October 18, 2018

(SCHOOL NUTRITION, WELL-BEING, GUEST BLOGS, SCHOOL HEALTH) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Trump Regulatory Agenda

Our friends at First Focus put together a quick overview on the latest update to President Trump's federal regulatory agenda. We are happy to share it here, and are pleased to be a member in their Children's Budget Coalition. 

The Trump administration’s fall regulatory agenda released yesterday morning offers a window into the White House’s anti-regulatory vision for the country. They claim it will cut regulatory costs by $18 billion. The agenda, released each year in the spring and fall, lists all rules that agencies are actively working on and what’s fallen to the back burner. There is no penalty for not meeting the listed dates, which aren’t always realistic. Trump boasted his administration had “set a record” for removing costly, unnecessary regulations—a claim disputed by critics who said the White House wildly exaggerated savings and overlooked the benefits of many rules. Here is an overview of some of the administration’s notable plans in some key issue areas:

 

  • Immigration: The Department of Homeland Security is adding even more new immigration regulations to its already lengthy list, with a new focus on immigrant investors, asylum seekers, and agricultural and seasonal guest workers. The agency released its “public charge” proposal last week, First Focus has an overview of the rule’s harm to children. Getting that proposed regulation published in the Federal Register was a top priority for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is now freed up to work on the remainder of its proposals. For instance, DHS also plans to make some changes to asylum processing. One proposed regulation would rework the “credible fear” process, whereby asylum seekers who demonstrate a credible fear of returning to their home countries cannot be deported until their asylum claims are fully processed. Another proposal is focused on reducing fraud in the process for asylum seekers to obtain work permits. Both proposals are scheduled for September 2019.
  • Tax Law Regulations: Seventeen regulations implementing the 2017 tax law are at the top of the Treasury Department’s action list for fiscal year 2019, according to its regulatory agenda. Most of those projects already were singled out in an Internal Revenue Service priority guidance plan. The list includes high-profile rules on the tax overhaul’s limit on the amount of debt interest payments that businesses can write off and guidance on foreign tax credit issues arising from new international changes.
  • Food Assistance:  USDA is moving to limit households’ eligibility for SNAP, both via changes to work requirements for so-called childless adults and to the categorical eligibility process, which streamlines assistance for individuals who participate in TANF. The proposals will track the House-passed provisions that are in part holding up compromise in Farm Bill negotiations. Stay tuned for a First Focus fact sheet outlining the proposed USDA changes in greater detail!

 

 

President Trump also said he will ask all Cabinet departments to cut their budgets by 5 percent next year, after the federal budget deficit swelled to its highest level since 2012 during the first full fiscal year of his presidency. “We’re going to be asking for a 5 percent cut from every secretary today,” he said. 

July 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

June 18. 2018

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Statement on Family Separation

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech and AASA officers Gail Pletnick (Dysart Unified, AZ); Chris Gaines (Mehlville, MO) and Deb Kerr (Brown Deer Schools, WI) issued the following statement in response to the recent separation of children and parents at the border: 

"Our nation’s public school superintendents and the schools they serve are legally required to educate the children that come through their doors. We are deeply concerned with recent steps that result in the separation of children and parents at the border. Immigration policy is not easy, but we are deeply troubled by the purposeful and aggressive implementation of a policy that is widely recognized as flawed, one that separates young children from their parents in a world they do not know. AASA is an organization that serves and represents education professionals. And while we won’t claim expertise in immigration policy, the nation’s public school superintendents are experts in what can and does work for students and young children, and we know that the separation policy is harmful, traumatic, and stressful, and these effects may follow these children for the rest of their lives. Policy can be tough and fair without being inhumane, and we urge the administration to immediately cease this intentionally cruel policy.”

 

June 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 Hashtags: #strike301and302 #itstime #DiversityMatters 

Sample tweets:

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full statement.

 

April 3, 2018

(WELL-BEING, GUEST BLOGS, SCHOOL HEALTH) Permanent link

Blog Tour: The Role of Education Leaders To Ensure Safe Schools, Thru a Federal Policy Lens

This post also appears in the AASA Total Child Blog, as part of their National Healthy Schools Day Blog Tour. April 3 is National Healthy Schools Day, and the advocacy team was invited to contribute a blog post talking about what a healthy school looks like, how school shootings have influenced our perceptions of what it means to be a healthy school, and how school system leaders can help the students they serve feel safe. You can access the full collection of blog entries on the Total Child Blog.

