September 17, 2015

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I Hate a Song....Er, Policy

Today, I was at the AESA legislative meeting and PDK Executive Director Josh Starr was there as a keynote speaker. His presentation was compelling, but one slide in particular resonated with me.

He had a poster with the text of Woody Guthrie's "I Hate a Song". In particular, he excerpted:"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good....I am out to fight those songs to my last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing the songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

And he challenged us, in the context of education thinking and policy, to replace the word 'song' with 'policy', and to recognize just how intimate the impact of policy can be on students.

Just something to think over.

September 16, 2015

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Impact Aid Districts on Edge Over Talk of Government Shutdown

Today's guest blog comes from Jocelyn Bissonette, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). For more information on Impact Aid: 202/624-5455 or Jocelyn@nafisdc.org.

Headlines in recent Washington Post articles include: “Get Ready: Experts Say a Government Shutdown is Likely,” and “The Time to Dust Off Shutdown, Furlough Plans is Approaching.” Each year begins with optimism that Congress will complete its Appropriations work on time, by the beginning of the October 1 Fiscal Year (FY). But since 1996, Congress has resorted to a stopgap measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to buy time to finish its work. On several occasions, this inability to complete the process or agree on a CR has led to a government shutdown, as was the case in 2013 following sequestration. For most public school districts, the posturing, brinksmanship, CRs and shutdowns are par for the course and do not immediately impact a school district’s financial situation. Impact Aid is a major exception. 

Impact Aid, ESEA Title VIII, was signed into law in 1950. The program’s purpose is to offset the loss of local revenue for school districts that have nontaxable Federal property within district boundaries, such as military installations, Indian Trust or Treaty lands, national grasslands or laboratories. Roughly 1,200 school districts receive funding from the $1.2 billion program each year. Unlike other Federal education programs, Impact Aid funding goes directly to school districts, bypassing the State, and can be used for any general fund purpose. At NAFIS, we often describe Impact Aid as Uncle Sam’s tax bill to federally impacted school districts.

Another difference from Federal education programs: Impact Aid is not forward-funded. FY 2016 funds for programs like Title I and IDEA are for the 2016-2017 school year, but for Impact Aid they are for the 2015-2016 school year. This means a CR has an immediate impact on Impact Aid-recipient school districts. To date, the U.S. Department of Education has received over 100 “early payment requests” in anticipation that limited Impact Aid funds will be available under a CR. Impact Aid may comprise upwards of 30-percent of a school district’s operating budget. Without a payment early in the school year, these districts may face a cash flow shortage, meaning they would have difficulty funding day-to-day operations, instructional expenditures, utility payments, or payroll. Occasionally, due to cash flow deficits, school districts must defer payroll, dip into their fund balances, or borrow money while they wait for Impact Aid to arrive. This issue is acute for school districts with limited reserves or those where State aid or county tax revenues are not allocated until December.

This situation is exacerbated during a government shutdown, since the Impact Aid payment timeline is further delayed. In addition, this is the time of year when school districts are collecting and compiling data for the Impact Aid application due each January. During a shutdown, U.S. Department of Education staff cannot report to work, and therefore cannot provide valuable technical assistance. 

In the end, Congress must complete its Appropriations work, even if it means relying on the temporary solution of a CR. Avoiding a government shutdown in that process would prevent a gap in important government functions, including funding and technical assistance for federally impacted school districts.

NAFIS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of school districts from throughout the United States. Founded more than 40 years ago, NAFIS works to ensure the needs of federally connected school districts, and the students they educate, are met through adequate Federal funds. (P) 202/624-5455 (W) www.nafisdc.org (T) @NAFISschools

September 11, 2015

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Sequester 2.0, AND: When it comes to Federal Education Funding, It's Time To Raise the Caps!

We are in September and it is looking increasingly likely that Congress will not only NOT complete its appropriations work on time, but that we will also have a shutdown. Shutdown politics and implications aside, it is important to understand how a common funding mechanism (the continuing resolution or CR) can translate into a sequester cut for our portion of the budget.

When the government does not complete its work on time, it can use a CR to keep government running by simply level funding all programs at their current level. We are in FY15 and the fiscal year that needs to be wrapped before it starts October 1 is FY16. A long-term (or year-long) CR would level fund government for the full fiscal year. A long-term CR, whether to avoid a shut-down or as a resolution to end one, is problematic. Level funding for our portion of the budget (non-defense discretionary, or NDD) would actually be above the FY16 sequester caps, meaning we would face an across-the-board cut of 1.5% While the Congressional Budget Office has yet to officially release these numbers, the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities has indicated this very real threat.  

