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)

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

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

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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)

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

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 rsegal@cbpp.org.   

 

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)

COMMENTS ARE DUE November 7

  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template letter.
  • Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2016-OESE-0056-0001  
  • 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 (nellerson@aasa.org) 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.