When we, as a nation, find ourselves once again responding to yet another school shooting, the urgent need to ensure that our nation’s students can be safe in their learning environments jumps to the front of everyone’s minds, when, ideally, the safety of the students should be so assumed, automatic, and natural it appears as little more than a blip on the radar.  In our department, we look at the questions provided as prompts for this blog in the same way we look at questions posed when it comes to federal education policy: Is there a role for the federal government in this discussion? What does that role look like? How can we represent the voices and priorities of public school superintendents in this discussion? How can we advance a policy that supports state and local decision making? Does the policy outcome/proposal? To that end, here is our contribution to the National Healthy Schools Day Blog Tour.

April 20 marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, and is also a national day of action in response to the continued national crisis of gun violence in schools. AASA is proud to partner with and support the National Day of Action to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools. Set for more than two months after the most recent school shooting, the timeline ensures at least minimal coverage and attention to the important discussion around school safety, rather than falling off the radar. AASA assembled a set of resources and information to support school system leaders, their staff, their community, and their students as they navigate yet another round of student deaths. In particular the set of ideas and activities that students and school communities can engage in—in addition to or in place of a student walk out—reflects what a healthy school looks like today: something that can and will vary by community, but with a common thread. School shootings haven’t altered our view of what it means to be a healthy school; it has clarified the intensity by which we work to make it a reality for all students. AASA’s Position Paper on School Safety outlines AASA’s policy positions on the comprehensive approach necessary to prevent future school violence. 

AASA recommends that every school district have the following safety programs and procedures: 

 

  • Every district should have policies in place requiring individual school and building safety plans, as well as district wide safety plans. These plans should serve as a guide to address the various safety needs in the school such as lockdown procedures, evacuations, drills and safety protocols, and personnel assignments. 
  • Every district should conduct regular audits to evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of their school safety and security plans. First-responders, local law enforcement and the entire school community should be engaged in this process. 
  • Every district should communicate with parents and community members about the school-level emergency preparedness protocols to the greatest extent possible. 
  • Every district should provide regular training for all school employees on the district’s school emergency management systems and protocols. 
  • Every district should work to create partnerships between schools, local law enforcement and appropriate community agencies (such as mental health) to prevent and reduce school violence.

And from the federal perspective, AASA has clear recommendations that Congress can take to support school districts in their effort to enhance school safety, as well as recommendations on gun safety legislation:

 

  • Enhance School Safety Parts of these recommendations were addressed in what Congress passed in the FY18 omnibus. We repeat them here because they are in our current position and to reiterate that they remain priorities and that Congress must maintain its investment in these services, supports and programs. 
    • Reinstate funding for the Safe and Drug Free Schools program. Schools and states annually pay billions of dollars to address the results of substance abuse, school violence and unaddressed mental health needs through local and state funding. Reinstatement of the Safe and Drug Free Schools program represents an important federal investment in successful prevention and intervention efforts. Much of this program can be found in ESSA Title IV. We applaud Congress for the funding it provided for the flexible funding bloc grant in FY18 and what it will mean for districts, in terms of providing these important wrap around supports.
    • Re-establish funding for the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grants designed to help schools prevent and manage emergencies. AASA was pleased to see the STOP Act included in the FY18 omnibus, a program that will allow districts to support school safety.
    • Restore funding for programs such as the Secure our Schools grant program and the COPS in Schools program, which provided grants for security equipment, security assessments and school resource officers. 
    • Increase funding for mental health counselors and services in schools. Access to these services is a crucial component of any effort to prevent/respond to a school emergency. 
    • Ensure existing federal policy gives local school districts the flexibility to use resources to fund student services personnel (including counselors, psychologists and therapists). Wrap-around services are central to addressing the needs of the total child, and flexibility in existing federal policy will better enable local school districts to use limited federal dollars in a way to maximize student support. 
    • Provide funds for districts to upgrade their facilities if internal safety audits require improvements.
  • Gun Safety Legislation
    • Increase enforcement of existing gun laws 
    • Reinstate the ban on the sale, import, transfer and ownership of assault weapons 
    • Ban large-capacity magazines 
    • Require thorough background checks for all gun purchasers 
    • End the “gun-show” loophole 
    • Prevent individuals convicted of violent crimes from being able to purchase guns 
    • Prevent individuals with mental health issues from purchasing or owning a gun (18 U.S.C. 922 (g)) 
    • Punish irresponsible gun owners

AASA hopes that school leaders find ways of enhancing their current school safety procedures, and applauds the recent federal fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill, which included several measures that directly support the provisions outlined above. You can read AASA’s full analysis of the education implications for the FY18 bill. 

