August 3, 2017

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The Advocate: August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2017


AASA Advocacy in Action: Week of July 17

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

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

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

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


July 13 ,2017


AASA Response to House LHHS FY18 Bill

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

You can read AASA's letter of response

July 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

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

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

And, as promised, here are the meeting materials:   

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







June 29, 2017

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

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

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

Read the full letter, here.

June 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


June 22, 2017

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AASA Supports Bipartisan Perkins CTE Reauthorizatoin

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

June 21, 2017


Rural Education: We’re Stronger Together

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

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

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

The materials from the briefing are available below: 

June 19, 2017

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

By Sasha Pudelski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 13, 2017

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

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

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

General Talking Points

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

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

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

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

Consequences of Block Grants or Per Capita Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Call Script/Talking Points

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

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

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




June 12, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a copy of the report plus additional resources, please visit CEP at

June 7, 2017


June Advocacy Challenge, Part 2: ESSA Title II Funding

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

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

    Dear ____,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Educator’s name]

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

June 2, 2017


The Advocate, June 2017

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

The Latest on Federal School Choice Policy

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

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2017


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

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

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

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

Additional information on this program may be found at

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

You may find more information about federal education funding by State at

May 24, 2017


AASA Response and Analysis for FY18 Budget Proposal

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

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

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


May 16, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Supports House Committee Action on Perkins CTE Reauthorization

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


May 12, 2017


The Advocate, May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. ACHA will jeopardize students’ ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.

ACHA will undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.

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

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

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



May 11, 2017(2)


May Advocacy Challenge: Rural Education

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

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

Impact Aid:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secure Rural Schools:  

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


May 11, 2017(1)


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

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

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

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

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

 DUNS number registration and re-activation

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

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


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

May 11, 2017


Letter from USED Re: FY2017 Federal Formula Program Allocations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 4, 2017(1)


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

Lots of advocacy information to catch you up on: 

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


May 4, 2017


Secure Rural Schools Social Media Campaign

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

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

General Notes: 

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

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



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





May 3, 2017

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

School Meal Standards Addressed

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

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

April 28, 2017

 Permanent link

Take Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

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

Calls, calls, calls. Make them to the members of Congress we are targeting below. 
Here is the script for your call: 
As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. 
Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.  
The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  


AK-AL    Don        Young

IA-03     David     Young

MD-01  Andy     Harris

NJ_11    Rodney Frelinghuysen

NJ-02     Glenn    Thompson

NJ-04     Chris      Smith

NV-02   Mark     Amodei

NY-24    John      Katko

OH-10   Mike      Turner

OH-14   Dave      Joyce

TX-23     Will         Hurd

VA-01    Rob        Wittman

VA-10    Barbara Comstock

WA-03  Jaime    Herrera Beutler



AZ-02    Martha McSally

CA-08    Paul       Cook

CA-21    David     Valadao

CA-25    Steve    Knight

CA-39    Ed           Royce

CA-45    Mimi      Walters

CA-48    Dana      Rohrabacher

CA-49    Darrell   Issa

CO-03    Scott      Tipton

CO-06    Mike      Coffman

FL-18     Brian      Mast

FL-25     Mario    Diaz-Balart

FL-26     Carlos    Curbelo

IL-06      Peter     Roskam

IL-12      Mike      Bost

IL-13      Rodney Davis

IL-14      Randy   Hultgren

ME-02   Bruce    Poliquin

MN-02  Jason     Lewis

MN-03  Erik         Paulsen

NE-02    Don        Bacon

NY-02    Peter     King

NY-19    John      Faso

NY-21    Elise       Stefanik

NY-22    Claudia Tenney

OH-07   Bob        Gibbs

PA-06    Ryan      Costello

PA-07    Pat         Meehan

PA-18    Tim         Murphy

TX-23     Will         Hurd

WA-08  David     Reicher


April 24, 2017


Webinar: The Community Eligibility Provision in Rural Schools

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

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

April 13, 2017


AASA Appropriations Activity

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

This week, AASA took further action: 

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

April 12, 2017


Using Recess to Advocate for: Secure Rural Schools Funding

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


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

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

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


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


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




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


To view interactive maps showing distribution of federal and payments:






April 11, 2017

(ESEA) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Independently Reviewing State ESSA Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 10, 2017


The Advocate, April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3, 2017


April 2017 Advocacy Challenge: Appropriations

This month’s advocacy focus is all about funding. It is a little longer than usual, because we spent a little more time providing background. It is also divvied into two parts. This part is focused on annual appropriations in general, and the second part will be talking points by content area (ESSA, IDEA, rural education, ed tech, etc…)  As always, let us know if you have any questions, or if you need any additional information (including the name and email address of the appropriate staffer). Given the length of this month's challenge, it is also available for download here.

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


  • What year is it? For purposes of this update, you will see reference to federal fiscal year (FY) 2016, 2017 and 2018. Federal fiscal years run from October 1 through September 30. FY17 started on October 1, 2016 and runs through September 30, 2017. This month, April 2017, is in FY17 and FY17 dollars will be in your schools for the 2017-18 school year; FY16 dollars are currently in your schools; and FY18 is the budget proposal just released by President Trump. 
  • Sequester: Sequester is the set of across the board cuts that was applied to the federal budget—including education—in 2013. The cuts of sequester stem from the Budget Control Act of 2011, a law passed by Congress. The BCA implemented ten years of budget caps AND triggered sequester when Congress was unable to identify cuts on its own. The budget caps and sequester cuts (and continued pressure) are at the center of the broader federal education funding conversation. The budget caps are very real and Congress is legally bound to operate within those funding restraints.
    • Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary Funding: Within the federal budget, there is mandatory and discretionary funding. We are in the discretionary slice of the pie. Within discretionary funding, there is defense discretionary  and non-defense discretionary (NDD). Education funding is a part of non-defense discretionary funding. When the cuts of sequester applied, they applied equally between defense and non-defense discretionary dollars. 
    • Parity: From the first application of sequester, there was a concerted push to raise the cap (amount of funding available) for defense discretionary funding. The cuts of sequester are absolute, meaning the only way to raise funds for defense discretionary were to make further cuts to NDD (eek!) or to raise the overall cap. Most preferably, the goal would be to raise the cap and provide equal cap raises for both defense AND NDD. This is parity. President Barack Obama was rock-solid on parity. When he was approached with the idea of raising defense discretionary funding, he was agreeable so long as there was a comparable increase available for non-defense discretionary funding.
  • Appropriations Process: If this were ‘School House Rocks’, here’s how the federal appropriations process works: The President introduces a budget proposal; the House and Senate use/refer to this budget proposal in drafting/revising their respective budget proposals before adopting their respective budget resolutions. These budget resolutions are used to determine allocations for each of the 12 appropriations sub committees (education funding is in the Labor, Health, Human Services Education And Other, or LHHS, appropriation). Sub committees use these allocations to provide funding (whether a cut or an increase) to specific programs. All 12 subcommittees would adopt and pass a stand-alone appropriation, which would then be adopted on the full chamber floor, and all before the October 1 start of the federal fiscal year. This is NOT a ‘School House Rocks’ process kind of Congress, though. (the last time Congress completed the traditional appropriations process on time was more than 20 years ago).
    • Continuing Resolution: When Congress is unable to complete its annual appropriations process on time, there is a threat for a federal government shutdown. Congress can avoid a shutdown by exercising a continuing resolution (CR), which provides short-term funding to buy Congress additional time to complete its appropriations work. A CR is straight, level funding. If the program was funding in the previous year, it will be funded in this new year, at the exact same level. The CR does not include program/policy changes or changes to funding level. A CR can include anomalies, which may account for some changes, but the most common type of CR is a ‘clean’ CR, which just extends and level funds programs.



Federal Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17): FY17 runs Oct 1, 2016 thru Sept 30, 2017. Congress did NOT complete its appropriations work for FY17 on time, and instead adopted a CR, and the current CR expires on April 28. Congress will need to complete its appropriations work ahead of April 28 if it wants to avoid a shutdown. What are its options? Each is listed below, along with a brief explanation of why it may (not) be relevant:


  • Stand Alone Appropriations Bills: Congress could pick up the work it had started, and move to consider and adopt each of the 12 appropriations bills independently. This is highly unlikely. Congress has a finite amount of floor time available for this debate before April 28—including a 2 week Easter/Spring recess. Further, Congress (and the Senate, in particular) has other demands for floor time that limit the likelihood of this scenario: normal business, ongoing confirmations for the new administration, FY18 conversations, and confirmation of the Supreme Court nominee. Quite simply, they don’t have enough floor time for this option.
  • Omnibus: Congress could pass the 12 stand-alone bills independently in committee, and then pile them together into one big ‘up or down’ vote. This is increasingly less likely to happen, given time constraints.
  • Minibus: In this scenario, Congress would pass some of the stand alone appropriations bills (typically those that are slated for funding increases, so not necessarily LHHS), and then use a year-long CR for the remaining bills. This is somewhat likely, but also concerning. Given the absolute nature of the budget caps, a funding increase for some would mean a funding cut for others (including our LHHS bill). In a mini-bus scenario, LHHS doesn’t even get on the bus.
  • Year-Long CR: In this scenario, Congress will extend the CR to last through September 30. A year-long CR means level funding for any program currently being funded. As each day goes by, this looks ever more likely. It is the path of least resistance: by not opening up the 12 individual bills, Congress avoids debate, and avoiding debate will be key to getting any of these done on time. A year-long CR will require certain anomalies (or conforming language) particular to education. FY16 funded No Child Left Behind; FY17 will fund the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA had some programmatic restructuring that would not be realized under an FY16/NCLB construct; anomaly language would allow FY16 dollars amounts to flow through an FY17 construct.


Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18): On March 16, President Trump released his FY18 budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018; these are the federal dollars that will be in your schools for the 2018-19 school year). Referred to as a ‘skinny budget’, the proposal covers only the discretionary portion of the budget (NOT mandatory programs) and even in that, does not indicate the proposed funding level for all federal discretionary programs. 

Overview & Analysis: As expected, the framing lens for the President’s budget is his proposal for a $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding. (As a reminder, the cuts of sequester applied only to the discretionary portion of the budget, and applied equally to both defense and non-defense discretionary funding. Education programs are in the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget. From the onset of sequester, President Obama was a staunch protector of ensuring parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding; any time there was a push to increase funding for defense discretionary funding, he was agreeable only if there was a commensurate increase for the NDD slice of the pie.) President Trump blows the concept of parity out of the water. He proposes paying for his $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding by making a $54 billion cut in NDD. As a frame of reference, that is approximately 10% of the overall NDD allocation. Looking more specifically at the K12 education portion of the proposal:


  • Cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent)
  • Provides $1.4 billion increase in school choice privatization
    • $1 billion increase for Title I, for state and districts to use for vouchers/choice/portability
    • $250 million for a new voucher program
    • $168 million increase for the charter school program
  • ALL new proposed education funding in President Trump’s budget is for choice/privatization. All other programs (for which detail is provided) are either cut or level-funded.
  • IDEA is level funded ($12.7 billion, or approx. 16%, less than half of federal commitment to 40%)
  • Eliminates
    • Every Student Succeeds Act Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants)
    • ESSA 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
  • Eliminates or cuts 20 other categorical programs. Those listed include:
    • Striving Readers
    • Teacher Quality partnership
    • Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property
    • International Educational Programs


There is much that remains unanswered, both in terms of the mandatory programs in the budget and other programs we care about in the K12 budget (including, but not limited to, Perkins/Career Tech, Rural Education Achievement Program, ESSA Title IV). Please note that this summary includes all detail that is currently available. If you do not see a program referenced, it means the budget does not reference it. We cannot predict, at this point, whether that means an increase, cut or level funding.

