March 29, 2017

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Why Rural Matters Report Release - Monday, April 3

AASA is excited to partner with the Rural School and Community Trust next Monday, April 3, for the release of their biannual report, Why Rural Matters 2015-2016: Understanding the Changing Landscape. It will be held from 3:00PM – 4:00 PM EST  in 203-202 Senate Visitor’s Center (SVC) U.S. Capitol Building.  

Why Rural Matters 2015-2016:  Understanding the Changing Landscape, published by the Rural School and Community Trust is the eighth in a series of biennial research reports analyzing the contexts and conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states and calling attention to the need for policymakers to address rural education issues at the local, state, and federal levels. 

Next week's event will include introductory remarks by Robert Mahaffey, Executive Director of the Rural School and Community Trust and a panel by a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida, Eastern Mennonite University, and Ohio University. 

We will make a copy of the report available here following its release.

March 28, 2017

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FEMA Deductable Proposal Re-emerges

You may recall that this time last year, we filed a new issue under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy when 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. As with many regulatory issues, we’re often playing “wack-a-mole” – just when we think an issue is done, it pops right back up.

After receiving thousands of (mostly negative) comments last year, they submitted a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issuing clarifications on several points. However, despite the clarifications, our objections still stand.

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 Consortium, and the National Rural Education Association sent another 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 updated proposal here.

Read the full letter here

March 27, 2017

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So, the Health Care Fight is Over—What’s Next?

AASA wants to express our sincere appreciation to the many superintendents and school leaders who picked up the phone and sent emails to your representatives urging them to vote against the American Health Care Act. Your advocacy made a real difference. Our team received calls from offices that we did not know well saying that they were hearing from superintendents about their concerns with the legislation and they wanted to learn more. Thank you for being a meaningful participant in this major advocacy victory.

 As you may have read, the next item on the GOP “to-do” list is tax reform. While previously AASA has not followed tax reform conversations closely, this time it has major implications for school leaders. Key members of the House and Senate (Marco Rubio, Todd Rokita) have introduced legislation that would allow individuals and corporations to receive a federal tuition tax credit for the first time. Tuition tax credits are no different than vouchers—they still divert desperately needed funds away from public institutions and into private schools. The only difference is that it's a more complicated and less direct funding scheme, but the end result is the same. As a result, we have a major advocacy battle on our hands. We cannot let the first national voucher scheme move forward.

The tuition tax credit legislation is called the Educational Opportunities Act (HR 895/S.148). Want to learn all about it? Check out

March 24, 2017


AASA joins 14 National Organizations in Letter Supporting IDEA Funding

This week, AASA joined 14 national organizations in a joint letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees  urging them to provide a significant increase in funding for IDEA in the FY2017 and FY18 LHHSEducation appropriations bills:  

"Our groups strongly support Congress prioritizing increased funding for IDEA and taking steps to ensure a significant increase for IDEA in the upcoming FY17 appropriations conversation, and using that appropriately adjusted funding level as the basis for further increased investment in FY18." Read the full letter

Groups signing the letter:


  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • 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 Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association 


The Time to Call is NOW

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Time To Call Your Reps to Save Medicaid in Schools

The House is expected to begin debate on AHCA this am and have final votes today, perhaps by 5pm.

Here’s what we need you to do ASAP:
     Calls, calls, calls. Here's a tool that you can share  or use SEIU's numbers (English 866-426-2631; Spanish 877-736-7831). MAKE CALLS NOW. Matt Fuller from Huffington Post has the count at 23 No votes - 22 defeats it. We must keep the pressure on because people will flip with the new amendments.

Here is the script for your call: 
As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. 
Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.  
The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

Current Whip List of Who Has Publicly Made a Statement Since Vote Announcement
Moderates - NO
Dent (PA)
Lance (NJ)
Smith (NJ)
LoBiondo (NJ)
D Young (IA) - voted against rule
Donovan (NY)
Moderate - Maybe
Katko (NY)
Moderate - YES
Kinzinger (IL)
Thompson (PA)
Conserv - NO
Meadows (NC)
Amash (MI) - voted against rule
Massie (KY) - voted against rule
W Jones (NC) - voted against rule
Brooks (AL)
Gohmert (TX)
Biggs (AZ)
Conserv - YES
Barton (TX)
Conserv - MAYBE
Moderates That Need To Hear From Their Constituents
Current position on AHCA - since vote was announced. 
Will update as we get more info. 

