September 21, 2017

(ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up 2017: Why Your District Should Participate

Each year, the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning asks K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. Speak Up is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning.

Why should your schools participate in Speak Up? 

  • Gain a better understanding of what your school’s technology needs are and make more informed funding decisions.
  • Learn about the aspirations for your teachers for using technology more effectively – and what is holding them back.
  • Find ways to improve school-to-home communications using new technology tools.
  • Ensure that your students and parents have a voice in national, state and local decisions about education.
  • It’s free.

Speak Up 2017 will be open for input from October 16, 2017, through January 19, 2018. Participate at any time during that window.

Surveys take 15-20 minutes to complete. All information is 100 percent confidential. No identifying information is collected. All local data is ONLY shared with the registered primary contact. Registered schools/districts receive all of their data – for free – in February, plus national data for comparison. Speak Up is facilitated by Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization.

Register today: tomorrow.org/speakup.

September 19, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

I know this seems like a bad case of deja vu, but we need superintendents from the following states to step up again and make some noise about Medicaid in schools and how important it is to the children you educate. If you live in AK, AZ, ME, NC, ND, OH, or WV please take 5 minutes out of your schedule to make a call to your Republican Senator(s). 

Here is your script: 

  • As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of Graham-Cassidy. 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.   
  • Graham-Cassidy 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.   

Email your Senators 

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

Dear Senator xxx,

As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose Graham-Cassidy, 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. Graham-Cassidy 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 Graham-Cassidy, and any subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.

September 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Back in Action: Congress Has A Full Plate this Fall

With Congress back in session for its first full week since July, it’s time for a quick recap of what unfolded over the August recess and last week. First thing, though, some context:

Congress has a lot on its plate for this month, and only 12 (!) working days, including the ones from last week. On their to do list? 

 

  • FY18 appropriations work: If Congress worked according to the rules, they would pass each of the 12 appropriations bills independently, and do so prior to October 1. Congress hasn’t completed the process in this order and on this timeline since the mid-90s. Their options are to either complete the work, have a shut down, or pass a short-term bill to fund government (called a ‘continuing resolution’ or ‘CR’).
  • Emergency funding for Harvey, Irma and wildfires: Congress will need to take explicit action to provide emergency funding to the millions of people impacted by this confluence of natural disasters. This triple whammy adds its own set of political calculations and pressures which will be at play for the other items on this to-do list. 
  • Debt Ceiling: Congress has to take action to raise the debt ceiling to the nation can continue to borrow to pay down debt (payments for debt already accrued). 
  • Raising Funding Caps: Much of the funding pressure at play right now stems from the continued pressure of funding caps—established through the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the subsequent ‘sequester’. While Congress is bound to these caps, they are the ones that can raise the caps, or address revenue and spending pressure through nuanced conversations about tax policy, rather than blunt, across-the-board cuts. Specific to education, these caps results in federal allocations that leave the FY18 investments below the levels of FY10.
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: This is something we are following. I would love to tell you that Congress has this on their radar. While there is broad bipartisan AND bicameral support (WHAT?!?!), it needs a push to be moved. This will need to be attached to a larger vehicle (think: appropriations bill). You can read our related blog post and call to action here.
  • Defense Authorization: This is an annual defense policy bill that has to be considered. It will consume both time and political chits. 
  • Continued efforts related to Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal/Replace: While the bill momentum has slowed immensely, this week could be one final push. Led by Senators Cassidy and Graham, there could be a push that would turn ACA’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid funds intro a block grant program.  Part of the concern here is that media attention and public pressure are diverted to the other political conversations and natural disasters. How quickly Congress seems to have forgotten how unpalatable it was to cut Medicaid or make it a block grant. Need a reminder, or want to share it with your delegation? Check out the AASA Medicaid report.
  • DACA: President Trump announced his plans to end the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and then announced he wouldn’t take action for six months, essentially kicking the can down the road and forcing the hand of Congress to address their intentions related to protecting these children/young adults. 

So where do we stand? Last week, Congress passed—and the President signed—combination legislation that provides short-term federal funding (Avoiding a shutdown), temporarily raises the debt ceiling, AND provides $15.25 billion in emergency funding for Hurricane Harvey. December 8 is now the date to watch: the CR AND the debt ceiling will expire on this day. 

While this agreement is progress, it complicates an already complex Congressional calculus: December was already crunch time in a chamber that wanted to rewrite tax code by the end of the year. This overall December debate could grow more complicated if it includes Democrats pushing for increased spending in domestic programs in exchange for Trump’s military increases; Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico; and the aforementioned DACA debate.