FY18 Looking Ahead: Two big questions remain to be answered: How committed is President Trump to this budget? That is, does this proposal represent his serious funding priorities or is it a compilation of campaign promises parading around as a federal document? Second, how does Congress react to this proposal? It is a proposal based heavily on cuts, many of which may make the proposal ‘dead on arrival’ on Capitol Hill. We have to see if Congress takes any/all/none of it into consideration as it starts its FY18 appropriations work.



  • Talk to your members about the importance of continued investment in education. Investing in education builds a stronger nation. We need a well-trained and educated workforce ready to compete in a global economy and support our military.
  • The best way to reduce the deficit is to spur economic growth. Yet we can’t run businesses, schools and universities, or the public sector if our children don’t grow into adults equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
  • Education funding for K-12 education is less than it was ten years ago. In a time of tight budgets, 23 states are on track to provide less formula funding in 2017 than they did ten years ago, cutting the largest source of support for elementary and secondary education. Yet federal elementary and secondary education funding is still below the 2008 level even though public school enrollment has increased by 2.3 percent over those ten years.
  • $1 invested in early childhood education saves at least $7 down the road. Yet Head Start, the largest federal early childhood education program, is so underfunded that it can serve only 4 out of every 10 eligible children from low-income families.
  • A greater education investment – spent wisely – makes sense by increasing educational achievement. For example, funding that allows for better teachers and smaller class size increases high school graduation rates, especially for low-income students. Because of how education is funded in the U.S., low-income students are likely to benefit most from federal funding, much of which is targeted to schools in low-income neighborhoods and to low-income college students.
  • Parity: Encourage your members of Congress to advocate for—and support-continued parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, and to oppose President Trump’s proposal to increase defense discretionary funding by $54 billion, and to pay for it by cutting NDD. 
  • FY17: 
    • Title I: Fund Title I at a level $200 million above President Obama’s proposed level. Title I must be funded at a robust enough level to ensure at least level funding for district allocations. ESSA includes an increase in the state set aside and lifts the Title I “hold harmless” provision, meaning that even with the $450 million rollover from SIG, the Title I allocation (as proposed by the President) leaves a $200 million shortfall at the local level. AASA is opposed to any scenario where they FY17 allocation leaves school districts with less money in FY17 (the first year of ESSA) than they had in FY16.
    • IDEA Funding: Congress must continue to increase its investment in IDEA. Adjusted for inflation, the current proposals—the President, the Senate, and the House—remain woefully underfunded, coming nowhere near Congress’ commitment to providing 40% of the additional cost associated with education students with disabilities. In fact, the current proposals put the federal share at roughly 16%, which is less than half of what Congress committed to, and below FY10 levels when adjusted for inflation.
    • ESSA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG, Title IV-A): It is critical that Title IV, the flexible funding block grant that allows school districts to invest in a variety of programs—including well-rounded education, school climate, technology and professional development—must be funded at high enough a level to support meaningful formula allocation. 
    • If Congress advances a year-long CR, the bill must include anomaly language to reconcile policy changes between No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act, including authorizing the eliminated School Improvement Grant (SIG) money to flow through the Title I Part A base formula, and to allow the program changes in the new Title IV.
  • FY18: Much of the advocacy for FY18 will be further shaped by what Congress does in response to President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal.
    • Urge your delegation to OPPOSE the draconian cuts in the President’s budget. 
    • Express deep concern with a budget proposal that cuts $9 billion (13%) from the Department of Education. 
    • Express deep concern with a budget proposal where EVERY.SINGLE.NEW. dollar (all $1.4 billion of them!) are for choice and privatization. Encourage your delegation to support that increase, but to prioritize investment of those dollars into key formula programs that support all students and schools, including IDEA, Title I and Perkins. 
    • OPPOSE the President’s proposal to use $1 billion in new funding for Title I for portability or vouchers. Any new money in Title I must flow through the base formula. 
    • AASA remains opposed to continued reliance on competitive allocation of funding. All dollars must remain available to all schools and all students, and any reliance on competitive allocation reinforces a system of winners/losers, rather than addressing opportunity gaps.


Check out this handy chart from the Committee for Education Funding, which shows the total amount of discretionary funding available at the Department of Education. As a point of reference: the FY16 allocation (the dollars currently in your schools) is above where we were in FY12, but below where we were in FY10. Think about your student population today; do you have more students in poverty? More English Learners? More students with disabilities? 

For a better look at trends in state funding (HINT: 35 states put in less money in 2014 than they did in 2008!) check out this report from our friends at Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. 

Appropriations Part II is coming! This will include more program-specific talking points.

March 29, 2017

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Why Rural Matters Report Release - Monday, April 3

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

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

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

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

March 28, 2017

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FEMA Deductable Proposal Re-emerges

You may recall that this time last year, we filed a new issue under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy when AASA joined four other national organizations in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to its proposal to establish a deductible for its public assistance program. As with many regulatory issues, we’re often playing “wack-a-mole” – just when we think an issue is done, it pops right back up.

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

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

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

Read FEMA's updated proposal here.

Read the full letter here

March 27, 2017

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

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

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

The tuition tax credit legislation is called the Educational Opportunities Act (HR 895/S.148). Want to learn all about it? Check out

March 24, 2017


AASA joins 14 National Organizations in Letter Supporting IDEA Funding

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

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

Groups signing the letter:


  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Speech Language Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association 


The Time to Call is NOW

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Time To Call Your Reps to Save Medicaid in Schools

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

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

Here is the script for your call: 
As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. 
Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.  
The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

Current Whip List of Who Has Publicly Made a Statement Since Vote Announcement
Moderates - NO
Dent (PA)
Lance (NJ)
Smith (NJ)
LoBiondo (NJ)
D Young (IA) - voted against rule
Donovan (NY)
Moderate - Maybe
Katko (NY)
Moderate - YES
Kinzinger (IL)
Thompson (PA)
Conserv - NO
Meadows (NC)
Amash (MI) - voted against rule
Massie (KY) - voted against rule
W Jones (NC) - voted against rule
Brooks (AL)
Gohmert (TX)
Biggs (AZ)
Conserv - YES
Barton (TX)
Conserv - MAYBE
Moderates That Need To Hear From Their Constituents
Current position on AHCA - since vote was announced. 
Will update as we get more info. 

March 23, 2017

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AASA Analysis of Endrew Ruling

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

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

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

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




March 22, 2017


Sen. Patty Murray Releases School Privatization Caucus Memo

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

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

March 21, 2017

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

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

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


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


March 20, 2017(1)

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Banking Voucher Stories

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

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

If you can respond to both or either of these questions, please enter them here:

March 20, 2017

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Superintendent Advocacy Challenge - Keep Up the Good Work!

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

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

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

March 16, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




March 7, 2017

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AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

Action alert: Save Medicaid in Schools

Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would dramatically change Medicaid’s structure impact the ability of students with disabilities and students in poverty to receive many critical health services in schools that enable them to learn. These services include speech-language pathology, occupational and physical therapy, mental and behavioral health services, vision and hearing screenings, diabetes and asthma management and wheelchairs and hearing aids

Schools are able to provide these services, professionals and equipment because they can receive reimbursement from Medicaid to cover the majority of these costs. However, the Republican Medicaid plan “The American Health Care Act” would dramatically change the financing structure of Medicaid and would jeopardize the critical health care that students receive in schools. 

AASA and 41 national education, healthcare, disability and child welfare organizations sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging members of Congress to oppose. 

Under this plan, every child would receive a capped amount of funding for their healthcare needs regardless of how sick they are, how disabled they are or the services they need to be healthy and learn. School districts may be totally cut out of the Medicaid reimbursement process as States will be in the drivers’ seat except they have 600 billion dollars less from the federal government to spend on Medicaid eligible kids. Reliable healthcare experts believe this will lead to rationed health care options for children, and cutting schools out of Medicaid reimbursement is an obvious choice for States to make when dollars are scarce and schools are competing with hospitals, primary care physicians and front-line providers for limited resources.  

Take action now to stop America’s most vulnerable children from losing vital healthcare services in schools.

Call your Senators and Representative and urge them to reject legislation that places arbitrary caps on how much Medicaid funding a child receives.  

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

Call the Senate Finance Committee: 202-224-4515 

Call House Speaker Ryan: (202) 225-0600  

 Use these talking points: 

  • As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. 
  • Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.  
  • The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

 WRITE Your Elected Officials 

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

 The Honorable [Name] 

U.S. Senator/U.S Representative 

[Office Address]

Dear Senator/ Representative: 

As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose The American Health Care Act, which would radically change Medicaid as we know it through block grants, per capita caps, or repealing the Medicaid expansion that has served as a lifeline to millions. 

Specifically, a per capita cap system will undermine states’ ability to provide America’s neediest children access to vital healthcare that ensures they have adequate educational opportunities and can contribute to society. Medicaid is a cost-effective and efficient funder of essential health care services for children. In fact, while children comprise almost half of Medicaid beneficiaries, less than one in five dollars spent by Medicaid is consumed by children. Accordingly, a per capita cap, even one that is based on different groups of beneficiaries, will disproportionally harm children’s access to care, including services received at school.  

A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. As such, school district personnel regularly provide critical health services to ensure that all children are ready to learn and able to thrive alongside their peers. Schools deliver services effectively and efficiently since school is where children spend their days. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care and educational outcomes for students. Providing health and wellness services for students in poverty and services that benefit students with disabilities ultimately enables more children to become employable and attend higher-education.

The current proposal would be devastating to schools and children, particularly those children with disabilities. The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

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

March 3, 2017(1)


AASA Advocacy Materials# NCE 2017

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

Other Resources

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



March 3, 2017


March Superintendent Advocacy Challenge: E-Rate!

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

We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action (find it here!), encouraging you to make contact with each office. This month, we focus on E-Rate!

As we go through the year, if you would like talking points and background on a topic other than what we feature, JUST ASK! We are more than happy to provide that information, to ensure you are able to relay the information more relevant for you. We are also happy to share the name and email address of the education staffer for your members of Congress; just ask!

Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, we want to ensure that they know what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. The goal of this month’s call to action is an awareness campaign, to put this issue on Congress’ radar as a program to know and a program to support!

Talking Points:


  • Though Congress has no role in determining the changes to E-Rate, they do engage in conversations with the FCC Commissioners. As such, make sure your Senators and Representatives know the critical role that E-Rate dollars play in school connectivity and how important those dollars will be as schools prepare for the online assessments.
  • Did you know? E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state!
  • E-Rate played a critical role is the rapid and significant expansion of connectivity in schools, and the 2014 modernization was a much needed update to ensure more schools and libraries are connected to broadband.
  • Talk about how your district uses its E-Rate funding, how it supports your district’s learning and teaching, and what it would mean if E-Rate were cut.


February 28, 2017

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Advocacy Fun in New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

February 27, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at

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

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

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

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

The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts

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






February 14, 2017(1)

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The Advocate: 2017: The Year of School Superintendent Advocacy

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

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

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

Each month of this year, our team will identify a topic or two—whether driven by the AASA legislative agenda or by current goings on with Congress or the administration—and provide advocacy support. That is, we’ll give a bit of quick background on the topic, explain the relevant policy proposals and implications, and then share a few talking points that you can use to weigh in with your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both your Senators).  You can take that information to craft your monthly outreach—contacting one office per week—to your Congressional delegation, to relay the policy priorities in the context of what it means for your schools and the students you serve.

We stand by ready to answer any questions you may have. Do you not know the name or email address of the education staffer in your Senator’s office? We can provide that for you. Are you interested in seeing who from your state serves on certain House or Senate committees? Did your Congress member reach out with a different question, and you’d like information about that? We can get that to you.

We are using the February advocacy challenge to make an introduction and extend an invite. Congress is adjourned for recess at regular intervals, meaning they will be in their home district frequently. Recess is an opportune time to invite your elected official (and/or their education staffer) to see your schools in action. Highlight your programs that are excelling (After school? English Learner support? Early education? Credit Recovery?). Give examples where you could do more with better federal support (High class room sizes? Teacher shortages? Limited opportunity for CTE?). Facilitate a community conversation with stakeholders about ESSA (or education technology, or school nutrition, or rural education….).


