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 sign.protectdreamers.org.

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 protectdreamers.org.

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 https://www.dhs.gov/, the CBP website at https://www.cbp.gov/, or ICE website at https://www.ice.gov/.
    • 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 ERO.INFO@ice.dhs.gov, also available at https://www.ice.gov/webform/ero-contact-form. The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202)732-0092 or ICE.Civil.Liberties@ice.dhs.gov.
    • 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 https://help.cbp.gov.






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

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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 REAP@ED.gov. 

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