April 19, 2018

 Permanent link

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

 Permanent link

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.

December 7, 2017

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

Bipartisan Group of 35 Senators Sends Letter to Leadership Supporting Secure Rural Schools

Earlier this week, a group of 35 bipartisan Senators sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to include a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program in any end-of-year legislation. You can read the full letter here, and it is a nice complement to a related letter sent by the Secure Rural Schools and Forest Counties Coalition and other supports to both house and senate leadership last month. 
"We write to strongly urge the inclusion of at least a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, which enjoys tremendous bipartisan support, in any end-of-the-year legislation.

"On US Forest Service land, the federal government has historically shared 25 percent of timber harvest revenues with counties to compensate for federal ownership. On certain land managed by the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management shares 50 percent of the revenue from federal timber sales with counties. Due to declining timber harvests, a critical source of funding for rural counties, sometimes referred to as 'forest counties,' has seen significant decreases, often decimating impacted county budgets.

"In 2000, Congress passes SRS with broad bipartisan support as a fiscal solution to help fund essential services resulting from the reduced revenue-sharing receipts. Since then, SRS has been a critical lifeline for over 775 counties in over 40 states across the country by helping fund more than 4,000 schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations.

"We are now witnessing firsthand the hardships rural counties face as a result of SRS authorization lapsing. Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries, and jails are closing. Schools that remain open will see a reduction of teachers. Roads go unpaed and become unsafe. Mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers are forced to patrol larger and larger areas.

"The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies.

"In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that yo include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any end-of-year legislation. We appreciate your assistance with this matter."

December 2, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response to Senate Vote on Tax Bill

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response to the Senate vote for the Tax Cuts & Jobs bill: 

“AASA is frustrated by Congress’ continued partisan efforts to pass the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. 

“Changes to tax policy can be a good thing, a chance for leadership and opportunity. The bill passed by the Senate fails on all of these fronts, threatens one of our nation’s original forms of infrastructure (public education) and stands to do far more harm, than good. As the national organization representing the leaders of our nation’s public school systems, we are frustrated with this tax plan and how those who voted for it lack an understanding of—or even care about—its impact on public schools. 

“We are concerned with the continued disconnect from Congressional leadership on how the policies in this bill—including the elimination of the SALT-D deduction, reliance on deficit financing, and changes to bond financing for districts—will negatively impact schools. Just two years ago, a GOP-led Congress supported an overwhelmingly bipartisan ESSA reauthorization. It was a pinnacle demonstration of support for policies centered on compromise, practicality, and supporting and strengthening the nation’s public schools. 

“While today’s vote is a significant pivot toward partisanship and corporate tax cuts paid for by the middle class, we remain committed to representing our members, the nation’s public school superintendents and will work tirelessly with our allies on Capitol Hill to mitigate the damages of this bill, to seek improvements in conference and to expand recognition of the importance of our nation’s public schools.” 

For specific questions, please contact Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

 

 

November 29, 2017(1)

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

Hat Trick of Advocacy Coalition Letters

This week, AASA has signed on to three separate letters related to AASA legislative agenda priorities. These are coalition letters, meaning signed by multiple groups. AASA relies on our member advocacy AND the collaborative approach and strength that comes from advocating in coordination with colleagues in multiple coalitions, from rural education, E-Rate and medicaid, to school nutrition, SALT-D, and IDEA full funding, and many more.

 

  • Secure Rural Schools letter: AASA joined dozens of national and state associations in a letter to House and Senate leadership urging action on the Secure Rural Schools and Communities program.
  • Raise the Caps letter: AASA joined more than 80 other education organizations urging congressional leaders to raise the budget caps on federal spending.
  • Americans Against Double Taxation letter: AASA joined more than 20 other organizations in a letter to the Senate, opposing the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

 

November 29, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Senate Tax Cuts & Jobs Act

AASA opposes the Tax Cuts & Jobs act being considered by the Senate this week. Read our full letter.