 

  • Funds ESSA Title IV at $1.1 billion dollars, a $700 million increase, a meaningful payment towards a flexible funding block grant that will help boost school safety and mental health resources. As described in a Congressional fact sheet, the money is intended “to expand school-based mental health services and supports; for bullying prevention; and for professional development for personnel in crisis management and school-based violence prevention strategies”
  • Clarifies that funding thru the Center for Disease Control (CDC) can be used for gun-related research. This is a win: a provision called the ‘Dickey Amendment’ had long existed and been interpreted to mean that such funds couldn’t be sued for this research, resulting in a dearth of research and information related to guns, gun violence, and other such information.
  • The bill includes language that prohibits the use of federal funds to arm teachers or provide firearm training to teachers.
  • Includes the Fix NICS Act, which would ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Authorizes and funds the STOP School Violence Act, legislation that would invest in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens by authorizing the Department of Justice to make grants to states for purposes of training students, school personnel, and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervene to prevent people from harming themselves or others. The program is authorized at $75 million.

If we hope to prevent future tragedies at schools, we must comprehensively address both school safety and gun safety. Increased mental health services, community supports for youth, and new attitudes about violence in our entertainment must all be part of this approach. We must be willing to spend the time and resources necessary to make sustainable changes.

 

 

 

February 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2018

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

Show Me Your Budget and I'll Tell You What You Value (Hint: It's not Medicaid in Schools)

--Cross posted from the Say Ahh! blog by the Georgetown Center on Children and Families--

President Trump’s FY19 budget once again seeks to end Medicaid as we know it. The budget embraces a per-capita cap funding proposal frequently referred to as “Graham-Cassidy” that would replace the existing federal-state financial partnership with capped Medicaid funding at a set amount per beneficiary—regardless of the costs to the state. Specifically, the President’s FY19 budget would reduce federal Medicaid spending by $1.439 trillion from 2019 to 2028. Not coincidentally, it is also the price tag of the tax reform bill that passed in December.

What would this policy proposal, if approved, mean for the school districts that rely on Medicaid for $4 billion dollars a year (less than 1 percent of the total annual spending on Medicaid)? It would leave states in the unenviable position of footing a Medicaid bill they can’t afford to pay. When governors, state legislatures and Medicaid directors realize they can’t maintain their Medicaid programs, they will then have to make tough funding choices. They could, of course, choose to cut education budgets statewide to pay for healthcare.

Within the Medicaid realm, their choices include: setting limits on covered benefits, reducing reimbursement rates for providers, and limiting which providers can bill Medicaid. All of these options will harm children—who comprise 40 percent of total Medicaid beneficiaries and rely upon the program for their healthcare. However, the final option, limiting which providers can bill Medicaid, should be of serious concern to school leaders.

Here’s how it could play out: As states look for savings and examine the entities that bill Medicaid currently—doctors, insurers, assisted living facilities, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinics, schools—they could notice that one of these entities is not traditionally considered a front-line healthcare provider: schools. As such a small piece of the Medicaid pie and one that serves a vulnerable, non-voting population, it’s easy to see how schools could lose their Medicaid dollars to prop-up other important healthcare providers.

Assuming a savvy policymaker would want to know the consequences if districts stopped receiving their Medicaid dollars, AASA asked more than 500 superintendents in 46 states that exact question. Here is what we learned.  

Medicaid

 


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:

 

 

January 9, 2018

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

EPA Considering Changes to the Lead and Copper Rule

Yesterday, I participated in a conversation with the EPA about an issue about which we are seeing increased attention in recent years - the Lead and Copper Rule. Currently, federal law mandates that water utilities test the water from a sample of homes they serve. They are not, however, mandated to test school water. Some states have stepped in to require school water be tested, but school water in most states is not required to be tested. 

The EPA is beginning to consider changing the Lead and Copper Rule, and brought together stakeholders to discuss these possible changes. The change that would affect schools is the proposal to require water utilities to test all schools that they serve. This would give schools a better taste for their water safety and would save districts from financing and administering their own tests. We will be moving forward with the EPA to discuss the implications any changes in this rule would have on schools and how we can work together to keep  kids safe from ingesting lead.

November 20, 2017

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Support Operation Prevention

In October, Discovery Education announced a collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Milken Institute to announce a Drug Prevention Call to Action. Part of the announcement included referencing AASA's commitment to the pledge, and we look forward to working with Discovery on this effort.

