December 12, 2018

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

USDA Issues Changes to School Nutrition Rules

The USDA recently released a final rule for its proposed changes to school meal standards. The final rule ushers in broader flexibilities in the whole wheat, sodium, and milk standards than previously suggested. Under the final rule, to be published later this month, the whole grain requirement will be lowered from 100 percent whole wheat to 50 percent whole wheat. Many districts have been eligible for an annual waiver from the 100 percent requirement, but under this rule, all districts will only be held to the 50 percent requirement. AASA had been suggesting this change, in that many districts have had difficulty finding culturally appropriate whole grain foods that students enjoyed.

The rule also holds steady the sodium limit, postponing the planned decreased allowance for four years and cancelling the final planned decrease. Phase II of the sodium restrictions will now take effect in the 2024-25 school year and will be the final stage. AASA had been suggesting this change as the current limits are already quite stringent and nutritionists disagreed on the need for further reductions.

The rule also allows schools to sell and to serve one percent flavored milk in addition to the nonfat milk currently allowed. This change will make it easier to buy, sell, and serve milk that is familiar to students.

Find AASA's statement here.

December 11, 2018

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Farm Bill Compromise Reached

Last night, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released a Farm Bill compromise. We were concerned about two elements of the House version - the SNAP work requirements and changes to categorical eligibility. AASA applauds the committee members, particularly Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for this bipartisan compromise that prioritizes children's health. 

The bill will be voted on by the House and Senate this week, before going to President Trump for his signature. He has hinted that there is a chance that he will veto any bill without the House-version's SNAP work requirements, but we are hopeful that he will be satisfied by other elements of the bill and will sign it before the end of the month.

December 10, 2018

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USED Webinar: The Opioid Crisis and K-12 Schools: Supporting Students at School

The Opioid Crisis and K-12 Schools: Supporting Students at School

A national webinar hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students  and the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments 

 

  • Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time

 

REGISTER FOR THIS WEBINAR: https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/events/webinar/opioid-crisis-and-k-12-schools-meaningful-response 

This webinar will provide examples of how the opioid crisis is impacting our schools and students and will provide insight into strategies that can support students impacted by the crisis. The event is designed to provide building-level administrators, teachers, and specialized instructional support personnel with information on how they can effectively support students impacted by the opioid crisis. The webinar will include federal, state, and school-level perspectives.  

 

  • Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, will provide opening remarks. 
  • Mary Ann Gapinski, Director School Health Services, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will describe the state’s effort to bring Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to MA schools and the impact they’ve seen as a result.
  • Dr. Jeff Hawkins, Executive Director, Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, will present information on the Cooperative’s efforts to empower and engage staff and students in rural schools as change agents in addressing the opioid crisis.

 

For questions regarding the content presented in the webinar, email ncssle@air.org. 

 

 

December 3, 2018

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AASA Submits Comments on Public Charge Regulation Proposal

Today, AASA submitted comments in response to a proposed regulation by the Department of Homeland Security that would redefine who, for immigration purposes, is considered a public charge. We believe the proposed regulation puts the health and well-being of millions of immigrant children at risk and could place new burdens on school districts to provide health and nutrition related services for children who qualify for these benefits through federal programs. Our comments can be found here

 

November 29, 2018

(ESEA) Permanent link

Opportunities in ESSA for College in High School Programs

College in high school programs, such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school, are effective and increasingly popular models for improving student access, affordability, and completion of college, particularly for students who are low income or underrepresented in higher education.

Students who attend schools with high-quality college in high school programs are more likely to graduate high school, immediately enroll in college, and persist to completion than their peers. At the same time, these models provide students with significant flexibility in how to tailor their academic programs to their specific needs. They also meet a top priority of many families: reducing the time and cost for students to earn degrees and enter the workforce.

ESSA empowers states and local decision makers to implement the strategies they choose for improving teaching and learning, provided that they are grounded in evidence of success. ESSA encourages states and school districts to consider college in high school programs as key strategies for successfully preparing students for college, and provides increased access to federal funding for the development and implementation of these programs.

Working with our partners at the College in High School Alliance (CHSA), a coalition of national and state organizations advocating on behalf of high-quality dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high schools, we have put together a fact sheet for school district leaders to understand:

How ESSA treats college in high school programs;

What funding opportunities are available under the law for you to consider using; and

How states are prioritizing these programs in their accountability systems.

CHSA is a coalition of national and state organizations collaborating to positively impact policies and build broad support for programs that enable high school students – particularly those who are low income or underrepresented in higher education – to enroll in authentic, affordable college pathways toward postsecondary degrees and credentials offered with appropriate support.

CHSA has additional resources available should you wish to learn more, including a State Policy Guide  implementing these programs under ESSA and a deep dive ESSA State-by-State Analysis of how states talked about these programs in their state plans.

More information about CHSA, including how to get in touch any questions about using ESSA to support college in high school programs in your state, can be found here.

November 8, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

Supreme Court Decision on Age Discrimination

In the first Supreme Court decision of the season, the Court decided unanimously (8-0) on a case that could impact the smallest of school districts. In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido the justices determined that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) must apply to all public employers, regardless of size. It was previously held that only employers with over 20 employees could be held to the ADEA.

What is the ADEA and how does it impact school personnel? The ADEA holds that employers cannot discriminate based on age. Normally, it is used to discourage using old age as a reason for firing or not hiring an employee. How does this impact school districts? Since 1974, most districts have been covered by ADEA without much impact. Superintendents of districts with fewer than 20 employees – be cognizant now that you do not explicitly use age as a reason to fire or not hire an individual. Superintendents with 20 or more employees – this is not a change, but still be cognizant that you do not explicitly use age as a reason to fire or not hire an individual.

Education Week posted an overview of the issue here.

November 5, 2018(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Education at the Polls: Vote for Secure Rural Schools!

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

VOTE NOVEMBER 6 FOR SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS AND COUNTIES

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

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

 

  • Tell your candidates for Congress what SRS funds mean for students, roads and essential public safety services in his/her communities.
  • Congress must act on forest management, fire control and long term SRS funding as forest communities and schools fight for economic survival. 
  • SRS is critical to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, and education services in your community. 

 

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

OVERVIEW: Congress funded the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for the short term FY 2017-2018 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625) which extended SRS funding for FY 2017- 2018.  SRS funding for two years provides very short term financial support for the disintegrating SRS safety net serving 9 million students and county citizens in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states. 

The Secure Rural Schools safety net program for forest communities is based on historic precedent and agreements begun in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases limiting local community management, economic activity and development.  As a long term alternative to SRS, the federal government and Congress have been promising but not delivering a long term system based on sustainable active forest management. 

National forests and communities burned this year. Forest communities are suffering human and economic devastation as the SRS safety net continues to unravel. Forest counties, communities, schools and students continue to the pay the price as extremely dangerous fires devastate local communities while also suffering loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  

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

 

VOTE NOVEMBER 6

SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS and COUNTIES

 

November 5, 2018

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IRS Hears Concerns About Voucher Tax Credit Programs

Today, AASA staff along with David Sovine, superintendent of Frederick County (Va.) Public Schools, and Richard Fry, superintendent of the Big Spring (Pa.) School District, testified today at a public hearing in Washington, D.C., about a regulation that the Internal Revenue Service is proposing that would close a tax shelter allowing individuals to profit by donating to private school voucher programs.

The proposed IRS regulation would put an end to the practice in Virginia, Pennsylvania and 10 other states where voucher supporters are receiving federal deductions and turning profits from donations to private school programs.

AASA is grateful for the many superintendents who weighed in with the IRS during the written comment period in October opposing any carve-outs for voucher programs under the proposed regulation. In addition, we are very appreciative that Dr. Sovine and Dr. Fry were able to testify personally at the public hearing today. AASA's testimony can be found here.  

November 2, 2018

 Permanent link

November Advocate: Changes to Public Charge Rule Will Increase Burden on Public Schools

In October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a proposed regulation that could have a profoundly negative impact on the immigrant children you educate. 

The “public charge” regulation amends a policy that has been on the books for decades and is intended to ensure that immigrants who have entered the U.S. legally are not granted green cards or lawful permanent resident cards if they are “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” The Trump Administration is changing the definition of a “public charge” to anyone who receives any assistance with health care, nutrition or housing.

One in four children in the U.S. -- nearly 18 million children -- has at least one immigrant parent here legally. The vast majority of these children – about 88 percent or 16 million – are U.S. citizens. Under the proposed regulation, if a child’s parent is on a visa or is seeking lawful permanent resident status, he/she would be considered a “public charge” if they access Medicaid, food stamps or Section 8 housing vouchers at any period of time after the regulation is finalized. In addition, for the 12 percent of immigration children who are here on visas, they could lose a pathway to citizenship if they access Medicaid or potentially the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the future.

Ultimately, the new public charge policy articulated in the proposed rule would terrify immigrant families and deter these families with children from seeking the help they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

Why does this matter to school leaders?

