February 18, 2020

(SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

New School Safety Website Launched

Created partially in response to the March 2018 Parkland School shooting, the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website SchoolSafety.gov was launched last week by the Trump Administration. The site will serve as a resource center for teachers, parents, and law enforcement and allow them to “identify, prepare for, and mitigate threats” according to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. To help prepare schools, the site will also have a Safety Readiness Tool that will assess school safety and assist in creating action plans to suit individual school needs. Though developed primarily for K-12 administrators, SchoolSafety.gov is available to the American public where they can review guidelines and best practices - among many other resources - that will help make and keep schools safe. “Every child should feel safe at school, and every parent should feel their child is safe each day…” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and SchoolSafety.gov aims to make this sentiment a reality.

To read the full release, click here

February 14, 2020

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PowerPoints of Policy and Advocacy Sessions at NCE

We are thrilled to have such a great turnout at our policy and advocacy sessions at NCE and know many folks who visited with us (as well as supts who couldn't stop by) are eager for copies of our PowerPoint presentations, so here they are:

Federal Advocacy Update 

Education in the Election 

Vouchers: Everything You Never Wanted to Know and More 

Counting Young Children In the Census

Why Rural Matters Report

2020 State of the Superintendency

February 12, 2020(1)

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AASA Responds to President’s FY21 Budget Proposal

Earlier this week, the president released his budget proposal for federal fiscal year 20201 (FY21 runs from Oct 1 2020 through September 30, 2021; FY21 dollars will be in school for the 21-22 school year). The budget continues his trend of introducing federal budget proposals that fall short of the simple willingness and ability to prioritize support for strengthening and supporting our nation’s public schools and the students they serve.  AASA remains concerned about his chronic lack of support and funding for programs that are fundamental to supporting students and children. The FY21 budget proposal continues to prioritize privatization, at the direct expense of the nation’s public schools and the 50 million students they serve every day. The proposal’s FY21 education details would fund USED at $66.6 billion (A cut of $5.6 billion, or 7.8%). Quick summary:

  • One of the pillars of the FY21 proposal would consolidate 29 programs within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into one large, single block grant, funded at $19.4 billion (a cut of $4.7 billion from the current funding levels of the programs to be consolidated).
  • The budget increases funding for IDEA state grants by $100 million (0.8%). This brings the federal commitment to fully fund IDEA (by funding 40% of the additional costs of educating students with special needs) to just 13%, less than half of their authorized amount.
  • The budget increases funding for Career and Technical Education by $763 million.
  • The budget includes $5 billion for annual federal tax credits to support education privatization, such as vouchers.
  • The budget for the US Department of Agriculture includes a proposal to restrict participating in the Community Eligibility Programs. CEP currently allows schools and districts with high enrolments of students who quality for free/reduced priced meals to provide free meals to all students. The budget proposal would restrict participation by only allowing individual schools where at least 40% of students qualify for the meal programs. 

Read our full analysis here, as well as the statement from AASA executive director Dan Domenech. 

February 12, 2020

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AASA Leads Allied Organization Letter on EPA's proposed LCR

On February 12, 2020, AASA submitted an allied organization letter - with 14 other groups - on the EPA's proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule. You can view this letter here.

As we've highlighted in our previous blog posts, the proposed reg, would for the first time, require water utility companies to test for the prevalence of lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities.

The comment period on the proposed rule is set to close tonight at midnight ET. AASA was proud to lead this effort and elevate the voice of school system leaders on this topic. That said, we need all hands on deck to let the EPA know that if the federal government is mandating these tests, then they also need to create federal funding streams for districts to remediate lead once it's found. As such, we urge you to let your voice be heard on this issue before the comment period ends tonight. You can find directions on how to submit comments on this proposal – as well as a filling template – by clicking here.

February 6, 2020

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Schools Should Be Included in House Dems Infrastructure Package

During the last few weeks, House Democrats have signaled a renewed interest in moving a major infrastructure package to the floor. In late January, Democrat leaders unveiled a new $760 billion infrastructure framework that focused on rebuilding roadways, airport terminals, incomplete broadband networks and rail and water systems. Missing from the package was critical school infrastructure legislation championed by House Education Committee Chairman Bobby Scott which AASA and many other education groups have heartily endorsed. 
The Rebuild America's School Act, which was advanced out of the House Education Committee a year ago, would create a 10-year $70 billion grant program and a $30 billion tax credit bond program to build schools in high poverty areas. 

We plan to continue to push Democrat lawmakers to incorporate this legislation into their infrastructure package as it moves through the House and encourage Republicans to support the package as well. 

February 5, 2020

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NCE is 1 Week Away- Check Out the Policy Sessions

If you're joining us in sunny San Diego next week we have a great line up of federal policy sessions for you to sink your teeth into. 

Looking for the perfect strategy for maximizing your intake of policy issues? Try starting your day off at 9 am with AASA's federal education update where attendees will get updated on all of the latest policy issues, and a look into what's coming down the pipeline in 2020. At noon, political enthusiasts can attend the Federal Relations luncheon to devour the latest data on federal elections and public opinion polling focused on hotbed educational issues like class size, parental involvement, and teacher pay. Finally, attendees can top off the day at 3 pm with a discussion on vouchers lead by me. 

On Friday, February 14 attendees can kick off their day at 8 am to learn the importance of counting all children in the Census and the impact a successful count (or an unsuccessful one) could have on district finances for the next ten years. Then check out the Why Rural Matters 2019 session at 12:45 to see the latest state-by-state data regarding rural education issues. Attendees can then close out the day with a session on the AASA 2020 State of the Superintendency Report at 3:45 pm, where Chris will be doing a deep dive into the results of the 2020 Decennial Survey and discussing the educational trends that are most affecting superintendents.

Looking to burn off some energy this conference? Noelle will lead you through the second “Officially Unofficial Fun Run” at 6:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, open to all fitness levels and paces. Find details here!

And if you want all the session details in our place check out this nifty flyer

February 4, 2020

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New Federal Grants Available for SROs and Safety Hardware

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 gave the COPS Office authority to provide awards to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs. Applications for SVPP can be submitted by a state, unit of local government or public school system.  

Recipients of SVPP funding must use funding for the benefit of K-12, primary and secondary schools and students. SVPP funding will provide up to 75% funding for the following school safety measures in and around K-12 schools and school grounds.

There is up to $50 million in funding is available for FY 2020 SVPP. The deadline to apply is April 8, 2020.

Grants can be used for:

Coordination with law enforcement

Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self

Metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures

Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency

Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security

 Click here for the Quick Start Application user guide for SVPP.

January 31, 2020

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The February Advocate

Each month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters as a way to build a direct link between AASA and our affiliates as well as AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the February 2020 edition.

This January, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced newly proposed regulations to the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP) aimed at providing school districts with more flexibilities around the federal school meals’ administrative and nutritional requirements. The impetus for this decision comes from long-standing complaints that the NSLP and SBP are riddled with duplicative monitoring/reporting requirements, as well as burdensome nutritional provisions that contribute to excess food waste and hamper schools' operational capacity to provide students with access to healthy well-balanced meals.

Specifically, the proposed regulations fall under three main categories, (1) proposals to simplify monitoring, (2) strategies to simplify meal service, and (3) modifications to the Smart Snack in Schools Rule. Listed below is AASA's section-by-section analysis of the regulation, which will overview the major provisions of the proposal and its implications on school system leaders.

Proposals to Simplify Monitoring

With regards to the first element of the proposed regulations, USDA is suggesting offering states the option to return to a 5-year Administrative Review Cycle (ARC). For context, the original transition away from a 5-year ARC came as a result of the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFK), which mandated that USDA switch to the more comprehensive 3-year ARC – which included increased oversight responsibilities, such as the review of procurement practices and procedures – during the 2013-2014 school year. As an unintended consequence of this shift, some districts have reportedly struggled to complete reviews and corresponding oversight activities. Moreover, USDA also received feedback that the shorter ARC reduced the available time for technical assistance and training to districts, and consequently, unduly emphasized compliance over program improvement.

Additionally, under this section of the regulation, USDA would now require State Agencies to review districts– with histories of erroneous meal pattern and nutritional violations – to undergo targeted follow-up reviews to ensure high-risk SFAs comply with the administrative and nutritional requirements of the federal school meal programs.

Overall, AASA was pleased to see that USDA is proposing to move back to the 5-year ARC and to conduct targeted follow up with high-risk districts. Since the initial implementation of HHFK, school system leaders have consistently reported that the shorter 3-year administrative review cycle unnecessarily causes LEAs and SFAs to inefficiently allocate resources toward burdensome compliance-related activities, as well as limits USDA’s ability to build local and state institutions' capacities to properly administer the program. Effectively, this proposal balances the administrative flexibilities of the federal school meal programs with USDA's desire to improve program integrity, and consequently, will represent a victory for our members. Due to this, AASA will advocate for this section of the regulation to be implemented as written.

Strategies to Simplify Meal Service

Primarily, this section of the proposal relates to the nutritional standards that schools must offer children over the week. For example, current rules dictate the type and quantity of vegetables, and minimum and maximum calory counts, that districts' breakfast and lunch meals are required to contain under current law. Upon a comprehensive review of USDA's proposal to this part of the regulation, it is again clear that many of the agency's changes are intended to improve school systems' operation of NSLP and SBP by simplifying menu planning and providing more flexibilities around meal delivery across different grade spans.

Specifically, the agency is proposing to simplify meal planning by making some minor technical changes to LEAs ability to administer the federal school meal programs. For example, current nutritional provisions require that school districts serve at least 1/2 a cup of each of the vegetable subgroups listed in the American Dietary Guidelines over a school week and offer larger quantities of red/orange vegetables to students of all grades. USDA’s proposal would change this by allowing schools to serve the same weekly minimum amount (e.g., 1/2 cup) of vegetables regardless of subgroup designation. The proposed regulation would also enable school districts who use legumes – a consistently under-served and under-consumed vegetable with high protein – as a meat alternate to also count towards HHFK's weekly legume vegetable requirement.

Additionally, the proposal would enable schools with unique grade configurations to use the same meal pattern for a broader group of students; authorize SBP operators to offer students meats, meat alternates, and/or grains interchangeably; and reduce the amount of fruit required for reimbursable breakfasts served outside the cafeteria.

While policies like permitting schools to serve the same quantities of all vegetables and granting LEAs more flexibility in how they credit legumes toward meal pattern requirements may not seem like needle-moving changes, AASA was pleased to see USDA take appropriate steps to reduce operational complexity, support programmatic efficiency, and decrease food waste in schools. For our members, these proposals will ultimately lead to better strategies for serving students.

Modifications to the Smart Snack in Schools Rule

Under this proposal, USDA is also recommending to provide school districts with increased flexibilities around the Smart Snacks in Schools Rule, which establishes the nutritional standards for competitive foods sold to students outside of the school meal programs, on the school campus during the school day, and for entrées sold à la carte. If this proposal is implemented as written, then the agency will extend the entrée exemption timeframe – which applies to items sold as à la carte foods – for two days after that entrée is offered as part of a meal on the SBP or NSLP menu. In layman's terms, this would, for example, enable districts to sell pizza as a standalone item on the day the pizza is also served as part of the unitized school lunch and the following two days afterward. Moreover, this latest update of the rule proposes to permit LEAs to sell calorie-free naturally flavored waters, with or without carbonation, to students in all grade groups. 

For school system leaders, these changes represent long-overdue steps in the right direction that will simplify food procurement systems that will ultimately lead to reductions in food waste. For instance, as a result of this rule, many districts will no longer have to find multiple suppliers for identical food items that will be sold a la carte. This will enable districts to have increased discretion over how to use leftovers throughout weekly meal patterns.

AASA applauds USDA for adapting these tactics to improve local delivery of the NSLP and SBP.

Next Steps: Moving forward, AASA plans to support USDA’s proposed regulations by submitting public comments on the rule that will highlight the positive effects of the agency’s policy change on school system leaders. As part of this effort, we will be mobilizing our membership to show USDA that the regulation has broad support amongst school administrators. As of now, the public comment period for the rule is set to close on March 23, 2020. We'll need all hands on deck to get these regulations through the finish line, so stay tuned for details on how to make your voice heard in the coming weeks.

January 27, 2020

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IDEA funding is up, but federal share is down

Although Congress increased funding for special education grants to state (IDEA Part B) by $400 million for fiscal year (FY) 2020, the federal share of the “excess” cost of educating students with disabilities actually fell from 14.3 percent in FY 2019 to an estimated 13 percent in FY 2020.  (The FY 2019 estimate comes from the Congressional Research Service, and the FY 2020 estimate was provided to us by the Department of Education.)  This happens when the number of students needing services increases and/or as the intensity of needed services increases.  

When Congress enacted the first special education law in 1975, it pledged to provide up to 40 percent of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities but has never come close to this “full funding” percentage. Federal law mandates that school systems provide a free appropriate public education to all students, regardless of the federal contribution.  As a result, when the federal share of the costs declines schools need to use more of their state and local funding for special education.  If the federal government increased its share of the costs then more state and local education funding would be available to cover other education needs.  For FY 2020, Congress would have had to triple the $12.8 billion it provided to reach the full funding. Fully funding IDEA remains AASA's top advocacy priority. 

January 23, 2020(1)

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AASA Joins Letter of Support for Increased Investments to School Facilities

AASA was pleased to sign on to a recent letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer supporting investing in our national infrastructure including local school facilities. AASA is a member of the Rebuild America’s Schools Coalition, which coordinated the letter. The letter comes in advance of an infrastructure finance hearing scheduled for January 29. We urge the committee to include schools in any infrastructure package, and urge our members to contact their Representatives and Senators to support the inclusion of school infrastructure including proven cost effective tax credit bonds to help finance building and repairing public school facilities which will generate local jobs.



January 23, 2020

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Guest Blog Post: Heads Up Administrators! Time to Help Count Kids

This guest blog post comes from our friends at Partnership for America’s Children.

The Census Bureau just sent its Statistics in Schools materials to every administrator, public and private, in the country. The mailout will contain three colorful large wall maps and a booklet containing information on the program including a take home letter for students to share with their family. They should arrive between January 21 and 31.

Now it’s your turn. Please ask all your teachers to use these materials and to send home the take home flyer. You can also check them out at census.gov/schools/get involved.

When schools use these materials in the classroom, it helps bring in more funding for the schools and money for programs that get kids ready for schools. How? Well, Title I funds for low income schools are allocated based on the number of k-12 children you have in your community, and special education funds are allocated based on the number of 3-21 year olds you have. Funding allocations for programs that help get kids ready to learn, like WIC, child care, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and many others, are also based on the census data in your community and your state. (Teachers and administrators are used to thinking about attendance data affecting funding, but that data is used to allocate money among schools in the district; counting kids brings more money to the district.) So making sure every child is counted helps get kids ready to learn, and helps schools have the resources they need to teach.

The Statistics in Schools materials teach children about the value of census surveys, which helps get young kids counted in three ways; many school children have younger siblings at home, some teens in school have babies, and children who are the only English speakers in their families will translate the information and help fill out the census.

The Statistics in Schools materials include a flyer kids can take home to their parents to teach them about the census and why they should count their kids. We know that in 2010, one of three households with children in school saw and remembered these materials.

You can also start planning for Statistics in Schools Week in your school; that will be the first week in March.

The first mailings for the census go out March 12, in less than two months. Now is the time to teach children about the census, so they and their families know it matters to count their kids when the census arrives.


January 17, 2020

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Lead and Copper Rule Extended Until February 12

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the agency would extend the Lead and Copper Rule comment period until February 12, 2020, in response to a request by a group an allied group of water utility companies. Consequently, this gives us approximately one more month to let the EPA know loud and clear that this rule doesn't go far enough to ensure the safety of our schools drinking water, and should be accompanied by increased federal funding for districts to pursue lead remediation.

As part of this effort, AASA encourages you to comment on the rule. If you're looking for directions on how to make your voice heard, check out our call-to-action here, which provides a template and step-by-step guide on how to publically comment.

January 16, 2020

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AASA and Allied Organizations Offer Letter in Support to US ED NPRM on the TEACH Grant program.

On January 10, 2020, AASA and 17 other allied organizations submitted a letter in support of the Department of Education's proposed regulatory changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program in an effort led by the Learning Policy institute.


For context, The TEACH Grant is a federal service scholarship program targeted at addressing teaching shortages in high-need fields and communities. The TEACH Grant Program provides scholarships of $4,000 per year (for up to 4 years) to undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing for a career in teaching, and who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for at least 4 years within 8 years of completing a degree. This grant is converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan (with interest accrued from the date each grant was awarded) if a teacher is determined not to have fulfilled his or her commitment. However, most importantly for school districts, the TEACH grant is an effective method for attracting and keeping teachers in education.


Specifically, the Department's proposed changes fall under three categories, which are qualifying positions and schools, the grant-to-loan conversion process, and program information for grantees. Each of these has come under heavy criticism over the past year for their bureaucratic red tape (e.g., outdated lists, erroneous grant-to-loan conversions, and lack of access to programmatic information). To address these concerns, the proposed regulation would do the following:

  1. Require a teaching candidates' high-need field to be enumerated in the Nationwide List for the state in which the grant recipient teaches at the time the recipient signed the agreement to receive the TEACH Grant, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state before the grant recipient begins teaching in that field; or (2) at the time the grant recipient begins teaching in that field, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state;
  2. Simplify the regulations specifying the conditions under which TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans so that, for all grant recipients, loan conversion will occur only if the recipient asks the Secretary to convert his or her TEACH Grants to loans, or if the recipient fails to begin or maintain qualifying teaching service within a timeframe that would allow the recipient to satisfy the service obligation within the 8-year service period; and
  3. Expand the information that is provided to TEACH Grant recipients during initial, subsequent, and exit counseling, and add a new conversion counseling requirement for grant recipients whose TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

AASA was proud to support these proposed regulatory changes, as they represent an opportunity for the Department to significantly improve the effectiveness of the TEACH Grant Program and are an important piece of the work toward ensuring that every student has access to a well-prepared and diverse teacher workforce. At this point, we are waiting for the final rule from Ed. That said, we will keep you up abreast of any developments.

January 14, 2020

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

New Application Process for Small Rural School Achievement Program

Last week, the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education announced a new application process for school districts applying for the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) Program. The impetus for this change stems from a review of the SRSA application, which determined that the applicant burden could be significantly reduced while maintaining appropriate accountability guardrails for the grantmaking process. As a result of these actions, a much simpler application will be open to districts on February 3, 2020.

Listed below are some noticeable highlights from the new 2020 SRSA application:

·   The new quick and easy process relies on a single platform – OMB Max Survey – to gather school district information. The previous process required school districts to navigate three sites and took three hours to complete an application. The new application process is estimated to take no more than 30 minutes to complete.