November 27, 2017

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

Bond Reform: Another Dire Threat to Public Schools in the GOP’s Tax Plan

Today's guest blog comes from ASBO International Executive Director, John Musso. 

As Congress moves forward with efforts to pass H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” many education groups, including ASBO International, have cited concerns about Republicans’ tax proposals.

The House and Senate proposals include provisions to shrink or repeal the state and local tax (SALT) deduction; divert public funding to private and religious schools via college 529 savings accounts; and eliminate tax deductions for school supplies and student loan interest payments. While these issues would devastate school funding, teachers’ jobs, taxpayers’ wallets, and student learning—they only tell half the story.

If you asked your school district’s CFO, treasurer, or school business official (SBO) what they think is the biggest problem with Republicans’ tax plan, they’d probably say, "bonds.”

Both versions of H.R. 1 would reform how state and local governments, including school districts, can issue tax-exempt bonds to refinance debt. Specifically, they would prohibit school districts from issuing tax-exempt “advance refunding bonds” (ARBs). ARBs are a cost-effective way for districts to refinance high-interest debt at lower-interest rates, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in lower debt payments. Karen Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Financial Services at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, TX, tells us she has overseen multiple advance refundings that “saved taxpayers millions in interest.”

While refinancing school district debt is more complicated than taking out a low-interest loan to pay off higher-interest debt or refinancing a mortgage, refunding bonds effectively serve the same purpose. School districts have two options when issuing tax-exempt bonds for debt refinancing: current refunding bonds (CRBs) or advance refunding bonds (ARBs).

Both options allow districts to pay off high-interest outstanding bonds with a newer-issued bond that leverages falling market interest rates. The main difference is when a district can issue them. CRBs can be issued within 90 days of the outstanding bond’s first call provision date. ARBs can be issued even earlier, giving districts more time to take advantage of falling rates to refinance debt; the lower the rate, the more cost savings the district can expect. Without tax-exempt ARBs, districts will have less flexibility to refinance debt and reallocate funds from debt obligations to what matters most—students.  

If passed, H.R. 1 will allow districts to continue issuing tax-exempt CRBs, but not tax-exempt ARBs, effective December 31. Sharie Lewis, Director of Business Services and Operations at Parkrose School District, OR, says the sudden cutoff for using this critical financing option will put her district “in a huge bind.” Refinancing is a lengthy process requiring extensive discussion between SBOs, school boards, and other stakeholders. It isn’t a decision to make lightly, and requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. Implementing a cutoff date so soon will force districts with outstanding debt to accelerate their refinancing decisions (and risk moving forward with incomplete information), or forego refinancing at taxpayer expense. Jim English, Associate Superintendent for Business Services at West Ottawa Public Schools, MI, says the district is “working on refinancing some of its bonds to save local taxpayers $500,000,” but won’t be able to do so if the tax plan becomes law.

Any tax policy that reduces local school funding, increases tax burdens on taxpayers, and revokes critical tools districts rely on to manage debt and reinvest in student learning does a disservice to our nation’s children, parents, and communities. However, there is still time to advocate on this issue; find everything you need to communicate with your representatives here.  

John Musso is the Executive Director of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). Founded in 1910, ASBO International is a nonprofit organization that, through its members and affiliates, represents approximately 30,000 school business professionals worldwide. Learn more at asbointl.org. This blog was cross-posted with permission and originally appeared at asbointl.org/Network. Education Week published an article based on this blog, available here.

November 20, 2017

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Support Operation Prevention

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

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

November 16, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Statement on House Vote on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (HR 1)

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response the House passage of HR 1, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 227-205:

"AASA is deeply disappointed in the largely partisan vote in the House today. We know the intricacies involved in any legislative vote, and the pressures unique to a tax conversation. Like any budget or funding conversation, tax conversations are filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and today’s vote demonstrates that for 227 members of the House, they have little to no understanding of, or concern for, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. We remain optimistic that this is just the first step in a long process and that subsequent steps will be more deliberate, more transparent, and premised on passing common sense tax policy that works for our country, its people, and its public schools."