Because of the complexity of the new regulation, it is predicted that families (not just a family member who would be considered a public charge) will refuse to participate in Medicaid/CHIP, SNAP (food stamps) and public housing programs like Section 8. Specifically, this means that families with children who qualify for healthcare, nutrition and housing benefits will forego accessing these benefits for fear it could jeopardize a family member’s path to citizenship.

Moreover, if a family is worried that a child with a visa could lose their pathway to citizenship if they access Medicaid/CHIP then they will also refuse to allow the district to bill for these health or related services. AASA believes that this moves federal policy in the wrong direction — instead of crafting policies that incentivize greater access for children’s healthcare and nutritional and housing benefits — this regulation will reduce the number of children who access these benefits.

For district leaders, there are financial consequences if families are afraid to access healthcare via Medicaid/CHIP. A child who is no longer seeing a physician outside of school could become more reliant on school-based healthcare providers to meet their basic healthcare needs. More children could come to school without necessary vaccinations and fewer parents will consent to billing Medicaid for health services related to a student’s IEP. Because the district still has an obligation to ensure children are healthy enough to learn, it will be forced to re-allocate local dollars to cover these costs since the district will not be granted permission by families to access Medicaid reimbursement for some of these expenses.

There are also financial consequences for districts if parents stop accessing food benefits via the SNAP program. Children who do not have access to proper nutrition outside the school will not come to school ready to learn. A child who has not eaten all weekend will come to school in a state of crisis and the district will be responsible for doing more to ensure that child’s nutritional needs are met during the school day. For example, districts may opt to send home food over the weekend, provide free breakfasts and dinners, and will pay for these new programs with local dollars.

Finally, the proposed regulation would deter eligible immigrant families from seeking much-needed housing and homelessness benefits. If families opt out of housing opportunities in the community and become homeless, families will experience increased housing instability, likely driving up homeless rates, increasing housing mobility, or both. Districts are already required to provide specific educational services for children under the McKinney-Vento Act to ensure that homeless children are able to continue to attend school. Given the under-funding of the McKinney-Vento Act, local dollars will have to be utilized to ensure districts meet the needs of a new and growing population of homeless students.  

What can you do to help?

AASA has developed a template for school leaders to use to push back against this regulation. Unfortunately, the comment process for this regulation is more complicated than usual given the way the Department of Homeland Security views comments. District leaders will be required to personalize their comments using the AASA template in order to submit their comments. All the information you need to comment is available here. In addition, you can reach out to Sasha Pudelski (spudelski@aasa.org) and she can provide direct technical assistance to you on submitting comments as well as submit them for you

October 22, 2018

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Guest Blog Post: StudentCam, CSPAN's Student Documentary Competition

Today's guest blog features information from CSPAN, related to its C-SPAN Classroom and StudentCam documentary competition. C-SPAN Classroom is a free membership service that works with C-SPAN's programs on public affairs, Congress, non-fiction books and American history to create free resources for teachers and students to use in classrooms and projects. 

Looking for free teaching resources? C-SPAN Classroom has thousands of online resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. All resources are offered free of charge, with video that is mobile device friendly, and supporting materials that are designed to help you enhance your social studies curriculum by using our public affairs programming. Registration and membership in C-SPAN Classroom is free. 

Browse our selection of resources to find primary source materials to use with your students:

 

  • Current Event Videos: short videos to engage students in discussion on issues affecting the country
  • Constitution Clips: video clips paired with the text of the document to show examples of the Constitution in action
  • Deliberations: lessons designed to engage students in classroom deliberations about current issues being debated in the United States
  • On This Day in History: video resources to help students better understand significant events throughout U.S. history
  • Bell Ringers: video clips that include a brief summary, key vocabulary terms and related discussion questions
  • Lesson Plans: lessons include videos, a summary, vocabulary terms, procedures and culminating activities 
  • Teacher Opportunities: we offer free online training to learn about our resources as well as summer conferences and Fellowship experiences

 

If you are looking to engage students in a project-based learning experience, introduce them to StudentCam, C-SPAN's documentary competition for students in grades 6-12. This year’s theme is “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AMERICAN?” Choose a constitutional right, national characteristic, or historic event and explain how it defines the American experience. Students may compete individually or in teams of up to 3 members to create a 5-6-minute film for a chance to win one of 150 student prizes. We award a total of $100,000 in prize money. You can find additional details on the competition and ideas for how to incorporate it into classrooms on our website: http://www.studentcam.org.

If you have any questions, you can contact C-SPAN's Education Relations team at educate@c-span.org  or call 1 (800) 523-7586.

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. 

October 9, 2018

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments on IRS Tax Shelter Regulation

Yesterday, AASA filed comments in response to an IRS regulation that could close a tax shelter in twelve states that allows taxpayers to profit from their donations to tuition tax credit voucher programs. Our comments were focused on one specific aspect of the regulation the IRS is contemplating: whether these educational scholarship tax credits have been marketed and exploited by taxpayers seeking to avoid paying their appropriate share of federal taxes with the knowledge and implicit consent of state.  

You can read our comments here.  

 

 

 

October 3, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Let's Rehash the Fun of FY19 Funding

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

October 2, 2018

 Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: How Well Are Your English Learners Doing?

This guest post was written by Crystal Gonzales, the Executive Director of the English Learners Success Forum. 

If your district is like thousands of other districts across the nation, chances are that you’re seeing an increase in the enrollment of English Learner (EL) students. It doesn’t come as a surprise considering that nearly five million students comprise the EL student population in the United States, constituting 10% of the total student population. So the question looms: do you know how ELs are doing in your schools?

As ESSA state plans move into the implementation phase and as educational leaders refocus their efforts on narrowing achievement gaps, it has become even more critical that we self-assess our collective efforts in serving all students within our reach, particularly ELs. With a renewed emphasis on ESSA subgroup accountability, schools must ensure ELs are doing well consistently; if these students are not doing well, the state will flag those schools for targeted improvement.

Despite their linguistic, social, and cognitive potential, EL students struggle academically compared to their non-EL peers. In 2017, for example, there was a 31-point achievement gap between non-EL and EL students in fourth grade reading and a  26-point gap in fourth grade mathematics.Several factors contribute to these poor outcomes:

  •  ineffective teachers
  •  insufficient training on working with EL students
  •  limited or no access to appropriate instructional materials
  •  a lack of targeted linguistic support in general education classes

 More than 70% of teachers report that they’ve received inadequate preparation to teach ELs effectively. Furthermore, educators believe their instructional materials for core content are not designed to raise the academic performance of ELs. This is especially problematic when predictions indicate that ELs will comprise 25% of the total U.S. student population over the next decade, and there is an increased likelihood that most teachers in the U.S. public schools will have at least one EL student in their classroom.

Where do we go from here?

The good news is that there are practical, research-based steps that administrators can taketo support their educators and ensure that ELs receive grade-level content (as opposed to watered-down materials).

Evidence reveals curriculum choice has a significant impact on student learning. To be truly effective, the curriculum must align with your state’s academic standards, and it must meet the needs of the students in your classrooms.  The 2017 National Academies report,Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English, provides a thorough overview of how we must consider the needs of ELs at all levels, including specific instructional strategies for ELs to have access to grade-level learning.Curricular materials and professional development connected to the materials (particularly in core content areas of English language arts and mathematics) must include integrated language supports for ELs.

The English Learners Success Forum (ELSF) provides guidance, tools, and resources on how to provide integrated language support, as that kind of support is largely absent from most ELA and math curricular materials. Nationally-recognized EL researchers, experts, teacher educators, and practitioners developed a set of guidelines that outline key focus areas needed for ELs to participate fully in ELA and math mainstream classrooms.Following the development of these guidelines, an ELSF Review Team collaborated with curriculum developers whose materials are used in every state.  Together, the team worked to apply these guidelines, identify high-leverage changes, and provide feedback with the ultimate goal of enhancing their materials to better serve ELs.

ELSF’s goal is to work with curriculum developers who want to be more inclusive of the needs of ELs to create better materials.  We’ve learned what to look for when selecting curriculum inclusive of ELs. As we continue to extract more knowledge through research, we aim to share our resources freely.  To that end, ESLF makes available these free resources to experts in the EL field as well as educators and administrators who are developing or adapting their own materials.

Practical steps you can take:

1. Forward this article to your teams, particularly Chief Academic Officers. Are you curious how your instructional materials and teaching practices are working for your EL students? Invite your teams to take this ‘pulse check’here and set up follow-up conversations.

2. Reflect and share these resources.

Do my ELA and Math teachers feel supported in meeting the needs of ELs in their classrooms? Conduct focus groups and observations to get teacher input. Share ELSF’s guidelines, tools, and resources as a start. You may also consider the tools and resources from our colleagues at the Council for Great City Schools (CGCS).  

