August 19, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

PEP Talk Episode 13: Donors Choose (Crowd Funding in Education)

In the latest episode of PEP Talk, Noelle Ellerson Ng talks with Katie Bisbee and Anna Edwards of Donors Choose

All episodes of PEP Talk can be found here

In addition to talking crowd funding, check out the resources and information specific to rural schools: 

As more schools tap into crowdfunding to provide innovative resources and learning opportunities for their students, administrators in rural districts might feel left out. Since traditional crowdfunding usually only generates donations from a teacher’s personal network or the local community, it may seem impossible for rural schools with a smaller footprint to have the same funding success as schools in large metropolitan areas. But not all crowdfunding is made equal, and thanks to charities like DonorsChoose.org that help schools secure funding from donors across the nation, rural districts stand to benefit just as much as their urban peers. Read more about how you can help your district.  

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Guest Blog Post: Of Schools, Busing, Integration and Outdated Federal Policy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with the latest episode of the AASA PEP Talk podcast, which focuses on an arcane provision in federal policy--an outdated anti-busing provision that continues to exist merely because Congress hasn't erased it.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

(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

June 18, 2019

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

Guest Blog Post: New SALT Workaround Regulations Narrow a Tax Shelter, but Work Remains to Close it Entirely

This guest blog post comes from Carl Davis, with the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy. Carl serves as the research director at ITEP. This blog post originally appeared on the ITEP blog and is published here with permission. Follow Carl on Twitter @carlpdavis (carl at itep.org)

Today the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its final regulations cracking down on a tax shelter long favored by private and religious K-12 schools, and more recently adopted by some “blue state” lawmakers in the wake of the 2017 Trump tax cut.

The regulations come more than a year after the IRS first announced the launch of this project and about nine months after it unveiled an initial draft. Overall, the regulations are a big improvement but fall short of ending the tax shelter entirely for wealthy investors. The IRS has indicated that additional guidance will be needed to deal with a variety of lingering issues, though it remains to be seen what that guidance will entail.

At issue are state and local tax credits for taxpayers who make so-called “charitable donations” to specific causes cherry-picked by elected officials, including private K-12 schooling. For years, private school donors have used tax credits in exchange for donating to school voucher programs to beef up their federal charitable write-offs at little or no cost to themselves, since up to 100 percent of their “charitable gifts” to such funds are reimbursed with state tax credits (18 states offer these types of credits). A large state tax credit for private school donations combined with the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions allowed some high-income taxpayers to receive a tax benefit larger than their actual donation. In essence, state and federal law incentivized donations to private schools through a system of credits and deductions that allowed high-income taxpayers to profit from so-called donations. 

For years, these perverse tax shelters went unchallenged. But then in 2017 federal lawmakers enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which capped the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000. Lawmakers in higher-income states, which have a greater number of taxpayers affected by the SALT cap, began to take interest in this shelter as a way of helping their residents cut their federal tax bills. If federal law no longer allows SALT payments above $10,000 to be deducted, why not allow taxpayers to make “charitable gifts” (reimbursed with tax credits) to their state or local government instead of tax payments? New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon enacted these arrangements. Then the IRS noticed the surge of interest in this tax strategy and decided to get involved. 

Under the new regulations, people receiving state tax credits in return for donations will have to subtract those credits when determining the real, deductible amount that they donated. For example, if a taxpayer donates $100 to support private or public education in Pennsylvania but receives a $90 tax credit in return, then only $10 of their donation will be deemed truly charitable and eligible for the federal charitable deduction. In other words, the regulations inject a welcome bit of common sense into the federal tax code’s definition of “charity.” 

Some private school groups were up in arms about this proposal when it was first unveiled and argued that this change should only be implemented in the context of donations to public schools, not private ones. But the IRS wisely rejected that argument and will treat donations to all types of entities in the same way. Failing to do so would have created a grave inequity in our tax code, would have been unnecessarily complex and would have reopened the door to more creative SALT cap workaround schemes. 

The main area where the regulations fall short, however, is in their treatment of investors donating stock or other property in exchange for tax credits. As ITEP explained in its comments on the initial draft of these regulations, investors in states such as South Carolina with stock they wish to offload will be advised by their accountants to “give” their stock away in return for a 100 percent tax credit, rather than sell that stock on the open market. To the IRS, selling a stock generates cash income that triggers a taxable capital gain, but a state tax credit received in return for donating stock has typically remained invisible. A South Carolina taxpayer with $75,000 in capital gains income, for example, could come out ahead by about $23,100 if they take their payment in the form of a state tax credit rather than cash, as ITEP has shown. In other words, some investors making so-called “charitable gifts” will continue to turn a profit as a perverse reward for sham generosity. 

Without question, Congress could fix this lingering problem if it wished. Legislation introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) in the previous Congress, for instance, would require taxpayers to pay capital gains tax if they receive a large state tax credit as compensation for their gift of stock or property to a private school voucher organization. This improvement to our tax code’s measurement of real “charity” is worthwhile and could even be expanded to cover contributions of appreciated property to any organization. 

But the IRS has also indicated that it might seek to address this problem on its own, as it mentions that additional guidance will be needed on a number of issues including the portion of federal law governing treatment of capital gains income. 

Regardless of whether Congress or the IRS is the body to ultimately take action, it’s clear that additional work is needed to preserve the integrity of the charitable deduction by reserving it for real acts of charity, not sophisticated tax planning. Today’s regulation is a great step in that direction, but it shouldn’t be the final word.

June 14, 2019

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

PEP Talk Podcast with John Forkenbrock: Let's Talk Rural!

The latest episode of the AASA policy podcast PEP Talk features John Forkenbrock. He joins AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng for a colorful conversation about a career spanning Capitol Hill, association work, public education and everything in between.

John Forkenbrock is a longtime AASA friend, making a career out of education policy and advocacy. His passion for strong public schools and rural education was central to his time on Capitol Hill and in education associations. Currently serving as a leader with Organizations Concerned with Rural Education (OCRE), John was previously the executive director for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). In this episode, he chats with AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng, and the conversation is as filled with policy insights as it is with colorful stories from an accomplished education career. Give it a listen today!

June 11, 2019

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

NEW Toolkit: Crowdfunding Policies for School Districts

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the national nonprofit DonorsChoose.org have joined forces to create an updated toolkit for school district leaders to maximize the impact of crowdfunding in their schools. The Back to School Crowdfunding Toolkit was a first step in helping district administrators understand best practices in vetting and using teacher crowdfunding sites. The new Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit outlines policies and practices that district administrators can enact to support teacher innovation with appropriate safeguards.

Teacher use of crowdfunding sites to receive critical resources for their classrooms is on the rise. However, district leaders often have questions about the process and best practices to ensure safety and transparency. The new toolkit provides insights from AASA members and DonorsChoose.org on how to ensure equity and responsible use of crowdfunding in their districts. 

Our new toolkit Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit can be found here.

 

June 8, 2019(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

June 2019 The Advocate: Forest Counties Update

Each month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article for The Advocate, designed to be used by our state affiliates in their respective monthly newsletters. The Advocate is a great way to expand the relationship between our national and state organizations, to provide members with a timely update on a relevant topic, and to highlight the priorities of AASA advocacy. This month's topic? Forest counties.

The Advocate: June 2019

This month we dig deep on the Secure Rural Schools and Counties program. It is a critical program that benefits a large majority of states in the nation, with especially important roles in the Pacific Northwest and states with a large amount of federal forest land.

By way of background: In December 2000, with support from the National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition (NFCSC), the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was signed into law. This bill provided Title I payments to counties (for roads) and to public schools. It also provided payments to counties to invest in Title II Forest Improvement Projects on National Forests and Title III for specific projects and programs in counties.

The Act also authorized the counties to create, in cooperation with the USFS, collaborative Resource Advisory Committees. This Act was enormously successful in that it restored county and school revenues to their 1980's and early 90's levels, resulting in restoration of public services and school programs. The 62 Resource Advisory Committees completed more than 4,000 projects on national forest lands without a single lawsuit or appeal. The original SRS authorization expired in September 2006.

Congress funded the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for the short-term FY 2017-2018 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625) which extended SRS funding for FY 2017- 2018. SRS funding for two years provides very short-term financial support for the disintegrating SRS safety net serving 9 million students and county citizens in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states. No funding was provided in FY19, and no funding has been proposed for FY20 to date.

National forests and communities burned at significant rates over the last few years. Forest communities are suffering human and economic devastation as the SRS safety net continues to unravel. Forest counties, communities, schools and students continue to the pay the price as extremely dangerous fires devastate local communities while also suffering loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. As a long-term alternative to SRS, the federal government and Congress have been promising but not delivering a long-term system based on sustainable active forest management.

With this background, our most recent success related to SRS has been to secure funding, albeit in a patchwork of short-term funding bills. We need the FY20 appropriations bill to include funding for at least FY20 and FY19 (retroactively) if not also for FY21. For longer term stability, though, the SRS coalition we belong to has pivoted to a two-prong strategy: In addition to the usual push for annual funding, we are also looking for a significant restructuring of the program, to remove its reliance on the annual appropriations process. To that end, we were pleased to see the recent reintroduction of the bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, first introduced in December 2018, which would make SRS permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. This bill has yet to be introduced in the House, but we are making inroads.

Moving forward through the summer, the ask should be to ensure that your Senators have signed on to the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act and ask them to commit to securing funding for SRS in the final FY20 funding package, including retroactive funding for FY19.

May 28, 2019(2)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

US Senators Introduce Bill to Bolster Secure Rural Schools Program

ICYMI: Just before adjourning for the Memorial Day weekend, a group of Senators introduced legislation designed to bring stability to the critical Secure Rural Schools Program.

This blog post is an excerpt from the legislation's press release: 

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, today reintroduced legislation to provide much-needed financial certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services. The bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which the senators first introduced in December 2018, makes the Secure Rural Schools program—which expired at the end of FY 2018—permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. 

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS)—originally co-authored by Wyden—was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Since then, Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch have worked to give SRS a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands.

Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a 25 percent share of timber receipts from federal U.S. Forest Service lands and a 50 percent share of timber receipts from federal Oregon and California Grant Lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. As those revenues have fallen or fluctuated due to reduced timber harvest and market forces, SRS payments helped bridge the gap to keep rural schools open, provide road maintenance, support search and rescue efforts and other essential county services. Since enacted in 2000, SRS has provided a total of $7 billion in payments to more than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety.

In recent years, however, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services. The senators’ Forest Management for Rural Stability Act ends the uncertainty and provides rural counties financial security.

Legislative text can be found here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here and a longer summary of the bill can be found here.

May 23, 2019

(STUDENT DATA PRIVACY, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Special Invitation: Free Student Privacy Bootcamp, July 8 in DC!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association and the Future of Privacy Forum are thrilled to invite you or your designee to attend an exclusive free Student Privacy Bootcamp for School Superintendents and Policymakers on Monday, July 8th, at FPF's office in Washington, DC (1400 I st NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC). 

The goal of the training program is to gather superintendents and other policymakers to help them understand the regulatory requirements and best practices to properly handle student data in a complex and rapidly changing environment. This event is grant supported. The full event is from 8:30 - 11:30am ET. You can see the agenda and register for the event here

Please contact Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org) if you have any questions. I hope you can join us!

May 20, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Letter to Education Policymakers re: Title IX

Today's guest blog post is reposted, with permission, from the National Women's Law Center.

Background: NWLC recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. In response to these concerning actions, NWLC has drafted a letter reminding education policymakers and leaders that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  The letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001.

Blog Post: Today, we sent a letter to educational policy makers in every state to remind them that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has not changed, despite all of the actions taken by Betsy DeVos to try to weaken Title IX protections for survivors and all students.   

As we’ve written about before and told the Department of Education, DeVos is trying to make unlawful, cruel, and impractical changes to Title IX that are at odds with the very purpose of the statute.  These rules, if they go into effect, would discourage reporting of sexual harassment, protect schools from liability for failing to respond to known sexual harassment, and mandate unfair investigations. And we’re not alone in thinking this – more than 100,000 individuals, organizations, and education institutions submitted comments to the Department telling them this.   

Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. 

Our letter reminds education policymakers that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  Our letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001. And it also mentions that these rules, like many other regulatory actions by this Administration, are likely to face challenges in court.  So it’s not only unnecessary to make changes to policy as though these proposed rules are final, but also probably not the smartest decision.  

If you’re concerned your or your loved one’s school or university is prematurely changing their rules, please share this letter with them. You can also use our toolkit to learn more about survivors’ rights under Title IX.  

Blog post written by Shiwali Patel, Senior Counsel for Education

May 16, 2019

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

DQC Guest Blog Post: Infographic on the power of spending data

Our newest guest blog post comes from our friends at Data Quality Campaign and relates to the ESSA fiscal transparency requirement. They’re talking about the important opportunity this data represents, and more immediately useful, link to a very helpful infographic on the power behind this unprecedented collection and reporting of school spending data.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to publish school-level spending data on report cards starting next year. While your state may already publish some version of per-pupil expenditures on its school and district report cards, those numbers are usually a district average—in other words, the total expenditures of the entire district, divided by the number of students in the whole district. The new per-pupil expenditure data will include the expenditures at each school, like programs, special courses or interventions, and the actual salaries of the teachers in that building, which is likely to show different per-pupil expenditure amounts at each school. You and your team may have already been in conversations with your state about how to collect this information.

While transparency about school spending is important for policymakers and communities, it is most valuable in the hands of leaders like you who can use it to make sure that every student is getting the resources they need. As you work with the state to collect school-level spending data, you and your team need to view this data side by side with information about the students in your schools, including their academic outcomes. Looking at school-spending data alongside student success data can prompt conversations within your district about how many resources schools have in comparison to one another, and whether the way resources are allocated is helping you meet the goals you have for your students. Now that school spending data is available statewide, you can also take a look at similar school districts’ spending and student outcomes and have conversations with your peers in other districts. Local leaders, including principals, school boards, and district leaders like you have the most important role in both acting on and communicating about school-level spending. 

Brennan McMahon Parton is Director, Policy and Advocacy for Data Quality Campaign

 

May 14, 2019

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

New PEP Talk Podcast: #Census2020 and Schools

In the latest episode of Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, we hear from Georgetown University's Nora Gordon. We talk about what I think is the sleeper issue of 2019 for education: understanding the importance of robust and accurate Census participation for schools. I promise, it's way more engaging than it sounds. Plus, accurate census data is the backbone of what helps allocate federal, state and local dollars to communities for the next ten years....an accurate count matters! Give it a listen here.

May 10, 2019

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy: Rapid Round Up

It was a busy week here in DC, and the most efficient way to share that information is a rapid-fire round up in a blog post. Here's what we have for you: 

CEF FY20 Budget Book: This week, AASA was happy to have David Young, Superintendent of South Burlington Schools (VT) on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of federal investment in education, focusing on head start and early ed. Superintendent Young was here as part of the annual Budget Briefing day by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 115+ national organizations and institutions committed to increasing federal investment in education. AASA is a long time member and serves on the board of CEF. AS part of the hill event, CEF released its FY20 Budget Response, a detailed analysis of what the president proposed for all education programs and what it means for our nation’s school, students and communities. Access the report here

Voucher Victory on the Hill: The SECURE Act is a bill that moved out of the House Ways and Means committee last week, and included a very problematic provision that would allow expansion of 529 plans, giving wealthy families a tax break for enrolling—or keeping their children enrolled—in private schools and homeschools. This tax break decreases available funding for public education budgets, hurting the 90 percent of students served by our nation’s public schools. While the bill passed out of committee with the bad language, education groups (including AASA) were successful in negotiating its removal before the bill goes to the floor in the next week or so. We will remain diligent, in case Republicans consider introducing the provision as a stand alone amendment during the full vote. For now, though, a good advocacy effort resulted in stronger policy that supports public education. 

Title I Formula Report, Finally!: You’ll recall that as part of our push for ESSA reauthorization, AASA was out in front in highlighting how the current Title I formulas include unintended consequences that result in less poor districts receiving more money per pupil compared to poorer districts. While the formula wasn’t rewritten in law, the final ESSA did require USED to complete a study evaluation the Title I formula and a series of specified analysis and scenarios. The report was due in June of 2017 and was finally released this week (just one month shy of being two years late). The report stops short of making any specific recommendations about improving the accuracy and allocation of the formulas, provide a great synopsis of each of the formulae and related implementation provisions. You can read the report here. Moving forward, the real question is “How will Congress use this report to inform how they structure the next Title I formula? Will Congress use this information to decide how to allocate their federal Title I dollars among the four formula elements of Title I? How will Congress and states react to what we learned about the impact of hold harmless, state minimums, and state set asides in skewing full intended allocation of federal dollars?” Read the report (all 250 pages!) here.

House Passes FY20 LHHS Bill: On Wednesday the House appropriations committee approved legislation that would provide significant increases for grants aimed at disadvantaged students, after-school programming, and social-emotional learning. The bill provides more than $4 billion in additional funding for USED in FY20, a stark contrast to the President’s proposal, which would cut USED by more than $8 billion. The bill has yet to pass the full House, and is likely much higher than what would pass the Senate and well above anything the president would sign. The path forward for USED funding is anything but certain, with real threats of shutdown, continuing resolution and sequester all at play. We will continue to monitor the process. Check out a detailed write up of the House appropriations committee bill. 

  • AASA was pleased to sign the CEF letter of support for the House FY20 proposal. Give the letter a read. 

District Revenues and Expenditures Ticked up Between 2015 and 2016: A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examined information about revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public school districts. The national median of total revenues per pupil and expenditures per pupil increased across all public school districts between budget years 2015 and 2016. To view the full report, please visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019303 

April 15, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

New PEP Talk Episode: Education Superhighway's Evan Marwell

We are pleased to share the latest episode of PEP Talk, AASA's Education Policy Podcast. In this episode, we talk with Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Superhighway. Evan and Noelle talk everything from E-Rate to connectivity and everything in between. We were pleased to chat with Evan, and want to also link to our latest and most updated E-Rate resources landing page.

April 2, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Coalition Letter Urging Higher Allocation for LHHS-Education Appropriations Bills

AASA joined more than 500 organizations in a joint letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership urging a bigger allocation for the FY 2020 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations.  The letter was signed by 550 organizations that support investments in the bill’s many programs.  AASA joined the letter through our work with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). CEF helps lead this letter annually with the Coalition for Health Funding, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, and the Coalition on Human Needs.