  • Introduce yourself, and your district. Enrollment, free/reduced lunch rate, community type, etc….
  • Introduce your state association, and their role in helping facilitate/convene conference calls and round table conversations with member superintendents.
  • Introduce AASA as the national organization for school superintendents (and feel free to copy one of us on your outreach!)
  • Extend the invitation for the visit, and ask who you should coordinate with to set it up.
  • Extend the opportunity for them to reach out to you as they have questions and consider various policies in Congress; let them know that you’d be happy to tell them what it would look like in your district and for specific things to consider.
  • Indicate that you will be reaching out over the course of the year on federal advocacy priorities, and that you look forward to working with them.

It is an introductory round this first month, and will be more substantive and policy-specific next month. 

Thank you, in advance, for your continued advocacy efforts and support for AASA advocacy. And, as always let us know if you need anything.


February 14, 2017


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

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

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


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

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

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


February 7, 2017(1)

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

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

You can read the full letter here.Vaccine Letter 020717

February 7, 2017

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

AASA Signs Statement Expressing Deep Concern Over Recent FCC Actions

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

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

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

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

Groups signing the statement include:

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

Feb 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

The fallacy is that:

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

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

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


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

February 1, 2017


Webinar: Changes to REAP Program in 2017 & 2018

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

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

Respond by clicking one of the dates below to send a notification to 

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



January 27, 2017

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

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

January 26, 2017

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AASA Supports the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act

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

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

January 11, 2017

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Quick and dirty summary of SCOTUS Endrew argument

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

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


January 10, 2017


AASA Releases Transition Memo

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

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

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


Dear President-Elect Trump,

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

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

Provide states and school districts with flexibility to implement ESSA

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

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

Reduce the administrative burden on districts

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

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

Undo financially destructive regulations and absolve unfunded mandates

Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment through annual appropriations was 18 percent in 2005. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from. 

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

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

Support rural school leaders and students

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

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

Ensure Higher Education regulations don’t burden local school districts 

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

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

Avoid unnecessary environmental regulations

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

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

Rebuild America’s schools

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

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

Align the K12 education system with skills demanded in workplaces

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

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

Support and strengthen school lunch and breakfast programs 

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

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

Support public education

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

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

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

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

January 9, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: USED Announces ESSA Guidance and Webinar Series

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

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

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

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

January 5, 2017


The Advocate, January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 5, 2017

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115th Congress and Funding: Quick Update

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

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

January 2, 2016

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New Seclusion and Restraint Guidance

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

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

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

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

December 21, 20167

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

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

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

December 19, 2016

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AASA Analysis of IDEA Significant Disproportionality Regs

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

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

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

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

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



December 13, 2016

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Final ESSA Accountability Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

December 6, 2016(2)


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

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

Congressional Review Act:  

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

Budget Reconciliation:  

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



December 6, 2016(1)


AASA Signs Letter Urging Congress to Complete Appropriations Process

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

Other groups signing the letter include 


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


December 6, 2016

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NCES Shares Latest Data on ‘New American’ Students

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

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

  • How has the composition of New American (immigrant and second-generation) undergraduates changed over time? At what ages did immigrant students arrive in the U.S., what is their citizenship status, and how do these characteristics vary by students’ race/ethnicity?
  • How do the background characteristics and academic preparation of Asian and Hispanic New American students differ?
  • What are the postsecondary enrollment characteristics of Asian and Hispanic New American students in terms of the institutions they attend, whether they attend full time, and their major fields of study?
  • How do selected postsecondary enrollment characteristics of immigrant undergraduates vary by the age at which they arrive in the United States?

Key to the report is the examination of students’ age at arrival in the U.S., and how academically prepared students are for college and whether they enrolled in college. As well as the data on college credit earned while in high school by Asian and Hispanic immigrants and second-generation students. 


The study findings reveal that immigrants’ age at arrival in the U.S., and their age of postsecondary enrollment are related and that immigrants who arrived as children (under age 12), were more likely than those who arrived as adolescents or adults, to earn college credit or AP credits in high school and less likely to need to need a developmental course in college. This implies that those who arrive as children have more time and opportunity to prepare for college, according to the brief.

Immigrants arriving in the U.S. as children and adolescents were also more likely to attend postsecondary institutions full-time, than adult immigrants were.

Another important chart to take a look at is the Major Field of Study by Age at Arrival, which shows that immigrants who arrived as children and adolescents majored in STEM fields and social studies at a higher rate than those who arrived as adults. Conversely, a higher percentage of adult arrivals majored in health care fields.  


December 5, 2016


Congress Must Act Now: Fund Secure Rural Schools Program!

Background: The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 42 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The expectation is that the federal government and Congress will develop a long-term system based on sustainable active forest management. Congress needs to act on active long term forest management programs generating local jobs and revenues. 

Relevance: As we begin the final weeks of 2016 and the 114th Congress, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (Forest Counties) remains zero-funded. While Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, they have not funded SRS for 2016, meaning that 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program are currently receiving zero funding through this program. With these cuts, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded. 

Call to Action: Contact your members of Congress (your Senators and your Representative) to discuss Secure Rural Schools (SRS, or Forest Counties).  Let them know what your budget looks like without this funding and that they need to do something for SRS funding. And, ask them to relay their concern and desire for action with Congressional leadership.  It is critical that Leadership hears from Members that SRS and Forest Management are issues that must be addressed as Congress comes back to work for the Lame Duck session.  Create your own story about what happens if we get nothing. 

In addition to your Senators and Representative, please contact any House/Senate leadership from your state. A full list of House and Senate leadership is below: 

Please contact the advocacy team if you need email addresses for the education staffers in any of these offices. 

House of Representatives: Leadership


  • Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) 
  • Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 
  • Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) 
  • Republican Conference Chairman: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) 
  • Democratic Leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 
  • Democratic Whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 
  • Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 
  • Democratic Caucus Chairman: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)  


US Senate Leadership


  • Republican Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 
  • Majority Whip:  John Cornyn (R-TX) 
  • Republican Conference Chair: John Thune (R-SD) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Barrasso (R-WY) 
  • Republican Conference Vice Chair: Roy Blunt (R-MO) 
  • Democratic Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV) 
  • Democratic Whip: Richard Durbin (D-IL) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (D-NY) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair & Policy Committee Chair: Patty Murray (D-WA) 


December 2, 2016

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AASA December Advocate

Preparing for a new Congress and Administration

Washington, D.C. is in a bit of a funk. As the 114th Congress draws to a close, Congress is set to leave town in a few days without fully completing its federal budgeting process (yet again). There is a sense of bewilderment by lobbyists, congressional and agency staff and even members of Congress about what kind of political environment they will face when they return in January.

As a staunchly non-partisan organization, AASA is in many ways lucky compared to other key education groups. We have great relationships on both sides of the aisle. We know that our members depend on us to advance the best policies possible for students and school systems regardless of who thinks of them. This allows our team to be flexible, pragmatic, aggressive and independent in our defense of the public policy interests of superintendents.

While this election was devoid of much serious conversation about education policy, now that we know we are working with President-elect Trump, we are determined to make it a meaningful relationship. We didn’t hide our displeasure with the Obama Administration’s Race-to-the-Top initiative, or conditional ESEA waivers or expansion of the Civil Rights data collection. The Department knew what we thought and they chose to do things differently than we would have liked, which is their prerogative. Similarly, we will call it like we see it with the Trump Administration. And, as we look ahead to next year and try and crystalize what Trump may want to do in the K-12 education space, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, one of the most controversial fiscal regulations on school districts ever proposed governing the distribution of state and local Title I dollars is likely to disappear (see supplement not supplant call-to-action). We could also see a less aggressive role for the Office of Civil Rights under a Trump Administration and a reduction in data collection requirements on districts and proactive investigations. We could also see potential changes to regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and related to the Affordable Care Act. These changes will likely be wins for AASA members, from a policy point of view. 

On the other hand, we will likely find ourselves spending significant time and energy fighting draconian cuts to education. With control of both chambers, Republicans could try and lift spending caps on defense at the expense of non-defense discretionary spending, of which education is included. This would mean that we could see reductions in our key federal education funding streams at a critical time.

Medicaid reform is also a concern we will be tracking. Our policy team works closely with our Children’s Department to incentivize greater healthcare coverage for students. The untimely need to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coupled with the possibility that fewer Medicaid-eligible students will receive coverage if Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is repealed should be of great concern to school leaders.

While Trump disagrees with members of his own party about spending sometimes, there’s a possibility that there could be broad support for finding and funneling “new” dollars toward school choice. While Trump’s $20 billion-dollar school choice plan is short on details, most Beltway insiders do not believe that attempts to make Title I dollars portable to private schools will go far next Congress. The majority of the Congress was re-elected and they are proud to see the implementation of ESSA move forward and know that Title I portability would fundamentally alter successful enactment of the most heralded legislative accomplishments in recent memory.  However, attempts to voucherize IDEA funding, create a federal tuition tax-credit system, or expand the floundering D.C. voucher program are all strong possibilities. There is also some speculation that Trump could try to use the presidential pulpit to get states to repurpose state dollars.  

As we consider the Trump policies we probably will not like, there is comfort in knowing that we still have the same Chairman and Ranking Member on the Senate Education Committee: U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Patty Murray (D-Wash.) The thin GOP majority in the Senate and the continuation of the 60-vote threshold make it more likely that reasonable, bipartisan policy and funding measures prevail in that chamber. In contrast, the House Education Committee will be led by a known firebrand, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who has been more focused on higher education policy than K-12.

While AASA would have preferred a nominee to lead the Department of Education with not only experience within education, but a track record reflecting support for public schools, we will to try and build a strong working relationship with Betsy DeVos and her team, and continue to honestly and actively represent the views of school leaders in Washington, D.C. To the extent that education policy is on the menu, we will be at the table.




November 30, 2016

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Analysis of Foster Care Transportation Requirements in ESSA Reg

Earlier, this week the US Department of Education (ED) published final regulations to implement the accountability and state plan provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These final regulations include new rules related to homelessness and foster care. In light of AASA's deep concerns with the proposed regulation the new and final rule is a considerable advocacy win given its importance for school leaders.

Below is an quick analysis from Barbara Duffield at SchoolHouse Connection on what school leaders must understand about the new regulation

I. Transportation to School of Origin for Children in Foster Care -  §299.13(c)(ii)

In §299.13(c)(ii), ED included the following regulation for the Title I state plan:  

“To ensure that children in foster care promptly receive transportation, as necessary, to and from their schools of origin when in their best interest under section 1112(c)(5)(B) of the Act, the SEA must ensure that an LEA receiving funds under title I, part A of the Act will collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies to develop and implement clear written procedures that describe:

(A)  How the requirements of section 1112(c)(5)(B) of the Act will be met in the event of a dispute over which agency or agencies will pay any additional costs incurred in providing transportation; and

(B)  Which agency or agencies will initially pay the additional costs so that transportation is provided promptly during the pendency of the dispute. 

Analysis of Final Regulation:

This final rule on the transportation of children in foster care to their schools of origin is a marked departure from the U.S. Department of Education’s initial proposal. The final rule also substantially modifies ED’s previously-issued guidance on the same subject.

The final regulation requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies on written procedures that describe how the statutory requirements of ESSA in section 1112(c)(5)(B) will be met in the event of a dispute over which agency/agencies will pay additional costs of transportation, including which agency/agencies will initially pay additional costs during the pendency of the dispute.

It is important to note:

1) The final regulation references the statutory requirements of ESSA in section 1112(c)(5)(B). This section requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with child welfare agencies to develop and implement local transportation procedures that must ensure that children and youth in foster care receive transportation to their school of origin, if it is in their best interest; and that, if there are additional costs, LEAs provide transportation only on the condition that the LEA agrees to pay some or all of those costs or the child welfare agency agrees to reimburse the LEA for the costs.

