enough time to go through the administrative process of the counties changing their elections and still getting their payments on time, so for reauthorization, the counties have to stick with their current elections.  
  • Executive Order on Federal Overreach (Regulations) in Education: President Trump signed an executive order (read it here) that directs USED and Secretary DeVOs to study “where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped on state and local control." Given the restrictions on federal authority in ESSA, the executive order has for the most part been perceived as more symbolic than substantive, at least on first impression.S.945 New HOPE Act (Cornyn – TX) Introduced April 26th, a bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 

 

May 4, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Secure Rural Schools Social Media Campaign

In addition to the ongoing outreach to members of Congress (while at home, while in DC, in person and on the phone), it is time to add a little social media pressure. To that end, I have assembled all the information you need for a #SaveSRS twitter storm: 

  • A one-page word document explaining the whole project
    • This includes ready-to-go tweets you can cut and paste
  • An excel spreadsheet that lists the twitter handles for ALL members of Congress. THIS is where the good pressure can come in. At the end of the tweet, make sure to include the handle for your Senator(s) or Representative.

General Notes: 

  • The time to tweet is NOW (Use the tweets today, tomorrow and Thursday).
  • It is completely acceptable to use all of the tweets and to repeat them each day.
    • It is ok to send the same tweet three separate times (tagging a different member of Congress each time)
  • Make sure to tag anything you tweet with #SaveSRS.
  • New to twitter or want help setting up an account? Email me and we can make that happen.
  • Follow the BRAND NEW SRS twitter account (@ForestCounties)

If you are already familiar with twitter and just want to get going with the tweeting, here are some ready-to-go tweets:

 

 

  • FY17 CR must #SaveSRS FY 16 and 17 funding and extend program thru FY18 to ensure certainty for communities. 
  • Secure Rural Schools is critical program for forest communities in 41 states. #SaveSRS
  • As of 3/7, Congressional inaction means Secure Rural School Communities receive funding based on 1908 formula. #SaveSRS
  • Congressional inaction means 775 counties serving 4400 schools and 9 million students in 41 states face draconian budget cuts. #SaveSRS
  • No Secure Rural Schools means loss of county road, fire+safety services, and reductions in edu programs and services for students. #SaveSRS
  • Congress must honor commitment to the 775 rural counties + 4,400 schools in rural communities and districts served by SRS program. #SaveSRS
  • No #SaveSRS? Forest counties + schools face loss of essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Rural communities call on Congress to honor commitment and #SaveSRS
  • Education cuts don’t heal, and Congress must #SaveSRS to avoid teacher layoffs, increased class size, and reduced program offerings.

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2017

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

School Meal Standards Addressed

On Monday, USDA Secretary Purdue signed a proclamation regarding the school meal standards ushered in through the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. Despite the outcry by many nutrition advocacy groups, these changes are little more than staying with the status quo. Because of the proclamation, sodium limits will stay at Target I, where they currently are, and scheduled increases in the limits have been postponed indefinitely. In other words, your sodium rules will remain the same. Similarly, whole grain requirements will remain at 100%, but the proclamation extended the existing opportunity to apply for a need-based waiver to reduce those limits to 50%. Again, the requirements for most schools will remain the same as are currently. However, if you have not yet applied for a need-based waiver and believe your district would be eligible for that waiver, you have another chance to do so. The biggest substantive change was the allowance for schools to serve flavored 1% milk. 

Secretary Purdue seems willing to listen to requests for further increases in flexibility, but did not make any promises further.

April 28, 2017

 Permanent link

Take Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

 The House is expected to begin debate on AHCA Wednesday (5/3). Have you done everything you can to save Medicaid in schools? If not, here's what to do: 

Calls, calls, calls. Make them to the members of Congress we are targeting below. 
 
Here is the script for your call: 
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.  
TARGET LIST 

TARGETS WHO OPPOSED AHCA BUT NEED TO GET THEM ON THE RECORD NOW RECONFIRMING OPPOSITION TO THE  NEW, WORSE REPEAL BILL

AK-AL    Don        Young

IA-03     David     Young

MD-01  Andy     Harris

NJ_11    Rodney Frelinghuysen

NJ-02     Glenn    Thompson

NJ-04     Chris      Smith

NV-02   Mark     Amodei

NY-24    John      Katko

OH-10   Mike      Turner

OH-14   Dave      Joyce

TX-23     Will         Hurd

VA-01    Rob        Wittman

VA-10    Barbara Comstock

WA-03  Jaime    Herrera Beutler

 

TARGETS WHO SUPPORTED OR WERE UNDECIDED ON AHCA AND NEED TO GET TO OPPOSE THE NEW, WORSE REPEAL BILL

AZ-02    Martha McSally

CA-08    Paul       Cook

CA-21    David     Valadao

CA-25    Steve    Knight

CA-39    Ed           Royce

CA-45    Mimi      Walters

CA-48    Dana      Rohrabacher

CA-49    Darrell   Issa

CO-03    Scott      Tipton

CO-06    Mike      Coffman

FL-18     Brian      Mast

FL-25     Mario    Diaz-Balart

FL-26     Carlos    Curbelo

IL-06      Peter     Roskam

IL-12      Mike      Bost

IL-13      Rodney Davis

IL-14      Randy   Hultgren

ME-02   Bruce    Poliquin

MN-02  Jason     Lewis

MN-03  Erik         Paulsen

NE-02    Don        Bacon

NY-02    Peter     King

NY-19    John      Faso

NY-21    Elise       Stefanik

NY-22    Claudia Tenney

OH-07   Bob        Gibbs

PA-06    Ryan      Costello

PA-07    Pat         Meehan

PA-18    Tim         Murphy

TX-23     Will         Hurd

WA-08  David     Reicher
t

 

April 24, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Webinar: The Community Eligibility Provision in Rural Schools

We are excited to be hosting a webinar with FRAC and NREA to discuss the Community Eligibility Provision in rural schools. The Community Eligibility Provision allows high-need schools and districts to offer meals at no cost to all students and eliminates the need for household school meal applications. Schools that implement community eligibility often see increased participation in the  School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program and reduced paperwork burden. Schools in rural communities are an important access point for nutritious meals for low-income students and offering meals through community eligibility can help ensure students have access to the healthy meals they need to succeed.

The webinar will be held Monday, May 8 at 1:00 ET. You can register for the free webinar here.

April 13, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Appropriations Activity

Earlier this month, AASA joined other national organizations in a letter highlighting the importance of investment in IDEA (Read the letter). We also focused our April advocacy challenge on federal appropriations, and you can read those details on the blog

This week, AASA took further action: 

  • We joined 11 other national organizations to re-issue a letter we sent last year outlining our continued concerns related to ensuring that the final FY17 Title I allocation is high enough to avoid cuts at the local level. We reissued the letter to highlight the continued need as Congress comes back from recess and tackles their final FY17 discussions. Read the updated letter. Groups signing the letter include:
    • 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 PTA 
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium 
    • National Rural Education Association 
    • National School Boards Association 
  • AASA submitted a final FY17 budget priority letter, which also indicated initial FY18 priorities. Our letter prioritizes investment in ESSA Title I, IDEA, and Perkins Career/Technical Education; opposes proposed cuts/elimination for ESSA Title II and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and reiterates the importance of parity between defense and non defense discretionary funding.  
  •  

April 12, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Using Recess to Advocate for: Secure Rural Schools Funding

The Secure Rural Schools program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 41 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements began in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The federal government and Congress were expected to develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management.

YOUR SCHOOL AND COUNTY safety net is unraveling.  APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED.

On March 7, since Congress failed to act on SRS and forest management, the National Forest Service issued 25 % payments of timber receipts to states based on the original 1908 Act.  Your 2016 payments, actually based on timber receipts, are well below Secure Rural Schools funding.  They were also cut 6.9% by sequestration.  775 Counties and over 4,400 schools serving 9 million students in 41 states now directly face the grim financial reality of budget cuts and the loss of county road, fire and safety services, and reductions in education programs and services for students. The negative impact of lost SRS funds for counties and schools in Rocky Mountain states are compounded by reduced PILT payments.  All these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives in or visits forest counties.

Congress must continue the historic national commitment to the 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.

Congress must act on short term FY 2016- 2017 funding for Secure Rural Schools and active long term forest management programs generating revenues and local jobs.    

YOUR APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED TO SAVE SRS

Please contact the district office of your Member of Congress BETWEEN NOW AND APRIL 28:

 

  • Ask for and arrange a face to face meeting with your Member or District Director.
  • Bring specific information illustrating the loss of SRS funding in your county and your schools.  
  • Be specific, what programs are being cut, what students lose, and how these services will not be replaced without SRS funding. 
  • Bring parents and representatives of your community if possible.  
  • Tell your Member and staff what SRS funding means to his/her schools and communities.   

Finally: 

 

 

  • ASK your Member of Congress to tell his/her leadership to include SRS authorization and short term 2016-2017 funding when Congress finalizes FY 2017 funding by April 28. 
  • ASK for SRS 2016-2017 Funding  - critically needed to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands promoting social and economic stability in local communities. 

PROVIDE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF EDUCATION PROGRAMS, FIRE, POLICE, ROAD, BRIDGE, AND LOCAL SERVICES YOUR COMMUNITIES ARE LOSING IF SRS FUNDING IS NOT REPLACED.   

To view interactive maps showing distribution of federal and payments: https://goo.gl/R0sDb9

 

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2017

(ESEA) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Independently Reviewing State ESSA Plans

Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems, capitalizing on the freedom and flexibility the new law affords them.

As states submit their plans to the U.S. Department of Education, eyes across the country are on them, wondering which states following through on that promise, and how. That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success has teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of state ESSA plans. This effort will look beyond compliance, and focus in on whether a state plan has a strong likelihood of success. It will provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback and guidance. 