November 15, 2017

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

New Report Identifies How Congress Can Better Serve Rural Students

AASA and The Rural School and Community Trust's new partnership is already paying off for school leaders, with the release of the report, Leveling the Playing Field for Rural Students, which identifies how Congress can provide leadership and support to ensure students living in rural America receive a quality education and succeed in life beyond high school. 

Highlights from the report include five education policy recommendations that can be implemented immediately and will benefit the one in six children living in rural communities: 

  • Enabling Access to New, High-Quality Educational Opportunities;
  • Addressing Health Barriers to Learning;
  • Leveraging Career and Technical Programs for Economic Growth;
  • Ending Insecurity for Rural Children;
  • Adequately Investing in Rural Schools.

AASA is extremely excited about our new partnership with the Rural School and Community Trust and is looking forward to more collaboration on behalf of rural schools and the students they serve.

Read the full report, here.

November 15, 2017(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1)

AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives outlining our strong opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (HR1). 

AASA represents public school superintendents, and we are concerned that this bill--as currently drafted--shows little to no regard for the impact of its confluence of changes on our nation's public schools, on the ability of state and local governments' ability to adequately support public infrastructure (including schools), on the reliance of deficit financing to pay for the tax cuts and the impact if will have on federal appropriations, and more. We are not opposed to tax reform as a whole, but believe the House can and must do better to ensure this bill/proposal is bipartisan, deliberate, and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and are deeply concerned that the bill being considered this week falls short of this threshold. Read our full letter, and key excerpts are below. As a reminder, earlier this week we led a letter with 42 other national education groups opposing the House and Senate tax bill.

“On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing more than 13,000 public school superintendents across the country, I write to express our opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). We sent a similar letter to the Ways & Means Committee earlier this month and were disappointed to see zero improvements as it relates to the tax bill and its impact on public schools. Our opposition is not to tax reform in whole; rather, it is to specific provisions within the broader proposal that undermine and threaten our nation’s public school system and the students and communities they serve. 

"We urge Congress to rewrite the plan to preserve the state and local tax deduction, to eliminate the proposed expansion of 529 accounts, to protect and preserve Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, and to ensure that in paying for its tax reform, the bill does not negatively or disproportionately impact non-defense discretionary funding, which provides for education. We are keenly aware that any tax conversation, like any budget or funding conversation, it filled with tough decisions. The combination of these tough decisions, however, is a clear indication of the deciding body’s priorities, and in this instance, there is no indication that this tax plan and those planning to vote for it have an understanding of, or care about, its impact on public schools. Congress must both know and do better, and ensure that any tax reform plan is supportive of public education. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in four categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts), preserving QZABs, and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding.

"As we wrote in our initial response to the proposal, “We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education—both long and short term—and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.” We urge the House to slow its effort to ensure a product that has solid policy footing and broad, bipartisan support. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Congress can—and must—do better. For these reasons, we are opposed to the legislation being considered this week.”

November 15, 2017

 Permanent link

CALL-TO-ACTION: Tell House and Senate to VOTE NO to Tax Reform that Guts Support for Public Education

 Both the House and Senate are considering comprehensive tax reform proposals. The House will vote as early as Thursday November 16th! AASA has reviewed both bills and is opposed to specific provisions which undermine federal support for public education and will negatively impact state and local funding for public schools. To that end, we have a two-prong call to action:

  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. It can even be one email! You want to send this email to the people in the office who are handling/tracking the policy specifics.

PHONE SCRIPT  

HOUSE

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 two 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. 

Second, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating 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 urge Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

 SENATE

Hello! My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District which is located in xx part of state. I’m calling to let Senator _______  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 two provisions which will negatively impact our nation’s public schools.

First, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating 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. 