March 27, 2019(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA Joins Education, Privacy, Disability Rights, and Civil Rights Groups to Release Principles For School Safety, Privacy, and Equity

Today, AASA and 39 other education, privacy, disability rights, and civil rights organizations released ten principles to protect all students’ safety, privacy, and right to an equal education. The principles are meant to serve as a starting point for conversations with policymakers and school officials about how to keep students safe while respecting their dignity and encouraging their individual growth. Check out the principles here

Signatories of the Principles for School Safety, Privacy, and Equity:

 

  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • The Advocacy Institute
  • The Arc of the United States
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Association of University Centers on Disability
  • Autism Society
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus
  • Center for Public Representation
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
  • Disability Independence Group, Inc
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • EPIC
  • Florida Association of School Psychologists
  • Florida League of Women Voters
  • Florida Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • Future of Privacy Forum
  • Intercultural Developmental Research Association
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • Mental Health America
  • National Association of Councils on   Developmental Disabilities
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • Public Advocacy for Kids
  • Sandy Hook Promise
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • TASH

 

March 27, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Senate FY20 Budget Proposal

You'll recall that the president kicked off the annual budget and appropriations process for federal fiscal year 2020 (FY20) earlier this month when he released his FY20 budget proposal. Spoiler: It's bad for education, AASA opposes and it is a non-starter with Congress. You can read our full analysis here.

From here, the action moves to Capitol Hill, where the Congress picks up its work to advance the process. If this were school house rocks, each chamber would adopt their own budget resolution (a document that sets the overall dollar amount for the budget, but devoid of program specific details). Then, it shifts from budget to appropriations, as the overall allocation is divided between the 12 'slices' of the federal budget, the 12 appropriations bill. For our purposes, we follow the labor, health, human services, education and other (LHHS) bill. Then, each chamber's 12 appropriations sub committees will propose, consider and adopt the 12 individual bills, then the full appropriations committee would repeat the process, and then those House and Senate bills would have to be conferenced/reconciled to settle differences, before a final vote and going to the president's desk. That was a super simplified explanation, and really almost irrelevant, since the process hasn't worked like that--on time--since the mid 1990s.

So, right now, we are on the budget resolution portion. For FY20, this is a critical step. The budget caps put into place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 run through 2021, and those caps--which equate to cuts--were exacerbated by the cuts of sequester, also a by-product of the Budget Control Act. In a nutshell, if Congress does not raise the caps for FY20, we face a serious funding cliff that could revert funding levels at USED to those of a decade ago. 

So what's going on with the Hill? There is no guarantee that each Chamber will pass a budget resolution, and that's not a deal breaker (Congress can vote to raise the caps in other vehicles). But for now, the chambers are attempting to move through normal order. This week, the Senate budget committee is set to consider the proposal supported by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY). AASA opposes the budget resolution, and you can read our letter here. 

In a nutshell, the resolution--while it could pass the committee--isn't expected to get much further. The proposal mirrors the low funding levels of the president's FY20 budget, locking in the post-sequester caps for both FY20 and 21, as well as the next three years. For FY20 alone, those type of cuts could translate into a cut to USED of nearly $9 billion (12.5%!).  The resolution is in stark contrast to Congress' funding efforts each year since 2013. Put another way, regardless of party leadership or polticial positioning, every fiscal year since 2013, Congress has voted to restore the cuts of sequester and raise the funding caps to pre-sequester levels. This budget proposal is the direct opposite of that and pretty much the opposite of what we expect the House to use as its starting point.

This all said, Chairman Enzi is acting within the responsibility of his committee, is moving through normal process, and is compliant with the Budget Control Act. While we oppose his proposal and urge him to advance a proposal that resolves the sequester cuts, we remain committed to working with him and his committee through this process. Stay tuned!

March 21, 2019

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Feedback on Changes to Equitable Services

Earlier this month, USED handed down a clarification related to equitable services in ESSA that would allow third party or outside players to be religiously affiliated. For background: Under ESSA, public schools have to offer/provide the same services to vulnerable students in private schools that are available to students in the public schools. Under current practice, some schools make that work by providing a teacher or the related salary. Or, while current law prohibits the money from going directly to the private school, districts consult with the private school leaders to determine what services need to be provided and if they need to use an outside contractor. Under previous interpretation, there was a prohibition against any such organization being religious in affiliation. In light of Trinity Lutheran (The SCOTUS case the is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and allows for public dollars to go to private schools in narrow circumstances), USED was clarifying that prohibition against these contractors being religious was illegal. This means that schools can now consider proposals or bids from religious groups. While this is not likely sizeable in terms of dollars that may ultimately flow to private providers that are religiously affiliated, it is a seismic shift in that public dollars will end up in private schools. 

In response to the change, AASA submitted the following comment to USED:

On Monday, March 11, the US Education Department (USED) announced that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017), eligible organizations cannot be disqualified from receiving a public benefit solely because of their religious character, USED will no longer enforce statutory provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that previously restricted school districts from contracting with religious organizations to provide equitable services on the same basis as any other organization. The Trinity decision expanded federal law to allow provision of public dollars to private entities/schools in a narrow circumstance, and we want to ensure that this USED application of this interpretation does not spill over into a further expansion. That is, it is a creative interpretation of legal logic to expand a decision that is it ok for a contractor to use public funds to resurface a playground in a private school to then allow that flexibility to apply to a contractor who will provide instructional services. 

We share USED’s goal to support school districts in providing high-quality educational services to students and teachers. To that end, we encourage USED to consider and make clear those ways in which it will prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in circumstances where school districts choose to contract with religious organizations to provide equitable services, and in turn instruct states as to how to effectively include this in their monitoring. In addition, we encourage USED to remain diligent in its enforcement of other applicable statutory provisions and we encourage LEAs to ensure that their activities are compliant with those provisions, including the requirement that any contractor be independent of the private school for which it is providing services (i.e., the contractor does not have administrative or fiscal direction and control over the private school) and that the educational services and other benefits being provided by the contractor are “secular, neutral, and nonideological.” As with any other contractual arrangement funded by federal dollars, transparency and accountability in these arrangements are critical to supporting students’ and teachers’ success and the responsible allocation of limited financial resources. 

 

March 15, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

AASA Analysis of Trump FY20 Budget Proposal

On March 11, President Trump released his FY20 budget proposal, his plan/strategy/priorities for federal funding in FY20 (which starts Oct 1 and runs through Sept 30; FY20 education dollars will be in schools during the 2020-21 school year).  It should be noted that this budget is dead on arrival and is a non-starter with Congress, who will do their own bipartisan work to reach a compromise on final FY20 dollars. AASA monitors this proposal out of diligence to all federal funding proposals, but puts little to no stock in the proposal itself. 

You can read the full AASA analysis here.

AASA maintains that a budget, whether that of our organization or the schools that AASA members lead, reflects our mission and priorities: we fund what we support, and we support what we fund. To that end, President Trump’s proposed FY20 budget continues his trend of introducing federal budget proposals that fall short of the simple willingness and ability to prioritize support for strengthening and supporting our nation’s public schools and the students they serve.  

OVERVIEW: The president’s FY20 budget proposal continues his administration’s prioritization of privatization, at the direct expense of the nation’s public schools and the 50 million students they serve every day. The FY20 US Education Department (USED) budget proposal is organized around six major initiatives:

 

  • Increase access to school choice
  • Support high-need students through essential formula grant programs
  • Protect students by promoting safe and secure schools
  • Elevate the teaching profession through innovation
  • Promote workforce development for the 21st century
  • Streamline and improve post-secondary aid programs

 

Overall, the proposal seeks one of the largest-ever cuts to domestic discretionary spending. The proposal cuts non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding from its current level of $597 billion to the FY2020 funding cap of $543 billion (a cut of $54 billion, or 9%). The proposal preserves funding for defense discretionary funding. More specific to education, the FY20 budget proposal for USED provides $64 billion for the federal fiscal year starting October. This is a cut of $7.1 billion (or 10 percent) compared to USED’s final FY19 allocation. The proposal eliminates 29 programs, totaling $6.7 billion, with a significant portion of those cuts targeting programs that support educators, school leaders, literacy and college affordability. The budget proposal uses these cuts to pay for a new federal tuition tax credit (voucher), funded at $5 billion in FY20 and at $50 billion total over ten years, as well as increases for the DC Opportunity Scholarship voucher. At the 30,000 foot level, the AASA response to the proposed FY20 budget is a reiteration of our commitment to equity in education, to the idea that all students deserve a robust high-quality education, and to the belief that our nation’s public schools are best positioned to achieve this unparalleled national priority. We subscribe to the idea that ‘When our students succeed, our nation succeeds’ and as such, believe that federal investment is critical to helping to level the playing field for our nation’s neediest students. The limited federal dollars, though a small share of overall education funding, yield a mighty impact when purposefully invested.

AASA outright opposes the president’s FY20 budget proposal, for myriad reasons: for its flawed premise; for its failure to resolve the funding pressures of sequester; for its continued prioritization of privatization; for missing the opportunity to introduce a budget document that is not dead on arrival with Congress; for its blunt cuts to non-defense discretionary funding; and for its disregard for parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, among others. AASA welcomes the opportunity to work with Congress to complete a timely, bipartisan, bicameral FY20 budget that raises the federal funding caps, uses FY19 as the base funding level, and supports and strengthens public education. 

February 28, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

This Week in AASA Advocacy: Letter on House Infra Bill AND the 2019 Leg Agenda

Two items of note this week:

  • AASA Releases Final 2019 Legislative Agenda: Drafted by the AASA executive committee in January, and revised and ratified by the AASA governing board at the National Conference for Education in LA earlier this month, the final legislative agenda is available for your reference. This document represents the organization's federal legislative priorities and is used by the policy and advocacy team as 'marching orders' on Capitol Hill. Join us in DC in July for our annual advocacy conference for your chance to weigh in on these important issues.
  • House Education & Labor Committee Passes Infrastructure Bill: Earlier this week, the committee passed the Rebuild America's School Act, which would provide about $100 billion for school infrastructure, through a combination of $70 billion in direct federal spending for renovation, repairs and modernization, and $30 billion in tax-credit bonds. AASA sent a letter of support (with our friends at AESA). The path forward is far from clear: this bill merely authorizes the funds; Congress would need to actually provide the funding via annual appropriations. Given that FY20 discussions will require a sizable funding cap increase to merely preserve level funding, the likelihood of Congress finding another $100 billion is really limited. Stay tuned!

October 3, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Let's Rehash the Fun of FY19 Funding

For the first time in two decades—and the first time in my career at AASA—the federal government has completed the funding process for the US Education Department on time (with time to spare!) and pretty close to normal order.

BACKGROUND: If this were School House Rocks, here is how the federal appropriations process would work:

 

  • The House and Senate each run their own budget and appropriations process. The following steps occur on parallel tracks, in both the House and Senate, meaning there are two proposals until later in the process, when the chamber come together to conference their bills (reconcile the differences between their individual proposals).
  • After the President introduces his/her budget, each chamber would refer to the President’s proposal to inform their Budget Resolutions, and each chamber would adopt its own budget (a process that sets the overall funding level for the government, but does not get to program-specific allocations)
  • From here, the House and Senate transition from the budget work to the appropriations work, a process by which the overall budget allocation is divvied up among the 12 appropriations bills. Think of the budget as the whole federal funding pie; the appropriations bills are the 12 slices of the pie. Our funding (from US Education Department) is in the Labor Health Human Services Education & Other (LHHS) appropriations.
  • From here, each ‘slice of the pie’ goes through the following process (we’ll use LHHS as the example): The LHHS will would be reviewed and adopted by the LHHS appropriations sub committee. Then, the LHHS bill adopted by the sub committee is reviewed and adopted by the full appropriations committee, and then again reviewed and adopted by the full chamber (House or Senate). 
  • Once the House and Senate have each adopted their own LHHS bill, they go to ‘conference’, the process by which the two bills are considered together and a conference committee works to meld the two proposals together into one final bill. This is a process that could be compromise centric, outright adoption of one proposal over the other, or anything in between. One final LHHS bill emerges from the conference process.
  • Once the House and Senate agree to a conferenced bill, each chamber has to vote to adopt it, and then that final bill is sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
  • This process would be repeated for each of the 12 appropriations bills, and would be completed before the Oct 1 start of the federal fiscal year.

REALITY: Congress is NOT School House Rocks right now, especially as it relates to the annual appropriations. In fact, the last time Congress completed the full appropriations process on time and in natural order was in the mid 1990s. When Congress cannot complete its appropriations work (which funds the government!), there will either be a shutdown or—more common—they will use a continuing resolution, a process that keeps government open, level funded at the previous year’s level, to buy Congress more time to complete their funding work. 

So what happened this year? A lot. Let’s unpack it.

 

 

  • Budget Caps: While this is a story about the FY19 funding allocation (for the fiscal year that runs Oct 1 2018 to Sept 30 2019, and dollars that will be in schools for the 2019-20 school year), it’s funding levels tie back to the funding cap conversation of FY18.
  • In 2011, Congress adopted the Budget Control Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that put into place ten years of federal budget caps and triggered the process of sequestration. For purposes of understanding its impact on FY18 and FY19 discussions, know that the budget caps the bill put in place—coupled with the cuts of sequestration—meant that if Congress hadn’t voted to raise the caps in FY18, the allocation to USED would have been at or below FY08 levels. More succinctly, it means that schools would have to educate their 2018 school and student enrollments with 2007 funding levels. Congress had raised the caps twice before—in both 2013 and 2015—and the final FY18 deal was the biggest of all three AND raised the caps for FY19.
  • The overall budget can be divided into mandatory and discretionary funding; discretionary funding is divided into defense and non-defense discretionary funding. LHHS funding comes from the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget.
  • The cap increase for NDD between FY18 and FY19 was just over $18 billion. If LHHS funding had received a proportional increase of this funding, it would have been approx. $5.5 billion. To start the FY19 conversations, the House LHHS bill level funded the programs and the Senate bill provided a $2 billion increase. Neither bill provided a proportional increase to support critical LHHS programs, but the Senate bill provided a small increase.
  • The final conferenced bill adopted the higher Senate LHHS allocation, with the increase of $2 billion. Strategically, AASA would have worked to support a final overall number, but there were Big ‘P’ and Little ‘p’ political pressures at play. When it comes to LHHS funding, we are usually one of the last ones over the finish line and of late had come to bear disproportionate cuts to pay for funding increases elsewhere in the government. The idea that we could get over the finish line was novel, and the opportunity to do so on time and with an increase was a big priority for Congress. Anticipating that the President and some GOP would consider cutting LHHS if the bill was considered on its own, the LHHS bill was partnered with the Defense bill. (I like to explain this as the marching band flute player going to prom with the quarter back.) Their thinking was that in pairing the bills, while the President may want to cut LHHS, he would not be willing to risk Defense funding to do so. This was a bet that paid off; the President signed the final LHHS bill into law late last week. 
 So Much Context. Tell Me About the Money!! Selected programs.

 

 

  • Overall allocation to USED is $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million. The final bill rejects the proposal to consolidate USED with the Department of Labor, as well as the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda. The bill does NOT include language to prohibit the use of federal education dollars to arm school personnel.
  • Programs receiving an increase: Title I ($100 m); Title IVA ($70 m); IDEA Part B ($100 m); 21st Century ($10 m); Charter School grants ($40 m); Perkins Career Tech ($70 m); Impact Aid ($32 m); 
  • Programs that are level funded: Title II A; Title III; 
  • Full chart courtesy of Committee for Education Funding 

 

October 1, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Rural Matters Podcast: October 2018

As part of our organizational goal to better serve and support our nation's rural school superintendents and the schools and communities they serve, AASA is proud to sponsor Rural Matters, a monthly podcast that covers, discusses, and shares conversation, insights, and resources on the latest topics that shape and impact rural school communities. We are pleased to share a quick blurb from the hosts about the latest episode, focused on computer science and STEM: 

Want to know more about success stories in Computer Science and STEM? Episode #26 from our podcast partner, Rural Matters, is a must listen. You'll hear representatives from Arkansas, Idaho, and Florida detail grant opportunities, ground-breaking student competitions, forward-looking professional development initiatives, and innovative funding opportunities. Just search for Rural Matters on iTunes or wherever you get your favorite podcasts, and SUBSCRIBE, or visit Libsyn, http://ruralmatters.libsyn.com/ 

September 20, 2018

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

AASA Supports National Voter Registration Day: Can You?

You can’t rock the vote until you’re ready to vote, and you’re not ready to vote until you’re registered to vote. To that end, as part of our #LeadersMatter campaign, and our ongoing work at AASA to ensure that schools are ready for kids, kids are ready for schools, and our students graduate ready to be an engaged member in civic society, we are pleased to share a suite of information related to National Voter Registration Day.

AASA is pleased to be part of a national effort to support and strengthen our nation’s democracy by encouraging eligible voters to vote as part of National Voter Registration Day, on September 25, 2018. Our nation’s public schools—as the backbone of civic society—are uniquely positioned: tasked not only with civic education, which provides ample opportunity to learn the history and power of the right to vote and how it has evolved and grown throughout our nation’s history, schools are also where a significant portion of our nation’s students engage in their first votes—spanning things from vote for home coming king to student body president—and where they are enrolled when they turn 18, the age of voting eligibility.

To that end, we are highlighting National Voter Registration Day as a resource for school superintendents to provide helpful information, support important conversations, and facilitate any efforts you may undertake related to voter registration in your schools. National Voter Registration Day is a bipartisan event, and is endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors.

What Can I Do?

  • Register to Vote Online: It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s secure.
  • Attend a National Voter Registration Day Event: Find one near you.
  • Host a Voter Registration Day Event in Your Community: Register your event.
  • Spread the Word: Take a few moments to strengthen your community – and our country – with your voice. Use #NationalVoterRegistrationDay throughout social media and share this information with your school district's communication team and community members. 

 Related Resources (Content courtesy of National Voter Registration Day organization)

 Things to Consider

  • The right to vote is non-partisan. As someone facilitating these conversations, be mindful to adhere to the idea of ‘I don’t care HOW you vote; I care THAT you register and vote.”
  • While voting is tied to an election or decision of some sort, the process of registration and any related conversations can and should be devoid of any stated position or preferred candidate.
  • In today’s highly partisan environment, and increasing tension related to voting rights and voting restrictions, any conversation about voter registration—including the simple act of making information available in schools and/or providing registration forms in school—could be perceived as political. To that end, work closely with your board, administrative team and staff to ensure that the focus remains on the civic right and responsibility of voting, that information on voting and registration is available to any and all students, and that any related conversations are devoid of conversations on who to vote for or what position to support.
  • You could focus your efforts solely on your student body, or you could use this opportunity to reach the broader community. That is a decision for you and your board. 

September 17, 2018

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

AASA Contributes to National PTA Back-to-School Toolkit

AASA is pleased to have contributed to and to share with you information about this week's Back to School Week campaign, organized by National PTA. 

National PTA has designated Sept. 17-21 Back-to-School Week to celebrate back-to-school season. Throughout the week, National PTA will share tips and resources on social media using #PTABackToSchool and at PTA.org/BackToSchool to help PTA leaders, parents, students and teachers have a successful new school year.