·   Eligible school districts will access the application through a unique link that the Department will send via email invitation to school district contacts, which will be provided to the Department by state educational agencies. The Department will also provide the approximately 2,500 school districts that are eligible for both the SRSA and Rural Low-Income School (RLIS) program enhanced guidance on how to choose between SRSA and RLIS, including award estimates for both RLIS and SRSA in the email invitation. This will help ensure that school districts are more informed when they choose between SRSA and RLIS

·   In order to complete the SRSA application, the school district contact will need to confirm or provide the following:

1.       School district name and contact information;

2.       Authorized representative contact information;

3.       Secondary contact information;

4.       Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number;

5.       General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) statement information; and

6.       Assurances.

·   After an application has been submitted, each school district will receive a confirmation email that includes the PR/award number and a summary of the school district’s SRSA application responses to keep for its records. Additionally, the school district contact will be directed to the System for Award Management (SAM) at SAM.gov to update its DUNS status.

·   The Department will conduct webinars for school district staff on February 4, March 19, and April 2, 2020 to determine the new quick and easy process for submitting the SRSA application (webinar invitations are forthcoming). The application process will also be demonstrated at the National ESEA Conference on February 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia (for additional details click here)


January 13, 2020

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AASA Leads Group Letter to Congress on Vaping Legislation

Today AASA along with our partners at the National Association of Secondary School Principals led a letter to the House of Representatives urging support for HR 2339, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act. 

We felt it was important to unite the education community formally around this major legislative proposal that would assist schools in addressing the vaping epidemic that is impacting one out of four high school students we educate. 

Specifically, this legislation would prohibit the use of all flavored tobacco product and extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes to other tobacco products including e-cigarettes. 

You can read the letter here

January 5, 2019

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January Advocate: Federal Education Funding Set for 20-21 School Year

 Before the holiday break, the President signed H.R. 1865, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY20 into law. The bill and its provisions fund the federal government for F720 which runs from Oct 1, 2019 thru September 30, 2020. FY20 dollars will be in schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Congress has relied on a series of short-term continuing resolutions to keep government funded and running since September 30, 2019. The final continuing resolution was set to expire at midnight on December 21st meaning the timing of the bill forced an expedited floor vote schedule in both the House and the Senate. The President agreed to sign the funding bill as it provides some funding, $1.4 billion, for the border wall. He is expected to try and shift cash from other funding streams to bolster funding for the wall.

H.R. 1865 provides $1.4 trillion for FY20. The more than 2,000-page bill will appropriate $738 billion in FY20 funding for the defense discretionary spending and $632 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. Specific to education, the bill provides $40.1 billion for K-12 education programs which is an increase of $1.2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $5.9 billion above the President’s budget request. This is the third largest increase for ED since FY11 (the year that ED funding started being cut or frozen). The bill rejects the draconian cuts to critical programs proposed by the Trump Administration as well as their continued efforts to further advance their flawed privatization agenda.  

Program Specific Details:

  • K12 Programs
    • ESSA Title I: $450m increase to $16.3b
    • ESSA Title II: $76m increase to 2.1b (first increase in 6 years)
    • ESSA Title III: $50m increase to $787 (first increase in 5 years)
    • ESSA Title IV: $40 m increase to $1.2b
    • IDEA State Grants (Part B): $417m increase to $13.9b (3% increase)
    • Impact Aid: $40m increase, to $1.4b
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $28 m increase, to $1.2b
    • REAP: $5m increase to $186m
    • Career and Technical Education State Grants: $20m increase to $1.28b
    • Homeless Youth/Children: $8m increase to $105m
    • School Safety National Activities: $10m increase to $105m
  • Early Education
    • Head Start: $550m increase to $10.6b
    • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $550m increase to $5.8b
  • Funding and Policy Beyond The Labor-Health-Education Bill
    • STOP School Violence Act Grants: $25m increase to $125m
    • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: The bill reauthorizes and provides two years of funding for the SRS program for FY19 and FY20
    • DC Voucher: Reauthorizes the program for 4 additional years
    • Raises the age for purchasing tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 from 18.
    • Provides $12.5m in funding for researching gun violence prevention
    • Adequately funds the Census to ensure it can be properly administered
    • Contains policy language instructing CMS and ED to work together to reduce administrative barriers for providing health services in and in coordination with schools and provide technical assistance to assist with billing and payment administration for Medicaid services in schools.
    • Repeals the Cadillac Tax from the Affordable Care Act

AASA is pleased to see that Congress prioritized increased funding for our key formula programs like IDEA and Title I. However, this funding is still short of what districts were receiving in FY11 when adjusting for inflation. Furthermore, while it’s true that IDEA received a 3.2% boost in this bill, which represents a slightly higher percentage increase than what the other key K12 programs received, this increase is only a little better than inflation, which is projected to be 2% in 2020. Effectively, this means that IDEA is only receiving a real increase of 1.2% while the number of children with disabilities districts are educating continues to increase. As we look ahead to FY21 AASA will continue to push Congressional leadership and appropriators to make greater investments in IDEA until it is fully funded.


December 17, 2019

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FY20 Funding Bill Is Finalized

On December 16, Congress released H.R. 1865, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY20. The bill and its provisions fund the federal government for F720 which runs from Oct 1, 2019 thru September 30, 2020. FY20 dollars will be in schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Congress has relied on a series of short-term continuing resolutions to keep government funded and running since September 30, 2019. The final continuing resolution was set to expire at midnight on December 21st meaning the timing of the bill forced an expedited floor vote schedule in both the House and the Senate.The House plans to pass the fiscal 2020 spending bills in two packages on Tuesday, likely followed by Senate passage before federal funding runs out at midnight on Friday. The President has indicated he will sign the funding bill as it provides some funding, $1.4 billion, for the border wall and he is expected to try and shift cash from other funding streams to bolster funding for the border wall.

Overview: H.R. 1865 provides $1.4 trillion for FY20. The more than 2,000-page bill will appropriate $738 billion in fiscal 2020 funding for the defense discretionary spending and $632 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. Specific to education the bill provides $40.1 billion for K-12 education programs which is an increase of $1.2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $5.9 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill rejects the draconian cuts to critical programs proposed by the Trump Administration as well as their continued efforts to further advance their flawed privatization agenda.  

Program Specific Details:

K12 Programs

  • ESSA Title I: $450m increase to $16.3 b
  •  ESSA Title II: $76m increase to 2.1b (first increases in 6 years
  • ESSA Title III: $50m increase to $787 (first increase in 5 years)
  •  ESSA Title IV: $40 m increase to $1.2b
  •  IDEA State Grants (Part B): $417m increase to $13.9b (3% increase
  • Impact Aid: $40m increase, to $1.4b 
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $28 m increase, to $1.2b 
  • REAP: $5m increase to $186m
  •  Career and Technical Education State Grants: $20m increase to $1.28b
  • Homeless Youth/Children: $8 m increase to 105m
  • School Safety National Activities: $10m increase to $105m
  • A new Social-Emotional Learning initiative would get $123 to support SEL and "whole child" approaches to education. 

Early Education

  •  Head Start: $550m increase to $10.6b
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $550m increase to $5.8b

Funding and Policy Beyond The Labor-Health-Education Bill

  • STOP School Violence Act Grants: $25m increase to $125m
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: The bill reauthorizes and provides two years of funding for the SRS program for FY19 and FY20
  • DC Voucher: Reauthorizes the program for 4 additional years
  • Raises the age for purchasing tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 from 18.
  • Provides $12.5m in funding for researching gun violence prevention
  • Adequately funds the Census to ensure it can be properly administered
  • Contains policy language instructing CMS and ED to work together to reduce administrative barriers for providing health services in and in coordination with schools and provide technical assistance to assist with billing and payment administration for Medicaid services in schools.
  • Repeal of the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Care Act.


December 16, 2019

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AASA Urges House To Support SALT-D Bill

Today AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives in advance of their vote to reinstate the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap for 2020 and 2021. You can read our letter below:  

Dear Representative:

On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents, representing more than 13,000 public school system leaders across the nation, I write to offer our strong support for the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377).

We believe Congress should act quickly to adjust the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap to minimize harm to taxpayers and local school districts. The Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act lifts the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction in 2020 and 2021, which is an important first step towards the full reinstatement of this critical 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. Reinstating this deduction would decrease tax rates for certain taxpayers, increase disposable income, and increase the likelihood of support for local tax levies for education.

The ripple effects from the new SALT cap deduction of $10,000 is already having significant deleterious impacts on some state budgets budget, and those of local school districts. Moreover, the Tax Cuts and Jos Act has created significant uncertainty for state and local budgets as it is not entirely certain how taxpayers may alter their behavior to decrease their overall tax liability. Without the enactment of H.R. 5377 schools will be under tremendous pressure to reduce and constrain tax levies, even with ongoing inadequate state aid, to provide relief to taxpayers impacted by the SALT cap. Ultimately, these pressures pressures will have a deleterious impact on the educational opportunities and outcomes for our students and undermine our country’s ability to produce students who are college and career ready.

AASA urges the swift passage of this important legislation and encourages the Senate to take up this bill as soon as possible.

December 12, 2019

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FASFA Simplification Bill Moves Forward

One of AASA's priorities for the Higher Education Act reauthorization is simplifying the Free Application for  Student Financial Assistance (FASFA). Superintendents believe that students, particularly our low-income students, struggled with obtaining tax information required for the application and generally found the length and depth of the application to be complex and overwhelming to complete. We are pleased that Congress is taking action to address this issue by passing legislation that would eliminate 22 questions currently on the FASFA, allow for direct data sharing between IRS and ED as well as streamline enrollment in and renewal of income-driven repayment  plans for borrowers by removing the need for students to self-certify their income to prove eligibility for federal plans. The bill also takes meaningful steps to reduce verification burden, a process that disproportionately affects low-income students, and is burdensome for students and families.  

The reason this legislation is moving forward now is that the Senate has given up on trying to pass a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this Congress. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is retiring and simplifying the FASFA was one of his key priorities for the higher-ed rewrite. Since the legislation is not moving forward legislators in both chambers agreed to work together to pass this major priority for Alexander. 

House Democrats may still try and move their partisan re-write of the Higher Education Act (which passed out of Committee on a party-line vote) to the floor in January, but it's unclear if they have the votes within their own party to move it forward. 


December 11, 2019(1)

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AASA Advocates For Federal Policies to Curb Youth Vaping

As early as next week legislation may be sent to President Trump that would raise the age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. This important policy change is hopefully the first and not the only step Congress will take to address the youth vaping crisis via legislation. There was agreement among both public health advocates and tobacco companies that raising the age to 21 made sense, which is why it was so easily passed. While this is certainly policy movement in the right direction AASA believes there is much more that can and should be done to help schools mitigate the e-cigarette epidemic.

Specifically, we support three bills that would address vaping. The first, the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019,  would ban e-cigarette use in educational and childcare facilities that receive federal funding.

The second, the SAFE Kids Act, would ban the use of all flavored e-cigarette products unless it can be proven that it does not increase youth initiation of nicotine or tobacco products.

The third, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, would ban the use of all flavored tobacco products (including e-cigarettes), prohibit online sales of tobacco products and extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes to e-cigarettes to prevent marketing that targets youth.

AASA plans to engage more aggressively in 2020 in pushing these bills forward in both chambers. 

December 11, 2019

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FCC Order on E-Rate Category 2 Funds Published

Last week, the FCC released its long awaited order on the E-Rate category 2 formula. It was an expected decision, but not one that we wanted. The Commission agreed to make permanent the formula-based funding distribution method for category 2, which provides support for Wi-Fi and internal connections, but with a few significant tweaks. One major change to category 2 that the Commission will implement is increasing the floor funding level from $9,200 to $25,000 in order to persuade more small schools and libraries to apply. The Commission agreed to leave the school formula of $150 per pupil unchanged but also decided to establish a single formula for libraries rather than have different formulas for urban libraries. The Commission’s order will also allow for school district-wide and library-system wide budgeting which will allow them to allocate category 2 funding as they see fit. The order also clarified that the category 2 formula’s five year cycle will be fixed and not rolling, and that the next five year cycle will begin for all applicants in 2021. 2020 will be a transition year, with all schools and libraries eligible for pro-rated funding. Comments received by the Commission in this rule making did request that it make cyber security and wi-fi on school buses eligible for support but the final order did not agree to those changes. 

We are still awaiting the final order on the E-Rate cap. 

December 10, 2019(1)

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Call-To-Action: Comment on the EPA's Lead and Copper Pipe Rule

As was highlighted in our latest edition of the December Advocate, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new provisions to the Lead and Copper Pipe Rule (LCR), which, for the first time, dictates how Community Water Systems (CWS) test for the prevalence of lead in schools’ and childcare centers’ drinking water. While this is a step in the right direction, the rule doesn't go far enough to ensure the safety of our students’ drinking water. Moreover, AASA is concerned about the lack of federal funding available to districts to remediate the prevalence of lead in schools; and with how this proposal could result in the dissemination of erroneous information about the safety of a school’s drinking water to district leaders, school personnel, students and parents.

The tragedy in Flint Michigan reminded us all of the dangers that lead poses to our students' well-being, so we know that schools can't be complacent on this issue. Due to this, AASA is mobilizing its membership to weigh in on their concern for protecting the nation's drinking water. We'll need all-hands-on-deck to let the EPA know loud and clear that this is not enough for our districts. As such, we implore our members to join us in this critical effort. To comment on the proposal, please follow the directions below.

  1. Copy this template and fill in the highlighted fields with the requested information. 
  2. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0300 and click "Comment Now," on the
    National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions
  3. In the ‘Comment” box, type something similar to this: “As the superintendent of xxx, I submit the following comments on the proposed regulation titled "National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions." 
  4. Below the comment box:
    • Upload your completed template 
    • Click continue 
  5. On the next page mark the box stating "I read and understand the statement above."
  6. Click "submit comments"
Comments are due on or before January 13, 2020. Also, If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. To do this, please reach out to Chris Rogers directly at crogers@aasa.org.   


December 10, 2019

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AASA Urges Senate Committee To Support SRS

On Thursday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be voting on S.430 To Extend Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. We sent this letter urging everyone on the Committee to support the bill and urging for its inclusion in the FY20 final spending package.

December 6, 2019

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AASA Endorses The Diversify Act

This week, AASA is proud to announce its endorsement of the Diversifying by Investing in Educators and Students to Improve Outcomes For Youth Act (DIVERSIFY Act), in alignment with our higher Ed priority to support the preservation and expansion of resources in Title II of the Higher Education Act for future and current teachers to address the national teacher shortage. For context, the TEACH grants are a service scholarship program that provides $4,000 per year in funding to undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need subject at a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for 4 years upon graduation. Unfortunately, since 2007 the grant award has not increased to keep up with the rising cost of college. Consequently, limiting the program's potential and disincentivizing low-income and diverse teacher candidates from entering the educator workforce.

To fix this, the Diversify Act would (1) increase the maximum TEACH Grant award to $8,000 per year to align with the full cost of college – which exceeds $20,000 a year; and (2) protect the TEACH Grant award from being cut by the Budget Control Act which this year alone resulted in a decrease to the maximum award amount by nearly $250. At a time when one of the major barriers to a well-prepared and diverse teacher workforce is the high cost of college and student loan debt, these reforms will save districts the expense of replacing educators who quickly leave the field, and ensure that the students furthest away from opportunity will have access to diverse teachers who have completed high-quality pathways into the profession.

December 5, 2019

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The December Advocate

Each month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters as a way to build a direct link between AASA and our affiliates as well as AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the December 2019 edition.

This November, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new provisions to the Lead and Copper Pipe Rule (LCR), which, for the first time, dictates how Community Water Systems (CWS) test for the prevalence of lead in schools’ and childcare centers’ drinking water.

The EPA proposal would require Community Water Systems to collect samples from five drinking water outlets at each school and two drinking water outlets at each childcare facility served by the CWS. This rule will signify the first federal regulation dictating how schools must test for lead since the passage of the LCR in 1981.

This regulation has the potential to be helpful to districts. Seventeen states have no laws requiring that all schools test for lead in drinking water and this will be a positive step in the right direction for school leaders in those states. However, the revised rule doesn’t go far enough to ensure that school leaders are given an accurate picture of the safety of their students’ drinking water.

The regulation fails to outline effective lead testing procedures for CWS’s that serve public schools and childcare facilities, which could lead to confusion and false negatives for superintendents who are trying to interpret, inform and remediate lead testing results for their students and communities.

Specifically, the rule would require CWS’s that serve a public school or childcare facility to alert school system leaders to any testing results that score above the EPA’s 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water (15 ppb) action level. While this does signify an improvement from the status quo, we’re concerned that this criterion could mislead school system leaders into believing their water systems are safe for consumption.

The reason for this goes back to the establishment of the action level in 1991. During that time, the EPA created the action level under the rationale that it was a realistic metric of compliance for CWS’s. At the time, the EPA also acknowledged that there was no established safe level of lead exposure, and since then, has put forth research indicating that even low lead blood levels in children highly correlate to physical and neurological disabilities.

Considering this research and the expanded scope of the LCR to test schools and childcare facilities, it is incomprehensible that the EPA has not adopted a more stringent action threshold in the 28 years since its implementation.

Moreover, the EPA’s action level is practically useless because the testing results do not show superintendents whether their schools’ drinking water is safe. Instead, the test indicates whether a CWS is complying with the 15ppb action level. This is a borderline negligent misstep by the EPA, as it could cause superintendents, who are looking to be transparent with lead testing results, to unknowingly misrepresent the safety of their drinking water.   

In response, AASA is advocating for the EPA to fix this flaw by urging the agency to adopt a 1 ppb standard for lead in schools’ drinking water and share guidance to any district that undergoes lead testing. Additionally, we are imploring the EPA to continue working with the U.S. Dept. of Education to develop strategies that help LEAs properly communicate lead testing results to their stakeholders.

Similarly to the EPA’s action level, there are also flaws with the proposed regulation’s lead testing procedures for CWS’s. While the multiple testing requirements are a step in the right direction, it is not enough since the corrosion and breaking off of lead particles from pipes can be highly variable.

According to Environment America's 2019 report, “Get the Lead Out,” multiple water tests from one tap can result in highly variable lead levels between samples. For example, in a lead sampling study conducted in 2013, researchers concluded that a single sample from a water tap could not accurately reflect the levels of lead flowing through the fixture. Consequently, this means that depending on multiple variables (e.g., weather, time of day, or location of an outlet), LEAs may receive inaccurate results from federal lead testing. To address the variability of lead testing, AASA is pushing the EPA to amend the rule so that CWS’s must test all water drinking outlets in a district to ensure our members have access to the most accurate information.

Finally, AASA is concerned about the lack of federal funding that is available to implement these new testing provisions for LEAs that act as their own CWS. According to the EPA, approximately 7,000 schools control their water supply (such as a well) and are regulated under the LCR. For these entities, the new provisions of the LCR could create financial hardships for LEAs with limited resources.

In addition, for districts that discover that there is lead in their water, there is no funding for remediation at the federal level that they can access. They would have to dip into local education funding to acquire filters, replace faucets and fountains and take other steps to get the lead out. At a minimum the EPA should include a list of federal and state funding resources for LEAs that independently conduct their lead testing and that may have to remove lead from water systems when it is found.

However, we also believe it’s imperative that EPA and the Administration propose new funding to help schools fix the problem - i.e., install filters, replace lead-bearing fixtures, etc.

