June 29, 2017

(WELL-BEING, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Joins 53 Groups on Children's Budget Letter to Support Funding for Critical Programs that Nurture Children

AASA is one of 54 cosigners on a Children's Budget Coalition Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 18) Budget letter that urges the House and Senate Budget Committees to support robust funding for programs that impact children's development and well-being. 

The Children's Budget Coalition is made up of more than 60 children-focused organizations who are collectively committed to ensuring that our nation's top leaders prioritize robust federal investment in the critical programs that nurture children.

Read the full letter, here.

June 27, 2017

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Our Independent Review of State ESSA Plans and What We Found

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success. This blog post in is coordination with the release of their broader review of ESSA plans. The Collaborative partnered with Bellwether Education to convene more than 30 bipartisan education policy experts to review state plans.

Several weeks ago, we told you about our independent peer review of state ESSA plans. Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems.

That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success  teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of these plans. Our effort looks beyond compliance, and focuses in on how states can improve their accountability systems. Our goal is to provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback to help ensure that state systems are serving all students and providing a more equitable learning environment that fosters success. We assembled a list of phenomenal expert peer reviewers who boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. 

Today, we will release the results of this peer review process.

Our findings already went to state departments of education and Governor’s offices. It is our goal to be as transparent as possible – this is not a “Gotcha” exercise, but it is an advocacy tool. We believe that by using our peer review process, the 17 states that have already submitted a plan can improve upon it, and that the 34 states that will submit a report in September can apply our recommendations. We sincerely hope that through implementation efforts at the state, district and school level, these ideas will help improve classroom results for students, parents, and teachers. 

Here are some high-level findings, beginning with some noteworthy strengths across the state plans

 

  • We saw much more robust measures of school quality (e.g. including science, art, physical education). Several states were looking to promote more holistic views of school quality;
  • At the high school level, states are pursuing a number of innovative college- and career-readiness indicators (AP, IB, SAT/ ACT, industry certifications, etc.) and refocusing efforts to ensure students are prepared for life after high school;
  • All 17 states included some measure of student growth; and 
  • Even though states could opt to include new, additional indicators of school quality, they are continuing to place strong weight on academics 

 

You will see that we have gone to great lengths to highlight the best practices we found in the 17 state plans so far, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also push for plan improvements

 

  • Too many states had goals that were untethered to the state’s long-term visions or were ignored in the accountability system;
  • There is a troubling shift across states towards normative accountability systems, focused on how schools compare with one another, not an external standard; and  
  • Our peers believe that state plans can do more upfront to ensure student subgroups are not overlooked or overshadowed. Our peers had a strong equity lens and as a result, no state received the highest mark possible for having adequate checks in place to ensure all students and subgroups are tended too. 

 

Lastly, an important point to make which has direct impact on district leaders: these state plans had vague or underdeveloped school improvement plans, with only one state earning the highest mark possible for its proposals to actually turn around low-performing schools. This is a key area where states must do better, as the primary purpose of accountability systems is to drive school improvement.

How can you help? As part of our announcement today we are also launching a new website, CheckStatePlans.org. This interactive, user-friendly website will help parents and community members make sense of complicated state ESSA plans. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 

 

June 22, 2017

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AASA Supports Bipartisan Perkins CTE Reauthorizatoin

Today the House will vote on a bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. Yesterday, AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives commending them for their work to reauthorize the Perkins. While the bill is not perfect (see letter for more details), there is much to like and we are thrilled to see so many of our policy priorities incorporated into the legislation.

June 21, 2017

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

Rural Education: We’re Stronger Together

The House Rural Education Caucus, under the leadership of Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) hosted a rural education briefing on Capitol Hill, open to hill staff and the broader public.  More than one-half (53%) of the nation’s public school districts are categorized as rural in the 2013-14 NCES Rural Education in America. As public schools educate more than 50 million students each year, it is critical that federal education policies address the needs of all our students, including the unique opportunities and obstacles faced in rural communities.   

  • Nearly 8.9 million students attend rural schools—more than the enrollments of the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago—and incredibly, the nation’s next 75 largest school districts combined. 
  • More than one in four schools are rural, more than one in six students attend schools in rural areas, and more than one in four rural students is a child of color. At least half of public schools are rural in 13 states.
  • Half the nation’s rural students live in just 10 states. The largest rural enrollments are in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, and Michigan.
  • Half of rural school districts in 23 states have enrollment smaller than 485 students (the national median enrollment for rural districts).  