We are proud to have assembled a list of phenomenal experts, who will use their depth of experience to help each state design the best plan possible. Our peer reviewers boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. We have also recruited content specialists to ensure additional attention to the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

Here’s how it works: Our findings will go to states first. This isn’t an attempt to shame anyone. We welcome changes on the basis of the guidance our peers provide. We will inform national and state partners soon thereafter. We plan to publicly release a summary analysis of the strengths and weaknesses our peers have found across state plans in June, and plan to share these findings as “Lessons Learned” to help guide future state plans for states submitting in September.

Now is the time for states to lead, with a special consideration towards opinions from district leaders who understand how policies work on the school level. Now is the time for states to prove that the confines of federal dictation hamstrung them and, left to their own accord, they would do what is in the best interests of their students.

But, the reality of the situation is that children have waited far too long for the education system they deserve nationwide – in every classroom, school, district and state. In past years, many relied on the federal peer review process to help ensure state plans were moving in the right direction, but with a new administration staffing up and with states exploring the new power they have been gifted at the same time, mere compliance with the law is not enough to ensure real change and improvement.

How can you help? We’re sharing this information so that you are aware of this effort and will expect the forthcoming analysis. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 

Click here to find more information on our independent peer review. 

 

April 10, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, April 2017

By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy and advocacy, AASA

As we move into April, just four months into the New Year, it is critical that we address a few things about advocacy and the role of the superintendent in advocacy. In short, what you do matters. Keep it up. And let us know how we (Sasha, Leslie and I) can help you.

When we were talking about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which eventually became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we talked about the pendulum of federal involvement in education. Under NCLB, the pendulum was positioned firmly over dictating and prescribing to state and local education leaders. One of the biggest accomplishments—and framing perspectives—of ESSA was to return that pendulum back toward a role for the federal government focused on supporting and strengthening public schools by empowering state and local education leaders.

Let’s keep the pendulum metaphor and apply it to advocacy more generally. With this New Year, new Congress and new administration, we can safely (and unfortunately) see that the pendulum of support/priority for public education has swung toward prioritizing privatization. It is a less-than-heartening reality and remains at the core of what we are focused on at AASA—ensuring that a high-quality public school is a viable option for every parent and every community.

When you have an environment that is premised on privatization over support for public education, every policy seems like something we have to engage on. The current environment in Washington, D.C.—as it relates to federal education policy conversations—can at best be described as concerning, if not threatening. As such, when we provide updates to AASA members, we are ever cognizant of the fact that almost all policy areas include something that could be considered a threat, or not good news. With that in mind, and knowing that the effort to build out and support superintendent advocacy in 2017, we wanted to remind you of a few important points:

  • Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, more than ever, this is important to keep in mind. It is very likely that the conversations we have with this Congress and this administration will be in defense of public education.
  • Congress will make these votes whether they hear from you or not. Let’s at least give them a shot of getting it right. To use another axiom I just picked up: They may not always do better, but our advocacy can ensure they know better.
  • You do not need to be a master in all aspects of federal policy. It is an explicit member benefit—of belonging to both AASA and your state affiliate—to have support in your advocacy efforts. Rely on your advocacy team to do the heavy lifting when it comes to reading, analyzing and communicating important information about legislation, regulation and policy.
  • Continuing on the idea of not needing to be a master of all aspects of federal policy, engage deeply on the one or two issues that are most important to you/your district, or that you find most interesting. From there, coordinate with other superintendents in your region/state to ensure that all of the topics are covered. If you focus on funding and education technology, perhaps your neighboring superintendent(s) can focus on nutrition, and another on ESSA, and another on IDEA, etc… Many hands make light work.
  • Keep your head up. The current education policy environment may seem overwhelming or depressing or a lost cause. Sincerely, though (and accounting for the inherent job bias we have toward public education and advocacy): Your voice matters. Your advocacy matters. If we don’t commit to advocating for public education now, who will? And when? To borrow from one of my favorite MLK quotes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to reiterate that the arc of education in this nation is long, and has long been the backbone of our nation, it’s civic education/engagement, and its success, and bends toward public education. This moment in time is a shift of the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, and your commitment and advocacy is the best remedy we can think of for redirecting the narrative back toward a focus on supporting and strengthening our nation’s public schools.

This month’s Superintendent Advocacy Challenge (full details here) is all about appropriations. And given the amount of detail related to funding, the challenge is broken into two parts.

The first one is all about the broader framing concepts, including the need for continued investment in education and maintaining parity between defense and non-defense funding. The second part, coming mid-month, will be a great complement and will have program-specific details and talking points. AS always with the superintendent advocacy challenge, if you would prefer to focus on a priority other than the ones already featured, just let us know what you need.

April 3, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

April 2017 Advocacy Challenge: 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). Given the length of this month's challenge, it is also available for download here.

BACKGROUND: This month’s ‘background’ section makes a little more sense when listed as a set of definitions:

 

  • What 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 Trump. 
  • 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 funding restraints.
    • Defense 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 discretionary dollars. 
    • Parity: 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.
  • Appropriations 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).
    • Continuing 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.

 

POLICY RELEVANCE

Federal Fiscal 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 time constraints.
  • 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.

 

Federal Fiscal 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 discretionary programs. 

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 privatization
    • $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 program
  • 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%)
  • Eliminates
    • Every Student Succeeds Act Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants)
    • ESSA 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
  • Eliminates or cuts 20 other categorical programs. Those listed include:
    • Striving Readers
    • 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.

TALKING POINTS:

 

  • 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 years.
  • $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 cutting NDD. 
  • FY17: 
    • 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 budget proposal.
    • 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 29, 2017

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Why Rural Matters Report Release - Monday, April 3

AASA is excited to partner with the Rural School and Community Trust next Monday, April 3, for the release of their biannual report, Why Rural Matters 2015-2016: Understanding the Changing Landscape. It will be held from 3:00PM – 4:00 PM EST  in 203-202 Senate Visitor’s Center (SVC) U.S. Capitol Building.  

Why Rural Matters 2015-2016:  Understanding the Changing Landscape, published by the Rural School and Community Trust is the eighth in a series of biennial research reports analyzing the contexts and conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states and calling attention to the need for policymakers to address rural education issues at the local, state, and federal levels. 

Next week's event will include introductory remarks by Robert Mahaffey, Executive Director of the Rural School and Community Trust and a panel by a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida, Eastern Mennonite University, and Ohio University. 

We will make a copy of the report available here following its release.

March 28, 2017

 Permanent link

FEMA Deductable Proposal Re-emerges

You may recall that this time last year, we filed a new issue under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy when 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. As with many regulatory issues, we’re often playing “wack-a-mole” – just when we think an issue is done, it pops right back up.

After receiving thousands of (mostly negative) comments last year, they submitted a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issuing clarifications on several points. However, despite the clarifications, our objections still stand.

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 Consortium, and the National Rural Education Association sent another 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 updated proposal here.

Read the full letter here

March 27, 2017

 Permanent link

So, the Health Care Fight is Over—What’s Next?

AASA wants to express our sincere appreciation to the many superintendents and school leaders who picked up the phone and sent emails to your representatives urging them to vote against the American Health Care Act. Your advocacy made a real difference. Our team received calls from offices that we did not know well saying that they were hearing from superintendents about their concerns with the legislation and they wanted to learn more. Thank you for being a meaningful participant in this major advocacy victory.

 As you may have read, the next item on the GOP “to-do” list is tax reform. While previously AASA has not followed tax reform conversations closely, this time it has major implications for school leaders. Key members of the House and Senate (Marco Rubio, Todd Rokita) have introduced legislation that would allow individuals and corporations to receive a federal tuition tax credit for the first time. Tuition tax credits are no different than vouchers—they still divert desperately needed funds away from public institutions and into private schools. The only difference is that it's a more complicated and less direct funding scheme, but the end result is the same. As a result, we have a major advocacy battle on our hands. We cannot let the first national voucher scheme move forward.

The tuition tax credit legislation is called the Educational Opportunities Act (HR 895/S.148). Want to learn all about it? Check out https://www.ncpecoalition.org/educational-opportunities-act

March 24, 2017

(IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA joins 14 National Organizations in Letter Supporting IDEA Funding

This week, AASA joined 14 national organizations in a joint letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees  urging them to provide a significant increase in funding for IDEA in the FY2017 and FY18 LHHSEducation appropriations bills:  

"Our groups strongly support Congress prioritizing increased funding for IDEA and taking steps to ensure a significant increase for IDEA in the upcoming FY17 appropriations conversation, and using that appropriately adjusted funding level as the basis for further increased investment in FY18." Read the full letter

Groups signing the letter:

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • 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 Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association 

 

The Time to Call is NOW

 Permanent link

Time To Call Your Reps to Save Medicaid in Schools

The House is expected to begin debate on AHCA this am and have final votes today, perhaps by 5pm.

Here’s what we need you to do ASAP:
 
     Calls, calls, calls. Here's a tool that you can share  or use SEIU's numbers (English 866-426-2631; Spanish 877-736-7831). MAKE CALLS NOW. Matt Fuller from Huffington Post has the count at 23 No votes - 22 defeats it. We must keep the pressure on because people will flip with the new amendments.

Here is the script for your call: 
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.  

 
 
Current Whip List of Who Has Publicly Made a Statement Since Vote Announcement
 
Moderates - NO
Dent (PA)
Lance (NJ)
Smith (NJ)
LoBiondo (NJ)
D Young (IA) - voted against rule
Donovan (NY)
 
Moderate - Maybe
Katko (NY)
 
Moderate - YES
Kinzinger (IL)
Thompson (PA)
 
Conserv - NO
Meadows (NC)
Amash (MI) - voted against rule
Massie (KY) - voted against rule
W Jones (NC) - voted against rule
Brooks (AL)
Gohmert (TX)
Biggs (AZ)
 
Conserv - YES
Barton (TX)
 
Conserv - MAYBE
 
 
Moderates That Need To Hear From Their Constituents
Current position on AHCA - since vote was announced. 
Will update as we get more info. 
 
