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 8, 2019

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

Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System

Earlier this week, in collaboration with 12 other national partners, NCLD created a set of resources that identify new ways to think about education technology and equity: Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System. The report explores the conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives. NCLD also worked with partner organizations, including AASA, to translate how local, state, and national policy makers can play a role in ensuring technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities. The following resources include actionable steps and key considerations. AASA was pleased to endorse and support the local action primer.

 

 

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

    May 14, 2018

    (IDEA) Permanent link

    AASA Comments on Significant Disproportionality Regulation Delay

    AASA was pleased to offer comments on the U.S. Department of Education's proposed delay of regulations on how to calculate significant disproportionality in IDEA. AASA had serious concerns with the 2016 disproportionality regulations issued in the waning days of the Obama Administration. 

    While we agree and disagree with various aspects of the 2016 regulations issued under the Obama Administration we do not quibble on whether the Department had the authority to determine a methodology for findings of significant disproportionality including setting an “n” size for districts and assessing whether a risk-ratio threshold is reasonable. The Department did not have the legal authority to issue these regulatory provisions. Furthermore, the 2016 significant disproportionality regulations vary considerably from prior regulation and the underlying statute. After careful review we support a delay and reconsideration of the 2016 significant disproportionality regulations by the Trump Administration.

    You can read our complete comments here

    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 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  

     

    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:

     

     

    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 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 

     

    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.  
    •  

    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 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.”

     

     

     

    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. 

    May 5, 2016

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    AASA Call to Action: Comment on Proposed IDEA Regs

    Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new regulations on how states and districts will calculate significant disproportionality under IDEA. Their proposal will result in a significant increase in the number of districts that must set-aside 15% of IDEA Part B funds to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality of special education students. Based on the Department’s projections 23 states will require between 50-80% of all districts to set-aside 15% of their federal share for early intervening services to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in at least one disability, educational environment or discipline category. Nationally, a minimum of $550 million dollars will be redirected to early intervening services.

    While we acknowledge that racial and ethnic is disproportionality is an important and complex problem for districts to address, AASA has very substantive concerns with the Department’s proposal and how districts may be inappropriately identified as having significant disproportionality. As school leaders responsible for compliance with IDEA we urge you to take action on these regulations right away. The deadline to submit comments is May 16th. Submitting the comments directly is super easy—simply complete the form here. Below is a summary of the parts of the proposed regulations we support and oppose, so you have a better understanding of the issues.  

    Our concerns with the proposed regulations are as follows: 

    • If States must adopt a more rigorous methodology for measuring significant disproportionality, then States must also have greater flexibility in exempting districts from setting aside Part B funds to address this issue. Specifically, very small districts, districts with specialized schools, districts with highly regarded programs for students with disabilities in states with popular open-enrollment policies, districts with high numbers of students in foster care, districts recovering from an environmental or health disaster and districts with very low rates of special education identification, restrictive placements or exclusionary discipline for all students should not be automatically required to set-aside funding.  
    • The Department should not expand the data collection around significant disproportionality to track the placement rates of students who spend between 40-80% of their time in the general education classroom. Reporting on whether a child spends 65 percent versus 80 percent of his time in a general education classroom says nothing about the severity of his disability, the classroom supports he receives, or the quality of services he may obtain in that setting. 
    • A mandatory “n” size of ten may result in many small districts being identified for significant disproportionality. There is no data suggesting ten is the right number or an appropriate one. There is no federal “n” size in ESSA or any other federal education law. States are best positioned to set the “n” size.
    • A requirement that significant disproportionality be examined and addressed for students with autism or other health impairments is highly inappropriate given that it is rare that a district diagnoses a student as having one of these disabilities. 

    There are aspects of the proposed regulations we do support: 

    • We support allowing early intervening services like RTI/MTSS to be used on students with disabilities as well as students not yet identified as disabled. 
    • We support requiring states to relying on 3 years of data before deciding a district must address significant disproportionality.  
    • We support allowing States to exempt districts that show reasonable progress in addressing significant disproportionality from setting aside more funds.  

    Please take a few minutes to comment on these critical changes to IDEA’s significant disproportionality calculations. To comment directly, go to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/02/2016-03938/assistance-to-states-for-the-education-of-children-with-disabilities-preschool-grants-for-children#open-comment and complete the form.

