March 23, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Urges Careful Consideration of FEMA Proposal to Establish a Deductible

File this under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy: AASA joined four other national organizations in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to its proposal to establish a deductible for its public assistance program.

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

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

Read FEMA's proposal.

Read the full letter here

March 23, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 National Organizations on Letter to FCC Responding to Changes in Lifeline Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to consider changes that would modernize it's Lifeline program. (Quick background: Lifeline is a sister program to E-Rate, one of the four programs funded through Universal Services Fund. Lifeline helps provide phone connectivity to low-income people, and the proposed changes include allowing the program to provide broadband home access. AASA supports this effort, as it provides an opportunity to address the homework gap, and ensure that more students have access to internet connectivity at home.)

AASA advocates for the E-Rate program in close coordination with EdLiNC, the Education and Library Networks Coalition. As part of EdLiNC, AASA supports the proposal to include broadband as an eligible and supported Lifeline service because we believe it an important step in assisting students to gain access from their own homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education. AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a letter to the FCC outlining our support and identifying areas within the proposal for further improvement. 

You can read the full letter here.

Joining AASA on the letter:  

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • nternational 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 Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

March 15, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Education for Upward Mobility

Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Petrilli,President of The Fordham Institute. He writes today about his most recent publication, a book where he and a dozen leading scholars and policy analysts address the questions "How can we help children born into poverty transcend their disadvantages and enter the middle class as adults? And in particular, what role can our schools play?"

Poor and working class Americans have gotten hammered. Here’s how to help their children do better.

Whatever you think of this year’s presidential election, it’s undeniable that Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ populist messages have struck a chord, particularly with poor and working class voters. As Charles Murray put it in the Wall Street Journal, “For someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.”

None of this is news to educators, who work with children and families every day who face the challenges that decades of economic upheaval have brought.

State and national leaders have warned since at least the 1980s against leaving people behind, and the need to “build a bridge to the 21st century.” Then-Governor Lamar Alexander said in 1986, “What has suddenly riveted everyone’s attention on our education system is that our standard of living is threatened…we’re not going to have the jobs and the good incomes in America if we don’t have the good skills.” That was thirty years ago.

And to be sure there have been lots of school reform efforts over the years, most well-meaning, and some even effective. But it hasn’t been nearly enough. While NAEP scores have risen at the 4th and 8th grade levels, they remain stubbornly flat at the end of high school. Fewer than forty percent of our graduates leave school ready for college—not just four-year universities but community colleges too. The numbers are much, much worse for kids growing up poor and working class. We saw the challenge coming—the need to equip a vastly larger number of people with stronger skills—and we didn’t get the job done.

So here we are, with low-income and working class voters who have gotten hammered, and are falling further behind their college-educated neighbors, and are letting their anger be heard.

The question for us is whether there’s anything our schools can do to reverse these trends. What can we do to make sure that the next generation develops the skills they need to compete for middle-class and high-wage jobs?

Our schools can’t do it all, or all by themselves, but there’s a least a handful of actions we can take which would do a world of good. For example: balance our obsession with four-year college degrees with renewed attention to high-quality Career and Technical Education; make sure we remember the “strivers”—the low-income, well-behaved, higher-performing students, who are rarely made a top priority; and teach the “success sequence”—finish high school, work full time, and get married before having children. 

While our education system alone cannot solve the stubborn, tragic problem of persistent poverty and the growing gaps between working class and college-educated Americans, there’s much it can do for the children entrusted to it. But first we have to change the way we think about the problem and its possible solutions.

 

Michael J. Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. This essay is drawn from his new edited volume, Education for Upward Mobility, which was released this week.

 

March 15, 2016

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Joins 10 National Organizations Supporting Increased FY17 Funding for Title I

AASA joined ten other national organizations in a letter addressed to the House and Senate appropriations committee, urging strong support for increased funding for Title I, with an assurance towards avoiding any decrease in local level allocations:

"Without action by the Appropriations Committee, virtually every school district in the nation will unexpectedly find their local Title I allocation cut in school year 2017-18 just as they begin to implement the new law. The Education Department’s proposed Title IA funding levels for federal fiscal year 2017 (FY17) along with the requested proviso language would merely mitigate the severity of these local Title I allocation cuts...President Obama proposed a $450 million ‘increase’ for Title IA in FY17. We are deeply concerned that, for reasons outlined below, this amount is insufficient and will actually result in a projected cut of at least $200 million at the local level ([1]).  The proposal does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of statutory changes in ESSA related to program consolidation, state set aside, and the hold harmless provision. 

ESSA consolidates the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program into Title I. SIG was funded at $450 million in FY16, accounting for the full amount of the President’s proposed increase. More succinctly, these dollars are already in schools, and proposal is merely shifting the funding from SIG to Title I. 

The effective cuts to school districts come from a change in state set aside for school improvement. ESSA raises the state set aside from four to seven percent for school improvement and removes the Title I state set-aside hold harmless requirement for FY17. Under No Child Left Behind, the hold harmless provision ensured that local level allocations would not be reduced as a result of the state school improvement set-aside. States had to ensure level funding for school districts before taking the set aside, and recent funding realities created a scenario where the money that remained available for the state set aside was below four percent. Increasing the set aside to seven percent, in coordination with lifting the hold harmless, will create a funding vacuum, whereby dollars flow first to the state and then to the local level. The fiscal pressure of meeting the increased set aside under ESSA and backfilling funds for states that were operating with less than a four percent set-aside will result in significant cuts to local Title I programs. The Education Department’s Title I budget request at best would translate into a $200 million shortfall for local level allocations and at worst a significantly greater shortfall...

We strongly urge Congress to fund Title IA at a level $450 million above the President’s proposed level, an aggregate increase for school districts in their local level subgrant allocations for school year 2017-18, and ensure that no school district receives less Title I funding to implement the first year of ESSA."

Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter include: 

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

March 14, 2016

 Permanent link

Request for Nominations of Individuals to Serve on Regional Advisory Committees

The U.S. Secretary of Education (Secretary) invites interested parties to submit nominations for individuals to serve on the Regional Advisory Committees (RACs).

Purpose of the RACs: The Secretary is seeking nominations to serve on the RACs in order to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions[1] served by the Regional Educational Laboratories as part of the Comprehensive Centers program.  The RACs will seek individual committee members’ input regarding the need for the technical assistance activities described in section 203 of the Educational Technical Assistance Act (ETAA) and how those needs would be most effectively addressed.  In order to achieve this purpose, the RACs will seek input from chief executive officers of States; chief State school officers; educators, including teachers and administrators; local educational agencies (LEAs); librarians; businesses; State educational agencies (SEAs); and other stakeholders within each region. 

The process for the RACs outlined in this notice is different from the process used to convene the RACs in prior years.  Specifically, we are no longer seeking consensus recommendations and instead are seeking the technical advice of each individual RAC member.  Not later than six months after each RAC is convened, it will submit a report based on this needs assessment to the Secretary.  This report will contain an analysis of the educational needs of the region and each individual’s technical advice to the Secretary regarding how those needs might be most effectively addressed.  The RAC members will not attempt to reach consensus on their recommendations and will instead submit their individual technical advice.  The Secretary shall establish priorities for the next cohort of comprehensive centers, taking into account these regional needs identified by individual RAC members and other relevant regional surveys of educational needs, to the extent the Secretary deems appropriate.  

RAC Membership: Section 206(b) of the ETAA requires that the membership of each RAC contain a balanced representation of States in the region and include not more than one representative of each SEA located in the region.  The membership of each RAC may include the following:  Representatives of LEAs, both rural and urban; representatives of institutions of higher education, including individuals representing university-based education research on education and university-based research on subjects other than education; parents; practicing educators, including classroom teachers, principals, administrators, school board members, and other local school officials; representatives of business; and researchers.  Each RAC will be composed of no more than 25 members.

RAC Member Responsibilities: The Secretary will appoint members for the life of the committee, which will span approximately five months.  Each committee will meet no more than three times.  Any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the full term for which the member’s predecessor was appointed will be appointed for the remainder of such term.  Members will serve without compensation.