Overall, AASA believes this regulation is a long overdue step in the right direction, but feels the rule falls short of ensuring children and school personnel are not exposed to lead in schools. However, by amending the action level to 1ppb, increasing LEAs’ access to lead testing guidance, improving testing procedures for CWS’s, and making funding materials more available to districts, this proposal has the potential to ensure greater steps are taken to improve the safety of drinking water at public schools and childcare facilities.

AASA will comment on the NPRM before the closing date on January 13, 2020. We will provide a template on the Leading Edge Blog for you to comment as well. We hope you take a moment to weigh in on this important regulation.


December 3, 2019

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Call 1-800 Line And Request More IDEA Funding

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition and increasing IDEA funding is our organization's top federal priority. As negotiations on appropriations come to a close this week we are excited that a few of our coalition partners have created a 1-800 line that superintendents can use to call their Reps/Senators and urgently request greater funding for IDEA. 

On Thursday we are targeting the House and on Friday we are targeting the Senate. Details are below. 

Call your Representative in the House starting on Thursday at 877-682-6145 and once you provide your zip code you will be automatically directed to your Reps office. Here's the script you can use for the call:

Hi, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent and the superintendent of xx   ____________.  I am calling to urge my Representative to increase funding for IDEA which provides resources for special education in the bill funding the Department of Education that Congress is working on now. Our district desperately needs Congress to adequately address rising special education costs which encroach on our operating budgets and we urge Congress to direct any increased funding for education toward this key formula grant program. (Feel free to mention other funding streams like Title I and Title IV that you also support). 

Call your Senator on Friday at 877-582-2913. Once you provide your zip code you will be automatically connected to one of your two Senators. Here's the script you can use for the call: 

Hi, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent and the superintendent of xx   ____________.  I am calling to urge my Senator to increase funding for IDEA which provides resources for special education in the bill funding the Department of Education that Congress is working on now. Our district desperately needs Congress to adequately address rising special education costs which encroach on our operating budgets and we urge Congress to direct any increased funding for education toward this key formula grant program. (Feel free to mention other funding streams like Title I and Title IV that you also support). 

November 27, 2019

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AASA Organizes Letter Advocating for More IDEA Funding

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a coalition of education and disability groups that advocate for the full funding of IDEA. Yesterday, AASA sent a letter on behalf of the coalition to Senate appropriators urging them to work together with their counterparts in the House to increase investments in the federal education programs that serve students with disabilities. The letter was signed by 24 national organizations. 


November 26, 2019(1)

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Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations But Concerns Remain

On Saturday, Appropriations leaders reached agreement on totals for each of the 12 FY 2020 funding bills, paving the way for Congress to pass as many of those bills as possible in the next four weeks.  The 12 bill allocations, known as the “302(b)” levels, have not been made public but we expect that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will get a boost above the effective 1% increase that the Senate Appropriations Committee had originally approved this fall but well below the 6.6% ($11.8 billion) increase in the House bill passed this spring. 

However, there is concern with how the bills will move forward before December 20th. There could be a “minibus’ where a few bills are packaged together and voted on as a group. Last year, the Defense and the Labor-HHS-Education bills were packaged together and enacted before the start of FY 2019, which meant those programs were not directly affected when much of the rest of the government shut down when their funding bills were not enacted or extended.  That scenario could happen again, although some Members of Congress may worry that passing the two biggest bills leaves less urgency to pass the remaining 10 bills.

Another option is that some bills are passed, but agreement on others is stymied; this has happened when Congress couldn’t agree on funding for key programs but didn’t want to hold up the rest of the bills. Another scenario is that not all bills are finalized by December 20, requiring another CR. The impeachment inquiry brings up a number of obstacles to the appropriations process, including the time it takes and the rancor it causes.  If the House is voting on articles of impeachment at about the same time it is scheduled to vote on appropriations bills, the process could stall for many reasons. 

November 26, 2019

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AASA Endorses Homework Gap Legislation

AASA is pleased to endorse legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Meng which would create a $100 million grant program for schools to purchase mobile hotspots to help close the nation’s homework gap. The bill, Closing the Homework Gap Through Mobile Hotspots Act, would ensure that students can access the internet through mobile hotspot devices to complete their assignments at home.  


November 19, 2019(1)

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AASA Files Testimony in Senate Energy Committee

In light of an important hearing being held by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the future funding of the Secure Rural Schools program AASA submitted the following testimony to the Committee arguing for an immediate extension of funding and a long-term solution to funding for the program.

November 19, 2019

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AASA Submits Comments to FTC on COPPA

Today AASA submitted comments to the FTC on proposed changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). If not amended the FTC proposal could pose major administrative obstacles for school districts.The proposed rule would guarantee a number of rights to parents in connection with the data collected from their children who are under the age of 13 in schools. These include the right to receive direct notice prior to the collection of such data, the right to review the personal information collected from their child, the right to revoke their consent and refuse the further use or collection of personal information from their child, and the right to delete their child’s personal information. AASA believes that the rights enumerated above should remain in the hands of schools and not placed into the hands of parents in order to assure the administrative, educational, privacy, and equity benefits of the use of Ed Tech.

If schools must actively obtain parental consent, this is likely to cause a number of harmful and unintended consequences. First, the requirement will create a substantial administrative burden on schools. Districts rarely receive 100% return on requests for parent consent which may impede the function and operation of critical technology services. Online and Ed Tech services, including learning management systems that deliver curriculum by collecting student input and providing an individualized level of instruction depending on student individual response, are ubiquitous in schools and may provide vital school functions. Additionally, some school districts serve tens of thousands of students and operate multiple educational software programs and applications that may serve the same purpose as textbooks or other core curricular materials. Therefore, in addition to the administrative burden, this requirement could shut down or inhibit many vital school functions, like managing curriculum materials, taking attendance, or transferring transcripts. For these reasons we urge the FTC to formally align COPPA with FERPA and allow schools to provide consent to Ed-Tech providers. 


November 18, 2019

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AASA Submits Comments on New CRDC

Today AASA submitted comments on the new Civil Rights Data Collection request for 2019-20. In our comments we recognized that the Department has taken steps to reduce the number of items districts must report on by 22%, but that this is still a time and resource intensive process that must be greatly diminished in future collections. We also commented on the new data points that the Department is planning to add to the collection related to bullying and sexual assault. Our comments are available here.

November 15, 2019

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Awesome PD Opportunity: Train-the-Trainer program on student data privacy

Since 2013, over 130 new student privacy laws have passed in 41 states, with more bills and regulations being rolled out each year with many new requirements for educators and administrators to implement. Some state laws include the threat of jail or large fines when school staff even unintentionally violate student privacy. Unfortunately, few states have received funding or support in implementing these new laws. This isn’t only a legal problem: as technology changes and the amount of information schools collect and maintain increases, ensuring that administrators have the information and skills needed to adequately oversee and protect student privacy in their day-to-day work is extremely challenging. 

District superintendents are essential to successful privacy programs, but it can be difficult for them to know where to begin. The Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on consumer privacy, is launching a Train-the-Trainer program in 2020 to build the capacity of district superintendents and other key stakeholders to become student privacy experts to help the districts they serve and also become regionally and/or nationally known student privacy trainers and evangelists. Whether you are new to the student privacy world or an experienced practitioner, the free one-year FPF Student Privacy Train-the-Trainer Program will provide the knowledge and skills to make you a student privacy leader while also connecting you with a peer network and student privacy experts from across the country.  

Participants should have a strong interest in student privacy, the willingness to conduct student privacy trainings at their institutions or relevant conferences, and be able to dedicate approximately eight hours per month for virtual webinars (1-2 hours) and asynchronous activities (6 hours). Participants will also need to travel to Washington, D.C. for in-person workshops in February 2020 and November 2020. Travel scholarships are available for a limited number of participants. To learn more and apply or nominate someone else to be part of the program, please visit https://ferpasherpa.org/tttapplication.Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis but must be submitted no later than December 8th.  

November 14, 2019(1)

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AASA Files Amicus in Supreme Court Case on Vouchers

AASA was proud to join the National School Boards Association and many other education associations in an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in a pivotal school voucher case that the Court will hear in January known as Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. In the brief we argue that tuition tax credit programs like Montana's harm public education and that States' have a constitutional right to not fund religious instruction are part of their historic commitment to public education. You can read our brief here.

November 14, 2019

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FY 2020 Approps Update: 2nd CR

This week, lawmakers announced that they are considering passing another continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government from November 22nd through December 20th thus marking the second time Congress has delayed the FY2020 spending deadline. If President Trump approves the CR, appropriators will have another month to negotiate topline spending numbers and funding for Trump's border wall, which they've made little progress on so far. The problem here is that although lawmakers chose the December 20th deadline to pressure appropriators into action, the new funding deadline will coincide with the House vote on articles of impeachment. Consequently, this has created a scenario where the impeachment proceedings could complicate spending talks, though the timing of a potential House impeachment vote is still unclear.
While the White House has indicated that the President is in support of another CR, Trump has let his disdain for impeachment affect other non-related negotiations in the past. Therefore, although a CR is likely, it's anyone's best guess on whether Trump will approve the second stop gap funding measure, or if impeachment will derail the appropriations process past December 20th. Regardless, AASA will continue to keep you informed on how this plays out and advocate for higher education funding levels than in FY19. 

November 7, 2019

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New report: Rural schools need greater support

This guest blog post was written by Alan Richard, a national education writer and a longtime Rural School and Community Trust board member.

Many schools in rural America thrive. Rural and small-town schools are the kinds of places every parent wishes to send their children--where they can get personal attention, develop caring relationships, and find extra help and support.

Too often, however, rural schools across the country face an utter lack of adequate resources as they strive to provide all students with education that prepares them for life after high school.

That’s among the key findings of the new report Why Rural Matters 2018-19: The Time Is Now from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Rural School and Community Trust.

The Rural School and Community Trust is proud to partner with AASA on the release of this report. Both organizations have worked together closely for years, and we’re honored to continue our work with the nation’s school superintendents.

 A few highlights from the new edition of Why Rural Matters

  •  Nearly 7.5 million students were enrolled in rural school districts--almost one in seven public school students in the U.S. in the 2016-17 school year. About one in six of those rural students were from families living in poverty.
  • More than 9.3 million students attended rural schools (including those in districts classified as non-rural by the National Center for Education Statistics). That’s nearly one in five U.S. students--and more students than in the nation’s 85 largest school districts combined.
  • The top 10 highest-need states in rural education, as ranked in the report across a wide array of measures: 1) Mississippi, 2) Alabama and North Carolina (tied), 4) Oklahoma, 5) South Dakota, 6) West Virginia, 7) Georgia, 8) South Carolina, 9) Louisiana, and 10) Florida.
  • In 12 states, at least half of public schools are rural:Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, North Dakota, Maine, Alaska, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Mississippi. 
  • Why policymakers sometimes forget about rural schools: A majority of rural students live in states where they’re less than 25 percent of school enrollment.  
  • The national median enrollment for rural districts is only 494 students. In 23 states, half of rural districts enroll fewer than the median.In Montana, North Dakota,andVermont, 90 percent of rural districts do.  
  • About half of rural students in the U.S. live in 10 states: Texas has the most rural students (694,000), followed by North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, and Indiana. 
  • State rankings, averages can disguise challenges: Just because your state looks good overall, doesn’t mean that rural schools don’t face major challenges. Some challenges face only specific regions or types of districts. 
  • Only 9.5 percent of the nation’s rural students passed Advanced Placement (AP) courses in 2018-19, compared with 19 percent of all U.S. high school students, 18.8 percent of urban students, and 24.1 percent of suburban students. 
  •  Rural students outscored non-rural students on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in a majority of states with available data. Rural achievement is very low in some states, however. 
  • The gap in achievement between rural students in poverty and rural students not in poverty was greatest in Maryland, Mississippi, and Washington--and narrowest in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Montana.
  • Many states provide a larger proportion of funding for rural districts, but 12 states provided less funding proportionately, including Nebraska, Vermont, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, California, and Ohio.
  • A national average of $6,367 is spent on the instruction of each rural student. The lowest state averages were $4,118 in Idaho and $4,737 in Oklahoma.Texas alsoinvested relatively low amounts on instruction for each rural student ($5,386). The highest averages were $14,380 in Alaska and $13,226 in New York.  
  • Many states in the Midwest and Great Plains regions invest relatively high amounts in each rural student--but about $3,500 less than most Northeastern states.  
  • Even when adjusted for comparable local wages, average rural educator salaries (all instructional staff) varied widely: Kansas was lowest at $54,454, Alaska highest at $102,736. States with the next-lowest average salaries for rural educators: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Missouri. The highest were in Alaska, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Wyoming.

The success and struggles of rural schools have a profound impact on our nation. We all should support greater, smarter investments in rural schools, especially those serving students who need the most support to succeed. 


November 1, 2019(1)

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FY20 Education Funding Still in Limbo

On Thursday, the Senate took the first step to advance the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 appropriations process by passing a bipartisan package of bills that would fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Interior, Environment, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

Unfortunately, the fate of the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education minibus, which includes our slice of the pie for education funding, is far from certain. Specifically, negotiations have stalled for two reasons. The first obstacle concerns disagreements over Defense spending, as Senate Democrats are adamantly against the Trump Administration’s proposal to transfer FY 2019 military construction money to build a southern border wall. The second impediment to the process is the top-line spending numbers for the Departments of Labor-HHS-Education. Under the Senate appropriations bill, the allocation freezes funding for the Departments of Labor-HHS-Education at the FY 2019 level, even though Congress enacted an overall $27 billion increase in non-defense discretionary funding for FY 2020. As a contrast, the Energy-Water bill that was passed this week includes a 9% funding increase. Level funding Education is a non-starter for Senate Democrats, as the House bill allocated 1 billion in additional funding for both IDEA and Title I.

At this point, Congressional leaders know they don't have enough time to pass the 12 spending bills that fund the federal government before the end of the fiscal year on November 21st and agree that another CR is necessary to avoid a government shutdown. Since our update last week there seems to be growing consensus by Democratic and Republican leadership that the next CR shouldn't last beyond Dec 31st so that appropriators are pressured to pass the 2020 spending bills. However, considering the outstanding issues between the two parties, the impeachment inquiry, and the amount of time left on the congressional calendar, it's looking more likely that we'll end up with a year-long continuing resolution, which as you'll recall will decrease the purchasing power of LEAs. That said, the fight is far from over. Regardless, AASA will keep you up to date on all the latest funding movements on Capitol Hill.

November 1, 2019

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November Advocate


Every month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the November 2019 edition

This year negotiations began to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), which is the authorizing statute that determines the policies, procedures, and practices of the nation's higher education system. HEA is supposed to be reauthorized every 6-7 years and was last updated in 2008. Given the amount of time since the last comprehensive HEA reauthorization, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were eager to dust off the law that governs the nation’s higher education system and implement long-awaited administrative and programmatic changes that have been called for by policymakers on both sides of the aisle. Unlike previous HEA reauthorizations, the process this year began in the Senate as Chairman Lamar Alexander of the Health Education and Labor (HELP) Committee announced his retirement in 2020 and is seeking one last victory before leaving office.

Early in the process, Alexander indicated that he was committed to conducting bipartisan negotiations with Ranking Member Patty Murray. However, outstanding issues over Title II (teacher prep), Title IV (student aid), and Title IX (sexual assault and harassment guidance) effectively ended any bipartisan will to update HEA in the Senate. With his back against the wall, Alexander took an unprecedented move of introducing a piecemeal HEA package, dubbed The Student Aid Improvement Act, in an attempt to advance his bipartisan priorities of simplifying FASFA, increase the transparency of the cost of college, and extend Pell to short-term programs and incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, he also attached his HEA priorities with a separate $255 million bipartisan funding bill for black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions to bypass negotiations with Senate Democrats. In response, Murray announced that the Democrats had no interest in a piecemeal approach, thereby kicking the can to the House.

On the House side, Chairman Bobby Scott of the Education and Labor committee released his comprehensive partisan reauthorization of HEA in October—called the College Affordability Act—after seemingly waiting for Alexander to make a move and several months of negotiations with other House Democrats. Similarly, to Scott’s 2018 Aim Higher Act, the bill takes substantial steps towards improving the affordability of post-secondary programs for all students, while also delivering on a set of liberal lawmakers' Higher Ed priorities. After reviewing the 1,000+ page text of the bill, AASA was pleased to find the following updates to the law:

Title II

·       Under Title II of the Act, the bill reauthorizes and expands the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant program, which enables Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) and State Education Agencies (SEA) to partner with a high needs Local Education Agency (LEA) to create cohort-based teacher residency models that offer students clinical experience in school settings. Specifically, the Act expands the allowable use of TQP grants to develop school leader preparation programs (e.g., superintendent and principal pipelines); empowers TQP grantees to develop "Grow Your Own" partnerships for recruiting and supporting diverse paraprofessionals in gaining professional teaching certifications; and, increases the authorized spending level of the program to $500,000,000.

Title IV

·       Under Title IV, lawmakers made significant changes to the U.S. Dept. of Education TEACH Grant program by redirecting the grant’s aid to junior and senior teacher prep candidates and expanding the maximum award amount to $8,000 per year. Furthermore, the bill also tackles critiques of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by including language in the act to create one Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan that addresses the public's confusion about how to qualify for PSLF. House Dems also threw educators a win by streamlining PSLF so that teachers can count loan payments for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program at the same time as PSLF, which reduces the number of monthly payments that educators need to make to qualify for loan forgiveness.

·       Additionally, under Title IV the bill encourages historically underrepresented student groups to earn college credits early by increasing the authorized spending level of the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to $1.2B. Moreover, the law emphasizes college completion by allocating additional funding to states so that students can access early credit pathways such as dual enrollment, early college high schools, and AP and IB and programs. Finally, the bill expands access to post-secondary programs by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Title IX 

·       Also, of importance to superintendents, the bill directs the Secretary of Education to abandon the U.S. ED's regulatory efforts to weaken existing Title IX guidance to IHEs and LEAs.


Following the release of the College Affordability Act, the bill was marked-up by the House Education Committee in the last week in October. AASA submitted a letter in favor of the legislation despite the fact that it was a highly partisan legislative product. During the mark-up Republicans expressed strong opposition to the bill, criticizing its $400,000,000 price tag as well as the bill's emphasis on four-year degrees. Still, House Democrats succeeded in advancing H.R. 4674 out of the Education and Labor Committee on a vote that was split down party lines (28-22). At this point, the measure is headed to the House floor for a final vote before it can move to the Senate, which according to reports, Scott hopes occurs sometime before 2020. That said, it’s unlikely that the College Affordability Act will advance any further once it hits the Senate, considering that the upper chamber is still under the GOP's control, and the act is far too progressive for rank and file Republican Senators. Moreover, depending on how the impeachment inquiry proceeds, much of the political breath on Capitol Hill is expected to be spent on prosecuting or defending President Trump. Consequently, this will leave little time for legislative matters. That said, AASA will keep you abreast on all the latest higher ed updates, so stay tuned!


October 29, 2019

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AASA Offers Letter in Support of the College Affordability Act

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee marked-up the newly introduced College Affordability Act or H.R.4674. In response to the mark-up, AASA sent a letter of support in favor of the legislation to Chairman Bobby Scott and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, who lead the Committee's work on higher Ed. You can view our position on the bill here.