AASA is pleased to support Operation Prevention to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. Operation Prevention's mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. In addition to the resources listed on the website, you can also access their PDF flyer.

June 29, 2017

(WELL-BEING, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

Read the full letter, here.

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. 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

February 27, 2017

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

Guest Blog Post: DACA Students and Resources for Superintendents & Schools

This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.

Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers. 

AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.

District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.

Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.

Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger. 

Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA.  “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said.  “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."

The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.

That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.

AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers. 

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at sign.protectdreamers.org.

By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.

For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit protectdreamers.org.

11 action steps superintendents and school administrators should consider to help protect undocumented students and their families  

  1. Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone.  Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.  Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
  2. Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
  3. Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
  4. Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained. 
  5. Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
  6. Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
  7. Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support.  If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
  8. Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school. 
  9. Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
  10. Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  11. Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.  

The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts

  • AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Know Your Rights Videos  
  • IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER: DACA Current Status and Options  
  • IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES NETWORK: Legal Services Directory
    • National directory of more than 950 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
     
  • UNITED WE DREAM: Deportation Defense Card 
    • Are you prepared if Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents approach you? Download your Deportation Defense Card to Know Your Rights. - English, Spanish, Chinese and KoreanEnglish, Spanish, Chinese and Korean
    • Hotline for learning rights and reporting right violations: 1-844-363-1423
     
  • NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Educator Resources  
  • NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: Draft Resolution Language  
  • The U.S. Department of Education has a page dedicated to information and resources for immigrant, refugee, asylee students and families.
    • GUIDE: Supporting Undocumented Youth in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings (Oct 2015)
    • GUIDE: Early Learning Programs, Elementary Schools, and Educators (Jan 2017)
    • Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations (Nov 2015)
    • In general, DHS’s 2011 prioritization memo explained that immigration enforcement actions may not occur at or in “sensitive locations.” These locations include: schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop.
    • If you believe enforcement action has taken place that is inconsistent with this guidance, file a complaint on the DHS website at https://www.dhs.gov/, the CBP website at https://www.cbp.gov/, or ICE website at https://www.ice.gov/.
    • You may contact ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) through the Detention Reporting and Information Line at (888)351-4024 or through the ERO information email address at ERO.INFO@ice.dhs.gov, also available at https://www.ice.gov/webform/ero-contact-form. The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202)732-0092 or ICE.Civil.Liberties@ice.dhs.gov.
    • You may contact the CBP Information Center to file a complaint or compliment via phone at 1-877-227-5511, or submit an email through the website at https://help.cbp.gov.
     

 

 

 

 

 

September 27, 2016

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AASA Joins Coalition to Oppose EPA Regulations

AASA joined a coalition of education associations and local governance associations to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to voice concern over a proposed rule regarding florescent light ballasts in schools and child care centers. The EPA is proposing to require the removal of any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals used until 1978, when they were found to contain carcinogens. The proposed rule would require schools and child care centers to remove any light ballast containing PCBs within either two or four years. The rule provides no assistance, financial or otherwise, to schools to assist with this removal. 

Our letter makes clear several concerns: notably the lack of accurate data on which the proposed rule is based, the potential cost, the stringent timeline and the duplication of other federal rules that would make the rule around PCBs unnecessary. Citing a 2014 study by AASA, ASBO and NSBA, the letter clarifies that few schools still have PCB-containing light ballasts and, with regulations banning the sale of the light bulbs that fit these older ballasts, this rule is not only burdensome but unnecessary.

Find the letter here.

May 13, 2016

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U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students

Today, The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.

The press release from USED states the following:

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX. 

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

You can continue reading the full press release here.

In short, the guidance also explains schools' obligations to:

  • Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student's actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition;
  • Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;
  • Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and
  • Protect students' privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Please review the following resources provided by the departments to help ensure that all students can enjoy a safe and discrimination-free environment in school:

 

 

March 23, 2016

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AASA Urges Careful Consideration of FEMA Proposal to Establish a Deductible

File this under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy: AASA joined four other national organizations in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to its proposal to establish a deductible for its public assistance program.

FEMA’s proposal is considering the establishment of a disaster deductible, requiring a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a recipient (grantee) before FEMA would provide assistance under the public assistance program when authorized by a Presidential major disaster declaration.  FEMA believes the deductible model would incentive recipients to make meaningful improvements in disaster planning, fiscal capacity for disaster response and recovery, and risk mitigation, while contributing to more effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

AASA, in coordination with the Association of Educational Services Agencies, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, and the National Rural Education Association sent a response urging caution and restraint. The public assistance program has historically been a federal program and this policy would shift federal responsibility to the state and local level, arguably at a time (post-disaster) that they can least afford it. Further, as sub-grantees, school district's ability to receive FEMA disaster funds would be impacted by their state's willingness/ability to meet or address the deductible. The groups expressed concern that this proposal stands to disproportionately and negatively impact the neediest.

