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 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! 

June 28, 2019(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Joint Letter Calling For Increased Federal Funding In Teacher Quality Partnership Grants

On Wednesday the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), AASA, and a group of 26 other education organizations issued a letter to Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, urging members to maintain funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant at $53.1 million. The TQP program, authorized under Title II of the Higher Education Act, is the only federal initiative targeted directly to higher education-based teacher preparation programs, and it is designed to help ensure that high-need schools are staffed with profession-ready teachers.

At a time when the teaching profession faces declining enrollment, teacher shortages, and retention challenges, increased federal investment in solutions such as the TQP grant program are vital. TQP grants support intensive partnerships between high-need school districts, high-need public schools, institutions of higher education, and other eligible entities to prepare profession-ready teachers. The program requires student teachers to undergo no less than two years of induction, mentoring, or teacher residency models. In addition, grantees must prepare new teachers to teach students with disabilities and English language learners, to use research and data to inform instruction and to have literacy teaching skills so that upon program completion teachers are fully prepared for the rigors of providing daily classroom instruction. Thus far, 70 programs have received funding via the TQP grant, and preliminary results show over 500 high-need public schools are seeing improvements in the quality and retention of their teachers, and correspondingly enhancements in the quality of their students' learning. AASA was proud to sign onto the letter and support the TQP program.

June 18, 2019(2)

(E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Of E-Rate and Approps: An Advocacy Update

E-Rate Update: A recent proposal from the Federal Communications--under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai (Republican)--would place limits on the amount of money the e-Rate program could make available to support school and library efforts to improve internet access. Unlike previous proposals we have responded to at the FCC, which have been narrow in scope and focused on E-Rate--this latest proposal targets the broader umbrella program--the Universal Service Fund (USF)--that includes three other sister programs (Rural health care, the Connect America Fund and Lifeline). Currently each of the four USF programs operate under their own cap you'll recall that the E-Rate cap currently sits at just over $4 billion, a cap established in the 2014 E-Rate modernization. The FCC's proposal would set a cap for the overall USF. THe proposed cap is nearly $2 billion above current levels. Specific to E-Rate, the proposal would pair E-Rate with Rural Healthcare under a single cap. This is of particular concern to us because while E-Rate is currently undersubscribed, school and library demand will only continue to grow, and even if these connectivity prices continue to fall, the reality of increasing demand and skyrocketing costs with rural health care create a scenario where one USF program is pitted against another, with rural schools competing with rural health care for connectivity needs. This should not be an 'either, or' funding approach; the USF program was designed to address four distinct connectivity needs, a core tenet this proposal blatantly disregards. The proposal will follow the normal comment period. As an initial reply, AASA partnered with our EdLiNC coalition to request an extension on the filing deadline. You can read that letter here

Big take aways? Moving forward, know that this is the top advocacy priority for the summer. We will be utilizing a full member press to ensure the FCC hears loud and clear about the importance of the E-Rate program, how the proposed partner cap creates an arbitrary competition between complementary programs, and threatens to undermine the viability of the overarching program. Our efforts will focus on the FCC, as this is where the proposal originated and where the decision will be made, but we will also exert messaging effort on Capitol Hill, as Congress oversees the FCC and the Telecommunications Act, the authorizing statute under the overall USF program. 

Appropriations Update: House Democrats plan to pass a nearly $1 trillion spending package this week, a move that would tie up loose ends from the intra-party fight in April over the fiscal direction of the country. Passing H.R. 2740 would require solid support throughout the House Democratic caucus, because Republicans have said they won’t back the measure, which includes Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water appropriations. To reach the 217 votes currently necessary for a majority, Democrats can lose support from no more than 17 of their 235 members. AASA sent a letter of support for the bill, with the Committee for Education. Later in the week, the House will begin consideration of its second appropriations package (H.R. 3055) that includes Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD funds. Agencies and programs covered by those five appropriations bills would receive about $320 billion in fiscal 2020 discretionary funding under the measure. Over on the Senate side, negotiations on a possible deal to raise the discretionary caps on defense and non-defense spending have not yet been fruitful, and have led to contemplating looking for a deal to raise just the FY 2020 caps, meaning that Congress would have to face a huge spending cut down to the sequester-level caps for FY 2021 in an election year.  That is not an outcome that congressional leadership want.

Big take aways? We are not in the clear when it comes to avoiding a shutdown, nor is there a clear path forward on raising the caps. That said, the question is not so much 'Will Congress raise the caps?' as much as 'How much will Congress raise the caps, and will they address FY20 and FY21 in one package, or will they have to renegotiate in an election year?". 

June 18, 2019

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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 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.

 

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(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Support National Day of Action for Title II, Part A

On May 15, AASA, along with a group of national education organizations (listed below), will be hosting a day of action supporting the $500 million increase the House Appropriations Committee appropriated for Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title II, Part A is a necessary program that can be used to recruit, retain and train teachers, principals and other school support personnel. We invite your organization to participate and hope you can mobilize your members to contact their congressional representatives notifying them about their support of the recently proposed increase.

To help your organization, state affiliate or district participate, the sponsoring organizations have developed a toolkit with draft social media posts and outreach for your members and affiliates. Access the toolkit here. Please note that graphics to accompany the social media posts will be added to the toolkit soon as well. 

If you have any questions regarding the day of action, please feel free to contact Zach Scott at scottz@nassp.org. Thank you for your time, and we hope your organization is able to join us in supporting this important program.  

Sponsoring Organizations

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • ASCD
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials
  • Learning Forward
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Consortium
  • New Leaders

 

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 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

(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 26, 2019

(IDEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Chairs IDEA Funding Coalition, Leads 25 Orgs in Effort to Introduce Bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Bill

AASA is the chair of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a group of national education and related groups committed to getting Congress to honor its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs. This is a commitment they made when signing IDEA into law in 1975, and one they have chronically failed. To date, the closest they have come to this goal through the annual appropriations process was 18% in 2005, and is under 15% in the current federal fiscal year, 2019.

To that end, our coalition leads the effort to work with Congress to introduce the legislation that gives Congress a clear ten-year glide path to realize their commitment, and we are so pleased that this year's bills, in both the House and Senate, are bipartisan and were introduced during Public Schools Week.

Co sponsors in the Senate include Sen Chris VanHollen and Sen Pat Roberts (a long time IDEA funding supporter who had stepped away from the role, returning this year for his final Senate term), and Rep Jared Huffman on the House side. 

You can read out letter of support here, and a quick thanks to ALL the groups in our IDEA Funding Coalition signing on to the letter.

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    • American Dance Therapy Association
    • American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Music Therapy Association
    • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
    • Association of School Business Officials International
    • Council for Exceptional Children
    • Council of Administrators of Special Education
    • Council of Great City Schools
    • Learning Disabilities Association of America
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • 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
    • School Social Work Association of America
    • The ARC of the United States

    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 14, 2019

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    FY19 Appropriations: Is the end in sight? Will Congress and the President avoid another shutdown?

    Up against the clock of a short-term federal funding deal that expires on February 15, it appears Congress has reached consensus on a compromise bill to fund the remaining portions of the federal government, a middle ground on the contentious border security debate, and avoided another shutdown. The Senate is expected to consider and adopt the proposal today, and the House will follow suit. It is anticipated—but not certain—the President will sign the deal. He has indicated, but not confirmed, support. The deal needs to be finalized before midnight on Friday to avoid a shutdown. This will bring the final FY19 appropriations process to a close (nearly 5 months after the fiscal year started on October 1). You’ll recall that education was largely untouched in the shutdown, as our portion of the appropriations process was funded on time last fall.

    The conference report can be found here, a section by section summary here, and an explanatory statement here

    I am including a top-line summary of the funding levels included in the bill. Of the programs and agencies impacted, we were most closely following the Department of Agriculture, as it is the agency that funds the school meals programs. (H/T to our friends in the Children’s Budget Coalition for this quick list): 

     

    • Department of Homeland Security: $49.4 billion, $1.7 billion above FY 18
    • Agriculture-Food Drug Administration: $23.042 billion in discretionary funding, $32 million above FY 18 
      • WIC is funded only at $6.075 billion, a $100 M cut from FY 18
      • Summer EBT and School Meal Equipment grants are level funded with FY 18 at $28 M and $30 M, respectively
    • Commerce Justice Science: 71.5 billion, $1.6 billion above FY 18 
      • Census is funded at $3.83 billion, an increase of more than $ 1 billion over FY 18
      • Title V Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Grants received $24.5 Million, $3 million below FY 18
      • Youth MENTOR grants received $95 million, a $1 million increase over FY 18
      • CASA level funded at $12 million
    • Interior-Environment: $35.6 billion, $300 million over FY 18
      • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is level funded at $74.6 million
      • Indian Education Elementary and Secondary School Programs are funded at $582.58 million, an increase of $3.3 million over FY 18.
    • Transportation and Housing Urban Development: $71.1 billion, a $1 billion increase over FY 18
      • Includes more than $17 billion in funding for new infrastructure projects
      • Public and Indian Housing received $31 billion, a $716.6 million increase over FY 18
      • The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes received $279 million, an increase of $49 million above FY 18
    • State and Foreign-Ops: $54.2 billion in discretionary funding, including $8 billion in OCO funding—a $200 million increase over FY 18
    • Financial Services: Level funded at $23.42 billion. 
      • The IRS received $11.3 billion, an increase of $75 million above FY 18. $77 million is designated for implementation of FY 2017 tax legislation

     

    January 25, 2019

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    The federal shutdown is, well, shut down. For now.

    Late on Friday, both the House and Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution and the president signed it into law, bringing the longest partial government shutdown in history to close in its 35th day. Following increased pressure amid growing negative polling, and air stops in major airports due to lack of workers, which sent ripples up and down the east coast, the president announced he would sign a funding deal to temporarily end the shutdown. 

    The agreement level funds the portions of the government that had been shutdown, buying Congress time to wrap up the appropriations work for FY19. In addition to funding the government through February 15, the agreement creates a conference committee on homeland security. This committee will have the three week work period to negotiate the deal. The short term deal includes zero money for the border wall. The path forward remains anything but certain, as the president has already indicated that he remains open to declaring an emergency to secure funding for the wall. It is feasible Congress could pass stand alone bills for all impacted portions of the government (except homeland security, the slice of the pie that would include funding for a wall). That said, this path forward, funding all parts of government except homeland security would significantly reduce the consequence of another shutdown, as well as dilute any perceived pressure the president could leverage in negotiations related to wall funding, should another shutdown occur.

    As a reminder, of the 12 appropriations bill (which collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), these are the ones that remain incomplete: agriculture, commerce, financial services, homeland security, interior, state/foreign ops, and transportation. These are the ‘slices of the funding pie’ funded through February 15, and subject to the consequences of another shutdown if Congress fails to fund them for the remainder of the FY19 fiscal year. 

    Stay tuned. As a reminder, US Education Department and Health & Human Services, the two agencies that provide the bulk of federal funding provided to schools, are already fully funded, not part of the current shutdown and face no threat of any additional shutdowns in 2019. If there is another shutdown and it includes the agriculture appropriations bill, it will impact the SNAP program as well as the school meals programs (breakfast, lunch and after school meals). We’ll be monitoring this.

    January 23, 2019

    (SCHOOL NUTRITION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA Joins 7 National Organizations in Letter to Urge Senate to Fund School Meals Programs

    Today, AASA joined seven national organizations in a joint letter addressed to President Trump, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, urging them to adopt the House-passed FY19 agriculture appropriations bill.  Writing "The USDA appropriations provides the funds critical to supporting our schools’ breakfast and lunch programs, helping to feed more than 30 million children from low income families each day.", the groups express unanimous support for ensuring that our nation's students don't pay the price for the current shutdown. You can read the full letter here.

    November 5, 2018(1)

    (RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Education at the Polls: Vote for Secure Rural Schools!

    This call to action comes from the National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition. AASA is happy to serve on the board, and deeply appreciative of the work of the coalition in its efforts to preserve and fund the Secure Rural Schools Program.

    VOTE NOVEMBER 6 FOR SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS AND COUNTIES

    ACTION NEEDED: VOTE FOR SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS and COUNTIES NOVEMBER 6

    Ask candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to SPEAK UP, and ACT to preserve Forest Communities.  VOTE for SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS (SRS) and COUNTIES.

     

    • Tell your candidates for Congress what SRS funds mean for students, roads and essential public safety services in his/her communities.
    • 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 in your community. 

     

    Congress must act on long term forest management, fire prevention, and SRS.        

    OVERVIEW: 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. 

    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. 

    National forests and communities burned this year. 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.  

    ACTION NEEDED:  The Administration and Congress must act on viable forest management and economic development programs. The historic SRS commitment to rural counties, communities, schools, students and citizens must continue with FY 2019 and long term SRS funding. 

     

    VOTE NOVEMBER 6

    SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS and COUNTIES

     

    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 

     

    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. 

    September 10, 2018

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    SEED Partnership Program Timeline EXTENDED to Sept 19

    The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is offering a unique opportunity for organizations that are implementing innovative approaches to improve educator preparation and development. If you are working on an innovative strategy for preparing or supporting educators, you could be matched up with a national non-profit that will serve as a thought partner for your efforts. The national non-profits have experience implementing evidence-based solutions to prepare and develop teachers and principals. The non-profits will provide feedback and guidance based on their extensive experience working with teachers and principals across the country. Check out the SEED Partnership flyer.

    If you are interested, complete this short form by September 19th to express interest in participating. We encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to receive support for your efforts.

