July 29, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Of Schools, Busing, Integration and Outdated Federal Policy

Today's guest blog post is published in coordination with the latest episode of the AASA PEP Talk podcast, which focuses on an arcane provision in federal policy--an outdated anti-busing provision that continues to exist merely because Congress hasn't erased it. The guests on the podcast penned this related blog post, and we are happy to share it here with you:

by Philip Tegeler, Executive Director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council; and Sunil Mansukhani, Principal, The Raben Group

Few expected busing to be a major issue during the June 27 Democratic debate.  The spirited exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden was unexpected by just about everyone, since this issue has largely been considered to be a relic of a bygone era.  However, some of this past history still stubbornly lurks in federal legislation to this day, in the form of harmful federal restrictions that prevent school districts from using federal funds for transportation for school integration purposes.  Such a restriction handcuffs school districts at a time when cross-racial understanding is more important than ever.

Until the beginning of this fiscal year, there were two provisions in federal appropriations laws that contained this ban.  Thus, a school district that wanted to voluntarily take steps to counter increasing racial segregation would not be able to use federal money to help pay for the transportation that would inevitably be needed.  For over 40 years, these two provisions were re-authorized without much discussion.  Yet, when the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) brought these provisions to the attention of Congress a couple of years ago, no one could give a reason for their continued presence today.

We are delighted to report that Congress finally removed these appropriations provisions at the beginning of this fiscal year.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  There is a similar provision (Section 426) in the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) that has also been on the books for over 40 years.  GEPA is a law which governs the Department of Education.  Again, no credible reason for keeping Section 426 has been presented.  Inertia can be a formidable opponent to progress. 

This archaic provision could be removed at no cost to the federal government.  Furthermore, removing Section 426 would provide school districts with greater flexibility to choose how to best allocate their federal funds for the benefit of their communities.  Removing Section 426 of GEPA should be, and is, achievable.  Allowing school districts to have more flexibility in how they spend federal funds is something that we can all agree on.

Ongoing research at Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) demonstrates that transportation remains central to school integration efforts in districts across the country.  Specifically, CECR’s research included public K-12 districts who confirmed with CECR that they are actively implementing a formal voluntary (i.e., not court ordered) integration plan.  A recent CECR report revealed that 59 school districts across the country, which collectively serve about 3.7 million students, are voluntarily pursuing school integration plans.

As CECR’s research indicates, removing Section 426 would have an immediate impact on school integration efforts that are happening now.  Most notably, it would make federal funds available for student transportation for the four most common methods of contemporary school integration - magnet schools, attendance zone boundary changes, controlled choice, and student transfers. Transportation is crucial as NCSD research has shown how school choice relies upon proactive measures like free transportation to be an effective tool in promoting equity.

In addition to the school districts identified by CECR’s research, numerous other districts could benefit from repealing Section 426, including those that engage in inter-district integration programs, those districts whose Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) funds are ending, school districts that have magnet schools but do not receive MSAP funds, and the approximately 150-200 districts that are currently under a court order to desegregate.  In the “The State of Integration in 2018,” the NCSD describes these, and other, forms of school integration underway across the country.  Organized in short state-level summaries, the report describes many efforts that could be accelerated with repeal of Section 426, such as New York state’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, which affirms the use of federal Title I funds “to support the efforts of districts to increase diversity and reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic isolation.”

In addition to supporting existing efforts, repealing Section 426 may lead more districts to pursue new school integration efforts.  As a follow up to the CECR report described above, CECR researchers have conducted case study interviews with leaders in a select number of districts.  Although conclusive findings from this work are not yet available, a clear theme is evident across interviews.  As detailed on CECR’s blog, district leaders are confused about what forms of integration are acceptable and are fearful that their plans may attract a legal challenge.  By removing a key barrier and clarifying what is legally permissible, repealing Section 426 will help open the doors to additional district efforts to pursue integration.

We urge you to call your senators and House member to request this harmful provision be removed from GEPA.  The United States Capitol switchboard can be reached at (202) 224-3121. It is time for Section 426 to go.  

FOOTNOTE: 

 

  1. The National Coalition on School Diversity is a growing network of civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to support government policies that promote school diversity and reduce racial isolation. NCSD also support the work of state and local school diversity practitioners.
  2. There is an exception to GEPA Section 426 in the MSAP program.

 

July 22, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: AASA E-Rate Call to Action: File Reply Comments with the FCC, Protect E-Rate!