 Second, I voice my strong opposition to the inclusion of any provisions that that create a federal voucher program or provide tax incentives for families that send their children to private school have no place in this legislation. Given current levels of public education funding we cannot divert revenues to support away from the school system that educates 90% of American children.

I urge Senator ______ 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

SAMPLE HOUSE EMAIL 

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 two 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. 

Second, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating 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 urge Representative ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state. 

SENATE

Dear {INSERT NAME},

My name is [___] and I’m the superintendent in xxxx District which is located in xx part of state. I’m emailing to let Senator _______  know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the devastating impact it will have on my students and community. 

First, I am also deeply concerned by changes to the State and Local Tax Deduction. Eliminating 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. 

Second, I voice my strong opposition to the inclusion of any provisions that that create a federal voucher program or provide tax incentives for families that send their children to private school have no place in this legislation. Given current levels of public education funding we cannot divert revenues to support away from the school system that educates 90% of American children. 

 I urge Senator ______ to oppose this bill, which has the potential to decimate education funding for our state.

 

 

November 14, 2017

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

School Kitchen Equipment Grant Threshold

The House Agriculture Appropriations bill included language lowering the threshold for USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grant purchases to $1,000, down from the current $5,000 requirement. AASA signed onto a letter to thank the committee for this change and to encourage the inclusion of the language in the final spending bill. This change will allow more flexibility to schools and will allow more schools and districts to take advantage of these grants for smaller but still important purchases, such as salad bars and automated slicers, that were previously not accessible through this grant program. 

 
Find more information on the School Kitchen Equipment Grant program here

November 13, 2017(2)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Responds to DeVos Priorities for Competitive Funding

Earlier this fall, Secretary DeVos announced 11 proposed priorities by which the US Education Department (USED) would award nearly $700 million in funding to schools. 

AASA submitted comments in response to the proposed priorities, outlining our continued opposition to competitive allocation of federal funds, particularly when this administration attempts to prioritize policies it eliminates funding for in annual appropriations. Our comments expressed opposition to the effort to expand and prioritize choice and privatization, and the disconnect on impact for rural schools and communities. 

November 13, 2017(1)

 Permanent link

The Advocate, November 2017

By Leslie Finnan, senior legislative analyst, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

 Early Learning Opportunities in Federal Legislation

While AASA has not historically worked much on early learning issues, we are hearing more superintendents discuss their programs or their desire for more quality early learning opportunities. We are tracking and commenting on several pieces of legislation that could impact early learning throughout the country. Many states have early learning provisions at the state level, but the conversation has also expanded further to the federal level. The Democrats in both the House and the Senate have released a bill, The Child Care for Working Families Act. This bill is intended to be a conversation-starter, since it does not have a chance of moving legislatively given the make-up of the Congress. The bill provides incentives and funding for states to create high-quality early learning programs, increases workforce training and compensation for early learning providers, and increases help for Head Start programs.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have approached early learning through increasing the Child Tax Credit. It would increase the annual credit for families with children by up to $600. They say that through this tax credit, families will have money available to spend on early learning and child care. However, the tax credit is only available to families earning enough money to pay enough in taxes to benefit from such a tax credit.

One last way that early learning is being addressed is actually through expanded requirements under ESSA. ESSA allows but does not require Title I funding to be used for early childhood education. Districts that receive Title I funding are required to increase coordination with early childhood programs, regardless of whether they use Title I resources for early childhood programming. States are also required to address early childhood education in their state plans; they must describe how they will assist LEAs and elementary schools that use Title I funds to support early childhood programs. The accountability system must also address the number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs.

ESSA establishes the Preschool Development Grants program, which authorizes competitive grant funding for states to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for low and moderate-income students up to age five. These grants are intended to support statewide needs assessments of availability and quality of existing programs and the numbers of students served and to develop strategic plans to ensure collaboration and coordination to improve quality and access in early education programs.

Under the Literacy Education for All program, states may provide targeted sub grants to early childhood education programs and LEAs to implement evidence-based literacy programs.