3. Bring internal EL experts to the table and utilize existing tools.

If you are conducting a materials selection process for ELA or math, ensure EL district leaders are involved on committees and create specific EL criteria relevant to your districts’ needs in making materials decisions. Utilize resources, such as the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) and EdReports’ rubrics for standards alignment, and for EL supports reference the ELSF Guidelines for Improving Materials for ELs and CGCS’ EL frameworks for ELA and mathematics

4. Engage with ELSF.

We are always looking for exceptional EL educators and leaders to get involved in our work as reviewers, coaches, resource writers, and advocates. Encourage them to join ELSF efforts. Additionally, ensure that vendors you use are familiar with ELSF guidance tools and aim to be inclusive of the needs of ELs.


October 1, 2018

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

Rural Matters Podcast: October 2018

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

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

September 20, 2018

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

AASA Supports National Voter Registration Day: Can You?

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

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

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

What Can I Do?

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

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

 Things to Consider

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

September 17, 2018

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

AASA Contributes to National PTA Back-to-School Toolkit

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

September 13, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

September 11, 2018

 Permanent link

AASA Call-to-Action: Tell the IRS to Close School Voucher Program Tax Shelter

For many years the IRS has permitted taxpayers in 12 states to turn a profit by financially supporting private school voucher programs. This profitable tax shelter has fueled rapid growth in these voucher programs, leading to a major transfer of public dollars into private schools. Moreover, the profits being pocketed by these taxpayers come at the expense of state and federal budgets and do not find their way into any public school or public works project.

 The profiteering facilitated by these tax credit vouchers schemes is neither accidental nor incidental. Tax accountants, private schools, and others in many states with tax credit voucher programs have long marketed these programs as tools for exploiting the federal charitable deduction.

Given the Trump Administration’s love of vouchers, we were quite surprised that the IRS has proposed regulations that would shut down this tax shelter and could significantly weaken the popularity and growth of the voucher programs in these 12 states. We have an opportunity as public education advocates to weigh in with the IRS and support these regulations, but the IRS is already facing extreme pressure by pro-privatization entities and members of Congress to keep them on the books.

Please take 5 minutes to fill out this template and send it to the IRS today. This is an opportunity to send more dollars into public schools both at the federal and state level.

How to File Comments with the IRS

Comments are due by October 11, 2018

  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template. Format your response as a Word/PDF document (include district letter head!).
  • Go to https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=IRS-2018-0025-0001
  • In the ‘Comment” box, type the phrase “I submit the attached comment in response to the IRS proposed regulations on Contributions in Exchange for State and Local Tax Credits.
  • Below the comment box:
    • Upload your file.
    • Enter your first and last name.
    • Click ‘continue’
  • Review the information on this page, including a check to ensure your document is attached.
  • Click the ‘I have read and understand’ item.
  • Click ‘Submit Comment’

Note: If it’s too complicated to use the web form, please email your comments to Sasha at spudelski@aasa.org and she will submit them on your behalf. 

September 10, 2018

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

SEED Partnership Program Timeline EXTENDED to Sept 19

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

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

Here are key details:

 

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

 

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

 

August 28, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Educator Shortages and the 115th Congress

 Teaching has long maintained a place near the top of the list of most respected professions. However, given the rhetoric around failing schools and the decreased investment in education, that position is slipping. In the 2018 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, only 61 percent of respondents have trust and confidence in public school teachers. Also, slipping steeply throughout the decade, only 46 percent of respondents say they would like their children to become teachers. This illustrates the danger of a persistently negative public perception of public school teachers. The teaching profession is seen as disrespected, difficult, dangerous, and low paying.

Given this perception, it is not surprising that districts are having difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers. A recent AASA survey found that 91 percent of superintendents have had difficulty hiring qualified teachers in the past five year. The greatest difficulty has been in hiring special education (50 percent) and STEM fields (40 percent). Another 24 percent reported difficulty in hiring for non-teaching positions and 18 for administrative positions.

In the survey, superintendents were asked what they have done to fill these positions. Most common was hiring less qualified individuals for the position (60 percent). Other remedies were the use of alternative certification programs or models (33 percent) increasing salary and benefit packages where possible (33 percent) and rehiring retired teachers (32 percent).

When asked what improvements would help them recruit and retain quality teachers, funding for salary and benefits was clearly the most popular. This need was illustrated through the teacher protests of 2018 and is commonly understood to be a need – 66 percent of PDK poll respondents agree that teacher salaries in their communities are too low. However, funding for education has fallen or remained stagnant in most states and local districts since the 2008 recession.

A common concern is the lack of localized teacher preparation programs. An individual is most likely to teach close to where they were raised or where they went to college. In rural communities, this means that many residents go away to college and do not end up returning to teach in their home community. Districts are often supportive of high quality “grow your own” teacher training and certification programs, in four-year universities, community colleges, and other settings. Two pieces of legislation have been introduced this year (though they have not moved past introduction) to support and expand grow your own programs. The first, introduced by Senator Tina Smith (D – MN), is the Supporting Future Educators Act. It creates a competitive grant program for LEAs or ESAs that could be used to create or expand teacher residency or mentorship programs, grow your own programs, teacher preparation pathways in secondary schools, or other evidence-based strategies.

Another bill has been introduced by Senator Tim Kaine (D – VA). The Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act amends Title II of the Higher Education Act (not ESSA, though easily confused!) to better support rural districts and to increase the flow of teachers from historically black colleges and universities. It also encourages the creation of grow your own programs and teacher and leader residency programs.

Another barrier to hiring qualified teachers reported was the strictness of certification rules in many states. Superintendents commented that an individual who is certified to teach second grade may not be allowed to teach first grade, even if there is a great need in the community. State-level certification requirements also pose a barrier to teachers who may be interested in moving states or superintendents looking to recruit nationally. A proposal by the centrist think tank Third Way to create a national standard for teaching for states to opt into, much like the common core state standards, strives to simplify the bureaucracy of teacher certification and create one high standard for states to share.

A final improvement that would improve teacher recruitment and retention is assistance with tuition or loan repayment. This has been a big topic in the House of Representatives this year, as it was a key part of the Republican-backed PROSPER Act. There are currently three major loan forgiveness programs available for teachers; the most prominent is Public Service Loan Forgiveness(PSLF). Under PSLF, anyone working in a public service or nonprofit job (including most education professions) can enroll in an income-based repayment plan. If that individual makes 120 on-time income-based payments (10 years of repayment) and work in an eligible field, whatever is left on their loans can be forgiven. This is an important recruitment and retention tool for educators, who often have high loads of debt following a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and relatively low salary.

Under the PROSPER Act, which passed the House Education and Workforce committee on a party-line vote, PSLF and all other loan forgiveness programs would be eliminated. The House Democrats released a rebuttal bill, the Aim HigherAct. That bill not only keeps PSLF – it expands it to additional professions (mostly in the farming industry).

It is unlikely any of these pieces of legislation will move in this Congress, as everyone has turned their attention to the November mid-term elections. As we move into the next Congress and another attempt at reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, I will work to ensure the issue of educator shortages is top of mind for those writing the reauthorization. We remain hopeful we can have a bipartisan bill focused on supporting future and current teachers and ensuring they are prepared to teach in your schools.

August 17, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 17, 2018

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

August Action: No Rest During Recess!

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

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

August 16, 2018

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Senate Begins Mark Up of 2018 LHHS Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

August 14, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Rural Partner Guest Blog: New Hampshire Rural Superintendents Continue Blazing Professional Network Trail

As part of our ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Rural School and Community Trust, we are proud to kick off an ongoing series of guest blogs, penned by RSCT Executive Director Rob Mahaffey. Each post will highlight a program, district, community, leader or research working to improve educational opportunity for our nation's public rural schools and the communities they serve. Rob Mahaffey can be reached at rmahaffey@aasa.org. 

Rural Educational Leaders Network (RELN) at Plymouth State University enters third year

Driving into Plymouth, New Hampshire, one immediately appreciates you are in a small, vibrant, New England community anchored by a thriving higher education institution, Plymouth State University.  Founded as a teacher preparation Normal School, this place is much like my town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia—home to Shepherd University.  It was an honor to spend two energizing days with the educational leaders of the Rural Educational Leaders Network.

Superintendents in the North Country of New Hampshire share concerns with educators across rural America including declining enrollment and school closures, struggling economies and diminishing budgets, retention of well-prepared and experienced teachers, and sustaining a supportive, mutually-beneficial relationship based on school and community engagement. Often these leaders lack a professional network to address these issues and develop locally-based solutions.  By virtue of the rural experience, these school and district leaders are frequently geographically isolated and lack of resources necessary for authentic rural professional learning experiences diminishes access to professional support.  

While the development of virtual online professional learning networks (PLNs) is one solution to the geographic isolation, they are available only to those with reliable high-speed internet access and often topics and conversations do not fully connect with the realities and interests of rural educational leaders.  In order to effectively develop solutions to the issues faced in rural areas, both in and out of the school house, it’s necessary for rural superintendents and other school leaders to have access to PLNs that are specific to their particular rural context and to their learning goals.

Community philanthropy plays a key role in creating a viable solution to this issue.  The Rural Educational Leaders Network (RELN) at Plymouth State University is one such example.  Made possible by private philanthropy, the network is fully funded through a generous endowment by the late Ann Haggart.   In life, Ann was an educational entrepreneur and in her final years observed a break down in the school-community relationship.  Her support and that of Plymouth State University made is possible to support educational leaders in developing their practice. 