October 24, 2019

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Education Funding Possibly Pushed to Spring

Reports from Congress are that Congressional leaders are coalescing around a decision to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would push funding for the US. Department of Education until February or March of 2020. The time that may be required in both chambers to devote to impeachment proceedings is the main impetus for crafting a longer-term CR although negotiations are also said to be at a standstill because there is no agreement as to how to fund the President’s border wall. As Senator Shelby, who Chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said yesterday, “unless a miracle happens around here with the House and the Senate, we will have to come forth with another CR.” 

Multiple continuing resolutions is challenging for AASA members because it gives districts less time to plan for forthcoming funding for the 20-21 school year. Politically it is problematic as well because the temptation to pass a year-long CR (which is level funding) is higher the longer that funding bills are delayed. While many people describe a year-long CR as level funding it’s important to remember that a CR does not adjust for inflation so in reality it is a cut in terms of buying power. Given where we started this year with House Democrats recommending $1 billion in additional funding for both IDEA and Title I it would be really disappointing to end up with no funding increases for these key formula programs.  



October 23, 2019

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Best Practices for Identifying and Supporting High-Achieving Rural Students

This guest post was written by Jennifer Glynn, Ph.D. who is the Director of Research at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. 

 Almost one in five school children—some 9 million nationwide—live in rural areas. Many of these students have far fewer resources than their suburban counterparts and receive far less national attention than urban ones. At the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, we aim to change that, both by calling attention to the need to increase opportunities for rural students and by supporting programs that are leading the way in doing so. 

As highlighted in our new report, “Small Town, Big Talent,” rural students are both high achieving and underserved. They graduate from high school at rates above the national average, but are less likely than their peers elsewhere in the country to enroll in college immediately after graduation. This disconnect between K-12 and postsecondary achievement can disadvantage communities that often are struggling to attract and retain talent.

In our new report, we highlight promising practices and programs that can serve as models for expanding opportunities for academically talented students in rural America. To reach their full potential, academically talented students require advanced support, opportunities, and resources that far too many schools lack. Rural schools, with smaller enrollments and fewer resources, face additional challenges providing for their brightest students.

 Since 2012, the Cooke Foundation has supported educational enrichment in rural areas by awarding over $3.3 million in grants to outstanding organizations that support rural students in Alaska, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In 2017, the Foundation formalized our strategy for rural program support by establishing the Rural Talent Initiative grant program. This report draws on the deep experience of six grantees and findings from the research community to offer 14 recommendations of best practices for identifying promising rural students, providing them with academic services, and meeting the social and emotional needs of promising rural students.

 James Madison University’s Valley Scholars Program, for example, has learned that it’s critical to not only create local enrichment opportunities but to also widen students’ vision of what’s possible. They expose scholars to a wide range of college and career options and help them build social capital that doesn’t accrue naturally in sparsely populated areas. “Our goal is to support Valley Scholars in becoming leaders in their communities.” Shaun Mooney, director of the Valley Scholars Program, told us. “We are intentional about creating opportunities for learning inside and outside of their communities to expose them to new ideas, experiences, and people.”

All the organizations interviewed for the report also stressed the importance of recognizing that no two communities are the same. “When you know one rural area, you [only] know one rural area,” said Tamra Stambaugh, director of Vanderbilt University’s Programs for Talented Youth. Some rural communities are adjacent to outer suburbs, while others are hundreds of miles away from the nearest town or city. Some have differentiated economies, while others are dependent upon a single industry, such as farming, fishing, mining, logging, or tourism. All of those factors impact the resources and opportunities available to students.

Just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for addressing need in urban schools, organizations must take a varied approach to increasing services for rural school children. We hope this report will inspire national organizations, educators, and federal and state policymakers—and provide much-needed guidance on how to deepen their work in rural communities. Ultimately, the entire nation will benefit from developing its young rural talent, and it is our intent for this report to serve as a useful blueprint to do so.

October 18, 2019

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Cat El Comment Period Extended Until Nov 1

In response to Chairman Bobby Scott's complaint that more than 500,000 students would lose their automatic eligibility for the school meals program because of a proposal from USDA that alters States' ability to implement Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, Deputy Undersecretary Brandon Lipps was called to testify at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing earlier last week.  

During the hearing, Secretary Lipps was grilled by House DEMs for USDA's seemingly nefarious move to withhold its full regulatory impact analysis until the morning before the Wednesday hearing, which showed approximately 982,000 children would no longer be directly certified for free school meals based on their family's participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. While it is despicable that USDA informally misrepresented the number of impacted students when they rolled out the proposal in July, the good news for school districts is that we have until November 1st to weigh in on how the regulation will impact the public school system. AASA will be submitting comments in the coming weeks, and we strongly encourage you to join us in this effort. Take action now by copying and pasting this letter to the following link



October 16, 2019

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AASA Policy Priorities Advanced in Higher Education Rewrite

On Tuesday, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, led by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), released its long-anticipated College Affordability Act, which offers Congress a pathway to comprehensively reauthorize the law governing the nation's higher education system. Similarly, to Chairman Scott's 2018 AIM Higher Act, the bill takes substantial steps towards improving the affordability of post-secondary programs for all students, while also delivering on a set of liberal lawmakers' higher-ed priorities.

As we reflected on the 1,000+ page text of the bill we kept AASA’s higher ed priorities as outlined in our 2019 Legislative Agenda in mind. They are:

  1. Support the preservation and expansion of resources for future and current teachers to address the teacher shortage issue
  2. Support programs that assist and develop students entering and completing college and postsecondary programs
  3. Reduce and simplify the paperwork and application requirements for FASFA
  4. Support the maintenance of the 2001 Title IX Guidance to ensure each and every student has a safe and healthy learning environment.
  5. Ensure flexibility of Pell grants to be available for students regardless of age or current school enrollment

After reviewing the bill we are pleased to report that all of our major policy priorities were well addressed in the Democratic proposal. A section by section analysis of the changes AASA was pushing for in the reauthorization is available below. Ultimately, even though House Dems have dramatically scaled back their higher-ed proposal compared to the 2020 presidential candidates, House Republicans are not likely to support this bill given the $400 billion price tag. Chairman Scott hopes to have a vote in Committee soon on the bill and bring it to floor, but given the stalemate in the Senate reauthorization prospects look dim. Regardless, this legislation contains all of AASA higher education priorities and is a good starting point for higher education negotiations on Capitol Hill.   

    Title II 

    • Under Title II of the Act, the bill reauthorizes and expands the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program, which enables Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) and State Education Agencies (SEA) to partner with a high needs Local Education Agency (LEA) to create cohort-based teacher residency models that offer students clinical experience in school settings. Specifically, The Act expands the allowable use of TQP Grants to develop school leader preparation programs (e.g., superintendent and principal pipelines), and increases the authorized spending level of the program to $500,000,000.    
    • Title II of the College Affordability Act also enables TQP grantees to develop "Grow Your Own" partnerships between high-need LEAs and IHEs for recruiting and supporting diverse paraprofessionals and other non-teaching staff in gaining professional certifications to teach in their communities.   
    • Finally, the bill authorizes funding for competitive grant programs under Title II part B at $100,000,000 to support IHEs interested in the following activities: improving teacher and school leader preparation programs at minority-serving institutions; increasing the number of teacher prep programs that dually certify teachers for special education and English-language instruction; and advancing doctoral and fellow research on high-quality instruction in educator shortage areas (e.g., SPED and English Language Learners).  

    Title IV 

    • Under Title IV, lawmakers made significant changes to U.S. ED's administration of the TEACH Grant program. Specifically, the law improves technical aspects of the program by redirecting its aid to junior and senior teacher prep candidates and expanding the maximum award amount to $8,000 per year. Furthermore, the bill also addresses critiques of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which had been raised throughout this year. Specifically, lawmakers included language in the act to create one Income-Driven Repayment (IBR) plan, in an attempt to address the public's confusion about how to qualify for the program. House Dems also threw educators a win by streamlining the program so that teachers can count loan payments for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program at the same time as PSLF, thereby reducing the number of monthly payments needed towards PSLF.
    • The legislation also increases the authorized spending level for the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to $1.2B.   
    • To encourage students to earn college credits early, the legislation provides states with funding to increase student access to early credit pathways, including dual enrollment, early college high schools, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. It expands access to dual enrollment for high school students and improves the transferability of short-term credentials and college credits to give students’ a broader array of options. It also increases total Pell eligibility from 12 to 14 semesters and allows students to use unspent Pell dollars toward a graduate degree, empowering students to continue building their skills. 

     Title IX  

    • The bill directs the Secretary of Education to abandon the U.S. ED's regulatory efforts to weaken existing Title IX guidance to IHEs and LEAs. 

October 15, 2019

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EPA issues new regulations on testing for lead in schools

This week the EPA will be issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking that would change how communities test for lead in drinking water. It's the first major update to the Lead and Copper Rule in nearly 30 years. The proposal that was announced last Thursday would require water systems to keep a public inventory of where those lead service lines and utilities would also have to notify their customers within 24 hours.

 The proposal would indeed change when officials have to take action based on water tests, making regulations stricter. Currently, water systems are required to find and fix sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 parts per billion. The proposal would establish a lower “trigger level” of 10 ppb, “which would compel water systems to identify actions that would reduce lead levels in drinking water 

But of great significance to school district leaders, the new regulation would also require that community water systems (CWS) sample drinking water outlets at each school and each child care facility served by the system. The system would be required to provide the results to the school or child care facility and to provide information about the actions the school or child care facility can take to reduce lead in drinking water.

Under the proposal, each year, 20% of schools across the country would be tested resulting in all schools being tested every five years. Sample results and education materials must be provided to each sampled school/child care center. There is no requirement to test any schools or facilities built after January 1, 2014.

The Community Water Systems (CWS) would be required to provide information to districts about the health risks and sources of lead in drinking water, collect samples for lead at schools and child care facilities within its distribution system, and share that data with the facilities and health departments to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the risks and likelihood of the presence of lead in drinking water. Prior to conducting sampling, the CWS would send information to the school and child care facilities to notify them of their plans to perform sampling and to provide them with the 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Toolkit. Under the proposal, a CWS would then be required to collect samples from five drinking water outlets at each school and two drinking water outlets at each child care facility served by the CWS. The CWS would be expected to complete sampling at all schools and child care facilities in its distribution system every five years. The samples would be first draw after at least 8 hours but not more than 18 hours stagnation of the building and be 250 ml in volume. The CWS would be required to provide each school and child care facility with the results of the samples taken in that facility. The CWS would be required to provide the sampling results as soon as practicable but no less than 30 days after receipt of the results. The CWS would also be required to provide the results for all samples collected in schools and child care facilities to the drinking water primacy agency and local health department where the school or child care facility is located. The CWS would not be required under this proposed rule for taking any remedial action at the school or child care facility following the sampling and notification requirements of this proposal. It would be up to the school district how they communicated the results of the lead testing to parents/guardians. For school districts in states that have already passed laws requiring lead testing, the EPA requirements would not be duplicative; instead, the State could waive school and child care facility sampling for individual to avoid duplication of effort. The only caveat is that the State must require CWSs to sample at all schools and child care facilities, or a program requiring schools and child care facilities to collect samples themselves, that is at least as stringent as the proposed EPA regulation.  States can also receive a partial waiver so as to avoid duplicating testing in schools or facilities that are required to be tested under state law.

AASA will be weighing in on the proposed regulation and encouraging superintendents to join them in responding to the regulation. Stay tuned for our forthcoming call-to-action. 

October 9, 2019

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New federal grants for mental health, school climate for districts

Yesterday, the Dept. of Education announced $71.6 million in new funding to improve student access to mental health resources and improve school climate. Three of the grants are available to districts. 

The Mental Health Demonstration Grant Program provides $11 million to 27 State education agencies and school districts to support innovative partnerships to train and deploy school-based mental health service providers in schools. The purpose is to expand the pipeline of high-quality, trained professionals to address shortages of mental health services in high-need schools and to provide supports that encompass social and emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults.

Project Prevent provides more than $11.3 million to 15 school districts to increase their capacity to assist schools in communities with pervasive violence. These grants will enable schools to identify, assess, and serve students exposed to pervasive violence, provide mental health services for related trauma or anxiety, support conflict resolution programs, and implement other school-based violence prevention strategies in order to break the cycle of violence in these communities.

The School Climate Transformation Grant Program provides $42.4 million to 69 school districts to help develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for, and technical assistance to, schools implementing a multi-tiered system of support for improving school climate. The program focuses on supporting communities that may uniquely benefit from implementing a multi-tiered system of support, including districts serving rural areas and/or members of a federally recognized Tribe, and districts located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone.



October 8, 2019

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PEP Talk Episode 14: Crystal FitzSimons

We're back with the latest episode of PEP Talk, AASA's policy podcast. This week's episode features a conversation between Crystal FitzSimons, Director of School and Out-of-School Time Programs at the Food Research and Action Committee (FRAC) and AASA Policy Analyst Chris Rogers. In her current role, Crystal directs FRAC's work on the child nutrition programs that serve school-age children; and is responsible for advocating for legislative and regulatory improvements to the federal child nutrition programs. Check out our discussion to get the latest developments on the Categorical Eligibility program and hear updates from the Hill on child nutrition reauthorization.

October 7, 2019(1)

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October Advocate

Capitol Hill lawmakers continue to put the “fun” in dysfunctional as negotiations about how to fund the government for another year and whether to impeach the President leave little room for meaningful, bipartisan policymaking. As your eyes and ears on the Hill AASA is definitely concerned that unless the parties come together quickly we could see a shutdown or the passage of a continuing resolution for an entire year, which would mean that we would see no increases in critical formula programs between FY19 to FY20.

The reason a year-long CR is looking more likely is that Democrats and Republicans are too far apart on spending levels and cannot find a path forward when it comes to funding the President’s border wall.  The Senate’s Labor HHS Education spending bill for FY2020 is now stalled and may not move for a while. Two major problems are causing this situation: 1) the ban on “poison pill” riders that Congress agreed to in this summer’s budget deal; and 2) the very low allocations that the bill received to use for spending. The first issue blew-up in early September at the Labor HHS Education Appropriations Subcommittee mark-up for the FY2020 bill where Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced plans to introduce an amendment that Republicans claimed fell afoul of the agreed to ban on “poison pill” amendments. This caused the Subcommittee mark-up to be cancelled and the full Appropriations Committee mark-up, scheduled for later that week, to be cancelled subsequently.

The second issue came to a head when Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced an amendment in Committee that would have increased the 302(b) allocations for the Labor HHS Education bill. Senate Democrats have complained loudly that the current allocation (plus additional budgetary gimmicks) would equal only a 1% increase in available funding over last year. Additionally, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) decision to spend the vast majority of that 1% on increasing the National Institutes for Health by $3 billion has left little for appropriators to spend on other key education, health and labor programs. Leahy’s amendment failed on a party line vote.

Later in September Republicans unveiled their version of the FY2020 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill which would level-fund virtually all K-12 education programs, save for charter schools and Title IV in ESSA. Rather than trying to run it again through the normal committee process, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) decided to bypass the Appropriations Committee entirely and move the bill to the floor, coupling it with the bills covering Defense, Energy and Water funding. According to media reports, he suggested that Democrats would have to agree to this move or run the risk of looking like they oppose defense programs. Despite that pressure, nearly all Democrats opposed a procedural vote to close debate and Shelby’s effort failed.

Upon seeing that there would not be a legitimate negotiation in the Senate, the House voted to pass a Continuing Resolution bill quickly, which the Senate passed the following week. The President signed the continuing resolution, which avoids a government shutdown and punts the funding deadline to November 21st to allow the two chambers and parties more time to figure out a way forward on funding. Given that the House Democrats passed bills proposing $1 billion in new money for both IDEA and Title I it would be a huge disappointment if we receive level funding for these critical funding streams next year because no agreement on funding levels can be reached.

That’s all the “fun”ding news for now! Follow us on twitter or check out the Leading Edge blog for additional updates.



October 7, 2019

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AASA files amicus brief in DACA case

AASA joined NSBA in filing a brief in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ahead of a Supreme Court hearing next month on President Trump’s move to terminate it. We believe the Administration's decision would have severe ramifications and devastating costs for public education and the students it serves—impacting thousands of school districts and their communities. You can read the brief here

September 30, 2019

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GUEST POST: Advanced Placement: A low-key engine of school renewal

With Congress in recess we are giving you a break from our usual Hill-related content and sharing a great read from our friends Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Andrew E. Scanlan at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. 

The glum news that average SAT scores dropped again this year finds the College Board again trying to explain that the fall is due to more and more diverse students taking these tests. That may be partly true but it doesn’t solve the problem of under preparedness for what follow high school. Nor is SAT necessarily the best gauge to use. While its scores signal that a student is (or isn’t) ready to enter college, the Advanced Placement (AP) program, also run by the College Board, helps students master college-level courses before they even get there. 

Six decades old and now engaging nearly three million students who sit for some five million exams every year, AP has quietly worked its way into the offerings of most U.S. public and private high schools, the policies of many states and districts, the admissions and placement decisions of hundreds of universities, the educational aspirations of countless families, and the academic programs of innumerable college students. As we explore in our new book, Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present and Future of Advanced Placement, preparing these young people to succeed on the tests (scored from 1 to 5, with 3 or better deemed “qualifying”) is a major objective for teachers, students, and families, as well as education leaders who view a robust AP program as a key component of a topflight school system.

District and school leaders have plenty of reasons to offer AP and encourage more young people to take its courses. But what makes AP stand out from all the other reforms, interventions, and silver bullets, including such competitors as dual credit? We count four big advantages in embracing AP.

First, its successful completion yields tangible benefits for the young people who participate, particularly those who also score at least a 3 on the exams. Achieving such a “qualifying score” gives youngsters a good shot at arriving in college with credit already established and/or waiving out of boring freshmen courses—possibly earning their degrees faster and cheaper. Participants gain valuable study skills and may get a welcome boost in their admissions odds, perhaps including better colleges than they would otherwise have applied to. Its courses are also an antidote to senior-year boredom, a source of stimulation and rigor for high-achieving students, and a source of confidence that yes, one is indeed “college material.”

Second, many teachers find valuable colleagueship, professional development, and intellectual stimulation from a nationwide AP network that includes peers in thousands of schools as well as university professors. They get together in June to score the exams; they take part in week-long summer workshops; and their participation in lively virtual networks offers myriad ways to compare notes, pick up tips, borrow lesson plans, and get suggestions for additional research by students who want to dig deeper. It’s not unusual to hear teachers say that an AP workshop rejuvenated and enhanced their work as educators and some go back again and again.

Third, Advanced Placement is private, run by the non-profit, non-partisan College Board and thus largely immune to political infighting. It’s not imposed by the federal or state government, and many superintendents and principals have come to view it as an effective tool for improving education at the system and building levels—a toning up effect on entire high schools that, if well-orchestrated, may trigger improvements in “feeder” middle schools as well. Besides better serving smart kids and conferring additional curricular choices, it contributes to raising academic standards and rigor; attracting and retaining eager, knowledgeable teachers; and developing curricula and assessments that can be compared across districts and states. Above all, AP has become a serious player in the national effort to enhance educational opportunities—and a real booster rocket for disadvantaged youngsters.

