August 17, 2018

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

August Action: No Rest During Recess!

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

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

July 10, 2018

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

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Content

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

 

 

June 25, 2018

(PERKINS) Permanent link

AASA Responds to Senate Rewrite

This is the letter AASA sent to the Senate HELP committee in advance of their mark up. 

On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing 13,000 public school superintendents across the country, I write to express our deep concerns with the Senate version of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the Twenty First Century Act. We urge the Committee to postpone the vote tomorrow and continue to work with stakeholders who implement Perkins CTE programs to ensure widespread support of the bill from the K-12 education community. 

We were incredibly pleased with the strong, bipartisan Perkins CTE reauthorization bill that moved through the House in 2016 and again in 2017. Comparing the bills in both chambers, we find the Senate bill contains prescriptive accountability that walks back the flexibility granted in ESSA. Specifically, the threat of losing district resources for failure to meet achievement targets and the requirement that districts demonstrate meaningful progress in meeting performance measures are policies we are surprised to see maintained in this reauthorization. The inclusion of these policies is made even more surprising given that districts have less time—two years instead of three years—to demonstrate they are reaching state performance targets before a state can sanction them.  

Unlike the bipartisan House bill, the Senate has chosen to maintain the continuous improvement language in Perkins. The idea that district CTE programs can annually improve on all accountability metrics regardless of economic circumstances, demographic shifts, and federal and state funding dynamics is disconnected from what we know about the reality of running successful Perkins programs.  Whether a district was a high-flyer or a lower-performer, this metric continues to lead to unintended consequences at the local level. We believe that districts should be encouraged to focus on meaningful program quality enhancements rather than hitting new performance targets every year and encourage the Senate to adopt the same language as the House.  

Aside from these missteps, we are pleased the Senate chose to mirror the House bill by requiring that school superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders provide input on new performance targets that are set exclusively by the State. We are also grateful that the Senate chose to include the local application model in the House bill that will ameliorate the paperwork burden of Perkins by allowing districts to fill out a more streamlined local plan although we are disappointed that the local application is twice as long as the version that passed the House.    

Like the House bill the Senate bill emphasizes district engagement with both higher education and business/industry partners to confirm CTE program quality. Districts would conduct a biennial needs assessment that provides business/industry and higher education partners, as well as other key  stakeholders, an opportunity to provide input into the local plan to ensure the district is directing its limited resources towards relevant, well-aligned programs of study. In addition, the Senate bill also ensures districts have access to, and take into consideration, critical labor market information that will detail current, intermediate, or long-term labor market projections when determining whether to maintain, develop or eliminate programs of study.  

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not express our enthusiasm for the one meaningful way that the Senate bill improves upon the House bill: it creates a definition for CTE concentrator that is uniform across states and districts and ensures that districts programs reflect the achievement of students who are truly engaged in their CTE programs.  

AASA hopes that the House and Senate will work together to find a compromise that strikes an appropriate balance of holding districts accountable for limited federal resources and ensuring that districts are incentivized to address program improvement in a meaningful and realistic way.   

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.

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:

 

 

June 12, 2017

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

So-called “soft skills” have hard-hitting value in the workplace.

Today's guest blog comes from AASA friend Maria Ferguson, executive director at the Center on Education Policy.

If “college and career readiness” was the catchall phrase for the education reform movement circa 2008-2016, “the skills gap” is on deck to take its place for 2017. It seems everyone these days is talking about skills and competencies and their value in the labor market. Although rigorous academic preparation and college readiness remains a constant target for educators, employers are becoming increasing active and vocal about the skills gap and what it means to be career ready.  

Despite widespread agreement among educators and policymakers that students need to be prepared for the demands of both academia and the workplace, there has always been divide between what it means to prepare for college vs. work. 

Often referred to as “soft skills,” workplace skills and competencies often end up on the wrong side of the divide for a range of reasons. Part of the divide is purely practical: How can one system prepare students for college while giving them the experiences they need to develop workplace skills and competencies? In other ways the divide is much more class-based, with low performing students (often poor and at risk) directed towards career and/or technical education and stronger students aiming for college. And finally there is the issue of measurement. There is still no widely accepted, fully validated measurement tool for assessing skills and competencies. 

A new report from the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University (the organization I lead) reminds us why the divide between academic and career readiness is increasingly antiquated. The report, Building Competencies for Careers, finds that most jobs and careers require individuals that have both academic knowledge and one or more common skills and competencies. 

The report drew on information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database. O*NET uses surveys data from employees and occupational experts to determine the characteristics of more than 900 occupations, including the important knowledge, skills, abilities and work styles required for each occupational area. The report finds that among the 301 occupations in CEP’s sample of O*NET occupations, all required one or more of six competencies that are essential for students to master as they prepare for both college and career. 