NV-02
Mark
Amodei
 
CO-06
Mike
Coffman
 
VA-10
Barbara
Comstock
 
PA-06
Ryan
Costello
 
CA-08
Paul
Cook
 
FL-26
Carlos
Curbelo
 
CA-10
Jeff
Denham
 
PA-15
Charlie
Dent
No
NY-11
Dan
Donovan
No
FL-25
Mario
Diaz-Balart
 
CA-49
Darrell
Issa
 
OH-06
Bill
Johnson
 
NY-24
John
Katko
MAYBE
NY-02
Peter
King
 
CA-25
Steve
Knight
 
NJ-07
Leonard
Lance
No
OH-05
Bob
Latta
 
NJ-02
Frank
LoBiondo
No
FL-18
Brian
Mast
 
AZ-02
Martha
McSally
 
PA-07
Pat
Meehan
 
ME-02
Bruce
Poloquin
 
OH-16
Jim
Renacci
 
FL-27
Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen
 
NJ-04
Chris
Smith
No
VA-02
Scott
Taylor
 
OH-12
Pat
Tiberi
 
CA-21
David
Valadao
 
AK-AL
Don
Young
 
IA-03
David
Young
No
NY-01
Lee
Zeldin
 
 

March 23, 2017

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AASA Analysis of Endrew Ruling

As written about previously in the blog, AASA led an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Endrew v. Douglas County School District case. Yesterday, the Court released its decision in the case and rejected the standard that the petitioner, Endrew, was hoping the Court would adopt. AASA vigorously attacked the standard proposed by the petitioner in our brief because it was 1) far in excess of the intent of IDEA or the standard articulated in the Rowley decision, 2) not practical for students or districts and 3) enormously expensive and complicated to meet. However, we felt differently about the standard for educational benefit proposed by the Government, which we felt was much closer to what school districts currently use when crafting IEPs. The 8-0 decision by the Supreme Court rejected the petitioner’s standard that a FAPE requires a child the opportunity to “achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities.”  

As AASA and others pointed out, the Court noted that Congress has reauthorized IDEA several times without overruling the Rowley decision (or changing the definition of FAPE itself) which had rejected a similar potential-maximizing FAPE standard. The “revised” FAPE standard set by the Court is that a school district must offer an IEP “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child's circumstances.” This standard is much more measured than the standard that the petitioner’s proposed and that AASA vigorously opposed.  

While this is undoubtedly a new standard for FAPE, it is one with little substance or new meaning. Courts can no longer say they’re applying a “merely more than de minimis standard.” However, the Court replaced that standard with a standard that the “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of a child’s circumstances, which it suggested a school could establish by “offering a cogent and responsive explanation for its decisions that shows the IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.”  The Court claims that their new standard is “more demanding” than the 10th circuit standard, but it’s not clear whether a court that previously said progress must be “nontrivial” and “more than de minimis” would suddenly start deciding cases differently. Courts have always considered what is “appropriate” in light of the child’s circumstances. The hallmark of the law is individualization, which a prescriptive standard like the one sought by the petitioner simply cannot achieve. Moreover, the Court gives considerable deference to the expertise of educators in determining what individual progress would be appropriate for a student. Indeed, one of the problems the petitioner and Government faced all along was that they could not give a concrete example to illustrate how the difference in the standards used by the courts made any substantive difference or why the standard adopted by most districts and circuits was not working well.

Bottom line:  Every circuit must adopt the Court’s new language, but whether that leads to a standard that is more demanding in practice is hard to say. AASA is fairly confident that the vast majority of school districts are already crafting IEPs that enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances. That said, districts should take care to make sure that they can provide “a cogent and responsive explanation” for the IEPs they produce, particularly for students who are not expected to perform on grade-level. In conclusion, this is a ruling that both the disability and education community can accept as it does not dramatically change the district practices or undermine Congressional intent. 

 

 

 

March 22, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Sen. Patty Murray Releases School Privatization Caucus Memo

In light of President Trump’s FY18 budget request that commits to diverting public funds from public education programs for school privatization, Senator Murray and the HELP Committee Minority staff penned a memo outlining  the repercussions of school privatization efforts across the country. The memo is being distributed to the caucus and widely among practitioners. 

The memo includes feedback on privatization from five public school superintendents.

March 21, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Joins Ten National Organizations in Letter to CCSSO Expressing Support for Stakeholder Engagement in ESSA

11 national organizations sent a joint letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) expressing their continued strong support for stakeholder engagement, their concern with USED’s removal of stakeholder engagement elements from the ESSA template plans, and their ask that CCSSO commit to monitoring members to ensure they uphold the law’s requirement for meaningful consultation with stakeholders. 

AASA was proud to sign the letter, and was joined by: 

 

  • American Federation of Teachers 
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals 
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals 
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities 
  • National Conference of State Legislatures 
  • National Education Association 
  • National Governors Association 
  • National Parent Teacher Association 
  • National School Boards Association and
  • National Association of School Psychologists

 

March 20, 2017(1)

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Banking Voucher Stories

We are working with partners here to bank real stories of how vouchers have influenced school districts. We have two questions we are looking to have responses to:

  1. Please describe if your district has been financially harmed by voucher programs in your state.
  2. Please describe an incident where students who have taken advantage of voucher programs, but returned to their public school because the voucher school was not a viable option.

If you can respond to both or either of these questions, please enter them here: http://survey.k12insight.com/survey.aspx?k=SsUVURsRVRsPsPsP&lang=0&data=

March 20, 2017

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Superintendent Advocacy Challenge - Keep Up the Good Work!

This blog stems from feedback we are receiving from members, and observations and experience as we travel throughout the country. We are entering the third month of the AASA 2017 advocacy challenge. As a reminder, the advocacy team is challenging superintendents and education leaders to commit to making contact with each member of their Congressional delegation (two Senators and one Representative) each month, and is supporting this effort by providing a policy overview (including background, context and talking points) to support these conversations.

The current environment in DC—as it relates to federal education policy conversations—can at best be described as concerning, if not threatening. As such, when we provide updates to AASA members, we are ever cognizant of the fact that almost all policy areas include something that could be considered a threat, or not good news. With that in mind, and knowing that the effort to build out and support superintendent advocacy in 2017, we wanted to remind you of a few important points:

  • Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, more than ever, this is important to keep in mind. It is very likely that the conversations we have with this Congress and this administration will be in defense of public education.
  • Congress will make these votes whether they hear from you or not. Let’s at least give them a shot of getting it right. To use another axiom I just picked up: They may not always do better, but our advocacy can ensure they know better.
  • You do not need to be a master in all aspects of federal policy. It is an explicit member benefit—of belonging to both AASA and your state affiliate—to have support in your advocacy efforts. Rely on your advocacy team to do the heavy lifts of reading, analyzing and communicating important information about legislation, regulation and policy.
  • Continuing on the idea of not needing to be a master of all aspects of federal policy, engage deeply on the one or two that are most important to you/your district, or that you find most interesting. From there, coordinate with other superintendents in your region/state to ensure that all of the topics are covered. If you focus on funding and education technology, perhaps your neighboring superintendent can focus on nutrition, and another on ESSA, and another on IDEA, etc… Many hands make light work.
  • Keep your head up. The current education policy environment may seem overwhelming or depressing or a lost cause. Sincerely, though, (and accounting for the inherent job bias we have toward public education and advocacy): Your voice matters. Your advocacy matters. If we don’t commit to advocating for public education now, who will? And when? To borrow from one of my favorite MLK quotes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”, we have to reiterate that the arc of education in this nation is long, and has long been the backbone of our nation, it’s civic education/engagement, and its success, and bends toward public education. This moment in time is a shift of the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, and your commitment and advocacy is the best remedy we can think of. 

March 16, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, RURAL EDUCATION, WELL-BEING, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Executive Director Responds to President Trump's FY18 Budget Proposal

Earlier today, President Trump released details for his FY18 budget proposal. It is a 'skinny budget', in that it only covers discretionary funding, and within that, doesn't fully list the impact on all discretionary programs.The proposal cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent). It provides a $1 billion increase for Title I, but the increase is for states and districts to use for portability and choice. This is in addition to a new $250 million school choice/voucher program and a $168 million increase for charters, bringing the total amount of NEW funding in the President's budget for choice to $1.4 billion. The budget level funds IDEA, eliminates ESSA Title II Part A and eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

In response to this budget proposal, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement:

“AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90% of our nation’s students. While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities, and students in rural communities-underserved. AASA remains opposed to vouchers and will work with the administration and Congress to ensure that all entities receiving federal dollars for education faces the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.  

“AASA is disappointed at the significant cuts proposed to critical education programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II. FY 18 dollars will be used by schools across the nation in just the second year of ESSA implementation, and the idea that this administration thinks that schools can do this work—and the administration claim they support this work—without supporting teachers and teacher leaders, and their professional development, is a deeply disconcerting position. 

“As recently as yesterday Secretary DeVos indicated an interest in supporting state and local education agencies, and “to returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible." AASA is concerned that while the department indicates they want to return power, the proposed funding levels—including continued level funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and cuts to core programs in ESSA—deeply undercut state and local efforts in these areas and expand the reality of federal requirements without commensurate support, further encroaching on state and local dollars. The return of power, however well intended, when systematically and deliberately paired with low funding, translates into unfunded federal requirements. 