Fourth, Advanced Placement has always included an external exam that’s anonymously scored and it has successfully maintained a “gold standard” of rigor even as it comes closer than anything else to a high-quality national curriculum at the high-school level. Its expectations are the same in rural Kansas as in the suburbs of Boston. Indeed, the most oft-heard response of politicians is, “We want more of it in more schools and we want more kids to participate in it.” Yet politicians have essentially no role in what it teaches, how it tests, or who scores what.

 We heard time and time again from superintendents and principals that a well-functioning AP program can be an engine of high-school improvement that raises expectations among staff, students, and families. But that doesn’t make it easy to maintain a robust AP program in one’s school or district. Much else needs to be aligned, perhaps above all a culture of inclusion, rigor, and academic seriousness, plus stable, committed leadership and eager, well-prepared teachers. Even then, it’s far easier to offer the courses than to help kids prepare to ace the May exams—a challenge that’s intensified if middle schools are lacking and youngsters’ outside lives are fraught.

 Going big on AP also poses resource trade-offs and priority issues for schools and districts. Should they instead do more for low achievers? Upgrade their CTE offerings rather than trying to boost more kids into college? Focus on dual credit instead? Can they muster the human resources to do AP well, including teacher buy-in and committed school leadership? Mandates from the superintendent set the wheels in motion but it takes plenty more to ensure swift and responsive movement on the ground.

 Fortunately, experienced outside organizations can help implant a successful AP program, particularly in high schools serving poor and minority youngsters. Groups such as the National Math and Science Initiative, Equal Opportunity Schools, and MassInsight Education have excellent track records working with school leaders, developing teachers, raising expectations, encouraging more kids to join in, and helping them to succeed. Often supported by a mix of private philanthropy and district resources, they can be great allies—as evidenced in several case studies of AP expansion efforts that we describe in the book.

Advanced Placement is more than college-level courses during high school: It can equalize opportunities and narrow the “excellence gap”; strengthen the country’s human capital and future competitiveness; and create upward mobility for able young people from disadvantaged circumstances while challenging high-ability youngsters from every sort of background. That’s a rare success story in the annals of education reform—and we need all of those we can get. 

Finn is a distinguished senior fellow and president emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Scanlan is a research and policy associate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

September 27, 2019

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Piecemeal HEA Reauthorization

This week Sen. Lamar Alexander released his priorities for a piecemeal Higher Education Reauthorization Act (HEA) that would simplify the FAFSA application form; allow incarcerated individuals who are eligible for parole to use a Pell grant for prison-education programs; extend Pell grants funds to short-term high-quality job training programs; and increase the maximum Pell grant award. Thus, finally providing the rest of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee with a framework for his long-awaited HEA bill, which he is desperate to pass before his retirement in 2020. Unfortunately for the Tennessee Republican, the piecemeal HEA falls short of the comprehensive reauthorization that many were expecting from the veteran Senator. In response to his proposal, Ranking Member Patty Murray of Senate HELP reiterated her stance that she is against passing legislation that falls short of a comprehensive reauthorization of higher ed law. 

While it may seem like the parties are still at an impasse, Alexander is now pushing a last ditch effort that would attach his HEA priorities with a separate $255 million bipartisan funding bill for historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions in an attempt to bypass negotiations with Senate Dems. If Alexander decides to implement this plan, he will likely get a cold reception from House Democrats who are also against a small HEA reauthorization. Regardless of what happens next, AASA will keep you abreast of any new developments.


September 24, 2019(2)

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New Guide on District Emergency Operations Planning

This week, the U.S. Department of Education, along with the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, released a new planning guide to help districts support schools developing and maintaining customized emergency operations plans (EOPs). The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (District Guide) delivers on an interagency recommendation from the Federal Commission on School Safety's final report to provide resources to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school EOPs with their community partners, such as first responders.

September 24, 2019(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

End of Comment Period for Cat El Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Yesterday, was the final closing date to submit comments to USDA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on revisions to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Thank you to everyone that participated in the call-to-action. If you missed your final opportunity to weigh in on the importance of Cat El, don’t worry, AASA submitted comments to USDA requesting that the agency rescind its proposal and protect the more than 500,000 students who stand to lose their free and reduced-priced lunch designation as a result of the rule. To view the letter, click here.
Now that the comment period is over, it's USDA's Food Nutritional Services Agency's turn to review comments from the public and respond accordingly. No matter what happens next, we will update you on USDA's final decision and what it means for public schools.

September 24, 2019

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AASA Supports Bipartisan Safety Clearinghouse

AASA is pleased to endorse bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would establish a federally-funded and housed information clearinghouse detailing best practices for school security and design. As a result of the STOP School Violence Act, many school districts now have access to state and federal funding to improve school security. The School Safety Clearinghouse Act would allow districts to make informed decisions about how to implement this funding.

The clearinghouse would be managed by the Department of Homeland Security and include recommendations from engineers, architects, first responders, building security experts, and mental health advocates. It would not advocate for specific technologies or tools or impose any mandates on school districts.  

The legislation follows the Federal Commission on School Safety’s December 2018 recommendation of a federal clearinghouse to assess, identify, and share information on school security technology and innovation and was also recommended by AASA as part of its work with the Federal Commission. 

AASA's Executive Director, Dan Domenech, had this to say about the bill: "AASA is pleased to see Congress take this critical step to fund and house a clearinghouse providing superintendents the ability to access unbiased information about how to construct and maintain safe and secure school buildings. Creating a one-stop shop for school safety building design is exactly the kind of work that the federal government is well positioned to do to enhance school safety.” 


September 23, 2019(2)

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Important New Webinar on Educating Undocumented Students

 On Friday, October. 18 at 2 pm ET, AASA will host a webinar featuring Maree Sneed and Ray Li, attorneys at Hogan Lovells LLP. Their presentation will cover the rights of undocumented students and the challenges that they face. Specifically, they will address the legal landscape around how schools should responsibly handle campus access for immigration and law enforcement officials and how school officials should respond to information requests from immigration officials. 

The webinar will also feature Superintendent Todd Morrison from Honey Grove Texas who made headlines when he acted to support students after his small district was impacted by an ICE raid. He will share what he has learned from leading through this crisis and offer advice about what other superintendents can do to help immigrant students during this difficult time. Please click here to register for the event. 


September 23, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

Quick Approps Update - Labor-HHS-Ed in Trouble!

The Senate L-HHS-ED appropriations process has broken down due to disagreements about what constitutes a "poison pill," how to pay for the President's border wall and what are acceptable levels of funding for Labor-HHS-Education given the agreed upon $27 billion increase to non-defense discretionary spending earlier this summer. Specific to education, Senate Republicans have proposed level funding for Title I and IDEA which is in sharp contrast to the $1 billion increase for IDEA and $1 billion for Title I that was in the House Democrat passed appropriations bill. Recognizing the reality that none of the 12 government funding bills will be enacted before current funding runs out on September 30, the House passed a continuing resolution this week that the Senate is likely to consider next week to kick the can down the road until mid-November. It's very unclear how both sides are going to come to an agreement between now and then on these sticky funding and political issues. 


September 23, 2019

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DeVos Issues New Clarification Dual Enrollment for SWD

Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a policy document clarifying that vocational rehabilitation (VR) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds can be used to support dual enrollment, comprehensive transition and other post-secondary education programs for students and youth with disabilities. This was issued in response to questions from the field as there was confusion about whether and when these funds could be used to help students and youth with disabilities access these valuable educational options.

Specifically, the Q&A addresses the following topics:

  • The opportunity for students with disabilities to enroll in postsecondary education programs while still in high school;
  • The opportunity for students and youth with disabilities to enroll in comprehensive transition and other postsecondary programs for individuals with disabilities after leaving high school;
  • The coordination of transition-related services that students with disabilities may receive under the IDEA and under the VR program; and
  • The financial aid available to students with disabilities enrolled in comprehensive transition and postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities offered at Institutions of Higher Education under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.

The full Q&A is available here: Link

September 13, 2019

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

FY 2020 Approps Update

Congress has until September 30 to finish its appropriations process, but the Senate L-HHS-ED appropriations process has broken down and we will likely see a continuing resolution (CR), lasting until November, move forward in both chambers. On the Senate side, whatever money is allocated for our slice of the pie will be quite low as the Senate is moving a lot of money to pay for the border wall and the President's other homeland security priorities. Specifically, GOP leaders are only proposing a roughly 1 percent boost over fiscal 2019 levels for the Labor-HHS-Education pot despite the fact that the budget deal signed into law last month provides for a more than 4 percent overall increase for non-defense programs. Consequently, the rumor mill is indicating that we may receive level funding for IDEA and Title I. This is in sharp contrast to the $1 billion increase for IDEA that was in the House-passed appropriations bill (which was the largest increase to the program in more than a decade). Because the Senate cannot come to an agreement the House is already working on a draft CR that they may vote on as early as next week.

The one bright spot on funding is that there may be a mark-up of the IDEA full funding bill in the House Education & Labor Committee this year. With over 100 cosponsors for the bill there is increasing pressure for Chairman Scott to hold a vote on the bill. There is currently a Dear Colleague letter being circulated urging members of Congress to ask Chairman Scott to mark up the bill. If your interested in learning more please reach out to Sasha (spudelski@aasa.org).

September 6, 2019

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

The Advocate: September 2019

Every month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the September 2019 edition.

Earlier this summer, USDA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would limit states’ ability to implement Broad-based Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which provides eligible low-income households with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that can be used at authorized grocery stores. Under current law, families may become SNAP-eligible by either (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements, or (2) being deemed automatic or “categorically" eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant (TANF).

Originally, TANF was designed as a broad-purposed block grant to finance a wide range of social welfare activities, including government-subsidized employment, childcare and cash. By automatically enrolling TANF eligible households in SNAP, the Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) program enabled states to support families on the cusp of the federal poverty line through short-term financial crises by ensuring their continued access to food security. Cat El also benefited schools by making TANF students automatically eligible for free and reduced priced lunch.

The effect of this change on students and schools will be immense, as many families will no longer be eligible to receive free and reduced priced breakfast and lunch if the regulation passes. According to early estimates from Food Nutritional Service, more than 500,000 students will lose their automatic eligibility for free school meals as a result of the change.

Additionally, by limiting states' ability to confer Categorical Eligibility to TANF families, the NPRM could hurt schools’ Title I Funding. Under the new regulation, fewer students will be eligible to receive the FRPL designation, which is one of the key metrics the U.S. Department of Education uses to allocate funding. Thus, the NPRM presents us with a double whammy scenario that will hurt the federal school meals and Title I programs. 

Cat El policies have been in place for more than two decades. Although House Republicans tried to gut the program during the 2011 Reauthorization of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, Congress has overwhelmingly rejected efforts to make Cat El more restrictive, including during its consideration of the 2005 budget reconciliation and the 2018 Farm Bill. This USDA rulemaking is an attempt to sidestep Congress and is outside of USDA’s authority.   

Remember, in 2019 we're asking all our members to take their advocacy up to the next level. Here is your chance to let USDA know that this is unacceptable. Comments must be filed on or before September 23. To help broadcast the importance of Cat El for students and schools, you can file comments by copying and pasting this letter to the following link! If you're looking for something shorter, feel free to copy and paste an abridged template for filing comments here

August 19, 2019(1)

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August Advocacy: Forest Counties!

The strategy with forest counties remains two fold: In addition to our almost annual push to secure funding for the program, we are now also engaged in a long-term strategy, one that would overhaul the program and structure it as a trust, removing it from the rough annual cycle of securing federal appropriations. You'll recall that we had the long-term proposal introduced at the end of the 115th Congress, and the same legislation was introduced in a bipartisan manner earlier this month. Ask your senators and representative to support S.1643 as part of your advocacy outreach on forest counties. Specific to the annual appropriations effort, forest counties were not funded in FY19. Meanwhile, FY20 negotiations to date also fail to fund the program. It is imperative Congress includes funding for forest counties in the final FY20 appropriations package and that it includes retroactive funding for FY19 as well.

Check out our handy one pager, thanks to the Forest Counties coalition. 

August 19, 2019


PEP Talk Episode 13: Donors Choose (Crowd Funding in Education)

In the latest episode of PEP Talk, Noelle Ellerson Ng talks with Katie Bisbee and Anna Edwards of Donors Choose

All episodes of PEP Talk can be found here

In addition to talking crowd funding, check out the resources and information specific to rural schools: 

As more schools tap into crowdfunding to provide innovative resources and learning opportunities for their students, administrators in rural districts might feel left out. Since traditional crowdfunding usually only generates donations from a teacher’s personal network or the local community, it may seem impossible for rural schools with a smaller footprint to have the same funding success as schools in large metropolitan areas. But not all crowdfunding is made equal, and thanks to charities like DonorsChoose.org that help schools secure funding from donors across the nation, rural districts stand to benefit just as much as their urban peers. Read more about how you can help your district.  

August 15, 2019(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Call to Action: Support Categorical Eligibility

Earlier this summer, USDA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would limit states’ability to implement Broad-based Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which provides eligible low-income households with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that can be used at authorized grocery stores. Under current law, families may become SNAP-eligible by either (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements, or (2) being deemed automatic or “categorically" eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant (TANF).

Originally, TANF was designed as a broad-purposed block grant to finance a wide range of social welfare activities, including government-subsidized employment, childcare, and cash. By automatically enrolling TANF eligible households in SNAP, the Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) program enabled states to support families on the cusp of the federal poverty line through short-term financial crises by ensuring their continued access to food security. Cat El also benefited schools by making TANF students automatically eligible for Free and Reduced Priced Lunch. 

The proposed rule by USDA is slated to have the following effects: 

  1. It will require TANF recipients to receive aid for 6-months or more before determining whether a household is eligible to receive SNAP benefits; 
  2. The rule will limit types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment; and 
  3. The change will require state agencies to inform the Food Nutritional Service of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.  

If passed, the Cat El rule will hurt students by taking away food security from thousands of TANF households and creating a more onerous application process for families trying to receive SNAP benefits. For schools, the consequences of the rule will be felt immediately, as more than 500,000 students will no longer qualify for free school meals. Moreover, approximately 3.1 million families will lose their SNAP benefits. 

Remember, in 2019 we're asking all our members to take their advocacy up to the next level. Here is your chance to let USDA know that this is unacceptable. Comments must be filed on or before September 23rd. To help broadcast the importance of Cat El for students and schools you can file comments by copying and pasting this letter to the following link! If you're looking for something shorter, feel free to copy and paste an abridged template for filing comments here.


August 15, 2019

 Permanent link

New Public Charge Regulation Will Impact School District Finances

Last December, AASA and many individual superintendents weighed in on a Department of Homeland Security regulation that would change the definition of who is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes. We argued that the proposed regulation put the health and well-being of millions of immigrant children at risk and could place new burdens on school districts to provide health and nutrition related services for children who qualify for these benefits through federal programs.

Despite AASA’s objections, today the final regulation was finalized and it will be effective on October 15th. As children head back to school it is important that school leaders anticipate that some of the budgeting they have done for this school year could be impacted by the regulation. To be clear: this regulation only impacts families who are here legally. To put a pin on this, nearly 19 million, or 25% of children, had an immigrant parent as of 2017, and the large majority of these children were citizens. About 10 million, or 13%, were citizen children with a noncitizen parent. This is going to impact a lot of kids.

Specifically, for districts with large numbers of immigrant families, it may be considerably more difficult to get consent for the district to bill Medicaid as a result of the regulation. Here’s why: the regulation says that if a parent accesses Medicaid more than two times than their pathway to citizenship may be denied. The regulation specifically says that a child who accesses Medicaid via school-based services (whether IDEA eligible or not) would not have that access held against them, but since districts must obtain consent from parents to bill Medicaid there is a deep concern that parents will not give consent either because they are skeptical that it will not impact their family negatively or because they juts don’t want to wish entangling anyone in their family in the Medicaid system. The financial repercussions for districts are obvious: money district leaders are expecting to be reimbursed via Medicaid will not be there and you’ll have to dip into local dollars to pay for professionals and services that Medicaid should totally cover or just stop offering some of the non-IDEA healthcare services you provide to children if those are optional.

On the nutrition side, the regulation directly targets kids. If a child accesses SNAP (as well as their parent) their access to this federal benefit would hinder their ability to become citizens. This is absolutely crazy. A child cannot support themselves financially and if they need access to food it should not be held against them if they wish to become a U.S. citizen. This aspect of the regulation that impacts children and adults alike is intentionally directed to reduce access to food supports for legally present immigrant families. It will lead to intensive food insecurity for children and schools will have more kids coming to school with unmet nutritional needs who are not ready to learn. Districts can, of course, try and pick up the pieces by sending food home to families and operating their own food banks, but this costs money that many districts don’t have to spare. Start thinking about how you’re going to handle this issue locally.

On the housing side district leaders should anticipate an uptick in the number of children qualifying for McKinney Vento services and needing transportation. The regulation states that reliance on Section 8 Housing Vouchers will be held against an adult who wants to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. Of course children benefit by having access to stable housing and when families forego this housing benefit then children lose their access to a stable home, so this will directly harm children. However, district leaders need to be anticipate that transportation costs they previously budgeted for may be insufficient as a result of the uptick in children who are moving away from housing developments and are in shelters or in other housing situations that are less stable. District leaders are responsible for the educational stability of these children as families seek other affordable housing options and must respond accordingly if more students qualify for McKinney Vento services.  

All in all, this regulation can be summarized a deeply flawed policy that will exacerbate the needs of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable. This rule, as released today, will have a devastating impact on the children that we educate and the school district budgets we manage.



July 29, 2019


Guest Blog Post: Of Schools, Busing, Integration and Outdated Federal Policy

Today's guest blog post is published in coordination with the latest episode of the AASA PEP Talk podcast, which focuses on an arcane provision in federal policy--an outdated anti-busing provision that continues to exist merely because Congress hasn't erased it. The guests on the podcast penned this related blog post, and we are happy to share it here with you:

by Philip Tegeler, Executive Director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council; and Sunil Mansukhani, Principal, The Raben Group

Few expected busing to be a major issue during the June 27 Democratic debate.  The spirited exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden was unexpected by just about everyone, since this issue has largely been considered to be a relic of a bygone era.  However, some of this past history still stubbornly lurks in federal legislation to this day, in the form of harmful federal restrictions that prevent school districts from using federal funds for transportation for school integration purposes.  Such a restriction handcuffs school districts at a time when cross-racial understanding is more important than ever.

Until the beginning of this fiscal year, there were two provisions in federal appropriations laws that contained this ban.  Thus, a school district that wanted to voluntarily take steps to counter increasing racial segregation would not be able to use federal money to help pay for the transportation that would inevitably be needed.  For over 40 years, these two provisions were re-authorized without much discussion.  Yet, when the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) brought these provisions to the attention of Congress a couple of years ago, no one could give a reason for their continued presence today.

We are delighted to report that Congress finally removed these appropriations provisions at the beginning of this fiscal year.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  There is a similar provision (Section 426) in the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) that has also been on the books for over 40 years.  GEPA is a law which governs the Department of Education.  Again, no credible reason for keeping Section 426 has been presented.  Inertia can be a formidable opponent to progress. 