Nothing in the final regulation changes the limited statutory obligations of LEAs to provide transportation if there are additional costs, and onlyif they are reimbursed or agree to pay for it.

2) The regulations clearly establish no presumption regarding which agency/agencies are responsible for additional transportation costs during disputes. Rather, the regulation requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies to develop procedures that describe which agency/agencies will pay for additional costs during disputes over which agency/agencies must pay.

3) The final regulation contemplates a collaborative process between LEAs and state and local child welfare agencies for developing local transportation procedures. It would be inconsistent with the statute and the final regulation for an SEA to impose a uniform requirement unilaterally on all LEAs in a state to pay for transportation during disputes. Such a unilaterally-imposed requirement would conflict with the requirement for the collaborative development of local transportation procedures addressing how transportation will be provided and who will be responsible for additional transportation costs while disputes are pending.


November 29, 2016

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School Choice in the States

 Following the election of Donald Trump and the nomination of Betsy DeVos, there has been a lot of talk about school choice provisions at the federal level. It is important to keep in mind that most school choice provisions are at the state level. Outside of charter schools, magnet schools and open enrollment, states have legislation that falls into four categories: vouchers, education savings accounts, individual tax credits or deductions and tax credit scholarships. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of this legislation on the books, as shown in the map below. Of these, 16 states have vouchers, 16 have tax credit scholarships, 8 have individual tax credits or deductions, and 5 have education savings accounts.

 choice map

The voucher legislation tends to be the longest, with bills dating back to 1869. Tax credits and scholarships have been growing since the 2000's. A newer option, education savings accounts have been growing since Arizona first passed its program in 2011. Nevada has the widest reaching program, with its education savings account open to all students in the state.

choice chart

Following the election, several states saw a Republican sweep and see the possibility of further legislation being enacted. We will continue to track any legislation at the federal level, and your state association will be doing the same at the state level.

November 28, 2016(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech Statement on ESSA Accountability Regulations

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response to the U.S. Education Department releasing its final rule on the accountability provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): 

"Today’s final rule on the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act is a solid improvement over the initial proposal and brings the regulations much more in line with the intent and spirit of the underlying statute. It is clear the Department of Education listened carefully to the overwhelming feedback they received in response to the proposed rule and revised their first draft to more closely reflect the insight, expertise and feedback of education practitioners—including public school superintendents—across the nation. As we move forward with ESSA implementation and into the new year and new Congress, AASA remains committed to working with Congress and the new administration to make sure additional ESSA implementation resources are equally committed to state and local leadership and flexibility, as well as broader education policies prioritizing the strengthening and support of our nation’s public schools.”

You can read further analysis on the regulation on the AASA policy blog.

November 28, 2016


Post-Turkey Education Update: Sec of Ed, ESSA Regs, and Funding

Nothing says ‘Welcome back from the long holiday weekend!’ like the information in this blog post. Depending on your perspective, we could be thankful the final ESSA regulations weren’t dropped before the long weekend, or we could wallow in a write up that makes an already long Monday feel all the more ‘Monday’. But I digress.

Three things to flag for you from an advocacy update perspective: 

  • ESSA Regulations: Today, USED released its final regulations on ESSA accountability. We are still combing through the 300 page document. Here are some quick takeaways: Press Release, Summary, School Improvement Timelines, and the full text of the final regulations.
  • All three of our biggest concerns were addressed: the proposed requirement for a single summative indicator, the timeline for identification and the transportation of foster children provision.
    • The final regulation rescinds the initial proposed requirement of a single summative indicator. States can use the ratings in ESSA (including comprehensive improvement and targeted support) as their summative ratings, without being required to have a single, overall number or letter grade.
    • The proposed regulations required states to ID schools in need of improvement at the start of the 2017-18 school year. That has been delayed one year; the final regulation requires the identification for the 2018-19 school year. The timeline for accountability workbook submission has also changed. States will still have two options, but they are now April3 and September 18, 2017 (as opposed to the originally proposed March and July timelines).
    • The final regulations remove the language that requires LEAs to provide transportation to children in foster care if the LEA and child welfare agency do not agree on who will pay the additional costs associated with providing this transportation. This important change brings the final regulation into much closer alignment with the underlying statute. 
    • As a refresher, you can read AASA’s full set of formal comments to the proposed accountability regulations.
  • Secretary of Education: President Elect Donald Trump has selected his education secretary, and will nominate Betsy DeVos. There’s not much for us to say that you probably didn’t piece together from extensive media coverage over the weekend. Here are a few sample pieces:
  • AASA is neutral on the nomination. As a non-partisan professional association, we are committed to working with the Secretary of Education, the President and Congress regardless of their political affiliation. We will watch closely to ensure that the Secretary uses her position and opportunity for leadership to move policy that strengthens the nation’s public schools and we will remain diligent on key AASA policies, which include opposition to vouchers, ensuring that all entities receiving public dollars (including charter schools) are subject to the same accountability, transparency and reporting requirements, and that equity is at the center of all policy decisions.
  • Continuing Resolution: The current CR runs through December 9, meaning Congress has just over a week to adopt another fiscal policy to avoid a federal shutdown. At this point, they are working toward another short term continuing regulation, set to run through March 31. Republican leaders may try to wrap up the entire lame duck session by December 8, and have everyone out of town. 

November 10, 2016

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Bookshare Delivers Free Accessible Ebooks to Students with Disabilities

Today's guest blog post comes from Jim Fruchterman who is the founder and CEO of Benetech.  

 Imagine if each book needed by your students with disabilities was instantly available for free.  That reality is already mostly here, thanks to Bookshare, a national service funded by the federal Department of Education.

Bookshare has more than 480,000 accessible ebooks in its online library, including textbooks, literature, pleasure books, reference books, and books spanning almost every genre.  It has already delivered more than 10,000,000 ebooks to over 400,000 registered student users.  Bookshare can instantly convert these ebooks into braille, large print or audio books to meet the needs of students with vision impairments, physical disabilities or learning disabilities such as dyslexia that get in the way of reading print.

Thanks to national funding from the Office of Special Education Programs, Benetech continues to make extensive improvements to Bookshare to meet the needs of educators, both special educators and mainstream classroom teachers.  We know how busy teachers are, and we want to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to create reading lists of books for students with disabilities.  For students who are reading the books, we support just about every kind of technology, from specialized technology such as braille displays, to smart phones, dumb phones and inexpensive MP3 players.  And, the all-digital nature of the service and assistive technology software means it is just as easy for rural school districts to access Bookshare’s library as urban and suburban districts. 

Benetech is not only providing the largest online library for students with disabilities, but we’re also working closely with the publishing industry to see that mainstream digital educational materials are fully accessible from the start – or Born Accessible.  We believe that any book that is published can be published accessibly. The best long-term solution to book accessibility is universal design, where the same ebook that works for the student without a disability works terrifically well for the student with a disability. We’ve published a guide for districts on how to buy accessible: Buy Accessible: What to Look for in eBooks

As a final note, many national special education programs like Bookshare were defunded in the latest federal funding bill coming out of the House of Representatives.  It doesn’t make sense to go back to the days when teachers had to scan the same books over and over again at the district level.  The original dream of Bookshare was to solve that issue: scan once and share over and over again.  And, as you can see, that vision is now reality.  If you value helping students with disabilities read books, please contact your Congressional representatives today to ensure they continue. Thank you for supporting Bookshare and students across the country. 

November 2, 2016


School Technology Makes Progress, Yet Challenges Remain—AASA & CoSN’s 2016 Infrastructure Survey

School systems in the United States are making progress in increasing broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi in classrooms. However, significant hurdles remain before all students are able to experience a digitally-enabled learning environment. These are the findings revealed today in CoSN’s 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey, a report conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and MDR.

Gathering insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, the report addresses key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

“The good news is districts are making real progress in supporting modern technology infrastructure. However, it remains clear that more work and investment are needed over the long run to address the digital equity challenge of today and provide robust broadband connectivity for all students in and outside of school,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. 

Progress: School systems have progressed toward meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. Today 68 percent of the school districts fully meet the minimum Internet bandwidth recommendations in every one of their schools (it climbs to 80 percent of districts having three-fourths of their schools at this immediate connectivity goal). The 68 percent fully achieving the goal today is up from just 19 percent in 2013. 

The survey also shows increased reliability in Wi-Fi, which is now largely ubiquitous in high schools – only 6 percent lack Wi-Fi. In 2016, 81 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were very confident or somewhat confident in their Wi-Fi, a significant improvement over previous years.

Remaining Challenges: Despite this progress, school leaders also reported that affordability remains the biggest barrier to establishing strong connectivity in schools and that digital equity is a major priority. 

School districts are also largely not meeting the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students. Only 15 percent of school districts report having 100 percent of schools reaching this goal, and that is consistent across urban, rural and suburban districts. School system leaders are divided about whether the long-term goal is too ambitious or about right.

School leaders project significant Internet bandwidth growth (100 to 500-plus percent increase) over the next 18 months, especially in urban (37 percent) and suburban (31 percent) districts. School leaders also project that nearly two-thirds of all students will use two or more devices at school within the next three years—an increase from 21 percent of students today. 

“The 2016 E-Rate and Infrastructure Survey demonstrates that we are making progress in bringing broadband infrastructure to our schools and in meeting our short-term bandwidth connectivity goals. This is welcome news,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “At the same time, however, the survey shows that challenges remain. In particular, we must continue to raise awareness and come up with strategies to overcome the ‘Homework Gap,’ which is the cruelest part of our new digital divide. Thanks to CoSN, AASA, and MDR for this year’s survey, which continues to shine a spotlight on the state of infrastructure necessary to support digital learning across the country.”

“The findings of this year’s infrastructure report highlight the important work of the ongoing effort to expand school connectivity and the opportunity to use this expanded connectivity in schools to support student learning as schools transition to implementation of the reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act. The findings of this survey—both where progress has been made and where there is continued room for growth—are in strong parallel to the underlying improvements of ESSA and the responsibility state and local education agencies will play in leveraging expanded decision-making authority into meaningful learning opportunities for their students. Also, for addressing equitable educational opportunities, including those tied directly to connectivity, including equitable access both in and outside of school,” said Daniel A. Domenech, who serves as Executive Director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and a member of the Universal Service Administrative Company Board of Directors.

Further details as well as additional challenges and priorities identified by school system leaders follow:  
  • Affordability
    • Recurring Expenses a High Hurdle. This year, 57 percent of school leaders identified the cost of ongoing recurring expenses as the biggest barrier to robust connectivity—up from 46 percent last year. 
    • Monthly Costs Going Down. The cost for monthly Internet connection showed significant improvement, with nearly one-half of respondents reporting low monthly costs (less than $5 per Mbps). This is a steady improvement from 36 percent in 2015 and 27 percent in 2014.
  • Lack of Competition
    • Lack of Competition Magnified Rurally. More than half (54 percent) of rural district leaders reported that only one provider sells Internet to their school system, and 40 percent of rural respondents reported receiving one or fewer qualified proposals for broadband services in 2016. This marks no progress from last year. 
  • Digital Equity
    • Digital Equity Atop the List. Among the school leaders surveyed, 42 percent ranked addressing digital equity / lack of broadband access outside of school as a “very high priority.” 
    • Strategies Needed. Nearly two-thirds of school system leaders, however, revealed that they do not have any strategies for providing off-campus connectivity to students. This is only a slight improvement over previous years.
  • Security
    • Small Investment in Security. Nearly half of school system leaders spend less than 4 percent of their entire technology budget on security. 
    • Phishing Top Security Concern. The largest security concern for school leaders is phishing (with 19 percent citing it as a high risk), with denial of service and ransomware rated equally as threats (9 percent).  
  • Cloud-Based Services
    • Server Migration Increasing. Approximately 40 percent of school districts are considering migrating their server infrastructure to the cloud. 
    • Learning Management Systems Tops Cloud Deployment. Nearly 60 percent of school system leaders stated that learning management systems make up the largest cloud deployment, followed by student information systems. 