“AASA remains committed to parity between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) dollars, and we are deeply opposed to the proposed $54 billion increase in defense discretionary spending being offset by NDD spending cuts. AASA supports robust investment in our nation’s schools and the students they serve, and we support increased investment for both defense and NDD funding by lifting the budget caps, as set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, for both. NDD programs are the backbone of critical functions of government and this proposed cut will impact myriad policy areas—including medical and scientific research, job training, infrastructure, public safety and law enforcement, public health and education, among others—and programs that support our children and students. 

“Increased investment in education—particularly in formula programs—is a critical step to improving education for all students and bolstering student learning, school performance and college and career readiness among our high school graduates.  AASA remains hopeful that our President, who has consistently articulated an interest in growing our economy, growing jobs, and keeping this nation moving forward, will recognize the unparalleled role that education plays in each of these goals and work to improve his FY18 budget to increase investment in the key federal K12 programs that bolster and improve our nation’s public schools, the students they serve and the education to which they aspire.”

 

 

 

March 7, 2017

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AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

Action alert: Save Medicaid in Schools

Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives 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 resources.  

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 child receives.  

Call the House Energy & Commerce Committee: (202) 225-2927 

Call the Senate Finance Committee: 202-224-4515 

Call House Speaker Ryan: (202) 225-0600  

 Use these talking points: 

  • 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 Officials 

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 

[Office Address]

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 higher-education.

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 cuts.  

I urge you to reject the American Health Care Act, and any subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.

March 3, 2017(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Materials# NCE 2017

Earlier this week, Leslie blogged the details of all the policy sessions at NCE. In this blog post, we're linking to all the relevant content: 

Other Resources

  • We released the March edition of the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge. Can you commit to touching base with each of your elected officials every month? This month, we are talking E-Rate!
  • Resources and Supports for Schools: DACA Students and Immigration

 

 

March 3, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

March Superintendent Advocacy Challenge: E-Rate!

Greetings from AASA’s 2017 National Conference on Education. We are nearing the end of conference and the Advocacy department is celebrating with the March edition of our ‘2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge’. As we mentioned in a previous post—and are talking about all week here in New Orleans—we are calling 2017 the year of superintendent advocacy and are challenging our members to commit to monthly contact with their Congressional delegation. Each month, we will pick a relevant policy topic and provide a bit of background, a bit of policy context, and a quick set of talking points. This is all designed to take the administration out of advocacy and to support our members to get right to the actual work of advocating: talking about policy and what it will mean in your district.

We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action (find it here!), 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!

Talking Points:

 

  • 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 28, 2017

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Advocacy Fun in New Orleans

Noelle, Sasha, and I are excited to see many of you this week at NCE! Be sure you check out our sessions. Here's more information about each of them:

On Thursday, March 2, at a session titled “Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law,” attendees can hear about the state of IDEA and relevant legislation and court cases. The same day’s schedule includes an AASA Advocacy Meet & Greet, where you can hear more about the work of the AASA public policy staff and ask questions, and “State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For,” where you can hear from a panel of lobbyists and directors about what is happening at the state level and how you can get involved in your own state.

On Friday, March 3, join the team for “Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era,” which will focus on what is happening in Washington and what is coming up before the new Congress. Also slated is “The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools,” where legal experts will explain the education-related court cases being heard this year and how they may affect school districts, and “Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices.” The latter will help attendees navigate the current atmosphere around transgender students and how to best serve them and your school community.

This year’s Federal Relations Luncheon on March 2 will address public school choice vs. private school vouchers. The speaker will be Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and expert on private school vouchers, charter schools and turnaround school efforts.

And be sure to say hi if you see us - we'd love to hear what's going on in your district!

February 27, 2017

(WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: DACA Students and Resources for Superintendents & Schools

This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.

Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers. 

AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.

District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.

Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.

Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger. 

Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA.  “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said.  “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."

The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.

That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.

AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers. 

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at sign.protectdreamers.org.

By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.

For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit protectdreamers.org.

11 action steps superintendents and school administrators should consider to help protect undocumented students and their families  

  1. Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone.  Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.  Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
  2. Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
  3. Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
  4. Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained. 
  5. Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
  6. Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
  7. Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support.  If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
  8. Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school. 
  9. Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
  10. Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  11. Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.  

The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts

  • AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Know Your Rights Videos  
  • IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER: DACA Current Status and Options  
  • IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES NETWORK: Legal Services Directory
    • National directory of more than 950 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
     
  • UNITED WE DREAM: Deportation Defense Card 
    • Are you prepared if Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents approach you? Download your Deportation Defense Card to Know Your Rights. - English, Spanish, Chinese and KoreanEnglish, Spanish, Chinese and Korean
    • Hotline for learning rights and reporting right violations: 1-844-363-1423
     
  • NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Educator Resources  
  • NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: Draft Resolution Language  
  • The U.S. Department of Education has a page dedicated to information and resources for immigrant, refugee, asylee students and families.
    • GUIDE: Supporting Undocumented Youth in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings (Oct 2015)
    • GUIDE: Early Learning Programs, Elementary Schools, and Educators (Jan 2017)
    • Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations (Nov 2015)
    • In general, DHS’s 2011 prioritization memo explained that immigration enforcement actions may not occur at or in “sensitive locations.” These locations include: schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop.
    • If you believe enforcement action has taken place that is inconsistent with this guidance, file a complaint on the DHS website at https://www.dhs.gov/, the CBP website at https://www.cbp.gov/, or ICE website at https://www.ice.gov/.
    • You may contact ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) through the Detention Reporting and Information Line at (888)351-4024 or through the ERO information email address at ERO.INFO@ice.dhs.gov, also available at https://www.ice.gov/webform/ero-contact-form. The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202)732-0092 or ICE.Civil.Liberties@ice.dhs.gov.
    • You may contact the CBP Information Center to file a complaint or compliment via phone at 1-877-227-5511, or submit an email through the website at https://help.cbp.gov.
     

 

 

 

 

 

February 14, 2017(1)

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The Advocate: 2017: The Year of School Superintendent Advocacy

With a new year, a new Congress, and a new administration, now is as good a time as every to issue an advocacy challenge. And while here at AASA we focus on federal advocacy, the premise of this month’s article can apply just as readily to state and local advocacy.

When it comes to advocacy, Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I have found someone to pay us full time to do advocacy. When you—AASA’s members—do advocacy, it is in addition to your day time job of running a school system. A large part of our job is to support AASA members in their advocacy, and it is an explicit benefit of belonging to both AASA and your state superintendent association to have support for advocacy. 

Tying back to an idea we outlined in the October edition of The School Administrator, advocacy can be as quick as 15 minutes a month (5 minutes a week). Peruse the full issue, or read the feature article on the role of superintendent as advocate. Which brings me to the 2017 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.

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.

 

February 14, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This is a Catch-All Education Update, JUST FOR YOU!

Secretary's Statement and Letter to Chiefs re: ESSA Implementation: Last week, Secretary DeVos issued a letter to all Chief State School Officers relating to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in light of the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  Read the letter.

AASA National Conference on Education: We will be in New Orleans March 2-4. Sign up today! Specific to advocacy, here are the policy sessions where you can find Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I:

 

  • Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law (3/2, 9 am)
  • AASA Advocacy meet & Greet (3/2, 9 am)
  • State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For (3/2, 2 pm)
  • Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era (3/3, 10:45 am)
  • The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools (3/3, 12:30 pm)
  • Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices (3/3, 3:45 pm)
  • Federal Relations Luncheon: Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers(3/2, 12:30 pm)

Of Funding: There is no real update. The current continuing resolution (for FY17, the dollars that will be in your schools for the 17-18 school year) runs through April 28. Staff are split among the various options for how Congress will wrap the FY17 discussion, which will in part be shaped by a time crunch for floor time, as Congress works through the Congressional Review Act, confirmations, normal order AND starts FY18 negotiations.

Rural Education Caucus: Your member of Congress may not be on an education committee, but there is always a way to be involved. Is your Congressional district rural? Does your state have rural? Then an easy ask is for your members of Congress to join their respective chambers' Rural Education Caucus. When you make the outreach, ask them to contact Rep. Sam Graves' office on the House side or Sen Tester on the Senate side to sign up!

 

February 7, 2017(1)

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More than 350 State and National Organizations Sign Letter to President Trump on Vaccine Safety

AASA joined more than 350 state and national organizations in a joint letter to President Trump expressing our support for the safety of vaccines. While AASA does not have an explicit position on vaccines, we acknowledge the important role they play in protecting the health of our children (the students in our schools) and the role that plays in ensuring students are able to be at school to learn.

You can read the full letter here.Vaccine Letter 020717

February 7, 2017

(ESEA, E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Statement Expressing Deep Concern Over Recent FCC Actions

Earlier today, AASA joined 16 other national organizations in a joint statement in response to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's recent decisions affecting the Universal Service Lifeline and E-Rate programs:

You can read the full statement here. It is also excerpted below:

The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) is extremely disappointed by FCC Chairman Pai's unilateral decision to revoke the designation of several telecommunications companies as Lifeline broadband providers. This decision will significantly hamper efforts to help close the homework gap for thousands of low-income and rural students, preventing them from gaining access to online resources, to college and employment applications, and to their teachers and peers. We cannot understand the need to block the roll-out of the Lifeline broadband program now and urge the Chairman to reconsider this action.

EdLiNC is also deeply concerned by Chairman Pai's decision to rescind the recently published E-Rate progress report, which does nothing more than demonstrate the progress that the program has made in delivering robust Wi-Fi to classrooms and libraries and providing fiber broadband connection opportunities to their buildings. E-Rate has done more to connect America's public and private schools and public libraries in the past 20 years than any other state or federal program and EdLiNC remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the strength and viability of this program. We urge the Chairman to reconsider this action. EdLiNC looks forward to working with the FCC and Chairman Pai to ensure that the E-Rate program helps meet the needs of our schools and libraries and protects the continued distribution of E-Rate discounts in an equitable way. 