We all know the damages of sequester. It is easy enough to avoid; Congress has to complete one of its primary functions, passing the appropriations bills. But it is about more than that: even if the across the board cut is avoided, the FY16 budget proposals represent the third year of level funding. The continued funding pressure of the budget caps means that NDD and education funding have to continually do more with less.Which is why it is time for Congress to raise the caps.

Like our previous post supporting the NDD coalition and resources supporting #RaiseTheCap indicated, we now have education-specific resources you can use in communicating with your members of Congress. Thank you to our friends at the Committee for Education Funding (www.cef.org) for putting these together:

Access as a word document.

General Overview of the Appropriations Caps and Sequestration

 

  • While total non-defense appropriations will increase slightly in 2016 even if sequestration is fully implemented, that increase will fall far short of what would be needed just to keep up with inflation or address high-priority needs, let alone make up for any of ground lost over the past several years. 
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011, which established the appropriations caps and sequestration, specifies that sequestration cuts in 2014 and all subsequent years are to be implemented by reducing the caps that would otherwise apply (rather than by across-the-board cuts as in 2013).  For 2016, the pre-sequestration caps were scheduled to increase by 1.9 percent, but sequestration will eliminate almost all of that increase. 
  • Without sequestration relief, the cap on non-defense appropriations for 2016 will be just 0.2 percent ($1.1 billion) above the 2015 level.  That’s $8.6 billion less than what would be needed just to keep up with even the modest level of expected inflation.  The defense situation is similar:  an increase of just 0.3 percent or $1.8 billion. 
  • With the spending caps essentially flat, 2016 will be the sixth year of austerity in non-defense appropriations.  In four of the previous five years, the total has either decreased in actual dollar terms or increased only slightly. 
  • By 2016 the cumulative effect will be substantial.  When adjusted just for general inflation, the 2016 cap on non-defense appropriations will be 17 percent (or $103 billion) below the 2010 level.  The cumulative reduction in defense appropriations is only a little smaller: 15 percent or $94 billion.  These are, of course, only averages.  Within both categories some things have been cut considerably less and other things considerably more.   
  • The effects of the caps and sequestration are even more dramatic when measured relative to the size of the economy.  Outlays for non-defense appropriated programs are projected to be 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016—equal to the lowest percentage recorded at any point since 1962, which is as far back as data go on this basis.  With the caps and sequestration fully in place, the percentage is expected to then set a new record low in 2017 and to continue dropping in subsequent years. 
  • One result of these limits is that increases even for high-priority needs become difficult to accomplish, as almost any increases require offsetting cuts or savings.  After five previous years of cutting, feasible and acceptable cuts are getting harder and harder to find.  And even for things that haven’t been cut in dollar terms, the cumulative erosion of purchasing power is growing. 

Appropriations Caps and Sequestration as it Affects Education Programs:

  • Sequestration cuts resulted in a loss of $22.54 million from Individuals with Disabilities Act’s Part C program, which serves infants and toddlers with disabilities. Because of mounting fiscal pressure over the last two decades, States have narrowed the eligibility requirements for this voluntary program and any funding reduction means fewer children served.   
  • Last fall, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides needy families across the country with child care services.  Currently, sequestration levels mean that CCDBG provides services to about 1 in 10 eligible children. However, with the additional requirements brought about by this bill, even fewer eligible children will be able to receive these services unless the sequestration caps are lifted.   
  • Due to 5.27 percent cut in funding thanks to sequestration, Head Start, the federal pre-K education service for low-income families, was forced to eliminate services for 57,000 children last fall.  HHS data says that Head Start will have administered 1.3 million fewer days of service nationwide because of sequestration cuts.    
  • Sequestration could de-fund preschool programs in 18 states, causing 60,000 children to lose access to preschool entirely 
  • The federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2 percent since 2010, accounting for inflation the discretionary spending on children d has decreased by 11.6 percent (First Focus: Children’s Budget 2015) 
  • Federal education programs have been cut by more than $80 billion since 2010 with the elimination of more than 50 education programs
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve important increases in the President's budget such as  
    • $1.5 billion to expand Head Start for low-income children; 
    • $1 billion increase for Title I education funds to improve services for students in high-poverty schools; 
    • $1.8 billion over the 2015 level for the Housing Choice Voucher program to expand access for affordable housing; and  
    • New investments in research and development throughout the government (including additional funding of $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $379 million for the National Science Foundation).  
     