This archaic provision could be removed at no cost to the federal government.  Furthermore, removing Section 426 would provide school districts with greater flexibility to choose how to best allocate their federal funds for the benefit of their communities.  Removing Section 426 of GEPA should be, and is, achievable.  Allowing school districts to have more flexibility in how they spend federal funds is something that we can all agree on.

Ongoing research at Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) demonstrates that transportation remains central to school integration efforts in districts across the country.  Specifically, CECR’s research included public K-12 districts who confirmed with CECR that they are actively implementing a formal voluntary (i.e., not court ordered) integration plan.  A recent CECR report revealed that 59 school districts across the country, which collectively serve about 3.7 million students, are voluntarily pursuing school integration plans.

As CECR’s research indicates, removing Section 426 would have an immediate impact on school integration efforts that are happening now.  Most notably, it would make federal funds available for student transportation for the four most common methods of contemporary school integration - magnet schools, attendance zone boundary changes, controlled choice, and student transfers. Transportation is crucial as NCSD research has shown how school choice relies upon proactive measures like free transportation to be an effective tool in promoting equity.

In addition to the school districts identified by CECR’s research, numerous other districts could benefit from repealing Section 426, including those that engage in inter-district integration programs, those districts whose Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) funds are ending, school districts that have magnet schools but do not receive MSAP funds, and the approximately 150-200 districts that are currently under a court order to desegregate.  In the “The State of Integration in 2018,” the NCSD describes these, and other, forms of school integration underway across the country.  Organized in short state-level summaries, the report describes many efforts that could be accelerated with repeal of Section 426, such as New York state’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, which affirms the use of federal Title I funds “to support the efforts of districts to increase diversity and reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic isolation.”

In addition to supporting existing efforts, repealing Section 426 may lead more districts to pursue new school integration efforts.  As a follow up to the CECR report described above, CECR researchers have conducted case study interviews with leaders in a select number of districts.  Although conclusive findings from this work are not yet available, a clear theme is evident across interviews.  As detailed on CECR’s blog, district leaders are confused about what forms of integration are acceptable and are fearful that their plans may attract a legal challenge.  By removing a key barrier and clarifying what is legally permissible, repealing Section 426 will help open the doors to additional district efforts to pursue integration.

We urge you to call your senators and House member to request this harmful provision be removed from GEPA.  The United States Capitol switchboard can be reached at (202) 224-3121. It is time for Section 426 to go.  



  1. The National Coalition on School Diversity is a growing network of civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to support government policies that promote school diversity and reduce racial isolation. NCSD also support the work of state and local school diversity practitioners.
  2. There is an exception to GEPA Section 426 in the MSAP program.


July 22, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: AASA E-Rate Call to Action: File Reply Comments with the FCC, Protect E-Rate!

This blog post was updated to reflect that the initial comment period closed July 29 but that superintendents and educators can (and should!) continue to file reply comments until the extended August 26 deadline. 

BACKGROUND: Earlier this summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to the schools and libraries program, known as E-Rate. In the NPRM, the republican FCC Commissioners pose and consider setting an overall cap for the programs financed under the Universal Service Fund (USF). As a reminder, the USF is a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees designed to promote and expand universal access to telecommunications in the US. It is authorized by the Telecommunications Act and was created to support and serve four distinct programs: schools and libraries (E-Rate), rural health care, lifeline, and Connect America Fund. Full details on the blog

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION. Our goal in mobilizing the AASA membership is to create a groundswell of feedback from the field, highlighting for the FCC not only the importance of E-Rate, but also how their proposed changes threaten E-Rate and what those changes will mean for your schools. We need all hands on deck, and we need as many comments filed as possible. Here's what you can do: 

  • Call to Action: While it is good that national organizations have weighed in individually and collectively, it is even more important that state associations, independent districts and other non-profits reiterate their concern for protecting E-Rate. Help us clarify that the E-Rate program is a successful program that has proven critical in the extensive expansion of connectivity for schools and libraries across the nation. Help us clarify that E-Rate is important in supporting school and library access to online resources and communication and collaboration. Help us highlight why the proposed funding caps to USF and its specific programs are short sighted policy that will undermine the ability of schools to continue to address growing connectivity needs. Reply comments are due by August 26. Instructions on how to file your comments are included below.
  • Background and AASA Summary: Available here
  • How to File Comments 
    • HOW AND WHERE: You can file directly with the FCC OR email your comments to AASA staff and have them submitted for you. Full directions are below. 
    • WHEN: Reply comments are due August 26. Reply comments matter; the priority is on getting as many school district comments filed as possible. 
    • File Comments with the FCC
      • COMMENTS ARE DUE August 26. 
      • Draft your response comments. You can refer to the AASA summary/background document, create your own comments and/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: 06-122
      • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
      • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form. 
    • File Comments with AASA staff: If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. 
      • For August 26 Comments: Please email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than 5 pm ET on Wednesday August 21 with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’  
      Questions? Email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org)

July 9, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

The Advocate (July 2019)

Every month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the July 2019 piece:

July in Washington, D.C. means one thing (and I am not talking about the humidity!). It means the annual AASA Legislative Advocacy Conference. As I write this, we are just five days away from our joint conference with the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and we expect nearly  250 school superintendents and school business officials to be in DC to weigh in on federal policy and help Congress understand how to ensure their policy priorities and proposals are written in such a way so as to prioritize and strengthen public education.

Attendees will split time between professional development and preparation for Capitol Hill visits with time on the Hill, meeting with their federal delegations. The policy priorities at this year's conference—including the talking points and content handed out in the conference folder—include Medicaid in Schools, Infrastructure, E-Rate, annual appropriations, school nutrition, higher education act, forest counties and IDEA full funding. Featured speakers include FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, U.S. and U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and VanHollen (D-MD). Panel topics include school finance and funding formulas, Census 2020 and schools, immigration and schools, and an overview of federal regulations and Supreme Court decisions, among others. If you can't be here, we'll miss you, and hope that you can consider joining us next year.

Related to that, I wanted to share our 2019 advocacy challenge: can we ask our members—and then support them in their efforts—to increase their level of AASA advocacy engagement ONE level? I'm listing various ways for you to engage, below, and these are all in addition to reaching out to us directly. (And by 'us', I mean your AASA advocacy team. I've listed our names, titles, email addresses and Twitter handles at the bottom of the article.) 

  • Brand New to Federal Advocacy? Sign up for our advocacy network. Our advocacy department offers a variety of ways to stay engaged. If you subscribe to our advocacy network, you will automatically receive our weekly and monthly updates, as well as Calls to Action (the most efficient way to directly engage when we need superintendents to contact members of Congress or a federal agency). You can sign up by emailing Chris Rogers, our policy analyst at crogers@aasa.org. 
  • Follow our blog and podcast: These sources often overlap with the newsletters and include everything from the latest reports and links to good news articles, as well as quick updates on the Hill and ways for you to engage with advocacy. Our blog is The Leading Edge, and our podcast is Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk.
  • Engage with AASA Advocacy at the National Conference on Education (NCE): We always offer five-to-six policy-related sessions at NCE and host a formal federal relations luncheon with a keynote speaker. It's a great way to integrate your advocacy learning and professional development while already on the ground. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.
  • Join the AASA Advocacy Community: Launched officially during the AASA advocacy conference, this is a one stop shop for the latest AASA advocacy update, full index of all AASA advocacy communications, and a forum to connect and discuss education policies and AASA priorities with other edu-advocates.
    • We’re created a new space for members involved in AASA advocacy efforts to connect, learn and share resources all in one place. Our goal is to bring together the voices and talents of educators with a passion for advocacy at local, state and the national levels under one umbrella. To achieve that goal, our advocacy team will be actively involved in the community, contributing content, loading and linking resources and responding to any questions, comments, and concerns posted. 
    • If you’re ready to get started, please log in to the community using the details below and then take a few of the suggested actions! 
    • Log in with your AASA membership username and password at http://connect.aasa.org. If you don't know your username it should be the email address associated with your AASA membership and the password can be reset if needed (just click forgot password on the sign-in screen). Please contact membership@aasa.org if you require additional assistance signing in. 
  •  Here are a few options for getting started in the platform: 
    • Visit the AASA Advocacy Network community and introduce yourself in the discussion thread that has been started. 
    • Access the Leadership Portfolio page to update your info. 
    • Upload your profile photo and update fields such as bio and job history. You may also import information directly from LinkedIn.
    • Join other communities which speak to your interests, and don't worry, there are many more communities to come. 
    • Update your Community subscriptions, establish notification overrides, and create Consolidated Digests, click on 'Notifications' in the upper left corner of the Online Community to update your preferences.
    • For help you may refer to the FAQ section at https://connect.aasa.org/participate/faq.
  • Save the Date for our 2020 Advocacy Conference: Join us NEXT July 7-9, as we wrap up the 116th Congress and head into the final push of the 2020 presidential elections. We have no way of knowing what education policy discussions will be dominating our work, but we do know that your voice, participation and support matter.
  • Commit to Making Regular Contact with Your Congressional Delegation: Can you do it once a month? Or, let's just start with once a quarter! If you can make that commitment, we can fully support that. Let us know when you want to make contact, and if you have a specific topic in mind. We can send you the name and email address of the appropriate education staffer. We are happy to provide any background information or talking points you may need in crafting your message. 
  • Contact Your AASA Advocacy Team: It is an explicit member benefit of belonging to both your state association and AASA that you have access to our advocacy team. Our job is to represent your priorities in all aspects of federal advocacy and to support you in your advocacy teams. Think of us as an extension of your administrative team, and never hesitate to reach out: 
    • Noelle Ellerson Ng, Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, nellerson@aasa.org (@Noellerson)
    • Sasha Pudelski, Advocacy Director, spudelski@aasa.org (@SPudelski) Please note that Sasha is out on maternity leave until early August.
    • Chris Rogers, Policy Analyst, crogers@aasa.org (@CXRogers16) 

July 9, 2019


2019 Legislative Advocacy Conference Resources

It is our sincere hope that you are enjoying your time at the conference. As promised, here are the slides, handouts and resources we owe you. If  there is anything missing, we will update this blog post accordingly! 

July 2, 2019


AASA and AESA File Joint Comments in Response to FCC Petition to Rulemaking

In our weekly legislative corps, we mentioned a pending item at the FCC related to E-Rate applications in Texas. In a nutshell: In late June,  a handful of education service center administrators from Texas was in town to meet with staff in three different offices at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a petition for rulemaking related to E-Rate. This is a narrow lane of advocacy for a Texas-specific issue for now but could have broader federal implications. The meetings were focused on highlighting how the E-Rate applications under question were fully compliant with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, were responding to policy incentives built into the 2014 modernization, built on the long-standing premise of competition and market forces and pricing, and that the petitioners (providers) making the motion are looking to use federal policy as a bandaid, a remedy for them not receiving federal funds for an RFP to which they did not respond/receive a bid. 

As follow up to those meetings, AASA partnered with AESA to file a detailed response to the petition for rulemaking, providing a thorough overview of the E-Rate applications from the ESCs, their compliance with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, and focusing on how the petitioners are looking to use federal policy to fix a problem that doesn't exist, to establish monopolistic protections for incumbent providers, and to ensure a protected path for access to federal funding (without having applied in the first place). Read our full comments, as well as the ex-parte letters filed after our meetings with the offices of Cmsrs. Pai, Carr and O'Rielly

June 28, 2019(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Joint Letter Calling For Increased Federal Funding In Teacher Quality Partnership Grants

On Wednesday the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), AASA, and a group of 26 other education organizations issued a letter to Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, urging members to maintain funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant at $53.1 million. The TQP program, authorized under Title II of the Higher Education Act, is the only federal initiative targeted directly to higher education-based teacher preparation programs, and it is designed to help ensure that high-need schools are staffed with profession-ready teachers.

At a time when the teaching profession faces declining enrollment, teacher shortages, and retention challenges, increased federal investment in solutions such as the TQP grant program are vital. TQP grants support intensive partnerships between high-need school districts, high-need public schools, institutions of higher education, and other eligible entities to prepare profession-ready teachers. The program requires student teachers to undergo no less than two years of induction, mentoring, or teacher residency models. In addition, grantees must prepare new teachers to teach students with disabilities and English language learners, to use research and data to inform instruction and to have literacy teaching skills so that upon program completion teachers are fully prepared for the rigors of providing daily classroom instruction. Thus far, 70 programs have received funding via the TQP grant, and preliminary results show over 500 high-need public schools are seeing improvements in the quality and retention of their teachers, and correspondingly enhancements in the quality of their students' learning. AASA was proud to sign onto the letter and support the TQP program.

June 28, 2019

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Allied Organization Child Nutrition Reauthorization Letter

Yesterday, the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO), and AASA issued a letter to the Senate Agriculture and House ED and Labor Committees, listing a set of priorities for the federal School Lunch and Breakfast program as Congress attempts to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2015.

The letter calls on House and Senate Committee Leadership to ensure that beneficial, cost-effective school nutrition programs can continue to help nearly 30 million students each day, especially students from low-income households, gain access to quality nutritious food while improving their overall health, development and academic success. 

Specifically, the allied organizations’ letter request Congress to sustain the progress we've achieved of improving the Federal School Meals programs by returning to a five-year administrative review cycle, modifying the Smart Snacks in Schools Rule, Increasing USDA Foods (Commodities) support for the School Breakfast Program, and opposing  School Meal Block Grant Proposals.

AASA was proud to join SNA and ASBO in urging the Committees to take up these critically important measures while they work to reauthorize child nutrition programs.


June 18, 2019(2)

(E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Of E-Rate and Approps: An Advocacy Update

E-Rate Update: A recent proposal from the Federal Communications--under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai (Republican)--would place limits on the amount of money the e-Rate program could make available to support school and library efforts to improve internet access. Unlike previous proposals we have responded to at the FCC, which have been narrow in scope and focused on E-Rate--this latest proposal targets the broader umbrella program--the Universal Service Fund (USF)--that includes three other sister programs (Rural health care, the Connect America Fund and Lifeline). Currently each of the four USF programs operate under their own cap you'll recall that the E-Rate cap currently sits at just over $4 billion, a cap established in the 2014 E-Rate modernization. The FCC's proposal would set a cap for the overall USF. THe proposed cap is nearly $2 billion above current levels. Specific to E-Rate, the proposal would pair E-Rate with Rural Healthcare under a single cap. This is of particular concern to us because while E-Rate is currently undersubscribed, school and library demand will only continue to grow, and even if these connectivity prices continue to fall, the reality of increasing demand and skyrocketing costs with rural health care create a scenario where one USF program is pitted against another, with rural schools competing with rural health care for connectivity needs. This should not be an 'either, or' funding approach; the USF program was designed to address four distinct connectivity needs, a core tenet this proposal blatantly disregards. The proposal will follow the normal comment period. As an initial reply, AASA partnered with our EdLiNC coalition to request an extension on the filing deadline. You can read that letter here

Big take aways? Moving forward, know that this is the top advocacy priority for the summer. We will be utilizing a full member press to ensure the FCC hears loud and clear about the importance of the E-Rate program, how the proposed partner cap creates an arbitrary competition between complementary programs, and threatens to undermine the viability of the overarching program. Our efforts will focus on the FCC, as this is where the proposal originated and where the decision will be made, but we will also exert messaging effort on Capitol Hill, as Congress oversees the FCC and the Telecommunications Act, the authorizing statute under the overall USF program. 

Appropriations Update: House Democrats plan to pass a nearly $1 trillion spending package this week, a move that would tie up loose ends from the intra-party fight in April over the fiscal direction of the country. Passing H.R. 2740 would require solid support throughout the House Democratic caucus, because Republicans have said they won’t back the measure, which includes Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water appropriations. To reach the 217 votes currently necessary for a majority, Democrats can lose support from no more than 17 of their 235 members. AASA sent a letter of support for the bill, with the Committee for Education. Later in the week, the House will begin consideration of its second appropriations package (H.R. 3055) that includes Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD funds. Agencies and programs covered by those five appropriations bills would receive about $320 billion in fiscal 2020 discretionary funding under the measure. Over on the Senate side, negotiations on a possible deal to raise the discretionary caps on defense and non-defense spending have not yet been fruitful, and have led to contemplating looking for a deal to raise just the FY 2020 caps, meaning that Congress would have to face a huge spending cut down to the sequester-level caps for FY 2021 in an election year.  That is not an outcome that congressional leadership want.

Big take aways? We are not in the clear when it comes to avoiding a shutdown, nor is there a clear path forward on raising the caps. That said, the question is not so much 'Will Congress raise the caps?' as much as 'How much will Congress raise the caps, and will they address FY20 and FY21 in one package, or will they have to renegotiate in an election year?". 

June 18, 2019(1)


Join Us In Person (or Online!) for Free Student Data Privacy Bootcamp!

AASA: The School Superintendents Association and the Future of Privacy Forum are thrilled to invite you or your designee to attend an exclusive free Student Privacy Bootcamp for School Superintendents and Policymakers on Monday, July 8th, at FPF's office in Washington, DC (1400 I st NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC). This event will also be live-streamed.

The goal of the training program is to gather superintendents and policymakers to help them understand the regulatory requirements and best practices to properly handle student data in a complex and rapidly changing environment. The full event is from 8:30 - 11:30am ET. You can see the agenda and register to attend in person or via live-stream here

Questions? Contact Amelia Vance with FPF (avance@fpf.org) 

June 18, 2019


Guest Blog Post: New SALT Workaround Regulations Narrow a Tax Shelter, but Work Remains to Close it Entirely

This guest blog post comes from Carl Davis, with the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy. Carl serves as the research director at ITEP. This blog post originally appeared on the ITEP blog and is published here with permission. Follow Carl on Twitter @carlpdavis (carl at itep.org)

Today the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its final regulations cracking down on a tax shelter long favored by private and religious K-12 schools, and more recently adopted by some “blue state” lawmakers in the wake of the 2017 Trump tax cut.

The regulations come more than a year after the IRS first announced the launch of this project and about nine months after it unveiled an initial draft. Overall, the regulations are a big improvement but fall short of ending the tax shelter entirely for wealthy investors. The IRS has indicated that additional guidance will be needed to deal with a variety of lingering issues, though it remains to be seen what that guidance will entail.

At issue are state and local tax credits for taxpayers who make so-called “charitable donations” to specific causes cherry-picked by elected officials, including private K-12 schooling. For years, private school donors have used tax credits in exchange for donating to school voucher programs to beef up their federal charitable write-offs at little or no cost to themselves, since up to 100 percent of their “charitable gifts” to such funds are reimbursed with state tax credits (18 states offer these types of credits). A large state tax credit for private school donations combined with the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions allowed some high-income taxpayers to receive a tax benefit larger than their actual donation. In essence, state and federal law incentivized donations to private schools through a system of credits and deductions that allowed high-income taxpayers to profit from so-called donations. 

For years, these perverse tax shelters went unchallenged. But then in 2017 federal lawmakers enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which capped the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000. Lawmakers in higher-income states, which have a greater number of taxpayers affected by the SALT cap, began to take interest in this shelter as a way of helping their residents cut their federal tax bills. If federal law no longer allows SALT payments above $10,000 to be deducted, why not allow taxpayers to make “charitable gifts” (reimbursed with tax credits) to their state or local government instead of tax payments? New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon enacted these arrangements. Then the IRS noticed the surge of interest in this tax strategy and decided to get involved. 