RELN is able to provide a colleague professional learning network for more than 80 New Hampshire rural school and district leaders, and those aspiring to those positions. The work of the group is driven by the overarching idea of developing the school-community partnership is to ensure all students are “college and career ready” in combination with the mission to provide a PLN for New Hampshire’s rural educational leaders.  The network model is based on the premises of relevance, continuity, and sustainability. 

Network membership is open to school and district leaders in rural New Hampshire and in combination with topic development ensuring each meeting is highly relevant to the membership.  Each year, three quarterly meetings are held and a two day summit in July hosted by Plymouth State.  Between face-to-face gatherings, the network connections are sustained through online communications shaped by the summit setting the foundation for conversations moving forward and allowing members the opportunity to make connections with prior conversations and learning.   

In my opinion, and based on the experiences and value RELN participates place on this network, opportunities for rural school leaders to partner with a higher education institution and private philanthropy abound.  Please share your thoughts and consider such a network for your community and region.

 

For more information, click https://ruraleducationalleadersnetworkweb.wordpress.com/

August 13, 2018

 Permanent link

AASA Signs Countering Hate Statement; Signs Letter Supporting PTACs

It may be August and Congress may be in recess, but that doesn't mean we're taking a break. Just a quick blog post to keep you updated about ongoing coalition activities:

AASA Joins 20 Other National Organizations in Statement for Countering Hate in Schools: This new school year, let’s make sure schools are free of hate and that all children get the message that they belong.  There aren't "many sides" to hate: there are just too many victims. One year out from the terror of Charlottesville, we have so much work to do to protect our students and communities from racist, xenophobic ideology, policies and actions. Join our coalition of education leaders by committing to foster school climates in which all children and youth, community members and families feel safe and valued. AASA joined more than 20 other national organizations to issue a statement emphasizing our commitment to protect students and communities from hate. You can sign the statement here

AASA Joins 23 Other National Organizations in Letter Affirming the Importance of USED's Privacy and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC): As an organization that supports the use of data and research to improve teaching and learning and to inform decision-making by schools, districts, and states, AASA was pleased to join 23 other groups in a letter to the head of the House and Senate education committees, highlighting the important role of PTAC and encouraging the committees to continue to support the office and its important programmatic and technical supports. 

 

August 9, 2018

(ED TECH) Permanent link

AASA and AESA Argue to Keep the Education in Educational Broadband Service

The Educational Broadband Service (EBS) was created by the FCC to provide educational resources to schools and libraries, currently by providing access to a special band of internet spectrum directly to beneficiaries. Most districts and libraries that receive EBS currently license the use of this spectrum to internet providers, creating both internet access and revenue. It was also the first topic both Noelle and I lobbied. Since before Noelle started on the issue over ten years ago, the FCC has not opened the program to provide new licenses. They are currently suggesting a change to EBS that would open the spectrum over broader geographical areas to licensees beyond just schools and libraries. This week, AASA and AESA provided comments urging the FCC to keep the “education” in Educational Broadband and open the spectrum to more schools and maintain its intended purpose to benefit educational entities. We will continue to fight to open the spectrum to more school districts while maintaining the structure of the EBS program to focus on education.

 

August 7, 2018(1)

(ESEA) Permanent link

ED Issues Guidance on McKinney-Vento Spending

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance directed at McKinney-Vento and Title I State coordinators clarifying how ESSA has changed the use of the Title I homeless reservation. Specifically, the guidance clarifies that an LEA is still required to reserve Title I funds for homeless children and youth even if all schools in the LEA are Title I schools.  Prior to ESSSA, the LEA only had to reserve funds to provide support services for homeless children and youth if they did not attend Title I schools. ESSA changed this provision and the guidance makes clear that the LEA must reserve Title I funds to provide educationally related support services to homeless children and youth regardless of whether they attend a Title I school. In other words, the need to reserve funding for McKinney-Vento services and programs applies even when all schools in an LEA are Title I school (including Title I schoolwide schools) or when an LEA has a mix of Title I schools and non-Title I schools. If the LEA has a mixture of Title I and non-Title I schools then the LEA can use McKinney-Vento funding to provide regular Title I services to homeless students attending non-Title I schools as well as to provide homeless students with services not ordinarily provided to Title I students regardless of the type of school they attend.

To be clear, an LEA is not required to reserve a specific amount of funding for services under McKinney Vento. There is no designated set-aside amount. However, the funding level must be sufficient to provide appropriate services to homeless children. The guidance also says that if an LEA has a small number of homeless children it could use a district-wide per-pupil amount for homeless students if it meets the requirement for serving homeless children in ESEA. ESSA and the guidance also recommends that an LEA conduct a needs assessment to determine how much they should be spending on homeless students and youth. Like in the past, McKinney-Vento funding can be used to pay for a local liaison’s salary and expenses, transportation to/from the school of origin and other services not usually provided to Title I students. 

August 7, 2018

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

AASA Leads Letter to Administration on Regulatory Treatment of Voucher Programs

AASA along with 21 other organizations that belong to the National Coalition for Public Education wrote a letter asking the Trump administration to close a tax shelter that allows donors to state tax credit voucher programs to reap both state and federal tax benefits. Eighteen states have tax credit scholarship programs, which award individuals or businesses a full or partial tax credit when they donate to organizations that grant private school scholarships.  The letter specifically addresses a soon-to-be-released regulation on the State and Local Tax Cap that was put in place under the GOP tax proposal last year that caps state and local tax deductions at $10,000. 

While the letter does not take a position on how the IRS treats states that have proposed a similar workaround that would allow taxpayers to get a federal deduction and a state credit for their donations to support public schools, the IRS is expected to block theses efforts in high-tax states. If the IRS denies states like New Jersey, New York, Oregon and others to use an identical state tax credit/federal deduction work-around the letter argues that it would create a tax preference for donations to private schools over public schools. 

When the proposed SALT regulation is released we will be asking school leaders to submit comments to the IRS, so stay tuned! 

July 24, 2018

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Update on Perkins CTE Passage

Our advocacy conference earlier this month was focused heavily on the reauthorization of the Perkins CTE bill. We were optimistic that the stronger, bipartisan House bill—paired with constructive feedback from practitioners, both superintendents and CTE directors—would be incentive enough for the Senate to make improvements to its bill in its rush to get something over the finish line. We did everything we could, and I am humbled by the time, passion and energy I have seen superintendents across the country dedicate to CTE advocacy the last two weeks. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t enough, and last night, the Senate unanimously passed a reauthorization for the Perkins CTE Act that AASA was unable to support. The process for moving this bill forward is in stark contrast to the last major K-12 reauthorization, ESSA, and the quality of the bill is reflective of it. I have put-together a quick summary of the key provisions in the Senate bill, which will become law this week. The House is going to pass the bill tomorrow and it will go to President Trump for his signature shortly thereafter.

AASA worked closely with the House over the past two Congresses to pass a strong, bipartisan bill that had universal support from stakeholders in K-12, higher education and business communities. Our two major priorities—reducing the paperwork burden and streamlining the accountability system—were clearly reflected in the House bill.

However, due to enormous political pressure from the White House and business groups this spring, the Senate threw together a hastily written bill that they released on June 26th giving AASA and other stakeholders less than 48 hours to submit comments. The Senate HELP Committee then voted on June 28th on their bill and due to political pressure Senators were urged not to offer amendments. It is not unheard of to see a concerning/flawed bill move to the floor of the chamber; the calculus was more intense and concerning this go-around because Senate education leaders refused to conference their bill with the House bill. Instead of taking a week or two to negotiate with the House and work out differences (just like what occurred during ESSA) and have a traditional legislative process that which would have resulted in a good-faith effort to reconcile differences between the two bills—Senate leadership in both parties simply insisted on their version knowing the political pressure was high enough that the House would have no choice, but to just pass their bill as written.

Over the past two weeks, a few minor technical corrections were made to the bill and by last Thursday the bill was being “hotlined,” which is a way to fast-track legislation to the Senate floor without any opportunity for amendments.  The hotline process requires the passage of legislation by unanimous consent that can only be stopped if a single Senate office calls Senate leadership and places a hold on the bill from moving forward. While we had some great advocacy from superintendents in several states requesting that their Senator place a hold on the bill until our concerns were addressed we could not stop the bill from hitting the floor last night.

In reflecting on what we could have done differently, there is room for improvement all the way around. We were also frustrated to find ourselves out front and virtually alone in articulating that politics should not trump sound education policy. As a result, we were the only major K-12 organization that vocally opposed this bill and we simply couldn’t compete with the White House and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by ourselves.

We tried our best to pass meaningful CTE legislation that would have improved access and equity in CTE programs across the country as well as ensured that district leaders had the flexibility to really focus on program improvement in a meaningful and sensible way. Unfortunately, politics got the better of policy.