Under the Expanding Opportunity through Charter Schools Program, ESSA includes early education as an allowable use. These funds may be used to support charter schools that serve early childhood students.

We are partnering with the National Head Start Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and other education associations to develop and promote a toolkit for state and district leaders to understand the new early learning components of ESSA. The toolkit will be made available by the end of November, so be sure to watch for it. I am the lead on early learning policy for AASA, so if you have any thoughts or questions, please contact me (Leslie) at lfinnan@aasa.org.

November 13, 2017

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, November 2017

By Leslie Finnan, senior legislative analyst, AASA

Early Learning Opportunities in Federal Legislation

While AASA has not historically worked much on early learning issues, we are hearing more superintendents discuss their programs or their desire for more quality early learning opportunities. We are tracking and commenting on several pieces of legislation that could impact early learning throughout the country. Many states have early learning provisions at the state level, but the conversation has also expanded further to the federal level. The Democrats in both the House and the Senate have released a bill, The Child Care for Working Families Act. This bill is intended to be a conversation-starter, since it does not have a chance of moving legislatively given the make-up of the Congress. The bill provides incentives and funding for states to create high-quality early learning programs, increases workforce training and compensation for early learning providers, and increases help for Head Start programs.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have approached early learning through increasing the Child Tax Credit. It would increase the annual credit for families with children by up to $600. They say that through this tax credit, families will have money available to spend on early learning and child care. However, the tax credit is only available to families earning enough money to pay enough in taxes to benefit from such a tax credit.

One last way that early learning is being addressed is actually through expanded requirements under ESSA. ESSA allows but does not require Title I funding to be used for early childhood education. Districts that receive Title I funding are required to increase coordination with early childhood programs, regardless of whether they use Title I resources for early childhood programming. States are also required to address early childhood education in their state plans; they must describe how they will assist LEAs and elementary schools that use Title I funds to support early childhood programs. The accountability system must also address the number and percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs.

ESSA establishes the Preschool Development Grants program, which authorizes competitive grant funding for states to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for low and moderate-income students up to age five. These grants are intended to support statewide needs assessments of availability and quality of existing programs and the numbers of students served and to develop strategic plans to ensure collaboration and coordination to improve quality and access in early education programs.

Under the Literacy Education for All program, states may provide targeted sub grants to early childhood education programs and LEAs to implement evidence-based literacy programs.

Under the Expanding Opportunity through Charter Schools Program, ESSA includes early education as an allowable use. These funds may be used to support charter schools that serve early childhood students.

We are partnering with the National Head Start Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and other education associations to develop and promote a toolkit for state and district leaders to understand the new early learning components of ESSA. The toolkit will be made available by the end of November, so be sure to watch for it. 

November 13, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA, AFT Lead 41 Orgs in Joint Letter Opposing House and Senate Tax Plans

AASA partnered with AFT and 41 other national organizations in two joint letters--one each to the House and the Senate--opposing the tax reform bills.

We write "...to express our opposition to the tax bills currently being considered in Congress that are based on the White House and congressional Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” These proposals would undermine funding for our public schools, colleges and universities."

You can read the full letter here.

November 10, 2017(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Files Comments in Response to Proposed Changes to E-Rate

Last month, AASA issued a call to action to superintendents, urging them to respond to a set of proposed changes to the E-Rate program by the FCC. The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. To that end, AASA provided a template response, and more than 400 educators from schools and libraries across the country. 

You can read AASA's formal comments here.

November 10, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Applauds Introduction of Public Funds for Public Schools Act

Last spring, AASA and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a scathing report called Public Loss, Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education where we described how taxpayers in nine states are able to profit from their donations to private school voucher programs. In our report, we recommended Congress introduce legislation to close this voucher tax shelter that diverts millions of dollars away from federal coffers and back into voucher proponents’ pockets.

