November 27, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Organizes Letter Advocating for More IDEA Funding

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

 

November 26, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations But Concerns Remain

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

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

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

November 26, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Endorses Homework Gap Legislation

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

 

November 19, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

AASA Files Testimony in Senate Energy Committee

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

November 19, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Submits Comments to FTC on COPPA

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

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

 

November 18, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Submits Comments on New CRDC

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

November 15, 2019

 Permanent link

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

AASA Files Amicus in Supreme Court Case on Vouchers

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

November 14, 2019

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

FY 2020 Approps Update: 2nd CR

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

November 7, 2019

 Permanent link

New report: Rural schools need greater support

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

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

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

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

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

 A few highlights from the new edition of Why Rural Matters

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

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

 

November 1, 2019(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

FY20 Education Funding Still in Limbo

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

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

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

November 1, 2019

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

November Advocate

 

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

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

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

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

Title II

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

Title IV

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

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

Title IX 

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

 

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