Thank you for your individual efforts to make calls, send emails and show-up to meetings on the Hill and have difficult conversations. The success of our department begins and ends with the engagement and support of our AASA members, and we so appreciate the time and effort you gave in fighting this good fight, even if we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. With the groundwork we have laid this time, I am confident we will win next time.

July 10, 2018

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

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Content

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

 

 

July 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

June 25, 2018

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New COPS Grants Are Available

Under the STOP School Violence Act, Congress authorized $25 million to be provided to districts and local law enforcement agencies to prevent school violence. While districts are not eligible as the primary application under this program any school district interested in the program is encouraged to partner with their State, unit of local government to submit an application for funding. The funding can be used for:

  • Coordination with law enforcement
  • Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self
  • Metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures
  • Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency
  • Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security

 The deadline is July 30, 2018 to apply. All the details are available here: https://cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=2958 

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.   

June 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 18. 2018

(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 18, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 18, 2018

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

Guest Blog: School Safety & Door Barricades Guide

This guest blog comes from Robert Boyd, Executive Director of the Secure Schools Alliance. The alliance has created a quick reference guide, available for AASA members, with information and things to consider when it comes to classroom barricades. 

Physical security is a priority for school administrators and facility managers, to help ensure the safety of students, staff members, and visitors during an active shooter/hostile event.  While evaluating methods of securing doors to prevent access, it’s crucial to consider other hazards and the need for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility, as well as the possibility of unauthorized lockdown.

There are many available options for locking classroom doors, but not all security devices comply with the national life safety codes and the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Some may impede evacuation, affect the performance of fire door assemblies, or be difficult or impossible for someone with a disability to operate.  In school shootings that have occurred, the ability to evacuate immediately has proven critical to reducing casualties.  

Barricading doors with furniture or other items can be used as a last resort to deter access during a lockdown, but classroom barricade devices may introduce other risks and liabilities.  In addition to the life safety and accessibility concerns, these devices could be used by an unauthorized person to secure a room and prevent access by school staff and emergency responders.  Doors have been barricaded during several past school shootings, as well as other hostage-taking incidents and assaults in schools.    

The Secure Schools Alliance has published a document which outlines important considerations related to the use of classroom barricade devices; additional guidance and links to school security resources are also included.  This information will help school administrators choose classroom security methods that maintain life safety and accessibility, as well as limiting unauthorized access.

 

June 12, 2018(1)

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Call to Action: Urge your Rep to oppose PROSPER Act

The House will be counting votes tonight (June 12) to decide whether to consider the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act through their bill, the PROSPER Act. This bill would significantly increase the teacher shortage issue I know many of you are facing by eliminating all teacher preparation elements of HEA and all student loan forgiveness programs currently exercised by teachers in public schools. Please take two minutes to contact your Representative using our legislative action center here:  http://www.congressweb.com/AASA/88. The message will auto-populate, but is open for your edits to put personal touches where applicable. It would be great to get as many messages in today, to stop the momentum and hopefully kill this terrible bill before it comes forward.  

June 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 Hashtags: #strike301and302 #itstime #DiversityMatters 

Sample tweets:

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 8, 2018

(ED FUNDING, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

BJA STOP School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program 

(To view table on smartphone click here)

 

Eligible Applicants

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

 

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

Geographic Distribution of Funding

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

 

Totaling $21,150,000 for everything

To Apply

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

Eligible Solicitation Funding

SOLICITATION LIMITS ALLOWABLE USES TO:

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

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

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

  • Development of technology for local or regional anonymous reporting systems

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

 

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

Evidence-Based Requirement

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

8 BJA-2018-14489

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

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

How Long will the Grant Be For

36-month performance period, beginning October 1, 2018

Cost-Sharing or Matching

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

Award Date

By September 30, 2018

 

BJA STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program

(To view table on smartphone click here)

 

Eligible Applicants

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

 

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

Geographic Distribution of Funding

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

 

Totaling $26,000,000 for everything

To Apply

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

Eligible Solicitation Funding

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

 

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

 

Details on Deliverables:

Deliverables:

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

Evidence-Based Requirement

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

8 BJA-2018-14489

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

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

How Long will the Grant Be For

36-month performance period, beginning October 1, 2018

Cost-Sharing or Matching

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

Award Date

By September 30, 2018

 

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

June 8, 2018

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

School Practitioner Student Data & Privacy Bootcamp

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

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

Privacy Boot Camp Agenda: Monday, July 9  

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

 

June 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full statement.

 

June 5, 2018(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH) Permanent link

The Uphill Battle to Save Net Neutrality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 5, 2018

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

National Title II Day of Action: June 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dear ____,
    I am writing as a constituent, as a leader in my school, and as a leader in my community to strongly urge you to provide full funding for the Title II, Part A program in FY 2019. As an educator, I was encouraged when Congress passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. ESSA provided new opportunities for schools to invest in our nation’s teachers, principals and other school leaders.

    Recently, though, I have become alarmed by the very real prospect that Congress will not provide any funding at all for Title II in FY 2019. President Trump’s proposed FY 2019 budget would eliminate all funding for the program. This is dangerously shortsighted because it would severely disrupt many states’ ESSA implementation plans and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.

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

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

    Sincerely, [Educator’s name]

  3. Call your members in Congress: Unsure who your representative is? Visit the Find Your Representative tool. Unsure what to say? Here is a script you can use when speaking to a staff member of the office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2018(1)

(ESEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

May 24, 2018

(ESEA) Permanent link

Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA: Issue 2

AASA was pleased to collaborate and contribute with a handful of education organizations to the latest handbook from Opportunity Institute and Council of Chief State School Officers to support local leaders working more collaboratively to include students, families, educators and partners into the ESSA policy making and implementation process. 

The handbook is titled Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA Issue 2: A Handbook for Local Leaders  on Engagement in School Improvement and is designed for state education leaders, school and district leaders and advocates to inform efforts to engage peers and stakeholders in all aspects of planning and implementation of ESSA. This handbook is a follow up to Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA: Issue 1.

Access the handbook

May 22, 2018

 Permanent link

AASA Recommends Against Considering the PROSPER Act

House GOP members have scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, May 23 to discuss bringing to a vote the PROSPER Act, the GOP bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. AASA, along with AESA, ASBO, and NREAC, sent a letter urging House leadership to refrain from taking up this partisan bill. The PROSPER Act would greatly increase the problem of educator shortages and the student loan burden on teachers.

May 21, 2018

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

New USED Initiative Assists with Website Accessibility

Is your school district’s website ADA compliant? As a school leader, knowing the answer to this question is more important than you may realize, and if you are unsure whether that answer is yes, or no, then you need to have a conversation with whomever manages your schools’ website to find out.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been serving notices to school districts across the country whose school websites are not accessible to individuals with disabilities. And since you don’t want that complaint hitting your desk, our team wanted to alert you to a new website accessibility technical assistance initiative that the OCR launched to provide schools and districts with vital information on website accessibility, including tips for making online programs accessible.

OCR will offer three initial webinars to jumpstart this initiative on the following dates:

  • Webinar I: May 29, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. EDT
  • Webinar II: June 5, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. EDT
  • Webinar III: June 12, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. EDT

Feel free to share this information with your webmaster, but also plan to attend yourself if you’d like to learn more about the OCR’s expectations for your website and how to ensure your webpages aren’t discriminating any persons with disabilities, because it's not just the homepage that needs to be compliant.

May 15, 2018

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

Advocacy Round Up: DACA, Rescission, and Net Neutrality

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

 

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

 

May 14, 2018

(IDEA) Permanent link

AASA Comments on Significant Disproportionality Regulation Delay

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

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

You can read our complete comments here

May 10, 2018

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Sends Letter on Farm Bill

Today, AASA and over 50 other groups sent a letter to the House urging Representatives to oppose the nutrition program changes made in H.R. 2, the Farm Bill reauthorization bill currently under consideration. The bill increases work requirements for families to qualify for SNAP, which could force 1 million families, many with children, to lose their access to these critical nutrition benefits. It also makes cuts to categorical eligibility, which could lead 265,000 children to lose automatic access to meals and would call into question the 9.7 million students currently served through the Community Eligibility Provision. Please join us in telling your Representatives to oppose these changes to nutrition programs.

May 9, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

May 9, 2018

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, May 2018

By Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director, AASA

 

The VOUCHER Fight Of 2018: Are You Weighing In?

It’s no secret the Trump/DeVos Administration favors efforts to privatize federal education dollars. With the help of a Republican-controlled Congress, they have eked out a few wins this session that furthers the pro-voucher agenda. 

First, in the FY17 Omnibus last year, voucher proponents were successful in getting the only federally-funded voucher program—the DC voucher program—reauthorized for 5 years despite a widely publicized study conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Education that found D.C. students using vouchers to attend private schools were performing worse than their public school counterparts in math and reading.

Second, during the tax reform debate in Congress, voucher advocates received support for a change to 529 college savings accounts that permits taxpayers in some states to use these tax-free accounts to set aside $10,000 in K-12 private school expenses as well.