  • Discretionary funding for education programs—excluding Pell grants—has been cut by over $3.714 billion since FY 2010 and non-Pell grant funding for the Department of Education is below FY 2008 
  • The suggested level of nondefense appropriations for FY 2016 is similar to the amount appropriated in FY 2006, when adjusted for inflation, despite that there has been a consistent rise in enrollments of children attending K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education coupled with the increase of more low-income children attending school since FY 2006 (link
  • Federal funding for Title 1 of ESEA—the major federal assistance program for high-poverty schools—is down 12% since 2010, after adjusting for inflation, and funding for education for students with disabilities is down 11%.  
  • Sequestration resulted in approximately $579 million in federal funding cuts to IDEA special education services for children ages 3 to 21.   
  • Congress has never lived up to its commitment to cover 40% of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. After sequestration, Congress is only meeting 14% of the cost to educate students with disabilities, the lowest level since 2001.   
  • Both the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bills cut funding for Pell grants, which will likely jeopardize the maximum award starting in Fiscal Year 2017. The Senate bill also cuts Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study. 
  • Since Fiscal Year 2011, funding for student financial aid programs have been cut by $75 billion.  

 Sample Tweets to Use After September 10th:

 

  • We need to invest in education, public safety, medical research, & infrastructure [insert member twitter handle]. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • Our economy depends on increasing fed funding for education. We need to #RaiseTheCaps in order to create opportunities for every child 
  • #EduCutsDontHeal. Investment in education matters and the time to act is now. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • [insert member twitter handle], over 2,500 groups want you to #RaiseTheCaps for discretionary investments! 
  • National #security means investing in kids, education, public health, & infrastructure. [insert member twitter handle] make sure to #RaiseTheCaps! 
  • A secure #America needs more than #military might! [insert member twitter handle] make sure there to #RaiseTheCaps for #education! 
  • Our government spends less on NDD programs & is the lowest share of the economy since the Eisenhower Admin #RaiseTheCaps 
  • (MOC), don’t put your own interests ahead of America’s children. Raise the spending caps so we can better fund our #Education programs 
  • US population has grown over the last decade, esp. in school enrollment, but our spending on education has NOT. #RaiseTheCaps 
  • Tell your Congressman to vote to #RaisetheCaps today. Our children’s #education shouldn’t be a political chess game. 
  • Continued sequestration could de-fund preschool programs in 18 states, causing 60K children to lose access to preschool entirely
  • Fed #education programs have been cut by $80+ billion since 2010, eliminating 50+ education programs #RaiseTheCaps
  • 50+ education programs have been eliminated since 2010. It’s time to #RaiseTheCaps
  • Since FY 2011, funding for student financial aid programs have been cut by $75 billion. Time to #RaiseTheCaps 

 

Twitter  Hashtags and Handles:

 

  • #RaiseTheCaps 
  • #Education 
  • #EduCutsDontHeal 
  • @edfunding 

 

 

 

September 10, 2015

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Raise the Cap! Sequester, Appropriations and FY16

Federal fiscal year 16 (FY16) starts October 1, and all signs point to Congress (once again) failing to complete its appropriations work on time. We won't have a shut down, but we will likely have a series of continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to patch us through the interim, until a final appropriations bill is adopted. 

I've written before, and it holds true, that the delay of the currently considered but not adopted appropriations bill (and the LHHS appropriations bill, in particular, which includes funding for education) is a good thing. A good thing? To not have federal funding on time? Yes. The overall funding levels in place are very bad. The overall level funding scenario translates into cuts at the education program specific level and the opportunity for Congress to rethink its proposals gives an opportunity for them to raise the overall funding level (or cap).

The current funding caps were established in 2011, as part of the Budget Control Act. Comprehensive and bipartisan, it is law, and was passed as a way to raise the debt ceiling, avoid a government shutdown, and to catalyze a conversation on spending caps and cuts. This piece of legislation also triggered the process of sequester, and set the caps that we are currently operating under. The sequester cap for FY16 represents a third year of level funding. To people running schools systems, level funding paired with growing enrollment and increasing costs mean the perfect storm of truly having to more with less, and that is without reference to your state and local funding realities.

The portion of the federal budget that includes education funding is non-defense and discretionary. Put together, it is the far less than catchy 'Non Defense Discretionary' (NDD) slice of the pie, and our appropriations advocacy has included efforts to support broader NDD funding as a way to support broader education funding. Read more about the NDD Coalition.

Earlier this week, the NDD Coalition hosted a webinar and released a toolkit, both focused on a call to 'Raise the Caps'.  The preface of the toolkit sums it up best: "NDD United is the only organization speaking out on behalf of all of the thousands of programs funded by discretionary funds that have been decimated by budget cuts over the past five years. It’s critical that every NDD United member know where the organization stands. United, we can raise our voice on behalf of the public services Americans rely on. But budget cuts and sequestration are difficult topics to message around: before you can even get to the meat of the problem – that public services Americans rely on are being decimated – you have to engage in a lot of preliminary explanation. And it’s the problem, the solution, and how NDD United is working toward that solution that should form the building blocks of all of NDD United’s messaging. This handbook provides the tools to maximize your public presence and raise your voice on behalf of NDD programs. It offers sample documents for major communications pieces: an op-ed, blog post, press release, media advisory and pitch email. It also offers tips on spreading your message in a way that engages the press, the public and our leaders."