Nomination Process: Any interested person or organization may nominate one or more qualified individuals for membership.  If you would like to nominate an individual, including yourself, for appointment to one of the following RACs, please submit the following information to the Department’s School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group listed in this notice:

 

  • A copy of the nominee’s resume; 
    • A letter that provides the reason(s) for nominating the individual;
    • Contact information for the nominee (name, title, home and business address, phone number, and email address); and 
    • The group(s) the nominee may qualify to represent from the following categories (list all that apply):
      • SEA
      • LEA
        • Rural LEA
        • Urban LEA
         
      • Practicing educator
        • Classroom teacher
        • School principal 
        • Other school administrator
        • School board member
        • Other local school official
         
      • Parent
      • Institution of higher education
        • University-based research on education
        • University-based research on subjects other than education
         
      • Business
      • Researcher
       
     

In addition, the cover letter must state that the nominee (if you are nominating someone other than yourself) has agreed to be nominated and is willing to serve on one of the RACs.  Nominees will be appointed based on technical qualifications, professional experience, demonstrated knowledge of issues, demonstrated experience, integrity, impartiality, and good judgment.  

Nomination Deadline: Nominations for individuals to serve on the RACs must be submitted by April 20, 2016.

Process for Submissions: You may submit nominations, including attachments, by any of the following methods:

 

  • Electronically:  Send to OESE.RAC@ed.gov (specify in the email subject line, “Regional Advisory Committee Nomination”).
  • Mail, express delivery, hand delivery, messenger, or courier service:  Send to the following address:  U.S. Department of Education, School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3E206, Washington, DC 20202, Attn: Britt Jung.  Express mail or hand delivery is encouraged to ensure timely receipt of materials. : 

 

 

For more information: If you have any questions regarding this process, you may contact Britt Jung, Group Leader, School Support and Rural Programs, (202) 205-4513 or email questions to OESE.RAC@ed.gov.

 

March 11, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

AASA joins 23 National Organizations Urging FY17 Investments in IDEA

Earlier today, AASA joined 23 other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional appropriators, urging them to prioritize investment in IDEA. You can read the full letter.

In urging increased federal investment above and beyond the President's proposed freezing of IDEA, the groups write: "Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment was 18 percent in 2005. This means that the President’s proposed funding level for FY 17 is below that of more than a decade ago. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from." 

Other groups signing the letter include: 

  • American Art Therapy Association
  • American Council for School Social Work
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Pupil Services Administrators
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of School Nurses
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association 
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education AssociationNational School Boards Association

 

March 9, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: How does a popular measure of teacher effectiveness hold up under scrutiny?

This guest blog post comes from our friends at Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd.

Some states that evaluate teachers based partly on student learning use the student growth percentile model, which computes a score that is assumed to reflect a teacher’s current and future effectiveness. However, a recent study conducted in Nevada by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West finds that half or more of the variance in teacher scores from this model is due to random or otherwise unstable sources rather than to reliable information that could predict future performance. Even when derived by averaging several years of teacher scores, effectiveness estimates are unlikely to provide sufficient reliability for high-stakes decisions, such as tenure or dismissal.

The report, Analysis of the Stability of Teacher-Level Growth Scores From the Student Growth Percentile Model, shows how the methods and findings of this study can be used to judge the accuracy of different designs for teacher evaluation systems. It concludes that states may want to be cautious about using scores from the student growth percentile model as measures of teacher effectiveness for high-stakes decisions. The report, authored by Andrea Lash, Reino Makkonen, Loan Tran, and Min Huang by REL West at WestEd for the Institute of Education Sciences.

The full report can be seen at this link.

March 3, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: A Moment in Time: Ready to Be Counted

This guest blog post comes from Rebecca Arnold, of Transforming Education.

We are in a moment where practice, policy, and research have aligned to highlight the importance of developing and measuring students’ non-cognitive/social-emotional skills.  Survey data indicate that 88% of teachers are in schools that are working to develop students’ social-emotional skills. At the same time, under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, states must include at least one indicator of school quality or student success in their accountability and continuous improvement systems, which shows that the definition of student and school success has broadened.  Moreover, a compelling longitudinal research base now shows that non-cognitive/social-emotional skills are critical for students’ academic, career, and life outcomes.

Our organization, Transforming Education (TransformEd), supports educators and education systems to develop and measure students’ non-cognitive skills. In order to contribute to the knowledge base in the field regarding the impact of non-cognitive skills on academics, career, and life outcomes, we recently issued a paper entitled, Ready to be Counted: The Research Case for Education Policy Action on Non-Cognitive Skills.”  The paper synthesizes multiple longitudinal and well-controlled studies that have demonstrated that non-cognitive competencies in childhood are important predictors of long-term outcomes, including high school and college completion, employability, earnings, financial stability, avoidance of criminality, and physical and mental health.  In several cases, the data show that these non-cognitive skills matter as much as or even more than cognitive or academic skills in predicting positive life outcomes.  Below is a sample of the key findings in the paper, which are from the landmark Dunedin Study

 

  • Academics: Even at the first major milestone in academic attainment—completing high school—differences among Dunedin Study subjects were large. While about 95% of the top quintile in self-control earned a high school diploma, little more than half (58%) of those from the lowest quintile did so.
  • Career: The level of childhood self-control was also powerfully predictive of socioeconomic status, income, and financial stability in adulthood. For example, while 10% of the high-self-control group was categorized as “low income” (below ~$15,000 US per year) at age 32, more than three times as many (32%) of the low-self-control group had low incomes.
  • Well-being: Children in the lowest quintile of self-control were 2.5 times more likely (27% versus 11%) to suffer from multiple health problems by their 30s. Low self-control also strongly predicted recurrent depression and substance abuse. By age 32, almost half (43%) of those in the lowest quintile of self-control had been convicted of a crime, while barely more than one in 10 (13%) of those in the top quintile were convicted criminals.
Supporting Districts to Take Action on this Compelling Research

 

TransformEd is the lead strategic advisor on social-emotional learning to the CORE Districts – a group of school districts that serve more than one million students in 1,500 schools across California. Six of the CORE Districts chose to act on the research showing the importance of students’ social-emotional skills by systematically measuring these skills alongside academic outcomes and school climate/culture in their federally approved accountability and continuous improvement system. 

In partnership with the CORE Districts, TransformEd has administered common measures of four social-emotional competencies (growth mindset, self-management, self-efficacy, and social awareness) through a field test with nearly 500,000 students. The ultimate goal of this effort is to provide educators with the data they need to make informed choices in systematically adopting scalable, evidence-based approaches to develop students’ social-emotional competencies.  

The data from this field test shows that these skills are statistically significantly predictive of students’ GPA, test scores, attendance, and suspension rates.  We will be issuing a policy paper highlighting these findings in more detail in spring 2016, as well as releasing open source social-emotional measures, so follow us on Twitter (@Transforming_Ed) to ensure that you receive the announcements.

For more information

 

  • Read the full “Ready to Be Counted” paper to learn more about the impact of social-emotional skills.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which curates social-emotional research, practice, and popular press articles. Check out our website, which includes resources for educators on strategies to develop students’ social-emotional skills.

Sources

Bridgeland, Bruce & Hariharan (2013) The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools. 

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Poulton, R., Roberts, B. W., Ross, S., Sears, M. R., Thomson, W. M.,& Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693–2698.

February 29, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Using 'Fit' as an Attribute to Select Principals

This guest blog post comes from AASA member Brandon Palmer, Vice Principal of Little Rock High School in Littlerock, CA.

Although the school principal’s role has been growing in importance, the methods used to select principals have changed little since the 1950s. Moreover, researchers have seldom scrutinized principal selection methods; yet, significant procedural issues exist. The concept of fit has been used within principal selection for decades, but researchers appear to disagree on whether fit is an effective criterion and whether its use may foster discrimination. This primarily qualitative study explored the perceptions and practices of top-level district administrators regarding the use of fit within principal selection processes through a conceptual framework of cloning cultures which raise significant equity issues for non-Caucasian selection participants. Results of this study indicate participants define fit both similarly and differently, they believe fit is an important attribute sought in selection, using fit within selection has both advantages and disadvantages, and selecting principals based on fit does not guarantee that a principal will fit the school and district community. Therefore, the concept of fit should be clearly defined and operationalized. In addition, objective assessment criteria should be developed if fit is to be used within principal selection processes to promote equality within selection practices.