However, as soon as the ink dried on tax reform, AASA began fighting the most significant of battles that threaten public education dollars this Congress. Working closely with our friends at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) and many other education, civil rights, disability rights, religious and secular groups that belong to the National Coalition for Public Education (which AASA co-chairs), we honed in on a new voucher proposal that would allow active duty military families living on military bases to obtain a $2,500 (or in some exceptional cases a $4,500) voucher that they could use for private school, homeschool, virtual school, summer camp, tutoring and therapies, or college savings.

The scheme was flexible and straightforward: As long as an active-duty military family would not send their child to a public school full-time they could receive a small but very flexible voucher known as an “education savings account.” How would these vouchers be subsidized? Only through the oldest, most respected and most bipartisan funding stream at the federal level: Impact Aid.

Impact Aid was designed to direct federal dollars to districts who lack tax revenue due to the presence of federal land (forests, military bases/depots, Indian reservations, etc). It was never meant to be doled out on a per-pupil basis and it was never meant to be used solely to support military-connected kids. However, the Heritage Foundation, the most powerful conservative organization in the country along with their friends like ALEC, EdChoice, The American Federation of Children, The Club for Growth, and about 20 other heavy-hitting conservative pro-voucher organizations decided this was the education fight for 2018 and they proposed legislation called, “The Military Education Savings Account” (HR 5199/S.2517).

To up the ante to get the bill passed, Heritage took the unusual step of adding co-sponsorship of the bill to its political scorecard—which means a Republican hoping to be in Heritage’s good policy and funding graces during this election cycle would lose points even if they failed to co-sponsor (little less vote for) the bill. To date, there are more than 60 Republicans in the House who are signed on as co-sponsors. That’s 1 out of every 4 Republicans in the House.

The good news? We’ve already won round 1 in the fight. Despite having considerably fewer resources to go toe-to-toe with these well-funded political organizations, the education community (helped considerably by allies in the military community that we engaged) has succeeded in making Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee  uncomfortable enough with this specific proposal that the Committee vote planned for May 9th on the bill will not come up for a vote. While we may have won the first battle to protect Impact Aid funding from vouchers the war is far from over.

Because they were denied a vote in Committee, Heritage and its allies need to rally enough votes to pass this on the floor of the House. The week of May 21st is when the House will be considering this bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). NDAA is a must-pass bill to fund the Department of Defense every year. The Senate Armed Services Committee will also be considering this bill as part of their mark-up of NDAA.

If you haven’t weighed in yet with House or Senate representatives—please do! YOUR voice makes a difference in debate. After personally attending dozens of meetings with House staff over the past three months about the Impact Aid voucher bill, I was repeatedly heartened to hear that they had already heard from school leaders who expressed “strong concerns” with this proposal and that your voices were making a meaningful difference in how Congressional offices viewed the bill.

The takeaway for school leaders: It doesn’t matter the opponent—your voice matters.

You are a highly-respected constituent and all the money and political pressure from the other side doesn’t always equate to victory. Keep weighing in. We must stop this new federal education voucher scheme from coming to fruition.  

May 2, 2018

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AASA Releases Findings From School Discipline Survey

Today AASA is releasing an important survey of 950 superintendents in 47 states that analyzes the influence the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline (referred to hereafter as “the 2014 discipline guidance) on district discipline policies and practices. You can access the analysis here.

Originally when the 2014 guidance and the application of a disparate impact analysis was issued to by the Office of Civil Rights, AASA released a strongly worded statement that we did not think this analysis was appropriate and we felt it was going to be especially difficult for districts to comply with the new requirements given that no funding was dedicated at the federal level to improving discipline practices and policies.

 There has been intense speculation that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will rescind the 2014 discipline guidance and AASA had the opportunity to meet with officials at the U.S. Department of Education about the guidance this spring to share our views. To better inform our discussions with the Department and other stakeholders AASA partnered with the Association of Educational Service Agencies and ASBO International to ascertain the impact of the 2014 discipline guidance on school districts. Specifically, we sought to understand how the 2014 discipline guidance is perceived in the field as well as how the increasingly aggressive processes that existed under the Obama Administration for investigating individual discipline complaints under Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act had influenced district policies and practices.

FINDINGS

  •  The 2014 discipline guidance itself had a very limited impact on changing district discipline policies and practices. Given that only 16 percent of district leaders surveyed in 2018 indicated their district has modified their school discipline policies and practices because of the 2014 discipline guidance, we cannot say that it is having the positive or negative effects some advocates are claiming.
  • More generalized pressure from OCR to address discipline disparities has changed local policies and practices in a different and more substantial way than the guidance. Beginning in 2009, OCR opened hundreds of investigations or compliance reviews that forced districts to change discipline practices and policies. The noticeable uptick in investigations and compliance reviews over the last nine years seems to have acted as a more powerful lever in influencing districts to reduce out-of-school time for students even if teachers, parents or students preferred for that specific child to be removed from class.

CONTINUATION OF THE 2014 DISCIPLINE GUIDANCE

Whether the 2014 discipline guidance should stay or go is not something AASA can adequately weigh in on, given the feedback from our survey and our interviews with school leaders. AASA continues to worry about the application of the disparate impact analysis in the K-12 educational context and whether it is appropriate. However, AASA believes the expanded reach of OCR in how it investigates districts for alleged discrimination in student discipline practices is the most substantial problem for districts that can and should be addressed at the federal level. The adoption of a new case-processing manual at OCR and a narrowing of the types of unwritten disciplinary practices OCR can request should make a meaningful positive difference. Outside of OCR’s pace and style of investigating discipline discrimination, the 2014 discipline guidance itself has not been transformative in changing discipline policies and practices for districts.

April 25, 2018

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

House Committee Passes Farm Bill

 Last week, the House Agriculture Committee advanced H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 to reauthorize the Farm Bill. The bill passed on a party-line vote of 26-20. While AASA does not take a position on the bill itself, we are very concerned about the bill’s effects on crucial nutrition programs, including school lunch and breakfast programs. As advocates for students, we are very concerned about the bill’s impacts on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. The bill imposes stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients than previous bills. This would cause one million households – including many with children – to lose their SNAP benefits or have them reduced. This will further increase food insecurity among students.

Additionally, the bill narrows the categorical eligibility option, which allows states to raise the threshold for eligibility for SNAP. This would also impact direct certification for school lunch and breakfast programs. If this change were to go into effect, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that some 265,000 children would lose free school meals. 

April 19, 2018

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AASA Expresses Concern Around Changes to Public Charge Rule

The Trump administration is proposing changes to what programs immigration caseworkers must consider when determining whether immigrants and their children (often U.S. citizens) can use. Currently, this only includes cash assistance (TANF, SSI, state cash aid). The draft proposal makes sweeping changes, including adding SNAP and CHIP to the list of programs that must be considered. This would force immigrant families to choose between their legal immigration status and their children's access to food and health care. The draft rule also eliminates the school lunch/breakfast program from the list of programs they are explicitly not allowed to consider. This leaves the school lunch/breakfast program in a gray area, where parents would be concerned about signing their children up for these critical programs.

AASA sent a letter expressing our concerns for the students in schools across the nation who would be negatively impacted if this rule were to go into effect. 

April 11, 2018

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

AASA Opposes Balanced Budget Amendment

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

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

The Advocate
April 2018

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

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

 

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

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

 

April 5, 2018

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

Homework Gap: ESSA Report Details Trends and Opportunities

9 months after it was due, we finally have the ESSA-required report on the homework gap, which tasked the Institute of Education Sciences to look at the educational impact of access to digital learning resources (DLR) outside of the classroom. The specific asks of the report included: 

 

  1. An analysis of student habits related to DLR outside of the classroom, including the location and types of devices and technologies that students use for educational purposes;
  2. An identification of the barriers students face in accessing DLR outside of the classroom;
  3. A description of the challenges that students who lack home internet access face, including challenges related to student participation and engagement in the classroom and homework completion;
  4. An analysis of how the barriers and challenges such students face impact the instructional practices of educators; and
  5. A description of the ways in which state education agencies, local education agencies, schools, and other entities, including partnerships of such entities, have developed effective means to address the barriers and challenges students face in accessing DLR outside of the classroom.

AASA has followed the issue of the homework gap for one simple reason: as schools, teachers and classrooms are increasingly reliant on internet access to support teaching and learning, the lack of access at home represents a very real obstacle for students. They can’t do their homework not because they’re lazy or don’t understand it, but because they don’t have access. This report was required, in part, to examine the extent of uneven access to internet and connected devices at home. Top line take aways:

 

  • Nearly two-thirds (61%) of children use the internet at home, meaning over one-third (39%) do not. This is a significant share, and interesting given that 91% of students have access to connectivity at home, meaning that they live in a house with a device they don’t have access to. The big take away, however, is that 1/3 of students don’t use the internet.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, the share of students with access to high-speed internet at home fell from 89 to 78 percent. 
  • The top two reasons why children (ages 3 to 18) lacked access to the internet at home were listed as cost (too expensive) or that their family did not need it/was not interested in having access.
  • The report showed higher average achievement scores for students who used computers at home and/or had internet access at home that those did not. An important caveat: this analysis did not systematically consider the myriad socioeconomic background characteristics that are known to impact student achievement. 