Conducted in August 2016, the 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey collected 567 responses from district administrators and technology leaders serving urban, suburban and rural school system in 48 states and the District of Columbia. 

“MDR is excited to once again partner with an organization committed to identifying and solving the challenges associated with technology and education,” said Kristina James, MDR Director of Marketing. “Current MDR research shows that 75 percent of districts rated wireless networks as their top technology priority, the sixth year in a row that wireless networks have topped their priority list, reflecting the shift to digital and districts’ interest in being able to personalize learning for all students. This year’s CoSN survey illustrates the same desire, while highlighting the barriers districts need to overcome, to continue making progress towards this shift.”

To read the full report, please visit:  

October 31, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

49 Superintendent State Associations Submit Joint Response to USED "Supplement, Not Supplant" Regulations

Earlier today, 49 superintendent state associations submitted a joint letter in response to USED's proposed regulations on "Supplement, Not Supplant" (SNS) within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (The state of Hawaii does not have a superintendent state association.)

The signatories represent a nation-wide response to the proposal and a unified voice in expressing specific concerns with USED's proposal. The letter was submitted in an effort to inform USED's work in the hope that the final rule will be revised and improved. In signing the letter, each state association Executive Director wrote,:

"...We write to express our deep concern with the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) proposed regulations related to the ‘Supplement, not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions of Title I in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The regulations represent new, far-reaching federal mandates dictating how local school districts spend their state and local funds and are in conflict with the spirit and intent of the underlying statute, which is premised on state and local control. 

"ESSA’s reform of SNS should not be an opportunity for USED to exert unprecedented influence over the more than 90 percent of K-12 funding generated by state and local districts. It must be an opportunity for the flexible, but high expectations for equity in ESSA to drive improvement in our nation’s schools. 

"We are committed to working together with our state and local education agencies and associations to guarantee the success of this new law. This includes the important work our members have built their careers around (providing students with excellent educational opportunities) and the role of equitable resources in supporting educational achievement. We, as state association executives, came together to support ESSA in part for its continued commitment to equity, including strong bipartisan support for ensuring that Title I dollars continue to be in addition to—not in place of—state and local dollars. We come together again, now, in response to the USED regulations to ensure that the final rule supports the important work of ESSA and the SNS provision without unnecessarily disrupting existing efforts to improve resource equity.

"Our members are very familiar with education finance, an understanding that highlights how USED’s proposed SNS regulations run counter to the very goal they aim to address: ensuring students have access to equitable education resources. Because compliance with the proposed regulation would be based on spending thresholds, districts would have to centrally manage all decisions that affect costs. The proposal would force school personnel to make the difficult decision of compliance over meeting the needs of the students they serve...." Read the full letter.

October 21, 2016(1)


After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States

Earlier this week, our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an updated version of their report detailing trends on investment in education. In a nutshell, as the title reveals, after nearly a decade, school investments still way down in some states. You can read the full report here, and we have pulled a few highlights for your quick review:

  • At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year than in 2008.
  • Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period.
  • Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
The report is a very thorough walk through of trends in state and local funding in education and includes some very helpful and visually powerful charts detailing these trends. You can also take a look at the report's webpage.


October 21, 2016


State Advocacy: Michigan lawmakers take aim at proposed federal school funding 'mandate'

Earlier this week, the Michigan State Senate Education Committee passed a resolution related to the Department's proposed regulations on the 'supplement, not supplant' provisions within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The resolution addresses key concerns with proposal, including federal overreach. You can read a related article here and we have embedded the full text below.

A resolution to urge the President and Congress of the United States to curb and clarify the role and authority of the U.S. Department of Education as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Whereas, The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that federal Title I funding to low-income students supplements, rather than supplants, state and local dollars. This provision is intended to keep local school districts from using federal Title I dollars as a replacement for state and local dollars in low-income schools; and

Whereas, To enforce this provision, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed burdensome regulations to require school districts to show that average per-pupil state and local spending in Title I schools is at least equal to the average spending in non-Title I schools. The rules allow several different options for districts to calculate spending and demonstrate compliance with "supplement not supplant"; and

Whereas, The proposed regulations exceed the legal authority of the department and blatantly trample on explicit statutory prohibitions. Specific prohibitions in the "supplement not supplant" provisions include subdivision 1118(b)(4), which says, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or permit the Secretary to prescribe the specific methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance under this part"; and

Whereas, School district personnel have complained that the proposed regulations would be unworkable. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) stated that the proposed regulation "glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines true efforts aimed at increasing education equity"; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate, That we urge the President of the United States to direct the U.S. Department of Education to stop its federal overreach as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act; and be it further

Resolved, That we memorialize Congress to enact legislation that clarifies the Department of Education's role and authority as it pertains to "supplement not supplant" provisions; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Michigan congressional delegation, and the U. S. Department of Education as public comment on proposed rules.


October 19, 2016(1)


Domenech Nominated to USAC, AASA Files IRS Letter

Two quick and unrelated items:  


  • Earlier this month, AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech was nominated to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors as the representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts, continuing a positions he had held since 2012. USAC is the entity that oversees the E-Rate program. Dan's letter of support was signed by 14 national organizations in addition to AASA:
    • American Federation of Teachers 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
    • American Library Association 
    • Consortium for School Networking
    • International Society for Technology in Education
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Independent Schools
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Boards of Education
    • National Catholic Educational Association
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
  • AASA joined with the Association of Educational Services Agencies (AESA) to send a joint letter to the IRS in response to the proposed regulations under Code section 457, in particular the provisions for bona fide sick and vacation leave plans.



October 19, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Is YOUR State Considering a Constitutional Convention? Urge them to OPPOSE.

Since our last blog post about a Constitutional Convention and a growing conservative movement to invoke Article V of the US Constitution to call a convention, the threat has only gotten worse. ALEC and other arch-conservative groups continue to aggressively push this in states, and just last month, the New York Times featured a front page story about this very real risk. With this increased attention, now is the time for more groups to be part of this conversation. Your voices are important in this conversation because of what’s at stake for your group’s issues.

With three additional states passing resolutions invoking Article V focused on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year, proponents claim that they are in striking distance of a convention. They already potentially have as many as 28 states of the 34 needed. We fully expect that additional states could pass resolutions in 2017 given the increasingly polarized state legislative environments if we don’t do anything to stop it. 

In order to protect our Constitution, we need legislative champions to help pass rescissions in Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, and Nebraska and to defend against additional attempts to pass Article V resolutions in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

Proponents are charging ahead so we don’t have time to waste. Constitutional experts and legal scholars agree that a Constitutional convention would put at risk the many issues and policies we care most deeply about.  This week as part of their latest efforts, the Convention of States group held a convention simulation in Williamsburg, Virginia (September 21-23). While the event was invite only, it was livestreamed where over 2,000  signed up to watch. A long list of state legislators were poised to attend the simulation in person. 

Your voice and that of your partners throughout the country are absolutely critical to stopping this threat. Here’s how you can help elevate this conversation:  


  • Alert your state partners about this threat, especially state partners in the target states listed above. Here is a sample letter that you can forward your to state partners and groups and a fact sheet. Please connect your state partners with us so we can identify key legislators to reach out to and put your state partners in touch with other allies in their states. 
  • Consider drafting a blog or identifying a spokesperson to write an OpEd in a national or target state publication. We can help you think through messaging and content. 

We also have toolkits and talking points available. Please let us know if you need any additional resources or information – you can reach out to me at   


October 17, 2016

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Final Teacher Prep Regs Place New Burden on Districts

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education issued Higher Education Act (HEA) regulations on teacher preparation programs that will place new, unexpected burdens on school administrators. After reviewing the regulations, AASA believes they will not improve a district’s ability to recruit and retain effective teachers and will add to the already sizeable paperwork burden of school administrators without providing any useful information to them about teacher preparation.  

The final HEA regulations place an unfunded mandate on district personnel to complete an employer survey that assesses the performance of teachers who have graduated within three years from a teacher prep programs, and to submit student achievement data related to the new teacher's performance to state entities. The survey and data will be for all “new” teachers in all subjects including those subjects that are currently considered non-tested by the State. Since districts do not receive any funding from the Higher Education Act and are not required to be in compliance with the Higher Education Act, AASA reads these regulations as an unprecedented mandate for school districts.  

As we stated in our comments to the proposed regulations, the employer survey would be redundant and burdensome given that school administrators already have locally designed processes for evaluating teachers that are far more sophisticated and appropriate than a 30-minute survey instrument. AASA supports locally designed and developed teacher evaluation systems, particularly for new teachers who may need considerably more support and professional development than other teachers. We believe school administrators should focus on providing these opportunities for improvement for new teachers rather than filling out ill-defined employer forms to purportedly improve and rank teacher preparation programs. Even if each survey takes less than 30 minutes, supervisors would have many surveys to complete every year, which would force them to take time from other, more critical, student-focused tasks. 

In addition to the survey, the district would be responsible for transmitting student learning outcomes for each new teacher to the State. In many states, districts are not equipped to handle the amount of data sharing required by these new proposed regulations, and the burden to create a district-to-state feedback loop would be expensive and time-consuming. While states would have three years to design, implement and refine their data systems to enable district-level data to be securely shared with the state, years of experience tell us this work is slow-going and complex. The Department began awarding grants to states to support data systems that would allow states to link K-12 student achievement data to teachers and postsecondary systems in 2005. While some states and territories are currently developing or planning these systems, 25 states and territories do not even have plans to build these systems. The reality that these data sharing systems do not exist in over half of the country does not mean that districts would not be responsible for reporting this data to the state if these proposed regulations go into effect. Unfortunately, districts would have to allocate dollars and personnel to ensure this data is reported and these expenditures would come at a direct expense of providing direct instruction to students and complying with other local, state and federal mandates. AASA is also concerned about the security of the data to be shared. Especially in small, rural districts, the privacy of student data is difficult to guarantee. Many districts in rural areas are too small for data to be disaggregated while maintaining student anonymity. The complex data systems that will have to be built quickly to implement these regulations may not support such rigorous privacy measures.

Unless overturned by Congress or the next President, every state will be required to fully implement these regulations by the 2018-2019 school year. AASA is engaging with other stakeholders, including the higher education community, to strategize about what can be done to stop this unfunded mandate. Stay tuned. 

October 13, 2016

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Report from Washington at the National Rural Education Conference

Today, I had the pleasure of presenting at the National Rural Education Conference, providing an update on education policy from Congress and the Administration. My presentation, covering ESSA and regulations, appropriations, school nutrition, and Perkins CTE can be accessed here. Thank you to everyone who participated in a lively discussion!

October 12, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Call to Action: Submit Comments to USED ESSA Regulations

How to File Comments with the US Education Department (USED)


  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template letter.
  • Go to  
  • Click ‘Comment Now’ (the blue box in the upper right hand corner) and you will be taken to an online submittal form.
  • In the ‘Comment Box’, type something like “I submit the attached comments in response to USED’s proposed regulation on the supplement/supplant provision within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
  • Upload your file (attach your comments).
  • Enter your name in the text boxes and select your title/organization in the ‘Category’ drop down box. Please note that there is a ‘school administrator’ option.
  • Click ‘Continue’. You will be taken to a new screen.
  • Review your submission, check the box indicating that your submission may be shared, and then click ‘submit comment’.
  • If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me your final comments ( no later than November 1, with the subject line Please file ESSA comments.

Share Your Letter with Your Congressional Delegation: Contact a member of the advocacy team with any questions about who to contact when you share your USED ESSA comments with the hill. 