AASA is pleased to be a partner in this week and to have contributed resources, available in the 'From our Partners' section. As part of Back-to-School Week, National PTA has launched a comprehensive webpage with a wide variety of resources. The association has also assigned each day of the week to highlight and share tips and resources for the stakeholders who play an essential role in supporting children’s learning and success. 

 

  • Monday, September 17 – Back to School for PTA Leaders
  • Tuesday, September 18 – Back to School for Parents
  • Wednesday, September 19 – Back to School for Students
  • Thursday, September 20 – Back to School for Teachers

Additionally, during the week, National PTA will be making announcements on new initiatives, grant recipients and new grant opportunities, classroom surprises and more.

 

September 13, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Joins 4 Other Groups in Letters to Oppose Tax Bill 2.0 and Oppose Using Federal Dollars to Arm Educators

AASA joined four other national education organizations--the Association of School Business Officials International, Association of Educational Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium--in two letters to Capitol Hill, one on Tax Bill 2.0 and the FY19 LHHS appropriations bill.

Tax Bill 2.0: The education groups oppose the bill, focusing on the proposed expansion of 529 plans to support homeschooling expenses and the proposal to make permanent the cap on State and Local Tax Deductions. This bill is the opposite of reform and represents more of the same failed policies in the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Read the letter.

FY19 Education Funding: In this letter, the groups relay two messages: support for the higher level of funding for education in FY19 and absolute opposition to allowing federal education dollars to be used to arm school personnel. 

August 17, 2018(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Connecting Academic Outcomes and Resource Allocation: Best Practices in School Budgeting

Today's guest blog post comes from Matt Bubness, Senior Manager with the Research and Consulting Center at the Government Finance Officers Association.  AASA most recently collaborated with the GFOA in our efforts to push back on the cap/elimination of the SALT-D in the 2017 tax overhaul. We are happy to continue working together, and to share this entry.

How do school districts budget in an era of decreased public funding and still fulfill their mission to increase student achievement? GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) has developed a series of Best Practices in School Budgeting (available for free at http://gfoa.org/k-12-budget), which clearly outline steps for developing a budget that best aligns resources with student achievement goals. The new Best Practices are supported by the Smarter School Spending website which offers a wide range of free resources for districts to guide and support implementation of the Best Practices. 

The budgeting process presented in these Best Practices is focused on optimizing student achievement within available resources. The Best Practices included information on how to improve your budget process structured around planning and preparing; setting instructional priorities; paying for these priorities; implementing the priorities; and finally ensuring sustainability of all of the effort put into developing the priorities and budget process. Within each of these areas are guidelines and examples on how to implement financial policies, SMARTER goals, root cause analysis, and cost-effectiveness measurement techniques such as A-ROI, among a number of other techniques and concepts. 

Ninety plus districts have worked with GFOA to date in implementing the Best Practices budget process through an early adopter group – the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting. Districts range in size from a few hundred students to several hundred thousand students, from 30 states across the US and a wide range of demographics. GFOA welcomes district looking to improve their budget and planning processes to join the Alliance - to learn more go to http://gfoa.org/alliance-excellence-school-budgeting

August 17, 2018

(ESEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

August Action: No Rest During Recess!

This month, The Advocate is a rehash of the annual advocacy conference and a summary of what summer (August Recess) advocacy can look like. August is a great time for advocacy because your members of Congress are in the home district. This is especially true this year, as a midterm election year, as the members will be spending an even greater amount of time at home through the remainder of the election cycle. The information in this blog post highlights the variety of issues that may come up in conversation, as well as AASA's explicit priorities. 

Every July, AASA holds its annual legislative advocacy conference. This year, it was July 10-12, and more than 200 superintendents and school business officials from across the country came to DC to make the case for continued investment and policy that supports and strengthens the nation’s public schools.
 
2018 is a mid-term election year, one that seems exceptionally partisan and political. Even as things heat up on the campaign trail and Congress begins to turn its attention to home states and home districts over the summer (August) recess and fall rolling up to the November elections, the fact remains there are a bevy of issues that could be impactful and consequential to education. Those issues are the ones that were highlighted during the advocacy conference, and are the ones that you and your fellow educators can use as the basis for any advocacy or outreach you may do during the summer recess and fall, when you may be able to meet with your Congressional delegation while they are home.
 
The education policies that are salient and certain for action are annual appropriations, Perkins Career & Technical Education, Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties and the Higher Education Act. We also did a quick round up of the other topics that may garner news coverage, come up in conversations in your community, or otherwise emerge on your radar. All of these topics are summarized in our talking points. Use these resources to make the most of the August recess and fall campaign period. Members in the home district are ripe for a visit to a public school, an opportunity to see what the district is doing, what it needs, and how federal policy can bolster the two. We’re bulleting the talking points for our hot issues below, and a fuller summary is available in these talking points. Here’s a quick summary: 
  • Appropriations
    • Thank your members of Congress for the final FY18 package, which provided a $3.9 billion increase to USED, a critical investment that worked to restore the continued pressure of recession cuts. The FY18 allocations must be the starting point for any FY19 discussions. Even with this significant funding increase, the final FY18 allocation is below what it would have been if Congress had level funded USED since FY12 and just adjusted for inflation.
    • AASA and ASBO oppose any effort to direct public dollars to private education. We oppose all vouchers and privatization schema. We ask Congress to continue to prioritize investment in critical formula programs designed to level the playing field, including IDEA, Title I and Title IV. 
    • Urge your delegation to increase investment in the LHHS bills, and direct a larger share of the overall increase in non-defense discretionary funding to LHHS, to support education. 
    • Check out the latest update on Senate action.
     
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties
    • Wildfires are devastating California, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho and states across the country. California fires are burning forest acreages the size of East Coast cities. As Forest Communities pay the personal and economic price, Congress must act on long term forest management, fire prevention, and Secure Rural Schools.       
    • OVERVIEW: Congress has funded the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for the short term in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625). The Consolidated Appropriations Act completed final FY 2018 funding extending SRS with funding for FY 2017 and FY 2018.  SRS funding for two years provides very short term financial support for the disintegrating SRS safety net serving 9 million students and county citizens in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states. 
    • The Secure Rural Schools safety net program for forest communities is based on historic precedent and agreements begun in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases limiting local community management, economic activity and development.  As a long term alternative to SRS, the federal government and Congress have been promising but not delivering a long term system based on sustainable active forest management. 
    • NEXT STEPS:  National forests are burning.  Forest communities are suffering human and economic devastation as the SRS safety net continues to unravel. Forest counties, communities, schools and students continue to the pay the price as extremely dangerous fires devastate local communities while also suffering loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  The Administration and Congress must act this year on viable forest management and economic development programs and continue the historic SRS commitment to rural counties, communities, schools, students and citizens.
    • Talking Points:
      • Congress must act on forest management, fire control and long term SRS funding as forest communities and schools fight for economic survival. 
      • SRS is critical to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, and education services. 
      • Thank Members for the critical short term SRS 2017, 2018 funding.
      • Tell your Members what SRS funds mean for students, roads and essential public safety services in his/her communities.  
      • Give examples of what the loss of SRS means to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs. 
       
     
  • Higher Education Act
    • Oppose the PROSPER Act! It will harm the district’s ability to hire quality new teachers and will leave teachers with higher debt and fewer incentives to remain in the classroom.
    • Talk about teacher shortage issues in your district, if applicable, to illustrate the reality of the issue in the Representative’s district and provide them with cover for opposing.
    • For Democrats, thank them for their commitment to supporting future teachers, as they are all committed to opposing the PROSPER Act.
     
  • Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
    • Reauthorization of the Perkins program was signed into law earlier this month, bringing an end to what had been a very purposeful, and bipartisan effort on the House side and a rushed, politically pressured process on the Senate side. Sasha created a great overview of what's in the new law.
    • Moving forward, we are concerned with the continued paperwork requirements in the new law. Perkins and ESSA Title IV are funded at the same level—approximately $1.2 billion—though Perkins has significantly more paperwork requirements. We urge Congress to align the paperwork requirements of Perkins to those of ESSA. Under ESSA Title IV, if a district does not receive more than $30,000 they are exempt from completing the comprehensive needs assessment every 3 years detailing how they were spending their funding and describing how they will spend the funding with any partners (if applicable), how they will support the goals of the Title, what they hope to accomplish with their spending and how they will evaluate their effectiveness in achieving these goals. The Perkins program, with a similar authorization and funding level, should mirror these requirements.  
     
  • Other Topics (topics listed below, content in the talking points document)
    • Anti-Integration rider (in the approps bill)
    • WiFi on buses
    • Vouchers
    • Nutrition
    • STOP School Violence Act
    • Medicaid
    • Immigration/DACA
    • Infrastructure
     
 
 

July 10, 2018

(ESEA, PERKINS, STUDENT DATA PRIVACY, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Content

Today we kicked off the 2018 AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference. This is your one stop shop for all content at the conference, and we will update with slides/presentations as we receive them from presenters. 

 

 

July 3, 2018

(WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

AASA Statement in Response to Trump Administration Reversal of Obama Guidance on Affirmative Action

AASA released the following statement in response to the Trump administration's proposal to reverse Obama-era guidance related to affirmative action and consideration of race when trying to diversify student bodies:

"AASA is deeply concerned with the Trump administration’s latest policy strategy related to affirmative action. We are opposed to the short-sighted proposal that would work to undermine concerted efforts underway in districts across the nation to ensure that the schools and classrooms reflect the diversity of the broader communities they serve. It is imperative that the nation’s school system leaders have the flexibility they need in addressing the racial and economic diversity of their schools and students. Given that guidance is non-binding and does not have the power of the law, AASA errs on the side of equity, diversity and flexibility, and opposes the Trump administration’s latest proposal.” 

June 21, 2018

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

Guest Blog Post: States and Local Governments Win Online Sales Tax Case

Note from Noelle: Today, the Supreme Court issued--by a 5-4 margin--a vote in favor of the position of our filed amicus brief, supporting the rights of states to collect tax on internet sales. Lisa penned this blog as a summary of the case and proceeding.

This guest blog comes from Lisa Soronen, Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center. Lisa's group coordinated the amicus brief AASA signed on to in the South Dakota v Wayfair case before the Supreme Court, related to how states can collect taxes on internet sales.

In South Dakota v. Wayfair the Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments can require vendors with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax. According to the Court, in a 5-4 decision, “economic and virtual contacts” are enough to create a “substantial nexus” with the state allowing the state to require collection.  

In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.

Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sale tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress had the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill but never did so. 

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the 2015 Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax in order to challenge Quill. South Dakota’s law was the first ready for Supreme Court review. It requires out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax if they annually conduct $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota.

In an opinion written by Justice Kennedy the Court offered three reasons for why it was abandoning the physical presence rule. “First, the physical presence rule is not a necessary interpretation of the requirement that a state tax must be ‘applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State.’ Second, Quill creates rather than resolves market distortions. And third, Quill imposes the sort of arbitrary, formalistic distinction that the Court’s modern Commerce Clause precedents disavow.” 

While the dissenting Justices, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, would have left it to Congress to act, Justice Kennedy opined the Court should be “vigilant” in correcting its error. “Courts have acted as the front line of review in this limited sphere; and hence it is important that their principles be accurate and logical, whether or not Congress can or will act in response.”   

To require a vendor to collect sales tax the vendor must still have a “substantial nexus” with the state. The Court found a “substantial nexus” in this case based on the “economic and virtual contacts” Wayfair has with the state. A business could not do $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota “unless the seller availed itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in South Dakota.” 

Finally, the Court acknowledged that questions remain whether “some other principle in the Court’s Commerce Clause doctrine might invalidate the Act.” But the Court cited to three features of South Dakota’s tax system that “appear designed to prevent discrimination against or undue burdens upon interstate commerce. First, the Act applies a safe harbor to those who transact only limited business in South Dakota. Second, the Act ensures that no obligation to remit the sales tax may be applied retroactively. Third, South Dakota is one of more than 20 States that have adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.”

Tillman Breckenridge, Bailey Glasser, and Patricia Roberts, William & Mary Law School Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, wrote the SLLC amicus brief which the following organizations joined: the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, National Public Labor Relations Association, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, National State Treasurers Association, National School Boards Association, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Association of School Business Officials International. 

June 12, 2018

(WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Let's Raise Awareness About Need for Congress to Eliminate Anti-Integration Language in Funding Bills

Earlier this year, AASA sent a letter and joined a broader coalition of organizations in a joint letter to oppose the inclusion of anti-integration language in the federal government's annual funding bills. We continue to hold this concern and urge Congress to make 2019 the year they take a stand against this language, and ensure it is not included in the final appropriations bills.

In our letter we wrote: This "....problematic language bars the use of federal funds to transport students for purposes of racial integration. This prohibition undercuts Congress’ intent in reauthorizing the Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP), constrains school improvement strategies, and undermines the ability of education innovators to implement new school improvement techniques...When this outdated language plays out in real time, the present day effect is to reduce state and local district ability to flexibly implement the education program that best serves the needs of their students and community. This is in direct conflict with the underlying policy premise of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), that of returning authority and decision making to the state and local level. AASA adopted an organization priority of equity, with a focus on positioning AASA as an equity thought leader in education and providing resources and supports on equity for school system leaders at all levels to help them and their teams succeed. There is no underestimating the importance of supporting diversity in schools, and ensuring this harmful language does not exist in the final FY18 appropriations bill is a small but critical step in reaching this goal."

AASA is pleased to be working with the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) to remove this language. They have a fact sheet that provides a great summary of the issue.

Now is the time to raise awareness about this issue. Help us get this information in front of members of Congress and the general public. Take the time to send a quick email or tweet (let us know if you need the staff's email address) to your members of Congress. We have a handful of members of Congress we are focused on, given their leadership positions. If you are represented by one of the following members of Congress, send them a quick tweet; we've listed a sampling below. 

 

  • NC: Rep. Virginia Foxx - @virginiafoxx
  • OK: Rep. Tom Cole - @TomColeOK04
  • CT: Rep. Rosa DeLauro - @rosadelauro
  • WA: Sen. Patty Murray - @PattyMurray
  • TN: Sen. Lamar Alexander - @SenAlexander
  • MO: Sen. Roy Blunt - @RoyBlunt 

 

 Hashtags: #strike301and302 #itstime #DiversityMatters 

Sample tweets:

 

  • Tell Congress #itstime to stop blocking school integration and to #strike301and302 from FY2019 appropriations bills. Call your lawmakers this week! Find contact info at: http://goo.gl/Rmb9ff​ (Senate) and ​http://goo.gl/QY9CtQ​ (House).  
  • Anti-integration provisions from the 1970s are unnecessary roadblocks to school integration. Tell Congress #itstime to #strike301and302 in FY2019. Call your lawmakers this week! Find contact info at: ​http://goo.gl/Rmb9ff​ (Senate) and ​http://goo.gl/QY9CtQ (House).  
  • At a time when racist rhetoric is front & center, we need integrated schools more than ever. Research shows they help reduce racial prejudice & stereotypes. Call your lawmakers and tell them #itstime to #strike301and302 anti-integration riders. Learn more: ​http://goo.gl/vT52Kn  
  • Join our campaign to​ ​#strike301and302​ anti-integration riders from federal appropriations bills. Call your legislators this week and tell them why *you* think​ ​#itstime to remove this barrier to more integrated schools. ​Find a helpful fact sheet at http://goo.gl/Pt3oDa​.  
  • Dozens of organizations agree #itstime to #strike301and302 anti-integration riders. Do you? Let’s get this outdated language removed from federal appropriations bills! Call your lawmakers THIS WEEK to support its removal. Find a helpful fact sheet at http://goo.gl/Pt3oDa​. 
  • See our letter telling Congress #itstime to remove anti-integration riders from federal appropriations ​http://goo.gl/Dka9sb​ & then call your lawmakers THIS WEEK to support this effort. Find contact info at: ​http://goo.gl/Rmb9ff​ (Senate) & ​http://goo.gl/QY9CtQ (House). 
  • Diverse, dynamic societies need diverse, dynamic schools. Tell Congress #itstime to empower local communities to desegregate their schools. Call your lawmakers this week! Find contact info at: ​http://goo.gl/Rmb9ff​ (Senate) and ​http://goo.gl/QY9CtQ (House). #strike301and302 
  • School segregation hurts our children and communities. Tell Congress #itstime to empower local communities to desegregate their schools. Call your lawmakers this week! Find contact info at: ​http://goo.gl/Rmb9ff​ (Senate) and ​http://goo.gl/QY9CtQ (House). #strike301and302 
  • Students who attend diverse schools have better interpersonal skills and are more prepared for the workplace later in life. Call Congress and tell them #itstime to #strike301and302 from FY2019 appropriations bills. Find a helpful fact sheet at http://goo.gl/Pt3oDa​. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 8, 2018

(STUDENT DATA PRIVACY, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

School Practitioner Student Data & Privacy Bootcamp

AASA, in coordination with our friends at Future of Privacy Forum, are pleased to offer a free, one-day bootcamp on all aspects of student data and privacy. While these discussions have been dominating at the state and local government level, they are now bubbling up at the federal level, and this bootcamp is a one-stop shop for a quick crash course and learning about what good federal student data and privacy policy may look like, what we can learn from the work and experience of state policy, and more.

The bootcamp will be held on Monday July 9 (right before the AASA legislative advocacy conference) in Washington DC. A conference agenda is below. Interested? Email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org).

Privacy Boot Camp Agenda: Monday, July 9  

  • 9:30 Welcome Comments
  • 9:35 Hypothetical
  • 10:05 FERPA, COPPA, and PPRA
    Reg Leichty, Foresight Law+Policy (moderator)
    Michael Hawes, Director of Student Privacy Policy, U.S. Department of Education
    Bret Cohen, Hogan Lovells
  • 11:15 Federal Legislation and State Laws
    Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA
    Amelia Vance, Director of Education Privacy, Future of Privacy Forum
  • 12:15 Lunch
  • 1:15 Understanding Parent, Advocate, and Policy Concerns
    Susan Bearden, Consultant (moderator)
    Pris Regan, GMU
    Rachel Anderson, Data Quality Campaign
  • 2:15 Hypothetical
  • 2:45 Working with Ed Tech
    Chip Slavis, Alliance for Excellent Education (moderator)
    Sara Kloek, SIIA
    Jessica Geller Blackboard
    Dan Crowley, Quizlet
    Jena Draper, CatchOn
  • 4:00 Leading in Privacy: Best Practices from States and Districts
    Keith Krueger, CoSN (moderator)
    Melissa Tebbenkamp, Raytown Quality Schools
    Teddy Hartman, Howard County Public Schools, Maryland
    Steve Smith, Chief Information Officer, Cambridge Public Schools; Founder, Student Data Privacy Consortium
  • 5:15 Closing and Next Steps  

 

June 6, 2018

(WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins Five National Organizations in Joint Statement Before Federal School Safety Commission

AASA is pleased to be among the groups speaking before the Federal School Safety Commission in today's listening session, the first formal opportunity for school system leaders, professionals and stakeholders to engage in this process.