 

Want to read more ? Check out the executive summary or the full report

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.

 

 

 

March 23, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Analysis and Response to FY18 Omnibus Bill

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

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

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

March 22, 2018

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

AASA Supports FY18 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

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

Read our letter.

March 13, 2018

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AASA Weighs in on STOP School Violence Act

AASA is deeply disappointed that we once again find ourselves, our nation, our schools, our students and our communities responding to yet another school shooting and recurring concerns about student safety while at school. We applaud Congress’ efforts to address the important issue of school and student safety, and today sent a letter to offices on Capitol Hill about an important bill that will be voted on tomorrow in the House of Representatives: The Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018. This legislation is designed to fund school security improvements and invest in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens. 

We are pleased to see both the Senate and the House come together in a bipartisan manner to address this important topic and we urge Congress to continue to work together on this important legislation, which must be the first and not only, to address the physical safety of our students while in schools. However, we have several concerns with the STOP School Violence Act as written and hope that both chambers make changes to the text needed to garner AASA's support. You can read our letter here

 

March 12, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

New FY18 Letter Urges Investment in Programs that Promote Equity

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

AASA was joined by 

 

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

Read the full letter here.

 

March 8, 2018

(IDEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full letter here.

Groups signing the letter: 

 

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

 

March 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about the case listen to this podcast.

 

March 1, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 1, 2018

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

 

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

 

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

  

February 23, 2018(1)

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

AASA Partners with Educational Organizations on Updated ESSA Timeline

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

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

Access the timeline here

February 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2018(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

Read the full letter.

February 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 21, 2018(1)

 Permanent link

Higher Education Act Priorities

Today, AASA sent a letter to the Senate Health Education Workforce and Pensions committee laying out our priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Our recommendations largely stem around countering the increasing teacher shortage through preservation and improvement of grants and loan repayment options for future and current teachers. The Senate is currently working towards a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This follows a very partisan (GOP) bill that already made it through the House Education and the Workforce committee.

February 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 20, 2018

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

Policy Recap from NCE

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

 

 

February 15, 2018

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Sixth Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study Released

Today, AASA released the sixth edition of the Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study. Some of this year’s survey's key findings included:

  • Base salaries ranged from $50,000 to $393,000, with a median of $127,085 aand an average of $137,131.
  • Respondents are predominately male (76 percent), White (93 percent) and from intermediate-sized districts (300-2,499 students, 59 percent) regardless of their gender.
  • Female respondents were, on average, slightly older than male respondents (with a median age of 53 to 52 respectively).
  • Despite the strengthening national economy, the trend continues over the last six editions that few superintendents see their district economic condition as strong. In 2013, 43 percent of respondents described their districts as in declining economic condition. This year, one third of respondents still described the economic condition as declining.

AASA members can access a full members-only report, including a rich list of unique contract provisions on the my.aasa.org site. A public version of the survey is available here.

February 12, 2018(2)

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

AASA Responds to President Trump's FY19 Budget Proposal

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

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

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

February 12, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2018(1)

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

AASA Releases New I Love Public Education Toolkit

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

February 8, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

January 31, 2018

(ESEA) Permanent link

Coalition Letter Asks: Where's the ESSA Homework Gap Report?

Among other things, ESSA included language requiring reports on a handful of topics. Three in particular are of interest to AASA:

 

  • A report looking at rural education and the role of USED in assuring rural opportunity and the unique needs of rural schools/communities
  • A report looking at the ESSA Title I formula and how it's weighting constructs do (or do not) truly meet the goal of ensuring dollars are allocated equitably, with greater dollars flowing to areas of greater need
  • A report looking at the homework gap, or the frequency with which students lack internet access at home

All three of these reports were due in June of 2017, 18 months after the bill was signed into law. As of today, ony the rural report has been released, and even that one was six months late.

To that end, AASA was pleased to be one of 20 national organizations signing a joint letter to the director of the Institute of Education Sciences asking about the status of the report. Read the letter.

 

January 26, 2018

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Call to Action: Pass DREAM Act NOW!

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

Resources

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

January 24, 2018

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

Guest Blog: How Superintendents Can Be Effective in Local Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

January 22, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 22, 2018

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Toolkit: Leverage National Service in Your School

UPDATED: The toolkit URL is currently not live/available given the federal shutdown. It will return once Congress re-opens government. 

Last week the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released their Superintendent’s/Principal’s Toolkit detailing how to utilize national service to support student success. Many people don’t always realize that CNCS is a federal agency and that about half of their annual budget supports education-related programs.  This toolkit is intended for use by principals, superintendents, and other education stakeholders to better access and leverage federal resources.

New Superintendent's/Principal's Toolkit on Using National Service
to 
Strengthen Schools and Student Success

Educators, do you wish you had resources to:

 

  • Provide one-on-one tutoring to students to increase academic achievement?
  • Mentor students to improve attendance and graduation rates?
  • Work with community partners to develop after-school or summer programs?
  • Advise students on applying for financial aid for college?
  • Help support your implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act?
  • Conduct fundraising and outreach?
  • Create a pipeline of future teachers?

 

If you answered YES to any of these questions, check out the new Toolkit and start leveraging national service in your schools.  The toolkit has useful information for state and local officials as well as other education stakeholders.

Each year 90,000 trained AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers provide in-school and after-school support to at-risk youth.  With federal funding from CNCS, schools across the country are using this proven source of human capital to help students succeed in school and fulfill their potential after graduation. 

Almost 12,000 schools across the country are leveraging national service programs to meet local needs including kindergarten readiness, third grade literacy, attendance improvement, support for low-performing schools, and on-time graduation.  Learn more from our CNCS education overview "National Service Strengthens Education," and on their Education webpage.

Access the toolkit today! 

 

 

 

The toolkit helps you determine your school's needs, find the right national service program, and apply for the resources that best fit your school or district.

January 10, 2018

(ESEA) Permanent link

USED Letter Details School Improvement Grant Flexibilities

USED Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Botel sent the following letter to state education agencies detailing flexbilities within the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program:

 

Dear Colleague:

I am writing regarding the implementation of the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to follow up on the Dear Colleague letter (available at https://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/sigdirapplicationltr3292016.pdf) sent on March 29, 2016, regarding the use of remaining SIG funds and to update you on SIG reporting requirements. 

Use of remaining SIG funds

In the letter dated March 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) explained that a State must continue to comply with the SIG final requirements throughout the period of availability of any remaining SIG funds, including any extended period of availability pursuant to waivers of the period of availability of SIG funds.  The letter also explained that a State could, but was not required to, use funds that it reserved in fiscal year 2017 and future years under section 1003(a) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to support full implementation of SIG awards initially made with prior-year funds. 

Many States have contacted the Department to request additional flexibility regarding the use of remaining SIG funds.  States have cited as reasons for their request waning interest from local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools in applying for or implementing SIG in light of the new requirements in ESSA, the large amount of remaining SIG funds and the States’ focus on fully transitioning to ESSA.  Given these reasons, the Department supports States’ interest in increased flexibility for the use of SIG funds.  

Accordingly, pursuant to the authority to ensure an orderly transition authority to the ESSA, a State may, at its discretion, use any remaining SIG funds either: (1) consistent with the SIG final requirements; or (2) consistent with the requirements of section 1003 of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA.  A State that decides to use some or all of its remaining SIG funds consistent with section 1003 of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, may, at its discretion, permit an LEA that is currently implementing SIG to transition to the requirements of section 1003 of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, with its remaining SIG funds.   

SIG reporting requirements

The SIG final requirements require each State to submit a number of SIG-specific data and reporting elements for SIG schools to the Department on an annual basis.  Because the SIG program is eliminated under the ESSA, it is no longer necessary for States to continue to meet those SIG-specific reporting requirements.  Thus, consistent with the provisions of the ESSA that authorize the Secretary to ensure an orderly transition to the new law, the Department will no longer require a State to report SIG-specific data to the Department (see EDFacts C167 at https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/edfacts/eden/non-xml/c167-12-0.doc).  

Should you need further clarification or have any questions, please contact your State program officer in the Office of State Support.

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.

January 8, 2018

(ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, January 2018

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

New Year, Not So New to Do List

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

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

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

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

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

While not related in terms of policy, the politics overlap: When President Trump announced the end of DACA protections for young people brought here as minors, he started a six-month clock for Congress to resolve this issue. That timeline expires in March, meaning Congress has less than two months to find common ground. Democrats are interested in a clean DACA deal, the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that provides a path to citizenship. AASA supports the DREAM Act. Republicans are interested in expanding the conversation to include some of their broader immigration priorities, including money to build a portion of the wall, ending chain migration, and a few other things. A bipartisan group of Congress is expected to meet the week of January 8, and that should give a good indication of if a bi-partisan deal can move forward.

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

January 3, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

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

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

The SRS safety net is unraveling in 775 counties and 4,400 school districts serving 9 million students in 41 states.  Congress failed again to act on SRS and forest management.  The SRS safety net program for forest communities are based on historic precedent and agreements begun in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity. 