Please use the information made available here to inform your conversations with your full Congressional delegation, letting them know to support raising the caps, that education cuts don't heal, and that our children deserve support and investment, not cuts and eliminations.

AASA will be releasing a related education-specific toolkit in the coming week, in coordination with the Committee for Education Funding. 

September 1, 2015

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Post: Credentialing Change Threatens Concurrent Enrollment

Today's guest post comes from Fred Nolan, Executive Director for the Minnesota Rural Education Association. We share this post to gauge the extent to which other communities (rural and non-rural!) are having similar experiences. Dual/concurrent credit can be an excellent option to get students started on a college-bound path who otherwise might not consider such an option.

To the extent that you have a similar experience or relevant information to relay, please contact Fred at fred at e-f-services dot com. 

Minnesota’s growing concurrent enrollment (dual-credit) programs for high school students to earn college credit while attending high school is being threatened by recent actions of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Commission is proposing new credentialing requirements for Minnesota’s secondary teachers to teach these college courses under the auspices of a college or university.

MREA Working to Establish Coalition: MREA is very involved with the Center for School Change and Minnesota Association of School Administrators to create a broad coalition of school, business and public officials to protest this change and propose a Minnesota alternative for credentialing high school teachers to teach dual-credit courses. MREA worked successfully with these two education organizations in the 2015 legislature to advocate for an increase of $4.6 million in funding for concurrent enrollment and to strengthen local control over which students can enroll in dual credit courses. 

Southwest Minnesota State University Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator Kimberly Guenther says HLC’s action is a huge change. “Everyone is concerned,” she said. “There are not programs to get this credentialing in a manner that would work for teachers even if they wanted to [meet the requirements].”

HLC Accreditation Determines Grant Eligibility: While not well known, HLC has clout. It is a voluntary accrediting association of post-secondary institutions in 19 Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. It is authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit colleges and universities and thereby make their students eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants.

MREA thanks Senator Greg Clausen of Apple Valley, a former high school principal, who was chief author in the 2015 session for concurrent enrollment and is a leader in this current effort.

Learn More

 

 

 

August 28, 2015

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Supports The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015

Today, AASA signed on to The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 (S. 1966), a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) aimed at making summer meals more accessible, especially to students in rural and remote areas.

The bill would introduce two additional models for summer food delivery: summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) or non-congregate feeding programs. With these improvements, as many as 6.5 million children who are underserved by the program currently could get the food they need during the summer months. These policies complement the site-based model and efforts to strengthen it, and would improve summer nutrition for low-income children no matter where they live.

This legislation is modeled on the successful demonstration projects USDA administered to test both program options. The extensive evaluations showed strong results, including significantly improved access to summer meals, decreased hunger, and improved consumption of healthy foods. 

For more information, find this summary or find the full bill text here.

 

 

 

August 26, 2015

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 Other Nat'l Organizations to Comment on Lifeline Program and 'Homework Gap'

AASA, in coordination with 17 other national organizations, submitted joint comments in response to proposed changes to the Lifeline program, weighing in on the role of access to connectivity in homes, what it means for students, and the opportunity to update the Lifeline program to potentially address this gap. 

"EdLiNC believes that providing broadband access to low-income families is a major step in the right direction to help close the educational equity gap that exists for students who lack access to Internet at home. Without broadband access at home, too many students lack the ability to complete digital homework assignments, perform academic or employment research, apply to college or for summer jobs, and gain access to basic government services. Without broadband access at home, parents may find it difficult to send and receive electronic communications with their children’s teachers or school leaders, access school websites, engage in school activities, and ensure the safety of their children online. Moreover, without broadband access at home, the tremendous work that the Commission did last year in modernizing the E-Rate program, thereby ensuring all k-12 schools and libraries enjoy robust WiFi and broadband connectivity, will be undermined."  Read the full comments.

The coordinating organizations--known collectively as EdLiNC--include:

 

  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association 
  • American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • American Library Association (ALA)
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA)
  • Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
  • Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
  • National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals  
  • National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association (NREA)
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC)
  • National School Boards Association (NSBA)
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

 

August 18, 2015

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

AASA joined forces with 16 state and national organizations to file an Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse, asking the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit's erroneous decision making mandatory reports of child abuse vulnerable to federal lawsuits asserting First Amendment retaliation claims. Read the filing

National organizations joining AASA and the National School Boards Association on the brief include:

 

  • American Professional Society on Abuse of Children
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • School Social Workers of America Association