    Here are key details:

     

    • This opportunity is open to state and local education agencies, educator preparation programs, and other education organizations that are planning or implementing an innovative approach to preparing or developing educators. We will select up to two organizations or agencies to participate.
    • The national non-profits providing the support are participating in ED’s Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program.. The participating SEED grantees are 
      • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
      • National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform
      • National Institute for Excellence in Teaching
      • National Institute for School Leadership
      • National Writing Project
      • Teach For America
      • WestEd
    • The partnership involves monthly calls during which the SEED grantee will provide feedback and guidance to inform your efforts.
     Email Steven Malick at smalick@mathematica-mpr.com for questions and to RSVP for a webinar to learn more about the SEED Partnerships. 

     

    You can read about the first round of SEED Partnerships here. We look forward to hearing from you!

     

    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
       
     
     

    August 16, 2018

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Senate Begins Mark Up of 2018 LHHS Bill

    Late yesterday, the Senate began debate of HR 6157, a minibus appropriations funding bill that includes federal funds for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education. This is the first time in nearly a decade the Senate has brought the LHHS bill to the floor. It has been partnered with defense in part to hopefully garner funding votes for the bill, anticipating that members of Congress (and the President?) would be hard pressed to deny funding to defense as a consequence of their preference to cut funding for USED.

    When it comes to annual appropriations, AASA belongs to the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of more than 115 organizations and institutions committed to increasing federal investment in education programs. CEF sent a letter to both the House and Senate in advance of their FY19 LHHS votes, thanking Congress for the important vote they took to raise the federal funding caps in FY19 and to urge the highest possible 302(b) allocation when the LHHS bill goes to conference.

    Background: You'll recall that in early 2018, Congress voted to raise the funding caps for both FY18 and FY19. The post-sequester, pre-recession funding caps had been voted into place by the Budget Control Act of 2010. Congress has now voted three times to raise the funding caps (to revert the cuts of sequester): 2013, 2015, and 2018. The funding cap increase in 2018 was the largest of the three cap raises. It resulted in a funding increase of $3.9 billion for USED in FY18, a funding amount that feels like a windfall. (Let's keep it real, though: it in large part only feels like a windfall because federal policy and budget cuts had significantly reduced federal investment. If Congress had not increased the cap for FY18, the projected funding levels at USED would have been at or below where they were in FY08, meaning that this year's seniors would find federal support for their culminating education year at or below that which they had when they were in first grade. In fact, even with the sizeable increase for FY18, USED allocations remain below where they would be if Congress had done nothing  since FY12, just level funding USED and adjusting for inflation. So, this year's seniors experience their final K12 year at a funding level below what they felt in their final year of elementary school.) 

    Back to the Update: For FY19, the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget--which funds LHHS--increases just over $18 billion compared to FY18. If Congress were to extend the concept of parity it exercised in providing increases in both defense and non-defense discretionary funding to the smaller slices of NDD, then the LHHS slice of the bill would receive an increase of more than $5 billion, a mark missed by both the initial House and Senate proposals. The House bill levels funds LHHS, and the Senate committee--even with a $2 billion increase to NDD--still has a net cut in funding available to USED when they fully account for rescissions related to higher education Pell Grant funding. In short, both the House and Senate FY19 LHHS bills fail to provide a merely proportional increase to NDD in relation to the overall FY19 increase, and in turn set the stage for continued room for improvement in education funding. The CEF letter urges both the House and Senate to provide additional investments in education, increasing the allocation to the NDD and LHHS portions of the appropriations 'pie'.

    Complicating matters further? Political pressure and posturing from the White House. President Trump issued a statement of administration policy (SAP). Though the SAP is non-committal--indicating neither support nor opposition for the Senate bill--it includes a long list of concerns specific to education funding. You'll recall that AASA was no fan of Trump's FY19 budget proposal, premised on the priority of privatization. His proposal would cut USED by 5% and eliminate/consolidate nearly 40 programs. His budget proposal was dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, with neither the House nor the Senate taking any serious or substantive cues from the President's draconian proposal when crafting their FY19 LHHS bills. The President's SAP harkens back to this already-resoundly rejected FY19 proposal, stating concern with 28 programs the Senate bill funds (That the President wants to cut, totaling $6 billion), as well as opposing a proposed increase for the Public Loan Service Forgiveness program. (For context, President Trump wants to completely eliminate the program, a move mirrored in the House proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; AASA opposes this proposal, as the funding programs in HEA are crucial supports for teacher candidates pursuing education certification being able to afford their degrees. The President's continued focus on gutting this program is a commitment to exacerbating wide-spread teacher shortages.) Predictably, the SAP expresses frustration for the lack of funding for privation and voucher schemas. 

    We'll be monitoring the LHHS vote as it moves forward, though the real 'meat and potatoes' of the effort won't come until next week, when we see the full detail and scope of the filed amendments, which ones will get floor time, and which ones will be adopted. Stay tuned!

    And in the meantime, should you need a talking point on FY19 to relay to your Congressional delegation:

     

    • Education cuts don't heal.
    • Thank your member of Congress for the funding cap increases for FY18 and FY19. Urge them to ensure that final allocations fund all the way to the cap, and to make sure that NDD and LHHS funding receive proportional increases in relation to overall allocations between FY18 and FY19.
    • Public dollars stay in public schools. Thank both your Representative and your Senators for their respective chambers' work to reject the privatization agenda and to instead focus available federal dollars on those equity driven formula programs that support students in public schools.

     

     

     

     

     

    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. 

     

     

    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 18, 2018(1)

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

    Bringing ESSA Title IVA to Life: How School Districts Are Spending Title IV Dollars

    AASA, The School Superintendents Association partnered with the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA) and Whiteboard Advisors to conduct a nation-wide survey of school districts to see how and where school systems are investing critical ESSA Title IV Part A funds. 

    Title IV of ESSA, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) program, is a flexible funding block grant focused on the work of ensuring students and schools have access to the programs that support safe and healthy students, provide well-rounded education, and expand the use of technology in schools. Between NCLB and ESSA, Title IV transformed from a collection of small, stand-alone siloed programs that had been all but zeroed out (ultimately totaling less than $300 million) into a flexible funding block grant, allocated via formula to states and available to all schools, authorized at $1.6 billion. 

    The program has broad support from education leaders and practitioners and is perhaps best captured in this elevator pitch submitted in response to this survey: 

    No two schools are the same. Our need is not your need, but both needs are relevant to each specific demographic and climate. Increased flexibility increases the likelihood of spending with efficacy. I know you don't always trust me to do the best thing for my kids (although I am confused as to why), but proximity to the need is important to weeding out appropriate supports and solutions. I appreciate your support of my school, and I understand your desire to earmark some funds for specific needs that we share nationally, but I need some spending flexibility if I am to always match support to the need.

    Relatively simple in design, ESSA Title IV allocates flexible block grant funding to each state based on the ESSA Title I funding formula, which targets federal funding based on need, where schools and states with a higher share of students in poverty receive greater funding. Funding flows from the federal to the state and the state to the local level in amounts that are proportional to the distribution of Title I funds. Any school district receiving more than $30,000 is required to conduct a needs assessment and submit an application to its state educational agency describing how the district will spend not less than 20 percent of its grant on safe/healthy school initiatives, not less than 20 percent on well-rounded education, and at least a portion on the effective use of technology, with a 15 percent cap on the section’s funding for purchasing “technology infrastructure” (as defined in the law). 

    More than 620 school leaders responded to the survey in late May and early June, and you can read the preliminary results here.  

     

    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

    (ED FUNDING, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

    New Federal Money for School Safety—Apply by July 23!

    Superintendents are likely aware that after the tragedy at Parkland, Congress acted quickly to create a new funding stream to support efforts to deter school violence. The passage of the STOP School Violence Act was supported by many organizations (including AASA) and was a bipartisan achievement. It authorizes $75 million in funding for FY18 and $100m in funding for the following 9 years.

    The STOP Act dollars are distributed by the Department of Justice and within the DOJ there are 3 separate grant applications for districts. While the grant solicitation indicates that STOP Act grantees are considered local governments, a school district can file directly (not as a subgrantee) since districts levy taxes and are considered a form of local government by DOJ. When you start to fill out the application you should select "independent school district" and put in all the correct information.  

    The deadline to apply is July 23. Click here to register to apply.  This is very fast because the dollars must go out the door to districts by September 30th. Obviously, given that many schools are out of session this is particularly inconvenient timing but AASA is hosting a webinar featuring Sandy Hook Promise that will explain the ins and outs of the grant process for district leaders. Register here for our free webinar on June 21st from 4-5 pm ET. 

    Here’s the information you need on the first two grant opportunities that are distributed through the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) division. The first grant is for School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting. The second grant is for School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Programs.

    BJA STOP School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program 

    (To view table on smartphone click here)

     

    Eligible Applicants

    States, Units of Local Government, and Federally-Recognized Indian Tribes

     

    Note: BJA welcomes applicants with two or more entities, but only one may be the applicant.  Any others may be proposed subgrantees.

    Geographic Distribution of Funding

    1. Category 1- State with Population Greater Than 5M (up to $1M for 4 awards)
    2. Category 2- State with Population of less than 5M (up to $500K for 6 awards)
    3. Category 3- Urban Are a/Large County with population greater than 500K (up to $500K for 14 awards)
    4. Category 4- Suburban area/medium-sized county with population between 100-500K (up to $250K for 12 awards)
    5. Category 5- Rural Area/Small County with population less than 100K (up to $150K for 11 awards)
    6. Category 6- Federally Recognized Indian Tribe (up to $100K for 5 awards)
    7. Category 7- Technology & Anonymous Reporting- No Population Requirement (up to $200K for 10 awards)

     

    Totaling $21,150,000 for everything

    To Apply

    1. Register on Grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/register.html by 11:59PM EST on July 23, 2018
     

    Eligible Solicitation Funding

    SOLICITATION LIMITS ALLOWABLE USES TO:

    • Development & operation of school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams

    -School Threat Assessment:  note this can include threat assessment for individuals, security surveys, crime prevention through environmental design training and implementation, and target hardening prevention programs with the intention to limit access to school property to prevent acts of school violence

    -Crisis Intervention Teams: can include coordination with law enforcement, school officials and possibly other disciplines from the community

    • Development of technology for local or regional anonymous reporting systems

    -Can Also include: apps to assist school personnel and students during an active shooter incident, to include notification and sharing information with first responders

     

    *Note there is a separate solicitation for training of school personnel and students, to include specialized training for school officials in responding to related mental health crises

    Evidence-Based Requirement

     

    demonstrates a statistically significant effect on relevant outcomes based on: o strong evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study;

    o moderate evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study; or

    o promising evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias;

     

    • is consistent with best practices for school security, including: o applicable standards for school security established by a federal or state government agency;

     

    8 BJA-2018-14489

    o findings and recommendations of public commissions and task forces established to make recommendations or set standards for school security; and is

    o compliant with all applicable codes, including building and life safety codes;

    How Long will the Grant Be For

    36-month performance period, beginning October 1, 2018

    Cost-Sharing or Matching

    25% Matching Requirement- BUT IT CAN BE IN-KIND

    Award Date

    By September 30, 2018

     

    BJA STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program

    (To view table on smartphone click here)

     

    Eligible Applicants

    States, Units of Local Government, and Federally-Recognized Indian Tribes

     

    Note: BJA welcomes applicants with two or more entities, but only one may be the applicant.  Any others may be proposed subgrantees.

    Geographic Distribution of Funding

    1. Category 1- State with Population Greater Than 5M (up to $1M for 6 awards)
    2. Category 2- State with Population of less than 5M (up to $500K for 8 awards)
    3. Category 3- Urban Are a/Large County with population greater than 500K (up to $500K for 18 awards)
    4. Category 4- Suburban area/medium-sized county with population between 100-500K (up to $250K for 16 awards)
    5. Category 5- Rural Area/Small County with population less than 100K (up to $150K for 16 awards)
    6. Category 6- Federally Recognized Indian Tribe (up to $100K for 6 awards)

     

    Totaling $26,000,000 for everything

    To Apply

    1. Register on Grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/register.html by 11:59PM EST on July 23, 2018
     

    Eligible Solicitation Funding

    1. This solicitation specifically seeks applications that address training school personnel and educating students to prevent student violence and
    2. training school officials in responding to related mental health crises

     

    Applicants may focus on either (a) or (b) separately OR they may incorporate both. Applicants are encouraged to design their applications to meet their localized needs regarding the prevention of school violence and response(s) to related mental health crises. Applicants should develop a strong and compelling proposal that details how they will address improving staff/student violence prevention efforts and their response to related mental health concerns.

     

    Details on Deliverables:

    Deliverables:

    • Training sessions for teachers and school personnel designed to prevent student violence
    • Education sessions for students with the intent to prevent violence
    • Training sessions for school officials related to responding to related mental health crises that may precipitate violent attacks on school grounds
    • Documentation of all training and education sessions conducted under the award

    Evidence-Based Requirement

     

    demonstrates a statistically significant effect on relevant outcomes based on: o strong evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study;

    o moderate evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study; or

    o promising evidence from not less than one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias;

     

    • is consistent with best practices for school security, including: o applicable standards for school security established by a federal or state government agency;

     

    8 BJA-2018-14489

    o findings and recommendations of public commissions and task forces established to make recommendations or set standards for school security; and is

    o compliant with all applicable codes, including building and life safety codes;

    How Long will the Grant Be For

    36-month performance period, beginning October 1, 2018

    Cost-Sharing or Matching

    25% Matching Requirement- BUT IT CAN BE IN-KIND

    Award Date

    By September 30, 2018

     

    We will be doing more in the coming weeks to make sure districts are aware of how these dollars can be spent, best practices and evidence-based programs they should consider funding with these dollars, and how district can make the grant process as successful as possible. Apply for the grants here

    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 24, 2018

    (SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, GUEST BLOGS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Guest Post: IRS Considers Action Against SALT Credits. Will it Give the Voucher Tax Shelter a Free Pass?