This briefing highlighted federal education programs critical to supporting rural education, including Impact Aid, the Rural Education Achievement Program, and Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties, as well as more general federal education policies with impacts on rural communities, including ESSA, Medicaid, Perkins Career/Tech, E-Rate, and federal appropriations.

The materials from the briefing are available below: 

June 19, 2017

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What States receive the most money for school-based Medicaid?

By Sasha Pudelski

The GOP health care proposal to change Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant could mean that school districts are cut off from receiving Medicaid reimbursement permanently. With a significant shortage of federal funding to support Medicaid, districts will be in the unenviable position of competing with hospitals, doctors and other providers for limited reimbursement from states. While districts receive less than 1% of the federal Medicaid allocation, that money represents the third largest federal funding stream in education.  

Here are the states that will lose the most most school-based Medicaid funding: 

#1 by a wide margin is Texas. Districts in Texas receive about $444 million dollars annually from the Medicaid program (250 million of which comes from the feds).

#2 is my home-state of NJ which captures about $286.6 million annually. Yeah Jersey!

Coming in right behind NJ is IL, which is #3. IL school districts receive $286.4 million annually.

#4 is New York with $273.6 million in school-based Medicaid reimbursements.

PA is #5 with $253.3 million heading back to school districts. As a state with one of the most expensive special education budgets in the country, I’m sure PA districts are eager to have this funding to support their students.

#6 is Michigan. Michigan school leaders have relied on Medicaid billing for health and special ed services or decades and its billing rate for school-based Medicaid ($250.2 million) is therefore not surprising.

#7 is Wisconsin, with $187.7 million, which IS surprising. Given it’s not a super populous state, the billing rate for school-based Medicaid is considerably high.  Of note is that the feds contribute a sizeable amount, $107 mil, each year.

#8 is California with $180.3 million each year. You would think they would be higher, huh?

#9 is Massachusetts with $147 million split evenly between the states and the feds.

And last, but not least is North Carolina with 142 million where the feds pitch in about $87.2 million annually.

Please note that all these numbers are from a CMS doc that looks at FY15 numbers. Capturing the school-based Medicaid dollars uniformly is not easy (and my guess is that this is a pretty good underestimation) since states can authorize billing for certain things (and deny billing for others) and districts aren’t always aware of all the money they can be pulling down. As school leaders know, the decision to invest in the infrastructure, training/PD and technology to bill Medicaid is expensive and difficult and districts won't do it unless it makes a lot of financial sense. We don’t know exactly what districts in each state bill (the state departments may be able to help with that info) but if you want a quick list of Medicaid eligibility by school district click here. If only the conversation in D.C. was about how to make sure every district with high proportions of Medicaid eligible kids was billing, so they could maximize services for kids with disabilities and kids in poverty. Unfortunately, it’s not.  

 

June 13, 2017

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If you're a supt who hasn't taken action to protect Medicaid in schools now, you're missing a major opportunity to make a difference in the debate on Capitol Hill

As a school leader you know school-based Medicaid programs are really important to students, to school personnel and to communities. We need Congress to understand this point now more than ever. Please take 5 minutes. Make a call, send an email, do whatever you can to weigh in with your Senators. If you miss the opportunity to protect school-based Medicaid programs you are missing an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this debate. 

Below are your talking points. Download this sample letter and make it your own. If you prefer to call, there is also a script for that below. If you aren’t sure how much money you get as a district, feel free to refer to the state numbers that I have attached. Please share this widely with your staff and other school leaders you know.

General Talking Points

·   Medicaid provides critical health care services to children across the country in a variety of settings, including in schools.

·   Medicaid pays for some services in school settings for eligible Medicaid-enrolled students. This is an efficient and impactful delivery system because schools are where children are. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care AND educational outcomes.

·   Medicaid funding to schools is critical to ensuring access to services for these students. Without Medicaid funding, schools will be unable to meet student need and already strained school budgets will not be able to keep up.

·   Proposals to cap federal funds directly shift costs to state budgets—and state budgets are already strained.