We are excited to share that Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) has introduced legislation to close the voucher tax shelter. AASA, along with 33 national education, civil rights, religious and disability organizations sent a letter in support her bill called the Public Funds for Public Schools Act (H.R. 4269). Already it has garnered three additional co-sponsors. Alabama is one of the nine states where wealthy taxpayers have a financial incentive to support private school voucher programs because they are able to take a federal deduction on a donation for which they also received a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. This enables them to avoid paying federal taxes on a “charitable contribution” that costs them nothing thereby allowing them to pay less in taxes.  

Sewell sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and she spoke about her bill during the Committee’s mark-up of the tax bill. Her staff also put together a great one-pager on the bill that you can read here.  

November 6, 2017

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

AASA Opposes Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, Recommends Improvements

In advance of today's markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, AASA sent a letter to the House Ways & Means committee to express our opposition to the bill as currently drafted and to recommend improvement. We are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support, and the elements of the plan being considered today fall far short of this basic expectation. Specific to the proposal, our concerns fall in three categories: state and local tax deduction (SALT-D), specific education tax provisions (529 accounts) and how pay-fors in the deal will impact education funding. Additional detail can be found in the attached letter. 

 

  • State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D): As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation's public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion's share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction--even the partial elimination in the proposal--would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. State and local funding accounts for approximately 90% of funding for K12 schools. Reduction of state and local revenues--an all but certain reality under this tax plan--would mean certain cuts to public education. We remain opposed to any changes to the original SALT deduction and urge the Committee to ensure that any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the SALT deduction as a matter of national priority.
  • Privatization and Vouchers: The bill expands 529 accounts to be used for private K-12 educational expenses of up to $10,000. This is a major change from current tax policy where Coverdell accounts, which are income-restricted, were the only tax-free account available to parents for private school expenses. The new bill will enable very wealthy Americans to set aside money for private school expenses furthering the appeal for them to educate their children in private schools. This is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and the revenues that stand to be lost under this 'benefit' would be far more efficiently and effectively invested to support public schools, via federal formula programs like Title I and IDEA, programs driven by equity and working to support teachers and education personnel, to reduce class size, to support instruction and more. AASA is opposed to this expansion of 529 policy and urges the Committee to strike the revision. 
  • Tax Plan Pay For: AASA urges the Committee to ensure that any tax reform act prudently to ensure that tax reform is paid for--not adding to the federal debt--and that in looking for pay-fors, work to preserve parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding. AASA is concerned that should a tax plan that is deficit-financed move forward, Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and that those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending. Congress already struggles to avoid deep cuts to important education programs as they work to comply with existing federal funding caps and constraints; a debt-financed tax reform would only exacerbate this tension and the depth of cuts to important education programs.
We reiterate the importance of Congress ensuring the process of tax reform is deliberate and transparent, and not rushed through for the sake of compliance with arbitrary timelines. We will continue to monitor the broader tax reform effort for its myriad impacts on public education--both long and short term--and we are concerned that the proposal released today ties the hands of state and local governments to support their communities, promotes the privatization of education funding, and attacks, rather than supports, public education in our nation.

 

November 2, 2017

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

AASA Signs Amicus Brief in South Dakota vs Wayfair

While AASA does not maintain counsel, we do from time to time engage in the Supreme Court process when a pending case has implications for public schools. Last term, we filed in the Endrew Case, related to special education. We just recently signed onto an amicus brief (from 'amicus curiae', which means 'friend of the court'), a process by which someone who is not a party to the case can provide information or context that bears on the case. A summary of the most recent amicus brief is below, written by Lisa Soronen, of the State & Local Legal Center. Her organization led the effort, which was also supported by the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, among others.

State and Local Legal Center Asks Supreme Court to Accept Sales Tax Case 

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear South Dakota’s petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to hold that states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

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

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the Supreme Court. In September South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the Supreme Court to overrule it. In October South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill.   