In a recent study published in the 2016 CLEARvoz Journal (Center for Leadership and Equity Research), top-level school district leaders were asked a variety of questions concerning their use of “fit” as an attribute to select school principals.  “Fit” is considered to be of great importance to top-level school leaders when selecting school principals.  Interestingly, principal selection researchers disagree on its use.  Despite its perceived importance, researchers have also described “fit” as a means to exclude on the basis of race, gender, or other factors real or imagined.  

Results of this study indicated top-level school district leaders described “fit” in one of three ways: 1) some type of congruence between the principal and school-community, 2) specific character traits, or 3) a candidate’s understanding of the school-community.  While most top-level school district leaders deemed “fit” as important or very important, they also admitted the difficulty in ascertaining “fit” during selection.  

The use of “fit” was cautioned in favor of other attributes such as raising student achievement.  However, if “fit” is to be used, the specific traits that make-up “fit” should be assessed such as knowledge of curriculum and instruction or the ability to build relationships.  It was also suggested the use of “fit” may undermine equity concerns and that more objective methods should be used instead of solely relying on intuition to match school principals with the school-community.

The full research article can be accessed here:  http://journals.sfu.ca/cvj/index.php/cvj/article/view/22/27 

 

February 29, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

 

IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice for proposed rulemaking that would make substantial changes to how significant disproportionality is identified and remedied in states and districts.

Almost two years ago, the Department asked stakeholders to submit information on how the Department could ensure states appropriately identify districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement and discipline of special education students.  Much of the feedback AASA provided appears to be incorporated as we read through their proposed regulation. While AASA did not suggest regulation was necessary, we would prefer a statutory approach in the IDEA reauthorization to amending these provisions, we do think that the Department’s proposal has some merit.

For example, AASA has stated that it is unfair to districts and students to prohibit those identified as having significant disproportionality to have to set-aside 15% of Part B funds for early intervening services that can only be used for students not yet identified for special education. We urged the Department to allow districts to spend less than 15% if they could prove they were adequately using funds to address significant disproportionality or to ensure the funds could be used on students in special education as well as students not yet identified for special education. The Department chose to propose the latter option and now CEIS funding is not limited to non-special education students. While this does not address the concerns we have with how maintenance of effort provisions are impacted when districts do set-aside funds for CEIS, this is a step in the right direction.

In our comments, we also acknowledged that there needed to be more stringent parameters to ensure states were identifying districts for significant disproportionality. We acknowledge the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as only 356 districts were identified as having significant racial or ethnic disproportionality in the 2010-2011 school year. As a result of this data, we supported the conclusion drawn by the Government Accountability Office that “the discretion that States have in defining significant disproportionality has resulted in a wide range of definitions that provides no assurance that the problem is being appropriately identified across the nation.”

We asked the Department to issue guidance on states’ development of a definition of significant disproportionality that ensures they identify districts which have significant disproportionality, but have never been required to take action to address it. While the Department has chosen a regulatory approach, we believe their attempt to ensure significant disproportionality is remedied is somewhat appropriate. The Department proposes requiring states to use a risk-ratio method to compare disproportionality among racial and ethnic groups. Most states are already using risk-ratios, but they aren’t required to set reasonable risk ratios, which leads to few districts being identified for significant disproportionality. In determining a risk ratio, the state would have to work with stakeholders and analyze the data sets helpfully provided by the Department to analyze what an appropriate risk-ratio would be for the state. States also have the flexibility to choose to identify an LEA as having significant disproportionality only after an LEA exceeds a risk ratio threshold for up to three prior consecutive years. This is another positive change.  Finally, a state need not identify an LEA with significant disproportionality if the LEA is making reasonable progress in lowering its risk ratios, where reasonable progress is determined by the State. The Department’s wisdom to provide states with flexibility to honor the progress a district is making in addressing disproportionality is very appreciated by AASA.  We do have concerns by the requirement to use a standard national “n” size of 10 across all racial and ethnic subgroups as this “n” size is not used for ESSA or other federal accountability provisions, but at first glance the proposed regulations generally appear to be a positive development in ensuring significant disproportionality is identified and addressed with district and state flexibility and superintendent input.

AASA will be reviewing the regs once they are formally published on the Federal Register and inviting all members to join us in commenting on the proposed regs. 

 

February 22, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

Support AASA Nominations for ESSA Rulemaking Committee

The U.S. Department of Education is engaged in the early stages of the regulatory process related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The first round of regulation and rulemaking will engage current education practitioners and leaders, and USED is accepting nominations to fill out their roster. AASA is submitting two nominations to represent the nation’s public school superintendents and local system administrators in this very important process. AASA will ask that Dr. Gail Pletnick, Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District in Arizona and AASA President-Elect, and ASAA Executive Director Dan Domenech serve on the rulemaking body.

Please see the endorsing statements below that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to support Gail Pletnick and Dan Domenech’s nominations for the ESSA rulemaking committee and then complete the two short forms to endorse Dan and Gail.  

You can read Dan’s qualifications here and Gail’s qualifications here.

Endorsing Statement for Dan Domenech:  I support the nomination of Daniel A. Domenech to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Domenech has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 40 years, 27  as an administrator. Dr. Domenech is well-equipped to represent the nation's public schools, whether urban or rural, small or large. His work experience enables him to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Daniel Domenech's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Dan, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1h9jV8bL7RQ3XClI2ieZquaGdxz2kjOfQ9pHn2ciJ4C0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link 

Endorsing Statement for Gail Pletnick: I support the nomination of Gail K. Pletnick to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Pletnick has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 9 years as a superintendent and nearly 30 years as a school administrator. Dr. Pletnick has worked in public and private school settings and in both suburban and rural communities. Her federal education policy knowledge and work experience enables her to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Gail Pletnick's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Gail, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1tc5TumkSx4e7neopFZfKKdNVv6gc2f9jQEqO9TLtUE0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link

Thank you! 

 

 

February 19, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA 2016 Legislative Agenda Adopted

Last week, the AASA Governing Board adopted the 2016 Legislative Agenda. Last year's successful reauthorization of ESEA brought about a significant change in the structure of the legislative agenda. In previous years, we have organized our positions by topic area: ESEA, IDEA, student data and privacy, etc. This year, we reorganized our legislative agenda into sections around policy goals rather than topics. Since many of our goals are shared among different topics, we were able to streamline the legislative agenda through this reorganization. 

Our positioning remains steady throughout this agenda. Some of the main priorities continue to be equity, an appropriate federal/state/local balance, adequate funding and a focus on the total child. 

Find the new legislative agenda here, and a tri-fold summary which is perfect for sharing with your legislators here, with a printable version here

February 17, 2016

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments in Response to Impact Aid Regulations

AASA filed comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Impact Aid. Many of the Impact Aid regulations hadn't been updated since 1995, and AASA welcomed the opportunity to weigh in. AASA applauds the multiple positive proposed changes within the NPRM, including those that would expedite the payment process for both Federal Property and Basic Support school districts. Department staff and school administrators share the burden to ensure timely payments. As school administrators adjust to the Final Rule and explore opportunities to improve the timeliness of payments, the Department should also explore ways to improve its own systems and communication with school districts. 

You can read our full comments here.

February 16, 2016

 Permanent link

Recap from NCE

It was great seeing so many of you at NCE last week! In case you missed it, the presentations for all of the policy team’s sessions are available here:

 

 

February 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

USED Webinars on Rural Education

USED has announced a set of three webinars focused on rural education, being held this week.

The team responsible for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is focused on increasing communication and collaboration among professionals at the Department of Education, and is hosting these stakeholder webinars as an overview of the rural education grant programs.

They have scheduled 3 separate one-hour webinars: 

  • February 16th, 1 pm ET
  • February 17th, 10 am ET
  • February 18th, 10 am ET

The logon information for each webinar is listed below.  To join a session, please click on the hyperlink listed below the session date. To hear the session, you will need to call in using the toll free number.  If you experience any problems or need additional information prior to the session date, please contact LaToya Harper-Williams (latoya.harperwilliams@ed.gov).