    By Carl Davis, Research Director for the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy

    When Congress was considering capping the deduction for state and local tax (SALT) payments last year, numerous lawyers warned that states would likely circumvent the hastily devised cap by helping their residents convert state tax payments into fully deductible charitable gifts.

    To make this conversion, states would offer “workaround tax credits” offsetting most or all of the cost of “donating” to support public services (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon have since enacted these credits). Lawyers knew to offer this warning, which Congress ignored, because this abuse of the charitable giving deduction was already taking place in many “red states” with tax credits supporting K-12 private school vouchers.

    A new ITEP report explains the close parallels between the new workaround credits and existing state tax credits, including those benefiting private schools. The report comes the same day that the IRS and Treasury Department announced they would seek new regulations related to these tax credits. It notes that the SALT workarounds are emblematic of a broader weakness with the federal charitable deduction. And it cautions regulators to avoid a “narrow fix” that will only address the newest SALT workarounds (which, so far, have only been enacted in blue states) without also addressing other abuses of the deduction, which have long been employed by red states.

    The new IRS notice is light on details, suggesting that regulators do not yet know how they will navigate this complex policy area. ITEP’s new report discusses in detail the two main options that the IRS could choose to pursue:

    1. Broad action that improves the tax code’s measurement of charitable giving, and requires taxpayers to subtract state tax benefits they received when calculating the portion of each gift that was truly “charitable.”  For example: if a taxpayer donates $100 and receives a $60 state tax credit in return, only the remaining $40 would be considered a charitable gift for federal tax purposes.

    Or

    1. Narrow action that requires examining every entity (government agencies, public universities, nonprofit organizations, etc.) receiving a donation reimbursed with a tax credit. Based on the outcome of that examination (using criteria that are not yet known), the IRS would either: (a) turn a blind eye and grant a full federal charitable deduction even when the alleged “donation” was reimbursed with a state tax credit, or (b) categorize the reimbursed portion of the donation as a state tax payment subject to the $10,000 SALT cap.

    Pursuing the narrow fix would require drawing arbitrary distinctions within the wide range of public entities, quasi-public entities, and heavily-regulated nonprofits currently benefiting from state charitable tax credits. It would also lead to perverse outcomes in which red-state tax shelters would be left intact while the newer, and sometimes less-lucrative, blue-state equivalents would be shut down. As the report explains:

    It turns out that high-income taxpayers living in states such as Alabama and Pennsylvania are already enjoying the personal financial benefits of SALT cap workarounds, while those living in California, New York, and elsewhere are still waiting for their lawmakers to finish debating or implementing workaround credits.

    Accountants in Alabama and elsewhere are marketing existing state tax credits for private schools using the exact same sales pitch that drew the IRS’s attention to the new credits in New York and other states.  For example, an accounting firm’s tax advice that has been promoted by the Medical Association of Alabama explains that making a “donation” to support private school vouchers is “an opportunity to preserve your state tax deduction.” In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, a similar tax credit is being touted as a tool for “bypassing the $10k state and local tax deduction limitation.”

    These sales pitches are not merely idle chatter.  This year, Alabama’s entire allotment of $30 million in tax credits was snatched up in just two months, and SALT cap avoidance was reportedly on the minds of many claimants.

    These private school voucher shelters have been problematic for years, as ITEP and AASA have explained. Any IRS action targeting the newest “workaround credits” needs to address these longer-running tax shelters as well. Failing to do so would be unfair and arbitrary, and a step backward for federal tax policy.

    May 24, 2018(1)

    (ESEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    USED Announces Upcoming Webinars for LEAs re: Student-Centered Funding Pilot

    AASA received the following information in an email from the US Education Department:

    Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced a new pilot to afford local educational agencies (LEAs) flexibility to create equitable, student-centered funding systems.  The purpose of this pilot is to provide an LEA with the flexibility to combine state, local, and eligible federal funds that it will allocate to schools using a formula that provides additional funding for students from low-income families, English learners, and other disadvantaged students.  In exchange for meeting the requirements of the pilot and using a student-centered funding formula, the LEA receives freedom from many of the federal require-ments for the funds included in the system (e.g., tracking time and attendance; creating schoolwide needs assessments and schoolwide plans for operating a schoolwide program under Title I, Part A; spending funds on particular allowable uses). 

    The Department first accepted applications in March and will accept a second round of applications by July 15, 2018.  Please note that the Department recently updated the application, which is available on our website.

    To support LEAs interested in applying this summer, the Department is hosting a series of two webinars, each of which will be repeated. 

     

     

    The intended audience is LEA staff, though other interested parties are also welcome.  To join a webinar, please select the link for the relevant session.  The webinars will be recorded, and the recordings as well as slides will be posted with related resources on our website.  

    An LEA applying by July 15, 2018, will be proposing a system that would be implemented in the 2019-2020 school year, which provides time for transition to implementing an approved plan.  We are eager to receive applications from interested LEAs who share our enthusiasm about the program, the flexibility it gives local leaders, and its potential impact on equity and transparency in resource allocation.  If you have questions about the webinars or the application, please contact WeightedFundingPilot@ed.gov

     

     

    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.

     

    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 22, 2018

    (ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA Supports FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

    Earlier today, AASA sent a letter to Capitol Hill supporting the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill. This is the bill that provides the federal funding that will be in public schools in the 2018-19 school year. This is a vote that comes nearly six months after FY18 started, and the vote follows two federal shutdowns. Overall, the bill makes important increased investments in programs that support public schools. We’ll be sending our full analysis later today.

    Read our letter.

    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 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.

     

    March 1, 2018

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    USED Releases Details on Federal Assistance for Schools and Students Impacted by Hurricanes and Wildfires

    U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the availability of new Federal assistance for schools, school districts, and students who were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 authorizes an additional $2.7 billion to support K-12 school districts and schools as well as institutions of higher education (IHEs) with post-emergency recovery. (Read the full press release.) The following programs will be funded through the new Federal assistance announced: 

     

    1. Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (Restart): Under this program, the Department is authorized to award funds to eligible State educational agencies (SEAs), including those of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and U.S. Virgin Islands. These SEAs, in turn, will provide assistance or services to local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, and private schools to help defray expenses related to the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and the re-enrollment of students in elementary and secondary schools that serve an area affected by a covered disaster or emergency. 
    2. Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students: Under this program, the Department will award Emergency Impact Aid funding to SEAs, which, in turn, will provide assistance to LEAs for the cost of educating students enrolled in public schools, including charter schools, and private schools, who were displaced by the hurricanes during the school year 2017-2018 and California wildfires in 2017. Congress appropriated a combined amount of approximately $2.5 billion for both the Restart and Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Student programs. The amounts awarded under each program will be based on demand and specific data received from eligible applicants. 
    3. Assistance for Homeless Children and Youth: Congress appropriated $25 million for additional grants to SEAs for LEAs to address the needs of homeless students displaced by the covered disasters and emergencies. The Department anticipates using data on displaced public school students collected under the Emergency Impact Aid program to make allocations to SEAs under the Assistance for Homeless Children and Youths program. SEAs will award subgrants to LEAs on the basis of demonstrated need. LEAs must use the funds awarded under this program to support activities that are allowable under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. 
    4. Emergency Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education: Congress appropriated $100 million for this program, which will provide emergency assistance to IHEs and their students in areas directly affected by the covered disasters or emergencies, for activities authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965. 
    5. Defraying Costs of Enrolling Displaced Students in Higher Education: Congress appropriated $75 million for this program, which will provide payments to IHEs to help defray the unexpected expenses associated with enrolling displaced students from IHEs directly affected by a covered disaster or emergency, in accordance with criteria to be established and made publicly available. Stay tuned for additional information from the U.S. Department of Education, including the application packages and technical assistance, on its "Disaster Relief" webpage at https://www.ed.gov/disasterrelief

     

    For additional information on the programs for K-12 schools and school districts, please contact David Esquith, Director, Office of Safe and Healthy Students, at David.Esquith@ed.gov. For additional information on the programs for IHEs, please contact Adam Kissel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs, Office of Postsecondary Education, at Adam.Kissel@ed.gov

      

    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 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)

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

    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

    (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%.  

    January 8, 2018

    (ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

    The Advocate, January 2018

    By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy and advocacy, AASA

    New Year, Not So New to Do List

    2018 is just over a week old, and already Congress’ to-do list looks a LOT like that of 2017. And for good reason: much of the work at the top of their to-do list is a spillover of items they did not complete in 2017.

    Front and center are the final negotiations around the FY2018 funding bills. Federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) started October 1, 2017. While Congress failed to fund the government, they avoided a shutdown by using a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which keeps government running while buying Congress more time to complete its work. They passed a CR that went until Dec 8, then a CR that went to Dec 22, and then the CR we are under right now, one that runs through January 19.

    2018 is the start of a mid-term election year, so we shouldn’t expect any major legislation, and we can expect that Congress will want to wrap up appropriations work as soon as possible so as to clear room for campaigning. It is not as simple as appropriations work alone, though: Congress has nearly two years’ worth of back-logged items they are trying to address in the first three weeks of 2018: FY18 appropriations, raising the caps, resolving the deferred action on childhood arrivals (DACA) program, Secure Rural Schools (Forest Counties) and Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), among others.

    Once Congress comes back from recess next week, there is not enough time for them to complete their work, so we can expect at least one more short-term CR, likely into February. Congress will continue its work to reconcile the differences between their proposed spending levels, which are significant when it comes to education: The House cuts U. S. Dept. of Education by $2.2 billion; the Senate provides a nominal $29 million increase. The funding conversations will hopefully include a resolution for the lack of funding currently available for CHIP and Secure Rural Schools.

    An additional wrinkle related to the FY18 effort is the ongoing dialogue about raising the funding caps. Without explicit effort to raise the funding caps, Congress will be bound to the FY18 funding cap, which is BELOW FY17. Carrying over from previous years, the conversation about raising the caps raises debate about the size of the increase, how (or if) to pay for the increase, and whether or not to maintain parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding (AASA supports parity).  Defense hawks want to provide a funding increase for defense, but not non-defense discretionary funding, which is where education dollars fall. Democrats are committed to parity. We have to see how this plays out.

    While not related in terms of policy, the politics overlap: 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. Republicans are interested in expanding the conversation to include some of their broader immigration priorities, including money to build a portion of the wall, ending chain migration, and a few other things. A bipartisan group of Congress is expected to meet the week of January 8, and that should give a good indication of if a bi-partisan deal can move forward.

    I am at the end of my word allocation and have managed to give a lay of the land without detailing a specific outcome. And that is largely because we cannot predict with certainty how any of these discussions will go. We will continue to monitor these conversations and let you know how they unfold. 

    December 18, 2017

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    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

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

    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 13, 2017

    (ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

    The Advocate, December 2017

    By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy and advocacy, AASA

    As 2017 draws to a close, federal advocacy and its implications for education are far from boring. Between the need to avoid a federal shutdown—a tough task further complicated by considerations related to deferred action for childhood arrivals, an effort to raise the funding caps, a push to provide funding for the children’s health insurance program (CHIP), and more—and regular order, the fact that Congress is gunning to push through the GOP tax bill means the end of the year will be active, intense, and likely down to the last minute.

    The House and the Senate have both passed their respective versions of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Both bills are highlight partisan, relying exclusively on Republican support, and the GOP is committed to seeing this proposal through to completion to notch a win in its belt before 2017 draws to a close. As the president and Congress move forward with their efforts to overhaul the federal tax code, it is important to have an understanding of how the proposed reforms will affect education. Tax reform and related changes may not affect education as directly as changes in annual federal funding (appropriations), but the potential consequences are significant. That is how AASA came to be engaged in the current effort to overhaul federal tax code. AASA efforts in monitoring the tax bill have been focused on specific policies that will impact public education. We provided a summary of these issues in a memo this summer, and issued various resources with detailed analysis on the blog

    The bills will now go through the process of conference, where by the chambers will reconcile the differences that exist between the bills and emerge with one final bill that will then need to be adopted by both chambers and then signed into law by the president.  Congressional Research Service prepared a white paper on what the conference process involves, which you can access here.

    Education Impact: AASA has centered our engagement in tax policy on four specific provisions (state and local tax deduction; expansion of 529 plans; changes to school construction finance bond options; and reliance on deficit financing to pay for the tax cuts). Details of our position can be found in our letters of opposition as sent to both the House and Senate. There are other policies that impact education, some of which are included in the analysis below.