The SLLC amicus brief makes two main points. First, it explains why this is the right case for the Court to take. In recent years numerous cases (and state laws) have challenged Quill at the margins. This case directly asks the Court to decide whether to overturn Quill without any distractions like factual issues. Second, now is the right time for the Court to consider overturning Quill because states and local governments are failing to collect billions of dollars in tax revenue annually at an increasing rate due to rising online sales.

The brief cites a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the International Council of Shopping Centers which estimated that in 2015, uncollected sales taxes from remote sales were almost $26 billion. Of this $26 billion, over $17 billion uncollected taxes were projected to be from electronic sales.    

At this point all South Dakota and its amici, including the SLLC, are asking the Supreme Court to do is agree to hear this case. Supreme Court review is discretionary; four of the nine Supreme Court Justices must agree to hear any case. If the Supreme Court refuses to do so, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional will stay in place.  possible the Court could hear this case this term meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.    

November 1, 2017

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

Save SALTD: Support Public Education

Tomorrow, the House is expected to unveil the details of the anticipated tax reform package. As mentioned previously in the blog (and in an AASA press release), it is likely the proposal will include the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). Last week, AASAs joined 4 other national organizations in a joint statement expressing our continued opposition to any elimination of SALT-D. 

AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. 

What can you do? Make sure your delegation understands what SALT-D means to your community. Here is a pretty comprehensive set of resources for you to draw on:

AASA Talking Points (from the call to action)  

  • We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  • SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  • Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  • The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  
  • Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

AASA Memo: Education and Tax Reform  

  • Over the summer, I worked with a colleague form AFT to better understand the myriad ways that tax reform--SALT-D and other areas--could impact schools. That learning/research is summarized in this memo.

Americans Against Double Taxation: This is the coalition we are active in. They have rich resources

  • Calculator: How would the elimination of SALT-D impact the average homeowner in YOUR zip code and zip codes in your school district? THIS calculator will tell you. 
  • Congressional District Impact: What does it mean for tax payers in your Congressional district? This report has the numbers 

 

 

 

 

 

October 27, 2017

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

In alphabetical order, representatives from the national organizations included: 

 

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

 

National School Boards Association

Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO 

 

October 24, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Speak Up! 2017 is Open: Tell Your Technology Story

The Speak Up 2017 surveys are now open! Each year the Speak Up research project for digital learning asks K-12 students, parents and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. If you have not yet registered your school/district, there is still plenty of time! Surveys will close on January 19, 2018.

The Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning. More than 5 million participants have made Speak Up the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, schools of the future, science and math instruction, professional development and career exploration. National-level reports inform policymakers at all levels.

Educators from more than 30,000 schools have used Speak Up data to create and implement their vision for the next generation of learning. You can too! Learn more about how to register as the primary contact at http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/registration.html today to participate in Speak Up.

To see what our top Speak Up top schools and districts have to say about why they participate in Speak Up, and learn how they utilized their school/district’s data, visit the Speak Up in Action page here.

Surveys take less than 20 minutes to complete and are completely anonymous. Join more than 500,000 people from more than 10,000 schools to be sure your voice is heard this year! 

As part of Speak Up, we (AASA) are offering two opportunities to win a complimentary registration to our 2018 National Education Conference. Check out Speak Up America and Speak Up Appreciation Week for more on these offers.

Surveys are open through January 19, 2018, and schools and districts can still sign up to get promotional materials and their free data: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/MainContactInformation.html

 

October 10, 2017

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate, October 2017

By Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Federal Policy Triple Threat: CHIP, E-Rate and SALT

Children’s Health Insurance Program: The CHIP Program expired on September 30. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. AASA supports five -year extension of the program.  CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them. The full call to action is on the blog.

State and Local Tax Deduction: The president’s tax reform plan includes a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction (SALT-D). AASA is opposed to the elimination of SALT-D, and it is our single biggest item of engagement in the overall tax reform package. We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents and reduced the pressure tax payers feel/face when it comes to paying state and local taxes, which represent the lion’s share of public education funding. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies. The full call to action is on the blog.