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 1: 
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Time: 1:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 747 774 951
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code.
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US)
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 2: Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 742 091 740
Session password: 12345 

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 3: 
Date: Thursday, February 18, 2016
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 749 021 177
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

 

 

February 12, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Joins National Organizations in Letter of Response to Proposed Changes to Overtime Pay

AASA, The School Superintendents Association joined 19 other national organizations on a letter in response to the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed changes to the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLAS) overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative and professional employees (the 'white collar' exemptions).

As a reminder, the DOL proposes more than doubling the salary level required to qualify for the "white collar exemptions". You can read more background in our previous blog post

Signing groups represent state and local governments, public schools, public institutions of higher education and other pubic sector entities. You can read the full letter here, and we have excerpted the public school-specific section below:

These costs would be imposed at a time when many public entities have not recovered from the last economic downturn. Our nation's public colleges and universities are still attempting to mitigate the impact of recession and post-recession reductions in state funding to higher education. During the six-year period from 2006-2007 to 2012-2013, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student, while tuition and fee revenues increased by only $1,940, resulting in a shortfall of $430 per full-time student. Increasing costs of public colleges and universities at the levels proposed by the rule would put significant pressure on tuition levels and/or educational services. Municipalities face similar budget challenges. According to the National Association of Counties, only 65 of 3,069 county economies have recovered to their pre-recession levels. A similar reality for cities is evident in the National League of Cities 2015 City Fiscal Conditions Report, which shows that, while fiscal conditions continue to improve, they remain weakened nearly eight years after the start of the recession. This has government services already stretched thin. Despite a growth in population, government employment today is less than what it was prior to the recession. For school districts, which collectively are the largest employers in the nation, these thinly stretched state and local budgets translate to fixed school district budgets that cannot absorb unpredictable cost increases. Combine that with implementing the recently authorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which returns autonomy and flexibility to the state and local level, and state and local education agencies will be dealing with a myriad of regulations at the exact time they face the fiscal impacts of these DOL rules. The result will be reduced staffing at state education agencies and/or budget cuts at the exact time resources prove most critical to ensuring ESSA success.

February 11, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

2015 Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study Released

Today, AASA released the fourth edition of the Superintendent Salary and BenefitsStudy. Some of this year’s survey's key findings included: 

    • Base salaries ranged from $55,000 to $322,171, with a median of $131,000 and an average of $140,021.
    • Respondents are predominately male (80 percent), White (92 percent) and from intermediate-sized districts (300-2,499 students, 52 percent) regardless of their gender.
    • Female respondents were, on average, older than male respondents (55 to 53 respectively).
    • A four-year trend of improving economic conditions continues. Slightly more than half of the respondents (53 percent) reported their districts’ economic conditions as stable, which holds steady from 2014; this has increased from 50 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012.

This year saw an increase in benefits, including contribution to retirement plans or annuities, medical coverage, and family medical coverage as well as a marked increase in the payment of national organization membership.

The use of legal counsel also increased this year. Legal services are used by boards 60 percent of the time, and by superintendents 25 percent of the time. Both of these are increases from previous years.

AASA members will receive a full members-only report, including a rich list of unique contract provisions via email today. A public version of the survey is available here.

Please contact Leslie Finnan, AASA senior legislative analyst, at lfinnan@aasa.org with any questions.

February 10, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

Parents, Teachers, Principals, States and School Districts to Collaborate During ESSA Implementation

Today, AASA joined nine other national organizations representing states, school districts, educators and parents to announce our commitment to work together to ensure the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accelerates student learning in every classroom. The groups will also work to make certain that congressional intent is honored throughout the implementation process.

In an attached letter to Acting U.S. Education Secretary John King, the organizations wrote: “Although our organizations do not always agree, we are unified in our belief that ESSA is a historic opportunity to make a world-class 21st century education system. We are dedicated to working together at the national level to facilitate partnership among our members in states and districts to guarantee the success of this new law.

The letter marks the beginning of a partnership, the State and Local ESSA Implementation Network, that will:  

 

  • Work together to ensure a timely, fair transition to ESSA; 
  • Coordinate ESSA implementation by governors, state superintendents, school boards, state legislators, local superintendents, educators and parents; 
  • Promote state, local and school decision-making during implementation; and
  • Collaborate with a broader group of education stakeholders to provide guidance to the federal government on key implementation issues.

 Organizations supporting the letter:

 

AASA: The School Superintendents Association | American Federation of Teachers | National Association of Elementary School Principals | National Association of Secondary School Principals | National Association of State Boards of Education | National Conference of State Legislatures | National Education Association | National Governors Association | National School Boards Association

February 9, 2016

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Proposal

On February 9, President Obama released his federal fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal. FY17 runs from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017 and those federal dollars will be available to school districts for the 2017-18 school year.  The FY17 request for education includes $69.4 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over the 2016 appropriation. The Department's elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 16,900 school districts and approximately 50 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools.

AASA has reviewed the budget and completed an analysis. Here are some top-line take-aways as they relate to the FY17 education proposal:  

 

  • AASA commends President Obama for the consistency with which he continues to prioritize investment in education. Throughout his Presidency, education was a constant budget highlight, recognizing the important work and role of our nation’s schools and colleges in preparing our students for college and career readiness and success. His FY17 budget proposal continues this push. We in particular commend the proposed increase to Title I, Title III and teacher supports/investments. 
  • We have concerns with the President’s willingness to level fund IDEA and exacerbate the constant fiscal pressure local school districts face when left to cover more than half of the federal government’s commitment to educating students with disabilities. The FY17 proposal freezes the IDEA allocation at FY16 levels, meaning the federal government would be at 16%, less than half of its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs.
  • Just two months ago President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.  A bold reauthorization of the nation’s flagship federal K12 statute, the law embodies the return of authority and flexibility to the state and local level. We commend the $450 million increase to Title I of ESSA, but must flag some concerns with Title I and Title IV proposals, in particular:
    • We are concerned that the proposed $450 million does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of the ESSA statute, which includes a significant one-year change to a hold-harmless provision. We encourage the President or Congress to release data to demonstrate that the proposed funding level is high enough to offset the impact of changes to the hold harmless provisions as it relates to the state set aside for innovation/turn around. While lifting the hold harmless provision works to ensure that states are not underfunded from the get-go as it relates to state innovation, it creates a potential funding vacuum where the state set aside is funded at the expense of local district allocations. Title I must be funded at a robust enough level to ensure not only funding for the state set aside, but to also preserve at least level funding for local level allocations. 
    • AASA acknowledges that the President’s $500 million proposal represents a $147 million increase over FY16 funding levels for the remaining programs consolidated in Title IV under ESSA. This increase, though, is just one-third of the authorized Congressional amount of $1.6 billion. The Title IV block grant now represents the 3rd largest program in ESSA and was strongly bipartisan as the bill moved through Congress. It is the program by which school districts can implement programs related to well-rounded education, school safety and education technology, among others. The overall success of ESSA will be shaped in part by the successes (or stumblings) of Title IV. While the funds in Title IV are significantly more flexible in FY17, a prohibitively low budget request like this sets the stage for an overall funding level that not only mitigates flexibility, but is in direct conflict with Congressional intent. In addition to our concern with the prohibitively low funding level, AASA is opposed to the requested appropriations language that would allow states to limit or target the allowable uses in Title IV. By more adequately funding Title IV, the administration can eliminate the perceived need for this prescriptive language and can instead provide a funding level that more closely aligns with Congressional intent and the spirit of the legislation that President Obama himself signed into law.

Related Resources: 

 

 

 

February 8, 2016

 Permanent link

Getting Excited for NCE!

Your AASA Policy and Advocacy team members are getting excited to fly out to (warm!) Phoenix for NCE this week! We will be busy with presentations on a myriad of topics. Be sure to find us at the following presentations:

  • Thursday at 9:00 - ESEA and Appropriations: So Close Yet So Far (Noelle Ellerson)
  • Thursday at 10:15 - Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform (Jack Jennings)
  • Thursday at 12:00 - Federal Relations Luncheon with David Berliner (be sure to buy tickets, if you haven't already!)
  • Thursday at 2:00 - Why Rural Matters
  • Thursday at 3:00 - All Politics is Local: A State Policy Perspective (Bruce Hunter, Mike Lodewegen, Ryan Owens, Leslie Finnan)
  • Friday at 10:45 - Getting Past ESEA - AASA Policy Priorities for IDEA, Perkins, Child Nutrition and FERPA Reauthorizations (Sasha Pudelski, Leslie Finnan)
  • Friday at 2:45 - AASA Advocacy Outreach: Beyond Email, Leveraging the Voice of Superintendents (Deanna Atkins, Leslie Finnan)
  • Saturday at 8:00 - Mid-Decade Update of the Decennial Study of the American Superintendency (Bob McCord, Leslie Finnan, and a team of scholars on women in the superintendency)

Our materials will all be made available here. Just to whet your whistle, here is a sneak peak of two of our sessions:

Come find us all at the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter! @AASAHQ @Noellerson @SPudelski@LeslieFinnan and use the hashtag #NCE16

We look forward to seeing many of you there!