    • State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D): Currently, tax payers can deduct the amount they pay in state and local taxes before calculating their federal income tax. Both the House and Senate bills make changes to how individuals can deduce SAL taxes, but not corporations. The bills allow for the deduction of property taxes (Capped at $10,000) and eliminate the deduction for income and personal property taxes).
    • 529 College Savings Plans: Currently, tax payers can put money away to pay costs associated with postsecondary education. The benefit associated with these accounts (the accrued/compounded interest) is not taxed when the dollars are drawn down for eligible college expanses, and annual withdrawals are capped at $2000. Under both the House and Senate bills, the plans would be expanded to allow withdrawals of up to $10,000 per year and expand the plans to allow the funds to be used for costs associated with costs associated with public/private elementary/secondary education. The Senate bill also expands the program allows the withdrawals to be used for home-schooling expenses.
    • Bonds: Currently, school districts have access to a variety of bonds and financing options when it comes to paying for/affording capital and infrastructure projects. These programs include Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs), advanced refunding, and private activity bonds. (You can read a good explainer on the blog.) The House bill eliminates QZABs, QCEBs, advanced refunding and private activity bonds. The Senate bill does not address tax credit bonds or private activity bonds, but does end advanced refunding effective December 31, 2017. If the changes go through, it would increase the costs incurred by school district association with financing school construction and renovation.
    • Lack of Pay Fors: 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 ten years to pay for the portion they aren’t paying for now (and (estimated to be $1.5 trillion). 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.
    • Teacher Expenses: Current law allows eligible educators (including teachers) to exclude an amount not to exceed $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).
    • College Affordability: Current law provides a variety of supports and tax incentives that help make higher education affordable. The House bill consolidates the current higher education tax credits, repeals the deduction for interest paid on student loans, repeals the deduction for tuition and related expenses, repeals the exclusion of interest from savings bonds used to pay education expenses, repeals the exclusion of tuition reductions, and repeals the exclusion of employer-provided education assistance. The Senate bill makes none of these changes.
    • Child Care Tax Credit: Current law allows an individual to claim a $1,000 tax credit for a qualifying child under the age of 17. The House bill raises the credit to $1,600 and phases out at $230,00 income level (married). The Senate bill raises the credit to $2,000 and phases out at $500,000 income level (married).

    AASA remains opposed to the bill. We will urge Congress to oppose the bill in its current form, to rewrite provisions to better support and strengthen public education, to get serious about ensuring benefits—and not just fiscal burden—fall to the middle class, and to identify pay-fors to offset the tax cuts built into the bill. Candidly, many of these asks individually make the bill way harder to pass. When you factor in that we need multiple significant improvements, and the partisan political pressure to see this bill over the line, it is a Sisyphean feat that lies ahead. We stand ready for the work, and will make the information you need available. Let us know if you need anything further, and we’ll continue to carry the good message of public education and to relay the importance of Congress making sure that tax policy supports education policy. 

    You can read AASA’s analysis/side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills on the blog and in this memo

    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

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    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 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)

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    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

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    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 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 27, 2017

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    National Education Groups Issue Statement On Proposed Elimination Of SALT-D

    AASA was pleased to join four other national education groups representing superintendents, school boards, school business professionals, rural schools and communities, and educational service agencies issued the following statement in response to Congressional action related to moving forward with President Trump’s proposed tax reform, which includes the  proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT):

    “We believe any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the state and local tax (SALT) deduction as a matter of national priority. The SALT revenue is invested in local communities to fund vital needs including infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and public schools, which educate almost 90 percent of students in our country. Representing public education leaders entrusted with the important responsibility for educating students, we are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support. Eliminating the SALT deduction endangers public education and our students’ future. 

    “State and local tax deductions ensure a stable local tax base that public schools rely on to educate students and provide needed services, such as health care and related needs. The current proposal to eliminate the SALT deduction as part of broader tax reform would cripple this ability and damage state and local economies.  

    “Policymakers can support tax reform and preserve this deduction. For the sake of our nation’s students and their future, we urge Congress to preserve and protect the SALT deduction.”

    In alphabetical order, representatives from the national organizations included: 

     

    • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
      Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
      Joan Wade, Executive Director
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
      John Musso, Executive Director
    • National Rural Education Association
      Allen Pratt, Executive Director  

     

    National School Boards Association

    Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO 

     

    October 9, 2017(1)

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    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

     

     

    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

    June 29, 2017

    (WELL-BEING, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

    Read the full letter, here.

    June 7, 2017

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

    June Advocacy Challenge, Part 2: ESSA Title II Funding

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

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

      Dear ____,

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Sincerely,
      [Educator’s name]

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

    June 2, 2017

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

    The Advocate, June 2017

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

    The Latest on Federal School Choice Policy

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

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

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

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

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

    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 12, 2017

    (ESEA, IDEA, RURAL EDUCATION, WELL-BEING, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

    The Advocate, May 2017

    By Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, Policy and Advocacy, AASA

    As April came to an end, we weren’t sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief or to buckle down for another exciting month of activity on Capitol Hill. If the first week of the month is any indication, the latter is our better option.

    In a span of 48 hours, Congress passed the final FY17 funding bill and the House voted to advance the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which will now move to the Senate. Let’s unpack that and examine what that means for school superintendents and our federal advocacy.

    In adopting the final federal fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget, Congress avoided a federal shutdown and completed the FY17 fiscal process, 7 months into (more than half way through!) the very year they were funding. As a reminder, FY17 dollars will be in your schools for the 2017-18 school year and will support the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation. You can read AASA’s letter in response to the package outlining our concerns and the areas we support. Here’s a quick run-down of what the final FY17 package means for education:

    • 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

    Less than 48 hours later, the House voted to adopt the American Health Care Act (ACHA) to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AASA opposed the bill, given its draconian cuts to Medicaid and negative impact on students. Our letter of opposition—penned in coordination with the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, which AASA co-chairs, is available here. (The coalition also issued a statement after the bill was passed.)

    Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty. Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. ACHA will jeopardize students’ ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.

    ACHA will undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.

    We now pivot our efforts to the Senate. While the upper chamber will NOT be considering the House bill as passed, they will craft their own proposal, and we anticipate it will have strong similarities to the House bill. 

    The rest of May will include the full details on President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal, anticipated release of his tax reform, further consideration of the House proposal to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program, and more.

    As always, please feel free to reach out to the advocacy team with any questions. We will have two separate monthly advocacy challenges in May—one on rural and one on the FY18 budget proposal. We remain very appreciative of everything you can do to support this challenge and commit to contacting your members of Congress once per month. 

     

     

    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

     

     

     

     

     

    April 10, 2017

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

    The Advocate, April 2017

    By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy and advocacy, AASA

    As we move into April, just four months into the New Year, it is critical that we address a few things about advocacy and the role of the superintendent in advocacy. In short, what you do matters. Keep it up. And let us know how we (Sasha, Leslie and I) can help you.

    When we were talking about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which eventually became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we talked about the pendulum of federal involvement in education. Under NCLB, the pendulum was positioned firmly over dictating and prescribing to state and local education leaders. One of the biggest accomplishments—and framing perspectives—of ESSA was to return that pendulum back toward a role for the federal government focused on supporting and strengthening public schools by empowering state and local education leaders.

    Let’s keep the pendulum metaphor and apply it to advocacy more generally. With this New Year, new Congress and new administration, we can safely (and unfortunately) see that the pendulum of support/priority for public education has swung toward prioritizing privatization. It is a less-than-heartening reality and remains at the core of what we are focused on at AASA—ensuring that a high-quality public school is a viable option for every parent and every community.

    When you have an environment that is premised on privatization over support for public education, every policy seems like something we have to engage on. The current environment in Washington, D.C.—as it relates to federal education policy conversations—can at best be described as concerning, if not threatening. As such, when we provide updates to AASA members, we are ever cognizant of the fact that almost all policy areas include something that could be considered a threat, or not good news. With that in mind, and knowing that the effort to build out and support superintendent advocacy in 2017, we wanted to remind you of a few important points:

    • Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, more than ever, this is important to keep in mind. It is very likely that the conversations we have with this Congress and this administration will be in defense of public education.
    • Congress will make these votes whether they hear from you or not. Let’s at least give them a shot of getting it right. To use another axiom I just picked up: They may not always do better, but our advocacy can ensure they know better.
    • You do not need to be a master in all aspects of federal policy. It is an explicit member benefit—of belonging to both AASA and your state affiliate—to have support in your advocacy efforts. Rely on your advocacy team to do the heavy lifting when it comes to reading, analyzing and communicating important information about legislation, regulation and policy.
    • Continuing on the idea of not needing to be a master of all aspects of federal policy, engage deeply on the one or two issues that are most important to you/your district, or that you find most interesting. From there, coordinate with other superintendents in your region/state to ensure that all of the topics are covered. If you focus on funding and education technology, perhaps your neighboring superintendent(s) can focus on nutrition, and another on ESSA, and another on IDEA, etc… Many hands make light work.
    • Keep your head up. The current education policy environment may seem overwhelming or depressing or a lost cause. Sincerely, though (and accounting for the inherent job bias we have toward public education and advocacy): Your voice matters. Your advocacy matters. If we don’t commit to advocating for public education now, who will? And when? To borrow from one of my favorite MLK quotes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to reiterate that the arc of education in this nation is long, and has long been the backbone of our nation, it’s civic education/engagement, and its success, and bends toward public education. This moment in time is a shift of the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, and your commitment and advocacy is the best remedy we can think of for redirecting the narrative back toward a focus on supporting and strengthening our nation’s public schools.

    This month’s Superintendent Advocacy Challenge (full details here) is all about appropriations. And given the amount of detail related to funding, the challenge is broken into two parts.

    The first one is all about the broader framing concepts, including the need for continued investment in education and maintaining parity between defense and non-defense funding. The second part, coming mid-month, will be a great complement and will have program-specific details and talking points. AS always with the superintendent advocacy challenge, if you would prefer to focus on a priority other than the ones already featured, just let us know what you need.

    April 3, 2017

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    April 2017 Advocacy Challenge: Appropriations

    This month’s advocacy focus is all about funding. It is a little longer than usual, because we spent a little more time providing background. It is also divvied into two parts. This part is focused on annual appropriations in general, and the second part will be talking points by content area (ESSA, IDEA, rural education, ed tech, etc…)  As always, let us know if you have any questions, or if you need any additional information (including the name and email address of the appropriate staffer). Given the length of this month's challenge, it is also available for download here.

    BACKGROUND: This month’s ‘background’ section makes a little more sense when listed as a set of definitions:

     

    • What year is it? For purposes of this update, you will see reference to federal fiscal year (FY) 2016, 2017 and 2018. Federal fiscal years run from October 1 through September 30. FY17 started on October 1, 2016 and runs through September 30, 2017. This month, April 2017, is in FY17 and FY17 dollars will be in your schools for the 2017-18 school year; FY16 dollars are currently in your schools; and FY18 is the budget proposal just released by President Trump. 
    • Sequester: Sequester is the set of across the board cuts that was applied to the federal budget—including education—in 2013. The cuts of sequester stem from the Budget Control Act of 2011, a law passed by Congress. The BCA implemented ten years of budget caps AND triggered sequester when Congress was unable to identify cuts on its own. The budget caps and sequester cuts (and continued pressure) are at the center of the broader federal education funding conversation. The budget caps are very real and Congress is legally bound to operate within those funding restraints.
      • Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary Funding: Within the federal budget, there is mandatory and discretionary funding. We are in the discretionary slice of the pie. Within discretionary funding, there is defense discretionary  and non-defense discretionary (NDD). Education funding is a part of non-defense discretionary funding. When the cuts of sequester applied, they applied equally between defense and non-defense discretionary dollars. 
      • Parity: From the first application of sequester, there was a concerted push to raise the cap (amount of funding available) for defense discretionary funding. The cuts of sequester are absolute, meaning the only way to raise funds for defense discretionary were to make further cuts to NDD (eek!) or to raise the overall cap. Most preferably, the goal would be to raise the cap and provide equal cap raises for both defense AND NDD. This is parity. President Barack Obama was rock-solid on parity. When he was approached with the idea of raising defense discretionary funding, he was agreeable so long as there was a comparable increase available for non-defense discretionary funding.
    • Appropriations Process: If this were ‘School House Rocks’, here’s how the federal appropriations process works: The President introduces a budget proposal; the House and Senate use/refer to this budget proposal in drafting/revising their respective budget proposals before adopting their respective budget resolutions. These budget resolutions are used to determine allocations for each of the 12 appropriations sub committees (education funding is in the Labor, Health, Human Services Education And Other, or LHHS, appropriation). Sub committees use these allocations to provide funding (whether a cut or an increase) to specific programs. All 12 subcommittees would adopt and pass a stand-alone appropriation, which would then be adopted on the full chamber floor, and all before the October 1 start of the federal fiscal year. This is NOT a ‘School House Rocks’ process kind of Congress, though. (the last time Congress completed the traditional appropriations process on time was more than 20 years ago).
      • Continuing Resolution: When Congress is unable to complete its annual appropriations process on time, there is a threat for a federal government shutdown. Congress can avoid a shutdown by exercising a continuing resolution (CR), which provides short-term funding to buy Congress additional time to complete its appropriations work. A CR is straight, level funding. If the program was funding in the previous year, it will be funded in this new year, at the exact same level. The CR does not include program/policy changes or changes to funding level. A CR can include anomalies, which may account for some changes, but the most common type of CR is a ‘clean’ CR, which just extends and level funds programs.

