September 30, 2016

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EPA Requests Applications to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of approximately $7 million in rebates to public school bus fleet owners to help them replace or retrofit older school buses. Upgrading buses with older engines reduces diesel emissions and improves air quality. 

EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines still in operation predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which have been linked to serious health problems such as aggravated asthma and lung damage.

EPA will accept applications from September 29 to November 1, 2016. 

To learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility, selection process and informational webinar dates, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-rebates. And questions about applying may be directed to CleanDieselRebate@epa.gov.  

September 27, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Joins Coalition to Oppose EPA Regulations

AASA joined a coalition of education associations and local governance associations to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to voice concern over a proposed rule regarding florescent light ballasts in schools and child care centers. The EPA is proposing to require the removal of any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals used until 1978, when they were found to contain carcinogens. The proposed rule would require schools and child care centers to remove any light ballast containing PCBs within either two or four years. The rule provides no assistance, financial or otherwise, to schools to assist with this removal. 

Our letter makes clear several concerns: notably the lack of accurate data on which the proposed rule is based, the potential cost, the stringent timeline and the duplication of other federal rules that would make the rule around PCBs unnecessary. Citing a 2014 study by AASA, ASBO and NSBA, the letter clarifies that few schools still have PCB-containing light ballasts and, with regulations banning the sale of the light bulbs that fit these older ballasts, this rule is not only burdensome but unnecessary.

Find the letter here.

September 15, 2016(1)

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AASA Urges Senators to Oppose Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee put their child nutrition bill into a process called "hotlining," where each senator is alerted that, unless someone actively objects, the bill is to be passed without a single vote being cast. Under this process, the lack of active opposition becomes assumed unanimous consent. 

AASA opposed the bill when it went through the committee, and remains opposed to the bill. More importantly, we are opposed to moving such an important piece of legislation without any debate, discussion, or a single vote. We sent this letter to the Senate.

September 15, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Cross Post: USED Regulations on Supplement/Supplant Could Change School Reporting

This blog post originally appeared in the ASBO International policy blog, School Business Network. It is reposted here, with permission.

(Note: The information below is from, “Supplement not Supplant: Latest ESSA Regulations and What It Means for Districts,” a webinar hosted by AASA—The School Superintendents Association for AASA and ASBO members. Access a recording of the webinar here and the PowerPoint slide presentation here.)

Late last month, the Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule for Title I supplement not supplant (SNS), a funding provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that requires state and local education agencies (SEAs/LEAs) to ensure federal Title I dollars add to (supplement) and do not replace (supplant) state and local funding. While the overall purpose of SNS remains the same in ED’s proposal, the means for demonstrating compliance would change if the rule is implemented.

ED’s proposal is well-intentioned for trying to ensure Title I dollars support the students the law is intended to benefit, but could upend K–12 school spending and fiscal reporting practices as the rule currently stands. The rule also conflicts with Congress’ original intent for ESSA when officials passed the education law, which was to roll back the federal government’s influence in schools. Yet this proposal would allow the federal government to dictate how dollars are spent at the local level. The proposal directly affects school business officials (SBOs), who allocate resources, manage fiscal reports, and ensure Title I compliance for the school district. To be clear, ED’s SNS rule would govern how state and local dollars should be spent, not federal dollars. Complying with the rule is a condition for receiving Title I federal dollars, but the rule itself governs the allocation of state and local funds.