Consequences of Block Grants or Per Capita Caps

·       Cuts or changes to Medicaid funding could undermine Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT). The goal of EPDST is to assure that health problems are diagnosed and treated as early as possible, before the problems become complex and treatment more costly.  Changes to the funding structure of Medicaid could limit the availability of critical and cost-saving preventative care.

·       Together with CHIP, Medicaid has been enormously successful in providing access to health services to more than 44 percent of our nation’s children. From vaccinations, well-child check-ups, and chronic disease management, to oral health, vision care, and prenatal care for expectant mothers, Medicaid ensures that children get the services they need to grow, develop, and go to school ready to learn.

·       Children constitute approximately 44 percent of the Medicaid beneficiaries, but only about 19 percent of the costs for Medicaid. Current proposals to cap or limit state funding are misguided and threaten to disproportionately harm children’s access to care.

·   Block granting Medicaid could result in reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost-sharing by beneficiaries — all of which would reduce access to care.

·   Reduced funding via block grants or per capita caps will disproportionately harm our nation’s children.

·      Per capita cap serves only to cut federal costs by setting arbitrary limits on federal Medicaid spending. This would be equally devastating for the vulnerable populations that rely on Medicaid, including primarily, low-income children, and the disabled.

Sample Call Script/Talking Points

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the switchboard operator to be connected to your Senator’s office.

Once connected, be sure to introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent.

“I am calling to urge Senator [XXX] to reject any proposal that significantly cuts Medicaid and institutes a block grant or per capita caps. School-based Medicaid serves as a lifeline for children who can’t access critical healthcare and services outside of their school. This proposal will have devastating effects on children, especially those with disabilities that we serve in my district. I urge Senator xxx to oppose any effort to restructure Medicaid and jeopardize the ability of school districts to continue to receive Medicaid funding on an as-needed basis. Thank you for passing this message along to the Senator.”

 

 

 

June 12, 2017

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

So-called “soft skills” have hard-hitting value in the workplace.

Today's guest blog comes from AASA friend Maria Ferguson, executive director at the Center on Education Policy.

If “college and career readiness” was the catchall phrase for the education reform movement circa 2008-2016, “the skills gap” is on deck to take its place for 2017. It seems everyone these days is talking about skills and competencies and their value in the labor market. Although rigorous academic preparation and college readiness remains a constant target for educators, employers are becoming increasing active and vocal about the skills gap and what it means to be career ready.  

Despite widespread agreement among educators and policymakers that students need to be prepared for the demands of both academia and the workplace, there has always been divide between what it means to prepare for college vs. work. 

Often referred to as “soft skills,” workplace skills and competencies often end up on the wrong side of the divide for a range of reasons. Part of the divide is purely practical: How can one system prepare students for college while giving them the experiences they need to develop workplace skills and competencies? In other ways the divide is much more class-based, with low performing students (often poor and at risk) directed towards career and/or technical education and stronger students aiming for college. And finally there is the issue of measurement. There is still no widely accepted, fully validated measurement tool for assessing skills and competencies. 

A new report from the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University (the organization I lead) reminds us why the divide between academic and career readiness is increasingly antiquated. The report, Building Competencies for Careers, finds that most jobs and careers require individuals that have both academic knowledge and one or more common skills and competencies. 

The report drew on information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database. O*NET uses surveys data from employees and occupational experts to determine the characteristics of more than 900 occupations, including the important knowledge, skills, abilities and work styles required for each occupational area. The report finds that among the 301 occupations in CEP’s sample of O*NET occupations, all required one or more of six competencies that are essential for students to master as they prepare for both college and career. 

To conduct the study, CEP researchers used the six deeper learning competencies develop by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:  mastering core academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively; communicating effectively; learning how to learn; and developing academic mindsets. CEP “linked” these competencies to similar O*NET categories and analyzed how relevant each of the deeper learning competencies were for a range of jobs and occupations. 

While all of the jobs analyzed by CEP require one or more of the deeper learning competencies, experts found several competencies to be most important. Developing an academic mindset, a competency about which prominent education researchers like Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth have written extensively, was highly prized across all of O*NET’s jobs and occupations. Also important were personal initiative and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. 