Looking for related content?  

October 11, 2016

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Urge the Senate to Pass CTE Reauthorization

Just because it’s recess doesn’t mean important conversations can’t be happening on Capitol Hill. In addition to closely following talks about appropriations, AASA is actively engaging members of the Senate to push them to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act.

You may recall that the House passed a unicorn of a bill (a truly bipartisan, well-crafted education policy bill) back in September. This means there’s considerable pressure to complete the reauthorization before the expiration of this Congress and avoid starting all over again in 2017. Adding to the pressure to move this bill to the President’s desk is the unknown political dynamics in the next Congress. With the retirement of John Kline, the House will definitely have a new education chairman (most likely North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx). The Senate may also have a new Democrat at the top of the Committee as Patty Murray is expected to move onto Democratic leadership. (I’m betting Bernie Sanders will get the top spot.) This means that with new negotiators leading the Committee who are eager to put their own stamp on Perkins, the chance of another major bipartisan win in both chambers is a lot less likely.  

Many folks are wondering why the Senate doesn’t just adopt the House bill if it passed the House 405-5? That’s a great question and it is AASA’s hope that the Senate does take that approach: start with the House bill, particularly the accountability and paperwork reduction aspects of the House bill, and then make some tweaks to definitions, federal guardrails, etc.

The main sticking point in moving Senate negotiations forward has to do with Secretarial authority. The House does take away some current authority from the Secretary when it comes to state plan approval, but in light of the Department’s far-reaching proposed regulations on ESSA there is a sense among Republicans that more needs to be done to tighten Secretarial control. The truth is that this Administration has not messed with Perkins at all, and in fact, no Secretary has issued Perkins regulations since the mid-1990s. While AASA certainly appreciates efforts to restore more local and state control in education, the truth is we have not seen an abuse of power in Perkins policy from the Secretary like we have with ESEA.

If you care about this important program and want to see a new and improved law, take a few moments to reach out to your Senate offices today. There’s a very tiny window to get this reauthorization passed once folks return for the lame-duck. Make sure they know you and other school leaders care about improving CTE policy. Check out these talking points to guide you through your conversation. 

September 30, 2016

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EPA Requests Applications to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of approximately $7 million in rebates to public school bus fleet owners to help them replace or retrofit older school buses. Upgrading buses with older engines reduces diesel emissions and improves air quality. 

EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines still in operation predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which have been linked to serious health problems such as aggravated asthma and lung damage.

EPA will accept applications from September 29 to November 1, 2016. 

To learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility, selection process and informational webinar dates, visit And questions about applying may be directed to  

September 27, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Joins Coalition to Oppose EPA Regulations

AASA joined a coalition of education associations and local governance associations to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to voice concern over a proposed rule regarding florescent light ballasts in schools and child care centers. The EPA is proposing to require the removal of any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals used until 1978, when they were found to contain carcinogens. The proposed rule would require schools and child care centers to remove any light ballast containing PCBs within either two or four years. The rule provides no assistance, financial or otherwise, to schools to assist with this removal. 

Our letter makes clear several concerns: notably the lack of accurate data on which the proposed rule is based, the potential cost, the stringent timeline and the duplication of other federal rules that would make the rule around PCBs unnecessary. Citing a 2014 study by AASA, ASBO and NSBA, the letter clarifies that few schools still have PCB-containing light ballasts and, with regulations banning the sale of the light bulbs that fit these older ballasts, this rule is not only burdensome but unnecessary.

Find the letter here.

September 15, 2016(1)

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AASA Urges Senators to Oppose Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee put their child nutrition bill into a process called "hotlining," where each senator is alerted that, unless someone actively objects, the bill is to be passed without a single vote being cast. Under this process, the lack of active opposition becomes assumed unanimous consent. 

AASA opposed the bill when it went through the committee, and remains opposed to the bill. More importantly, we are opposed to moving such an important piece of legislation without any debate, discussion, or a single vote. We sent this letter to the Senate.

September 15, 2016


Cross Post: USED Regulations on Supplement/Supplant Could Change School Reporting

This blog post originally appeared in the ASBO International policy blog, School Business Network. It is reposted here, with permission.

(Note: The information below is from, “Supplement not Supplant: Latest ESSA Regulations and What It Means for Districts,” a webinar hosted by AASA—The School Superintendents Association for AASA and ASBO members. Access a recording of the webinar here and the PowerPoint slide presentation here.)

Late last month, the Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule for Title I supplement not supplant (SNS), a funding provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that requires state and local education agencies (SEAs/LEAs) to ensure federal Title I dollars add to (supplement) and do not replace (supplant) state and local funding. While the overall purpose of SNS remains the same in ED’s proposal, the means for demonstrating compliance would change if the rule is implemented.

ED’s proposal is well-intentioned for trying to ensure Title I dollars support the students the law is intended to benefit, but could upend K–12 school spending and fiscal reporting practices as the rule currently stands. The rule also conflicts with Congress’ original intent for ESSA when officials passed the education law, which was to roll back the federal government’s influence in schools. Yet this proposal would allow the federal government to dictate how dollars are spent at the local level. The proposal directly affects school business officials (SBOs), who allocate resources, manage fiscal reports, and ensure Title I compliance for the school district. To be clear, ED’s SNS rule would govern how state and local dollars should be spent, not federal dollars. Complying with the rule is a condition for receiving Title I federal dollars, but the rule itself governs the allocation of state and local funds.

So what does the proposal actually say? LEAs must annually publish their methodology for allocating state and local funds in a format and language that is easy to understand, and they have four options for demonstrating compliance with SNS. Below are highlights of each methodology with potential areas of concern that the rule’s language does not address. Districts must meet one of four of these benchmarks:


  • Weighted Per-Pupil Formula
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a weighted student funding formula (student-based budgeting formula), where educationally disadvantaged students generate more money for their schools.
    • This includes but isn’t limited to low-income students, English Learners (ELs), and students with disabilities. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 7 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 1? 
      • The rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means; is this 70% of funds? 90%? Also, the rule doesn’t account for weights that are not based on student disadvantage, such as preschool, gifted and talented, CTE, or magnet education programs. How should these fit into the equation?
  • Average Personnel and Non-Personnel Costs (Resource Formula)
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a “consistent resource formula” where each Title I school receives at least:
      • The average districtwide salary for each category of school personnel (e.g., principals, teachers, custodians, etc.), multiplied by the number of school personnel in each category assigned to the school under the formula, and
      • The average districtwide expenditure for non-personnel resources multiplies by the number of students in school. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 10 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 2? 
      • Again, the rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means, nor does it define what a “consistent resource formula” means. There are also a lot of unanswered questions about resource allocations if they vary based on program differences, like with full-time employee (FTE) allocations. Some schools allocate more FTEs based on grade (lower grades often have more FTEs than higher grades), or FTEs may vary for low-income schools, or for special education, IB, dual-immersion programs, and magnet programs. Moreover, what if the allocated FTE position cannot be filled (for example if there is a shortage of special education teachers)?
      • The rule doesn’t clarify whether benefits, pay-for-performance, or other performance-based compensation are supposed to be included in the salary calculation. Nor does it explain whether long-term substitutes should be included in salary calculations. What about staff members who work in multiple buildings? How should custodians, groundskeepers, and other personnel who would fit into his description be calculated? What if their time in buildings is based on need and not allocable in advance? How do LEAs account for staff paid for at the central level who work in school buildings (e.g., building services, maintenance, cafeteria, safety, and grounds keeping staff)? And finally, what exactly does ED consider to be a “non-personnel resource”? The rule only creates more questions. 

  • State-Established Compliance Test
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA in a manner chosen by the LEA that:
      • Is applied consistently district wide, and
      • Meets a funds-based compliance test as established by the SEA. This test must be as rigorous as Options/Methodologies 1 & 2, and has been approved by ED through a federal peer review process.
    • What are some concerns with Method 3?
      • The “almost all” definition continues to be a vague term here, but more importantly, this methodology would require federal approval for an SEA to carry out and would be the greatest example of federal overreach. This approach is arguably the most in conflict with Congressional intent for ESSA law. Also, the onus is on SEAs to develop the test, which must be rigorous enough to earn ED’s approval, making this method the most labor-intensive as states are reworking their ESSA accountability frameworks at the same time.

  • ED’s Special Rule (Equalized Spending)
    • LEAs must equalize per-pupil spending in Title I and non-Title I schools. LEAs automatically comply with SNS if they spend an amount of state/local funds per pupil in Title I schools that is equal to or greater than the average per-pupil amount in non-Title I schools; if LEAs meet this special rule they do not need to satisfy any of the three methodologies above.
    • This rule is essentially what ED proposed in April after its negotiated rulemaking process on SNS failed. It’s considered controversial and an example of federal overreach in local school spending, especially since the method would have potential unintended consequences like forced teacher transfers. Districts spend a lot on teacher salaries, and to remain compliant they’d have to shift teachers around to different schools to demonstrate equalized spending, which would have adverse effects on teacher union contracts and negotiations.
    • This option has some flexibilities. Spending in Title I schools can vary up to 5% of average in non-Title I schools in a given year. An LEA can exclude any Title I school that serves fewer than 100 students. An LEA can demonstrate compliance if it shows that one or more non-Title I school(s) gets extra money to serve a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students, which disproportionally affects the average spending in non-Title I schools.
    • What are some concerns with Method 4?
      • What costs will be included/excluded in the per-pupil calculations? ED’s proposed rules for SNS versus ESSA’s accountability requirements contradict each other. The former draft rule references the per-pupil reporting requirements of Section 1111(h)(C)(x) of ESSA. “The per-pupil expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, including actual personnel expenditures and actual non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, disaggregated by source of funds, for each local educational agency and each school in the State for the preceding fiscal year.” However ED’s accountability rule says the per-pupil spending report would include expenditures for administration, instruction, instructional support, student support services, transportation services, operation and maintenance of plant, fixed charges, preschool, and net expenditures to cover deficits for food services and student body activities. It excludes expenditures for community services, capital outlay, and debt service.
      • Regarding this method’s flexibility provisions, the rule doesn’t define what a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students equals. 90%? 70%? Also, what if more high-cost special education students are in non-Title I schools, where a few students could impact the average per-pupil calculation?

The list of concerns for each methodology reflects the issue that ED’s proposal does not adequately consider the various complexities of school finance and local resource allocation. While ED’s wish to honor Title I law is noble, its approach conflicts with ESSA’s statutory language regarding the level of influence ED is supposed to have in local education. Congress passed ESSA because officials believed that schools and classrooms should be managed by local education leaders who are closer to the ground regarding local education funding and equity issues.

SBOs and other K–12 stakeholders may submit public comments to ED with their concerns about the SNS proposal at the Federal Register website until November 7. Advocates may also urge Congress to overturn ED’s regulations via the legislative process. ASBO International members can find their representatives via the Legislative Action Center and urge Congress to oppose the SNS regulation there. Stay tuned to the Legislative Affairs Community for more advocacy resources, including draft template letters to send to elected officials in opposition to the ED rule, coming soon.

September 14, 2016


Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Kick Off for Rural Students!

The RWDC focuses on STEM education for rural students. For the last five years students have learned precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is the biggest area of innovation and opens the door to many careers for rural students. On September 22, 2016 we will be flying an unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by students. You will see the plane take off, fly and take images of crops to collect data to support precision agriculture. There will also be interviews with the students who designed the plane. We hope you and your students will join us for the event! Please save the date! Follow the event using the following link:

The RWDC supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in high schools through an annual competition. The goal of the RWDC is to motivate and prepare students for the STEM workforce and teach innovation. The RWDC is Real World in the following ways: Students (1) solve Real Problems; (2) use Real Tools; (3) play Real Roles; and (4) make Real Contributions. Through their participation in RWDC each year students are challenged to optimize the design of a plane. Students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the mission of precision agriculture. 