So what does the proposal actually say? LEAs must annually publish their methodology for allocating state and local funds in a format and language that is easy to understand, and they have four options for demonstrating compliance with SNS. Below are highlights of each methodology with potential areas of concern that the rule’s language does not address. Districts must meet one of four of these benchmarks:

 

  • Weighted Per-Pupil Formula
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a weighted student funding formula (student-based budgeting formula), where educationally disadvantaged students generate more money for their schools.
    • This includes but isn’t limited to low-income students, English Learners (ELs), and students with disabilities. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 7 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 1? 
      • The rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means; is this 70% of funds? 90%? Also, the rule doesn’t account for weights that are not based on student disadvantage, such as preschool, gifted and talented, CTE, or magnet education programs. How should these fit into the equation?
  • Average Personnel and Non-Personnel Costs (Resource Formula)
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a “consistent resource formula” where each Title I school receives at least:
      • The average districtwide salary for each category of school personnel (e.g., principals, teachers, custodians, etc.), multiplied by the number of school personnel in each category assigned to the school under the formula, and
      • The average districtwide expenditure for non-personnel resources multiplies by the number of students in school. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 10 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 2? 
      • Again, the rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means, nor does it define what a “consistent resource formula” means. There are also a lot of unanswered questions about resource allocations if they vary based on program differences, like with full-time employee (FTE) allocations. Some schools allocate more FTEs based on grade (lower grades often have more FTEs than higher grades), or FTEs may vary for low-income schools, or for special education, IB, dual-immersion programs, and magnet programs. Moreover, what if the allocated FTE position cannot be filled (for example if there is a shortage of special education teachers)?
      • The rule doesn’t clarify whether benefits, pay-for-performance, or other performance-based compensation are supposed to be included in the salary calculation. Nor does it explain whether long-term substitutes should be included in salary calculations. What about staff members who work in multiple buildings? How should custodians, groundskeepers, and other personnel who would fit into his description be calculated? What if their time in buildings is based on need and not allocable in advance? How do LEAs account for staff paid for at the central level who work in school buildings (e.g., building services, maintenance, cafeteria, safety, and grounds keeping staff)? And finally, what exactly does ED consider to be a “non-personnel resource”? The rule only creates more questions. 

  • State-Established Compliance Test
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA in a manner chosen by the LEA that:
      • Is applied consistently district wide, and
      • Meets a funds-based compliance test as established by the SEA. This test must be as rigorous as Options/Methodologies 1 & 2, and has been approved by ED through a federal peer review process.
    • What are some concerns with Method 3?
      • The “almost all” definition continues to be a vague term here, but more importantly, this methodology would require federal approval for an SEA to carry out and would be the greatest example of federal overreach. This approach is arguably the most in conflict with Congressional intent for ESSA law. Also, the onus is on SEAs to develop the test, which must be rigorous enough to earn ED’s approval, making this method the most labor-intensive as states are reworking their ESSA accountability frameworks at the same time.

  • ED’s Special Rule (Equalized Spending)
    • LEAs must equalize per-pupil spending in Title I and non-Title I schools. LEAs automatically comply with SNS if they spend an amount of state/local funds per pupil in Title I schools that is equal to or greater than the average per-pupil amount in non-Title I schools; if LEAs meet this special rule they do not need to satisfy any of the three methodologies above.
    • This rule is essentially what ED proposed in April after its negotiated rulemaking process on SNS failed. It’s considered controversial and an example of federal overreach in local school spending, especially since the method would have potential unintended consequences like forced teacher transfers. Districts spend a lot on teacher salaries, and to remain compliant they’d have to shift teachers around to different schools to demonstrate equalized spending, which would have adverse effects on teacher union contracts and negotiations.
    • This option has some flexibilities. Spending in Title I schools can vary up to 5% of average in non-Title I schools in a given year. An LEA can exclude any Title I school that serves fewer than 100 students. An LEA can demonstrate compliance if it shows that one or more non-Title I school(s) gets extra money to serve a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students, which disproportionally affects the average spending in non-Title I schools.
    • What are some concerns with Method 4?
      • What costs will be included/excluded in the per-pupil calculations? ED’s proposed rules for SNS versus ESSA’s accountability requirements contradict each other. The former draft rule references the per-pupil reporting requirements of Section 1111(h)(C)(x) of ESSA. “The per-pupil expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, including actual personnel expenditures and actual non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, disaggregated by source of funds, for each local educational agency and each school in the State for the preceding fiscal year.” However ED’s accountability rule says the per-pupil spending report would include expenditures for administration, instruction, instructional support, student support services, transportation services, operation and maintenance of plant, fixed charges, preschool, and net expenditures to cover deficits for food services and student body activities. It excludes expenditures for community services, capital outlay, and debt service.
      • Regarding this method’s flexibility provisions, the rule doesn’t define what a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students equals. 90%? 70%? Also, what if more high-cost special education students are in non-Title I schools, where a few students could impact the average per-pupil calculation?