March 23, 2017

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AASA Analysis of Endrew Ruling

As written about previously in the blog, AASA led an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Endrew v. Douglas County School District case. Yesterday, the Court released its decision in the case and rejected the standard that the petitioner, Endrew, was hoping the Court would adopt. AASA vigorously attacked the standard proposed by the petitioner in our brief because it was 1) far in excess of the intent of IDEA or the standard articulated in the Rowley decision, 2) not practical for students or districts and 3) enormously expensive and complicated to meet. However, we felt differently about the standard for educational benefit proposed by the Government, which we felt was much closer to what school districts currently use when crafting IEPs. The 8-0 decision by the Supreme Court rejected the petitioner’s standard that a FAPE requires a child the opportunity to “achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities.”  

As AASA and others pointed out, the Court noted that Congress has reauthorized IDEA several times without overruling the Rowley decision (or changing the definition of FAPE itself) which had rejected a similar potential-maximizing FAPE standard. The “revised” FAPE standard set by the Court is that a school district must offer an IEP “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child's circumstances.” This standard is much more measured than the standard that the petitioner’s proposed and that AASA vigorously opposed.  

While this is undoubtedly a new standard for FAPE, it is one with little substance or new meaning. Courts can no longer say they’re applying a “merely more than de minimis standard.” However, the Court replaced that standard with a standard that the “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of a child’s circumstances, which it suggested a school could establish by “offering a cogent and responsive explanation for its decisions that shows the IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.”  The Court claims that their new standard is “more demanding” than the 10th circuit standard, but it’s not clear whether a court that previously said progress must be “nontrivial” and “more than de minimis” would suddenly start deciding cases differently. Courts have always considered what is “appropriate” in light of the child’s circumstances. The hallmark of the law is individualization, which a prescriptive standard like the one sought by the petitioner simply cannot achieve. Moreover, the Court gives considerable deference to the expertise of educators in determining what individual progress would be appropriate for a student. Indeed, one of the problems the petitioner and Government faced all along was that they could not give a concrete example to illustrate how the difference in the standards used by the courts made any substantive difference or why the standard adopted by most districts and circuits was not working well.

Bottom line:  Every circuit must adopt the Court’s new language, but whether that leads to a standard that is more demanding in practice is hard to say. AASA is fairly confident that the vast majority of school districts are already crafting IEPs that enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances. That said, districts should take care to make sure that they can provide “a cogent and responsive explanation” for the IEPs they produce, particularly for students who are not expected to perform on grade-level. In conclusion, this is a ruling that both the disability and education community can accept as it does not dramatically change the district practices or undermine Congressional intent. 




March 22, 2017


Sen. Patty Murray Releases School Privatization Caucus Memo

In light of President Trump’s FY18 budget request that commits to diverting public funds from public education programs for school privatization, Senator Murray and the HELP Committee Minority staff penned a memo outlining  the repercussions of school privatization efforts across the country. The memo is being distributed to the caucus and widely among practitioners. 

The memo includes feedback on privatization from five public school superintendents.

March 21, 2017

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AASA Joins Ten National Organizations in Letter to CCSSO Expressing Support for Stakeholder Engagement in ESSA

11 national organizations sent a joint letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) expressing their continued strong support for stakeholder engagement, their concern with USED’s removal of stakeholder engagement elements from the ESSA template plans, and their ask that CCSSO commit to monitoring members to ensure they uphold the law’s requirement for meaningful consultation with stakeholders. 

AASA was proud to sign the letter, and was joined by: 


  • American Federation of Teachers 
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals 
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals 
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities 
  • National Conference of State Legislatures 
  • National Education Association 
  • National Governors Association 
  • National Parent Teacher Association 
  • National School Boards Association and
  • National Association of School Psychologists


March 20, 2017(1)

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Banking Voucher Stories

We are working with partners here to bank real stories of how vouchers have influenced school districts. We have two questions we are looking to have responses to:

  1. Please describe if your district has been financially harmed by voucher programs in your state.
  2. Please describe an incident where students who have taken advantage of voucher programs, but returned to their public school because the voucher school was not a viable option.

If you can respond to both or either of these questions, please enter them here:

March 20, 2017

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Superintendent Advocacy Challenge - Keep Up the Good Work!

This blog stems from feedback we are receiving from members, and observations and experience as we travel throughout the country. We are entering the third month of the AASA 2017 advocacy challenge. As a reminder, the advocacy team is challenging superintendents and education leaders to commit to making contact with each member of their Congressional delegation (two Senators and one Representative) each month, and is supporting this effort by providing a policy overview (including background, context and talking points) to support these conversations.