For the rest of FY18, check out this side-by-side comparison of Trump’s FY18 proposal, compared to that of the House and Senate. In a nutshell, Trump’s proposal is draconian, the House proposal is less bad (but not good!) and the Senate proposal is the least bad. It is important to know that Congress is bound to the pressures of the funding caps, which limits their ability to invest in programs. I am not going to go into detailed analysis of the House and Senate bills because: while the House bill has passed the full chamber it is unlikely the Senate bill will ever be voted on. The overall number with which the House and Senate started were different. From that overall number, the allocations to the various subcommittees also varied. So, in addition to the fact that the Senate bill, for education, was less bad and had different allocations and priorities, it is in part because they are summing to different baselines.

When you factor in that they have already agreed to a short term CR, it opens up the likelihood that we have another short term CR, and a small chance for a year-long CR. When we have a CR, programs are level funded. That is, FY18 programs would be funded at FY17 levels. Which would be ok, except for the fact that the FY18 caps are BELOW the FY17 level, meaning that unless there is explicit action within a CR, there could be a chance for across-the-board cuts to bring us into compliance with the FY18 caps. Which reiterates the importance of Congress to address the funding caps by a balanced effort to raise the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary funding. It also increases the likelihood that the House and Senate will instead negotiate a middle-ground FY18 deal, though I can’t yet read if that middle-point would be above or compliant with the caps. 

In short, as per usual, the funding conversation has a lot of moving pieces. While we have avoided a shut down until December 8, this year has a very significant number of additional political stressors that will up the ante and ‘politicking’. Your voice will be important in helping Congress understand the importance of adequate and appropriate investment in education. 

 

September 6, 2017

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

AASA Joins 4 Other National Organizations in Joint Statement Supporting Public Education, Urges Other Organizations to Sign on!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary Principals, and the National Education Association issue this joint statement in support of public education, and we call on other national education associations to sign on in support. We will use this joint statement to highlight the broad, diverse support that exists for our nation’s public schools as we continue to advocate for federal policy and supports that strengthen our schools and the 50 million students they educate. AASA is including this effort as part of our broader year-long 'I Love Public Education' campaign and we are pleased to have the support of our colleague organizations in this latest effort.

Please join AASA, AFT, NAESP, NASSP, and NEA in supporting this statement. You can join today! Sign up now. 

Joint Statement in Support of Public Education

"We issue this joint statement in support of public education and our continued commitment to the highest quality public education for all students.

"Public education is the foundation of our 21st-century democracy. Our public schools are where our students come to be educated in the fullest sense of the word as citizens of this great country. We strive every day to make every public school a place where we prepare the nation’s young people to contribute to our society, economy and citizenry. 

"Ninety percent of American children attend public schools. We call on local, state and federal lawmakers to prioritize support for strengthening our nation’s public schools and empowering local education leaders to implement, manage and lead school districts in partnership with educators, parents, and other local education stakeholders and learning communities.  This support would also provide for such necessities as counseling, extra/co-curricular activities and mental health supports that are critical to help students engage in learning.

"We support and value inclusive and safe high-quality public schools where children learn to think critically, problem solve and build relationships. We support an environment where all students can succeed beginning in the earliest years, regardless of their zip code, the color of their skin, native language, gender/gender identity, immigration status, religion, or social standing. 

"We promote advancing equity and excellence in public education, and implementing continuous improvement and evidence-based practices. Every child has the right to an education that helps them reach their full potential and to attend schools that offer a high quality educational experience.

"We support stable, equitable, predictable and adequate funding for great public schools for every student in America so that students have inviting classrooms, as well as well-prepared and supported educators. These educators include teachers, paraprofessionals and principals who provide a well-rounded and complete curriculum and create joy in learning. Our school buildings should have class sizes small enough to allow one-on-one attention and have access to support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them.

"We believe that public tax dollars should only support public schools that are publicly governed and accountable to parents, educators and communities. In no way should local, state or federal funding be taken away from public schools and given to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. 

"We reiterate our love for public education and pride in our public schools. We will continue to promote the promise and purpose of public education, to elevate the great things happening every day in our public schools, and to engage communities about strategies that help students succeed.  We affirm our commitment to fight for resources and policies that would undermine these values."