Groups signing the statement include:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • 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 Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Feb 3, 2017

 Permanent link

Medicaid Block Grants: It is Never as Good as it Sounds

This post was written by Rick Jacobs, an expert in school-based Medicaid and a Principal at Fairbanks LLC.

The concept of a block grant for Medicaid is far from a new idea as block grants have been used by the federal government to reduce federal expenditures and shift costs to the states for decades. 

In the late sixties and early seventies, the Nixon Administration implemented block grants for Community Development and certain housing programs.  President Reagan proposed a Medicaid block grant in 1981, which Congress rejected, as part of a broad series of entitlement program cuts and succeeded in cutting Medicaid funding until 1984. President Clinton vetoed Medicaid block grant legislation that was passed by the Congress in 1995.  George W. Bush proposed Medicaid block grants as well as sweeping cuts in Medicaid funding for schools, hospitals and other health care providers. The proposals currently being considered in Congress are building on the 2015 ACA repeal and Medicaid Block Grant sponsored by Sen. Burr and Cong. Upton as well as Speaker Ryan’s ACA repeal and Medicaid Block Grant proposal that passed the House in January 2016. The likelihood of Congress passing Medicaid block grant legislation this session and the President signing it is near certain.

The concept of a block grant has appeal for intergovernmental stakeholders that mask the undesired consequences that result from them. A block grant in simplest terms is a lump sum allotment from the federal government to the states. Alternatively, it could also be a per capita cap to consider population differences, but is effectively the same concept. The benefits to the federal government of a block grant are both financial and programmatic. The block grant limits the amount of federal funds that are appropriated providing greater predictability of budget requirements while concealing the effects of cuts in appropriation. The programmatic benefit of a block grant to the federal government is that it effectively shifts all accountability for program management to the states while retaining regulatory and funding oversight. The purported benefit to the states is that they too gain more predictable funding and are able to exercise more local control over the program with less regulatory oversight from the federal government. In practice, it rarely works out that way.

The fallacy is that:

  1. A block grant is a concealed funding cut
  2. A block grant does not account for changes in program demands
  3. A block grant effectively ignores that the underlying services are mandated and change with social needs
  4. A block grant shifts costs to the states exacerbating the “hidden budget cut” that is the result of a fixed allotment
  5. A block grant is not appropriate for entitlement programs such as Medicaid, especially in schools where services are mandated regardless of the resources available to pay for them
  6. The  entitlement to services and the mandates to provide those services does not end with a block grant and is completely inappropriate for programs that are integrated in both mandating services and entitlement funding such as Title 19 and IDEA.

It is important to note that if the federal funds are reduced by Congress, it does not reduce the non-discretionary expenditures being made on behalf of the Medicaid program, but would merely increase the amount of the unfunded mandate. Furthermore, since IDEA is an entitlement program and the integration of IDEA and Medicaid is predicated on both programs being entitlements, a block grant will reduce the funding for services provided but the entitlement to provide the services will remain. This will create a devastating and escalating shortfall for states as they must provide services pursuant to an open-ended entitlement, but must rely on a fixed and decreasing amount of funding to support those mandates. 

Block grants (or even per capita caps) are not bad policy on their face and have valid and appropriate applications in some situations. The use of a Medicaid block grant would disrupt and damage a program that has met the health care needs of children with disabilities for decades and is premised on the mandate of schools providing services to children without regard to funding. The devastating effects of block grants in general would be intensified for schools who cannot turn away students who require services or ignore their health care needs. Funding for mandated services would be reduced and would put children at risk and increase costs to state and local taxpayers as well as increase costly litigation from parents and other stakeholders. 

 

A Medicaid block grant is bad policy, bad for children and bad for state and local taxpayers.

February 1, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Webinar: Changes to REAP Program in 2017 & 2018

Join USED's Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) team for REAP: Changes to the Program in FY 2017 & 2018 Webinar, being held February 14 and February 16.

This webinar will provide an overview of changes to program eligibility and processes as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act and explain what state education agencies can expect in FY 2017, 2018 and beyond.

Respond by clicking one of the dates below to send a notification to REAP@ED.gov. 

The day before each webinar, you will receive a meeting invitation with a link to access the webinar.

 

 

January 27, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Organizes Perkins CTE Letter for 80+ National Organizations and Businesses

In 2016, the House passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Perkins CTE Act, but the Senate was unable to come to an agreement on a few policy issues, so the bill never made it to Conference or President Obama's desk. Since President Trump has promised to bring jobs back to American workers, we decide to spearhead an effort with our friends at IBM and the Association of Career and Technical Education to urge the House and Senate CTE Caucus Co-Chairs to pressure the Trump administration to increase investments in Perkins CTE. In addition, we urged them to work behind-the-scenes to ensure Perkins CTE reauthorization would be taken up quickly by the House and Senate Education committees. You can read our letter, which is signed by 85 associations and businesses here.

January 26, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Supports the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act

This week, Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA) and Peter Welch (VT) reintroduced the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act (H.R. 627). The bipartisan bill has the support of education and environmental advocacy groups and 43 bipartisan cosponsors.  It was first introduced in 2014 and unanimously passed the House in 2014 and 2016. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

The bill would create a system to help schools better navigate available federal programs and financing options for energy efficiency improvements to their facilities, potentially saving schools time and money. AASA was proud to support this bill along with both principal associations and other education groups.

January 11, 2017

 Permanent link

Quick and dirty summary of SCOTUS Endrew argument

As mentioned earlier on the blog, AASA submitted an amicus brief in the critically important Supreme Court case Endrew v. Douglas County School District. Accompanied by our terrific lawyers, Ruthanne Deutsch and Chris Borreca, I had the privilege of hearing the oral argument in the Endrew case today and wanted to share a brief summary of my impressions and to let you know that the AASA amicus was mentioned not once, but TWICE in the Court. Amicus briefs rarely get mentioned or cited during oral argument and the fact that ours was referenced is a testament to the strong arguments we presented.

Here's my quick and dirty summary of what happened and may happen: Based on the oral arguments it’s going to be a very close vote. If it goes 4-4 than the 10th Circuit decision in favor of the district stands. That’s a good thing. The court could choose to indicate that the 10th circuit standard for some educational benefit is weak, but not propose a new standard. If they propose a new standard it will be terrible for us, but that doesn’t appear to be the direction they want to go in since they really didn’t know what standard they should adopt. Instead, they may just criticize the 10th circuit for their poor definition of educational benefit and encourage them to find some other way of determining educational benefit and point to the 2nd Circuit or another Circuit that has applied some educational benefit more accurately. If they criticize the 10th Circuit case in this way it could lead to more litigation for states in the 10th Circuit (CO, KS, NM, UT, WY, OK), but they aren’t very litigious places anyway and it would be far better than adopting a new standard that applies to everyone across the U.S. There were many tough questions on both sides (as there should be) and it’s pretty clear that the “merely de minimis standard” the 10th Circuit adopted for educational benefit is gone. The major question is whether it is replaced with anything else or just ruled as an inappropriate standard. The transcript of the oral argument was just posted online, so you're welcome to read it for yourself and decide what the Court is thinking, too! 

 

January 10, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Releases Transition Memo

As the new year, new Congress, and new administration get under way, AASA shares its transition memo, identifying areas where the Trump administration could take steps that work to strengthen and support the nation's public schools.

The text of the transition memo is below, or you can read the PDF version.

Please direct any questions to the AASA advocacy team (Noelle Ellerson Ng, Sasha Pudelski, or Leslie Finnan).

 

Dear President-Elect Trump,

As you begin to think more deeply about your policies and priorities for improving the education of students in the United States, AASA, The School Superintendents Association stands ready to work with you and your Secretaries to ensure the 13,000 school districts we represent and the children they educate are well-served by your Administration. Throughout our more than 150 years, AASA has advocated for the highest quality public education for all students, and provided programing to develop and support school system leaders. AASA members advance the goals of public education and champion children’s causes in their districts and nationwide. 

Given that less than 10 percent of our budgets are derived from federal dollars, we strongly support increased local control over education decisions. We championed the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act for many specific reasons, but most generally for taking the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription rampant under No Child Left Behind and swinging it firmly back to state and local control. AASA believes there is a critical role for the federal government in improving K-12 education, but that role is meant to strengthen and support our public schools, not dictate to them. We write to delineate the policy areas in which we believe the Trump Administration can do just that: support and strengthen our public schools. The following outlines our sincere suggestions for areas where we think your administration’s leadership is most important.

Provide states and school districts with flexibility to implement ESSA

State and local education agencies are deeply involved in efforts to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As regulations, guidance and technical assistance designed to support implementation have been released by the Obama administration, certain proposals have run counter to the spirit and intent of the underlying statute and act to undermine the state and local flexibility intended by law makers. One of the best examples of this is within the proposed regulations for the law’s Title I ‘Supplement, Not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions. Title I was designed to be a flexible program, giving school districts and schools latitude to spend Title I funds on a broad array of educational services as long as they are consistent with the program’s purposes. The SNS rule as it is currently drafted substantially limits how school districts and schools may allocate resources, restricting and even undermining the ways in which Title I can support at-risk students. The proposal glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines intentional, evidence-based efforts aimed at increasing education equity. The proposal will restrict—rather than support—the ways in which state and local resources can be used to most effectively and equitably support at-risk students.

What you can do: We believe that a simple path the administration could follow in supporting state and local flexibility is to default to the underlying statute (which includes a test auditors could use) and refrain from additional unnecessary prescription. 

Reduce the administrative burden on districts

Increases each year in the amount of data requested by the Obama Administration has become the norm for school leaders. This surge in data collection has been particularly difficult for small, rural school districts to meet. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been particularly to blame for the uptick in data collection through changes made to the Civil Rights Data Collection. In its last iteration for the 2015-2016 school year, the Department increased data collection by 17 percent.  Prior to the Obama Administration, the data was not required to be collected by all districts. In particular, smaller districts were exempt from participating in the collection every two years given the enormous burden it imposed. The Obama Administration chose to remove this exemption and require every district to submit data regardless of the size of district or burden this imposed.  