This blog post was updated to reflect that the initial comment period closed July 29 but that superintendents and educators can (and should!) continue to file reply comments until the extended August 26 deadline. 

BACKGROUND: Earlier this summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to the schools and libraries program, known as E-Rate. In the NPRM, the republican FCC Commissioners pose and consider setting an overall cap for the programs financed under the Universal Service Fund (USF). As a reminder, the USF is a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees designed to promote and expand universal access to telecommunications in the US. It is authorized by the Telecommunications Act and was created to support and serve four distinct programs: schools and libraries (E-Rate), rural health care, lifeline, and Connect America Fund. Full details on the blog

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION. Our goal in mobilizing the AASA membership is to create a groundswell of feedback from the field, highlighting for the FCC not only the importance of E-Rate, but also how their proposed changes threaten E-Rate and what those changes will mean for your schools. We need all hands on deck, and we need as many comments filed as possible. Here's what you can do: 

  • Call to Action: While it is good that national organizations have weighed in individually and collectively, it is even more important that state associations, independent districts and other non-profits reiterate their concern for protecting E-Rate. Help us clarify that the E-Rate program is a successful program that has proven critical in the extensive expansion of connectivity for schools and libraries across the nation. Help us clarify that E-Rate is important in supporting school and library access to online resources and communication and collaboration. Help us highlight why the proposed funding caps to USF and its specific programs are short sighted policy that will undermine the ability of schools to continue to address growing connectivity needs. Reply comments are due by August 26. Instructions on how to file your comments are included below.
  • Background and AASA Summary: Available here
  • How to File Comments 
    • HOW AND WHERE: You can file directly with the FCC OR email your comments to AASA staff and have them submitted for you. Full directions are below. 
    • WHEN: Reply comments are due August 26. Reply comments matter; the priority is on getting as many school district comments filed as possible. 
    • File Comments with the FCC
      • COMMENTS ARE DUE August 26. 
      • Draft your response comments. You can refer to the AASA summary/background document, create your own comments and/or work from AASA’s template. Format your response as a Word/PDF document (include district letter head!).
      • Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings
      • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 06-122
      • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
      • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form. 
       
    • File Comments with AASA staff: If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. 
      • For August 26 Comments: Please email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than 5 pm ET on Wednesday August 21 with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’  
       
      Questions? Email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org)
     

July 9, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

The Advocate (July 2019)

Every month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the July 2019 piece:

July in Washington, D.C. means one thing (and I am not talking about the humidity!). It means the annual AASA Legislative Advocacy Conference. As I write this, we are just five days away from our joint conference with the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and we expect nearly  250 school superintendents and school business officials to be in DC to weigh in on federal policy and help Congress understand how to ensure their policy priorities and proposals are written in such a way so as to prioritize and strengthen public education.

Attendees will split time between professional development and preparation for Capitol Hill visits with time on the Hill, meeting with their federal delegations. The policy priorities at this year's conference—including the talking points and content handed out in the conference folder—include Medicaid in Schools, Infrastructure, E-Rate, annual appropriations, school nutrition, higher education act, forest counties and IDEA full funding. Featured speakers include FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, U.S. and U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and VanHollen (D-MD). Panel topics include school finance and funding formulas, Census 2020 and schools, immigration and schools, and an overview of federal regulations and Supreme Court decisions, among others. If you can't be here, we'll miss you, and hope that you can consider joining us next year.

Related to that, I wanted to share our 2019 advocacy challenge: can we ask our members—and then support them in their efforts—to increase their level of AASA advocacy engagement ONE level? I'm listing various ways for you to engage, below, and these are all in addition to reaching out to us directly. (And by 'us', I mean your AASA advocacy team. I've listed our names, titles, email addresses and Twitter handles at the bottom of the article.) 