Read FEMA's proposal.

Read the full letter here

February 12, 2016

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AASA Joins National Organizations in Letter of Response to Proposed Changes to Overtime Pay

AASA, The School Superintendents Association joined 19 other national organizations on a letter in response to the Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed changes to the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLAS) overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative and professional employees (the 'white collar' exemptions).

As a reminder, the DOL proposes more than doubling the salary level required to qualify for the "white collar exemptions". You can read more background in our previous blog post

Signing groups represent state and local governments, public schools, public institutions of higher education and other pubic sector entities. You can read the full letter here, and we have excerpted the public school-specific section below:

These costs would be imposed at a time when many public entities have not recovered from the last economic downturn. Our nation's public colleges and universities are still attempting to mitigate the impact of recession and post-recession reductions in state funding to higher education. During the six-year period from 2006-2007 to 2012-2013, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student, while tuition and fee revenues increased by only $1,940, resulting in a shortfall of $430 per full-time student. Increasing costs of public colleges and universities at the levels proposed by the rule would put significant pressure on tuition levels and/or educational services. Municipalities face similar budget challenges. According to the National Association of Counties, only 65 of 3,069 county economies have recovered to their pre-recession levels. A similar reality for cities is evident in the National League of Cities 2015 City Fiscal Conditions Report, which shows that, while fiscal conditions continue to improve, they remain weakened nearly eight years after the start of the recession. This has government services already stretched thin. Despite a growth in population, government employment today is less than what it was prior to the recession. For school districts, which collectively are the largest employers in the nation, these thinly stretched state and local budgets translate to fixed school district budgets that cannot absorb unpredictable cost increases. Combine that with implementing the recently authorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which returns autonomy and flexibility to the state and local level, and state and local education agencies will be dealing with a myriad of regulations at the exact time they face the fiscal impacts of these DOL rules. The result will be reduced staffing at state education agencies and/or budget cuts at the exact time resources prove most critical to ensuring ESSA success.

January 19, 2016

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AASA Work on Child Health Insurance Highlighted in USED-HHS Toolkit

Last week in the blog we relayed information about a recent joint effort by the US Education Department and Department of Health and Human Services to highlight impact opportunities to support healthy students. You can read the full post here.

When USED and HHS started the process, the contacted a variety of groups and organizations to solicit input and regulations. AASA's Children's Programs department provided information related to AASA's health insurance work, work ultimately identified as a high impact activity.

In the final toolkit, Mountain View School District (Calif.) is cited as an example of how school districts can identify uninsured children and increase their capacities to link eligible students with the proper health insurance coverage. The district participates in AASA Children's Programs' and the Children's Defense Fund's Children Health Insurance initiative

The AASA/CDF collaboration on enrolling eligible children in health coverage is an example in High-Impact Activity #1. As a result of working with AASA and CDF, the Mountain View Superintendent reports that over 1,200 uninsured children were referred and that the number of students with health insurance has increased dramatically, that attendance increased, and that attendance has consistently been above 96 percent (district wide) for the past three years.

August 28, 2015

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AASA Supports The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015

Today, AASA signed on to The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 (S. 1966), a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) aimed at making summer meals more accessible, especially to students in rural and remote areas.

The bill would introduce two additional models for summer food delivery: summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) or non-congregate feeding programs. With these improvements, as many as 6.5 million children who are underserved by the program currently could get the food they need during the summer months. These policies complement the site-based model and efforts to strengthen it, and would improve summer nutrition for low-income children no matter where they live.

This legislation is modeled on the successful demonstration projects USDA administered to test both program options. The extensive evaluations showed strong results, including significantly improved access to summer meals, decreased hunger, and improved consumption of healthy foods. 

For more information, find this summary or find the full bill text here.

 

 

 

August 18, 2015

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AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

AASA joined forces with 16 state and national organizations to file an Amicus Brief on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse, asking the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit's erroneous decision making mandatory reports of child abuse vulnerable to federal lawsuits asserting First Amendment retaliation claims. Read the filing

National organizations joining AASA and the National School Boards Association on the brief include:

 

  • American Professional Society on Abuse of Children
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • 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
  • School Social Workers of America Association