What you can do: We believe a simple and meaningful change your administration could make is to reduce the data points collected by the Civil Rights Data Collection to the most critical items necessary for monitoring compliance with the Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act. Further, the Department could return to the practice of the Bush Administration and revert to the traditional sampling procedures (stratification, estimation, etc.) that were used previously to survey districts for compliance. Further, require an internal audit of all data that is collected by the U.S. Department of Education in every division of the Department and ensure this data is legislatively mandated, non-duplicative and utilized in a manner that could benefit K12 students. Specifically, request that Department personnel whether any current data collection is focused on answering the question ‘Should we be collecting this data?’

Undo financially destructive regulations and absolve unfunded mandates

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 through annual appropriations was 18 percent in 2005. 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. 

To exacerbate special education funding shortfalls, on December 12, 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new IDEA regulation that would have profound financial implications for districts. This regulation attempts to re-write the statute of IDEA pertaining to findings of significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. While AASA believes this aspect of the statute is critically important, we think that the Administration has misinterpreted what the statute says and allows the Department of Education to amend it in ways that are not legally sound. In particular, USED will require states to impose a specific methodology to determine what districts have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. If the Department’s estimate is to be believed, between 300 and 500 million dollars allocated to districts to provide direct services to students with disabilities would have to be utilized differently. 

What you can do: In your first budget as President, address this unfunded mandate and pledge to work with Congress and OMB to create a path towards fully funding IDEA. If that can’t be accomplished, support changes to IDEA that would allow districts flexibility in reducing their local investment in special education if they can find more efficient ways of serving students with disabilities. Given the underfunding of IDEA discussed above, we ask that you rescind the regulation immediately and urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. 

Support rural school leaders and students

Rural school districts were not well-served by the Obama Administration. The dissemination of hundreds of millions of dollars through competitive programs like Race-To-The-Top and the Investing in Innovation led to few rural districts receiving any assistance during a significant economic downturn. Furthermore, the increased administrative burden documented below, exacerbated by cuts in federal funding proved to be a double hit for rural school districts. While the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) was preserved under the Obama Administration they did propose setting aside an unspecified amount of REAP dollars to provide competitive grants to innovative rural districts. The REAP program is a critical formula funding source for rural communities because it levels the playing field for small and high-poverty rural districts. 

What you can do: Support federal policy that flexibly supports the unique needs of rural communities, including REAP, Impact Aid, and Forest Counties, among others. REAP, in particular, helps districts overcome the additional costs associated with their geographic isolation, smaller number of students, higher transportation and employee benefit costs, and increased poverty. Funding REAP helps offset the impact of formula cuts and competitive dollars for small rural districts. Oppose attempts to distribute federal funding through competition, which inherently disadvantages rural districts who lack the resources and personnel to compete for funding. Create an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education to ensure that rural schools and communities are appropriately supported by the Department and considered in any discussion of new or existing education policies.

Ensure Higher Education regulations don’t burden local school districts 

On October 12, 2016, the Department of Education released final regulations regarding the evaluation of teacher preparation programs. These regulations require principals and school administrators to complete surveys and track and disseminate student outcomes for teachers in their schools who have graduated from a state teacher preparation program within the last three years. Besides adding an unprecedented and unfunded new burden to LEAs in the guise of improving teacher preparation programs regulated by the Higher Education Act this creates an unhealthy incentive to send graduating teachers to schools where students will do the best and may only exacerbate the current teacher shortage prevalent across the U.S. It could also create problems with the privacy and use of student data and new demands for data sharing across K12 and higher education institutions that are not technically realistic in some states.

What you can do: Reverse these regulations, and support a reauthorized Higher Education Act that does not place unnecessary burdens on the K-12 school system.

Avoid unnecessary environmental regulations

The Obama administration has made efforts to regulate school building materials, despite evidence that such regulations would not provide great enough benefit to justify the cost burden. Specifically, a rule will likely be proposed to require school and day care facilities to remove any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardant chemicals used until they were banned in 1979. Few schools still contain light ballasts with these chemicals, and most of those that do have already scheduled their removal.

What you can do: Do not continue with this or other similar regulations. Please be sure to consult with AASA and other similar groups before imposing regulations that would cause great cost burdens on already struggling school systems. 

Rebuild America’s schools

A strong K-12 public school infrastructure is essential if we hope to be globally competitive. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot be expected to learn in school facilities that are physically unsafe, or that lack functioning bathrooms or appropriate heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, this is the state of too many of our school buildings across the U.S. According to the 2016 State of Our Schools Report, from FY1994-FY2013, school districts and states spent an average annually of $46 billion on utilities, operations, maintenance, and repair from their operating budgets; an average of $12 billion  per year on interest on long term debt—mostly for school construction bonds; and about $50 billion per year for capital construction from their capital budgets for new construction, facilities alterations, system and component renewals, and reducing the accumulation of deferred maintenance. The National Council on School facilities estimates that the nation's districts need to spend about $77 billion annually to modernize school buildings. 

What you can do: Ensure your infrastructure plan addresses the infrastructure needs of school districts. 

Align the K12 education system with skills demanded in workplaces

Last Congress, the House passed legislation to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Senate was unable to act last fall despite a vote of 405-5 in the House to pass the bill.  The federal government’s most significant K-12 investment is in career and technical education. Yet, in some places there remains a disconnect between the education students receive in high school and their employment options. We must address this gap by passing a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act that will strengthen the bonds between business/industry and K12 districts and higher education institutions. School leaders must have data that informs them about what major employers are moving in/out of states and how our high schools can help them meet their workforce needs. We also need to invest more in CTE at the federal level. Under the Obama Administration, Perkins CTE funding fell by 13%. 

What you can do: Recommend greater funding for Carl D Perkins CTE to ensure school districts have the equipment, curriculum and appropriate personnel to offer the courses students need. Urge both chambers to work together to pass a bipartisan CTE reauthorization bill that continues the trend of reducing the federal footprint in K12 education policy.

Support and strengthen school lunch and breakfast programs 

The National School Lunch Act was first implemented in 1946 to ensure students had access to at least one healthy meal per day. It was designed as a fully federally funded program. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act ushered in a dramatic change in how school food services are provided. The strict meal standards have posed a financial and practical burden on many districts throughout the country. The new legislation offered a 6¢ per meal increase, though estimates have shown that the new standards increased costs by 35¢ per meal. While AASA would not support a full repeal of these standards, as much great work has been done to improve the provision of healthy meals, we do support tweaking the most problematic standards to provide relief to those districts having the most trouble meeting the new standards.

What you can do: Support legislation that provides common-sense changes to the nutrition standards, so schools can focus on feeding their students.  Support legislation that increases the federal investment in school lunch and breakfast programs. 

Support public education

While it’s clear that your Administration would like to prioritize expanding private school vouchers, in any and all forms, to students we urge you to consider the practical and financial implications of redirecting current federal K12 funding away from the public school system that must serve all students. There are currently 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Even if vouchers were adopted widely as you propose, public education would remain our primary system; in states with voucher systems, most students would continue to attend public schools. Moreover, voucher programs are an ineffective and damaging education policy. Study after study has shown that private school vouchers do not improve student achievement or provide greater opportunities for the low-income students they purport to serve. Private voucher schools do not provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, such as those in Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Private school voucher programs do not offer real choice as most state-voucher systems allow private schools to reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability, disciplinary history, English proficiency to ability to pay. Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayer money. In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in students from each public school, therefore, is usually negligible and does not decrease operating costs of those public schools. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases. To the extent that non-public schools would have access to federal dollars, all entities receiving public dollars must face the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.

As President it is incumbent that you ensure all students have access to quality public schools and that in a broader conversation of school choice, the focus is on ensuring that the nation’s public schools remain a high-quality and viable option for all families. 

What you can do: Ensure that the U.S. Department of Education promotes effective education policies and programs designed to strengthen and support our nation’s public schools and directs resources to local school districts to improve the education of the 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools.

In closing, we look forward to working with you and your administration to provide all our nation’s students with  excellent public education opportunities and welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss these priorities further. 

January 9, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: USED Announces ESSA Guidance and Webinar Series

UPDATED: USED is cancelling Jan 25 webinar and rescheduling for the following week. The adjusted schedule and topics are reflected below.

USED released a series of resources to support States in their transition to the ESSA. The Consolidated State Plan guidance, State and Local Report Cards guidance, and High School Graduation Rate guidance provide additional clarity on the role of States, districts, and schools under the ESSA to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education and that they graduate high school prepared for success in college and career.

The department also announced that it will host a weekly webinar series  (Wednesdays from 2-3:30 EST) beginning on January 11, 2017:

Please note that the schedule is subject to change. The Department will provide a detailed agenda prior to each session. Note that you must register for each webinar.
  • January 11, 2017
    Title I, Part A Assessment Notice of Final Regulations
    Register here.
  • January 18, 2017
    Consolidated State Plan: Consultation, Performance Management, and Assessment Requirements
    Register here.
  • January 25, 2017 NOW FEB 1
    Consolidated State Plan: Supporting Excellent Educators and All Students
    Register here.
  • February 1, 2017 NOW FEB 8
    Consolidated State Plan: Accountability Systems: Long-term Goals and Indicators
    Register here.
  • February 8, 2017 NOW FEB 15
    Consolidated State Plan: Accountability Systems: Annual Meaningful Differentiation and School Identification
    Register here.
  • February 15, 2017 NOW MAR 1
    Consolidated State Plan: School Improvement and Support
    Register here.
  • February 22, 2017
    No webinar
  • March 1, 2017 NOW MARCH 8
    Consolidated State Plan: Program-specific requirements
    Register here.
  • March 8, 2017 NOW MAR 15
    State plan submission
    Register here.
 