 

 

February 4, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

New Legislative Trends Report: State Special Education Laws

With the recent re-authorization of ESEA, attention on Capitol Hill is beginning to focus on another long-overdue federal education statute: IDEA. For the winter edition of the AASA Legislative Trends Report, we decided to examine whether there were any state legislative trends pertaining to special education students, programs and personnel since 2013. Specifically, we wanted to trace whether there were any trends related to dyslexia and IEP processes that could potentially impact discussions on these issues at the federal level during IDEA reauthorization. Our findings are here: http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/DisabilityStateTrendsWinter2016.pdf

February 4, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

USED Kicks Off ESSA Rulemaking Process

The Education Department (ED) has posted a notice of intention to establish a negotiated rulemaking (sometimes called "neg reg") committee to prepare proposed regulations in issues related to two topical areas: 1) assessments, and 2) supplement/not supplant, and it can be found here. The notice will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, and that direct link is here

What will be covered in "neg reg"?

 

  • Prepare proposed regulations that would update existing assessment regulations to reflect changes to section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA, including:
    • Locally selected nationally recognized high school assessments, under section 1111(b)(2)(H);
    • The exception for advanced mathematics assessments in 8th grade, under section 1111(b)(2)(C);
    • Inclusion of students with disabilities in academic assessments, including alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, subject to a cap of 1.0% of students assessed for a subject;
    • Inclusion of English learners in academic assessments and English language proficiency assessments; and
    • Computer-adaptive assessments.
     
  • Prepare proposed regulations related to the requirement under section 1118(b) of the ESEA that title I, part A funds be used to supplement, and not supplant, nonfederal funds, specifically:
    • Regarding the methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate State and local funds to each title I school to ensure compliance with the supplement not supplant requirement; and
    • The timeline for compliance.
     

 

There will be two "neg reg" sessions, each in DC, scheduled for March 21-23 and April 6-8, 2016 There is an optional third session April 18-19.  In addition to The notice also requests nominations for individual negotiatorswho represent key stakeholder constituencies for the issues to be negotiated to serve on the committee. AASA will be submitting nominations and reaching out to members to support these nominations. AASA expressed its interest in being a neg reg participant in our earlier response to the Department's request for information (here). Should you be interested in submitting a nomination, or being nominated, please reach out to Noelle (nellerson at aasa.org). The deadline for submitting nominations is February 25th, 2016. 

February 12, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

E-Rate Funding Year 2016 Application Filing Window Opens Feb 3


This guest post comes from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech. Dan serves on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which oversees the four programs of the Universal Service Fund, including E-Rate.
Tomorrow, February 3, marks the beginning of the 2016 application filing window for the E-Rate program. The filing window will be open through April 29, meaning school districts will have 87 days (nearly two weeks longer than normal!) to submit an E-Rate application.

2014 was a big year for the E-Rate program, bringing both a program modernization and an increase in the funding cap. The updated program came with a new application process, and USAC is currently in the middle of migrating the E-Rate information technology system and forms to a new platform.

Last year (2015 application window), applicants expressed frustration with the new application forms and portals. While USAC has tried to remedy these shortcomings, there may still be some hangups. We encourage you to give us feedback as you work through this year's application to submit your E-Rate forms. Tell us what worked and what didn't; let us know what went according to plan and where there is room for improvement. 

Share these comments with us by filling out this form. You can also submit your feedback to USAC via EPCfeedback@usac.org. 

You can read USAC's announcement on the 2016 application window here.

February 2, 2016(1)

 Permanent link

USED Releases Guidance to States to Help Reduce Testing

Today USED released guidance to States to help reduce and hopefully eliminate redundancy, unhelpful, or low-quality assessments for students.  It’s important to note that this guidance addresses the use of current federal dollars under NCLB during this school year and next school year, and that ED will be working to provide further clarification in the coming months regarding how funds under the new legislation—ESSA—may be utilized in the unnecessary testing arena.

Acting Secretary John King addresses this guidance in a short video also released today.

Politics K12 (EdWeek) has a good write-up on the guidance. Check it out.

February 2, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA to Host Webinar on Student Privacy Feb 18, with NASBE and SIIA

Over the past three years, many states have passed or implemented new student data privacy laws affecting schools, state departments of education, and school service providers. As this policy area continues to move at the state level and starts to gain traction at the federal level, this free webinar is a primer for policymakers, educators and school officials. It will highlight trends of requirements on schools, teachers, and service providers and privacy considerations for schools when adopting new technology.

This webinar is co-hosted by SIIA’s Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN), AASA, The School Superintendent’s Association, and the National Association of School Boards (NASBE).

The webinar will be held at 4 pm on Thursday February 18. Register today! 

January 28, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

Every Student Succeeds Act transition letter from US Department of Education

Today, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter from Senior Advisor Ann Whalen to Chief State School Officers that addresses pressing questions concerning the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Specifically, the letter articulates the flexibilities available to states in the 2016-2017 school year designed to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA.  The letter is below for your reference.

For the latest information from USED on ESSA, visit www.ed.gov/essa.

 

Dear Colleague:

I appreciate the work you are doing to transition to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which the President signed into law on December 10, 2015, and which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  The ESSA provides an extraordinary opportunity to secure educational equity for all children. and I look forward to working closely with you and your team to ensure that this promise is realized.  Last month, I wrote to you about some of the most time sensitive transition questions for the 2015-2016 school year.  Today, I am writing to address some additional, pressing questions concerning the 2016-2017 school year.  Specifically, I would like to take this opportunity to articulate the flexibilities available to you in the 2016-2017 school year designed to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA.

As the U.S. Department of Education (ED) continues to analyze the ESSA, we will provide additional information at www.ed.gov/essa.  Additionally, I encourage you to sign up to receive updates on ESSA transition guidance by clicking here.  Please also know that specific information about the School Improvement Grants program in fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016 will be provided in the coming weeks.

In General: Use of FY 2016 Formula Funds in the 2016-2017 School Year

Under the ESSA transition provisions, as clarified by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, FY 2016 formula grant funds will be awarded and administered in accordance with the ESEA as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of the ESSA (i.e., the requirements promulgated under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)).  This means that ED formula grant allocations to States and local educational agencies (LEAs), as well as State subgrants allocated by formula to LEAs under ESEA formula grant programs, will be made in FY 2016, for the 2016-2017 school year, in the same manner and using the same allocation formulas as for the 2015-2016 school year.  It also means that, with the exceptions described below, formula grant recipients will continue to operate in the 2016-2017 school year under the plans, procedures, and requirements that are in place for the 2015-2016 school year. 

Exceptions: Ensuring an Orderly Transition to the ESSA in the 2016-2017 School Year 

Consistent with the transition provisions in the ESSA, including our authority to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA, ED is and will endeavor to enable States, LEAs, and schools to focus resources on continuing and refining the activities that remain most relevant during the transition.  To this end, during the 2016-2017 school year, there are certain exceptions to the general rule, described above, regarding formula funds; these relate to school and LEA interventions and supports; interventions for English learners; and additional information regarding orderly transition from NCLB provisions that are not in the ESSA.  