     

    POLICY RELEVANCE

    Federal Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17): FY17 runs Oct 1, 2016 thru Sept 30, 2017. Congress did NOT complete its appropriations work for FY17 on time, and instead adopted a CR, and the current CR expires on April 28. Congress will need to complete its appropriations work ahead of April 28 if it wants to avoid a shutdown. What are its options? Each is listed below, along with a brief explanation of why it may (not) be relevant:

     

    • Stand Alone Appropriations Bills: Congress could pick up the work it had started, and move to consider and adopt each of the 12 appropriations bills independently. This is highly unlikely. Congress has a finite amount of floor time available for this debate before April 28—including a 2 week Easter/Spring recess. Further, Congress (and the Senate, in particular) has other demands for floor time that limit the likelihood of this scenario: normal business, ongoing confirmations for the new administration, FY18 conversations, and confirmation of the Supreme Court nominee. Quite simply, they don’t have enough floor time for this option.
    • Omnibus: Congress could pass the 12 stand-alone bills independently in committee, and then pile them together into one big ‘up or down’ vote. This is increasingly less likely to happen, given time constraints.
    • Minibus: In this scenario, Congress would pass some of the stand alone appropriations bills (typically those that are slated for funding increases, so not necessarily LHHS), and then use a year-long CR for the remaining bills. This is somewhat likely, but also concerning. Given the absolute nature of the budget caps, a funding increase for some would mean a funding cut for others (including our LHHS bill). In a mini-bus scenario, LHHS doesn’t even get on the bus.
    • Year-Long CR: In this scenario, Congress will extend the CR to last through September 30. A year-long CR means level funding for any program currently being funded. As each day goes by, this looks ever more likely. It is the path of least resistance: by not opening up the 12 individual bills, Congress avoids debate, and avoiding debate will be key to getting any of these done on time. A year-long CR will require certain anomalies (or conforming language) particular to education. FY16 funded No Child Left Behind; FY17 will fund the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA had some programmatic restructuring that would not be realized under an FY16/NCLB construct; anomaly language would allow FY16 dollars amounts to flow through an FY17 construct.

     

    Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18): On March 16, President Trump released his FY18 budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018; these are the federal dollars that will be in your schools for the 2018-19 school year). Referred to as a ‘skinny budget’, the proposal covers only the discretionary portion of the budget (NOT mandatory programs) and even in that, does not indicate the proposed funding level for all federal discretionary programs. 

    Overview & Analysis: As expected, the framing lens for the President’s budget is his proposal for a $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding. (As a reminder, the cuts of sequester applied only to the discretionary portion of the budget, and applied equally to both defense and non-defense discretionary funding. Education programs are in the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget. From the onset of sequester, President Obama was a staunch protector of ensuring parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding; any time there was a push to increase funding for defense discretionary funding, he was agreeable only if there was a commensurate increase for the NDD slice of the pie.) President Trump blows the concept of parity out of the water. He proposes paying for his $54 billion increase in defense discretionary funding by making a $54 billion cut in NDD. As a frame of reference, that is approximately 10% of the overall NDD allocation. Looking more specifically at the K12 education portion of the proposal:

     

    • Cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent)
    • Provides $1.4 billion increase in school choice privatization
      • $1 billion increase for Title I, for state and districts to use for vouchers/choice/portability
      • $250 million for a new voucher program
      • $168 million increase for the charter school program
    • ALL new proposed education funding in President Trump’s budget is for choice/privatization. All other programs (for which detail is provided) are either cut or level-funded.
    • IDEA is level funded ($12.7 billion, or approx. 16%, less than half of federal commitment to 40%)
    • Eliminates
      • Every Student Succeeds Act Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants)
      • ESSA 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
    • Eliminates or cuts 20 other categorical programs. Those listed include:
      • Striving Readers
      • Teacher Quality partnership
      • Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property
      • International Educational Programs

     

    There is much that remains unanswered, both in terms of the mandatory programs in the budget and other programs we care about in the K12 budget (including, but not limited to, Perkins/Career Tech, Rural Education Achievement Program, ESSA Title IV). Please note that this summary includes all detail that is currently available. If you do not see a program referenced, it means the budget does not reference it. We cannot predict, at this point, whether that means an increase, cut or level funding.

    FY18 Looking Ahead: Two big questions remain to be answered: How committed is President Trump to this budget? That is, does this proposal represent his serious funding priorities or is it a compilation of campaign promises parading around as a federal document? Second, how does Congress react to this proposal? It is a proposal based heavily on cuts, many of which may make the proposal ‘dead on arrival’ on Capitol Hill. We have to see if Congress takes any/all/none of it into consideration as it starts its FY18 appropriations work.

    TALKING POINTS:

     

    • Talk to your members about the importance of continued investment in education. Investing in education builds a stronger nation. We need a well-trained and educated workforce ready to compete in a global economy and support our military.
    • The best way to reduce the deficit is to spur economic growth. Yet we can’t run businesses, schools and universities, or the public sector if our children don’t grow into adults equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
    • Education funding for K-12 education is less than it was ten years ago. In a time of tight budgets, 23 states are on track to provide less formula funding in 2017 than they did ten years ago, cutting the largest source of support for elementary and secondary education. Yet federal elementary and secondary education funding is still below the 2008 level even though public school enrollment has increased by 2.3 percent over those ten years.
    • $1 invested in early childhood education saves at least $7 down the road. Yet Head Start, the largest federal early childhood education program, is so underfunded that it can serve only 4 out of every 10 eligible children from low-income families.
    • A greater education investment – spent wisely – makes sense by increasing educational achievement. For example, funding that allows for better teachers and smaller class size increases high school graduation rates, especially for low-income students. Because of how education is funded in the U.S., low-income students are likely to benefit most from federal funding, much of which is targeted to schools in low-income neighborhoods and to low-income college students.
    • Parity: Encourage your members of Congress to advocate for—and support-continued parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, and to oppose President Trump’s proposal to increase defense discretionary funding by $54 billion, and to pay for it by cutting NDD. 
    • FY17: 
      • Title I: Fund Title I at a level $200 million above President Obama’s proposed level. Title I must be funded at a robust enough level to ensure at least level funding for district allocations. ESSA includes an increase in the state set aside and lifts the Title I “hold harmless” provision, meaning that even with the $450 million rollover from SIG, the Title I allocation (as proposed by the President) leaves a $200 million shortfall at the local level. AASA is opposed to any scenario where they FY17 allocation leaves school districts with less money in FY17 (the first year of ESSA) than they had in FY16.
      • IDEA Funding: Congress must continue to increase its investment in IDEA. Adjusted for inflation, the current proposals—the President, the Senate, and the House—remain woefully underfunded, coming nowhere near Congress’ commitment to providing 40% of the additional cost associated with education students with disabilities. In fact, the current proposals put the federal share at roughly 16%, which is less than half of what Congress committed to, and below FY10 levels when adjusted for inflation.
      • ESSA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG, Title IV-A): It is critical that Title IV, the flexible funding block grant that allows school districts to invest in a variety of programs—including well-rounded education, school climate, technology and professional development—must be funded at high enough a level to support meaningful formula allocation. 
      • If Congress advances a year-long CR, the bill must include anomaly language to reconcile policy changes between No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act, including authorizing the eliminated School Improvement Grant (SIG) money to flow through the Title I Part A base formula, and to allow the program changes in the new Title IV.
    • FY18: Much of the advocacy for FY18 will be further shaped by what Congress does in response to President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal.
      • Urge your delegation to OPPOSE the draconian cuts in the President’s budget. 
      • Express deep concern with a budget proposal that cuts $9 billion (13%) from the Department of Education. 
      • Express deep concern with a budget proposal where EVERY.SINGLE.NEW. dollar (all $1.4 billion of them!) are for choice and privatization. Encourage your delegation to support that increase, but to prioritize investment of those dollars into key formula programs that support all students and schools, including IDEA, Title I and Perkins. 
      • OPPOSE the President’s proposal to use $1 billion in new funding for Title I for portability or vouchers. Any new money in Title I must flow through the base formula. 
      • AASA remains opposed to continued reliance on competitive allocation of funding. All dollars must remain available to all schools and all students, and any reliance on competitive allocation reinforces a system of winners/losers, rather than addressing opportunity gaps.

     

    Check out this handy chart from the Committee for Education Funding, which shows the total amount of discretionary funding available at the Department of Education. As a point of reference: the FY16 allocation (the dollars currently in your schools) is above where we were in FY12, but below where we were in FY10. Think about your student population today; do you have more students in poverty? More English Learners? More students with disabilities? 

    For a better look at trends in state funding (HINT: 35 states put in less money in 2014 than they did in 2008!) check out this report from our friends at Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. 

    Appropriations Part II is coming! This will include more program-specific talking points.

    March 24, 2017

    (IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA joins 14 National Organizations in Letter Supporting IDEA Funding

    This week, AASA joined 14 national organizations in a joint letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees  urging them to provide a significant increase in funding for IDEA in the FY2017 and FY18 LHHSEducation appropriations bills:  

    "Our groups strongly support Congress prioritizing increased funding for IDEA and taking steps to ensure a significant increase for IDEA in the upcoming FY17 appropriations conversation, and using that appropriately adjusted funding level as the basis for further increased investment in FY18." Read the full letter

    Groups signing the letter:

     

    • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Speech Language Hearing Association
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
    • Council for Exceptional Children
    • Council of Great City Schools
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association 

     

    March 22, 2017

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

    Sen. Patty Murray Releases School Privatization Caucus Memo

    In light of President Trump’s FY18 budget request that commits to diverting public funds from public education programs for school privatization, Senator Murray and the HELP Committee Minority staff penned a memo outlining  the repercussions of school privatization efforts across the country. The memo is being distributed to the caucus and widely among practitioners. 

    The memo includes feedback on privatization from five public school superintendents.

    March 16, 2017

    (ESEA, IDEA, RURAL EDUCATION, WELL-BEING, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA Executive Director Responds to President Trump's FY18 Budget Proposal

    Earlier today, President Trump released details for his FY18 budget proposal. It is a 'skinny budget', in that it only covers discretionary funding, and within that, doesn't fully list the impact on all discretionary programs.The proposal cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent). It provides a $1 billion increase for Title I, but the increase is for states and districts to use for portability and choice. This is in addition to a new $250 million school choice/voucher program and a $168 million increase for charters, bringing the total amount of NEW funding in the President's budget for choice to $1.4 billion. The budget level funds IDEA, eliminates ESSA Title II Part A and eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

    In response to this budget proposal, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement:

    “AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90% of our nation’s students. While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities, and students in rural communities-underserved. AASA remains opposed to vouchers and will work with the administration and Congress to ensure that all entities receiving federal dollars for education faces the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.  

    “AASA is disappointed at the significant cuts proposed to critical education programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II. FY 18 dollars will be used by schools across the nation in just the second year of ESSA implementation, and the idea that this administration thinks that schools can do this work—and the administration claim they support this work—without supporting teachers and teacher leaders, and their professional development, is a deeply disconcerting position. 

    “As recently as yesterday Secretary DeVos indicated an interest in supporting state and local education agencies, and “to returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible." AASA is concerned that while the department indicates they want to return power, the proposed funding levels—including continued level funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and cuts to core programs in ESSA—deeply undercut state and local efforts in these areas and expand the reality of federal requirements without commensurate support, further encroaching on state and local dollars. The return of power, however well intended, when systematically and deliberately paired with low funding, translates into unfunded federal requirements. 

    “AASA remains committed to parity between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) dollars, and we are deeply opposed to the proposed $54 billion increase in defense discretionary spending being offset by NDD spending cuts. AASA supports robust investment in our nation’s schools and the students they serve, and we support increased investment for both defense and NDD funding by lifting the budget caps, as set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, for both. NDD programs are the backbone of critical functions of government and this proposed cut will impact myriad policy areas—including medical and scientific research, job training, infrastructure, public safety and law enforcement, public health and education, among others—and programs that support our children and students. 

    “Increased investment in education—particularly in formula programs—is a critical step to improving education for all students and bolstering student learning, school performance and college and career readiness among our high school graduates.  AASA remains hopeful that our President, who has consistently articulated an interest in growing our economy, growing jobs, and keeping this nation moving forward, will recognize the unparalleled role that education plays in each of these goals and work to improve his FY18 budget to increase investment in the key federal K12 programs that bolster and improve our nation’s public schools, the students they serve and the education to which they aspire.”

     

     

     

    March 3, 2017

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

    March Superintendent Advocacy Challenge: E-Rate!

    Greetings from AASA’s 2017 National Conference on Education. We are nearing the end of conference and the Advocacy department is celebrating with the March edition of our ‘2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge’. As we mentioned in a previous post—and are talking about all week here in New Orleans—we are calling 2017 the year of superintendent advocacy and are challenging our members to commit to monthly contact with their Congressional delegation. Each month, we will pick a relevant policy topic and provide a bit of background, a bit of policy context, and a quick set of talking points. This is all designed to take the administration out of advocacy and to support our members to get right to the actual work of advocating: talking about policy and what it will mean in your district.

    We kicked off the 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge in February with a simple call to action (find it here!), encouraging you to make contact with each office. This month, we focus on E-Rate!

    As we go through the year, if you would like talking points and background on a topic other than what we feature, JUST ASK! We are more than happy to provide that information, to ensure you are able to relay the information more relevant for you. We are also happy to share the name and email address of the education staffer for your members of Congress; just ask!

    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. 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, we want to ensure that they know 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. The goal of this month’s call to action is an awareness campaign, to put this issue on Congress’ radar as a program to know and a program to support!

    Talking Points:

     

    • Though Congress has no role in determining the changes to E-Rate, they do engage in conversations with the FCC Commissioners. As such, make sure your Senators and Representatives know the critical role that E-Rate dollars play in school connectivity and how important those dollars will be as schools prepare for the online assessments.
    • Did you know? 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!
    • E-Rate played a critical role is the rapid and significant expansion of connectivity in schools, and the 2014 modernization was a much needed update to ensure more schools and libraries are connected to broadband.
    • Talk about how your district uses its E-Rate funding, how it supports your district’s learning and teaching, and what it would mean if E-Rate were cut.