Congress also just failed to provide additional hurricane aid and support for wildfires. Congress should fund these programs and ACT to fund Secure Rural School and Forest communities. 

JANUARY ACTION

 

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

 

THANK YOU. 

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

 

 

December 22, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

ESSA Fiscal Transparency: Webinar Q&A Transcript

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

 

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

 

December 20, 2017

(ESEA) Permanent link

Toolkit for ESSA Early Learning Requirements

Under ESSA, districts receiving Title I funds now face new requirements and opportunities regarding early childhood programs. We were happy to take part in developing a toolkit for superintendents to use to understand these new requirements and opportunities and especially to assist in the development of agreements with Head Start and other early childhood programs, as is now required. The toolkit, available here, includes and explanation of all of ESSA's early childhood components as well as sample MOUs that can be used by superintendents when developing their own agreements.

December 18, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Call to Action: Kill the Tax Bill

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

Background

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

Call to Action:

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

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

PHONE SCRIPT   

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

EMAIL TEXT

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

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

Dear {INSERT NAME},

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

 

 

 

 

December 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

You can find your Pennsylvania Congressman’s contact information here

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

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

December 13, 2017(1)

(ESEA, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Continuing the Conversation

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has convened a broad group of education associations to talk and work through the important work of stakeholder engagement. AASA has been involved in the conversations and is pleased to share the latest CCSSO publication, Let's Continue This Conversation: How to Turn New Stakeholder Connections into Long-Term Relationships

As the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) begins, now is the time to reiterate your commitment and turn these new connections into long-term relationships by establishing sustainable ways to continue to listen to, inform and learn from your stakeholders. This guide is intended to help states assess the engagement strategies used during the ESSA development stage, identify the ones to sustain or refine, and develop a long-term plan that will continue to create opportunities for stakeholders to be heard on this and other education issues. You can access it on the CCSSO website, as well. 

December 13, 2017

(ED FUNDING, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

  • State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D): Currently, tax payers can deduct the amount they pay in state and local taxes before calculating their federal income tax. Both the House and Senate bills make changes to how individuals can deduce SAL taxes, but not corporations. The bills allow for the deduction of property taxes (Capped at $10,000) and eliminate the deduction for income and personal property taxes).
  • 529 College Savings Plans: Currently, tax payers can put money away to pay costs associated with postsecondary education. The benefit associated with these accounts (the accrued/compounded interest) is not taxed when the dollars are drawn down for eligible college expanses, and annual withdrawals are capped at $2000. Under both the House and Senate bills, the plans would be expanded to allow withdrawals of up to $10,000 per year and expand the plans to allow the funds to be used for costs associated with costs associated with public/private elementary/secondary education. The Senate bill also expands the program allows the withdrawals to be used for home-schooling expenses.
  • Bonds: Currently, school districts have access to a variety of bonds and financing options when it comes to paying for/affording capital and infrastructure projects. These programs include Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs), advanced refunding, and private activity bonds. (You can read a good explainer on the blog.) The House bill eliminates QZABs, QCEBs, advanced refunding and private activity bonds. The Senate bill does not address tax credit bonds or private activity bonds, but does end advanced refunding effective December 31, 2017. If the changes go through, it would increase the costs incurred by school district association with financing school construction and renovation.
  • Lack of Pay Fors: The tax cuts in the bill need to be paid for, and neither the House nor the Senate bill completely offset the costs associated with their plan. Instead, they have authorized themselves to raise the nation’s deficit over ten years to pay for the portion they aren’t paying for now (and (estimated to be $1.5 trillion). AASA is concerned that should a tax plan that is deficit-financed move forward, Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and that those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending. Congress already struggles to avoid deep cuts to important education programs as they work to comply with existing federal funding caps and constraints; a debt-financed tax reform would only exacerbate this tension and the depth of cuts to important education programs.
  • Teacher Expenses: Current law allows eligible educators (including teachers) to exclude an amount not to exceed $250 from income when those dollars were spent on books, supplies, professional development and other classroom expense. The House bill eliminates this exclusion; the Senate bill would double the maximum (to $500).
  • College Affordability: Current law provides a variety of supports and tax incentives that help make higher education affordable. The House bill consolidates the current higher education tax credits, repeals the deduction for interest paid on student loans, repeals the deduction for tuition and related expenses, repeals the exclusion of interest from savings bonds used to pay education expenses, repeals the exclusion of tuition reductions, and repeals the exclusion of employer-provided education assistance. The Senate bill makes none of these changes.
  • Child Care Tax Credit: Current law allows an individual to claim a $1,000 tax credit for a qualifying child under the age of 17. The House bill raises the credit to $1,600 and phases out at $230,00 income level (married). The Senate bill raises the credit to $2,000 and phases out at $500,000 income level (married).

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

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

December 13, 2017

 Permanent link

House Committee Passes HEA Reauthorization Bill

Late last night, after 14 hours of debate, the House Education and Workforce committee passed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The vote was 23-17, along party lines. The bill eliminates all elements of HEA that help K-12 teachers - TEACH grants, public service loan forgiveness, and all of Title II - including the Teacher Quality Partnership grants. In the place of TEACH grans and public service loan forgiveness, the bill adopts a "one grant, one loan, and one work-study system," putting teachers in the same loan and repayment system as all other loan recipients. This bill would exacerbate the teacher shortages seen across the country, especially in rural communities. 

The Senate has not yet released any language or priorities for their HEA strategy.

December 11 2017

(ESEA) Permanent link

Transition for ESSA Title I supplement, not supplant requirements

Last week, USED sent a note to State Education Agency (SEA) Title I Directors, regarding the timeline for compliance with the supplement, not supplant (SNS) requirements in ESSA. We share it here for your reference, and so you know what has been shared with your state agency.

Dear Colleague:

Thank you for your continued efforts to implement the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  To facilitate implementation and ensure a smooth transition to the new law, I am writing to inform you that the U.S. Department of Education (Department) will provide State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) additional time to implement the new requirement in section 1118(b)(2) of the ESEA for demonstrating compliance with the supplement not supplant requirement under Title I, Part A (Title I) of the ESEA.  In addition, I would like to highlight steps the Department is taking to support SEAs and LEAs in implementing this important new requirement.

Timeline for Implementation: Under section 1118(b)(2) of the ESEA, “[t]o demonstrate compliance with [the supplement not supplant requirement], a local educational agency shall demonstrate that the methodology used to allocate State and local funds to each school receiving [Title I funds] ensures that such school receives all of the State and local funds it would otherwise receive if it were not receiving [Title I funds].”  With respect to the timeline for implementation, section 1118(b)(5) of the ESEA requires that an LEA meet the compliance requirement not later than two years after the date of enactment of the ESSA— i.e., December 10, 2017.  We are aware that some SEAs and LEAs are taking steps to develop a methodology or use an existing methodology that meets the new compliance requirement by December 10, 2017, and we encourage those SEAs and LEAs to move forward with their process.  We also recognize that for many LEAs it may not be reasonable to implement a new methodology in the middle of a school year and that the first implementation of the methodology cannot occur until the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.  Therefore, consistent with section 4(b) of the ESSA, which authorizes the Department to ensure an orderly transition to the new law, an SEA and its LEAs may delay meeting the compliance requirement in section 1118(b)(2) of the ESEA until the start of the 2018-2019 school year.  That is, an LEA does not need to have its methodology in place on December 10, 2017, but the LEA must have a methodology in place in time for the LEA to use it when ensuring that Title I funds are supplementing, and not supplanting, other State and local funds in the 2018-2019 school year. Of course, ESEA still requires that, even if the new methodology is not yet in place, SEAs and LEAs are utilizing all Title I, Part A funds only to supplement the funds that would, in the absence of such Title I, Part A funds, be made available from State and local sources for the education of students participating in programs assisted under Title I, Part A, and not to supplant, such State and local funds.

Additional Support: The supplement not supplant requirement under Title I remains critically important to ensuring that Title I funds provide additional resources to students and teachers in Title I schools that have high concentrations of students from low-income families to counteract the effects of poverty in order to make it more likely that all children are provided significant opportunity to receive a “fair, equitable, and high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps,” which is identified in section 1001 of the ESEA as the purpose of Title I.  Therefore, we are committed to supporting SEAs and LEAs as they move forward with implementation of this critical requirement.  Part of this commitment is to meet with various stakeholders to receive input toward developing non-regulatory guidance on the new Title I supplement not supplant requirement to support SEAs and LEAs to making the transition to this new requirement.  

Thank you again for the work that you continue to do to implement the ESEA.  Please send suggestions of questions or topics that you would like to see the guidance address to your Office of State Support program officer at OSS.[State]@ed.gov (e.g., OSS.Nebraska@ed.gov) on or before January 17, 2018.

Sincerely,

Patrick Rooney
Deputy Director

Office of State Support

December 7, 2017(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Tax Cuts & Jobs Act: Side by Side Analysis

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

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