 

  1. School Interventions and Supports in the 2016-2017 School Year
    • For States Operating Under ESEA Flexibility
      For States currently operating under ESEA flexibility, ESSA section 5(e)(2)(ii) requires that, in the 2016-2017 school year, a school that is identified as a priority or focus school in 2015-2016 must continue to implement interventions applicable to such school.  In my letter last month, dated December 18, 2015, I explained that, consistent with ESSA’s orderly transition provisions and in order to support States during this transition year, States have the option to choose between (1) freezing their existing priority and focus school lists as of December 10, 2015, for use in the 2016-2017 school year or (2) refreshing their lists by March 1, 2016.  Please refer to that letter for additional detail.  As described in that letter, each State with ESEA flexibility should inform ED, through an e-mail to its State e-mail address, OSS.[STATE]@ed.gov, by Friday, January 29, 2016, of which of the above options it has selected.

      In order to ensure that LEAs in States that are implementing ESEA flexibility in the 2015-2016 school year are able to comply with the ESSA transition requirement to continue to implement interventions applicable to priority and focus schools during the 2016-2017 school year, ED will not require those States or LEAs to comply with the requirements in the following sections of the ESEA if they impede a priority or focus school from being able to continue to implement appropriate interventions in 2016-2017: 1003(a), which requires an SEA to distribute at least 95 percent of the funds it reserves to LEAs for use in Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring; 1114(a)(1), which requires that a school have at least a 40 percent poverty rate to be eligible to operate a schoolwide program; 6213(b), which limits the amount of certain federal funds an LEA may transfer between programs; 6224(e), which requires an SEA to permit an LEA that fails to make adequate yearly progress to continue to receive a Small, Rural School Achievement grant only if the LEA uses funds to carry out ESEA section 1116; and 1113(a)(3)-(4) and (c)(1), which requires an LEA to rank and serve eligible schools according to poverty and allocate Title I funds to schools in rank order of poverty.  Again, this allowance under the orderly transition authority is consistent with the flexibility allowed under ESEA flexibility to enable States to support intervention in priority and focus schools.

    • For States Not Operating Under ESEA Flexibility
      For States not operating under ESEA flexibility in school year 2015-2016, ESSA section 5(e)(2)(i) requires a school or LEA that was identified in 2015-2016 by the State as in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under ESEA as it existed prior to the enactment of ESSA (i.e., under NCLB) to continue to implement the same interventions in the 2016-2017 school year.  During the 2016-2017 school year, these States may, but are not required to, ensure that LEAs are providing supplemental educational services, public school choice and the related notice to parents for the 2016-2017 school year.  If these States choose not to require that their LEAs provide supplemental educational services and public school choice in the 2016-2017 school year, they must, in order to ensure an orderly transition to the ESSA, develop and implement a one-year transition plan for ensuring that their LEAs provide alternative supports for the students eligible for supplemental educational services and the schools with the greatest need (e.g., schools with large numbers or percentages of students eligible for supplemental educational services).  I am sending an additional letter with more information to the eight affected States in the coming days.

     
  2. LEA Interventions and Supports for English Learners in the 2016-2017 School Year
    In my letter on December 18, 2015, I explained that, in order to facilitate an orderly transition to the ESSA, States will not be required to hold LEAs accountable for their performance against Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) 1, 2, and 3 under Title III of the ESEA, as reauthorized by NCLB, for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.  Accordingly, States must freeze district accountability under Title III based on the most recent AMAO calculations, and continue to provide those LEAs with the corresponding supports and interventions in the remaining months of the 2015-2016 school year and the 2016-2017 school year.

  3. Additional Orderly Transition from NCLB Provisions Not in ESSA
    In addition to the AMAOs mentioned above and the annual measurable objectives (AMOs) mentioned in my letter of December 18, 2015, there are additional provisions of the ESEA, as reauthorized by NCLB, along with their implementing regulations, that States are not required to implement in the 2016-2017 school year in order to facilitate an orderly transition to the ESSA.  These provisions are as follows: section 1119, which requires all teachers of core academic subjects in the State to be “highly qualified”1,2; section 2141, which requires LEAs not making progress toward all teachers being “highly qualified” to create and implement an improvement plan and requires the State to provide technical assistance to such LEAs; and section 1117, which requires States to provide certain types of school supports and recognition.   

Please note that the State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators that States submitted in spring 2015 to address ESEA section 1111(b)(8)(C), which requires that States ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers, remain in effect for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students.  I look forward to our continued partnership as we move ahead with this critical work. 

 

 

 

January 20,2016

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Moving in the Senate

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act, a bill to reauthorize the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, through markup. The bill is expected to be fast tracked to the Senate floor, as they are hoping to pass the bill quickly before election season makes action difficult on the Hill. 

AASA opposed the bill as introduced. While it does provide some additional flexibility, these do not outweigh the increased administrative burden placed by other changes in the bill, and many could be better done through regulation. We hope to save the reauthorization process for a more comprehensive compromise.

January 20, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

AASA Organizes 2016 National Rural Education Advocacy Summit

On March 14th and 15th, rural education leaders will assemble in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with leading federal policymakers to discuss issues of great interest and concern to rural schools and communities. The Rural Education Policy Summit is convened by the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC) to outline the policy and funding priorities for rural education leaders in Congress.  During the day and half long gathering, attendees will meet with leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss areas of policy and funding importance for rural schools. In addition, the group will meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Rural Education Achievement Program and the impact of recent policy changes issued by the Department on rural schools. The group will also meet with nationally recognized policy experts to discuss recent research on improving rural teacher recruitment, graduation rates and efficiency of state and local resources. After these meetings, the group will gather to develop the 2016 Legislative Agenda and discuss how to best support their policy goals over the next year. 

There is no cost to participate in the Washington D.C. convening for rural education leaders. Registration will close on February 5, 2016. For the complete schedule and accommodations details, please email, me, Sasha Pudelski (spudelski@aasa.org) or call (703)-875-0733. 

January 19, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Work on Child Health Insurance Highlighted in USED-HHS Toolkit

Last week in the blog we relayed information about a recent joint effort by the US Education Department and Department of Health and Human Services to highlight impact opportunities to support healthy students. You can read the full post here.

When USED and HHS started the process, the contacted a variety of groups and organizations to solicit input and regulations. AASA's Children's Programs department provided information related to AASA's health insurance work, work ultimately identified as a high impact activity.

In the final toolkit, Mountain View School District (Calif.) is cited as an example of how school districts can identify uninsured children and increase their capacities to link eligible students with the proper health insurance coverage. The district participates in AASA Children's Programs' and the Children's Defense Fund's Children Health Insurance initiative

The AASA/CDF collaboration on enrolling eligible children in health coverage is an example in High-Impact Activity #1. As a result of working with AASA and CDF, the Mountain View Superintendent reports that over 1,200 uninsured children were referred and that the number of students with health insurance has increased dramatically, that attendance increased, and that attendance has consistently been above 96 percent (district wide) for the past three years.

January 15, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

USED & HHS Release Guidance Highlighting High Impact Opportunities to Support Healthy Students

In a new letter sent today to governors, chief state school officers, state health officials and state Medicaid directors, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recognize the critical role that healthcare coverage and health services play in ensuring all students are ready and able to learn, and recommend action steps to better coordinate health and education services for all students and their families.

ED and HHS also released a new toolkit that details five high impact opportunities for states and local school districts to support stronger communities through collaboration education and health sectors, highlighting best practices and key research in both areas.  

The letter and toolkit are available at www.ed.gov/healthystudents. For additional enrollment information visit: www.healthcare.gov

Healthy Students, Promising Futures (PDF) provides state and local action steps/practices that can improve school-based health. It outlines 5 specific high-impact opportunities, listed below.

 

January 11, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA Statement on ESSA Implementation

Today, the U.S. Department of Education held the first of two public hearings on regulating the Every Student Succeeds Act. Education Week summarized the responses here. Speaking for AASA, Dan Domenech gave the following statement: 

"Good afternoon. I am Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. AASA is the national professional organization representing the nation’s 10,000 public school superintendents. As I recently penned in a thank you note to the Congress members who led the effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): 

'I started at AASA in 2008, when Congress was just one year (in what would prove to be an 8 year effort) into ESEA reauthorization. Reauthorization has long been a priority of our members, who were focused on revising No Child Left Behind and delivering a comprehensive and updated piece of legislation that provided federal parameters while returning autonomy and authority to the state and local level. Our members prioritized an approach that preserved a federal focus on equity that strengths and supports—rather than prescribes and dictates to—our nation’s schools. In ESSA, Congress delivered both.'