     

    February 14, 2017

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

    Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This is a Catch-All Education Update, JUST FOR YOU!

    Secretary's Statement and Letter to Chiefs re: ESSA Implementation: Last week, Secretary DeVos issued a letter to all Chief State School Officers relating to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in light of the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  Read the letter.

    AASA National Conference on Education: We will be in New Orleans March 2-4. Sign up today! Specific to advocacy, here are the policy sessions where you can find Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I:

     

    • Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law (3/2, 9 am)
    • AASA Advocacy meet & Greet (3/2, 9 am)
    • State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For (3/2, 2 pm)
    • Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era (3/3, 10:45 am)
    • The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools (3/3, 12:30 pm)
    • Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices (3/3, 3:45 pm)
    • Federal Relations Luncheon: Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers(3/2, 12:30 pm)

    Of Funding: There is no real update. The current continuing resolution (for FY17, the dollars that will be in your schools for the 17-18 school year) runs through April 28. Staff are split among the various options for how Congress will wrap the FY17 discussion, which will in part be shaped by a time crunch for floor time, as Congress works through the Congressional Review Act, confirmations, normal order AND starts FY18 negotiations.

    Rural Education Caucus: Your member of Congress may not be on an education committee, but there is always a way to be involved. Is your Congressional district rural? Does your state have rural? Then an easy ask is for your members of Congress to join their respective chambers' Rural Education Caucus. When you make the outreach, ask them to contact Rep. Sam Graves' office on the House side or Sen Tester on the Senate side to sign up!

     

    February 7, 2017

    (ESEA, E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA Signs Statement Expressing Deep Concern Over Recent FCC Actions

    Earlier today, AASA joined 16 other national organizations in a joint statement in response to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's recent decisions affecting the Universal Service Lifeline and E-Rate programs:

    You can read the full statement here. It is also excerpted below:

    The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) is extremely disappointed by FCC Chairman Pai's unilateral decision to revoke the designation of several telecommunications companies as Lifeline broadband providers. This decision will significantly hamper efforts to help close the homework gap for thousands of low-income and rural students, preventing them from gaining access to online resources, to college and employment applications, and to their teachers and peers. We cannot understand the need to block the roll-out of the Lifeline broadband program now and urge the Chairman to reconsider this action.

    EdLiNC is also deeply concerned by Chairman Pai's decision to rescind the recently published E-Rate progress report, which does nothing more than demonstrate the progress that the program has made in delivering robust Wi-Fi to classrooms and libraries and providing fiber broadband connection opportunities to their buildings. E-Rate has done more to connect America's public and private schools and public libraries in the past 20 years than any other state or federal program and EdLiNC remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the strength and viability of this program. We urge the Chairman to reconsider this action. EdLiNC looks forward to working with the FCC and Chairman Pai to ensure that the E-Rate program helps meet the needs of our schools and libraries and protects the continued distribution of E-Rate discounts in an equitable way. 

    Groups signing the statement include:

    • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Library Association
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Consortium for School Networking
    • International Society for Technology in Education
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Independent Schools
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Catholic Educational Association
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
    • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

    February 1, 2017

    (ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Webinar: Changes to REAP Program in 2017 & 2018

    Join USED's Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) team for REAP: Changes to the Program in FY 2017 & 2018 Webinar, being held February 14 and February 16.

    This webinar will provide an overview of changes to program eligibility and processes as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act and explain what state education agencies can expect in FY 2017, 2018 and beyond.

    Respond by clicking one of the dates below to send a notification to REAP@ED.gov. 

    The day before each webinar, you will receive a meeting invitation with a link to access the webinar.

     

     

    January 10, 2017

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

    AASA Releases Transition Memo

    As the new year, new Congress, and new administration get under way, AASA shares its transition memo, identifying areas where the Trump administration could take steps that work to strengthen and support the nation's public schools.

    The text of the transition memo is below, or you can read the PDF version.

    Please direct any questions to the AASA advocacy team (Noelle Ellerson Ng, Sasha Pudelski, or Leslie Finnan).

     

    Dear President-Elect Trump,

    As you begin to think more deeply about your policies and priorities for improving the education of students in the United States, AASA, The School Superintendents Association stands ready to work with you and your Secretaries to ensure the 13,000 school districts we represent and the children they educate are well-served by your Administration. Throughout our more than 150 years, AASA has advocated for the highest quality public education for all students, and provided programing to develop and support school system leaders. AASA members advance the goals of public education and champion children’s causes in their districts and nationwide. 

    Given that less than 10 percent of our budgets are derived from federal dollars, we strongly support increased local control over education decisions. We championed the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act for many specific reasons, but most generally for taking the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription rampant under No Child Left Behind and swinging it firmly back to state and local control. AASA believes there is a critical role for the federal government in improving K-12 education, but that role is meant to strengthen and support our public schools, not dictate to them. We write to delineate the policy areas in which we believe the Trump Administration can do just that: support and strengthen our public schools. The following outlines our sincere suggestions for areas where we think your administration’s leadership is most important.

    Provide states and school districts with flexibility to implement ESSA

    State and local education agencies are deeply involved in efforts to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As regulations, guidance and technical assistance designed to support implementation have been released by the Obama administration, certain proposals have run counter to the spirit and intent of the underlying statute and act to undermine the state and local flexibility intended by law makers. One of the best examples of this is within the proposed regulations for the law’s Title I ‘Supplement, Not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions. Title I was designed to be a flexible program, giving school districts and schools latitude to spend Title I funds on a broad array of educational services as long as they are consistent with the program’s purposes. The SNS rule as it is currently drafted substantially limits how school districts and schools may allocate resources, restricting and even undermining the ways in which Title I can support at-risk students. The proposal glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines intentional, evidence-based efforts aimed at increasing education equity. The proposal will restrict—rather than support—the ways in which state and local resources can be used to most effectively and equitably support at-risk students.

    What you can do: We believe that a simple path the administration could follow in supporting state and local flexibility is to default to the underlying statute (which includes a test auditors could use) and refrain from additional unnecessary prescription. 

    Reduce the administrative burden on districts

    Increases each year in the amount of data requested by the Obama Administration has become the norm for school leaders. This surge in data collection has been particularly difficult for small, rural school districts to meet. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been particularly to blame for the uptick in data collection through changes made to the Civil Rights Data Collection. In its last iteration for the 2015-2016 school year, the Department increased data collection by 17 percent.  Prior to the Obama Administration, the data was not required to be collected by all districts. In particular, smaller districts were exempt from participating in the collection every two years given the enormous burden it imposed. The Obama Administration chose to remove this exemption and require every district to submit data regardless of the size of district or burden this imposed.  

    What you can do: We believe a simple and meaningful change your administration could make is to reduce the data points collected by the Civil Rights Data Collection to the most critical items necessary for monitoring compliance with the Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act. Further, the Department could return to the practice of the Bush Administration and revert to the traditional sampling procedures (stratification, estimation, etc.) that were used previously to survey districts for compliance. Further, require an internal audit of all data that is collected by the U.S. Department of Education in every division of the Department and ensure this data is legislatively mandated, non-duplicative and utilized in a manner that could benefit K12 students. Specifically, request that Department personnel whether any current data collection is focused on answering the question ‘Should we be collecting this data?’

    Undo financially destructive regulations and absolve unfunded mandates

    Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment through annual appropriations was 18 percent in 2005. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from. 

    To exacerbate special education funding shortfalls, on December 12, 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new IDEA regulation that would have profound financial implications for districts. This regulation attempts to re-write the statute of IDEA pertaining to findings of significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. While AASA believes this aspect of the statute is critically important, we think that the Administration has misinterpreted what the statute says and allows the Department of Education to amend it in ways that are not legally sound. In particular, USED will require states to impose a specific methodology to determine what districts have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. If the Department’s estimate is to be believed, between 300 and 500 million dollars allocated to districts to provide direct services to students with disabilities would have to be utilized differently. 

    What you can do: In your first budget as President, address this unfunded mandate and pledge to work with Congress and OMB to create a path towards fully funding IDEA. If that can’t be accomplished, support changes to IDEA that would allow districts flexibility in reducing their local investment in special education if they can find more efficient ways of serving students with disabilities. Given the underfunding of IDEA discussed above, we ask that you rescind the regulation immediately and urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. 

    Support rural school leaders and students

    Rural school districts were not well-served by the Obama Administration. The dissemination of hundreds of millions of dollars through competitive programs like Race-To-The-Top and the Investing in Innovation led to few rural districts receiving any assistance during a significant economic downturn. Furthermore, the increased administrative burden documented below, exacerbated by cuts in federal funding proved to be a double hit for rural school districts. While the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) was preserved under the Obama Administration they did propose setting aside an unspecified amount of REAP dollars to provide competitive grants to innovative rural districts. The REAP program is a critical formula funding source for rural communities because it levels the playing field for small and high-poverty rural districts. 

    What you can do: Support federal policy that flexibly supports the unique needs of rural communities, including REAP, Impact Aid, and Forest Counties, among others. REAP, in particular, helps districts overcome the additional costs associated with their geographic isolation, smaller number of students, higher transportation and employee benefit costs, and increased poverty. Funding REAP helps offset the impact of formula cuts and competitive dollars for small rural districts. Oppose attempts to distribute federal funding through competition, which inherently disadvantages rural districts who lack the resources and personnel to compete for funding. Create an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education to ensure that rural schools and communities are appropriately supported by the Department and considered in any discussion of new or existing education policies.

    Ensure Higher Education regulations don’t burden local school districts 

    On October 12, 2016, the Department of Education released final regulations regarding the evaluation of teacher preparation programs. These regulations require principals and school administrators to complete surveys and track and disseminate student outcomes for teachers in their schools who have graduated from a state teacher preparation program within the last three years. Besides adding an unprecedented and unfunded new burden to LEAs in the guise of improving teacher preparation programs regulated by the Higher Education Act this creates an unhealthy incentive to send graduating teachers to schools where students will do the best and may only exacerbate the current teacher shortage prevalent across the U.S. It could also create problems with the privacy and use of student data and new demands for data sharing across K12 and higher education institutions that are not technically realistic in some states.

    What you can do: Reverse these regulations, and support a reauthorized Higher Education Act that does not place unnecessary burdens on the K-12 school system.

    Avoid unnecessary environmental regulations

    The Obama administration has made efforts to regulate school building materials, despite evidence that such regulations would not provide great enough benefit to justify the cost burden. Specifically, a rule will likely be proposed to require school and day care facilities to remove any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardant chemicals used until they were banned in 1979. Few schools still contain light ballasts with these chemicals, and most of those that do have already scheduled their removal.

    What you can do: Do not continue with this or other similar regulations. Please be sure to consult with AASA and other similar groups before imposing regulations that would cause great cost burdens on already struggling school systems. 

    Rebuild America’s schools

    A strong K-12 public school infrastructure is essential if we hope to be globally competitive. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot be expected to learn in school facilities that are physically unsafe, or that lack functioning bathrooms or appropriate heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, this is the state of too many of our school buildings across the U.S. According to the 2016 State of Our Schools Report, from FY1994-FY2013, school districts and states spent an average annually of $46 billion on utilities, operations, maintenance, and repair from their operating budgets; an average of $12 billion  per year on interest on long term debt—mostly for school construction bonds; and about $50 billion per year for capital construction from their capital budgets for new construction, facilities alterations, system and component renewals, and reducing the accumulation of deferred maintenance. The National Council on School facilities estimates that the nation's districts need to spend about $77 billion annually to modernize school buildings. 

    What you can do: Ensure your infrastructure plan addresses the infrastructure needs of school districts. 

    Align the K12 education system with skills demanded in workplaces

    Last Congress, the House passed legislation to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Senate was unable to act last fall despite a vote of 405-5 in the House to pass the bill.  The federal government’s most significant K-12 investment is in career and technical education. Yet, in some places there remains a disconnect between the education students receive in high school and their employment options. We must address this gap by passing a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act that will strengthen the bonds between business/industry and K12 districts and higher education institutions. School leaders must have data that informs them about what major employers are moving in/out of states and how our high schools can help them meet their workforce needs. We also need to invest more in CTE at the federal level. Under the Obama Administration, Perkins CTE funding fell by 13%. 

    What you can do: Recommend greater funding for Carl D Perkins CTE to ensure school districts have the equipment, curriculum and appropriate personnel to offer the courses students need. Urge both chambers to work together to pass a bipartisan CTE reauthorization bill that continues the trend of reducing the federal footprint in K12 education policy.

    Support and strengthen school lunch and breakfast programs 

    The National School Lunch Act was first implemented in 1946 to ensure students had access to at least one healthy meal per day. It was designed as a fully federally funded program. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act ushered in a dramatic change in how school food services are provided. The strict meal standards have posed a financial and practical burden on many districts throughout the country. The new legislation offered a 6¢ per meal increase, though estimates have shown that the new standards increased costs by 35¢ per meal. While AASA would not support a full repeal of these standards, as much great work has been done to improve the provision of healthy meals, we do support tweaking the most problematic standards to provide relief to those districts having the most trouble meeting the new standards.

    What you can do: Support legislation that provides common-sense changes to the nutrition standards, so schools can focus on feeding their students.  Support legislation that increases the federal investment in school lunch and breakfast programs. 