The list of concerns for each methodology reflects the issue that ED’s proposal does not adequately consider the various complexities of school finance and local resource allocation. While ED’s wish to honor Title I law is noble, its approach conflicts with ESSA’s statutory language regarding the level of influence ED is supposed to have in local education. Congress passed ESSA because officials believed that schools and classrooms should be managed by local education leaders who are closer to the ground regarding local education funding and equity issues.

SBOs and other K–12 stakeholders may submit public comments to ED with their concerns about the SNS proposal at the Federal Register website until November 7. Advocates may also urge Congress to overturn ED’s regulations via the legislative process. ASBO International members can find their representatives via the Legislative Action Center and urge Congress to oppose the SNS regulation there. Stay tuned to the Legislative Affairs Community for more advocacy resources, including draft template letters to send to elected officials in opposition to the ED rule, coming soon.

September 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Kick Off for Rural Students!

The RWDC focuses on STEM education for rural students. For the last five years students have learned precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is the biggest area of innovation and opens the door to many careers for rural students. On September 22, 2016 we will be flying an unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by students. You will see the plane take off, fly and take images of crops to collect data to support precision agriculture. There will also be interviews with the students who designed the plane. We hope you and your students will join us for the event! Please save the date! Follow the event using the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

The RWDC supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in high schools through an annual competition. The goal of the RWDC is to motivate and prepare students for the STEM workforce and teach innovation. The RWDC is Real World in the following ways: Students (1) solve Real Problems; (2) use Real Tools; (3) play Real Roles; and (4) make Real Contributions. Through their participation in RWDC each year students are challenged to optimize the design of a plane. Students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the mission of precision agriculture. 

If you are unable to attend you can see a replay of the event at following link: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

September 13, 2016

(E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

In Celebration of ConnectED Day and Future Ready

Today we're celebrating ConnectED Day with our friends at Future Ready and we decided the best way to celebrate is with blog posts! These aren't just any ordinary blog posts, though—they're blog posts written by superintendents in districts from coast to coast, who are leading their students to college, career and life readiness, by taking advantage of ed tech, digital learning strategies and personalized learning methods and more.

You probably remember in June, 2013, when President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative and set a goal to connect 99 percent of America's students to the Internet through high-speed wireless and broadband Internet within five years. Today, we are still on track to meet that goal thanks to efforts made by federal, state and local institutions and especially the progress made on E-rate. With the Future Ready initiative as a model, educators are truly in a place to transform education as we know it, and that goes beyond Chromebooks and iPads.

Start your Future Ready journey today by taking the Future Ready pledge. And, even if you've already taken the pledge, read about the initiatives that other superintendents are championing in their districts and get inspired!

You can find our Future Ready blog series at http://www.aasa.org/future-ready-blogs.aspx. 

September 12, 2016 1

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ED/DOJ Letter and Resources on SROs

:ast week, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice released new lettersrubrics and resources last week related to the hiring and training of school resource officers. In particular, any law enforcement agencies that receive COPS funding for SROs will be required to adopt the new guidelines for SROs.