  • Brand New to Federal Advocacy? Sign up for our advocacy network. Our advocacy department offers a variety of ways to stay engaged. If you subscribe to our advocacy network, you will automatically receive our weekly and monthly updates, as well as Calls to Action (the most efficient way to directly engage when we need superintendents to contact members of Congress or a federal agency). You can sign up by emailing Chris Rogers, our policy analyst at crogers@aasa.org. 
  • Follow our blog and podcast: These sources often overlap with the newsletters and include everything from the latest reports and links to good news articles, as well as quick updates on the Hill and ways for you to engage with advocacy. Our blog is The Leading Edge, and our podcast is Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk.
  • Engage with AASA Advocacy at the National Conference on Education (NCE): We always offer five-to-six policy-related sessions at NCE and host a formal federal relations luncheon with a keynote speaker. It's a great way to integrate your advocacy learning and professional development while already on the ground. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.
  • Join the AASA Advocacy Community: Launched officially during the AASA advocacy conference, this is a one stop shop for the latest AASA advocacy update, full index of all AASA advocacy communications, and a forum to connect and discuss education policies and AASA priorities with other edu-advocates.
    • We’re created a new space for members involved in AASA advocacy efforts to connect, learn and share resources all in one place. Our goal is to bring together the voices and talents of educators with a passion for advocacy at local, state and the national levels under one umbrella. To achieve that goal, our advocacy team will be actively involved in the community, contributing content, loading and linking resources and responding to any questions, comments, and concerns posted. 
    • If you’re ready to get started, please log in to the community using the details below and then take a few of the suggested actions! 
    • Log in with your AASA membership username and password at http://connect.aasa.org. If you don't know your username it should be the email address associated with your AASA membership and the password can be reset if needed (just click forgot password on the sign-in screen). Please contact membership@aasa.org if you require additional assistance signing in. 
  •  Here are a few options for getting started in the platform: 
    • Visit the AASA Advocacy Network community and introduce yourself in the discussion thread that has been started. 
    • Access the Leadership Portfolio page to update your info. 
    • Upload your profile photo and update fields such as bio and job history. You may also import information directly from LinkedIn.
    • Join other communities which speak to your interests, and don't worry, there are many more communities to come. 
    • Update your Community subscriptions, establish notification overrides, and create Consolidated Digests, click on 'Notifications' in the upper left corner of the Online Community to update your preferences.
    • For help you may refer to the FAQ section at https://connect.aasa.org/participate/faq.
  • Save the Date for our 2020 Advocacy Conference: Join us NEXT July 7-9, as we wrap up the 116th Congress and head into the final push of the 2020 presidential elections. We have no way of knowing what education policy discussions will be dominating our work, but we do know that your voice, participation and support matter.
  • Commit to Making Regular Contact with Your Congressional Delegation: Can you do it once a month? Or, let's just start with once a quarter! If you can make that commitment, we can fully support that. Let us know when you want to make contact, and if you have a specific topic in mind. We can send you the name and email address of the appropriate education staffer. We are happy to provide any background information or talking points you may need in crafting your message. 
  • Contact Your AASA Advocacy Team: It is an explicit member benefit of belonging to both your state association and AASA that you have access to our advocacy team. Our job is to represent your priorities in all aspects of federal advocacy and to support you in your advocacy teams. Think of us as an extension of your administrative team, and never hesitate to reach out: 
    • Noelle Ellerson Ng, Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, nellerson@aasa.org (@Noellerson)
    • Sasha Pudelski, Advocacy Director, spudelski@aasa.org (@SPudelski) Please note that Sasha is out on maternity leave until early August.
    • Chris Rogers, Policy Analyst, crogers@aasa.org (@CXRogers16) 

July 9, 2019

(IDEA, E-RATE, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

2019 Legislative Advocacy Conference Resources

It is our sincere hope that you are enjoying your time at the conference. As promised, here are the slides, handouts and resources we owe you. If  there is anything missing, we will update this blog post accordingly! 

July 2, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH) Permanent link

AASA and AESA File Joint Comments in Response to FCC Petition to Rulemaking

In our weekly legislative corps, we mentioned a pending item at the FCC related to E-Rate applications in Texas. In a nutshell: In late June,  a handful of education service center administrators from Texas was in town to meet with staff in three different offices at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a petition for rulemaking related to E-Rate. This is a narrow lane of advocacy for a Texas-specific issue for now but could have broader federal implications. The meetings were focused on highlighting how the E-Rate applications under question were fully compliant with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, were responding to policy incentives built into the 2014 modernization, built on the long-standing premise of competition and market forces and pricing, and that the petitioners (providers) making the motion are looking to use federal policy as a bandaid, a remedy for them not receiving federal funds for an RFP to which they did not respond/receive a bid. 

As follow up to those meetings, AASA partnered with AESA to file a detailed response to the petition for rulemaking, providing a thorough overview of the E-Rate applications from the ESCs, their compliance with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, and focusing on how the petitioners are looking to use federal policy to fix a problem that doesn't exist, to establish monopolistic protections for incumbent providers, and to ensure a protected path for access to federal funding (without having applied in the first place). Read our full comments, as well as the ex-parte letters filed after our meetings with the offices of Cmsrs. Pai, Carr and O'Rielly