    Support public education

    While it’s clear that your Administration would like to prioritize expanding private school vouchers, in any and all forms, to students we urge you to consider the practical and financial implications of redirecting current federal K12 funding away from the public school system that must serve all students. There are currently 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Even if vouchers were adopted widely as you propose, public education would remain our primary system; in states with voucher systems, most students would continue to attend public schools. Moreover, voucher programs are an ineffective and damaging education policy. Study after study has shown that private school vouchers do not improve student achievement or provide greater opportunities for the low-income students they purport to serve. Private voucher schools do not provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, such as those in Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Private school voucher programs do not offer real choice as most state-voucher systems allow private schools to reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability, disciplinary history, English proficiency to ability to pay. Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayer money. In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in students from each public school, therefore, is usually negligible and does not decrease operating costs of those public schools. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases. To the extent that non-public schools would have access to federal dollars, all entities receiving public dollars must face the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.

    As President it is incumbent that you ensure all students have access to quality public schools and that in a broader conversation of school choice, the focus is on ensuring that the nation’s public schools remain a high-quality and viable option for all families. 

    What you can do: Ensure that the U.S. Department of Education promotes effective education policies and programs designed to strengthen and support our nation’s public schools and directs resources to local school districts to improve the education of the 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools.

    In closing, we look forward to working with you and your administration to provide all our nation’s students with  excellent public education opportunities and welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss these priorities further. 

    January 5, 2017

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    115th Congress and Funding: Quick Update

    As part of our advocacy effort, AASA belongs to the Children's Budget Coalition. Here are three items of note from the first meeting of 2017:   

    • HOUSE RULES FOR THE 115TH CONGRESS:  
      • HOW IT IMPACTS APPROPRIATIONS: The House Rules for the 115th Congress, which were adopted on Tuesday, contain several provisions that relate to budget and appropriations matters.  Check out this section by section summary of all the Rules and attached are the summaries of the relevant appropriations and budget sections.  
      • HOLMAN RULE OVERVIEW: The new House Rules reinstate the “Holman Rule,” a 19th century House rule that was rescinded in 1983.  Under the rule, amendments to appropriations bills being considered on the House floor can cut the number or salaries of federal employees covered by the bills provided they are paid with Treasury Department funds.  The rule will be reinstated only for the first session of the 115th Congress. The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide Members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration. The reinstatement of the rule is part of a “far broader strategy” in Congress to change the nature of the federal workforce, including the way federal workers are hired and fired.  There are conservatives in the House who want to cut the number of government employees and roll back salaries on an agency-by-agency, program-by-program basis.  The rule will allow them to introduce amendments to this end.  Before this rule change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.  Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) stated that he's “deeply concerned” that the rule “would make it easier for the Majority to circumvent the current legislative process to fire or cut the pay of federal employees.”  The rule could allow “far-reaching changes to the nonpartisan civil service on the basis of ideology,” Hoyer said. Read this related article from the Washington Post.
       
    • FY 17 BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL:  PROCESS, TIMELINE & UPDATE The bills reconciliation instructions direct four relevant committees (Senate Finance & HELP and House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce) to draft legislation by January 27th which would reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over ten years.  The instructions do not specify the changes to be made, but they are universally understood to involve repeal of substantial parts of the ACA.  Once both the Senate and House pass the budget resolution, the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce will hold markups and produce the actual legislation to repeal the ACA.   They will then submit their legislation to the House Budget Committee to be combined into a single package for consideration by the full House.  Note that the Senate Finance & HELP would normally draft their own legislation, but it’s widely expected that they will consider whatever reconciliation legislation passes the House.  Congress is aiming to have the legislation to the President’s desk by the end of February. The resolution overcame its first procedural hurdle in the Senate yesterday even though lawmakers made clear after a morning meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence that any replacement plan is at least months away.  The Senate voted 51-48 yesterday afternoon to proceed to the resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, which would set up a filibuster-proof process, ensuring the chamber’s consideration of legislation repealing parts of Obamacare and replacing it, either as one bill or as separate measures.
    • FY 18 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET:  OUTLINE IN FEBRUARY & FULL BUDGET COMING IN MAY: President-elect Donald Trump plans to submit a fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress but it may not come until later in the spring, lawmakers and staff said Wednesday.  While it is the usual practice of presidents to submit a budget for the fiscal year beginning after their election, there was a lack of certainty about whether Trump would and even some speculation he would skip it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said it's likely the president’s budget request would not be submitted to Congress until May, months after the statutory deadline of the first Monday in February.  Separately, a GOP aide said he has heard Trump may submit an outline of the budget in late February.

    December 6, 2016(2)

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Sequester is so 2013. The new buzz words are 'reconciliation' and 'CRA'.

    Sequester is so 2013. When it comes to the terms for obscure Congressional procedures that we need to know for 2017, the new ‘it’ phrases are budget reconciliation and Congressional Review Act. This blog post is designed as a quick overview of each term, why it is relevant in 2017 and how it relates to AASA advocacy.

    Congressional Review Act:  

    • Background: We know that Congress writes the bills that become law. When it comes to providing additional detail to support implementation of these laws, the relevant agencies issue regulations. Even in granting rulemaking authority to various agencies, Congress does maintain vigilance over the rulemaking process, through a little-used procedure called Congressional Review Act (CRA). CRA was created in 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. Among other things, the law provided for Congressional review of agency rulemaking. Relevant to this blog post and what we may expect with a Trump administration, Congress can use the CRA to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency. Since its creation in 1996, the CRA has only been successfully used once, in 2001 to nullify an ergonomics standards rule proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition to this one successful CRA, more than 40 joint resolutions for disapproval have been introduced—but not adopted—since the law was enacted. 
    • Process: In order for a CRA to stop/halt a final regulation, here’s what must happen: The relevant agency (in our case, US Education Department) provides a report to each chamber of Congress and the Comptroller General that contains a copy of the rule, a summary/general statement related to the rule, and the proposed effective date. At this point, each Chamber of Congress has a specified time period in which they can consider and take action on a motion to disapprove the rule. If both Chambers move to disapprove the rule, it goes to the President, who can either sign or veto. Once signed, the CRA renders any included rule/regulation as null and void. That is, an rule set to take effect would not take effect, and even provisions already implemented would be negated. A CRA cannot be filibustered. A CRA can be applied to a rule in its entirety only; it is ‘all or nothing’, meaning that Congress cannot use the CRA to rescind certain pieces of a rule while leaving others in tact.
    • Education Implications: The CRA can be applied to any regulation issued in the past 60 business days. For Congress, that means anything from May 2016 on. From an education perspective, that would include the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability regulations and the Higher Education Teacher Preparation regulations, and depending on what is released over the remainder of the calendar year, could also include ESSA supplement/supplant; and IDEA significant disproportionality. Additional agencies could be subject to the CRA, and we follow these following regulations: Department of Labor Over Time Rule; Environmental Protection Agency PCB/Light Ballasts in Schools; and Federal Communications Commission Lifeline (home phone connectivity).
    • Then What?: If the CRA is successful and, for example, the ESSA accountability regulations are rescinded, what would that look like for schools? How would state move forward in crafting their accountability work book? If the ESSA accountability regulations are repealed, the CRA provides that another rule that is significantly similar cannot be produced. That is, the agency cannot issue another rule that is substantially similar to the rule that was rescinded. CRA does not clearly define what ‘substantially the same’ means, so that prohibition would be subject to interpretation. 
    • You can read more in this Frequently Asked Question: Congressional Review Act paper, as prepared by the Congressional Research Service.

    Budget Reconciliation:  

    • Background: In its simplest form, budget reconciliation can be described as a provision within a budget resolution that directs one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring federal spending into conformity with the budget resolution. It is an expedited process that allows for consideration of tax, spending and debt limit legislation. This could include requirements for the committee to move legislation that reduces mandatory spending (like Medicaid or Medicare, though it cannot be used to change Social Security) or increases revenues as needed. It should be noted that it is almost 100% unlikely that any reconciliation in 2017 would be anything other than cuts in spending. Increases in revenues (tax increases) are a non-starter. The process of reconciliation was created in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Congress has enacted 20 budget reconciliation bills since 1980. 
    • Process: Reconciliation is ‘triggered’ when the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution that includes reconciliation directives for certain committees. The directives give certain House and Senate committees a timeline by which they must move legislation that does one of the three following: changes spending by a certain amount over a specified time; changes revenues by a certain amount over a specified time; or changes the public debt limit by a certain amount. ‘Changes’ can include either an increase or a decrease; the directive will specify either ‘cut’ or ‘increase’. Current interpretation means that there can be a maximum of three reconciliation bills in a year (one each of the three changes mentioned above). The reconciliation process has some advantages in the Senate, mainly that it can be passed with a simple majority (as opposed to the 60 votes typically needed for more controversial legislation), debate is limited to 20 hours
    • Education Implications: Budget reconciliation instructions can be applied to any committee. In terms of policies that we track that could be subject to reconciliation instructions, they include: changes to the Affordable Care Act; cuts to Medicaid that translate into block-granting the program; changes/eliminations to the CHIP program; and more. We need to see how the House and Senate choose to apply the limited number of reconciliation directives they can apply. While ACA seems an easy target, concerns related to the phasing in of these changes to increase the likelihood that the focus could be on Medicaid of CHIP. 
    • Then What?: Once adopted, the proposal becomes law, and Congress will move forward to implement the adopted change, which in this scenario is all but certain to include funding cuts.
    • You can read more in this excellent summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

     

     

    December 6, 2016(1)

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    AASA Signs Letter Urging Congress to Complete Appropriations Process

    AASA joined a handful of other national education organizations in a letter that urges Congress to complete its appropriations process. While AASA is opposed to a federal shutdown, we are also opposed to a piece-meal, kick-the-can-down-the-road approach to federal funding currently in place and being considered, the continuing resolution. You can read the letter here.

    Other groups signing the letter include 

     

    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Association of School Business Officials International
    • Child Welfare League of America
    • Children’s Health Fund
    • Every Child Matters
    • First Focus Campaign for Children
    • MomsRising
    • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
    • National Respite Coalition
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
    • National Rural Education Association
    • Public Advocacy for Kids
    • Save the Children Action Network

     

    December 5, 2016

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

    Congress Must Act Now: Fund Secure Rural Schools Program!

    Background: The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 42 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. 

    Relevance: As we begin the final weeks of 2016 and the 114th Congress, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (Forest Counties) remains zero-funded. While Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, they have not funded SRS for 2016, meaning that 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program are currently receiving zero funding through this program. With these cuts, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded. 

    Call to Action: Contact your members of Congress (your Senators and your Representative) to discuss Secure Rural Schools (SRS, or Forest Counties).  Let them know what your budget looks like without this funding and that they need to do something for SRS funding. And, ask them to relay their concern and desire for action with Congressional leadership.  It is critical that Leadership hears from Members that SRS and Forest Management are issues that must be addressed as Congress comes back to work for the Lame Duck session.  Create your own story about what happens if we get nothing. 

    In addition to your Senators and Representative, please contact any House/Senate leadership from your state. A full list of House and Senate leadership is below: 

    Please contact the advocacy team if you need email addresses for the education staffers in any of these offices. 

    House of Representatives: Leadership

     

    • Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) 
    • Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 
    • Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) 
    • Republican Conference Chairman: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 
    • Republican Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) 
    • Democratic Leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 
    • Democratic Whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 
    • Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 
    • Democratic Caucus Chairman: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)  

     

    US Senate Leadership

     

    • Republican Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 
    • Majority Whip:  John Cornyn (R-TX) 
    • Republican Conference Chair: John Thune (R-SD) 
    • Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Barrasso (R-WY) 
    • Republican Conference Vice Chair: Roy Blunt (R-MO) 
    • Democratic Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV) 
    • Democratic Whip: Richard Durbin (D-IL) 
    • Democratic Conference Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (D-NY) 
    • Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair & Policy Committee Chair: Patty Murray (D-WA) 

     

    November 28, 2016

    (ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Post-Turkey Education Update: Sec of Ed, ESSA Regs, and Funding

    Nothing says ‘Welcome back from the long holiday weekend!’ like the information in this blog post. Depending on your perspective, we could be thankful the final ESSA regulations weren’t dropped before the long weekend, or we could wallow in a write up that makes an already long Monday feel all the more ‘Monday’. But I digress.