Under the new regulations, people receiving state tax credits in return for donations will have to subtract those credits when determining the real, deductible amount that they donated. For example, if a taxpayer donates $100 to support private or public education in Pennsylvania but receives a $90 tax credit in return, then only $10 of their donation will be deemed truly charitable and eligible for the federal charitable deduction. In other words, the regulations inject a welcome bit of common sense into the federal tax code’s definition of “charity.” 

Some private school groups were up in arms about this proposal when it was first unveiled and argued that this change should only be implemented in the context of donations to public schools, not private ones. But the IRS wisely rejected that argument and will treat donations to all types of entities in the same way. Failing to do so would have created a grave inequity in our tax code, would have been unnecessarily complex and would have reopened the door to more creative SALT cap workaround schemes. 

The main area where the regulations fall short, however, is in their treatment of investors donating stock or other property in exchange for tax credits. As ITEP explained in its comments on the initial draft of these regulations, investors in states such as South Carolina with stock they wish to offload will be advised by their accountants to “give” their stock away in return for a 100 percent tax credit, rather than sell that stock on the open market. To the IRS, selling a stock generates cash income that triggers a taxable capital gain, but a state tax credit received in return for donating stock has typically remained invisible. A South Carolina taxpayer with $75,000 in capital gains income, for example, could come out ahead by about $23,100 if they take their payment in the form of a state tax credit rather than cash, as ITEP has shown. In other words, some investors making so-called “charitable gifts” will continue to turn a profit as a perverse reward for sham generosity. 

Without question, Congress could fix this lingering problem if it wished. Legislation introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) in the previous Congress, for instance, would require taxpayers to pay capital gains tax if they receive a large state tax credit as compensation for their gift of stock or property to a private school voucher organization. This improvement to our tax code’s measurement of real “charity” is worthwhile and could even be expanded to cover contributions of appreciated property to any organization. 

But the IRS has also indicated that it might seek to address this problem on its own, as it mentions that additional guidance will be needed on a number of issues including the portion of federal law governing treatment of capital gains income. 

Regardless of whether Congress or the IRS is the body to ultimately take action, it’s clear that additional work is needed to preserve the integrity of the charitable deduction by reserving it for real acts of charity, not sophisticated tax planning. Today’s regulation is a great step in that direction, but it shouldn’t be the final word.

June 14, 2019


PEP Talk Podcast with John Forkenbrock: Let's Talk Rural!

The latest episode of the AASA policy podcast PEP Talk features John Forkenbrock. He joins AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng for a colorful conversation about a career spanning Capitol Hill, association work, public education and everything in between.

John Forkenbrock is a longtime AASA friend, making a career out of education policy and advocacy. His passion for strong public schools and rural education was central to his time on Capitol Hill and in education associations. Currently serving as a leader with Organizations Concerned with Rural Education (OCRE), John was previously the executive director for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). In this episode, he chats with AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng, and the conversation is as filled with policy insights as it is with colorful stories from an accomplished education career. Give it a listen today!

June 13, 2019

 Permanent link

K-12 Group Letter of Support for the PREP ACT

This week, AASA and a group of K-12 organizations issued a letter of support for the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee. The letter, which was led by NSBA and signed by AASA, AFT, CCSSO, NAESP, NASBE, NASSP and NEA recognizes that more must be done to stop increasing levels of educator attrition and prepare beginning teachers to meet the needs of diverse student populations. The letter calls on the Senate HELP committee to include the bill in any forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (which, according to the rumors, should drop any day now). 

As you may recall from our last blog post on this issue, the bipartisan PREP act provides a practical approach for updating Title II of HEA by incentivizing teacher preparation programs to develop teacher quality partnerships between elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions; increasing recruitment of diverse educators; and promoting clinical based practices such as teacher residency, induction and mentoring models. The bill offers Congress a path to ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future, while also minimizing the burdens of implementation by supporting local and state policy and practice improvements already underway. AASA was proud to magnify the voice of superintendents on this issue and signed onto the joint letter, which can be viewed here.  

June 11, 2019


NEW Toolkit: Crowdfunding Policies for School Districts

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the national nonprofit DonorsChoose.org have joined forces to create an updated toolkit for school district leaders to maximize the impact of crowdfunding in their schools. The Back to School Crowdfunding Toolkit was a first step in helping district administrators understand best practices in vetting and using teacher crowdfunding sites. The new Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit outlines policies and practices that district administrators can enact to support teacher innovation with appropriate safeguards.

Teacher use of crowdfunding sites to receive critical resources for their classrooms is on the rise. However, district leaders often have questions about the process and best practices to ensure safety and transparency. The new toolkit provides insights from AASA members and DonorsChoose.org on how to ensure equity and responsible use of crowdfunding in their districts. 

Our new toolkit Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit can be found here.


June 8, 2019(1)


June 2019 The Advocate: Forest Counties Update

Each month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article for The Advocate, designed to be used by our state affiliates in their respective monthly newsletters. The Advocate is a great way to expand the relationship between our national and state organizations, to provide members with a timely update on a relevant topic, and to highlight the priorities of AASA advocacy. This month's topic? Forest counties.

The Advocate: June 2019

This month we dig deep on the Secure Rural Schools and Counties program. It is a critical program that benefits a large majority of states in the nation, with especially important roles in the Pacific Northwest and states with a large amount of federal forest land.

By way of background: In December 2000, with support from the National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition (NFCSC), the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was signed into law. This bill provided Title I payments to counties (for roads) and to public schools. It also provided payments to counties to invest in Title II Forest Improvement Projects on National Forests and Title III for specific projects and programs in counties.

The Act also authorized the counties to create, in cooperation with the USFS, collaborative Resource Advisory Committees. This Act was enormously successful in that it restored county and school revenues to their 1980's and early 90's levels, resulting in restoration of public services and school programs. The 62 Resource Advisory Committees completed more than 4,000 projects on national forest lands without a single lawsuit or appeal. The original SRS authorization expired in September 2006.

Congress funded the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for the short-term FY 2017-2018 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625) which extended SRS funding for FY 2017- 2018. SRS funding for two years provides very short-term financial support for the disintegrating SRS safety net serving 9 million students and county citizens in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states. No funding was provided in FY19, and no funding has been proposed for FY20 to date.

National forests and communities burned at significant rates over the last few years. Forest communities are suffering human and economic devastation as the SRS safety net continues to unravel. Forest counties, communities, schools and students continue to the pay the price as extremely dangerous fires devastate local communities while also suffering loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. As a long-term alternative to SRS, the federal government and Congress have been promising but not delivering a long-term system based on sustainable active forest management.

With this background, our most recent success related to SRS has been to secure funding, albeit in a patchwork of short-term funding bills. We need the FY20 appropriations bill to include funding for at least FY20 and FY19 (retroactively) if not also for FY21. For longer term stability, though, the SRS coalition we belong to has pivoted to a two-prong strategy: In addition to the usual push for annual funding, we are also looking for a significant restructuring of the program, to remove its reliance on the annual appropriations process. To that end, we were pleased to see the recent reintroduction of the bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, first introduced in December 2018, which would make SRS permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. This bill has yet to be introduced in the House, but we are making inroads.

Moving forward through the summer, the ask should be to ensure that your Senators have signed on to the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act and ask them to commit to securing funding for SRS in the final FY20 funding package, including retroactive funding for FY19.

June 8, 2019


Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System

Earlier this week, in collaboration with 12 other national partners, NCLD created a set of resources that identify new ways to think about education technology and equity: Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System. The report explores the conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives. NCLD also worked with partner organizations, including AASA, to translate how local, state, and national policy makers can play a role in ensuring technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities. The following resources include actionable steps and key considerations. AASA was pleased to endorse and support the local action primer.



May 28, 2019(2)


US Senators Introduce Bill to Bolster Secure Rural Schools Program

ICYMI: Just before adjourning for the Memorial Day weekend, a group of Senators introduced legislation designed to bring stability to the critical Secure Rural Schools Program.

This blog post is an excerpt from the legislation's press release: 

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, today reintroduced legislation to provide much-needed financial certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services. The bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which the senators first introduced in December 2018, makes the Secure Rural Schools program—which expired at the end of FY 2018—permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. 

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS)—originally co-authored by Wyden—was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Since then, Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch have worked to give SRS a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands.

Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a 25 percent share of timber receipts from federal U.S. Forest Service lands and a 50 percent share of timber receipts from federal Oregon and California Grant Lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. As those revenues have fallen or fluctuated due to reduced timber harvest and market forces, SRS payments helped bridge the gap to keep rural schools open, provide road maintenance, support search and rescue efforts and other essential county services. Since enacted in 2000, SRS has provided a total of $7 billion in payments to more than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety.

In recent years, however, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services. The senators’ Forest Management for Rural Stability Act ends the uncertainty and provides rural counties financial security.

Legislative text can be found here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here and a longer summary of the bill can be found here.

May 28, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

NEW PEP Talk Episode: Edu-nomics Professor Bruce Baker!

Our numbers aren't mighty (yet!) but we think the content packs a punch. Here's the latest AASA PEP Talk podcast episode, all about school finance formulas and a great new report running a detailed comparison across all 50 states. This was a fun one! Listen today.

AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng chats with Professor Bruce Baker, the dynamo behind @SchlFinance101 and one of the AASA advocacy team's favorite people to talk to when it comes to school finance and education funding formulas. In this episode, we focus on his most recent paper, one that takes a fresh--and also understandable and approachable--analysis of all 50 state funding formulas. Professor Baker works at Rutgers University specializing in school finance, education policy & quantitative analysis. Listen to the episode today.

The paper referenced in the episode is The Adequacy and Fairness of State School Finance Systems, written by Bruce Baker for the Shaker Institute.

May 28, 2019

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

NWEA Launches Educators for Equity Grant Program for Equity in Pre-K - 12 Learning Opportunities

NWEA’s Inaugural Program will Award $10,000 Grants to School Districts and Organizations to Support Academic Growth of Underserved Students

The Educators for Equity Grant Program aims to help schools and teachers foster student growth for preK-12 students who face systemic barriers to academic opportunities. The program, from not for profit NWEA,  will award grants of up to $10,000 to eligible schools, districts, and non-profit organizations to help fund initiatives and programs designed to support the academic development of underserved students. 

“Our goal with this program is to help foster equity in educational opportunity and outcomes, so all students leave secondary education prepared to successfully fulfill their postsecondary education, training, and workforce aspirations. We look forward to working collaboratively with these schools and organizations to support student growth and learning.” said Chris Minnich, CEO, NWEA.

To be eligible for a grant, applicants must be a U.S. school serving students from pre-K through 12th grade and either a public school or not-for-profit organization.  Applicants will be evaluated on evidence base; equity mission; cultural relevance; and academic focus. Use of NWEA products and services is not required for eligibility. 

For more information on the NWEA Educators for Equity program or to apply, please visit https://www.nwea.org/our-mission/educators-for-equity/. The application deadline is June 30, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

This guest blog comes from Christine M. T. Pitts, Ph.D., Policy Advisor for Policy and Advocacy at NWEA>

May 23, 2019


Special Invitation: Free Student Privacy Bootcamp, July 8 in DC!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association and the Future of Privacy Forum are thrilled to invite you or your designee to attend an exclusive free Student Privacy Bootcamp for School Superintendents and Policymakers on Monday, July 8th, at FPF's office in Washington, DC (1400 I st NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC). 

The goal of the training program is to gather superintendents and other policymakers to help them understand the regulatory requirements and best practices to properly handle student data in a complex and rapidly changing environment. This event is grant supported. The full event is from 8:30 - 11:30am ET. You can see the agenda and register for the event here

Please contact Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org) if you have any questions. I hope you can join us!

May 20, 2019


Guest Blog Post: Letter to Education Policymakers re: Title IX

Today's guest blog post is reposted, with permission, from the National Women's Law Center.

Background: NWLC recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. In response to these concerning actions, NWLC has drafted a letter reminding education policymakers and leaders that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  The letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001.

Blog Post: Today, we sent a letter to educational policy makers in every state to remind them that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has not changed, despite all of the actions taken by Betsy DeVos to try to weaken Title IX protections for survivors and all students.   

As we’ve written about before and told the Department of Education, DeVos is trying to make unlawful, cruel, and impractical changes to Title IX that are at odds with the very purpose of the statute.  These rules, if they go into effect, would discourage reporting of sexual harassment, protect schools from liability for failing to respond to known sexual harassment, and mandate unfair investigations. And we’re not alone in thinking this – more than 100,000 individuals, organizations, and education institutions submitted comments to the Department telling them this.   

Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. 

Our letter reminds education policymakers that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  Our letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001. And it also mentions that these rules, like many other regulatory actions by this Administration, are likely to face challenges in court.  So it’s not only unnecessary to make changes to policy as though these proposed rules are final, but also probably not the smartest decision.  

If you’re concerned your or your loved one’s school or university is prematurely changing their rules, please share this letter with them. You can also use our toolkit to learn more about survivors’ rights under Title IX.  

Blog post written by Shiwali Patel, Senior Counsel for Education

May 16, 2019


DQC Guest Blog Post: Infographic on the power of spending data

Our newest guest blog post comes from our friends at Data Quality Campaign and relates to the ESSA fiscal transparency requirement. They’re talking about the important opportunity this data represents, and more immediately useful, link to a very helpful infographic on the power behind this unprecedented collection and reporting of school spending data.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to publish school-level spending data on report cards starting next year. While your state may already publish some version of per-pupil expenditures on its school and district report cards, those numbers are usually a district average—in other words, the total expenditures of the entire district, divided by the number of students in the whole district. The new per-pupil expenditure data will include the expenditures at each school, like programs, special courses or interventions, and the actual salaries of the teachers in that building, which is likely to show different per-pupil expenditure amounts at each school. You and your team may have already been in conversations with your state about how to collect this information.

While transparency about school spending is important for policymakers and communities, it is most valuable in the hands of leaders like you who can use it to make sure that every student is getting the resources they need. As you work with the state to collect school-level spending data, you and your team need to view this data side by side with information about the students in your schools, including their academic outcomes. Looking at school-spending data alongside student success data can prompt conversations within your district about how many resources schools have in comparison to one another, and whether the way resources are allocated is helping you meet the goals you have for your students. Now that school spending data is available statewide, you can also take a look at similar school districts’ spending and student outcomes and have conversations with your peers in other districts. Local leaders, including principals, school boards, and district leaders like you have the most important role in both acting on and communicating about school-level spending. 

Brennan McMahon Parton is Director, Policy and Advocacy for Data Quality Campaign


May 14, 2019


New PEP Talk Podcast: #Census2020 and Schools

In the latest episode of Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, we hear from Georgetown University's Nora Gordon. We talk about what I think is the sleeper issue of 2019 for education: understanding the importance of robust and accurate Census participation for schools. I promise, it's way more engaging than it sounds. Plus, accurate census data is the backbone of what helps allocate federal, state and local dollars to communities for the next ten years....an accurate count matters! Give it a listen here.

May 10, 2019(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Support National Day of Action for Title II, Part A

On May 15, AASA, along with a group of national education organizations (listed below), will be hosting a day of action supporting the $500 million increase the House Appropriations Committee appropriated for Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title II, Part A is a necessary program that can be used to recruit, retain and train teachers, principals and other school support personnel. We invite your organization to participate and hope you can mobilize your members to contact their congressional representatives notifying them about their support of the recently proposed increase.

To help your organization, state affiliate or district participate, the sponsoring organizations have developed a toolkit with draft social media posts and outreach for your members and affiliates. Access the toolkit here. Please note that graphics to accompany the social media posts will be added to the toolkit soon as well. 

If you have any questions regarding the day of action, please feel free to contact Zach Scott at scottz@nassp.org. Thank you for your time, and we hope your organization is able to join us in supporting this important program.  

Sponsoring Organizations


  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • ASCD
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials
  • Learning Forward
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Consortium
  • New Leaders


May 10, 2019


AASA Advocacy: Rapid Round Up

It was a busy week here in DC, and the most efficient way to share that information is a rapid-fire round up in a blog post. Here's what we have for you: 

CEF FY20 Budget Book: This week, AASA was happy to have David Young, Superintendent of South Burlington Schools (VT) on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of federal investment in education, focusing on head start and early ed. Superintendent Young was here as part of the annual Budget Briefing day by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 115+ national organizations and institutions committed to increasing federal investment in education. AASA is a long time member and serves on the board of CEF. AS part of the hill event, CEF released its FY20 Budget Response, a detailed analysis of what the president proposed for all education programs and what it means for our nation’s school, students and communities. Access the report here

Voucher Victory on the Hill: The SECURE Act is a bill that moved out of the House Ways and Means committee last week, and included a very problematic provision that would allow expansion of 529 plans, giving wealthy families a tax break for enrolling—or keeping their children enrolled—in private schools and homeschools. This tax break decreases available funding for public education budgets, hurting the 90 percent of students served by our nation’s public schools. While the bill passed out of committee with the bad language, education groups (including AASA) were successful in negotiating its removal before the bill goes to the floor in the next week or so. We will remain diligent, in case Republicans consider introducing the provision as a stand alone amendment during the full vote. For now, though, a good advocacy effort resulted in stronger policy that supports public education. 

Title I Formula Report, Finally!: You’ll recall that as part of our push for ESSA reauthorization, AASA was out in front in highlighting how the current Title I formulas include unintended consequences that result in less poor districts receiving more money per pupil compared to poorer districts. While the formula wasn’t rewritten in law, the final ESSA did require USED to complete a study evaluation the Title I formula and a series of specified analysis and scenarios. The report was due in June of 2017 and was finally released this week (just one month shy of being two years late). The report stops short of making any specific recommendations about improving the accuracy and allocation of the formulas, provide a great synopsis of each of the formulae and related implementation provisions. You can read the report here. Moving forward, the real question is “How will Congress use this report to inform how they structure the next Title I formula? Will Congress use this information to decide how to allocate their federal Title I dollars among the four formula elements of Title I? How will Congress and states react to what we learned about the impact of hold harmless, state minimums, and state set asides in skewing full intended allocation of federal dollars?” Read the report (all 250 pages!) here.

House Passes FY20 LHHS Bill: On Wednesday the House appropriations committee approved legislation that would provide significant increases for grants aimed at disadvantaged students, after-school programming, and social-emotional learning. The bill provides more than $4 billion in additional funding for USED in FY20, a stark contrast to the President’s proposal, which would cut USED by more than $8 billion. The bill has yet to pass the full House, and is likely much higher than what would pass the Senate and well above anything the president would sign. The path forward for USED funding is anything but certain, with real threats of shutdown, continuing resolution and sequester all at play. We will continue to monitor the process. Check out a detailed write up of the House appropriations committee bill. 

  • AASA was pleased to sign the CEF letter of support for the House FY20 proposal. Give the letter a read. 