These competencies were found to be important for what O*NET calls Bright Outlook occupations – those that are expected to grow rapidly, have a large number of openings or are new or emerging. The deeper learning competencies also were more important for occupations requiring higher levels of experience, education and training than for entry-level type jobs. The study suggests that schools that can provide students with the opportunity to learn these kinds of skills and competencies along with subject area content will help better prepare graduates for a wide range of jobs and careers. 

But providing all students with the opportunity to develop these skills and competencies (in addition to learning rigorous academic content) is not so easy to do and requires an array of resources. If education and business leaders are serious about closing the skills gap, schools can’t be solely responsible for fixing the problem. Families, communities and business leader also have to do their part to help ensure students are both college and career ready. 

I predict the conversations about closing the skills gap will not end any time soon. Although the NCLB era is behind us, there is still reluctance among policymakers to value any skill or competency unless it can be adequately measured. While part of that reluctance may be justified, it is also important for education leaders to heed employer feedback about the range of knowledge, skills and experience needed to keep the U.S. economy strong and vibrant. College and career readiness should not be a zero sum game. 

For a copy of the report plus additional resources, please visit CEP at www.cep-dc.org

June 7, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

June Advocacy Challenge, Part 2: ESSA Title II Funding

This month's second advocacy challenge--all about funding for Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)--is  a little different than earlier versions (all available here). For the second June 2017 advocacy challenge, we are asking our members to participate in a coordinated national Title II Day of Action (on June 14) to advocate for the policies that could significantly impact school leaders, principals, teachers, other educators and the students they serve.
AASA is pleased to partner with 
AFSA, NAESP, NASSP, Learning Forward, ASCD, 
and New Leaders for a National Day of Action. This is in response to President Trump's proposed budget for FY18. You can read AASA's full response and analysis on the blog.

                                            3 Simple Ways to Participate in Advocacy on June 14
  1. Send a prewritten letter to Congress: Use our easy advocacy tool to send this pre-drafted letter to Congress about the importance of Title II, Part A of ESSA, which is critical to providing professional development for school leaders and educators. (You can also send a pre-loaded letter using NASSP's Legislative Action Center, which is open to non-NASSP members.)

    Dear ____,

    I am writing as a constituent, as a leader in my school, and as a leader in my community to strongly urge you to provide full funding for the Title II, Part A program in FY 2018.

    As a school leader, I was encouraged when Congress passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. ESSA provided new opportunities for schools to invest in principal leadership and support for our previously overlooked profession. In fact, many states have wisely already taken advantage of the optional 3 percent state set aside of Title II, Part A funds for school leadership specific activities.

    Title II already saw a drastic reduction this year when $249 million was cut from the program for FY 2017. Despite these already harmful cuts, President Trump has proposed to completely eliminate funding for Title II, Part A in his FY 2018 Budget Request. This is not only dangerously shortsighted, it would severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans, and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.

    Tile II, Part A provides critical funding to states for the purposes of preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining high-quality teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders. Given the unique role that principals play in ensuring that our nation's teachers are supported, and that our students have a high-quality learning experience through high school in order to be college and career ready, principals must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools.

    I am extremely disheartened by President Trump's proposal and urge you to fully restore funding for Title II, Part A in FY 2018.

    Thank you for your consideration, and for your support of our nation's educators and students.

    Sincerely,
    [Educator’s name]

  2. Tweet #TitleIIA, #FundTitleIIA @[Senators and Reps]
    Here are some sample tweets you can use:
    • #TitleIIA allows states and districts to improve teaching and school leadership through professional learning
    • #TitleIIA is critical for achieving the goals around equity and excellence in ESSA.
    • Fund #TitleIIA to support increased student achievement by promoting strategies to positively affect teacher and principal effectiveness.
    • Fund #TitleIIA, it is critical for school leaders and principals to do their jobs effectively, cuts threaten this ability
    • Millions of school leaders depend on #TitleIIA to improve schools and instruction in the classroom, fully #FundTitleIIA
    • #ESSA allows states to use 3% of #TitleIIA funds for PD for principals, cutting decreases the chances to seize this opportunity 
    • Fund #TitleIIA and give state #ESSA plans a chance to work!
  3. Call your members in Congress!  Unsure who your Representative is? – Visit the Find Your Representative tool. Unsure what to say? - Here is a script you can use when speaking to staff member of the office.
    • I am a [insert title and organizational affiliation] and I am calling to urge Senator/Representative [insert name here] to restore cuts made to Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which provides principals, school leaders and all educators with specific professional development opportunities. It also provides critical funding to states for the purposes of preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining high-quality teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders.
    • I am extremely concerned about the deep cuts made to Title II, Part A and believe this will severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans, and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.
    • Given the unique role that principals play in ensuring that our nation's teachers are supported, and that our students have a high-quality learning experiences in order to be college and career ready, principals must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools. 
    • I urge Senator/Representative [insert name] to restore Title II, Part A funding.
     