AASA submitted a statement with the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the Association of School Business Officials International, the Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators, the National Rural Education Association and the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium.

This listening session was first noticed on Friday, June 1. In the passing five days, we were able to conduct a quick survey of our members asking them to rank-order their priorities among the Commission's stated areas of conversation and discussion. That information is included in our statement.

Read the full statement.

 

June 5, 2018(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH) Permanent link

The Uphill Battle to Save Net Neutrality

On June 11, the regulatory protections referred to as 'Network Neutrality' will end. The regulations, put into place in February 2015 by President Obama's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler , classified broadband access as a telecommunications service, which meant it was subject to 'common carrier' provisions, which prohibit providers from discriminating in how broadband is used. The vote to rescind the regulations was led by President Trump's FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai.

AASA does not have a long history on net neutrality, and in fact much of our effort in this space is as much a reaction to Chairman Pai's changes to net neutrality as it is to the confluence of policies he has advanced that seem to demonstrate little understanding of or concern for ensuring that our nation's schools and the students they serve have equitable access to affordable connectivity. 

In his short tenure, the Chairman has advanced policies that run counter to or undermine programmatic changes designed to bolster and grow internet access, so that 24 hour learners could have 24 access.

  • E-Rate: In 2017, the Chairman released a notice of proposed rule making that would have started a conversation to rescind or reduce funding available to support the E-Rate program. Full details on the blog.
  • Lifeline: Lifeline is a sister program to E-Rate, and is a program that has historically helped low-income homes afford phone access. In 2014, the program was modernized to allow beneficiaries to use the program to choose to get broadband access. Internet access at home is an important element of addressing the homework gap, the reality where students are unable to do homework because they lack home access. Unfortunately, in 2017, Chairman Pai took steps that significantly limit the ability of internet providers--those willing to provide internet in these under-served or geographically isolated communities--to operate in this sphere, essentially bringing the important modernization to a halt. 
  • Net Neutrality: When it comes to net neutrality in the K12 setting, equitable access to broadband is critical element to promoting and growing educational equity and AASA is concerned that the FCC’s partisan vote to end network neutrality serves the exact opposite purpose, slowing or even growing broadband connectivity gaps. The network neutrality protections offer a strong complement to the E‐Rate equity focus, impacting access to not only affordable broadband access, but also the educational content, tools and access it provides to students and educators alike. EdWeek's Market Watch has a good explainer on the education angle of net neutrality.

Collectively, these changes represent not only a missed opportunity, but a threat, to ensuring continued equitable access to connectivity for students and schools. 

What can be done? There is momentum on the hill to reinstate the regulatory protections via legislation. AASA supported the Senate version of the bill--which was passed in May--to reinstate the protections. The vote now goes to the House. This is an admittedly uphill battle. While the general public broadly supports continuing the protections, it is a partisan issue on the Hill, with the GOP leading the effort to end the regulations. Speaker Ryan does not want to take this vote because he not only doesn't support it, but it would be a rough vote for his party to take going into mid-term elections when any press about opposing the protections would certainly translate into primary and general election campaign fodder. Even if we are able to force a House vote (low chance), and is passes the House (even lower chance!), it is all but certain President Trump would veto the bill, thereby ensuring the end of network neutrality during his tenure.

That said, it is a year of crazy firsts and unexpected things happening. To that end, if you find yourself reaching out to your Congressional delegation, make sure to tell your Representative that you support the continuation of the net neutrality protections and urge them to vote for the legislation to extend the protections. 

 

June 5, 2018

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

National Title II Day of Action: June 7

 Join Educator Organizations at the National and State Level for a National Day of Action 
in Support of Title II Funding

Earlier this year, AASA was pleased to sign on to a letter supporting funding for Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a program whose funds are in supporting our nation’s educators in meeting the needs of their students. ESSA provides new opportunities for states and districts to use Title II-A funds to attract, support and retain high-quality and diverse educators by providing significantly more time for planning and collaboration, job embedded professional development that is aligned to student and teacher needs, coaching and mentorship. Many states report that Title II-A funds make possible the majority of their professional development for educators. In addition, these funds can be used to support the educator workforce pipeline. Also, twenty-four states have committed to using the optional 3% set-aside in Title II-A to make strategic investments in school leaders

We need every voice, and AASA is proud to support this day of action.

Join us on June 7 for a National Day of Action to advocate for full funding for Title II, Part A (Title II) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Nearly every district receives Title II funding to support the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of excellent teachers and school leaders, but the funding for Title II is in danger of being eliminated. The elimination—or significant reduction—of Title II funding would have drastic and negative impacts on teachers, principals, school leaders, and the students they serve. 

Four Simple Ways to Advocate for Title II Funding on June 7

  1. Sign up for our Thunderclap :A Thunderclap is a social media tool to amplify a message. To participate in our Thunderclap, go to https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/70288-title-ii-a-day-of-action and use your Twitter or Facebook account to sign up. On June 7th at exactly 8:30 a.m. (ET), the tool will post an identical message in support of Title II funding to all the supporters’ accounts, amplifying our message to all of their followers and friends.
  2. Send a  letter to Congress: Contact your Congressional delegation. Need the name and email address of the education staffer in your Representative or Senators' office? Email Noelle or Leslie. Have your letter focus on  the importance of Title II, and its importance in providing professional development for educators. Below is a draft letter you use for reference:

    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 2019. As an educator, I was encouraged when Congress passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. ESSA provided new opportunities for schools to invest in our nation’s teachers, principals and other school leaders.

    Recently, though, I have become alarmed by the very real prospect that Congress will not provide any funding at all for Title II in FY 2019. President Trump’s proposed FY 2019 budget would eliminate all funding for the program. This is dangerously shortsighted because 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. These groups all play a critical in ensuring that our nation's students have a high-quality learning experience through high school in order to be college and career ready. To aid students effectively, teachers, principals and other school leaders must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools.

    While I am extremely disheartened by President Trump's proposal, there is still a chance for Congress to reverse course and fully restore funding for Title II, Part A at its ESSA authorized level of $2.295 billion in FY 2019.  Thank you for your consideration, and for your support of our nation's educators and students.

    Sincerely, [Educator’s name]

  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 a staff member of the office.

    -  I am extremely concerned that President Trump sought to eliminate funding for Title II, Part A in his FY 2019 budget because this will severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans and hamper educator’s efforts to increase student achievement.
    -  I urge Senator/Representative [insert name] to restore Title II, Part A funding to its ESSA authorized level of $2.295 billion in FY 2019.
    - Given the unique role that principals and teachers play in ensuring that our nation's students have high-quality learning experiences in order to be college and career ready, educators must be afforded the necessary opportunities for professional learning and growth as they work to improve teaching and learning in all schools.
    - 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). Title 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.

  4. Tweet using #TitleIIA @[Senators and Reps]: Here are some sample tweets you can use:

    #TitleIIA is critical for teachers, school leaders, and principals to do their jobs effectively; cuts threaten this ability.

    Millions of teachers, principals, and school leaders depend on #TitleIIA to improve schools and instruction in the classroom.

    #ESSA allows states to use 3% of #TitleIIA funds for PD for principals; cutting decreases the chances to seize this opportunity.

    Each #ESSA plan is relying on #TitleIIA dollars to implement programs that will train educators on how to improve student achievement. Congress, give the states what they want by supporting full funding for #TitleIIA!

    The quality of teaching and leadership in schools are the two most significant in-school factors tied to student achievement. #TitleIIA

    #TitleIIA supports increased student academic achievement by promoting strategies that will positively affect educator effectiveness.

    Educators and students deserve schools led by great principals. Tell Congress to maintain school leadership funding through #TitleIIA

    Educators and students deserve schools filled with outstanding teachers. Tell Congress to maintain professional development funding for teachers through #TitleIIA

    Students and teachers need great principals to thrive—Tell Congress: Don't cut school leadership funding! #TitleIIA

    Without great principals, we won't have great schools. Tell Congress to maintain school leadership funding! #TitleIIA

    Educators: Join us in telling Congress not to cut school leadership funding! #TitleIIA

We hope you can join us on June 7th to support our nation’s teachers, principals and other school leaders! 

May 15, 2018

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

Advocacy Round Up: DACA, Rescission, and Net Neutrality

Time for a document dump! AASA advocacy has engaged in a handful of activity--outside of Sasha's continued efforts with Impact Aid and Leslie's work on the Farm Bill. This blog post is a quick bit on those items. 

 

  •  DACA: AASA joined a handful of other organizations in an amicus brief for a DACA-related case in the Ninth Circuit. The case was heard on Tuesday of this week.
  • Net Neutrality: AASA sent a letter to the full US Senate in advance of their vote to force the FCC to reverse their ending of network neutrality. The vote is viewed as largely symbolic. While Ds have the votes they need to pass it. the bill will not get any traction on the House side. 
  • Rescission: AASA joined forces with AESA and ASBO to send a letter to both the House and Senate appropriations committees, opposing President Trump's proposed funding rescission.

 

May 9, 2018(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Professional Development Resources to Help Students with Learning and Attention Issues

Today's guest blog comes from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). It links to their latest toolkit [crossposted here] and addresses the important topic of school-wide professional development.  

Seven out of 10 students who receive special education supports for learning disabilities and ADHD spend 80% or more of the school day in the general education classroom.  This means that general educators must be prepared with evidence-based strategies that support all learners, including those with learning and attention issues.  Two strategies proven to benefit all learners are a multi-tier system of support (MTSS) and universal design for learning (UDL), and there are funding opportunities in Title II and Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support the scaling of these approaches in schools.  

Conversations about supporting, implementing, and scaling these strategies must begin at a local level so they can be customized to meet local needs, and teachers can use these strategies to improve student outcomes. That’s why the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood.org, developed a toolkit for parents and advocates to use in their schools and districts to share the importance of using frameworks like UDL, MTSS, personalized learning, and strengths-based IEPs and to help link schools to funding streams that can support these approaches. To learn more, you can download the toolkit.

 

 

April 11, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Balanced Budget Amendment

The House of Representatives is set to vote on a balanced budget amendment this week. AASA sent up its letter of opposition.

We used this month's The Advocate to highlight Congressional (read: House/GOP/Trump) efforts related to the balanced budget amendment and rescission. It is embedded below:

The Advocate
April 2018

Less than one month after Congress passed a bipartisan funding deal for federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18), there are proposals that would revert, if not eliminate, the recent commitment to federal investment, with potentially dire consequences for education.

There are two different avenues under consideration, outlined here for your reference. Both would undermine the vote to raise the spending caps for FY18 and FY19, which was adopted with bipartisan support and paved the way for the final FY18 package adopted in late March. (Read AASA’s analysis of the FY18 deal and its impact on education.)

 

  • Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA): This is a new push for an old topic, the idea of a balanced federal budget. House Republicans are expected to vote in April on a constitutional amendment calling for a balanced budget. This vote is part of a deal made to win the support of conservatives to pass the budget resolution that included the fast-track provisions that made last year’s tax plan possible (remember all that fun?!).
    • AASA has historically opposed a push for a balanced federal budget. We support fiscal restraint and responsibility, but the reality of requiring a balanced federal budget raises a whole new host of concerns, including the inability to provide emergency funding (think: America Recovery and Reinvestment Act and any of the recent natural disaster emergency spending). 
    • AASA is also concerned that such a vote is hypocritical. The idea that Congress would support a balanced budget but only after passing the tax overhaul in 2017 that relived on $1.5 trillion in deficit spending is illogical, at best. The vote is expected to get next to zero traction: while it may pass the House, it is not expected to pass the Senate or to get the support of the required three-fourths of states. 
    • The Congressional Research Service developed a handy issue brief, if you want to geek out on BBA and read about the possible economic impacts of requiring a balanced federal budget, the recent Congressional history around BBA, and the process that would be involved.
  • Rescission: This proposal comes from the White House and stems from the Administration’s interest in proposing a package of spending cuts. While this is also very unlikely to get any traction, we need to be diligent in communicating our opposition to any such effort. 
    • In this scenario, the President would recommend rescinding (cutting) funds for certain programs within FY18. Any rescission would take the support of Congress, meaning they’d have to vote to make cuts to the very funding package they just adopted. This is NOT a line item veto; a Presidential line item veto has been deemed unconstitutional, but it does work in a similar manner in that the President would identify specific cuts to make and Congress would vote.

These conversations are just getting started and the AASA advocacy team will be engaged in efforts to defeat both proposals and will make the appropriate information and calls to action available to our members via the AASA Leading Edge Blog

 

March 23, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Analysis and Response to FY18 Omnibus Bill

AASA's two-page summary provides an overall view of the federal budget as well as program-specific funding levels for education funding. This bill provides funding for federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18), and those dollars will be in your schools in the 2018-19 school year.

Read AASA's response to the deal: Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. House and Senate’s approval of a $1.3 trillion funding bill, avoided a government shutdown.

“AASA applauds Congress for completing its federal appropriations work for federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18). Fresh off of the first-ever Public Schools Week, the bill and its investments in public education are a step in the right direction toward supporting efforts to ensure every parent and student has access to a high-quality public school. We are optimistic that the level of funding provided in FY18 will be a baseline of support for our nation’s public schools and the students they serve, and that future funding conversation will build on this critical investment. By increasing investment in foundational federal education programs—including ESSA Title I and IDEA—as well as critical complementary programs like Impact Aid, Perkins Career and Technical Education and ESSA Title IV—Congress affirms its commitment to our nation’s public school students and the importance of ensuring that our students have access to rich, equitable educational opportunities.”

March 12, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

New FY18 Letter Urges Investment in Programs that Promote Equity

As Congress (hopefully!) reaches the end of its federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) funding conversations, AASA joined a handful of other national education organizations to urge Congress to prioritize critical program that promote equity and support students most in need--Title I, IDEA and Title II--to help ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. 

AASA was joined by 

 

  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Education ASsociation
  • National PTA
  • National School Boards Association

Read the full letter here.

 

March 8, 2018

(IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Coalition of National Education Organizations Supports Increased Funding for IDEA in FY18 Package

AASA joined 15 other national education organizations in a joint letter to Congress urging them to increase investment in IDEA as part of the final FY18 appropriations package.

"On behalf of 16 associations, a coalition of education organizations dedicated to fulfilling the funding promise for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), I share our joint letter urging Congress to provide a significant increase in funding for IDEA as part of a fair and proportional allocation for the final FY18 LHHS-Education appropriations bill.

"In light of Congress' recent actions to raise the funding caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs, which includes IDEA, it is critical Congress act to alleviate the pressure created by its unfunded mandate. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states, local school districts, and taxpayers to pay for needed services. This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that are also beneficial to students with disabilities.

"In December 2017, AASA surveyed school superintendents across the nation and included a question that asked what percentage of their local budget is being used to cover federal mandates related to special education. Just 10% of respondents indicated that it was less than 10% of total spending, compared to 48.2% of respondents who indicated they used 10-20% of total spending to cover the federal IDEA shortfall, 25.6% reporting 20-30%; and 8.5% reporting they used 30-40% .

"IDEA is currently funded at $12 billion. This level funding equates to approximately 15 percent of what is historically considered the additional cost of educating students with disabilities, less than half of the 40 percent that was the federal government's original commitment to students with disabilities. We support prioritized and robust investment in IDEA, without negatively impacting funding for other education programs, and urge Congress to ensure a significant increase for IDEA in the final FY18 appropriations statute and use that appropriately adjusted funding level as the basis for further increased investment in FY19."

You can read the full letter here.

Groups signing the letter: 

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents 
  • Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association  

 

March 2, 2018

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

AASA Joins Groups in Amicus on South Dakota v. Wayfair Case

AASA was pleased to sign on to an amicus brief, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other national organizations, one of the most important cases of the organization's 35-year tenure:  South Dakota v. Wayfair.  In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to rule that states and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Ruling this way will require the Supreme Court to overturn long-standing precedent.   

SPLC provided background on the case, which we are happy to share here:

In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.

Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sale tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress has the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill but has thus far not done so. 

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the SLLC stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax in clear violation of Quill. South Dakota’s law was the first ready for Supreme Court review. It requires out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax if they annually conduct $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota. 

The SLLC amicus brief points out that states and local governments lost an estimated $26 billion in sales tax revenue in 2015 because they were unable to collect owed taxes. The brief encourages the Court to overturn Quill. If the Court decides to replace the physical presence requirement the SLLC encourages the Court to adopt an economic nexus requirement—like the one the South Dakota legislature adopted.  

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in this case on April 17. It will issue an opinion by the end of June.  

To learn more about the case listen to this podcast.

 

March 1, 2018(1)

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

AASA Urges Congress to Fund Secure Rural Schools in FY18 Appropriations Package

AASA sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, and the full Congress, urging them to include funding for the Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties program in the final FY18 appropriations.

We were disappointed that when Congress did provide additional hurricane aid and funded other programs, they did not fund Secure Rural Schools.  Congress made a longstanding commitment to rural students and communities when it passed and extended Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act of 2000.  The commitment was upheld until Congress stopped funding SRS after FY15.  Secure Rural Schools funds essential education, transportation and public safety programs critical to rural forest counties, communities and schools. Rural communities rely on SRS to offset lost tax revenue from lands transferred to federal ownership.  Without SRS the lost tax revenue remains unavailable without economic alternatives even as the lands remain federally owned.  In the meantime, Congress fails to fund SRS and is unable to adopt forest management policies to help restore economic stability in the rural forest communities. 

 When Congress failed to adequately fund the program, rural counties found themselves facing or absorbing deep, damaging cuts, as the SRS program was reverted to a timber receipt funding formula that originated more than 100 years ag. Absent adequate SRS support, these rural communities are forced to cut programs supporting essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services. As Congress completes its final negotiations on a FY18 Omnibus Appropriations package, it is critically important the package include SRS funding. Our full letter is here.

 

February 23, 2018(1)

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

AASA Partners with Educational Organizations on Updated ESSA Timeline

The Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) just released its latest ESSA Implementation Timeline: A Guide to Key State and Local Processes. In leading this work, CCSSO has convened multiple stakeholders, including AASA, to generate the report. 

The timeline outlines key state and local actions and planning processes in these initial years of implementing new accountability, reporting, and school improvement systems, from the 2017-18 school year through 2020-21 and beyond. It also documents application and funding timelines for federal programs under ESSA, as well as opportunities and expectations for continuous improvement over time. The timeline highlights both the commonalities across states in actions and timing under the law, but also the variation in timing as SEAs and LEAs implement the law within their unique contexts (indicated through visual “windows” of time).