 

January 5, 2017

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

The Advocate, January 2017

by Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, Policy and Advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a special education case called Endrew v. Douglas County School District. The case focuses on what level of educational “benefit” a school must offer students with disabilities under IDEA.

For the first time in its 150-plus year history, AASA has chosen to author our own amicus brief for the Supreme Court given the high stakes for school districts if the Court rules in favor of the petitioner (Endrew) and not the respondent (Douglas County School District).

Why are we doing this? If the petitioners prevail, even schools that meticulously abide by IDEA’s extensive procedural requirements would have to be prepared to justify that every student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to provide a “meaningful” or “substantial” educational benefit. Not only would this standard be totally impractical and counter-productive, it would also go against Congressional intent since Congress has never even contemplated redefining the standard set by the courts under Rowley of “some educational benefit” despite several recent reauthorizations.

The background on the Endrew case is as follows: Endrew (“Drew”) is a former student in the Douglas County School District who has been diagnosed with autism. The school district provided Drew with special education and related services under a series of IEPs over several years. After a difficult fourth-grade year, Drew’s parents rejected his proposed fifth-grade IEP and enrolled him in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism.

Drew’s parents then sought reimbursement from the district for his private school tuition on the grounds that he had been denied a free appropriate public education (FAPE). An administrative law judge concluded that Drew’s parents were not entitled to reimbursement because the proposed IEP was procedurally sound and reasonably calculated to provide some educational benefit.

A federal district court upheld that determination. On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Drew’s parents argued that his IEP had been assessed under the wrong standard. In their view, instead of asking whether the IEP was calculated to provide “some” benefit, the administrative law judge and the district court should have required that it provide a “meaningful” benefit. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. It concluded that it was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982), which held that an IEP need offer only “some educational benefit.”

The Obama Administration has weighed in on the case in favor of the petitioner (Endrew) as have numerous disability rights organizations and a few education organizations Can you list an example? The Administration posits that if the current standard, “some educational benefit,” were to remain in place then school districts would be free to offer students with disabilities services for only a few months of the year to demonstrate they are making some progress educationally. This is a ridiculous example and one that shows how little the government itself understands about IDEA and its requirements to provide services for students continually (unless they no longer qualify for the service or special education). It also shows how little faith this Administration has in special education professionals and school leaders’ personal desire to ensure students with disabilities achieve academically regardless of a statutory or judicial standard for educational benefit.

Aside from the fact that the Court has no basis for creating a new standard, which we detail in our brief substantially, there is no ‘workable’ standard beyond the current one, which is “some educational benefit.” The Government and the Petitioner would require courts to evaluate the level of education an IEP is designed to provide—either to assess whether it would be substantially equivalent to that afforded other children or to assess whether it would reflect significant progress for that particular child. A court cannot appropriately evaluate the level of education an IEP would provide without judging the quality of educational methods and services: How good are the teachers? How effective are their methods? What difference would smaller class sizes make? Would limited dollars be better spent elsewhere? This kind of second-guessing by courts and the level of scrutiny required in every due process case would lead to outrageous hearing lengths as well as completely subjective decisions by individuals who are not education experts by any stretch.

What does that mean practically speaking? Districts will be in a constant cycle of evaluating and re-evaluating students to ensure they are making “enough” progress, an increased focus on IDEA paperwork and compliance, and greater likelihoods of settlements with parents to avoid even more costly and lengthy litigation. The financial, practical and administrative implications for districts if the Court rules in favor of the petitioner cannot be understated. AASA will attend the hearing on January 11 and will share any relevant insights or summaries on the Leading Edge blog. The Court is expected to rule in late Spring. We will keep you informed of the decision. 

January 5, 2017

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

115th Congress and Funding: Quick Update

As part of our advocacy effort, AASA belongs to the Children's Budget Coalition. Here are three items of note from the first meeting of 2017:   

  • HOUSE RULES FOR THE 115TH CONGRESS:  
    • HOW IT IMPACTS APPROPRIATIONS: The House Rules for the 115th Congress, which were adopted on Tuesday, contain several provisions that relate to budget and appropriations matters.  Check out this section by section summary of all the Rules and attached are the summaries of the relevant appropriations and budget sections.  
    • HOLMAN RULE OVERVIEW: The new House Rules reinstate the “Holman Rule,” a 19th century House rule that was rescinded in 1983.  Under the rule, amendments to appropriations bills being considered on the House floor can cut the number or salaries of federal employees covered by the bills provided they are paid with Treasury Department funds.  The rule will be reinstated only for the first session of the 115th Congress. The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide Members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration. The reinstatement of the rule is part of a “far broader strategy” in Congress to change the nature of the federal workforce, including the way federal workers are hired and fired.  There are conservatives in the House who want to cut the number of government employees and roll back salaries on an agency-by-agency, program-by-program basis.  The rule will allow them to introduce amendments to this end.  Before this rule change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.  Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) stated that he's “deeply concerned” that the rule “would make it easier for the Majority to circumvent the current legislative process to fire or cut the pay of federal employees.”  The rule could allow “far-reaching changes to the nonpartisan civil service on the basis of ideology,” Hoyer said. Read this related article from the Washington Post.
     
  • FY 17 BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL:  PROCESS, TIMELINE & UPDATE The bills reconciliation instructions direct four relevant committees (Senate Finance & HELP and House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce) to draft legislation by January 27th which would reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over ten years.  The instructions do not specify the changes to be made, but they are universally understood to involve repeal of substantial parts of the ACA.  Once both the Senate and House pass the budget resolution, the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce will hold markups and produce the actual legislation to repeal the ACA.   They will then submit their legislation to the House Budget Committee to be combined into a single package for consideration by the full House.  Note that the Senate Finance & HELP would normally draft their own legislation, but it’s widely expected that they will consider whatever reconciliation legislation passes the House.  Congress is aiming to have the legislation to the President’s desk by the end of February. The resolution overcame its first procedural hurdle in the Senate yesterday even though lawmakers made clear after a morning meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence that any replacement plan is at least months away.  The Senate voted 51-48 yesterday afternoon to proceed to the resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, which would set up a filibuster-proof process, ensuring the chamber’s consideration of legislation repealing parts of Obamacare and replacing it, either as one bill or as separate measures.
  • FY 18 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET:  OUTLINE IN FEBRUARY & FULL BUDGET COMING IN MAY: President-elect Donald Trump plans to submit a fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress but it may not come until later in the spring, lawmakers and staff said Wednesday.  While it is the usual practice of presidents to submit a budget for the fiscal year beginning after their election, there was a lack of certainty about whether Trump would and even some speculation he would skip it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said it's likely the president’s budget request would not be submitted to Congress until May, months after the statutory deadline of the first Monday in February.  Separately, a GOP aide said he has heard Trump may submit an outline of the budget in late February.

January 2, 2016

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New Seclusion and Restraint Guidance

In what appears to be a final curtsy to the disability rights community they have been eager to please, last week the Obama Administration released guidance for district leaders on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. This guidance informs school districts of how the use of restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities thereby violating Section 504 and Title II of the ADA.

Specifically, ED states a school district discriminates on the basis of disability in its use of restraint or seclusion by (1) unnecessarily treating students with disabilities differently from students without disabilities; (2) implementing policies, practices, procedures, or criteria that have an effect of discriminating against students on the basis of disability or defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the school district’s program or activity with respect to students with disabilities; or (3) denying the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Of note, the guidance assumes that a school’s use of restraint or seclusion for a student with a disability could be evidence that the student’s current array of regular or special education and related aids and services is not addressing the student’s needs. Moreover, the guidance states that a school’s use of restraint or seclusion may have a traumatic impact on a student, such that even if she were never again restrained or secluded, she might nevertheless have new academic or behavioral difficulties that, if not addressed promptly, could constitute a denial of FAPE. That traumatizing effect could manifest itself in new behaviors, impaired concentration or attention in class, or increased absences, any of which could, if sufficiently severe and unaddressed, result in a denial of FAPE for that student.

 You can read the guidance and a series of questions and answers on the guidance and seclusion/restraint here.  

December 21, 20167

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AASA and 6 other organizations file Amicus in Endrew v. Douglas County

Today, AASA and 6 other education organizations filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Endrew v. Douglas County School District. We were thrilled to be filing our first lead amicus and this amicus will be the lead amicus representing groups in the K-12 space. Joining us on the brief are the CASE, NAFIS, ASBO, AESA, NAESP, NASSP, and NREA. Our lawyers, Ruthanne Deutsch of Deutch Hunt and Chris Borecca of Thompson & Horton did a commendable job outlining the concerns of school administrators and why Congress, not the Courts, should determine what changes, if any, are needed to IDEA's educational benefit standard.

This case is considered the most important IDEA case that Court has decided since Rowley as it could redefine the concept of educational benefit in the context of providing FAPE in the LRE. Despite losing in the lower courts, the Petitioner (Endrew) has support from the Obama Administration (among others) and it is not at all clear how SCOTUS will rule. You can read our brief here to better understand the massive implications for districts (financial, procedural and administrative) if the Court rules in favor of the Petitioner. 

December 19, 2016

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AASA Analysis of IDEA Significant Disproportionality Regs

Last week, in the waning hours of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Education released the final regulation on the calculation of significant disproportionality under IDEA. Here is a press release that summarizes the reg from ED: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-equity-idea States and districts are not required to comply with these regulations until July 1, 2018. It is our hope that the Congress will delay the implementation of this regulation and address the important issue of significant disproportionality through the reauthorization of IDEA rather than through a Department regulation.