 

June 2, 2017

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, June 2017

By Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

The Latest on Federal School Choice Policy

A lot of education policy discussions on and off Capitol Hill are focused on the ways in which the Trump Administration can advance funding for private schools and the privatization of our education system. Should they propose a tuition tax credit scheme like the ones that exist in 17 states to be included in tax reform? Should they try and promote privatization schemes targeted at specific groups of students (military-connected and Native American to name just two). Should they expand programs like the D.C. voucher program and urge the adoption of voucher programs across the country? The answer I’m betting on is that DeVos and her team throw all these options against the wall and sees what sticks. For AASA and our partners in the National Coalition for Public Education that means we will have a very busy summer.

The first item up per President Trump’s recently released FY18 budget is to try and convince Congress to spend money on new school choice programs that states will create and manage. States can opt to compete for new federal dollars to start a traditional voucher program (or other voucher scheme) or even build-off the current voucher programs they may have. The Department has indicated they would be willing to spend up to $250 million on this new Race-to-the-Top style competition although some money would be set-aside to study the voucher programs and their success in connecting students with new private school options. It’s not clear what the funding prospects are for this program. Democrats will never agree to it, but with so much at stake (Medicaid and CHIP funding, Planned Parenthood, SNAP) even they must appreciate this is going to be a harder-to-negotiate budget deal. And $250 million isn’t a ton of money.

As for a much bigger and bolder proposal, there has long been speculation that the Trump administration will push to include a “tuition tax credit” program (modeled after Florida’s program) into the proposed tax reform or tax cuts that Republicans are working diligently to advance later this year. In May, AASA and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a scathing report looking at the federal legislative proposals introduced thus far as well as state tuition tax credit policies. We studied the current federal proposal introduced by school-choice proponents in the House and Senate which would provide a 100 percent tax credit (up to $4,500 per year for individuals or $100,000 for corporations) for donations to voucher nonprofits. We also looked at the state landscape where we uncovered that the seventeen states with tax credit voucher schemes divert more than $1 billion per year toward private schools via school voucher credits. For taxpayers in nine states with current dollar-for-dollar credits, the addition of a new federal tax credit would allow them to make $2 for every $1 contributed to a voucher program. Whether the Administration’s efforts are stymied by fears by conservative leaders that a federal tax credit scheme runs counter to principles of federalism remains to be seen. A federal tuition tax credit would clearly create new opportunities for corporations and successful investors to earn huge profits by transferring public funding to private schools.

Finally, there are threats of a micro-targeted voucher programs that would be attached to larger bills (like the National Defense Authorization Act) or that would seek to prey on a population of students that are not as well-supported by Congress and public education allies. The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, is also pushing to eliminate the Impact Aid program and instead give children of active-duty military an education savings account, so they can attend private school. We are also awaiting legislation to be introduced that would create a federally funded Education Savings Account program for students who attend schools managed by the Bureau of Indian Education. To say the BIE is struggling would be an understatement. Many analysts are unclear of how to keep the Bureau afloat amidst horrific underfunding and understaffing that has led to widespread mismanagement. However, public school advocates will need to stand ready to defend the autonomy of the BIE program, Impact Aid and other attempts to privatize substantial federal education funding streams. And if we’ve learned anything from state policy trends it is that voucher proponents initial attempt to introduce a small voucher program focused on one narrow population of students can quickly lead to vouchers for every student.

As leaders of public school systems, we must defend against these attacks to privatize K-12 education. We hope you’re following our advocacy team on twitter and reading our blog so you can stay up-to-date on this looming Congressional fight for public schools and the students we serve.