Access the timeline here

February 23, 2018

(WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Supporting Superintendents, Supporting Students: Resources for School and Gun Safety Discussions and Advocacy

In response to the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, AASA has assembled this set of resources and information to support school system leaders, their staff, their community, and their students as they navigate yet another round of student deaths.

This set of information will be continually updated and revised. Should you have any feedback or additional content/information that you would like to contribute, please send them to Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org).

  • School and Gun Safety Policy: Read AASA's position paper on school safety, adopted after the 2012 tragedy in Sandy Hook, and unfortunately still relevant today. It is a comprehensive position, adopted by the AASA governing board and executive committee, and addresses our priorities on school safety, student supports and services (including mental health supports), and common sense reforms to gun laws. 
  • Guidance & Resources for Local Districts: 
    • We are happy to share this template communications document, with permission from CMS Communications, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It is an excellent template for school system leaders and as a basis for response from media and community.
    • Lessons Learned from School Walkouts and Crises produced by the U.S. Department of Education
    • Resources from the National Association of School Psychologists such as tips for parents/teachers talking to children about gun violence, guidelines for caring for teachers and school personnel after a crisis,  best practice considerations for active shooter drills and considerations for administrators as students plan for a walk out.
    • ACLU guide for student walk outs and political speech at schools  
     
  • National Day of Action: AASA is proud to support the National Day of Action to Stop Gun Violence in Our Schools. Through this day of action, we urge teachers, families, students, administrators and every member of the community to engage in acts of advocacy and civic engagement in and around their schools. Create actions that work best in your school and community. AASA is NOT affiliated with any of the formal or organized walk outs. superintendents are balancing their obligation to educate their students and support their community and students' first amendment rights with their professional and educational responsibility to consistently and equitably enforce state and local laws and policies, which can include attendance requirements and school participation
  • Potential Activities for Day of Action: Our members have reached out to us for ideas to support their students and communities. We are pleased to share an initial listing of activities and programs that schools can consider adopting and implementing as part of the National Day of Action.  
  • Supporting Grieving Students: AASA has joined other professional organizations that represent K-12 educators in an unified effort to address the lack of support for grieving students, forming The Coalition to Support Grieving Students. A primary objective of the Coalition is to effectively address and remedy the gap between an educator's desire and an educator's ability to help grieving students.
  • Talking to Children About School & Community Shootings in the News: The School Crisis Center released this guide, offering advice on how to talk to children about tragic events they are likely to hear about at school and/or on the news.
  • Responding to School Walk Out Demonstrations: USED released a helpful document in 2008, examining the various ways in which administrators, school staff, law enforcement, and the community at large can help keep youths safe, while still supporting their desire for self-expression. 
  • Coercion, Conscience, and the First Amendment: NSBA released a legal guide for public schools on the regulation of student and employee speech. It is designed in Q&A format to aid in conversations as policy is being developed. 
  • Student Protest Advisory: Our friends at Hogan Lovells composed this brief, which outlines five considerations for administrators as schools and communities respond to and engage in civic activism. 
  • Other Resources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2018(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Sends Letter Opposing Language That Prohibits Use of Federal Funds for Transportation

Earlier this week, AASA sent a letter to Congressional appropriators expressing our opposition to rider language that prohibits the use of federal funding to support school integration via transportation. The language originates from a time when opposition to court-ordered public school racial integration was very high. The idea that such language persists today, when racial resegregation of public schools has surged, and when so many districts are voluntarily working to combat this trend by promoting equity and integration—both racial and economic—for the benefit of their students and their community, is unacceptable.

Read the full letter.

February 21, 2018

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

ESSA's Weighted Student Funding Pilot: Now Accepting Applications!

When ESSA was signed into law in December 2015, it included a new pilot that would allow school districts additional flexibility to better target their resources within and between schools in their district. Through the pilot, USED can allow up to 50 school districts to participate initially.

Districts participating in the pilot will be able to combine federal, state and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. Students that cost more to educate—including English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students in poverty—would carry more ‘weight’, meaning more money. Through this pilot, ESSA provides flexibility within and between funding streams that can otherwise inhibit the ability of districts to more accurately and meaningfully target funding; this pilot is an opportunity for districts to demonstrate how WSF better meets district needs while still complying with underlying statute. With this flexibility, LEAs can combine eligible Federal funds with State and local funds to create a single, student-centered funding system. A student-centered funding system in the context of the pilot is a funding system based on weights that allocate substantially more for students from low-income families, English learners, and other educationally disadvantaged student groups. 

The Department will host identical webinars -- February 21 from 2:00 to 3:30 PM Eastern Time and February 22 from 12:30 to 2:00 PM Eastern Time -- regarding new flexibility for school districts to create equitable, student-centered funding systems under a pilot program authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The webinars will clarify the opportunity interested LEAs have to apply for flexibility to implement a student-centered funding system as part of a pilot authorized by ESSA. Pre-registration is not required.  The webinars will be recorded and posted -- with slides -- on the pilot web page.  (Note: The official application is available; the application deadline is March 12 for districts intending to implement in school year 2018-19 and July 15 for districts intending to implement in school year 2019-20.)

 

February 20, 2018

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, SCHOOL NUTRITION, WELL-BEING, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Policy Recap from NCE

It was great to see so many of you in Nashville for NCE last week - we hope you learned a lot (and had some fun)! Here is a roundup of what our team was involved with at the conference:

 

 

February 12, 2018(2)

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AASA Responds to President Trump's FY19 Budget Proposal

President Trump released his proposed budget for federal fiscal year 2019 (FY19). 

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response to the proposed budget: “One year ago, in my response to the FY18 proposed budget, I reflected on my practice and belief as a school superintendent that our budget reflected our mission; that we funded what we supported and we supported what we funded. By that metric, President Trump’s proposed FY19 budget falls short of the simple willingness and ability to prioritize support for strengthening and supporting our nation’s public schools and the students they serve. With today’s FY19 budget proposal, as well as the infrastructure proposal details which lack an explicit role for public education, we continue to wonder not only if the administration supports our nation’s public schools, but also why their policy proposals remain so willing to make deep, damaging cuts and omissions. As we head to Nashville for AASA’s National Conference on Education, where we will highlight the continued great work and opportunity of our nation’s public schools, we will work with superintendents from across the county to explain why we #LovePublicEducation and to advocate for improved federal education policies that remain committed to equitable educational opportunity for all students.”

You can read AASA's full analysis and response here.

February 12, 2018(1)

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

AASA and Rural School and Community Trust File Joint Response to USED Draft Report on Rural Education

Last December, USED released Section 5005 Report on Rural Education, its preliminary report on how the agency supports and serves rural education, as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act. As a draft report, it is open to public comment and feedback. AASA joined forces with the Rural School and Community Trust in our joint set of comments, which you can read here

In a nutshell, our groups are concerned that the report missed the mark and fails to address the questions and tasks outlined in statute, and managed this incomplete response more than 6 months behind schedule. As a point of reference, AASA is following three reports required by ESSA (rural, Title I formula, and homework gap), all of which were due June of 2017, and to date, only the rural report has been completed. The report details events that were hosted or facilitated but failed to report or demonstrate how rural and community feedback and experience is meaningfully and purposefully reflected in education policy.

When we consider that 70% of our nation's schools enroll less than 2,500 students, and a full 50% enroll less than 1,000, the role of rural education and its unique opportunities and obstacles should be a front-row driver of education policy. Our nation's rural schools enroll more students than the nation's 75 largest school systems combined, yet the rural voice and perspective is often and after thought in federal education policy discussions. 

The formal comments delve into deeper detail and response about what USED had reported and what it means for schools.

"It was our sincere hope, with an additional six months, the department would have been successful in releasing a draft report for public comment that is detailed, accountable, and outcomes-based, and outlined an action item framework that USED was tasked by Congress to propose, including a pathway for implementation.  The preliminary report, as drafted, falls short of this goal and remains an incomplete work.  We urge USED to review thoroughly all public comments, incorporate them the final report, and announce a date when the final report will be submitted to Congress."

February 12, 2018

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

Ten Years Later: How Funding Pressures Continue to Impact Our Nation’s Schools

During the depths of the nation’s greatest recession, AASA conducted a series of 16 national surveys detailing the cumulative impact of the recession and funding cuts on our nation’s public schools and the students they serve . As the recession drew to a close, the rate and frequency of these surveys slowed. Now, in 2018, a decade removed from the depths of the recession, many state and local education agencies have yet to return to pre-recession funding levels and funding pressures continue to be a reality in their day-to-day existence. To that end, AASA conducted a national survey of superintendents in December 2017 to gauge the extent to which schools continue to experience fiscal hardship as well as their capacity and approach to returning to pre-recession funding levels.

The survey, Ten Years Later: How Funding Pressures Continue to Impact Our Nation’s Schools, is part of AASA's Economic Impact Survey Series, which helped detail the impact of the recession on the nation's schools. This latest iteration comes as states and schools mark 10 years since the start of the recession, and report varied levels of recovery. 

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech issued the following statement about the report: "We are ten years past the depths of the nation’s greatest economic recession. However, our public schools have yet to be operating at pre-recession levels. Some are there, but many are not, and they continue to aim for merely returning to pre-recession funding levels. Ten years means that in many schools across the country, our nation’s K-9 students have spent the entirety of their K12 experience to date in a post-recession funding climate. As we prepare to respond to the President’s proposed budget for FY19, we are pleased to share our latest economic impact report to highlight the reality of providing education to our nation’s 50 million public school students and look forward to working with Congress to adopt federal funding levels that support adequate and equitable investment in our schools and the students they serve.”

As we prepare to review and respond to the President's proposed FY19 budget, his announced infrastructure plan, the ongoing negotiations around FY18 appropriations and how all three impact our nation's schools, some key findings from the survey jump out:  

  • Nearly three-quarters (72.5%) of respondents described their school district as inadequately funded, compared to 24.5% reporting adequately funded and 2.8% reporting surplus. When compared to earlier surveys, this is down from 83% in the fall of 2015 and 81% in March of 2012, but still above the 67% reported in October 2008. 
  • When asked to identify the various program and service cuts their district had considered and/or implemented in the response to budget pressures, the top five items implemented as cuts in the last five years were reducing staff level (non-instructional) hiring (65.5%); deferring maintenance (65.4%); eliminating non-essential travel (65.2%); joining bulk purchasing groups/co-ops (63.8%); and reducing consumable supplies (62%). 
  • IDEA Shortfall: When asked what percentage of their local budget is being used to cover federal mandates related to special education, just 10% of respondents indicated that it was less than 10% of total spending. 48.2% of respondents indicated they used 10-20% of total spending to cover the federal IDEA shortfall, compared to 25.6% reporting 20-30%; and 8.5% reporting they used 30-40%.  

February 8, 2018(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA Releases New I Love Public Education Toolkit

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is the national organization in the best position to lead the dialogue about the importance of public education. Last summer, we launched the I Love Public Education campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight the success of public education. To help our members as well as non-members speak out about the value of public education, we are pleased to present AASA’s I Love Public Education Toolkit.

This package of turn key materials will help you effectively communicate the appropriate messaging about the critical value public education has in our society with your key stakeholders—board members, business and community leaders, staff, parents, students and the media. In addition, the kit contains a social media guide that we encourage you to use and share with your colleagues and the community. 

At a time when education policy is distracted from the rich history of our public schools and the roles they play in preparing students to be productive adults, we need your help to lead, shape and grow a broad dialogue and support for public education. Please continue to add to the conversation on Twitter with #LovePublicEducation. 

Students who enter the doors of the school buildings in your community depend on the tireless work underway in your administration. At AASA, it is our job to help you and your staff excel on behalf of the students you serve. Thank you for the outstanding work you do. 

For additional information about the I Love Public Education campaign, please visit www.lovepubliceducation.org.

 

For additional information about the I Love Public Education campaign, please visit www.lovepubliceducation.org. 

February 8, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

USED Announces Application Period for Small Rural Schools Program (Feb 20-April 20)

USED announced that the FY 2018 Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) grant application period will open Tuesday, February 20, 2018, and close Friday, April 20, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. Washington, D.C. time. The FY 2018 SRSA application will be available in Grants.gov once the application period opens on February 20. 

The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) team at USED sent this notification directly to local education agencies (LEAs) and state education agencies.

USED will send a follow-up email to LEAs the week of February 12 with a link to the updated eligibility spreadsheet and details about pre-application actions that SRSA-eligible LEAs should take to be prepared to start their FY 2018 SRSA grant applications on February 20.

If you have questions regarding this notification, please send them to REAP@ed.gov.

January 26, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Call to Action: Pass DREAM Act NOW!

Background: AASA is committed to efforts that advance and support federal education policy that supports and strengthens public education. As such, we are closely following the very current conversation around Congress reaching a final resolution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was a program created by President Obama through executive order. When President Trump announced the end of DACA protections for young people brought here as minors, he started a six-month clock for Congress to resolve this issue. That timeline expires in March, meaning Congress has less than two months to find common ground. Democrats are interested in a clean DACA deal, the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that provides a path to citizenship. AASA supports the DREAM Act. More recently, DACA has become a bargaining chit in the FY18 appropriations issue. DACA became a point of leverage during the last shutdown, with Democrats initially refusing to fund the government without a DACA vote. That resulted in the shutdown. The DACA vote was not completed as part of the deal to end the shutdown, but Majority Leader McConnell assured a Senate vote on an immigration proposal on/before February 8. We are under the assumption that McConnell will honor his word and bring the vote; the real item to watch is if the House will pass what the Senate adopts. And if they don’t (which could happen!) will Dems again draw the line, and trigger another shutdown around February 8? As it stands, AASA supports the DREAM Act as a comprehensive solution to DACA protections.

Resources

 

  • Curious about what DACA means in your state and Congressional district? How many people are eligible for DACA recipients? What economic impact would the end of DACA have? Check out this map
  • This fact sheet details current DACA recipients by education, industry, and occupation.

Call to Action: Contact your FULL Congressional delegation, your Representative and BOTH your Senators. Call the Congressional Switch board (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Senators/Representative. The person who answers is taking a tally of votes for and against, and the script you can read is below.

 

  • Congress must act NOW to adopt a clean DREAM Act as a final resolution to the DACA program. 
  • We work and live with DACA recipients in our classrooms and our communities. Despite the challenges they face, they continue to leave impressive marks on our community, state and nation’s economy. These students and young adults must be continue to be able to do so, free from fear and anxiety.
  • Public support for the DREAM Act is overwhelming and bipartisan. A Sept. 2017 Fox News poll found that 83 percent of Americans support some pathway to citizenship for these individuals. A Sept. 2017 Washington Post-ABC News poll found more than two-thirds of adults—69 percent—support allowing these individuals to stay in the United States if they had arrived as a child, had completed high school or served in the military, and had not committed a serious crime. A more recent Jan. 11 poll from Quinnipiac University (NY) finds that 79 percent of American voters overall, and 64 percent of registered Republicans, believe Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the U.S. and apply for citizenship.
  • The cost of deporting individuals with DACA statues would exceed more than $60 billion in lost tax revenue (national) and cause a $280 billion reduction in economic growth in the next decade. 
  • AASA supports the DREAM Act. As the most inclusive bipartisan legislative solution, DREAM provides DACA recipients with the permanent protections they deserve.
  • DREAM provides multiple pathways to citizenship, including higher education, military service and employment.
  • DREAM is clear that to qualify, individuals must have entered the US as minors and remained here continuously for four years before the date of the bill’s enactment. 
  • Congress must act NOW to vote for the DREAM Act of 2017.

 

 

January 24, 2018

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Guest Blog: How Superintendents Can Be Effective in Local Politics

This guest blog post comes from Paul Hill,founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. 

We at CRPE have been working with superintendent-led initiatives for nearly three decades. We’ve seen a lot of smart and committed people try sensible initiatives, but often fall short of making lasting improvements in the schools.

As we have seen, the most common mechanism for the failure of good ideas is local politics, in the form of opposition from unions, neighborhood groups, the school board or the central office.  We also saw that the man or woman on horseback – who presents a fully developed plan, presumes cooperation and brooks no opposition –doesn’t last long, and his or her work usually disappears without a trace. 

As political scientists, Ashley Jochim and I had seen this before, in what might seem a surprising place, the American presidency. 

A classic book on our field, Richard E. Neustadt’s Presidential Power, starts from the premise that presidents are responsible for a wider range of activities than they can control directly, and that things they try to do all by themselves mostly fail and often backfire. The president’s only real power is to gain the cooperation of other free agents who don’t need to go along. 

Thinking that exposure to Neustadt’s principles might be helpful to current and aspiring district leaders, we looked back at dozens of interviews and case studies for examples of superintendents using power effectively, or failing to do so. We’ve just published the result in our new paper, Unlocking Potential: How Political Skill can Maximize Superintendent Effectiveness. As we show, superintendents gain the power to be effective by:

 

  • Bargaining and building coalitions.
  • Developing and capitalizing on a professional reputation, based on having clear goals, being resilient and a trustworthy ally, and following through.
  • Always being aware of how particular actions affect their ability to bargain effectively in the future.

 

Our report unpacks these generalities and provides examples. We hope readers will benefit by seeing politics as a resource and a means to effectiveness, not just a source of annoyance and constraint.  

Paul T. Hill is Founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and Research Professor at the University of Washington Bothell.

 

January 22, 2018(1)

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Speak Up Survey Closes THIS WEEK: Have you weighed in?

School leaders from across the country are sharing their views right now as part of the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning. Be sure to have your views included.

More than 350,000 students, teachers and parents have participated so far, but the project needs more input from administrations to be sure your voice is included in final national reports.

In addition to the state of educational technology today (and what wakes you up in the middle of the night!), this year’s survey also includes questions about digital citizenship and math attitudes.

The state and national survey findings will be shared with policymakers and educational leaders to inform their work. Surveys take about 20 minutes to complete and are 100% confidential.

As a thank you and an incentive, we are offering the chance to win a free registration to the 2018 National Conference on Education to those who participate in Speak Up. Once you’ve shared your views, you can complete the final, optional question to enter to win. To maintain confidentiality, that identifying information will not remain with your survey responses; it will only be used for the registration give-away.

Don’t let your voice be left out: Take the Speak Up survey today (Select “Educators” from the drop-down list of surveys and then district administrator):https://speakup.tomorrow.org/

Speak Up, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. 

January 3, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

NEW YEAR ACTION: STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS

Congress must act to fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program in January. Congress recessed for the Holidays pushing final FY 2018 funding decisions to January 19.  Congress left Washington again without acting to fund Secure Rural School for the 9 million students in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states across the country.

The SRS safety net is unraveling in 775 counties and 4,400 school districts serving 9 million students in 41 states.  Congress failed again to act on SRS and forest management.  The SRS safety net program for forest communities 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 also just failed to provide additional hurricane aid and support for wildfires. Congress should fund these programs and ACT to fund Secure Rural School and Forest communities. 