The current environment in DC—as it relates to federal education policy conversations—can at best be described as concerning, if not threatening. As such, when we provide updates to AASA members, we are ever cognizant of the fact that almost all policy areas include something that could be considered a threat, or not good news. With that in mind, and knowing that the effort to build out and support superintendent advocacy in 2017, we wanted to remind you of a few important points:

  • Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, more than ever, this is important to keep in mind. It is very likely that the conversations we have with this Congress and this administration will be in defense of public education.
  • Congress will make these votes whether they hear from you or not. Let’s at least give them a shot of getting it right. To use another axiom I just picked up: They may not always do better, but our advocacy can ensure they know better.
  • You do not need to be a master in all aspects of federal policy. It is an explicit member benefit—of belonging to both AASA and your state affiliate—to have support in your advocacy efforts. Rely on your advocacy team to do the heavy lifts of reading, analyzing and communicating important information about legislation, regulation and policy.
  • Continuing on the idea of not needing to be a master of all aspects of federal policy, engage deeply on the one or two that are most important to you/your district, or that you find most interesting. From there, coordinate with other superintendents in your region/state to ensure that all of the topics are covered. If you focus on funding and education technology, perhaps your neighboring superintendent can focus on nutrition, and another on ESSA, and another on IDEA, etc… Many hands make light work.
  • Keep your head up. The current education policy environment may seem overwhelming or depressing or a lost cause. Sincerely, though, (and accounting for the inherent job bias we have toward public education and advocacy): Your voice matters. Your advocacy matters. If we don’t commit to advocating for public education now, who will? And when? To borrow from one of my favorite MLK quotes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”, we have to reiterate that the arc of education in this nation is long, and has long been the backbone of our nation, it’s civic education/engagement, and its success, and bends toward public education. This moment in time is a shift of the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, and your commitment and advocacy is the best remedy we can think of. 

March 16, 2017


AASA Executive Director Responds to President Trump's FY18 Budget Proposal

Earlier today, President Trump released details for his FY18 budget proposal. It is a 'skinny budget', in that it only covers discretionary funding, and within that, doesn't fully list the impact on all discretionary programs.The proposal cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent). It provides a $1 billion increase for Title I, but the increase is for states and districts to use for portability and choice. This is in addition to a new $250 million school choice/voucher program and a $168 million increase for charters, bringing the total amount of NEW funding in the President's budget for choice to $1.4 billion. The budget level funds IDEA, eliminates ESSA Title II Part A and eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

In response to this budget proposal, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement:

“AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90% of our nation’s students. While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities, and students in rural communities-underserved. AASA remains opposed to vouchers and will work with the administration and Congress to ensure that all entities receiving federal dollars for education faces the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.  

“AASA is disappointed at the significant cuts proposed to critical education programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II. FY 18 dollars will be used by schools across the nation in just the second year of ESSA implementation, and the idea that this administration thinks that schools can do this work—and the administration claim they support this work—without supporting teachers and teacher leaders, and their professional development, is a deeply disconcerting position. 

“As recently as yesterday Secretary DeVos indicated an interest in supporting state and local education agencies, and “to returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible." AASA is concerned that while the department indicates they want to return power, the proposed funding levels—including continued level funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and cuts to core programs in ESSA—deeply undercut state and local efforts in these areas and expand the reality of federal requirements without commensurate support, further encroaching on state and local dollars. The return of power, however well intended, when systematically and deliberately paired with low funding, translates into unfunded federal requirements. 

“AASA remains committed to parity between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) dollars, and we are deeply opposed to the proposed $54 billion increase in defense discretionary spending being offset by NDD spending cuts. AASA supports robust investment in our nation’s schools and the students they serve, and we support increased investment for both defense and NDD funding by lifting the budget caps, as set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, for both. NDD programs are the backbone of critical functions of government and this proposed cut will impact myriad policy areas—including medical and scientific research, job training, infrastructure, public safety and law enforcement, public health and education, among others—and programs that support our children and students. 

“Increased investment in education—particularly in formula programs—is a critical step to improving education for all students and bolstering student learning, school performance and college and career readiness among our high school graduates.  AASA remains hopeful that our President, who has consistently articulated an interest in growing our economy, growing jobs, and keeping this nation moving forward, will recognize the unparalleled role that education plays in each of these goals and work to improve his FY18 budget to increase investment in the key federal K12 programs that bolster and improve our nation’s public schools, the students they serve and the education to which they aspire.”




March 7, 2017

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AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

Action alert: Save Medicaid in Schools

Yesterday, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would dramatically change Medicaid’s structure impact the ability of students with disabilities and students in poverty to receive many critical health services in schools that enable them to learn. These services include speech-language pathology, occupational and physical therapy, mental and behavioral health services, vision and hearing screenings, diabetes and asthma management and wheelchairs and hearing aids

Schools are able to provide these services, professionals and equipment because they can receive reimbursement from Medicaid to cover the majority of these costs. However, the Republican Medicaid plan “The American Health Care Act” would dramatically change the financing structure of Medicaid and would jeopardize the critical health care that students receive in schools. 