AASA appreciates how many school leaders took the time to comment on the IDEA regulation, and as we read through the 500+ pages of response and clarifications from ED we see that your comments forced the Department to address many of our objections with the proposed regulation. Unfortunately, while ED has been forced to contemplate and respond to our many criticisms of their proposal (albeit somewhat flippant responses at times), they did honor five of our of our requests:

  • States have flexibility not to identify significant disproportionality in an LEA that exceeds a risk ratio threshold if they make reasonable progress in lowering the applicable risk ratio or alternate risk ratio in each of the two consecutive prior years.
  • They eliminate as a category of analysis children with disabilities ages 6 through 21 inside a regular class more than 40 percent of the day and less than 79 percent of the day
  • Provide more flexibility around the n-size and cell-size that states must use. States need not calculate risk ratios for any racial or ethnic group that does not meet minimum cell or n-sizes set by the state.
  • Allowing States to set different risk ratio thresholds in order to reasonably identify significant disproportionality for categories with different degrees of incidence rates, and, therefore, different degrees of disparity.
  • Not mandating districts be held responsible for significant disproportionality for students with the seven low-incidence impairments under IDEA.  

What does this mean for districts? The final regs contain the following:

  • A rebuttal presumption that a minimum cell size of no greater than 10 and n-size of no greater than 30 are reasonable. We believe ED does not have the authority to put pressure on states to adopt a certain n size or cell-size and this aspect of the regulation is wholly inappropriate.
  • ED has significantly expanded the focus on significant disproportionality in the discipline context. The regs clarify that States must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities.
  • ED has refused to grant critical flexibility to districts that are found to have significant disproportionality that would allow these LEAs to be excused from setting aside 15% of IDEA funds for CEIS for the following reasons: 1) an exceptionally low student population where the addition or subtraction of a few students results in meeting/not meeting the State’s risk ratio, 2) a school serving a specific subgroup of students with disabilities, 3) a highly regarded program for students with disabilities that attracts students from across the State or region, 4) residential facilities or group homes within the district, 5) a recent environmental catastrophe specific to the region that has substantially impacted the health of children throughout the district, 6) very low rates of special education identification, restrictive placements or exclusionary discipline for all students and 7) a highly mobile student population.
  • Districts can use funds for CEIS for students currently enrolled in special education. While we appreciate this flexibility, it is not authorized in the statute.
  • The Department estimates that districts will have to transfer between $298.4 and $552.9 million that they use under Part B to provide direct services for students with disabilities to early intervening services.We believe these estimates are quite low. 

 

 

December 13, 2016

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Final ESSA Accountability Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education released final ESSA accountability regulations. As we said earlier, our three main concerns from the draft were addressed, albeit not perfectly.

Regarding the requirement for a summative indicator, the changes made were a step in the right direction, but did not fully address our concerns. The final regulations allow states to use a dashboard to explain how schools are doing on different indicators and to use ratings within ESSA as their summative rating without identifying a specific grade.

As for the timeline for identification of schools, the final regulations provide states with an extra year over the draft regulations to identify schools in need of support, requiring this identification starting in the 2018-19 school year. State accountability plan deadlines were also pushed back to April 3 or September 18 (from the proposed March and July deadlines).

We detailed the final regulations for transportation of students in foster care previously here. The final rule is much more closely aligned with the statute of ESSA, requiring LEAs to collaborate with state and local child welfare agencies to develop procedures around which agency will be responsible for the payment of transportation services.

A full description of the changes made is found in the italicized sections of this document.

December 6, 2016(2)

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Sequester is so 2013. The new buzz words are 'reconciliation' and 'CRA'.

Sequester is so 2013. When it comes to the terms for obscure Congressional procedures that we need to know for 2017, the new ‘it’ phrases are budget reconciliation and Congressional Review Act. This blog post is designed as a quick overview of each term, why it is relevant in 2017 and how it relates to AASA advocacy.

Congressional Review Act:  

  • Background: We know that Congress writes the bills that become law. When it comes to providing additional detail to support implementation of these laws, the relevant agencies issue regulations. Even in granting rulemaking authority to various agencies, Congress does maintain vigilance over the rulemaking process, through a little-used procedure called Congressional Review Act (CRA). CRA was created in 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. Among other things, the law provided for Congressional review of agency rulemaking. Relevant to this blog post and what we may expect with a Trump administration, Congress can use the CRA to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency. Since its creation in 1996, the CRA has only been successfully used once, in 2001 to nullify an ergonomics standards rule proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition to this one successful CRA, more than 40 joint resolutions for disapproval have been introduced—but not adopted—since the law was enacted. 
  • Process: In order for a CRA to stop/halt a final regulation, here’s what must happen: The relevant agency (in our case, US Education Department) provides a report to each chamber of Congress and the Comptroller General that contains a copy of the rule, a summary/general statement related to the rule, and the proposed effective date. At this point, each Chamber of Congress has a specified time period in which they can consider and take action on a motion to disapprove the rule. If both Chambers move to disapprove the rule, it goes to the President, who can either sign or veto. Once signed, the CRA renders any included rule/regulation as null and void. That is, an rule set to take effect would not take effect, and even provisions already implemented would be negated. A CRA cannot be filibustered. A CRA can be applied to a rule in its entirety only; it is ‘all or nothing’, meaning that Congress cannot use the CRA to rescind certain pieces of a rule while leaving others in tact.
  • Education Implications: The CRA can be applied to any regulation issued in the past 60 business days. For Congress, that means anything from May 2016 on. From an education perspective, that would include the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability regulations and the Higher Education Teacher Preparation regulations, and depending on what is released over the remainder of the calendar year, could also include ESSA supplement/supplant; and IDEA significant disproportionality. Additional agencies could be subject to the CRA, and we follow these following regulations: Department of Labor Over Time Rule; Environmental Protection Agency PCB/Light Ballasts in Schools; and Federal Communications Commission Lifeline (home phone connectivity).
  • Then What?: If the CRA is successful and, for example, the ESSA accountability regulations are rescinded, what would that look like for schools? How would state move forward in crafting their accountability work book? If the ESSA accountability regulations are repealed, the CRA provides that another rule that is significantly similar cannot be produced. That is, the agency cannot issue another rule that is substantially similar to the rule that was rescinded. CRA does not clearly define what ‘substantially the same’ means, so that prohibition would be subject to interpretation. 
  • You can read more in this Frequently Asked Question: Congressional Review Act paper, as prepared by the Congressional Research Service.

Budget Reconciliation:  

  • Background: In its simplest form, budget reconciliation can be described as a provision within a budget resolution that directs one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring federal spending into conformity with the budget resolution. It is an expedited process that allows for consideration of tax, spending and debt limit legislation. This could include requirements for the committee to move legislation that reduces mandatory spending (like Medicaid or Medicare, though it cannot be used to change Social Security) or increases revenues as needed. It should be noted that it is almost 100% unlikely that any reconciliation in 2017 would be anything other than cuts in spending. Increases in revenues (tax increases) are a non-starter. The process of reconciliation was created in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Congress has enacted 20 budget reconciliation bills since 1980. 
  • Process: Reconciliation is ‘triggered’ when the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution that includes reconciliation directives for certain committees. The directives give certain House and Senate committees a timeline by which they must move legislation that does one of the three following: changes spending by a certain amount over a specified time; changes revenues by a certain amount over a specified time; or changes the public debt limit by a certain amount. ‘Changes’ can include either an increase or a decrease; the directive will specify either ‘cut’ or ‘increase’. Current interpretation means that there can be a maximum of three reconciliation bills in a year (one each of the three changes mentioned above). The reconciliation process has some advantages in the Senate, mainly that it can be passed with a simple majority (as opposed to the 60 votes typically needed for more controversial legislation), debate is limited to 20 hours
  • Education Implications: Budget reconciliation instructions can be applied to any committee. In terms of policies that we track that could be subject to reconciliation instructions, they include: changes to the Affordable Care Act; cuts to Medicaid that translate into block-granting the program; changes/eliminations to the CHIP program; and more. We need to see how the House and Senate choose to apply the limited number of reconciliation directives they can apply. While ACA seems an easy target, concerns related to the phasing in of these changes to increase the likelihood that the focus could be on Medicaid of CHIP. 
  • Then What?: Once adopted, the proposal becomes law, and Congress will move forward to implement the adopted change, which in this scenario is all but certain to include funding cuts.
  • You can read more in this excellent summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

 

 

December 6, 2016(1)

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AASA Signs Letter Urging Congress to Complete Appropriations Process

AASA joined a handful of other national education organizations in a letter that urges Congress to complete its appropriations process. While AASA is opposed to a federal shutdown, we are also opposed to a piece-meal, kick-the-can-down-the-road approach to federal funding currently in place and being considered, the continuing resolution. You can read the letter here.

Other groups signing the letter include 

 

  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Child Welfare League of America
  • Children’s Health Fund
  • Every Child Matters
  • First Focus Campaign for Children
  • MomsRising
  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
  • National Respite Coalition
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • Public Advocacy for Kids
  • Save the Children Action Network

 

December 6, 2016

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NCES Shares Latest Data on ‘New American’ Students

The number of “New Americans,” or immigrants and the children of immigrants, in U.S. schools has increased significantly in number and proportion, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ brief report, New American Undergraduates: Enrollment Trends and Age at Arrival of Immigrant and Second-Generation Students, which doesn't come as a surprise.

The report hones in on Asian and Hispanic students, and is broken down by four questions:

  • How has the composition of New American (immigrant and second-generation) undergraduates changed over time? At what ages did immigrant students arrive in the U.S., what is their citizenship status, and how do these characteristics vary by students’ race/ethnicity?
  • How do the background characteristics and academic preparation of Asian and Hispanic New American students differ?
  • What are the postsecondary enrollment characteristics of Asian and