JANUARY ACTION

 

  • ASK your Representatives to STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR Secure Rural Schools in January when Congress funds FY 2018 and disaster relief. Immediate action is needed for short term Fiscal Year 2016-2017 SRS funding to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, and education services. Tell your Member what lost SRS funds mean for students, roads and essential services. Give examples of cuts to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs.
  • THANK the 35 Senators who joined Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) in asking Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer to include SRS in final 2018 funding measure. Ask your Senators to renew this request to Senate Leaders.   
  • ASK your House Representative to join Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) as H.R 2340 cosponsor extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act and to ASK House Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi to fund SRS. 
  • Contact LOCAL PRESS: Tell your press what lost SRS funds mean for your students, roads and essential services. Give examples of cuts to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs in your schools and communities. Unless Congress acts in January, your community and other forest county communities will continue losing irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.    

 

THANK YOU. 

If you need contact information for any office in your congressional delegation, please let us know.

 

 

December 22, 2017

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ESSA Fiscal Transparency: Webinar Q&A Transcript

Earlier this month, AASA hosted a webinar about the fiscal transparency requirements within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA includes a new fiscal transparency reporting requirement, whereby states will have to detail per pupil expenditures at the school and district level. This will have implications for districts in ensuring they understand their own allocation constructs, what it means for the schools they serve, and how it can be perceived in the community. The webinar detailed what the requirement entails, what it will mean for state and district leaders, and things for districts to consider as they share this information with their communities. 

 

  • You can access an archived copy of the webinar here
  • Q&A: You can read the transcript of the Q&A portion of the webinar. 
  • The Q&A references a handout with additional detail on the reporting requirement, which you can access here

 

December 18, 2017

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Call to Action: Kill the Tax Bill

This week, Congress is poised to vote the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. AASA is opposed to this legislation, and we urge all AASA members and public school advocates to contact their full Congressional delegation and ask them to OPPOSE the bill. We've included all the information you need below, including background, contact information and talking points.

Background

  • AASA joins four national organizations in letter of opposition to tax bill. Read our letter here. We were joined by the Association of School Business Officials, International; Association of Educational Service Agencies National Rural Education Association; and National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium.
  • This guest blog post does a great job explaining five reasons this bill is no good for public education. 
  • This month's The Advocate was focused on the tax bill, provided a side-by-side of the House and Senate bills, and explained how and why we are opposed to certain education-impacting provisions.
  • Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech's response to the Senate vote articulated are continued frustration and disappointment with the bills as drafted and the apparent disregard for how these tax policies have no support for public education. 
  • Guest blog post from ASBO Executive Director John Musso detailed the implications of proposed changes to bond and finance options for schools. 

Call to Action:

Both the House and Senate are set to vote on the conferenced Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, bringing the bill one step closer to the President’s desk and being signed into law.  AASA has been engaged in the process of this year’s effort to overhaul the tax code. We reviewed and opposed both the House and Senate bills, and detailed our opposition to specific provisions which undermine federal support for public education and will negatively impact state and local funding for public schools. Unfortunately, the bill going back to both the Senate and House chambers failed to make any changes that allow the bill to support and strengthen public education. To that end, we have a two-prong call to action: We ask you to both call your Congressional offices (the phone tallies count!!) AND to email the staff in your Congressional offices. 

  1. Call the Congressional Switch board (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Senators/Representative. The person who answers is taking a tally of votes for and against, and the script you can read is below.
  2. Email the education staffer and legislative director for each of your Congressional delegation. You can email ALL of your Congressional offices at once; you want to send this email to the people in the office who are handling/tracking the policy specifics.

PHONE SCRIPT   

  • Hello! My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District in his district. I’m calling to let Congressman ______ know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community.
  • My opposition to the tax reform is driven by specific provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools. 
  • First, this legislation would incentivize upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans to educate their children in private schools by providing them with a tax break as they can now utilize 529 accounts for private k12 education. These drastic changes would enable anyone, regardless of their wealth, to put aside significantly more dollars for use at private schools, at a greater expense to taxpayers and schools. 
  • I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. The proposed changes to SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 
  • I am concerned with the significant share of deficit financing being used to off set the extensive tax cuts. I am concerned with how this large growth in the deficit will limit the ability and willingness of Congress to invest in critical programs, and this will translate into spending cuts for programs, including critical education programs. 
  • I urge Senator/Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

EMAIL TEXT

Do you need the name and email address of the education staffer and legislative director for anyone in your Congressional delegation? Let us know, or email your state association director. We gave them the full set of contact information.

Use the text below as the basis of your email, and feel free to personalize with details about your district or specifics on what the tax policy ramifications will mean for your state and district.

Dear {INSERT NAME},

  • My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District in his district. I’m emailing to let Representative ______ know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community.
  • My opposition to the tax reform is driven by specific provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools. 
  • This legislation would incentivize upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans to educate their children in private schools by providing them with a tax break as they can now utilize 529 accounts for private k12 education. These drastic changes would enable anyone, regardless of their wealth, to put aside significantly more dollars for use at private schools, at a greater expense to taxpayers and schools. 
  • I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. The proposed changes to SALT will hurt more than 43 million taxpayers from all 50 states and across all income brackets, it also will hurt the ability of state and local governments, including my school district, to fund essential services such as public education. State and local funding accounts for about 90 percent of funding for K-12 schools, meaning that any reduction in state revenue—which will likely happen when any state or local tax is perceived as a double tax when it cannot be deducted—will almost certainly lead to cuts in public education.  Over time, it is likely that a change in this tax provision would erode funding for education at a level deep enough to mirror a direct cut in federal, state and/or local funding. 
  • I am concerned with the significant share of deficit financing being used to justify the extensive tax cuts. I am concerned with how this large growth in the deficit will limit the ability and willingness of Congress to invest in critical programs, and this will translate into spending cuts for programs, including critical education programs. 
  • I urge Senator/Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

 

 

 

 

December 15, 2017

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Guest Blog Post: 5 reasons why Congress should protect public schools, reject tax plan

Today's guest blog post comes from Lawrence (Larry) Feinberg, School Director in Harverford Township. This piexe originally appeared in the Opinion Section of the Delaware County Daily Times. 

I am writing on behalf of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council to urge readers and all public education stakeholders to contact their members of Congress and ask them to vote No on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when it returns to the House of Representatives. The Legislative Council is comprised of locally elected volunteer school directors representing each of the 15 school districts in Delaware County.

More than 50 million (90 percent) of U.S. schoolchildren attend public schools. The tax reform bill being considered in the U.S. Congress poses a very real threat to our public school students, parents and taxpayers.

Here are five reasons for our members of Congress to vote NO:

 

  1. Elimination of State & Local Tax (SALT) Deductibility: As currently proposed, the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would eliminate deductibility of sales and income taxes paid to state and local governments; and, both bills would limit deductibility of property tax payments to $10,000. Capping or eliminating the SALT deduction will put intense pressure on state and local governments to cut their own taxes in the face of constituents with higher federal tax bills and lead to reduced services. We urge our members of Congress to support our students, their families and communities by maintaining full deductibility of state and local taxes.
  2. Elimination of Bond Financing Options: Currently, school districts have access to a variety of bond and financing options when it comes to paying for/affording capital and infrastructure projects. We can use these options to save our taxpayers millions of dollars on outstanding debt. Both the House and Senate bills would eliminate some of those options. If the changes go through, it would increase taxpayer costs incurred by school districts associated with financing school construction and renovation.
  3. Increase of $1.5 Trillion in Federal Deficit: The tax cuts in the bill need to be paid for, and neither the House nor the Senate bill completely offset the costs associated with their plan. Instead, they have authorized themselves to raise the nation’s deficit over 10 years to pay for the portion they aren’t paying for now (estimated to be $1.5 trillion). Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending.
  4. Expansion of 529 Program to Include K-12 Expenses: Provisions in the House and Senate bills would create a separate unaccountable system of publicly funded and/or subsidized education for non-public schools through the proposed expansion of 529 education savings accounts. Instead, we urge your strong support for the range of choices that are currently offered by our nation’s public school districts, such as magnet schools, charter schools authorized by local school boards and schools with specialized curricula for science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM). 
  5. Repeal of $250 Deduction Available for Teachers Who Spend Their Own Money on Classroom Materials and Supplies: Current law allows teachers to exclude up to $250 from income when those dollars were spent on books, supplies, professional development and other classroom expense. The House bill eliminates this exclusion; the Senate bill would double the maximum (to $500).

 

Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the schools that educate over ninety percent of our kids; tell them to vote NO on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

You can find your Pennsylvania Congressman’s contact information here

(AASA Edit: You can find your member of Congress here.)

Lawrence A. Feinberg is a fifth-term school director in Haverford Township and serves as chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council. Any comments contained herein are his comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

December 7, 2017(1)

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Tax Cuts & Jobs Act: Side by Side Analysis

AASA is pleased to share its latest memo, an overview of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. The TCJA was passed by both the House and the Senate and will now move to conference as the chambers attempt to reconcile the differences between the bill while preserving enough support to get a final bill to the President's desk before Christmas. 

The memo is an overview of the bills, summarizes key provisions/changes as they relate to education, and provides a quick side-by-side comparison between the two bills.

December 7, 2017

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

Bipartisan Group of 35 Senators Sends Letter to Leadership Supporting Secure Rural Schools

Earlier this week, a group of 35 bipartisan Senators sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to include a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program in any end-of-year legislation. You can read the full letter here, and it is a nice complement to a related letter sent by the Secure Rural Schools and Forest Counties Coalition and other supports to both house and senate leadership last month. 
"We write to strongly urge the inclusion of at least a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, which enjoys tremendous bipartisan support, in any end-of-the-year legislation.

"On US Forest Service land, the federal government has historically shared 25 percent of timber harvest revenues with counties to compensate for federal ownership. On certain land managed by the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management shares 50 percent of the revenue from federal timber sales with counties. Due to declining timber harvests, a critical source of funding for rural counties, sometimes referred to as 'forest counties,' has seen significant decreases, often decimating impacted county budgets.

"In 2000, Congress passes SRS with broad bipartisan support as a fiscal solution to help fund essential services resulting from the reduced revenue-sharing receipts. Since then, SRS has been a critical lifeline for over 775 counties in over 40 states across the country by helping fund more than 4,000 schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations.

"We are now witnessing firsthand the hardships rural counties face as a result of SRS authorization lapsing. Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries, and jails are closing. Schools that remain open will see a reduction of teachers. Roads go unpaed and become unsafe. Mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers are forced to patrol larger and larger areas.

"The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies.

"In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that yo include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any end-of-year legislation. We appreciate your assistance with this matter."

December 2, 2017

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AASA Response to Senate Vote on Tax Bill

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response to the Senate vote for the Tax Cuts & Jobs bill: 

“AASA is frustrated by Congress’ continued partisan efforts to pass the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. 

“Changes to tax policy can be a good thing, a chance for leadership and opportunity. The bill passed by the Senate fails on all of these fronts, threatens one of our nation’s original forms of infrastructure (public education) and stands to do far more harm, than good. As the national organization representing the leaders of our nation’s public school systems, we are frustrated with this tax plan and how those who voted for it lack an understanding of—or even care about—its impact on public schools. 

“We are concerned with the continued disconnect from Congressional leadership on how the policies in this bill—including the elimination of the SALT-D deduction, reliance on deficit financing, and changes to bond financing for districts—will negatively impact schools. Just two years ago, a GOP-led Congress supported an overwhelmingly bipartisan ESSA reauthorization. It was a pinnacle demonstration of support for policies centered on compromise, practicality, and supporting and strengthening the nation’s public schools. 

“While today’s vote is a significant pivot toward partisanship and corporate tax cuts paid for by the middle class, we remain committed to representing our members, the nation’s public school superintendents and will work tirelessly with our allies on Capitol Hill to mitigate the damages of this bill, to seek improvements in conference and to expand recognition of the importance of our nation’s public schools.” 

For specific questions, please contact Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

 

 

November 29, 2017(1)

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Hat Trick of Advocacy Coalition Letters

This week, AASA has signed on to three separate letters related to AASA legislative agenda priorities. These are coalition letters, meaning signed by multiple groups. AASA relies on our member advocacy AND the collaborative approach and strength that comes from advocating in coordination with colleagues in multiple coalitions, from rural education, E-Rate and medicaid, to school nutrition, SALT-D, and IDEA full funding, and many more.

 

  • Secure Rural Schools letter: AASA joined dozens of national and state associations in a letter to House and Senate leadership urging action on the Secure Rural Schools and Communities program.
  • Raise the Caps letter: AASA joined more than 80 other education organizations urging congressional leaders to raise the budget caps on federal spending.
  • Americans Against Double Taxation letter: AASA joined more than 20 other organizations in a letter to the Senate, opposing the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

 

November 29, 2017

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AASA Opposes Senate Tax Cuts & Jobs Act

AASA opposes the Tax Cuts & Jobs act being considered by the Senate this week. Read our full letter.

November 27, 2017

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Bond Reform: Another Dire Threat to Public Schools in the GOP’s Tax Plan

Today's guest blog comes from ASBO International Executive Director, John Musso. 

As Congress moves forward with efforts to pass H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” many education groups, including ASBO International, have cited concerns about Republicans’ tax proposals.

The House and Senate proposals include provisions to shrink or repeal the state and local tax (SALT) deduction; divert public funding to private and religious schools via college 529 savings accounts; and eliminate tax deductions for school supplies and student loan interest payments. While these issues would devastate school funding, teachers’ jobs, taxpayers’ wallets, and student learning—they only tell half the story.

If you asked your school district’s CFO, treasurer, or school business official (SBO) what they think is the biggest problem with Republicans’ tax plan, they’d probably say, "bonds.”

Both versions of H.R. 1 would reform how state and local governments, including school districts, can issue tax-exempt bonds to refinance debt. Specifically, they would prohibit school districts from issuing tax-exempt “advance refunding bonds” (ARBs). ARBs are a cost-effective way for districts to refinance high-interest debt at lower-interest rates, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in lower debt payments. Karen Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Financial Services at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, TX, tells us she has overseen multiple advance refundings that “saved taxpayers millions in interest.”

While refinancing school district debt is more complicated than taking out a low-interest loan to pay off higher-interest debt or refinancing a mortgage, refunding bonds effectively serve the same purpose. School districts have two options when issuing tax-exempt bonds for debt refinancing: current refunding bonds (CRBs) or advance refunding bonds (ARBs).

Both options allow districts to pay off high-interest outstanding bonds with a newer-issued bond that leverages falling market interest rates. The main difference is when a district can issue them. CRBs can be issued within 90 days of the outstanding bond’s first call provision date. ARBs can be issued even earlier, giving districts more time to take advantage of falling rates to refinance debt; the lower the rate, the more cost savings the district can expect. Without tax-exempt ARBs, districts will have less flexibility to refinance debt and reallocate funds from debt obligations to what matters most—students.  

If passed, H.R. 1 will allow districts to continue issuing tax-exempt CRBs, but not tax-exempt ARBs, effective December 31. Sharie Lewis, Director of Business Services and Operations at Parkrose School District, OR, says the sudden cutoff for using this critical financing option will put her district “in a huge bind.” Refinancing is a lengthy process requiring extensive discussion between SBOs, school boards, and other stakeholders. It isn’t a decision to make lightly, and requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. Implementing a cutoff date so soon will force districts with outstanding debt to accelerate their refinancing decisions (and risk moving forward with incomplete information), or forego refinancing at taxpayer expense. Jim English, Associate Superintendent for Business Services at West Ottawa Public Schools, MI, says the district is “working on refinancing some of its bonds to save local taxpayers $500,000,” but won’t be able to do so if the tax plan becomes law.

Any tax policy that reduces local school funding, increases tax burdens on taxpayers, and revokes critical tools districts rely on to manage debt and reinvest in student learning does a disservice to our nation’s children, parents, and communities. However, there is still time to advocate on this issue; find everything you need to communicate with your representatives here.  

John Musso is the Executive Director of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). Founded in 1910, ASBO International is a nonprofit organization that, through its members and affiliates, represents approximately 30,000 school business professionals worldwide. Learn more at asbointl.org. This blog was cross-posted with permission and originally appeared at asbointl.org/Network. Education Week published an article based on this blog, available here.

November 16, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Statement on House Vote on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (HR 1)

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response the House passage of HR 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 227-205:

"AASA is deeply disappointed in the largely partisan vote in the House today. We know the intricacies involved in any legislative vote, and the pressures unique to a tax conversation. Like any budget or funding conversation, tax conversations are filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and today’s vote demonstrates that for 227 members of the House, they have little to no understanding of, or concern for, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. We remain optimistic that this is just the first step in a long process and that subsequent steps will be more deliberate, more transparent, and premised on passing common sense tax policy that works for our country, its people, and its public schools."

November 15, 2017(1)

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AASA Opposes Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1)

AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives outlining our strong opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1). 

AASA represents public school superintendents, and we are concerned that this bill--as currently drafted--shows little to no regard for the impact of its confluence of changes on our nation's public schools, on the ability of state and local governments' ability to adequately support public infrastructure (including schools), on the reliance of deficit financing to pay for the tax cuts and the impact if will have on federal appropriations, and more. We are not opposed to tax reform as a whole, but believe the House can and must do better to ensure this bill/proposal is bipartisan, deliberate, and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and are deeply concerned that the bill being considered this week falls short of this threshold. Read our full letter, and key excerpts are below. As a reminder, earlier this week we led a letter with 42 other national education groups opposing the House and Senate tax bill.

“On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing more than 13,000 public school superintendents across the country, I write to express our opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). We sent a similar letter to the Ways & Means Committee earlier this month and were disappointed to see zero improvements as it relates to the tax bill and its impact on public schools. Our opposition is not to tax reform in whole; rather, it is to specific provisions within the broader proposal that undermine and threaten our nation’s public school system and the students and communities they serve. 

"We urge Congress to rewrite the plan to preserve the state and local tax deduction, to eliminate the proposed expansion of 529 accounts, to protect and preserve Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, and to ensure that in paying for its tax reform, the bill does not negatively or disproportionately impact non-defense discretionary funding, which provides for education. We are keenly aware that any tax conversation, like any budget or funding conversation, it filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and in this instance, there is no indication that this tax plan and those planning to vote for it have an understanding of, or care about, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in four categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts), preserving QZABs, and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding.

"As we wrote in our initial response to the proposal, “We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education—both long and short term—and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.” We urge the House to slow its effort to ensure a product that has solid policy footing and broad, bipartisan support. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Congress can—and must—do better. For these reasons, we are opposed to the legislation being considered this week.”

November 13, 2017(2)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Responds to DeVos Priorities for Competitive Funding

Earlier this fall, Secretary DeVos announced 11 proposed priorities by which the US Education Department (USED) would award nearly $700 million in funding to schools. 