To conduct the study, CEP researchers used the six deeper learning competencies develop by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:  mastering core academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively; communicating effectively; learning how to learn; and developing academic mindsets. CEP “linked” these competencies to similar O*NET categories and analyzed how relevant each of the deeper learning competencies were for a range of jobs and occupations. 

While all of the jobs analyzed by CEP require one or more of the deeper learning competencies, experts found several competencies to be most important. Developing an academic mindset, a competency about which prominent education researchers like Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth have written extensively, was highly prized across all of O*NET’s jobs and occupations. Also important were personal initiative and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. 

These competencies were found to be important for what O*NET calls Bright Outlook occupations – those that are expected to grow rapidly, have a large number of openings or are new or emerging. The deeper learning competencies also were more important for occupations requiring higher levels of experience, education and training than for entry-level type jobs. The study suggests that schools that can provide students with the opportunity to learn these kinds of skills and competencies along with subject area content will help better prepare graduates for a wide range of jobs and careers. 

But providing all students with the opportunity to develop these skills and competencies (in addition to learning rigorous academic content) is not so easy to do and requires an array of resources. If education and business leaders are serious about closing the skills gap, schools can’t be solely responsible for fixing the problem. Families, communities and business leader also have to do their part to help ensure students are both college and career ready. 

I predict the conversations about closing the skills gap will not end any time soon. Although the NCLB era is behind us, there is still reluctance among policymakers to value any skill or competency unless it can be adequately measured. While part of that reluctance may be justified, it is also important for education leaders to heed employer feedback about the range of knowledge, skills and experience needed to keep the U.S. economy strong and vibrant. College and career readiness should not be a zero sum game. 

For a copy of the report plus additional resources, please visit CEP at www.cep-dc.org

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 

 

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. 

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 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!

July 6, 2016

(PERKINS) Permanent link

AASA Supports House Bipartisan Perkins Reauthorization

Yesterday, AASA submitted a letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee on their legislation to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. You can read the letter here.

June 29, 2016

(PERKINS) Permanent link

House Introduces Bipartisan CTE Reauth Bill

 

Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act," a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. You can read the bill here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Strengthening_Career_and_Technical_Education_for_the_21st_Century_Act.pdf 

The House Education Committee is expected to mark-up the bill very soon, and there’s a small chance the bill will move to the floor prior to the August recess. The Senate HELP Committee has not yet introduced a bill to reauthorize Perkins.

There is much to like in the bipartisan bill and many ideas that AASA pushed for inclusion in the reauthorization have been incorporated. Chief among them is the major complaint by school leaders about the onerous administrative requirements for Perkins funding, particularly given the low levels of federal funding for Perkins. The House bill addresses the paperwork burden by allowing districts to fill out a simple, easy-to-complete local application. This is a radical departure from current law and will ensure that no district turns down Perkins funding because the associated paperwork does not justify the award amount.

AASA knows every district with high-quality CTE programs is continuously engaging with both higher education and business/industry partners. We are so pleased to see that as part of the development of a local plan, districts would conduct a needs assessment (an idea suggested by AASA) on a biennial basis that provides business/industry and higher education partners, as well as other key stakeholders, an opportunity to provide input into the local plan to ensure the district is directing its limited resources towards relevant, well-aligned programs of study. In addition, the bill ensures districts have access to, and take into consideration, critical labor market information that will detail current, intermediate, or long-term labor market projections when determining whether to maintain, develop or eliminate programs of study

The House bill also streamlines the accountability system in Perkins and aligns performance measures with those set by each state under ESSA. Districts must report on CTE graduation rates, post-secondary outcomes, and academic proficiency, but States have the discretion to choose another factor, such as the attainment rate of an industry recognized credential, the rate of dual-enrollment or the rate of students participating in work-based learning, that they can use as a fourth indicator. This flexibility ensures that States can use a metric that prioritizes their state policy and investments in CTE and aligns with what they may already require districts to track and report.  Moreover, the accountability system only focuses on the performance of those students who are CTE concentrators, defined as students who have completed three or more CTE courses or who have completed at least two courses in a single CTE program of study.  While we are disappointed to see the continuation of the non-traditional measure in the accountability system, AASA is pleased that this measure only requires districts to focus on the participation of non-traditional students in CTE, rather than participation and completion.