AASA looks forward to working with the Department as you move forward with ESSA regulation. We appreciate the expediency with which the Department is undertaking the regulation process and strongly encourage the Department to move regulations that are in line with the spirit of the ESSA statute and that reflect the input and feedback of stakeholders. By focusing the federal role on strengthening and supporting public schools, and avoiding any tendency to unnecessarily prescribe and dictate, the Department can and must work to implement ESSA in a manner that reflects the expanded authority and flexibility now granted to the education experts at the state and local level.

ESSA makes clear Congress’ intent that states be solely responsible for the development and implementation of, and decisions regarding, all aspects of their State accountability systems.  Section 1111(e) clearly states the Secretary may not add any requirements or criteria outside the scope of this Act, and further says the Secretary may not take any action that would “be in excess of statutory authority given to the Secretary. This is an idea with broad bipartisan support, as the conference report itself writes, 'While it is the intent of the Conferees to allow the Secretary to issue regulations and guidance to clarify the intent and implement the law, Conferees intend to prohibit any such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or outside the scope of the law.'

The Department kicked off the regulatory process with a pair of public hearings and a quick 30-day comment period on Title I regulations. Title I is where many of the onerous, punitive elements of NCLB originated. ESSA represents the first time in 15 years that state and local education agencies can demonstrate what they can do in the accountability and assessment arena absent federal overreach and prescription, while preserving student-sub group accountability and graduation rate data. AASA urges the Department to start its regulatory process by remembering that state and local educators are in the business of education to serve children, that they are professionals much better positioned to know the intricacies of local systems and implementation, and to practice restraint in designing their regulations to ensure that USED efforts do not overstep the intent of ESSA or move to recreate elements of the broken NCLB.

This is also an excellent opportunity for the Department to assume a leadership role in advocating for the transformative changes that technology and personalized learning can bring to education. By re-examining the rules and regulations that, for example, tie credit-bearing courses with seat time requirements, perpetuate the agrarian school calendar in the twenty-first century, and ignore competency based accountability systems in favor of standardized testing, USED can lead by empowering school districts to implement critical technology and personalized learning opportunities in flexible ways that best meet the needs of the schools and students they serve.

Thank you for convening this public hearing, and I appreciate the opportunity to share these comments today. We look forward to working with USED on, and ensuring the involvement of our nation’s public school superintendents in, the many facets of ESSA implementation. "

 

December 22, 2015

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Legislative Corps Newsletter from December 22

Please enjoy this week's edition of the Legislative Corps newsletter. In this newsletter, we keep you updated on activities on the Hill and the Department. If you are a member and are not receiving the newsletter, email me at lfinnan@aasa.org to get added to the list. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act is Signed into Law

On December 10, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This marks the end of the No Child Left Behind era. We have written extensively of the new law here and will continue to provide updates as more is released through regulations and as more is known in implementation. For more information, you can also check out an AASA presentation and a webinar on ESSA implementation.

Obama Signs Omnibus Spending Bill

Last week, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2016, officially avoiding a shutdown this year. The bill includes slight increases to education – a $1.2 billion increase overall. It includes a $500 million increase to Title I and a $415 million increase to IDEA as well as increases in Head Start, charter school grants, NAEP, rural education and others. School Improvement Grant funding was cut and Investing in Innovation (i3) was flat-funded. The Committee on Education Funding put out a table of the spending levels, available here.   

While not funding-related, the bill also included a two year delay for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act Excise (“Cadillac”) Tax and an extension of the E-Rate Anti-Deficiency Act exemption through 2017.

Tax Extender Bill

Along with the Omnibus bill, Obama also signed a law extending several tax breaks. This law includes three education-related tax cuts. First is the allowance for teachers who spend their own money on supplies for the classroom to take a $250 deduction. Also made permanent is the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $2,500 a year in tax credits for eligible college students. Finally, the tax package includes a two-year extension of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program providing $400 million in QZAB bond allocations per year in 2015 and 2016 to the states and school districts for school renovation and repair.

AASA Reports

Economic Impact Survey: Education Cuts Have Yet to Heal: How the Economic Recession Continues to Impact Our Nation’s Schools

AASA Releases 5-Year Study on the American School Superintendent

Education Groups Applaud 1-Year Anniversary of FCC Vote to Modernize E-Rate  

Looking Ahead to 2016

While Congress got a lot done in the last month of 2015, they are promising an eventful 2016 as well. The Senate HELP Committee is expected to introduce a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act in January. AASA's Perkins reauthorization recommendations can be accessed here.   

The Senate Agriculture Committee is also expected to release a child nutrition reauthorization in January or early February.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely shift attention to the Lifeline Order (related to closing the homework gap, with activity expected in Feb/March) and the Education Broadband Services (EBS) program, though that likely falls low on the totem pole.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has emerged, once again, on the issue of regulations related to PCBs in light ballasts, which would impact municipal buildings, including schools. Want a refresher? Check out this blog post from March 2014.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated an interest in reversing course on seat belts on school buses, pushing regulation through if districts don’t abide by their recommendations.  We are concerned about this for a number of reasons, which we will make known.

We look forward to keeping you updated on these and any other issues in the New Year. Happy holidays from the whole AASA advocacy team!

 

December 21, 2015(2)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

2015 Advocacy Wrap Up


This item is cross posted from our final 2015 Advocacy Update. It covers ESSA, appropriations (including tax extenders and a few other riders) as well as a look forward at what to expect in 2016. As always, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

ESSA: Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, bring the 8+ year effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind to a close. We have covered the contents of the bill extensively on the blog. You can access an AASA slide show (with audio) with an overview of ESSA, as well as view an archive of Implementing ESSA: What to Expect in 2016, hosted by the Fordham Institute and featuring AASA advocacy.
 
Specific to rural and RNEAC priorities, we want to flag four things:
  • Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP): REAP was reauthorized as a standalone program with changes endorsed by NREAC and AASA, including adjusting the sliding scale, updating locale codes, and allowing recipients to choose which program  the receive funding under.
  • USED Rural Study: ESSA requires USED to conduct a study to determine how they serve rural communities.
  • Consolidated Grant Applications: Rural schools can now submit consolidated grant applications. While this has been practice in some states (including Colorado), this codifies the practice for all states and gives cover to local education agencies and educational service agencies working to exercise this flexibility.
  • Title I Formula: The Title I formula remains unchanged. NREAC was at the front of the push for a Title I formula rewrite, forcing the conversation about how to best ensure that Title I dollars are allocated in a manner that focuses on concentration of poverty. Our championed approach (the All Children Are Equal Act, by Rep Glenn Thompson, R-PA) was the basis of what was included in the House bill, but varied from the Senate proposal. The final bill maintained the current formula, did NOT update the quintiles, and requires Congress to conduct a study of the title I formula, its various weighting mechanism, how they do (not) target dollars to the neediest schools, and how they impact small/large/urban/rural schools.
The next push related to ESSA will be implementation, which will include regulations and guidance to further flesh out federal definitions and parameters. USED released a Dear Colleague Letter to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking advice and recommendations concerning topics under Title I of the new law for which regulations are required/expected. It is an important opportunity for stakeholders—like AASA—to provide specific feedback on what those regulations should establish and require.

Appropriations: Congress avoided a shutdown. Congress had failed to complete its appropriations work before the federal fiscal year expired on September 30, and had adopted a short term continuing resolution that expired on December 11. They punted with one more 5-day CR before adopting a final omnibus spending bill. The final FY16 bill totals $1.1 trillion and includes slight increases to education, with discretionary education funding increasing by just over $1.1 billion. AASA continues to serve on the board, and as the past president, of the Committee for Education Funding, which released a table of spending levels.

Tax Extenders: The omnibus did not pass on its own; it was coupled with a package of tax extenders, including three we want to flag for you here:
  • The extenders package permanently extend the teacher tax credit, allowing educators to claim a $250 deduction, allows it to increase for inflation and expands the credit to cover both classroom supplies and professional development courses for educators.
  • The second related tax extender is the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $2,500 a year in tax credits for eligible college students.
  • The tax package includes a two-year extension of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program providing $400 million in QZAB bond allocations per year in 2015 and 2016 to the states and school districts for school renovation and repair.  