AASA submitted comments in response to the proposed priorities, outlining our continued opposition to competitive allocation of federal funds, particularly when this administration attempts to prioritize policies it eliminates funding for in annual appropriations. Our comments expressed opposition to the effort to expand and prioritize choice and privatization, and the disconnect on impact for rural schools and communities. 

November 13, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA, AFT Lead 41 Orgs in Joint Letter Opposing House and Senate Tax Plans

AASA partnered with AFT and 41 other national organizations in two joint letters--one each to the House and the Senate--opposing the tax reform bills.

We write "...to express our opposition to the tax bills currently being considered in Congress that are based on the White House and congressional Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” These proposals would undermine funding for our public schools, colleges and universities."

You can read the full letter here.

November 10, 2017(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments in Response to Proposed Changes to E-Rate

Last month, AASA issued a call to action to superintendents, urging them to respond to a set of proposed changes to the E-Rate program by the FCC. The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. To that end, AASA provided a template response, and more than 400 educators from schools and libraries across the country. 

You can read AASA's formal comments here.

November 6, 2017

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AASA Opposes Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, Recommends Improvements

In advance of today's markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, AASA sent a letter to the House Ways & Means committee to express our opposition to the bill as currently drafted and to recommend improvement. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in three categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts) and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding. Additional detail can be found in the attached letter. 

 

  • State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D): As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation's public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion's share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction--even the partial elimination in the proposal--would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. State and local funding accounts for approximately 90% of funding for K12 schools. Reduction of state and local revenues--an all but certain reality under this tax plan--would mean certain cuts to public education. We remain opposed to any changes to the original SALT deduction and urge the Committee to ensure that any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the SALT deduction as a matter of national priority.
  • Privatization and Vouchers: The bill expands 529 accounts to be used for private K-12 educational expenses of up to $10,000. This is a major change from current tax policy where Coverdell accounts, which are income-restricted, were the only tax-free account available to parents for private school expenses. The new bill will enable very wealthy Americans to set aside money for private school expenses furthering the appeal for them to educate their children in private schools. This is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and the revenues that stand to be lost under this 'benefit' would be far more efficiently and effectively invested to support public schools, via federal formula programs like Title I and IDEA, programs driven by equity and working to support teachers and education personnel, to reduce class size, to support instruction and more. AASA is opposed to this expansion of 529 policy and urges the Committee to strike the revision. 
  • Tax Plan Pay For: AASA urges the Committee to ensure that any tax reform act prudently to ensure that tax reform is paid for--not adding to the federal debt--and that in looking for pay-fors, work to preserve parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding. AASA is concerned that should a tax plan that is deficit-financed move forward, Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and that those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending. Congress already struggles to avoid deep cuts to important education programs as they work to comply with existing federal funding caps and constraints; a debt-financed tax reform would only exacerbate this tension and the depth of cuts to important education programs.
We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.

 

November 2, 2017

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AASA Signs Amicus Brief in South Dakota vs Wayfair

While AASA does not maintain counsel, we do from time to time engage in the Supreme Court process when a pending case has implications for public schools. Last term, we filed in the Endrew Case, related to special education. We just recently signed onto an amicus brief (from 'amicus curiae', which means 'friend of the court'), a process by which someone who is not a party to the case can provide information or context that bears on the case. A summary of the most recent amicus brief is below, written by Lisa Soronen, of the State & Local Legal Center. Her organization led the effort, which was also supported by the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, among others.

State and Local Legal Center Asks Supreme Court to Accept Sales Tax Case 

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear South Dakota’s petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to hold that states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the SLLC stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the Supreme Court. In September South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the Supreme Court to overrule it. In October South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill.   

The SLLC amicus brief makes two main points. First, it explains why this is the right case for the Court to take. In recent years numerous cases (and state laws) have challenged Quill at the margins. This case directly asks the Court to decide whether to overturn Quill without any distractions like factual issues. Second, now is the right time for the Court to consider overturning Quill because states and local governments are failing to collect billions of dollars in tax revenue annually at an increasing rate due to rising online sales.

The brief cites a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the International Council of Shopping Centers which estimated that in 2015, uncollected sales taxes from remote sales were almost $26 billion. Of this $26 billion, over $17 billion uncollected taxes were projected to be from electronic sales.    

At this point all South Dakota and its amici, including the SLLC, are asking the Supreme Court to do is agree to hear this case. Supreme Court review is discretionary; four of the nine Supreme Court Justices must agree to hear any case. If the Supreme Court refuses to do so, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional will stay in place.  possible the Court could hear this case this term meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.    

November 1, 2017

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Save SALTD: Support Public Education

Tomorrow, the House is expected to unveil the details of the anticipated tax reform package. As mentioned previously in the blog (and in an AASA press release), it is likely the proposal will include the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). Last week, AASAs joined 4 other national organizations in a joint statement expressing our continued opposition to any elimination of SALT-D. 

AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. 

What can you do? Make sure your delegation understands what SALT-D means to your community. Here is a pretty comprehensive set of resources for you to draw on:

AASA Talking Points (from the call to action)  

  • We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  • SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  • Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  • The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  
  • Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

AASA Memo: Education and Tax Reform  

  • Over the summer, I worked with a colleague form AFT to better understand the myriad ways that tax reform--SALT-D and other areas--could impact schools. That learning/research is summarized in this memo.

Americans Against Double Taxation: This is the coalition we are active in. They have rich resources

  • Calculator: How would the elimination of SALT-D impact the average homeowner in YOUR zip code and zip codes in your school district? THIS calculator will tell you. 
  • Congressional District Impact: What does it mean for tax payers in your Congressional district? This report has the numbers 

 

 

 

 

 

October 24, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up! 2017 is Open: Tell Your Technology Story

The Speak Up 2017 surveys are now open! 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. If you have not yet registered your school/district, there is still plenty of time! Surveys will close on January 19, 2018.

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, 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. More than 5 million participants have made Speak Up the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration. National-level reports inform policymakers at all levels.

Educators from more than 30,000 schools have used Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for the next generation of learning. You can too! Learn more about how to register as the primary contact at http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/registration.html today to participate in Speak Up.

To see what our top Speak Up top schools and districts have to say about why they participate in Speak Up, and learn how they utilized their school/district’s data, visit the Speak Up in Action page here.

Surveys take less than 20 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous. Join more than 500,000 people from more than 10,000 schools to be sure your voice is heard this year! 

As part of Speak Up, we (AASA) are offering two opportunities to win a complimentary registration to our 2018 National Education Conference. Check out Speak Up America and Speak Up Appreciation Week for more on these offers.

Surveys are open through January 19, 2018, and schools and districts can still sign up to get promotional materials and their free data: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/MainContactInformation.html

 

October 10, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, October 2017

By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Federal Policy Triple Threat: CHIP, E-Rate and SALT

Children’s Health Insurance Program: The CHIP Program expired on September 30. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. AASA supports five -year extension of the program.  CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. 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. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them. The full call to action is on the blog.

State and Local Tax Deduction: The president’s tax reform plan includes a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. The full call to action is on the blog.

E-Rate: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments. The full call to action—including a template response—is on the blog.

We’ve called 2017 the Year of Superintendent Advocacy and encouraged superintendents to commit to making contact with the members of their delegation once per month. For the month of October, we ask you to consider to take one advocacy step each week. One week, reach out to your delegation about CHIP. The next week, file comments on ERate and why it matters. To complete your hat-trick of October advocacy, let your delegation know you oppose any tax plan that changes/eliminates the SALT deduction.

As always, reach out to Sasha, Leslie or Noelle for additional information, including contact information for your hill staff.


 

October 9, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

E-Rate Call to Action: FCC Considering Cut to Category 2 Funding

Quick Summary: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments.

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

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is, and we want to make sure Congress knows what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. Congress needs to understand that the changes of the 2014 modernization are just starting to meaningfully reach schools and libraries, and that any substantive changes would be premature and poor policy. 

Specific to what the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, are considering: When the FCC modernized the E-Rate program in 2014, it focused funding on broadband Internet service (Category 1) and Wi-Fi and internal connections (Category 2). For Category 2, E-Rate provides schools with a formula distribution of $150 per pupil, which is supposed to last schools for 5 years. Since the modernized E-Rate with a higher spending cap rolled out in 2015, schools have made active use of their Category 2 allotments. Evidence suggests that, as of today, 94% of schools meet the FCC’s interim broadband goal of 100 Mbps/1000 students, a considerable jump from 2013 when that number stood at only 30%.

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Bureau launched a Public Notice seeking comment on Category 2 budgets. Specifically, this public notice asks how schools have used their allotments and whether schools made Wi-Fi purchases without E-Rate support. The public notice also asks why some schools have not used their allotments yet and whether they planned to do so before the end of the 5-year formula cycle. This last question may arise from data gathered by Funds for Learning that shows that “more than a third (37%) of participating sites have not touched their Category Two (“C2”) budgets, and another quarter (23%) have used less than half of their budgets. Only a relatively small percentage of sites (18%) have maxed out their C2 discounts.” In total, $2.35 billion in Category 2 funds remain unclaimed and unspent by schools.

What’s at stake? There is a growing concern that the FCC is not asking these questions merely for data-gathering purposes but for another end in entirely. The Connect America Fund (CAF), a universal service program (like E-Rate is) that provides subsidies for rural telecommunications carriers, remains underfunded and could use a funding increase. The apparent surplus in Category 2 dollars may look tempting to the FCC and CAF supporters, leading to calls to transfer unused E-Rate dollars to CAF. The data collected in this rulemaking may stand as evidence that schools are not using or do not need some or all of their Category 2 funds, providing the FCC pretext to transfer E-Rate dollars to CAF. Once those dollars are transferred out of E-Rate, they may be gone forever and stand as a precedent for lower overall funding for E-Rate for years to come.

Call to Action: The FCC has asked for the public to submit initial Comments on this Public Notice by October 23rd and Reply Comments by November 7th. Schools, districts, educators and parents should file comments in the next month that tell the FCC: Hands-off E-Rate Category 2 funds. A strong response from the education community might prevent the FCC from taking action to transfer E-Rate funds.

How to File Comments with the FCC

  • COMMENTS ARE DUE October 23
  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments 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: 13-184
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
  • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form.

If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than Friday October 20, with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’

 

October 9, 2017(1)

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

Save SALT-D: Tax Reform Impacts Schools!

Call to Action: Save #SALT-D! (Tax Reform Impacts Schools)

 

TELL CONGRESS SALT MUST BE PRESERVED: 
NOT LIMITED, RESTRICTED OR MODIFIED IN ANY WAY

 

BACKGROUND: When it comes to tax reform, AASA is engaged in an effort to preserve the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech responded to the proposed elimination of SALT-D in a statement last month: "AASA is deeply opposed to the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies." AASA is a proud member of the Americans Against Double Taxation, a coalition of state and local government organizations, service providers and other stakeholders dedicated to protecting the state and local tax deduction (SALT), a federal tax deduction claimed by 44 million American taxpayers that supports vital investments in infrastructure, public safety, home ownership and education.

CALL TO ACTION: There were multiple reports last week suggesting that a variety of alternative proposals may be on the table to restrict, limit or modify SALT rather than eliminate it entirely as the “Big Six” first proposed. Our allies in the House have confirmed these reports, and told us these talks are progressing rapidly.  

This is the first of several critical crossroads we expect to face, and we need your help to make calls to Congress immediately, urging Members to fully preserve SALT, and reject proposals that undermine this deduction which has been a central tenet of our federalism for over 100 years.  

The good news is that the talk of alternatives to eliminating SALT means our voices are being heard by Members of Congress, and they now know there is strong and widespread opposition to taking away SALT.  However, we must remain vigilant and fully engaged because so-called compromise proposals can sound reasonable, but they also can be harmful to homeowners, middle class taxpayers, state and local governments and the public services they provide, much like full repeal of SALT.  

The SALT messages we need to deliver are:  

 

  1. We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  2. SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  3. Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  4. The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  

Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

 

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. 

 

August 30, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Dan Domenech: Show Your Support for Public Education

Today's guest blog comes from AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech, and he calls on local school districts to consider and adopt their own version of the 'I Love Public Education' resolution adopted by AASA at our advocacy conference this summer. Please direct any questions to Tammy Barbara (tbarbara@aasa.org) and Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org). 

In July, AASA launched the I Love Public Education campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight the success and opportunities of public education and demonstrate how public schools develop future generations of successful students. 

Following the AASA governing board's unanimous adoption of the Resolution in Support of Public Education, it's time to take the message to the local level: school districts

AASA is working with other national and state organizations to adopt a multi-organization "I Love Public Education" resolution that we can leverage on Capitol Hill. But, when it comes to amplifying the message, the power lies with our members. At the local level, there is nothing stronger than a unified message from the nation's public school districts, each proclaiming 'I Love Public Education'. 

To that end, we ask our members to work with their local school board to make the resolution a meeting agenda item, and that the board and superintendent work together to adopt their district's 'I Love Public Education' resolution this fall. You can adopt the AASA version unedited, you can modify this version, or you can use our version as a starting point for your district's unique 'I Love Public Education' resolution. Whatever you adopt, we want to hear about it. Please submit your district resolution via email to LovePublicEducation@aasa.org, fax to 703-528-2146 or mail to AASA, attn: Tammy Barbara, 1615 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. 

Steps

 

  1. Review the AASA resolution
  2. Add the resolution to a school board meeting agenda this fall. 
  3. Work with your board to adopt your district's version of the resolution. 
  4. Share your resolution with AASA.  

 

Looking to do more? There's a lot more at the local level than just the school district. Could your town or county board adopt the resolution? Can your mayor or town official adopt a version of the resolution? Could you generate a 'community partner' version, open to local officials, the chamber of commerce, and other local entities? 

At a time when education policy is undermining the rich history of our public schools and the roles they play in preparing students to be productive adults, we need your help to lead, shape and grow a broad dialogue and support for public education. Beyond adopting a resolution, you can join the conversation on Twitter by using the #LovePublicEducation hashtag. 

We appreciate the work you do to ensure the children of this country receive the best education possible. Let us know how we can help you. 

July 19, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy in Action: Week of July 17

Fresh off of last week's successful AASA/ASBO legislative advocacy conference (all conference materials and the evaluation can be accessed here) we hit the ground running for another busy week on Capitol Hill. And it is only Wednesday!

ESSA: On Tuesday, AASA President Gail Pletnick testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. You can access her testimony and an archive of the hearing here.

Appropriations: Today, the House appropriations committee considers the FY18 LHHS appropriations bill, which would provide funding for schools in the 2018-19 school year. AASA sent a letter expressing our concern with the proposal to the subcommittee last week and a similar letter to the full committee. Here’s a quick overview of what is in the bill, and we've linked to a comparison chart.   

  • Provides $66 billion for USED, down $2.4 billion from the current budget.
  • The House bill does NOT fund the Trump request for $1 billion for a portability/open enrollment provision in Title I, Part E, nor does it provide funding for a proposed $250 million voucher program.
  • IDEA Part B receives a $200 m increase
  • Title I is level funded
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers is cut by $200 m
  • Charter Grants increase $28 m
  • ESSA Title IV is funded at $500 m
FCC/E-Rate: Today, the Senate will confirm Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Ben Carr as Commissioners in the FCC. Ajit Pai is a carry over from the Obama administration and will serve as Chairman; Jessica Rosenworcel returns to the FCC after her term expired, and Ben Carr joins the FCC as a first-time commissioner. Pai and Carr are joined by Michael O’Rielly as the Republican members, and Rosenworcel returns to join Mignon Clyburn as the Democrats on the commission.  You'll recall that Commissioner Rosenworcel was a tireless champion of E-Rate, schools, connectivity and the homework gap in her previous term and AASA is beyond thrilled to have the chance to work with her again. Read our letter of support.
Webinars: In the last month, AASA held two webinars related to advocacy/policy, including one just this week. Both are linked below: 
  • Get the Lead Out: Testing for and Removing Lead in School Water Systems (Archive)
  • Financial Transparency Requirement in ESSA (Archive)

 

July 13 ,2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response to House LHHS FY18 Bill

On July 13, the House Appropriations LHHS subcommittee is set to mark up its FY18 proposal, which includes funding for USED, and will largely provide funding for schools in the 18-19 school year.

You can read AASA's letter of response

July 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

We are deep into Day Two of the AASA/ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference. We are beyond pumped to have nearly 300 school system and business leaders in town, advocating FOR schools, FOR students, and FOR public education. Can't be here? Follow along on twitter: #AASAadv, #LovePublicEducation, @SPudelski, @LeslieFinnan, @AASAhq, and @Noellerson.

If you are on the Hill today, be sure to tell us how it went! 

And, as promised, here are the meeting materials:   

We also referenced a few other resources on during the Wednesday panels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.
     
 

May 30, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

USED Shares Preliminary FY 2017 State Allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A

USED has released preliminary FY 2017 state allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A. In a message to state chief school officers, they provide initial allocations for states via ESSA Title IV Part A:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017 was signed into law on May 5, 2017.  It appropriated funding for Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program State Grants. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 preliminary allocation, by State, can be found here.  While the amounts are not yet final, these estimates may be helpful in planning and informing decisions at the State level.  A final allocation table will be issued prior to the distribution of Grant Award Notification documents on July 1, 2017.

Additional information on this program may be found at https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/resources/essa-title-iv-part-student-support-and-academic-enrichment-non-regulatory-guidance-webinar.

Also, please note this program is part of the Revised State Plan Assurances Template released on May 17, 2017.  These assurances must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education by June 2, 2017, to ensure timely allocation of FY 2017 funds.

You may find more information about federal education funding by State at https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/index.html.

May 24, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response and Analysis for FY18 Budget Proposal

On May 23, President Trump released his federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal. Federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) starts October 1, 2017 and runs through September 30, 2018. These are the federal funds that will be in school districts for the 2018-19 school year. This year’s budget proposal is the first from the Trump administration and represents a marked departure from recent budget proposals. Unlike recent years, which prioritized and protected education investment, this proposal disinvests in education across the entire continuum, reducing support for early education, elementary education, and secondary education programs.

You can read AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech's statement in response to the proposal here.

Or, you can access AASA's written summary and analysis here.

 

May 11, 2017(2)

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

May Advocacy Challenge: Rural Education

This month's advocacy challenge (find the full 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge here!) is all about rural. And in fact, is just one of two options this month; we'll issue the second advocacy challenge the week of May 22, assuming President Trump does, indeed, release the full detail of his FY 2018 federal budget. In the mean time, on to rural!