    March 11, 2016

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    AASA joins 23 National Organizations Urging FY17 Investments in IDEA

    Earlier today, AASA joined 23 other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional appropriators, urging them to prioritize investment in IDEA. You can read the full letter.

    In urging increased federal investment above and beyond the President's proposed freezing of IDEA, the groups write: "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 was 18 percent in 2005. This means that the President’s proposed funding level for FY 17 is below that of more than a decade ago. 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." 

    Other groups signing the letter include: 

    • American Art Therapy Association
    • American Council for School Social Work
    • American Counseling Association
    • American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
    • American Music Therapy Association
    • American Occupational Therapy Association
    • American Psychological Association
    • 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 Pupil Services Administrators
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of School Nurses
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • National Association of Social Workers
    • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
    • National Education Association 
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
    • National Rural Education AssociationNational School Boards Association

     

    February 29, 2016

    (IDEA) Permanent link

    IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

     

    IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

    Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice for proposed rulemaking that would make substantial changes to how significant disproportionality is identified and remedied in states and districts.

    Almost two years ago, the Department asked stakeholders to submit information on how the Department could ensure states appropriately identify districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement and discipline of special education students.  Much of the feedback AASA provided appears to be incorporated as we read through their proposed regulation. While AASA did not suggest regulation was necessary, we would prefer a statutory approach in the IDEA reauthorization to amending these provisions, we do think that the Department’s proposal has some merit.

    For example, AASA has stated that it is unfair to districts and students to prohibit those identified as having significant disproportionality to have to set-aside 15% of Part B funds for early intervening services that can only be used for students not yet identified for special education. We urged the Department to allow districts to spend less than 15% if they could prove they were adequately using funds to address significant disproportionality or to ensure the funds could be used on students in special education as well as students not yet identified for special education. The Department chose to propose the latter option and now CEIS funding is not limited to non-special education students. While this does not address the concerns we have with how maintenance of effort provisions are impacted when districts do set-aside funds for CEIS, this is a step in the right direction.

    In our comments, we also acknowledged that there needed to be more stringent parameters to ensure states were identifying districts for significant disproportionality. We acknowledge the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as only 356 districts were identified as having significant racial or ethnic disproportionality in the 2010-2011 school year. As a result of this data, we supported the conclusion drawn by the Government Accountability Office that “the discretion that States have in defining significant disproportionality has resulted in a wide range of definitions that provides no assurance that the problem is being appropriately identified across the nation.”

    We asked the Department to issue guidance on states’ development of a definition of significant disproportionality that ensures they identify districts which have significant disproportionality, but have never been required to take action to address it. While the Department has chosen a regulatory approach, we believe their attempt to ensure significant disproportionality is remedied is somewhat appropriate. The Department proposes requiring states to use a risk-ratio method to compare disproportionality among racial and ethnic groups. Most states are already using risk-ratios, but they aren’t required to set reasonable risk ratios, which leads to few districts being identified for significant disproportionality. In determining a risk ratio, the state would have to work with stakeholders and analyze the data sets helpfully provided by the Department to analyze what an appropriate risk-ratio would be for the state. States also have the flexibility to choose to identify an LEA as having significant disproportionality only after an LEA exceeds a risk ratio threshold for up to three prior consecutive years. This is another positive change.  Finally, a state need not identify an LEA with significant disproportionality if the LEA is making reasonable progress in lowering its risk ratios, where reasonable progress is determined by the State. The Department’s wisdom to provide states with flexibility to honor the progress a district is making in addressing disproportionality is very appreciated by AASA.  We do have concerns by the requirement to use a standard national “n” size of 10 across all racial and ethnic subgroups as this “n” size is not used for ESSA or other federal accountability provisions, but at first glance the proposed regulations generally appear to be a positive development in ensuring significant disproportionality is identified and addressed with district and state flexibility and superintendent input.

    AASA will be reviewing the regs once they are formally published on the Federal Register and inviting all members to join us in commenting on the proposed regs. 