District Revenues and Expenditures Ticked up Between 2015 and 2016: A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examined information about revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public school districts. The national median of total revenues per pupil and expenditures per pupil increased across all public school districts between budget years 2015 and 2016. To view the full report, please visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019303 

May 8, 2019

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May Advocate

After the 2018 tragedy in Parkland, Fla., AASA heard from countless school leaders that Congress needed to “do something” to make it easier and more affordable for districts to meet the increasing mental healthcare needs of children. We took this concern seriously and throughout the past year connected with experts and policymakers in the healthcare and education fields to try and understand what, if anything, could be done at the federal level to improve access to and the delivery of healthcare services—particularly mental healthcare services for children.

 Through the culmination of our work, AASA released a report in February examining the school-based Medicaid program and the role it plays in enabling districts to meet mandates under IDEA as well as provide enhanced healthcare services to Medicaid eligible children.

Medicaid is actually the third largest funding stream (after Title and IDEA) provided to districts, yet it represents less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending annually. Districts began billing Medicaid in earnest in the early 1990’s for services directly related to a child’s IEP. However, more districts lately have taken advantage of Medicaid to do screenings, provide transportation to children, enroll kids in the Medicaid program and coordinate healthcare services with outside providers.

In 2017, we surveyed school leaders and found they used the reimbursement stream from Medicaid to hire and keep school personnel who can deliver healthcare services to kids. Delivering healthcare services to kids in school, the place they spend most of their time, is the most logical and efficient way of reducing health barriers to learning early and effectively.

Unfortunately, our aforementioned report found that there are major barriers to participate in the school-based Medicaid program and that many small and rural high-poverty districts are totally precluded from pulling down resources via Medicaid that could be critically helpful to meeting the educational and healthcare needs of their students.

Why aren’t school districts participating in the Medicaid program? It has to do with guidance that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) drafted in 2003 that forced school districts to bill like clinics and other healthcare providers. CMS was concerned by fraud and abuse in the program and thought they needed to crack down on school districts. What wound up happening was total overkill. They created a very duplicative and onerous billing system for districts that did not recognize that schools are different from doctors’ offices in many ways and that Medicaid and schools have a unique financial relationship unlike other healthcare entities.

While some school systems were able to manage the new billing systems and requirements by hiring folks to handle the paperwork in house, many districts were forced to contract with third-party billing companies to manage the paperwork in order to continue participating. Based on our report, the result of this fairly ancient CMS guidance is that there are now real structural inequities in the implementation of the school-based Medicaid program that have permanently shut out smaller, high-need districts from pulling down much needed federal resources.   

Our goal this Congress is to fix these inequitable policies in the school-based Medicaid program. Thankfully, our policy solution doesn’t cost much money and doesn’t even require a change to any statute or regulation, but it does require a bipartisan commitment in the House and Senate to improve the efficiency of the school-based Medicaid program so more districts and kids can access Medicaid reimbursable services.

Specifically, we are asking Congress to place a mandate requiring CMS to issue new guidance that would provide states with the flexibility to utilize a cost-based reimbursement system that would dramatically reduce paperwork that providers need to complete and make it far simpler for districts to bill Medicaid for healthcare services for kids.

This has two major benefits: First, it makes our SISPs, nurses and other healthcare providers happy because they get to spend more time helping kids each day and deal with a lot less paperwork on the back end (which frequently drives them out of working in school-based settings). Second, it allows districts to recoup costs that are currently being spent on a billing agency and utilize those resources to expand healthcare services for children or free up local dollars to support other health or educational initiatives.

What can you do to help? We are hopeful we’ll have bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate this summer that would streamline the Medicaid paperwork for districts and incentivize states and districts to expand healthcare access to kids in schools. When those bills are introduced, please take a moment to reach out to your Representative and Senators and tell them you support any legislative proposals that would address the healthcare issues of your students that get in the way of their academic success.

At a time when we have an uptick in children who lack health insurance coverage and a surge in children coming to school with unaddressed mental health needs, there is an urgency to improve the reimbursement stream for school-based Medicaid programs so schools can deliver more services to more students. This new reimbursement model for schools has the potential to benefit students and families, district personnel and administrators and ensure more efficient and effective delivery of healthcare services to children in schools.  

May 1, 2019


Two New Education Reports: ESSA Implementation and Teacher Compensation

Last week, the Center on Public Education released two reports that will be of interest to school leaders. AASA was pleased to participate in the conversations supporting the ESSA report, and to connect researchers directly to school superintendents for the deeper interviews. We share the teacher compensation report for its general relevance, given the ongoing policy discussions and strikes at the local level related to teacher pay, and the role of teacher pay in recruit and retention.

The first report, State Leader Interviews: How States are Responding to ESSA’s Evidence Requirements for School Improvement, explores state efforts to assist local educators with selecting evidence-based interventions to improve low-performing schools. The report also contains some recommendations for making research more accessible to educators.

The second report, Are Public School Teachers Adequately Compensated?, provides a context for understanding the issues surrounding teacher pay, including information on how public education is funded and several recent analyses of teacher compensation in each of the 50 states.

Both reports are available on the CEP web site (www.cep-dc.org) and can be downloaded free-of-charge

April 25, 2019

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Sandy Hook-AASA Webinar on STOP School Violence Funding

Yesterday, AASA and Sandy Hook Promise presented a webinar titled Federal Funding for Districts to Improve School Safety: A Primer on the STOP School Violence Act. In case you weren't able to join us and get this great information and technical assistance about this federal grant opportunity you can download the presentation at this link. 

In addition, here are some additional resources provided by our presenter Katrina Velasquez, Esq., M.A., Center Road Solutions, L.L.C., which you may also find useful

1. All the RFPs for the STOP School Violence Act grant portion that is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and focuses on mental health training, threat assessment, anonymous reporting/technology

RFP on Prevention & Mental Health Training: https://www.bja.gov/funding/STOPMHT19.pdf

RFP on Threat Assessment & Anonymous Reporting Systems: https://www.bja.gov/funding/Stoptech19.pdf

RFP on Training & Technical Assistance Center:  https://www.bja.gov/funding/STOPTTA19.pdf

2. The RFP for the COPS side of the STOP School Violence Act grant program which focuses on law enforcement training/coordination and security infrastructure: https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp


April 15, 2019(1)


Rural Matters Podcast: Rural Healthcare

Our friends at the Rural Matters podcast have shared their latest episode, focused on challenges facing rural health care providers. Give it a listen!

Synopsis: Michelle chats with Barbara Yawn (“Dr. Barbara”), family physician and clinical researcher in the rural space and Eric VanStone, founder and principal of Rural Medical Education Collaborative, a divisions of Talem Health, about the challenges facing rural health care providers today, including delivering care to patients without immediate access to care, particularly specialty care. Providers need to learn how to deliver care in a way they may not be used to, Yawn points out. That might include how to provide more with less, for example, through telehealth. One of the ways to engage busy rural primary clinicians about what’s happening today in health care is to make sure the information provided is practical and useful for both them and their patients, says Yawn. In general, VanStone and Yawn notes, rural residents have higher rates of chronic diseases, including COPD, oncology, and diabetes, and mental illness than their urban counterparts. That requires a different population health approach, she says. For example, the environmental factors affecting rural patients might be quite different than those affecting urban patients. It’s critically important Yawn to provide preventative care in the rural setting. Finally, VanStone notes, all the medical education his collaborative provides on a complimentary basis. Access the episode.

April 15, 2019

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New PEP Talk Episode: Education Superhighway's Evan Marwell

We are pleased to share the latest episode of PEP Talk, AASA's Education Policy Podcast. In this episode, we talk with Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Superhighway. Evan and Noelle talk everything from E-Rate to connectivity and everything in between. We were pleased to chat with Evan, and want to also link to our latest and most updated E-Rate resources landing page.

April 9, 2019

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Contact Info for USED Office of State and Grantee Relations

AS part of the Trump administration's reorganization of the US Education Department (USED), they reorganized the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) to include a new Office of State and Grantee Relations (SGR). In a communication to state chiefs of education, USED wrote,

"SGR will serve as the primary point of contact for all grantees and stakeholders for concerns related to OESE and its programs.  SGR will provide high-quality customer service to you as grantees and stakeholders, while simultaneously developing a greater understanding of the relevant education issues at your regional, State and local level.  SGR will also actively explore new strategies for better outreach, communications and conveyance of information from OESE to its grantees... As the single point of contact, SGR will provide customer service to all of OESE’s grantees and external stakeholders, including State Education Agencies (SEAs).  SGR will answer your questions, coordinate resources to address complex issues, and connect you to technical assistance within OESE and throughout the Department."

USED included an SGR contact list with email addresses and staff assignments. Unlike the traditional state mailboxes you may have used in the past, these state mailboxes will also be available for use by any grantee in that state—SEAs, local education agencies, discretionary grantees that operate separately from an SEA, etc.  Please send your inquiries to the state mailbox that corresponds to your State using the format [statename].OESE@ed.gov (for example, Michigan.OESE@ed.gov).  Of course, you are always welcome to use the general SGR email address or phone line at any time for any request.


  • SGR General Mailbox: SGR@ED.GOV
  • SGR General Phone: 202-453-5563


April 5, 2019


AASA Proud to Partner on Policymaker's Guide to Student Privacy

AASA was pleased to partner with our friends at Future of Privacy Forum, who led an effort to pen the now released Policymaker's Guide to Student Data Privacy! The guide is designed as a tool for the creators of new laws, rules, standards, and other policies. The guide is a sorely-needed resource for federal, state and local policymakers interested in developing thoughtful student data privacy legislation. States have passed more than 113 student privacy laws since 2013. As various policymaking organizations continue to consider new laws, rules, policies, and other safeguards for student data, this guide is intended to serve as a resource to aid and inform those efforts.

By providing a comprehensive overview of student privacy issues, the guide is a jumping off point for policymakers looking to craft or update laws addressing student privacy. It covers existing federal laws as well as the broad approaches that have been taken at the state level, including the types of policy approaches that have caused unintended consequences. Additionally, the guide addresses specific student privacy issue areas that are commonly addressed by policymakers such as school safety, third party data use, transparency, and parental rights. 

Policymakers at the local, state, and federal level must work together with parents, educators, administrators, district officials, and edtech vendors in order to create a thoughtful, and workable, approach to student privacy that avoids duplicative effort. 
The guide was written collaboratively with an Advisory Council of other student privacy experts from the following organizations: Data Quality Campaign, National School Boards Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Conference of State Legislatures, AASA – The School Superintendents Association, and Alliance for Excellent Education.

April 2 ,2019

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AASA Joins NSBA And Others In Amicus Brief For SCOTUS Case On Immigration Question In Census

AASA joined with the national organizations representing public school leaders in a joint amicus brief for the Department of Commerce v. State of New York court case, set to go before the Supreme Court and related to the inclusion of an immigration-related question in the census. The education groups filed a brief that included, in part, an emphasis on the importance of accurate census data and the critical role it plays in ensuring that federal resources are distributed as intended and to true areas of need. As written in the summary: "In the area of public education alone, an inaccurate census count could impact billions of dollars flowing to vulnerable population groups in the parts of the country most in need." Read the full brief here.

Our friends at NSBA spearheaded the effort, and we were joined by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association of School Business Officials International. 

April 2, 2019(1)

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PEP Talk Podcast Featuring NAFIS' Leslie Finnan

Earlier this year, AASA launched Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, a podcast to highlight anything and everything that could be edu-policy related and interesting, tied into AASA's education policy and advocacy work.

You can check out all our episodes to date here, and today we want to highlight the latest episode, featuring a guest with a name near and dear to AASA: Leslie Finnan, stopping by in her new role as the head of advocacy and policy at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). We loved getting the chance to catch up with our former teammate and always public ed advocate.

April 2, 2019


AASA Signs Coalition Letter Urging Higher Allocation for LHHS-Education Appropriations Bills

AASA joined more than 500 organizations in a joint letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership urging a bigger allocation for the FY 2020 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations.  The letter was signed by 550 organizations that support investments in the bill’s many programs.  AASA joined the letter through our work with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). CEF helps lead this letter annually with the Coalition for Health Funding, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, and the Coalition on Human Needs.

March 27, 2019(1)


AASA Joins Education, Privacy, Disability Rights, and Civil Rights Groups to Release Principles For School Safety, Privacy, and Equity

Today, AASA and 39 other education, privacy, disability rights, and civil rights organizations released ten principles to protect all students’ safety, privacy, and right to an equal education. The principles are meant to serve as a starting point for conversations with policymakers and school officials about how to keep students safe while respecting their dignity and encouraging their individual growth. Check out the principles here

Signatories of the Principles for School Safety, Privacy, and Equity:


  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • The Advocacy Institute
  • The Arc of the United States
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Association of University Centers on Disability
  • Autism Society
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus
  • Center for Public Representation
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
  • Disability Independence Group, Inc
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • EPIC
  • Florida Association of School Psychologists
  • Florida League of Women Voters
  • Florida Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • Future of Privacy Forum
  • Intercultural Developmental Research Association
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • Mental Health America
  • National Association of Councils on   Developmental Disabilities
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • Public Advocacy for Kids
  • Sandy Hook Promise
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • TASH


March 27, 2019


AASA Opposes Senate FY20 Budget Proposal

You'll recall that the president kicked off the annual budget and appropriations process for federal fiscal year 2020 (FY20) earlier this month when he released his FY20 budget proposal. Spoiler: It's bad for education, AASA opposes and it is a non-starter with Congress. You can read our full analysis here.

From here, the action moves to Capitol Hill, where the Congress picks up its work to advance the process. If this were school house rocks, each chamber would adopt their own budget resolution (a document that sets the overall dollar amount for the budget, but devoid of program specific details). Then, it shifts from budget to appropriations, as the overall allocation is divided between the 12 'slices' of the federal budget, the 12 appropriations bill. For our purposes, we follow the labor, health, human services, education and other (LHHS) bill. Then, each chamber's 12 appropriations sub committees will propose, consider and adopt the 12 individual bills, then the full appropriations committee would repeat the process, and then those House and Senate bills would have to be conferenced/reconciled to settle differences, before a final vote and going to the president's desk. That was a super simplified explanation, and really almost irrelevant, since the process hasn't worked like that--on time--since the mid 1990s.

So, right now, we are on the budget resolution portion. For FY20, this is a critical step. The budget caps put into place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 run through 2021, and those caps--which equate to cuts--were exacerbated by the cuts of sequester, also a by-product of the Budget Control Act. In a nutshell, if Congress does not raise the caps for FY20, we face a serious funding cliff that could revert funding levels at USED to those of a decade ago. 

So what's going on with the Hill? There is no guarantee that each Chamber will pass a budget resolution, and that's not a deal breaker (Congress can vote to raise the caps in other vehicles). But for now, the chambers are attempting to move through normal order. This week, the Senate budget committee is set to consider the proposal supported by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY). AASA opposes the budget resolution, and you can read our letter here. 

In a nutshell, the resolution--while it could pass the committee--isn't expected to get much further. The proposal mirrors the low funding levels of the president's FY20 budget, locking in the post-sequester caps for both FY20 and 21, as well as the next three years. For FY20 alone, those type of cuts could translate into a cut to USED of nearly $9 billion (12.5%!).  The resolution is in stark contrast to Congress' funding efforts each year since 2013. Put another way, regardless of party leadership or polticial positioning, every fiscal year since 2013, Congress has voted to restore the cuts of sequester and raise the funding caps to pre-sequester levels. This budget proposal is the direct opposite of that and pretty much the opposite of what we expect the House to use as its starting point.

This all said, Chairman Enzi is acting within the responsibility of his committee, is moving through normal process, and is compliant with the Budget Control Act. While we oppose his proposal and urge him to advance a proposal that resolves the sequester cuts, we remain committed to working with him and his committee through this process. Stay tuned!

March 26, 2019

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AASA Chairs IDEA Funding Coalition, Leads 25 Orgs in Effort to Introduce Bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Bill

AASA is the chair of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a group of national education and related groups committed to getting Congress to honor its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs. This is a commitment they made when signing IDEA into law in 1975, and one they have chronically failed. To date, the closest they have come to this goal through the annual appropriations process was 18% in 2005, and is under 15% in the current federal fiscal year, 2019.

To that end, our coalition leads the effort to work with Congress to introduce the legislation that gives Congress a clear ten-year glide path to realize their commitment, and we are so pleased that this year's bills, in both the House and Senate, are bipartisan and were introduced during Public Schools Week.

Co sponsors in the Senate include Sen Chris VanHollen and Sen Pat Roberts (a long time IDEA funding supporter who had stepped away from the role, returning this year for his final Senate term), and Rep Jared Huffman on the House side. 

You can read out letter of support here, and a quick thanks to ALL the groups in our IDEA Funding Coalition signing on to the letter.

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    • American Dance Therapy Association
    • American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Music Therapy Association
    • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
    • Association of School Business Officials International
    • Council for Exceptional Children
    • Council of Administrators of Special Education
    • Council of Great City Schools
    • Learning Disabilities Association of America
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
    • National Center for Learning Disabilities
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
    • School Social Work Association of America
    • The ARC of the United States

    March 21, 2019

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    AASA Feedback on Changes to Equitable Services

    Earlier this month, USED handed down a clarification related to equitable services in ESSA that would allow third party or outside players to be religiously affiliated. For background: Under ESSA, public schools have to offer/provide the same services to vulnerable students in private schools that are available to students in the public schools. Under current practice, some schools make that work by providing a teacher or the related salary. Or, while current law prohibits the money from going directly to the private school, districts consult with the private school leaders to determine what services need to be provided and if they need to use an outside contractor. Under previous interpretation, there was a prohibition against any such organization being religious in affiliation. In light of Trinity Lutheran (The SCOTUS case the is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and allows for public dollars to go to private schools in narrow circumstances), USED was clarifying that prohibition against these contractors being religious was illegal. This means that schools can now consider proposals or bids from religious groups. While this is not likely sizeable in terms of dollars that may ultimately flow to private providers that are religiously affiliated, it is a seismic shift in that public dollars will end up in private schools. 

    In response to the change, AASA submitted the following comment to USED:

    On Monday, March 11, the US Education Department (USED) announced that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017), eligible organizations cannot be disqualified from receiving a public benefit solely because of their religious character, USED will no longer enforce statutory provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that previously restricted school districts from contracting with religious organizations to provide equitable services on the same basis as any other organization. The Trinity decision expanded federal law to allow provision of public dollars to private entities/schools in a narrow circumstance, and we want to ensure that this USED application of this interpretation does not spill over into a further expansion. That is, it is a creative interpretation of legal logic to expand a decision that is it ok for a contractor to use public funds to resurface a playground in a private school to then allow that flexibility to apply to a contractor who will provide instructional services. 

    We share USED’s goal to support school districts in providing high-quality educational services to students and teachers. To that end, we encourage USED to consider and make clear those ways in which it will prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in circumstances where school districts choose to contract with religious organizations to provide equitable services, and in turn instruct states as to how to effectively include this in their monitoring. In addition, we encourage USED to remain diligent in its enforcement of other applicable statutory provisions and we encourage LEAs to ensure that their activities are compliant with those provisions, including the requirement that any contractor be independent of the private school for which it is providing services (i.e., the contractor does not have administrative or fiscal direction and control over the private school) and that the educational services and other benefits being provided by the contractor are “secular, neutral, and nonideological.” As with any other contractual arrangement funded by federal dollars, transparency and accountability in these arrangements are critical to supporting students’ and teachers’ success and the responsible allocation of limited financial resources.