This month’s advocacy challenge is focused on rural schools and communities, and highlights two specific programs that target and support rural districts. A third rural program—Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is featured in a separate post, and is more of an update related to a new application process. You can access that on the blog 

Impact Aid:  

  • Background (Hat Tip: USED). Impact Aid is designed to assist United States local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. Many local school districts across the United States include within their boundaries parcels of land that are owned by the Federal Government or that have been removed from the local tax rolls by the Federal Government, including Indian lands. These school districts face special challenges — they must provide a quality education to the children living on the Indian and other Federal lands and meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, while sometimes operating with less local revenue than is available to other school districts, because the Federal property is exempt from local property taxes.

    Since 1950, Congress has provided financial assistance to these local school districts through the Impact Aid Program. Impact Aid was designed to assist local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. The program provides assistance to local school districts with concentrations of children residing on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, or other Federal properties and, to a lesser extent, concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties who do not live on Federal property.

    Over 93 percent of the $1.3 billion appropriated for FY 2016 is targeted for payment to school districts based on an annual count of federally connected school children. Slightly more than 5 percent assists school districts that have lost significant local assessed value due to the acquisition of property by the Federal Government since 1938. More than $17 million is available for formula construction grants.

    Impact Aid has been amended numerous times since its inception in 1950. The program continues, however, to support local school districts with concentrations of children who reside on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, and other Federal properties, or have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties. The law refers to local school districts as local educational agencies, or LEAs.

    AASA works in close coordination with the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) on all things related to Impact Aid. Here’s a really good Impact Aid primer (Hat tip: NAFIS!) NAFIS also shared an excellent one-page document summarizing the critical nature of investing in Impact Aid, and how the funding works.

  • Talking Points: Right now, the focus is on ensuring adequate and continued investment in Impact Aid, particularly as it relates to FY18. 
    • Impact Aid funds are efficient, flexible, and locally controlled.
    • Impact Aid funds are appropriated annually by Congress. The US Department of Education disburses the funding directly to school districts.
    • School district leaders decide how Impact Aid funds are spent, including for instructional materials, staff, transportation, technology, facility needs, etc.
    • The final FY18 budget allocation must include robust investment in Impact Aid. AASA is opposed to program cuts in the program, including the proposal to eliminate funding for the support payments for federal property program (within Impact Aid).  

Secure Rural Schools:  

  • Background: The Secure Rural Schools program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 41 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The expectation is that the federal government and Congress will develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management. Congress needs to act on active long term forest management programs generating local jobs and revenues.  Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, but has not funded SRS for 2016.  775 Counties and over 4,400 schools serving 9 million students in 41 states now directly face the grim financial reality of budget cuts and the loss of county road, fire and safety services, and reductions in education programs and services for students. The negative impact of lost SRS funds for counties and schools in Rocky Mountain states are compounded by reduced PILT payments.  All these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives in or visits forest counties. Congress must continue the historic national commitment to the 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Talking Points: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW: YOUR REPRESENATATIVES ARE IN THEIR DISTRICTS May 8-15 -- Contact your Member TO STAND UP, SPEAK OUT NOW FOR SRS. Tell what the loss of SRS funds means to schools, roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education programs, road, bridge, police, fire, and safety programs. 
    • Ask your Member to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW calling for immediate action on short term SRS and funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
    • ASK your House member to cosponsor H.R.2340 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK your Senator to cosponsor S. 1027 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability.   

 

May 11, 2017(1)

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

Update: Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) has application for FY 2017

It has come to our attention that we failed to clearly understand and communicate a new requirement for the Small Rural Schools Achievement Programs (SRSA), under the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP).

BACKGROUND: The REAP program was reauthorized as Title V of the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is compromised of two grant programs, the Rural and Low Income Schools (RLIS) program and the SRSA program. School districts receiving REAP money are in fact receiving either RLIS or SRSA funding.

When it comes to these programs, RLIS is money that goes to the state. Details on how a district can receive RLIS funds will be provided by their state. The SRSA program flows directly from USED to school districts, and there is a critical change for FY 2017: Beginning in FY 2017, local education agencies (LEAs) will need to apply each year to receive SRSA grant funds. The FY17 SRSA application window will be open from May 1 thru June 30, 2017. Applications received after the deadline will be processed only to the extent that funds remain available.  

  1. Steps for Applying: Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number (if your LEA does not already have one).
    • LEAs can obtain a DUNS number for free through the Dun & Bradstreet Website. After submitting a request, you should receive a DUNS number within 1-2 business days. 
     
  2. If your LEA has a DUNS number, verify that the number is active in the System for Award Management (SAM).
    • For additional information and to verify that your district’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact SAM’s help desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time)  
     
  3. Complete the SRSA application on Grants.gov. Instructions will be included with the application on Grants.gov.
    • NOTE: The application will become available when the application period opens in May. The application will become unavailable when the application period ends. 
     

 DUNS number registration and re-activation

  • An LEA must be registered in SAM and have a DUNS number that is active in Sam and G5 at the time of application to register in Grants.gov and apply for an SRSA grant.
  • An LEA’s DUNS number must also be active for the LEA to be able to draw down the funds.
  • If your LEA’s DUNS number is nearing the end of its “active” status, it is best to reactivate the DUNS in SAM at least 7-10 business days prior to expiration date to allow time for the validation process.
  • To determine if your LEA’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact the SAM Federal Service Desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (EDT - 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.)
  • If your LEA does not have a DUNS number, you can submit a request for one on the Dun & Bradstreet website, www.dandb.com.

Why this change? The REAP SRSA program beneficiaries were routinely leaving $2 million unused. These funds went unclaimed, largely, because eligible schools did not know that they had money and/or they had not completed the process to obtain/verify their DUNS umber. For context, more than 1,600  SRSA grantees hadn’t received money they were eligible for. The new application procedure is aimed at addressing these shortcomings.  The application ensures appropriate and current contact information—which is critical in small rural districts who may experience above-average staff turnover/churn. One districts have their DUNS number, they will be able to receive their monies and draw down their funding.  USED has engaged in a series of webinars on the new application and process and will continue to hold these webinars—roughly two per week—throughout the duration of the application period. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION  

  • You can access the archived REAP webinars are the following URLs:  
  • Upcoming Webinars: To provide additional assistance, the REAP Team will begin hosting SRSA APPLICATION WALK-THROUGH WEB SEMINARS. During these seminars, a REAP program officer will walk participant LEAs through the SRSA Application while the LEAs complete the application in Grants.gov. The first walk-through web seminar for FY 2017 will take place on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. We will host additional walk-through web seminars every Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning Tuesday, May 16, 2017, until Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Tuesday web seminars will be held from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time, and Wednesday seminars will take place from 1-2  p.m. Eastern Time. You MUST register in grants.gov prior to the webinar.
  •  
  • To register for one of the dates listed below, click the corresponding hyperlink below. Participation is capped at 350 attendees per session, so be sure to register early!

May 11, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Letter from USED Re: FY2017 Federal Formula Program Allocations

Earlier this week, USED sent the following note to chief state school officers, with updated information about FY2017 federal formula program allocations. The text of the letter is as follows:

Now that there is a fiscal year 2017 (school year (SY) 2017-2018) appropriation, I am writing to provide a brief update on allocations, as some of you have asked about them.  The appropriation sets the funding levels for programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA), as well as other programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Therefore, for formula programs administered by ED’s Office of State Support and other offices, ED can now finalize SY 2016-2017 allocations and issue SY 2017-2018 preliminary allocations. 

SY 2016-2017 (Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A) 

As we have discussed in prior communications with you, the FY 2017 continuing resolution that was in effect before the final FY 2017 appropriation became law included an across-the-board reduction in the amount of funds provided through the FY 2016 appropriations act that became available on October 1, 2016.  The reduction resulted in revised SY 2016-2017 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A allocations that ED issued in October 2016 and reduced the amount of FY 2016 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A funds that ED awarded to States at that time.  (The reductions had no effect on Title III, Part A or State Assessment Grant allocations because the FY 2016 appropriations act made all of the funds for these programs available on July 1, 2016.)   

Now that the FY 2017 appropriation has superseded the continuing resolution, the cut is no longer in effect.  We anticipate issuing second revised final SY 2016-2017 Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A allocations and supplemental grant awards very soon.  As in past years, to reflect the updated allocations, a State may either adjust the current Title I, Part A and Title II, Part A local educational agency (LEA) allocations for SY 2016-2017 or make the adjustment when the State determines SY 2017-2018 allocations to LEAs.  More information about adjustments will be provided in the allocation notification.    

SY 2017-2018 (Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; and State Assessment Grants (Title I, Part B)) 

ED expects to provide preliminary SY 2017-2018 allocations for Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; and State Assessment Grants before the end of May.  As in past years, updates to some data elements in the Title I, Part A formula (e.g., LEA finance data used in the Education Finance Incentive Grant formula) and Title II, Part A and State Assessment Grant formulas (i.e., State-level ages 5 to 17 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau) are expected to become available in June.  Therefore, in the second half of June, ED plans to issue final allocations for these programs based on the updated data elements and will use the final allocations as the basis for the grant awards that ED will issue on July 1, 2017.  Regarding Title III, Part A, it is unlikely that there will be any changes between the preliminary SY 2017-2018 allocations and the final allocations. 

May 4, 2017(1)

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

We're One Week into May, and there's a lot to share!

Lots of advocacy information to catch you up on: 

  • FY17 Budget: Congress agreed to a final spending bill for FY17, the federal dollars that will be in schools for the 17-18 school year. The bill is not good, but it is about as good as Congress can do given the current funding environment. AASA did not endorse the bill, given deep concerns we have with proposed cuts and inadequate funding to core programs, but we did not oppose the bill either, given that the bill was bipartisan and as good as Congress could do given the current funding caps (We can have an entirely separate conversation on how Congress alone can address the cap issue….they put the caps into place, they can resolve them.) But, for purposes for FY17, we were neutral on the bill, highlighting the good as well as the bad, and delivering a clear message that FY18 has to be better. The bill passed the House on May 3 and is being voted on in the Senate on May 4 (May the 4th be with you…..) Read the AASA letter
    • Quick Summary of Education impacts in FY17 omnibus
    • Provides $66.9 billion for USED (accounting for Pell rescission), a $1.1 b cut from FY16
    • ESSA
      • Title I increase of $550 million (includes $450 m from SIG consolidation and $100 m in new funding; will still leave school districts short $100 m for ESSA implementation)
      • Title II is cut by $294 m (13%)
      • Title IV is funded at $400 m, and states can choose to run it competitively
       
    • IDEA receives $90 m increase (Federal share just over 16%)
    • Impact Aid increase $23 m
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers increase $25 m
    • Head Start increase $85 million
    • Includes reauthorization of DC voucher program
    • Does NOT include funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program
  •  
  • ACHAThe House passed the bill to repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act on May 4. Here’s the latest call to action, which includes the priority members (those that are leaning no). While the bill passed the House, advocacy can sway that and we need to keep the pressure on for the Senate vote.  Details on the blog.
  • Perkins Career Tech: The House today introduced its bill to reauthorize the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bill is sponsored by Rep Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Other sponsors include Byrne (R-AL) Clark (D-MA), Ferguson (R-GA), Langevin (D-RI), Nolan (D-MN), and Smucker (R-PA). You’ll recall that AASA endorsed the 2016 version of the bill (here’s a good run down of that bill).  Key changes in the 2017 version (H/T EdWeek):
    • States have to set performance targets based on the process in their state plans. 
    • The bill says that two accountability indicators in the bill, those for "nontraditional" students and for program quality, now only apply to CTE "concentrators" who have taken two sequential CTE courses of study. In general, the bill defines CTE concentrators as those students who have "completed three or more career and technical education courses, or completed at least two courses in [a] single career and technical education program or program of study."
    • Maintenance-of-effort language has been changed that would now allow states to decrease their CTE funding by 10 percent in the year immediately following implementation of the new Perkins law. 
    • The U.S. secretary of education now has 120 days to review the plans, not 90 as in last year's bill.  
  • School Nutrition: Earlier this week, US Dept of Agriculture announced a partial rollback of regulations on the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, including delaying or weakening restrictions on salt and requirements for whole grains. This is a set of regulatory relief AASA has long championed. Check out Leslie’s blog post.
  • Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act: SRS/Forest Counties was NOT included in the FY17 funding bill. Your advocacy is working though because there is now Senate language to reauthorize the program. Sens. Hatch and Wyden introduced a bill to reauthorize the program for two years. Other Senators supporting the legislation include Crapo, Cantwell, Risch, Heinrich, Daines, Manchin, Gardner, Feinstein, Murkowksi, Sullivan, Tester, and Bennet.  WE MUST KEEP THE PRESSSURE ON CONGRESS TO ACT. Here is our call to action AND a recent social media campaign. Here’s a bulleted list of what’s in the bill:
    • Reauthorizes SRS payments for 2 years—retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
    • Clarifies the use of unelected title II funds;
    • Eliminates the merchantable timber pilot requirement (note:  this was never implemented by the Forest Service, and the Forest Service support its deletion);
    • Clarifies, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
    • Extends the time available to initiate title II projects and obligate funds for the 2-year reauthorization;
    • Title II and III Elections: For the 2-Year reauthorization, there won’t be enough time to go through the administrative process of the counties changing their elections and still getting their payments on time, so for reauthorization, the counties have to stick with their current elections.  
  • Executive Order on Federal Overreach (Regulations) in Education: President Trump signed an executive order (read it here) that directs USED and Secretary DeVOs to study “where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped on state and local control." Given the restrictions on federal authority in ESSA, the executive order has for the most part been perceived as more symbolic than substantive, at least on first impression.S.945 New HOPE Act (Cornyn – TX) Introduced April 26th, a bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 

 

May 4, 2017

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

Secure Rural Schools Social Media Campaign

In addition to the ongoing outreach to members of Congress (while at home, while in DC, in person and on the phone), it is time to add a little social media pressure. To that end, I have assembled all the information you need for a #SaveSRS twitter storm: 

  • A one-page word document explaining the whole project
    • This includes ready-to-go tweets you can cut and paste
  • An excel spreadsheet that lists the twitter handles for ALL members of Congress. THIS is where the good pressure can come in. At the end of the tweet, make sure to include the handle for your Senator(s) or Representative.

General Notes: 

  • The time to tweet is NOW (Use the tweets today, tomorrow and Thursday).
  • It is completely acceptable to use all of the tweets and to repeat them each day.
    • It is ok to send the same tweet three separate times (tagging a different member of Congress each time)
  • Make sure to tag anything you tweet with #SaveSRS.
  • New to twitter or want help setting up an account? Email me and we can make that happen.
  • Follow the BRAND NEW SRS twitter account (@ForestCounties)

If you are already familiar with twitter and just want to get going with the tweeting, here are some ready-to-go tweets:

 

 

  • FY17 CR must #SaveSRS FY 16 and 17 funding and extend program thru FY18 to ensure certainty for communities. 
  • Secure Rural Schools is critical program for forest communities in 41 states. #SaveSRS
  • As of 3/7, Congressional inaction means Secure Rural School Communities receive funding based on 1908 formula. #SaveSRS
  • Congressional inaction means 775 counties serving 4400 schools and 9 million students in 41 states face draconian budget cuts. #SaveSRS
  • No Secure Rural Schools means loss of county road, fire+safety services, and reductions in edu programs and services for students. #SaveSRS
  • Congress must honor commitment to the 775 rural counties + 4,400 schools in rural communities and districts served by SRS program. #SaveSRS
  • No #SaveSRS? Forest counties + schools face loss of essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Rural communities call on Congress to honor commitment and #SaveSRS
  • Education cuts don’t heal, and Congress must #SaveSRS to avoid teacher layoffs, increased class size, and reduced program offerings.

 

 

 

 

April 13, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Appropriations Activity

Earlier this month, AASA joined other national organizations in a letter highlighting the importance of investment in IDEA (Read the letter). We also focused our April advocacy challenge on federal appropriations, and you can read those details on the blog

This week, AASA took further action: 

  • We joined 11 other national organizations to re-issue a letter we sent last year outlining our continued concerns related to ensuring that the final FY17 Title I allocation is high enough to avoid cuts at the local level. We reissued the letter to highlight the continued need as Congress comes back from recess and tackles their final FY17 discussions. Read the updated letter. Groups signing the letter include:
    • American Federation of Teachers 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
    • Association of School Business Officials International 
    • Council of Great City Schools 
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals 
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals 
    • National Education Association 
    • National PTA 
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium 
    • National Rural Education Association 
    • National School Boards Association 
  • AASA submitted a final FY17 budget priority letter, which also indicated initial FY18 priorities. Our letter prioritizes investment in ESSA Title I, IDEA, and Perkins Career/Technical Education; opposes proposed cuts/elimination for ESSA Title II and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and reiterates the importance of parity between defense and non defense discretionary funding.  
  •  

April 12, 2017

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

Using Recess to Advocate for: Secure Rural Schools Funding

The Secure Rural Schools program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 41 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements began in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The federal government and Congress were expected to develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management.

YOUR SCHOOL AND COUNTY safety net is unraveling.  APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED.

On March 7, since Congress failed to act on SRS and forest management, the National Forest Service issued 25 % payments of timber receipts to states based on the original 1908 Act.  Your 2016 payments, actually based on timber receipts, are well below Secure Rural Schools funding.  They were also cut 6.9% by sequestration.  775 Counties and over 4,400 schools serving 9 million students in 41 states now directly face the grim financial reality of budget cuts and the loss of county road, fire and safety services, and reductions in education programs and services for students. The negative impact of lost SRS funds for counties and schools in Rocky Mountain states are compounded by reduced PILT payments.  All these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives in or visits forest counties.

Congress must continue the historic national commitment to the 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.

Congress must act on short term FY 2016- 2017 funding for Secure Rural Schools and active long term forest management programs generating revenues and local jobs.    

YOUR APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED TO SAVE SRS

Please contact the district office of your Member of Congress BETWEEN NOW AND APRIL 28:

 

  • Ask for and arrange a face to face meeting with your Member or District Director.
  • Bring specific information illustrating the loss of SRS funding in your county and your schools.  
  • Be specific, what programs are being cut, what students lose, and how these services will not be replaced without SRS funding. 
  • Bring parents and representatives of your community if possible.  
  • Tell your Member and staff what SRS funding means to his/her schools and communities.   

Finally: 

 

 

  • ASK your Member of Congress to tell his/her leadership to include SRS authorization and short term 2016-2017 funding when Congress finalizes FY 2017 funding by April 28. 
  • ASK for SRS 2016-2017 Funding  - critically needed to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands promoting social and economic stability in local communities. 

PROVIDE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF EDUCATION PROGRAMS, FIRE, POLICE, ROAD, BRIDGE, AND LOCAL SERVICES YOUR COMMUNITIES ARE LOSING IF SRS FUNDING IS NOT REPLACED.   

To view interactive maps showing distribution of federal and payments: https://goo.gl/R0sDb9