Signed this, the 6th day of September, 2017: 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary Principals
  • National Education Association

 

 

September 5, 2017(2)

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

AASA Partners with CoSN for 2017 Infrastructure Survey

It's back to school, which means a LOT of things. Including time for the annual AASA/CoSN infrastructure survey. For the past several years, we have collaborated with CoSN on this survey as a way to assess the current state of broadband and technology infrastructure in U.S. school systems. The survey gathered insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, to assess key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

The survey has been distributed. We switched formats this year, and each district is receiving it's own, distinct URL. It was deployed to the main contact in the CoSN database, and we are writing this blog post to put this on your radar and to encourage you to check with your tech/IT team to ensure your district response is captured. 

Dear Education Leader: 

AASA, in partnership with education researchers at MDR and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), recently launched the fifth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. 

This year, CoSN has partnered with Forecast5 Analytics to provide premium results in an online workbook of visual data analytics that will allow you to compare to districts across the country on IT infrastructure strategies.

Last week, we sent a custom survey link to your technology director. We ask that you follow up with your Technology Department to ensure that your school district is represented. The deadline is Friday, September 25th. 

Districts that participate in this survey will receive a report giving a high level overview of the survey results. You will also have an opportunity to request detailed survey results from Forecast5 once you have completed the survey.

Thank you for your help! 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com. 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com.

September 5, 2017(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Stand Up, Speak Up, Act Now for Secure Rural Schools

Congress must fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Congress is funding many programs in Fiscal Year 2017 but has not yet funded SRS for the 9 million students in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states across the country.

The SRS safety net has unraveled in 775 counties and 4,400 school districts serving 9 million students in 41 states. Congress has failed to act on SRS and forest management.  The Secure Rural Schools program a safety net for forest communities in 41 states has expired.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements begun in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity. 

Congress must extend and fund the SRS safety net until the federal government produces long overdue sustainable active forest management systems. Lacking SRS 2016 authorization the National Forest Service issued 25% payments of timber receipts to states based on the 1908 Act.  The 2016 payments actually based on timber receipts are substantially below SRS funding forcing local school district and county budget cuts.        

Without immediate Congressional action to fund SRS for the short term and to establish forest policy, forest counties and school districts are cutting irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.

SEPTEMBER ACTION: STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR SRS: ASK your Senators and Representative to STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR Secure Rural Schools as Congress funds FY 2018 and disaster relief. Tell your Member what lost SRS funds and 2016 funding based on shared timber receipts mean for students, and for roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs.

 

  • Ask your REPRESENTATIVE to STAND UP, SPEAK UP AND ACT NOW FOR SRS. Needed: Immediate action on short term SRS funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services.
  • ASK your House REP. to join Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to cosponsor H.R.2340 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK your Senators to join Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) to cosponsor S. 1027 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability. 

PLEASE STAND UP, SPEAK UP ACT NOW For SRS. Congress can and must fund SRS short term for 2016-2017. Forest county communities are losing irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. 

 

September 5, 2017

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AASA Leads CHIP Funding Extension Letter

Today, AASA led a letter on behalf of the 35 national organizations who belong to the Save Medicaid in the Schools Coalition, expressing our support for a full, clean extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years at current funding levels. We are writing to Congress because if CHIP is not appropriately expedient and robustly funded then every child educated in public school districts will be harmed.

More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs. Fifteen states exclusively use CHIP funds to extend their Medicaid programs, meaning all children who qualify for CHIP receive identical services and benefits as their traditional Medicaid-counterparts. In most states a substantial portion of children served by CHIP receive Medicaid services and benefits protections.  If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for these children’s healthcare then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. 


September 1, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Join Your Colleagues in San Francisco to close Attendance Awareness Month!

This guest blog post comes from Lee Funk, Executive Director of the Attendance Institute

The Attendance Institute, a non-profit agency dedicated to promoting student engagement, is hosting its second annual summit, “Cultivating Success,” in San Francisco on September 29, 2017. This event will focus on multiple routes to successful student performance and will take place on Friday, September 29, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis.

The goal is to bring together innovators, scholars, and result-minded leaders who have real solutions for increasing student achievement and, ultimately, success in life. The forum will stress what proven results are possible—not years in the future, but now.

Ryan J. Smith, the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization, will deliver the keynote address and Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer, the Associate Deputy Director for the Bureau of Indian Education, will speak during the luncheon.

The Institute’s research staff will unveil the results of a study involving over 70 districts and more than 700,000 students on the effectiveness of systemic interventions for reducing chronic absenteeism and improving graduation rates.

For more information go here: http://attendanceinstitute.org/.