    Three things to flag for you from an advocacy update perspective: 

    • ESSA Regulations: Today, USED released its final regulations on ESSA accountability. We are still combing through the 300 page document. Here are some quick takeaways: Press Release, Summary, School Improvement Timelines, and the full text of the final regulations.
    • All three of our biggest concerns were addressed: the proposed requirement for a single summative indicator, the timeline for identification and the transportation of foster children provision.
      • The final regulation rescinds the initial proposed requirement of a single summative indicator. States can use the ratings in ESSA (including comprehensive improvement and targeted support) as their summative ratings, without being required to have a single, overall number or letter grade.
      • The proposed regulations required states to ID schools in need of improvement at the start of the 2017-18 school year. That has been delayed one year; the final regulation requires the identification for the 2018-19 school year. The timeline for accountability workbook submission has also changed. States will still have two options, but they are now April3 and September 18, 2017 (as opposed to the originally proposed March and July timelines).
      • The final regulations remove the language that requires LEAs to provide transportation to children in foster care if the LEA and child welfare agency do not agree on who will pay the additional costs associated with providing this transportation. This important change brings the final regulation into much closer alignment with the underlying statute. 
      • As a refresher, you can read AASA’s full set of formal comments to the proposed accountability regulations.
    • Secretary of Education: President Elect Donald Trump has selected his education secretary, and will nominate Betsy DeVos. There’s not much for us to say that you probably didn’t piece together from extensive media coverage over the weekend. Here are a few sample pieces:
    • AASA is neutral on the nomination. As a non-partisan professional association, we are committed to working with the Secretary of Education, the President and Congress regardless of their political affiliation. We will watch closely to ensure that the Secretary uses her position and opportunity for leadership to move policy that strengthens the nation’s public schools and we will remain diligent on key AASA policies, which include opposition to vouchers, ensuring that all entities receiving public dollars (including charter schools) are subject to the same accountability, transparency and reporting requirements, and that equity is at the center of all policy decisions.
    • Continuing Resolution: The current CR runs through December 9, meaning Congress has just over a week to adopt another fiscal policy to avoid a federal shutdown. At this point, they are working toward another short term continuing regulation, set to run through March 31. Republican leaders may try to wrap up the entire lame duck session by December 8, and have everyone out of town. 
     

    October 21, 2016(1)

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

    After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States

    Earlier this week, our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an updated version of their report detailing trends on investment in education. In a nutshell, as the title reveals, after nearly a decade, school investments still way down in some states. You can read the full report here, and we have pulled a few highlights for your quick review:

    • At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year than in 2008.
    • Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period.
    • Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
    The report is a very thorough walk through of trends in state and local funding in education and includes some very helpful and visually powerful charts detailing these trends. You can also take a look at the report's webpage.

     

    October 21, 2016

    (ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    State Advocacy: Michigan lawmakers take aim at proposed federal school funding 'mandate'

    Earlier this week, the Michigan State Senate Education Committee passed a resolution related to the Department's proposed regulations on the 'supplement, not supplant' provisions within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The resolution addresses key concerns with proposal, including federal overreach. You can read a related article here and we have embedded the full text below.

    A resolution to urge the President and Congress of the United States to curb and clarify the role and authority of the U.S. Department of Education as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

    Whereas, The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that federal Title I funding to low-income students supplements, rather than supplants, state and local dollars. This provision is intended to keep local school districts from using federal Title I dollars as a replacement for state and local dollars in low-income schools; and

    Whereas, To enforce this provision, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed burdensome regulations to require school districts to show that average per-pupil state and local spending in Title I schools is at least equal to the average spending in non-Title I schools. The rules allow several different options for districts to calculate spending and demonstrate compliance with "supplement not supplant"; and

    Whereas, The proposed regulations exceed the legal authority of the department and blatantly trample on explicit statutory prohibitions. Specific prohibitions in the "supplement not supplant" provisions include subdivision 1118(b)(4), which says, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or permit the Secretary to prescribe the specific methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance under this part"; and

    Whereas, School district personnel have complained that the proposed regulations would be unworkable. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) stated that the proposed regulation "glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines true efforts aimed at increasing education equity"; now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate, That we urge the President of the United States to direct the U.S. Department of Education to stop its federal overreach as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act; and be it further

    Resolved, That we memorialize Congress to enact legislation that clarifies the Department of Education's role and authority as it pertains to "supplement not supplant" provisions; and be it further

    Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Michigan congressional delegation, and the U. S. Department of Education as public comment on proposed rules.

     

    October 19, 2016(1)

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

    Domenech Nominated to USAC, AASA Files IRS Letter

    Two quick and unrelated items:  

     

    • Earlier this month, AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech was nominated to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors as the representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts, continuing a positions he had held since 2012. USAC is the entity that oversees the E-Rate program. Dan's letter of support was signed by 14 national organizations in addition to AASA:
      • American Federation of Teachers 
      • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
      • Association of School Business Officials, International
      • American Library Association 
      • Consortium for School Networking
      • International Society for Technology in Education
      • National Association of Elementary School Principals
      • National Association of Independent Schools
      • National Association of Secondary School Principals
      • National Association of State Boards of Education
      • National Catholic Educational Association
      • National Education Association
      • National PTA
      • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
      • National Rural Education Association
      • National School Boards Association
    • AASA joined with the Association of Educational Services Agencies (AESA) to send a joint letter to the IRS in response to the proposed regulations under Code section 457, in particular the provisions for bona fide sick and vacation leave plans.

     

     

    September 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

    September 6, 2016(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

    August 30, 2016

    (PERKINS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    48th Annual PDK Poll Shares Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools, Reinforces the Need for Students to Exit Schools College, Career and Life Ready

    Is the purpose of public school education to prepare students for work? To prepare them for citizenship? Or to prepare them academically? When given the opportunity to choose, it became clear that the American public does not agree on a single purpose for public education, according to the 2016 PDK Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

    Less than half (45 percent) of adult Americans say preparing students academically is the main goal of a public school education, and just one-third feel that way strongly. Other Americans split between saying the main purpose of public schools is to prepare students for work (25 percent) and for citizenship (26 percent).

    These differing priorities also relate to how Americans rate their local public schools. Respondents who say public schools should mainly prepare students for work give their schools lower ratings. Fifty-three percent of those who say the main objective is preparing children academically give their schools top marks.

    These findings are paramount for school administrators, as it validates the need to prepare students to be college, career and life ready before they leave your schools. The public, and parents especially, “want to see a clearer connection between the public school system and world of work,” said Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International.

    AASA continues to back Perkins CTE Reauthorization, and would like to see that Congress increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs to give districts more funding. We are also in support of greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in CTE programs. Employers must be critical partners in evaluating the areas in which district CTE programs must improve and to assist districts in ensuring they are using the relevant standards, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials and current technology and equipment necessary to align with skills required by local employment opportunities.

    Not only are parents interested in seeing schools implement more career-technical and skills-based classes, but they also want to hear about it and to even be involved. A key finding in this poll is that parents are more supportive of their local schools when they feel that educators are listening to their concerns and communicating with them.

    In addition to addressing the public’s idea of the purpose of education, the survey covers key topics, including charter schools, testing opt-outs, funding, standards and more. While you’ll want to read the entire report, here’s a breakdown of what we found to be particularly important for superintendents:

    • Purpose of Education: The survey finds a heavy tilt in preferences away from more high-level academics and toward more classes focused on work skills. 68 percent to 21 percent of Americans say having their local public schools focus more on career-technical or skills-based classes is better than focusing on more honors or advanced academic classes.
    • Communication: Parents like their local schools, especially when they believe educators listen to their concerns. Schools that communicate more effectively with parents and give them opportunities to visit and offer input, are generally given A and B grades from parents.
    • Testing opt outs: Majority of Americans (59 percent to 37 percent) think that public school parents should not be allowed to excuse their children from taking standardized tests.
    • Taxes: More Americans support (53 percent) than oppose (45 percent) raising property taxes to improve public schools, but there is broad skepticism (47 percent) that higher spending would result in school improvements. If taxes are raised, there’s little consensus on how the money should best be spent. A plurality (34 percent) says it should go to teachers, but divides on whether that means more teachers or higher teacher pay.
    • Standards for Learning: 46 percent of Americans say the education standards in the public schools in their community are about right, while nearly as many (43 percent) say expectations for students are too low. Few (7 percent) think standards are too high. Fifty percent of urban residents call education standards in their local schools too low compared with 39 percent of suburban and 36 percent of rural residents. Core beliefs about the purpose of public education also come into views of the local schools’ educational standards. Americans who think the main goal of public education should be to prepare students for work are most skeptical of current standards; half think they’re too low, and just two in 10 think they prepare students well for adult success.
    • Charter Schools: Negative perceptions of local and national public schools are related to greater support for charter school autonomy. Majorities of those giving their local public schools a C or lower favor allowing charter schools to set their own standards, while majorities of those giving them an A or B prefer that charter schools meet the same standards.
    • Failing Schools: One of the most uneven results in the survey shows that if a school has been failing for several years, 84 percent would elect to keep the school open and 14 percent would prefer to close it. But, if a failing school is kept open, 62 percent say its administration and faculty should be replaced rather than retaining them and increasing spending on resources and support staff.

    Quick points:

    • For the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the No. 1 problem confronting local schools.
    • The share of Americans giving positive grades to the nation’s public schools is up 7 percentage points since 2014.
    • The public divides 43 percent to 43 percent on whether schools should use more traditional teaching and less technology or more technology and less traditional teaching.
    • Better school evaluations affect both willingness to support higher property taxes and confidence that these taxes actually would lead to substantive improvements.
    • Support for increased taxes reaches 70 percent among Americans who think that, if taxes are raised to try to improve local public schools, the schools will get better. Those who are less confident in a good outcome are only half as likely to support tax increases.
    • Among those giving their local public schools an A grade, two-thirds are confident that increased funding would help. Critically, that plummets to 17 percent among those who give their schools a failing grade.
    • Political partisanship and ideology also are key factors. Liberals and Democrats are significantly more likely than conservatives and Republicans to believe tax money for schools will be well-spent and thus to support tax increases. In the widest gap, 70 percent of liberal Democrats support increased taxes, and 66 percent are confident they’d help, compared with 41 percent and 35 percent, respectively of conservative Republicans.

    You can download the  report here and read AASA's statement on the poll here.

    July 19, 2016(1)

    (ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Of Appropriations, Advocacy Conference, and More

    This blog post is a catch-all, including a few additional items related to last week's legislative advocacy conference as well as a few advocacy-related updates and items.

    Appropriations: Last week, AASA joined the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) in sending a joint letter to the House Appropriations Committee as it considered its Labor/Health/Human Services/Education/Other (where education funding lies) funding proposal for FY17. Check out this chart for a side-by-side comparison of FY16 levels, the President's FY17 proposal, the Senate bill and the House bill. The joint letter calls on Congress to address the true long-term pressure impacting education investment, the funding caps. 

    "We commend the sub-committee for their work to move an LHHS budget, acknowledge the education-related increases in the bill and recognize the budget pressures facing each appropriations sub-committee, we continue to emphasize the importance of eliminating the discretionary funding caps. Adequate investment in education is at the foundation of our nation’s economic viability and the current caps significantly hamper the ability of Congress to invest in education."

    Advocacy Conference: In an update to the blog post from last week, here is the full set of advocacy conference materials, including power point presentations, talking points AND the feedback form. 

    Environmental Protection Agency Takes Action on PCB Regulations (Impacting School Districts, Opportunity to Participate in July 28 meeting): The EPA is circling back to an earlier proposal, from 2013, related to the removal of PCBs (a known carcinogen) from public buildings. In this newest iteration, they are expected to relay that they are narrowing the focus to public schools and day care facilities. The meeting is set for 2 pm ET on July 28 and will be open to your participation via webinar. You can read the invitation letter hereThis blog post will be updated when the enrollment information is available

    • Background: In 2013, the EPA started an effort aimed at reducing the presence of PCBs (a known carcinogen) from public buildings. This would include public schools. AASA collaborated with ASBO and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to respond to the proposal, which was sensitive to balancing the critical responsibility of environmental safety for students and staff with the fiscal implications of removal timelines. This effort is emerging with renewed focus this month, and will narrow its requirements for removing PCBs to only public schools. Talking points:
      • School administrators, school board members, and school business officials remain steadfast in their commitments to providing the students they serve with an excellent education in a safe learning environment, which includes removing potentially harmful environmental factors (like PCBs).  
      • With any federal policy or regulation, the success of the end goal—in this case, elimination of light ballasts with PCBs—depends as much on the policy itself as it does in recognizing the importance of state and local leadership as well as the unintended consequences, costs, and burdens that may come with the policy or regulation.
      • Current regulations (the “lamps rule” through the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE]) have implications for the phasing out/removal of PCB-bearing light ballasts. Given that this rule is already accelerating the removal of old fluorescent light ballasts (FLBs) nationwide, and the compelling data from our comprehensive national data, we question the need for further regulation from the EPA.
      • While we appreciate EPA being diligent in bringing in state and local governance groups in an effort to grow support for providing state and local funding to help offset the costs associated with this redundant regulation, the reality is two-fold: this pressure has been in place for years and few states have acted proactively to provide support to eliminate PCBs. Also, explicit to schools, 31 states are currently spending less per pupil than they did in 2010. This push for funding for PCBs would be at the direct expense of making state education budgets barely break even with levels more than six years ago.

    ESSA Call to Action: Earlier this summer, USED released their proposed regulation for the accountability and state plans provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These regulations, once final, will guide the implementation of the ESSA accountability provision. Now is the time to weigh in, to provide feedback for USED to consider as they review and revise the proposal into its final form. AASA reviewed the proposed regulation and  shared our summary and analysis last month. This call to action is designed to support our members in their work to respond to this proposal. AASA has drafted a template response for you to use as part of our Call to Action. All responses must be submitted by August 1. Full details are available on the blog.

     

    July 12, 2016

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

    Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

    Our legislative advocacy conference is now in full swing! To those of you joining us, it is great having you here! We are excited to send you all to the Hill tomorrow. The resources we have shared are all available here:

    Advocacy Update Slideshow

    Talking points:

    After your meetings on the Hill, be sure to let us know how they went and give us any feedback on the conference here: http://goo.gl/forms/PKps6rs1w7KxUUh52 and be sure to tweet out pictures and stories using #AASAAdv.

    We hope you have a great day on the Hill. If you have any questions or want some company, please be sure to call/email/find us!

     If you are not able to join us this year, I hope you consider coming next year – we’re having a great time!