Among the resources provided are models for crafting MOUs between schools and local law-enforcement agencies, the role of district leaders in monitoring the actions of school-based police officers, and how to train police in such areas as child development and conflict de-escalation. In addition, they are urging districts to adopt a number of specific recommendations such as:

  • incorporating local, state and federal civil rights laws into agreements with law enforcement,  
  • ensuring that law enforcement officers have no role in administering formal school discipline,  
  • requiring SROs to receive specialized training, including education in youth development,  
  • setting policies on when/how SROs can use restraints, and  
  • training teachers and staff to avoid calling SROs to assist with nonviolent disciplinary issues 

 

 

September 12, 2016

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AASA Endorses House Bill to Reauthorize Perkins CTE Act

Today, AASA sent a letter to the House endorsing legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act. The bipartisan bill, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, passed the House Education Committee overwhelmingly (37-0) in July. AASA is very pleased with how the bill addresses many of our key priorities within the reauthorization and hope to see a completed reauthorization before the year end. We also urge appropriators to consider funding levels for Perkins as they examine the reauthorization of this legislation since policy improvements cannot be fully realized without adequate funding levels.

You can read our letter to the House here

September 7, 2016

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Get the Lead out of Schools

I am now getting another lesson in the amount of non-education things superintendents deal with - today, it is the Water Resources Development Act. In addition to a previously existing Lead and Copper rule, the Get the Lead out of Schools Act addresses the lack of Federal laws around lead testing in schools. This bill would require water utilities to test the water of schools they serve for lead - they currently only have to test homes. The bill would also add a grant program to reimburse LEAs, water utilities, or a state agency for the cost of any necessary remediation. 

September 6, 2016(1)

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Back to School Advocacy Wrap Up: Of Appropriations, Epi Pens, ESSA Regulations and Secure Rural Schools

Recess is over, for the kids and the adults, and that means Congress is back in town and back to session. In an effort to provide a one-stop succinct overview of what happened during recess, this blog post is a wrap up of the topics AASA advocacy was monitoring this summer. You can access an related preview in the first part of our ‘Back to School’ editions of Legislative Corps, AASA’s weekly advocacy update here. (And email Leslie Finnan to subscribe to the newsletter: lfinnan@aasa.org)

Appropriations: We provided a one pager with talking points as it relates to AASA’s legislative priorities for federal funding in fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which starts October 1. FY17 dollars will be in schools for the 2017-18 school year, the first year of ESSA implementation. Congress will not complete its appropriations work on time. When they are unable to complete the appropriations process (consideration and adoption of the 12 stand alone appropriations bills that collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), they can either pass short term funding solution (called a continuing resolution, or CR) or there is a shutdown. There will NOT be a shutdown this year (it’s a presidential election year!), so we are looking at a CR scenario.

Time wise, the House could vote on an initial version of a CR as early as the week of September 19, giving the Senate one week to work through the details before adjourning for another recess. How this CR process plays out is a factor of length, internal republican politics, and riders:

  • Length: Will it be a short term CR that kicks into December, post-election but before the new administration? Will it be six months, into the new administration? Or will they pass a long-term continuing resolution, freezing funding for FY17? (Hint: the long-term CR is less likely. It removes discretion over cuts and increases, and from an education point of view, would be concerning both for funding levels AND ESSA construct. FY16 was allocated for NCLB program construct; FY17 is an ESSA year, and the programs and funding are structured differently).
  • Internal Republican Politics: Will Speaker Ryan be able to harness his caucus for a unifying vote? Will the House Freedom Caucus hold the line on its budget priority (a six month CR), and in doing so, play nicely with House Leadership or drive a wedge and force Speaker Ryan to work with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Dems to avoid a shutdown? In terms of what to expect for Democratic funding priorities within this negotiation, look for anti-Zika money, gun violence, lead poisoning, and support for opioid abuse programs. 
  • Riders: Policy riders are a hiccup in appropriations. It blends two usually distinct entities: appropriations language (paying for a program) and authorizing language (the policy behind a program). Policy riders end up on appropriations bills when Congress needs to move a policy that they can’t move through normal order. It also is increasingly used when a policy may not move on its own, but doesn’t warrant enough opposition to force an overall ‘no vote’ on a larger appropriations bill (which would shut down the government). AASA typically opposes policy riders and supports clean appropriations bills.