If you are unable to attend you can see a replay of the event at following link:

September 13, 2016

(E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

In Celebration of ConnectED Day and Future Ready

Today we're celebrating ConnectED Day with our friends at Future Ready and we decided the best way to celebrate is with blog posts! These aren't just any ordinary blog posts, though—they're blog posts written by superintendents in districts from coast to coast, who are leading their students to college, career and life readiness, by taking advantage of ed tech, digital learning strategies and personalized learning methods and more.

You probably remember in June, 2013, when President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative and set a goal to connect 99 percent of America's students to the Internet through high-speed wireless and broadband Internet within five years. Today, we are still on track to meet that goal thanks to efforts made by federal, state and local institutions and especially the progress made on E-rate. With the Future Ready initiative as a model, educators are truly in a place to transform education as we know it, and that goes beyond Chromebooks and iPads.

Start your Future Ready journey today by taking the Future Ready pledge. And, even if you've already taken the pledge, read about the initiatives that other superintendents are championing in their districts and get inspired!

You can find our Future Ready blog series at 

September 12, 2016 1

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ED/DOJ Letter and Resources on SROs

:ast week, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice released new lettersrubrics and resources last week related to the hiring and training of school resource officers. In particular, any law enforcement agencies that receive COPS funding for SROs will be required to adopt the new guidelines for SROs.

Among the resources provided are models for crafting MOUs between schools and local law-enforcement agencies, the role of district leaders in monitoring the actions of school-based police officers, and how to train police in such areas as child development and conflict de-escalation. In addition, they are urging districts to adopt a number of specific recommendations such as:

  • incorporating local, state and federal civil rights laws into agreements with law enforcement,  
  • ensuring that law enforcement officers have no role in administering formal school discipline,  
  • requiring SROs to receive specialized training, including education in youth development,  
  • setting policies on when/how SROs can use restraints, and  
  • training teachers and staff to avoid calling SROs to assist with nonviolent disciplinary issues 



September 12, 2016

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AASA Endorses House Bill to Reauthorize Perkins CTE Act

Today, AASA sent a letter to the House endorsing legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act. The bipartisan bill, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, passed the House Education Committee overwhelmingly (37-0) in July. AASA is very pleased with how the bill addresses many of our key priorities within the reauthorization and hope to see a completed reauthorization before the year end. We also urge appropriators to consider funding levels for Perkins as they examine the reauthorization of this legislation since policy improvements cannot be fully realized without adequate funding levels.

You can read our letter to the House here

September 7, 2016

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Get the Lead out of Schools

I am now getting another lesson in the amount of non-education things superintendents deal with - today, it is the Water Resources Development Act. In addition to a previously existing Lead and Copper rule, the Get the Lead out of Schools Act addresses the lack of Federal laws around lead testing in schools. This bill would require water utilities to test the water of schools they serve for lead - they currently only have to test homes. The bill would also add a grant program to reimburse LEAs, water utilities, or a state agency for the cost of any necessary remediation. 

September 6, 2016(1)


Back to School Advocacy Wrap Up: Of Appropriations, Epi Pens, ESSA Regulations and Secure Rural Schools

Recess is over, for the kids and the adults, and that means Congress is back in town and back to session. In an effort to provide a one-stop succinct overview of what happened during recess, this blog post is a wrap up of the topics AASA advocacy was monitoring this summer. You can access an related preview in the first part of our ‘Back to School’ editions of Legislative Corps, AASA’s weekly advocacy update here. (And email Leslie Finnan to subscribe to the newsletter:

Appropriations: We provided a one pager with talking points as it relates to AASA’s legislative priorities for federal funding in fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which starts October 1. FY17 dollars will be in schools for the 2017-18 school year, the first year of ESSA implementation. Congress will not complete its appropriations work on time. When they are unable to complete the appropriations process (consideration and adoption of the 12 stand alone appropriations bills that collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), they can either pass short term funding solution (called a continuing resolution, or CR) or there is a shutdown. There will NOT be a shutdown this year (it’s a presidential election year!), so we are looking at a CR scenario.

Time wise, the House could vote on an initial version of a CR as early as the week of September 19, giving the Senate one week to work through the details before adjourning for another recess. How this CR process plays out is a factor of length, internal republican politics, and riders:

  • Length: Will it be a short term CR that kicks into December, post-election but before the new administration? Will it be six months, into the new administration? Or will they pass a long-term continuing resolution, freezing funding for FY17? (Hint: the long-term CR is less likely. It removes discretion over cuts and increases, and from an education point of view, would be concerning both for funding levels AND ESSA construct. FY16 was allocated for NCLB program construct; FY17 is an ESSA year, and the programs and funding are structured differently).
  • Internal Republican Politics: Will Speaker Ryan be able to harness his caucus for a unifying vote? Will the House Freedom Caucus hold the line on its budget priority (a six month CR), and in doing so, play nicely with House Leadership or drive a wedge and force Speaker Ryan to work with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Dems to avoid a shutdown? In terms of what to expect for Democratic funding priorities within this negotiation, look for anti-Zika money, gun violence, lead poisoning, and support for opioid abuse programs. 
  • Riders: Policy riders are a hiccup in appropriations. It blends two usually distinct entities: appropriations language (paying for a program) and authorizing language (the policy behind a program). Policy riders end up on appropriations bills when Congress needs to move a policy that they can’t move through normal order. It also is increasingly used when a policy may not move on its own, but doesn’t warrant enough opposition to force an overall ‘no vote’ on a larger appropriations bill (which would shut down the government). AASA typically opposes policy riders and supports clean appropriations bills.

Epinephrine Pens: At the end of August, the exponential rise in the cost of epinephrine pens (epi pens) garnered a lot of media and Congressional attention. In a nutshell, the company that owns the brand name medicine within Epi Pen (Mylan) raised the price of the pens by more than 400 percent since 2007. EpiPen is a $1 billion business per year for Mylan. Mylan controls about 98% of the epi pen market. The CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). There was no action on Capitol Hill related to policy that would impact schools, but it did bring up the 2013 federal policy that incentivizes states to have policies that require schools to stock epi pens and train staff in the administration of Epi Pens. There is not an effort to repeal that provision, but AASA did have a lot of outreach to press and the hill as they followed up on our earlier opposition to the proposal, citing both policy and cost implications. Read our related AASA blog post from 2013. In a quick outreach to our advocacy network, we received nearly 100 detailed responses outlining what your states and districts currently do related to epi pens, including stocking, training, and cost. Thank you to everyone who responded. Want to join the AASA advocacy network ? Email Noelle Ellerson ( 

ESSA Regulations: USED is knee-deep in its efforts to issue guidance, regulations and technical assistance to support ESSA implementation at the state and local level. You can check out the AASA ESSA Resources Library for our set of support materials, including links to all of the related ESSA material from USED. 

  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Accountability
  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Assessment forthcoming
  • Still to come: AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations for Supplement/Supplant

USED Regulations and Guidance: The Department has been on a roll when it comes to releasing guidance and regulations for a number of federal programs. The list below captures those that have been released since July 15:

Forest Counties: A bulk of time on the hill in August was dedicated to maintaining awareness of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Program (Forest Counties). This program provides federal funding to those counties who have a large presence of federal land (national parks or forests). As a result of the federally managed land which is not subject to property taxes, local counties and schools receive funding through this program in recognition of the federal policy that hinders local ability to generate funds for local county and school needs. You can check out our August Call to Action on the program, including our one-pager. We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded 




September 6, 2016


Legislative Corps Recess Wrap-Up

Last week, we sent the following wrap-up of recess in our Legislative Corps newsletter. If you did not receive it and are interested in receiving future editions, please email


As you are opening your schools for the year, Congress's summer vacation is also winding to a close. Stay tuned for an email next week with what you should look forward to as they get back to town. 

Insure All Children Toolkit

Yesterday, USED Secretary King and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell joined with AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund to promote a new toolkit, Insure All Children. This toolkit has five sections each focused on specific steps required of school district administrators to ensure uninsured children who are eligible for health insurance enroll, from building a team to enrolling students to sustaining the program for the future.

The toolkit can be accessed at Find a video of the event with Secretaries King and Burwell here and AASA’s press release here.

Americans' Views on Education

Two major polls were recently released, illustrating how Americans view public education. The 15th annual PDK poll showed a slight increase in the view of the nation’s schools and respondents’ views of their local schools: 48% gave their local schools an A or a B, while 24% said the same of schools across the nation. Consistent with former years, respondents agreed that lack of funding is the top problem schools are facing. Read our summary here or the full report here.

EducationNext also released their 10th annual poll, which showed a decline in support for Common Core, down to just 50% supporting the standards. The report also showed strong support for standardized testing, with 73% approving of uniform testing and 70% opposed to opting out. School choice received mixed responses: charter schools maintained strong support (65%), while support for private school vouchers has dropped 12% since 2012. Read our summary here or the full report here.

Transgender Guidance Halted by Judge

A federal judge has halted President Obama’s transgender guidance that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice, while 13 states challenge the order in court. Read more here.

Ed Groups Oppose FBI Program

Education groups, including AASA, sent a letter criticizing the FBI for its program design to prevent the spread of “violent extremism” in schools. The program racially targets Muslim and Middle Eastern students, and adds to growing discrimination they already face. The letter can be accessed here.

August 30, 2016


48th Annual PDK Poll Shares Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools, Reinforces the Need for Students to Exit Schools College, Career and Life Ready

Is the purpose of public school education to prepare students for work? To prepare them for citizenship? Or to prepare them academically? When given the opportunity to choose, it became clear that the American public does not agree on a single purpose for public education, according to the 2016 PDK Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Less than half (45 percent) of adult Americans say preparing students academically is the main goal of a public school education, and just one-third feel that way strongly. Other Americans split between saying the main purpose of public schools is to prepare students for work (25 percent) and for citizenship (26 percent).

These differing priorities also relate to how Americans rate their local public schools. Respondents who say public schools should mainly prepare students for work give their schools lower ratings. Fifty-three percent of those who say the main objective is preparing children academically give their schools top marks.

These findings are paramount for school administrators, as it validates the need to prepare students to be college, career and life ready before they leave your schools. The public, and parents especially, “want to see a clearer connection between the public school system and world of work,” said Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International.

AASA continues to back Perkins CTE Reauthorization, and would like to see that Congress increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs to give districts more funding. We are also in support of greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in CTE programs. Employers must be critical partners in evaluating the areas in which district CTE programs must improve and to assist districts in ensuring they are using the relevant standards, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials and current technology and equipment necessary to align with skills required by local employment opportunities.

Not only are parents interested in seeing schools implement more career-technical and skills-based classes, but they also want to hear about it and to even be involved. A key finding in this poll is that parents are more supportive of their local schools when they feel that educators are listening to their concerns and communicating with them.