In light of what we have seen with the use of NCLB waivers and the current implementation efforts in ESSA, AASA remains vigilantly opposed to federal legislation that would enhance or maintain the role of the Secretary in determining or adjusting State accountability systems. The strong prohibitions that are added to the bill will prevent the Secretary from much over-reaching, and AASA is committed to working with the Committee to strengthen the limitations placed on the Secretary. Of importance to school leaders is that the bill does repeal the requirement in current law that States must negotiate their targeted levels of performance with the Secretary, which frees States to set more reasonable targets for accountability. It also requires that when the State sets new performance targets, they discuss these proposed targets with school superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders.  The House bill also prevents the Secretary from withholding funds from a State that does not meet certain performance targets and empowers State leaders to develop an improvement plan that works best for the needs and circumstances in their States. Even more importantly, at the local level, LEA improvement plans are developed by the LEA with limited input from state leaders, and state leaders are discouraged from requiring districts to redirect limited resources towards improving specific indicators.

 

 

June 24, 2016

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Blogging Round Up

This blog is a collection of quick bits of information we want to flag for you.

House Releases Draft Language for Perkins Career Tech: Today, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released its draft reauthorization proposal for the Perkins Career/Technical Education program. AASA’s Sasha Pudelski is reviewing the language and we will be providing summary and analysis.

ESSA Oversight Hearing: AASA President David Schuler testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee as part of its most recent ESSA oversight hearing, Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. You can access David’s testimony here, and read our related press release.

AASA’s Summary and Initial Response to Proposed ESSA Accountability Regulations: Formal comments to the Department’s proposed ESSA regulations will be filed by August 1. You can read AASA’s summary of and initial response to the proposed accountability regulations here, and it is posted in AASA’s ESSA Resource Library.

Foster Child Guidance from USED: The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released guidance to states, school districts, and child welfare agencies on new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children and youth in foster care. (See letter on guidance). The guidance, which is non-binding, touches upon: educational stability requirements; procedures for jointly determining which school is in a child’s best interest; procedures for jointly determining transportation to maintain children in their original schools; transfer of relevant records; and protecting student data and privacy (blog post). The foster youth provisions in the ESSA take effect December 10, 2016 (letter on timelines). This guidance is the first in a series of ESSA guidance packages. The Department of Education plans on releasing guidance for early learners; homeless children and youth; English Learners (Title III); recruiting, preparing, and training teachers and principals (Title II); and student support and academic enrichment (Title IV). The agency is also still reviewing feedback from the field to determine what, if any, additional guidance is a priority for full implementation of the law in the 2017-18 school year.

Perkins Career Tech Guidance: USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing all students -- regardless of their sex -- must have equal access to the range of career and technical (CTE) programs offered. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act requires states to meet targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are non-traditional for their sex.

November 9, 2015

(PERKINS) Permanent link

AASA Policy Priorities for Perkins CTE Reauthorization

The Senate is beginning to work on a bill to update the Perkins CTE Act. The re-authorization of Perkins provides Congress with a critical opportunity to reinforce the importance of effective, high quality CTE programs in schools that are aligned with college-and-career-readiness standards, as well as the needs of employers, industry and labor. AASA believes every adolescent should graduate from high school prepared for college or fulfilling careers, but Congress must increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs as well make important changes to the Perkins Act if we hope to accomplish this goal. Below you will see a summary of the recommendations we submitted to Congress as they consider the reauthorization of Perkins. The full document is available here

AASA Priorities

 

  • When contemplating any updates to the Perkins program, it is essential to consider the federal funding context for Perkins first and foremost. To propose extensive new mandates for districts when there is little likelihood that Perkins will receive an influx of new federal funding would be foolish and unfair.
  • While AASA appreciates the funding needs of post-secondary institutions, critical partners in fulfilling the career pathway partnership, we firmly oppose any efforts to mandate funding set-asides for post-secondary at the federal or state level or allowing regional entities the discretion to determine the secondary/post-secondary allocations.
  • AASA strongly supports greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in our 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.
  • AASA supports encouraging districts to direct greater funding to providing career planning and counseling to all students. Greater career counseling and planning would ensure that local CTE programs effectively reach traditionally under-enrolled students and assist them in understanding their options, creating a plan for coursework, laying out goals, and accessing the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions about their future career plans.
  • In light of the funding dynamics, AASA believes it is essential that a reauthorized Perkins law place less emphasis on compliance and reporting and instead focus on incentivizing best practices and relevant secondary program performance goals. We caution the committee from considering new accountability measures that are neither easy for districts to collect nor easily comparable between districts and states.
  • It is essential to reform the Perkins accountability system to match the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. While federal reporting mandates may be appropriate, States should measure the success of secondary CTE programs and address low-performing programs as they see fit.