AASA and 41 national education, healthcare, disability and child welfare organizations sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging members of Congress to oppose. 

Under this plan, every child would receive a capped amount of funding for their healthcare needs regardless of how sick they are, how disabled they are or the services they need to be healthy and learn. School districts may be totally cut out of the Medicaid reimbursement process as States will be in the drivers’ seat except they have 600 billion dollars less from the federal government to spend on Medicaid eligible kids. Reliable healthcare experts believe this will lead to rationed health care options for children, and cutting schools out of Medicaid reimbursement is an obvious choice for States to make when dollars are scarce and schools are competing with hospitals, primary care physicians and front-line providers for limited resources.  

Take action now to stop America’s most vulnerable children from losing vital healthcare services in schools.

Call your Senators and Representative and urge them to reject legislation that places arbitrary caps on how much Medicaid funding a child receives.  

Call the House Energy & Commerce Committee: (202) 225-2927 

Call the Senate Finance Committee: 202-224-4515 

Call House Speaker Ryan: (202) 225-0600  

 Use these talking points: 

  • As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of the American Health Care Act. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. 
  • Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.  
  • The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

 WRITE Your Elected Officials 

Calling is much more effective, but if you choose to write your elected officials, use this template.

 The Honorable [Name] 

U.S. Senator/U.S Representative 

[Office Address]

Dear Senator/ Representative: 

As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose The American Health Care Act, which would radically change Medicaid as we know it through block grants, per capita caps, or repealing the Medicaid expansion that has served as a lifeline to millions. 

Specifically, a per capita cap system will undermine states’ ability to provide America’s neediest children access to vital healthcare that ensures they have adequate educational opportunities and can contribute to society. Medicaid is a cost-effective and efficient funder of essential health care services for children. In fact, while children comprise almost half of Medicaid beneficiaries, less than one in five dollars spent by Medicaid is consumed by children. Accordingly, a per capita cap, even one that is based on different groups of beneficiaries, will disproportionally harm children’s access to care, including services received at school.  

A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. As such, school district personnel regularly provide critical health services to ensure that all children are ready to learn and able to thrive alongside their peers. Schools deliver services effectively and efficiently since school is where children spend their days. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care and educational outcomes for students. Providing health and wellness services for students in poverty and services that benefit students with disabilities ultimately enables more children to become employable and attend higher-education.

The current proposal would be devastating to schools and children, particularly those children with disabilities. The American Health Care Act would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

I urge you to reject the American Health Care Act, and any subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.

March 3, 2017(1)


AASA Advocacy Materials# NCE 2017

Earlier this week, Leslie blogged the details of all the policy sessions at NCE. In this blog post, we're linking to all the relevant content: 

Other Resources

  • We released the March edition of the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge. Can you commit to touching base with each of your elected officials every month? This month, we are talking E-Rate!
  • Resources and Supports for Schools: DACA Students and Immigration



March 3, 2017


March Superintendent Advocacy Challenge: E-Rate!

Greetings from AASA’s 2017 National Conference on Education. We are nearing the end of conference and the Advocacy department is celebrating with the March edition of our ‘2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge’. As we mentioned in a previous post—and are talking about all week here in New Orleans—we are calling 2017 the year of superintendent advocacy and are challenging our members to commit to monthly contact with their Congressional delegation. Each month, we will pick a relevant policy topic and provide a bit of background, a bit of policy context, and a quick set of talking points. This is all designed to take the administration out of advocacy and to support our members to get right to the actual work of advocating: talking about policy and what it will mean in your district.

We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action (find it here!), encouraging you to make contact with each office. This month, we focus on E-Rate!

As we go through the year, if you would like talking points and background on a topic other than what we feature, JUST ASK! We are more than happy to provide that information, to ensure you are able to relay the information more relevant for you. We are also happy to share the name and email address of the education staffer for your members of Congress; just ask!

Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, we want to ensure that they know what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. The goal of this month’s call to action is an awareness campaign, to put this issue on Congress’ radar as a program to know and a program to support!

Talking Points:


  • Though Congress has no role in determining the changes to E-Rate, they do engage in conversations with the FCC Commissioners. As such, make sure your Senators and Representatives know the critical role that E-Rate dollars play in school connectivity and how important those dollars will be as schools prepare for the online assessments.
  • Did you know? E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state!
  • E-Rate played a critical role is the rapid and significant expansion of connectivity in schools, and the 2014 modernization was a much needed update to ensure more schools and libraries are connected to broadband.
  • Talk about how your district uses its E-Rate funding, how it supports your district’s learning and teaching, and what it would mean if E-Rate were cut.