In addition to addressing the public’s idea of the purpose of education, the survey covers key topics, including charter schools, testing opt-outs, funding, standards and more. While you’ll want to read the entire report, here’s a breakdown of what we found to be particularly important for superintendents:

  • Purpose of Education: The survey finds a heavy tilt in preferences away from more high-level academics and toward more classes focused on work skills. 68 percent to 21 percent of Americans say having their local public schools focus more on career-technical or skills-based classes is better than focusing on more honors or advanced academic classes.
  • Communication: Parents like their local schools, especially when they believe educators listen to their concerns. Schools that communicate more effectively with parents and give them opportunities to visit and offer input, are generally given A and B grades from parents.
  • Testing opt outs: Majority of Americans (59 percent to 37 percent) think that public school parents should not be allowed to excuse their children from taking standardized tests.
  • Taxes: More Americans support (53 percent) than oppose (45 percent) raising property taxes to improve public schools, but there is broad skepticism (47 percent) that higher spending would result in school improvements. If taxes are raised, there’s little consensus on how the money should best be spent. A plurality (34 percent) says it should go to teachers, but divides on whether that means more teachers or higher teacher pay.
  • Standards for Learning: 46 percent of Americans say the education standards in the public schools in their community are about right, while nearly as many (43 percent) say expectations for students are too low. Few (7 percent) think standards are too high. Fifty percent of urban residents call education standards in their local schools too low compared with 39 percent of suburban and 36 percent of rural residents. Core beliefs about the purpose of public education also come into views of the local schools’ educational standards. Americans who think the main goal of public education should be to prepare students for work are most skeptical of current standards; half think they’re too low, and just two in 10 think they prepare students well for adult success.
  • Charter Schools: Negative perceptions of local and national public schools are related to greater support for charter school autonomy. Majorities of those giving their local public schools a C or lower favor allowing charter schools to set their own standards, while majorities of those giving them an A or B prefer that charter schools meet the same standards.
  • Failing Schools: One of the most uneven results in the survey shows that if a school has been failing for several years, 84 percent would elect to keep the school open and 14 percent would prefer to close it. But, if a failing school is kept open, 62 percent say its administration and faculty should be replaced rather than retaining them and increasing spending on resources and support staff.

Quick points:

  • For the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the No. 1 problem confronting local schools.
  • The share of Americans giving positive grades to the nation’s public schools is up 7 percentage points since 2014.
  • The public divides 43 percent to 43 percent on whether schools should use more traditional teaching and less technology or more technology and less traditional teaching.
  • Better school evaluations affect both willingness to support higher property taxes and confidence that these taxes actually would lead to substantive improvements.
  • Support for increased taxes reaches 70 percent among Americans who think that, if taxes are raised to try to improve local public schools, the schools will get better. Those who are less confident in a good outcome are only half as likely to support tax increases.
  • Among those giving their local public schools an A grade, two-thirds are confident that increased funding would help. Critically, that plummets to 17 percent among those who give their schools a failing grade.
  • Political partisanship and ideology also are key factors. Liberals and Democrats are significantly more likely than conservatives and Republicans to believe tax money for schools will be well-spent and thus to support tax increases. In the widest gap, 70 percent of liberal Democrats support increased taxes, and 66 percent are confident they’d help, compared with 41 percent and 35 percent, respectively of conservative Republicans.

You can download the  report here and read AASA's statement on the poll here.

August 23, 2016(1)


Mini Grant Opportunity: Expand School Breakfast Program

This grant opportunity comes from the AASA Children's Programs Department. All applications are due by September 2. Please direct questions to Rebecca Shaw ( 

Introduction: AASA, The School Superintendents Association is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of school district leaders, with nearly 9,000 members and affiliate organizations in 49 states.  AASA has funding from the Walmart Foundation to provide mini-grants to school districts to increase school breakfast participation using alternative breakfast strategies. The main goal of the initiative is to increase the number of low-income students who eat breakfast in these districts. We also anticipate that the leadership, interest, commitment and involvement of school superintendents regarding alternative school breakfast strategies will be enhanced.

Grant Overview: AASA will provide mini-grants to school districts to increase school breakfast participation through alternative serving methods. This means that a school will serve Breakfast in the Classroom in elementary schools and/or Second Chance or Grab’N’Go (e.g., kiosks, vending machines, second chance) in middle and high schools. Awards shall not exceed $15,000 and shall to be used to support school breakfast infrastructure (bags, kiosks, storage, etc.). Each district will receive technical assistance from AASA staff and other superintendents and food service directors who have successfully implemented alternative breakfast strategies if requested. The amount of the award will be based on the quality and scope of the application, including superintendent and principal commitment and buy-in to the strategies selected, district need, project reach, and creativity and innovation to increase average daily participation and improve food and nutritional quality.

Eligibility Criteria: Please note the following eligibility requirements. 

  • The school district superintendent must be a member of AASA at time of application submission. (See if the superintendent is not a member.)
  • Proposed schools in which the district will work must have a 50% or greater eligibility overall for free and reduced-priced meals or participate in the CEP program.
  • Average breakfast participation of the schools participating in this program must be at or below 40%.
  • District must have written support/backing from the superintendent, district food service director and principals of participating schools.
  • Alternative breakfast model selection should include the “best practice” of Breakfast in the Classroom for elementary schools and “Grab’n’Go” (including Second Chance) for middle and high schools.

 Award Information:  

  • The amount of the award will be based on:
    • Full support of district superintendent to implement alternative school breakfast.
    • Project scope and reach, creativity, potential increases in average daily participation rates, and food and nutritional quality.
    • Using a “best practice” alternative school breakfast model.
    • District need.
  • Examples of funding including:
    • Equipment to facilitate alternative breakfast model (i.e. insulated bags, carts, kiosks, garbage bags, trash cans, wireless POS machines, etc.).
    • Kitchen equipment to help increase food quality (i.e. freezers, refrigerators, storage, etc.).
    • Nutrition education materials.
    • Advertising materials to promote program.
    • Giveaways for student participation and school-level staff buy-in.
  • Funding cannot be used for:
    • Salaries
    • Food
    • Overhead (indirect)
    • Memberships
    • Consultants 

Grant Application Timeline:  

  • Application Deadline: September 2, 2016
  • Grantee awards notification: September 9, 2016
  • Breakfast program implementation: Fall semester, 2016
  • Final reporting to AASA: January, 2017 (December ADP)

You can access the full grant application here.

If you have questions before submitting the application, please email Rebecca Shaw. Project Coordinator ( ).  

August 23, 2016

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Results and Trends in the 2016 Education Next Poll

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Education Next has released its annual survey of American public opinion, conducted in May and June of 2016. The survey includes a nationally representative sample of Americans and of teachers and presents 2016 opinions on education policy together with trends in opinion. 

This year’s results include two interactive graphics. The first is on Results from the 2016 EdNext Poll and the second on Trends in the EdNext Poll Over Time.

Access the report, Ten-Year Trends in Public Opinion from the EdNext Poll, by Paul E. Peterson, Michael B. Henderson, Martin R. West and Samuel Barrows, here. You may also download the report here.

Among the key findings:

  • Common Core State Standards. Support for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) continued to decline in 2016. Of all those taking a position, 50% favor the use of Common Core in their state, down from 58% in 2015. However, when the name Common Core is not mentioned, two-thirds of respondents favor the use of the same standards across states. Republicans are 22 percentage points less likely to respond favorably when the name is mentioned, as compared to a 10 percentage point difference among Democrats. Teacher support for CCSS, at 44%, did not change between 2015 and 2016.
    • Trend. In 2013, 83% of survey respondents supported CCSS; four years later it is 50%.   Republicans have made the largest shift away from Common Core over the past four years from 82% favorable in 2013 to 39% in 2016. The four-year drop among Democrats, while less, is also substantial—from 86% to 60%.
  • Tests and opting out. There is strong support for using the same standardized test in all states, with 73% of the public in favor of uniform testing; 70% are opposed to letting parents opt their children out of state tests, consistent with 2015 results. Among teachers, opposition to opt out is lower and has declined from 64% in 2015 to 57% in 2016.
    • Trend. Nearly four out of five respondents favor the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading in each grade from third through eighth and at least once in high school, about the same as in the past.
  • Teacher tenure. Only 31% of the public support teacher tenure but 67% of teachers do.
    • Trend. Support for tenure has declined by 10 percentage points since 2013 to an all-time low.
  • Charter schools. Public support for charter schools, at 65%, remains high. Substantially more Republicans favor charter schools (74%) than do Democrats (58%), a 16 percentage-point gap between the parties.
    • Trend. Public support for charters has remained stable since 2013, as has the gap between Republicans and Democrats.
  • Targeted school vouchers.  Forty-three percent of the public favor vouchers that would give low-income families a wider choice. Surprisingly, the percentage of Democrats who are supportive is 12 percentage points higher than the Republican percentage.
    • Trend. Public support for school vouchers targeted toward low-income families has dropped by 12 percentage points since 2012 – a major shift in public opinion. Between 2012 and 2016, Republican backing fell by 14 percentage points; among Democrats, the drop is 9 percentage points. Teacher support has slid from 39 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2016.
  • Universal school vouchers. Policies that would give vouchers to all families also lost ground, reaching a new low of 50% of the public.
    •  TrendPublic backing for universal vouchers has dropped by six percentage points since 2014.  Fifty-one percent of Republicans supported universal vouchers in 2014, compared to just 45% in 2016. However, Democratic support for universal vouchers increased from 49% in 2013 to 56% in 2016. 
  • Grading schools. Fifty-five percent of the public give their local school an “A” or “B” letter grade, but only 25% give the nation’s schools the same high grade.
    •  Trend. The public grades their local schools more favorably now than at any point in the past ten years, despite mediocre performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress during the same period. The percentage giving their local schools an “A” or “B” grade has risen 12 percentage points since 2007, when 43% of the public awarded one of the two high grades.
  • Teacher salaries. The percentage of the public favoring higher salaries for teachers, at 65%, reached its highest point since 2008. Seventy-six percent of Democrats favor an increase, as compared to 52% of Republicans. However, respondents, on average, under-estimate the current salary level of the average teacher in their state—$57,000—by approximately 30%. When provided with this information, backing for increases is just 41%. 
    • Trend. The partisan divide on teacher salaries among those not informed of current levels increased from 14 percentage points in 2008 to 24 percentage points in 2016.

August 17, 2016


AASA and CoSN Partner for 4th Annual Infrastructure Survey

AASA is pleased to announce, in coordination with our friends at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the fourth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. We need to hear from you, the experts—what are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-rate working for you?

Our goal is to provide crucial information to the FCC, the Department of Education, Congress, and others on the current state of ed tech and E-rate reform. This year, we are providing valuable information on home access to broadband as the FCC is reforming its Lifeline Program. Your input is more important than ever.

Take the Infrastructure Survey today. In about 15 minutes, you can directly impact what we tell the FCC! If a colleague is better suited to respond, please pass this message along (one response per district, please). Should you have any questions or difficulties, please contact

August 11, 2016


Feedback for Regional Needs for USED's Comprehensive Centers (Survey)

USED is requesting feedback on the issues in your state to help guide the Department's Comprehensive Centers

The work of the centers is informed by feedback from Regional Advisory Committees (RACs). Please take a few minutes to complete this survey, to ensure the voice of public school superintendents is reflected in the needs of the region:


  • The homepage for the RACs (
  • The Comprehensive Centers (Centers) program is authorized by Title II of the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 (ETAA), Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002. 
  • The purpose of the technical assistance is to support SEA capacity to support local educational agencies (LEAs or districts) and schools, especially low-performing districts and schools; improve educational outcomes for all students; close achievement gaps; and improve the quality of instruction.   
  • The ETAA requires the establishment of ten RACs.  The Department solicited nominations for individuals to serve on the 2016 RACs; anyone could nominate a qualified individual to serve on a RAC.  
  • The purpose of these committees is to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions:
    • Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington) Member Roster
    • Southwest (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) Member Roster
    • Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) Member Roster
    • Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina) Member Roster
    • Central (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) Member Roster
    • West (Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah) Member Roster
    • Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) Member Roster
    • Mid Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) Member Roster
    • Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) Member Roster

August 11 2016

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How Can Rural District Leaders Address Teacher Shortages?

AASA has long valued the research briefs produced by the Education Commission of the States and recently requested that they investigate two issue important to rural school leaders: how to improve teacher recruitment and retention practices in rural districts generally and how to specifically address shortages in rural districts of special education personnel. A shortage of special education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel exists across the country, but is particularly acute in rural communities. However, a number of states are taking steps to address this specific shortage the the Education Commission recently reviewed the most promising practices across the country at the request of AASA. You can read the brief here

Of note to school leaders is that most of the substantive work around rural teacher recruitment appears to be happening at the district level, the school level, or in partnerships with teacher preparation programs. In particular, "grow your own" programs are particularly promising in rural districts as a way to address teacher shortages. 

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