Epinephrine Pens: At the end of August, the exponential rise in the cost of epinephrine pens (epi pens) garnered a lot of media and Congressional attention. In a nutshell, the company that owns the brand name medicine within Epi Pen (Mylan) raised the price of the pens by more than 400 percent since 2007. EpiPen is a $1 billion business per year for Mylan. Mylan controls about 98% of the epi pen market. The CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). There was no action on Capitol Hill related to policy that would impact schools, but it did bring up the 2013 federal policy that incentivizes states to have policies that require schools to stock epi pens and train staff in the administration of Epi Pens. There is not an effort to repeal that provision, but AASA did have a lot of outreach to press and the hill as they followed up on our earlier opposition to the proposal, citing both policy and cost implications. Read our related AASA blog post from 2013. In a quick outreach to our advocacy network, we received nearly 100 detailed responses outlining what your states and districts currently do related to epi pens, including stocking, training, and cost. Thank you to everyone who responded. Want to join the AASA advocacy network ? Email Noelle Ellerson (nellerson@aasa.org). 

ESSA Regulations: USED is knee-deep in its efforts to issue guidance, regulations and technical assistance to support ESSA implementation at the state and local level. You can check out the AASA ESSA Resources Library for our set of support materials, including links to all of the related ESSA material from USED. 

  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Accountability
  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Assessment forthcoming
  • Still to come: AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations for Supplement/Supplant

USED Regulations and Guidance: The Department has been on a roll when it comes to releasing guidance and regulations for a number of federal programs. The list below captures those that have been released since July 15:

Forest Counties: A bulk of time on the hill in August was dedicated to maintaining awareness of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Program (Forest Counties). This program provides federal funding to those counties who have a large presence of federal land (national parks or forests). As a result of the federally managed land which is not subject to property taxes, local counties and schools receive funding through this program in recognition of the federal policy that hinders local ability to generate funds for local county and school needs. You can check out our August Call to Action on the program, including our one-pager. We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded 

 

 

 

September 6, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Legislative Corps Recess Wrap-Up

Last week, we sent the following wrap-up of recess in our Legislative Corps newsletter. If you did not receive it and are interested in receiving future editions, please email lfinnan@aasa.org.

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016

As you are opening your schools for the year, Congress's summer vacation is also winding to a close. Stay tuned for an email next week with what you should look forward to as they get back to town. 

Insure All Children Toolkit

Yesterday, USED Secretary King and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell joined with AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund to promote a new toolkit, Insure All Children. This toolkit has five sections each focused on specific steps required of school district administrators to ensure uninsured children who are eligible for health insurance enroll, from building a team to enrolling students to sustaining the program for the future.

The toolkit can be accessed at insureallchildren.org. Find a video of the event with Secretaries King and Burwell here and AASA’s press release here.

Americans' Views on Education

Two major polls were recently released, illustrating how Americans view public education. The 15th annual PDK poll showed a slight increase in the view of the nation’s schools and respondents’ views of their local schools: 48% gave their local schools an A or a B, while 24% said the same of schools across the nation. Consistent with former years, respondents agreed that lack of funding is the top problem schools are facing. Read our summary here or the full report here.

EducationNext also released their 10th annual poll, which showed a decline in support for Common Core, down to just 50% supporting the standards. The report also showed strong support for standardized testing, with 73% approving of uniform testing and 70% opposed to opting out. School choice received mixed responses: charter schools maintained strong support (65%), while support for private school vouchers has dropped 12% since 2012. Read our summary here or the full report here.

Transgender Guidance Halted by Judge

A federal judge has halted President Obama’s transgender guidance that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice, while 13 states challenge the order in court. Read more here.

Ed Groups Oppose FBI Program

Education groups, including AASA, sent a letter criticizing the FBI for its program design to prevent the spread of “violent extremism” in schools. The program racially targets Muslim and Middle Eastern students, and adds to growing discrimination they already face. The letter can be accessed here.