     

    February 4, 2016

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    New Legislative Trends Report: State Special Education Laws

    With the recent re-authorization of ESEA, attention on Capitol Hill is beginning to focus on another long-overdue federal education statute: IDEA. For the winter edition of the AASA Legislative Trends Report, we decided to examine whether there were any state legislative trends pertaining to special education students, programs and personnel since 2013. Specifically, we wanted to trace whether there were any trends related to dyslexia and IEP processes that could potentially impact discussions on these issues at the federal level during IDEA reauthorization. Our findings are here: http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/DisabilityStateTrendsWinter2016.pdf

    November 9, 2015

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    How are current IDEA MoE provisions hurting students?

    On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf 

    There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act--that we highlighted in an earlier blogpost. Below are a few examples from the GAO report of how the current IDEA MoE provisions are negatively impacting students. 

    •  A Michigan district said that when they had difficulty hiring a staff psychologist they had to contract for psychologist services, which turned out to be less costly than what the district spent on those services previously, causing challenges in meeting MOE. 
    • An official in one Texas district said that although their special education director recommended expanding their integrated athletics program for children with disabilities, they chose not to because they did not want to commit to the increased costs in an environment of ongoing budget uncertainty. 
    • A Virginia state education official said that districts feel penalized for complying with IDEA’s directive to serve more students with disabilities in general education classrooms since this more inclusive model can be less costly than placing all these students in special education classrooms; yet the MOE requirement is not flexible enough to allow for this without putting districts at risk of failing to meet MOE. 
    • Several district officials noted that protecting special education funding does not necessarily equate to protecting or improving special education services. For example, a Minnesota district official said the 100 percent MOE requirement may discourage districts from striving to make students with disabilities as independent as possible if such actions would reduce special education spending. He was concerned that not enough attention was being given in the IEP process to encourage greater independence and inclusion and that the process was being driven by maintaining expenses rather than responding to the evolving needs of students. 
    • A New Jersey district official said his district failed to meet MOE after reorganizing to share the cost of a special education director with another district. 

    MOE can discourage efforts to implement efficiencies that could help reduce costs and can lead to unnecessary spending to comply with the requirement. For example, one Wisconsin district official commenting on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 NPRM said that because of state legislative changes that required reductions in their contributions to teacher benefits, they had to find other ways to spend money on special education to meet MOE regardless of whether the expenditures were needed. 

    October 28, 2015

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    New GAO Report Highlights Critical Need for BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act

    On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf

    There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act. Here are a few we wanted to highlight: 

     

    • To promote innovation and efficiency while safeguarding special education funding, GAO suggests that Congress consider options for a more flexible local MOE, such as adopting a less stringent maintenance requirement.  
    • GAO believes districts need more exceptions for reducing MOE. GAO identified various circumstances related to cost reductions—such as local actions to implement efficiencies—as key challenges in meeting MOE. 
    • GAO found stringent MOE requirements can have negative consequences for all students. Prioritizing special education spending to meet MOE during a period of budget constraints can result in cuts to general education spending that affect services for all students, including the many students with disabilities who spend much of their days in general education classrooms.  
    • The GAO report revealed that some district officials found that MOE can discourage efforts to implement innovations or expand services. For example, some leaders said that because of MOE, they did not want to commit to a higher level of spending to implement innovative services, despite other provisions in IDEA that are intended to encourage innovation.  
    • The GAO investigation uncovered that in the 2014-2015 school year, 9 states believe almost half of all districts in the state will struggle to maintain special education funding levels, and 25 states acknowledged that some districts will face challenges in meeting the MOE requirement in 14-15.  
    • The GAO found that at least some districts faced challenges in meeting the requirement, despite exceptions intended to help in such situations. Specifically, the current exceptions do not address the key challenges that districts face, including factors that are outside of their control and that do not affect the level of services provided to students with disabilities. In these situations, it was unclear whether funds spent on special education to comply with MOE resulted in enhanced services for students with disabilities. 
    • In their survey, GAO found that districts cited reductions in state funding of K-12 education and reductions in the state contribution to funding for special education as a major factor in not meeting MOE. State funding for elementary and secondary education has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession and long-term budget challenges are likely to persist. 
    • In addition, rural districts are disproportionately struggling to keep up funding for special education. Of the districts surveyed by GAO, 57.8 percent of districts that had anticipated having trouble meeting MOE were rural.