President's Corner

Voices Heard, Presence Felt?

by EDGAR B. HATRICK

In August, the seemingly impossible happened: Congress passed the Education Jobs Fund, sending $10 billion in new funding flowing to America’s public schools.

We’d all heard the predictions that such a bill could never pass, but AASA and other education associations never gave up. We joined the U.S. Department of Education and members of Congress in pressing for this emergency funding to help stem widespread staff layoffs in our schools and districts.

Edgar HatrickEdgar B. Hatrick


So the impossible became possible because AASA, your advocate in Washington, carried your voices to Capitol Hill. Your governing board and executive committee members lobbied Congress face to face in July, among other activities. That same month, participants at the AASA Summer Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., networked with congressional representatives and senators, sharing the educators’ perspective — your perspective.


In short, AASA fulfilled its responsibility to be the Voice for Public Education that we all want, and that voice was heard. I credit much of the success to our staff for their continuing work with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and members of Congress. It is not by chance those in Washington see AASA as the go-to organization.

But our staff and our association leaders cannot do it alone. To influence the actions of Congress, we must all work with our elected representatives and senators at home to ensure they understand the implications of federal actions on local education.

We all know where the buck stops in the aftermath of No Child Left Behind and, more particularly, with the harmful provisions of adequate yearly progress. In my own school district in Loudoun County, Va., 91 percent of the students passed their state math tests and 94 percent passed their state English tests, yet our district did not make AYP, and neither did 24 of our 76 schools. Had our students passed 559 more of the 69,686 tests administered, our district and all of its schools would have made AYP.

In Virginia, the cut scores for tests are 79 percent for math and 81 percent for reading. I wonder what high school graduation rates would look like if we set the grade of F at 78 or 80 and below. I suspect Loudoun’s story plays out across our country.

And therein lies our next challenge. We succeeded in obtaining additional funding for schools, and now we must ensure a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that targets reasonable outcomes and stops the current “punishment” mentality. That will happen only if AASA continues to work with other education organizations in Washington to move for an ESEA reauthorization that rewards rather than punishes and that directs limited federal funds to the children who need them most.

At the end of the day, it will take the voices of every superintendent and school leader in America to make this happen, and it will take a strong AASA to deliver the chorus of those voices to Washington, even as the soloists are heard back home.

Our next chance to stand together for America’s children will come at the National Conference on Education in Denver in February. Never has your presence been needed more as we provide a forum for discussion of the real issues facing public education. From ESEA to charters to the role of the federal government, this gathering in Denver will focus on the future of public education in America.

I know that money is tight, but I urge each of you to attend AASA’s national conference. We promise a dynamic forum for speakers, listeners and participants. The choices we face as a nation are critical to our children’s future. We need our voices to be heard and our presence to be felt. I look forward to seeing you in Denver.

Edgar Hatrick is AASA president for 2010-11. E-mail: ehatrick@aol.com