Also in the omnibus, but not necessarily funding or tax related: The bill delayed (for two years) the implementation of the Excise (“Cadillac”) Tax under the Affordable Care Act and extends the E-Rate exemption from the Anti-Deficiency Act through 2017. When it comes to school nutrition, the omnibus maintains the language from prior appropriations legislation that allows waivers of the whole grain requirement and postpones full implementation of the sodium requirement. Also, there had been a push to include Child Nutrition Reauthorization on the omnibus, a move that ultimately failed. CNR is expected to be considered early next year under “regular order” with a markup in the Senate Agriculture Committee on a free-standing bill.

Looking Ahead to 2016: Agencies

 

  • AASA: AASA is working very deliberately on a suite of member and state affiliate supports to position school superintendents as the go-to source for ESSA implementation at the local level. Stay tuned.
  • Agencies
    • USED: USED will be busy with regulations related to ESSA. This will include a coordinated effort with LHHS for the new early education program.
    • Federal Communications Commission: As Commissioner Wheeler enters his final year, his staff are working to determine what priorities he will tackle, and we will be keeping an eye on the Lifeline Order (related to closing the homework gap, with activity expected in Feb/March) and the Education Broadband Services (EBS) program, though that likely falls low on the totem pole.
    • Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA has emerged, once again, on the issue of regulations related to PCBs in light ballasts, which would impact municipal buildings, including schools. Want a refresher? Check out this blog post from March 2014.
    • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The Obama administration has indicated an interest in reversing course on seat belts on school buses, pushing regulation through if districts don’t abide by their recommendations.  This position change is extremely concerning for our members on multiple levels, primarily with the obvious question about liability and the increased costs to schools to purchase new buses or retrofit their current fleets. There is also great concern that seat belts cause as many problems as they solve in regards to safety. Stay tuned.
     

Other:

 

 

 

December 21, 2015(1)

(ESEA) Permanent link

The Advocate: ESSA: That’s a Wrap, and We’re Five for Five

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech pens a monthly article for the Executive Directors of our state affiliates. We periodically share them on the AASA blog, especially when they have a strong advocacy bend. The December 2015 edition details AASA's advocacy successes in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

You have no doubt heard that Congress passed—and the President signed into law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is the first iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to reach the President’s desk since December 2001.

ESSA represents a significant improvement over current law. The legislation takes the pendulum of federal overreach and control, and returns it back to state and local education agencies. 

ESSA reauthorization was no small feat. The effort started (August 2007) shortly before I did at AASA (July 2008). It plodded along, like the Little Engine That Could, moving forward ever so slowly through Congress, and picked up with a particular vigor early this year. While the politics and momentum seemed against us, the effort persevered. And it is with a happy smile that I can write this post, and detail our advocacy efforts and victories. 

As a small sampling of our advocacy effort, I want to highlight what we featured in the letter we sent to the conference committee as they worked to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills, and what the final ESSA included. You can read our priority position in the letter. I use the remainder of this article to detail the final verdict. 

 

  • Accountability: Despite repeated efforts to create AYP 2.0, the final version of ESSA does NOT include 100 percent proficiency, adequate yearly progress or annual measurable objectives. We had compromised and accepted the mandatory identification of and intervention in low performing schools, but drew a line at mandatory intervention based on sub-group performance targets. Unlike NCLB where subgroup accountability triggered labels of ‘failing’ and triggered intervention, ESSA requires states to establish and report on—but not structure as a trigger—subgroup targets. 
  • Portability: There are neither vouchers nor portability in ESSA. As we like to say at AASA, “Public dollars. Public schools. Hard stop.” And, “When the question is vouchers, the answer is no.” 
  • Expanded Data Collection: The final Title I reporting includes a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate versions. We were able to push back on the expanded Title IX collection to the extent that NONE of it made it into the final ESSA. 
  • Title I Formula: While the formula change we pushed through did not make it in the bill, we did get legislative language requiring Congress to evaluate the existing four Title I formulas, the role of number and percentage weighting, how those weights impact small/large/urban/rural schools, and how the current formulas address/exacerbate the inequitable allocation of dollars in a way that allows larger, less poor districts to receive more Title I money, per pupil, than smaller, poorer schools. 
  • Alternate Assessment: ESSA includes a state-level participation cap (1 percent) with language to explicitly forbid the secretary or state to translate the state level cap into a local cap. IEP teams are free to determine alternate assessment as driven by IDEA, without fear of repercussion. Should a state breach its 1 percent cap, it can pursue a waiver. 

As you can see, our advocacy efforts proved fruitful but our work, is far from over. We are now moving full steam ahead with efforts to support ESSA implementation. With expanded authority and flexibility comes increased responsibility. We look forward to supporting our state affiliates and members, and position them as the go-to leader. 

 

December 21, 2015

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Push for National Convention Would Put Constitution Up for Grabs and Lead to Major School Funding Cuts

Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Leachman,Director of State Fiscal Research,Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

As state legislative sessions begin, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and related groups are ramping up a nationwide  campaign to convene a  constitutional convention that would propose amendments stripping the federal government of much of its power and leading to damaging funding cuts for the nation’s schools and other priorities.

Here’s the background.  Under Article V of the Constitution, Congress must call a convention to propose constitutional amendments if two-thirds of the states formally request one.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many states passed resolutions calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget amendment.  At one point, 32 states had passed resolutions along these lines, close to the 34 states required.  But over the next 25 years, no more states passed resolutions and half of the states that had passed resolutions formally rescinded them, fearing that a convention would throw open the Constitution to harmful changes. 

The tide turned in 2010 as ALEC and its allies began pushing anew for state resolutions.  Since then, 11 states have adopted new resolutions calling for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment.  Some proponents claim that 27 states have “live” applications, including those passed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s but never rescinded.  They’ve targeted another 13 states for the coming year.  If they succeed in seven of these states – a real possibility – they could claim to have met the 34-state threshold that forces Congress to call a convention. 

In the past year, a separate but similar effort to use Article V to call a constitutional convention also has gained momentum.  It’s being pushed by the Convention of States Project, whose model resolution calls for a convention to propose amendments “that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”  Alabama, Alaska, Florida, and Georgia passed this sort of resolution in the last two years, and the Convention of States Project is targeting other states. 

The movement has the vocal support of some well-known hard-core conservatives.  ALEC claims that legislative leaders in some 30 states are committed to the effort.   

These unfolding events are highly alarming.  The Constitution provides for no authority above that of a convention, so once a convention is called it’s not clear that anyone could stop it from proposing any number of drastic changes to our system of government. 

Indeed, constitutional experts from the late Chief Justice Warren Burger to Justice Antonin Scalia to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe have warned that a constitutional convention would place the nation in uncharted territory, putting the Constitution up for grabs.  Delegates could even choose to alter the rules for ratifying amendments — just as the 1787 convention that drafted the Constitution did — such as by calling for ratification by national referendum rather than approval by three-fourths of the states. 

Further, no rules have been established for conducting this sort of convention.  How would delegates be selected?  Would each state get the same number of delegates?  How many votes would be needed to approve a proposed amendment?  With so much at stake, these issues would likely be fought out in a highly partisan atmosphere heavily influenced by large political donors.  And with Congress and 31 state legislatures under full Republican control, the rules could be set in a way that helps ALEC and its allies advance radical changes they’d never get through normal legislative procedures. 

At the very least, these changes likely would include balanced budget amendment, which alone would be a disaster for the nation's schools and the economy more broadly.  During a major recession, this sort of amendment would likely lead to massive cuts in federal support for schools and other public services delivered at the state and local levels.  Large cuts in federal spending, in turn, would worsen job losses during recessions, causing unnecessary pain for families across the country – pain that would add to stress and other difficulties for children in school. 

Even if the effort to call for a convention fails, it could build momentum for Congress to propose a balanced budget amendment or other harmful amendments directly to the states. 

ALEC and its allies are working hard to convince state lawmakers that a convention is safe and that states can easily control it.  That’s simply not the case, and a large number of groups are gearing up to educate state lawmakers about the dangerous realities of a constitutional convention. 

With state legislatures in session over the next few months, now is a good time to connect with others concerned about these resolutions in your state.  You can do so by contacting the group in your state belonging to the State Priorities Partnership (our network of state fiscal policy organizations) or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  There’s a great deal at stake.