E-Rate: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments. The full call to action—including a template response—is on the blog.

We’ve called 2017 the Year of Superintendent Advocacy and encouraged superintendents to commit to making contact with the members of their delegation once per month. For the month of October, we ask you to consider to take one advocacy step each week. One week, reach out to your delegation about CHIP. The next week, file comments on ERate and why it matters. To complete your hat-trick of October advocacy, let your delegation know you oppose any tax plan that changes/eliminates the SALT deduction.

As always, reach out to Sasha, Leslie or Noelle for additional information, including contact information for your hill staff.


 

October 9, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

E-Rate Call to Action: FCC Considering Cut to Category 2 Funding

Quick Summary: The FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut--if not eliminate--it support for Category 2 (internal connections) within the E-Rate program. Adopted as part of the 2014 modernization, this is a premature policy consider that would undermine the intent of the 2014 vote and threaten the ability of schools and libraries to access and afford high speed connectivity in their classrooms. We need to create a groundswell of feedback from schools and libraries; please take the time to file comments.

Background: E-Rate provides $3.9 billion in discounts annually to ensure that all public libraries and K-12 public and private schools gain access to broadband connectivity and robust internal Wi-Fi. As of December 31, 2015, schools and libraries have received over $31 billion in E-Rate funds. In fact, E-Rate is the third largest stream of federal resources in the country, after Title I and IDEA. Check out E-Rate funding in your state! The promise of the E-Rate program is straightforward: to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment, web-based homework, enriched curriculum, increased communication between parents, students and their educators, and increased access to government services and information. The E-Rate program provides discounts to public and private schools, public libraries and consortia of those entities on Internet access and internal networking. (E-Rate’s previous support for voice services terminates after Program Year 2018.) E-Rate discounts are provided through the Federal Communications Commission by assessing telecommunication carriers for a total of up to $3.9 billion dollars annually. This methodology follows a long-established Universal Service Fund model, used to ensure affordable access to telephone services for residents in all areas of the nation since 1934. (Source: EdLiNC)

Policy Context: While Congress is not poised to make any changes to E-Rate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is, and we want to make sure Congress knows what E-Rate, how schools and libraries use it, why the program matters, that it is working and is important, and what would happen to schools if the program were reduced or cut. Congress needs to understand that the changes of the 2014 modernization are just starting to meaningfully reach schools and libraries, and that any substantive changes would be premature and poor policy. 

Specific to what the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, are considering: When the FCC modernized the E-Rate program in 2014, it focused funding on broadband Internet service (Category 1) and Wi-Fi and internal connections (Category 2). For Category 2, E-Rate provides schools with a formula distribution of $150 per pupil, which is supposed to last schools for 5 years. Since the modernized E-Rate with a higher spending cap rolled out in 2015, schools have made active use of their Category 2 allotments. Evidence suggests that, as of today, 94% of schools meet the FCC’s interim broadband goal of 100 Mbps/1000 students, a considerable jump from 2013 when that number stood at only 30%.

Recently, the FCC’s Wireline Bureau launched a Public Notice seeking comment on Category 2 budgets. Specifically, this public notice asks how schools have used their allotments and whether schools made Wi-Fi purchases without E-Rate support. The public notice also asks why some schools have not used their allotments yet and whether they planned to do so before the end of the 5-year formula cycle. This last question may arise from data gathered by Funds for Learning that shows that “more than a third (37%) of participating sites have not touched their Category Two (“C2”) budgets, and another quarter (23%) have used less than half of their budgets. Only a relatively small percentage of sites (18%) have maxed out their C2 discounts.” In total, $2.35 billion in Category 2 funds remain unclaimed and unspent by schools.

What’s at stake? There is a growing concern that the FCC is not asking these questions merely for data-gathering purposes but for another end in entirely. The Connect America Fund (CAF), a universal service program (like E-Rate is) that provides subsidies for rural telecommunications carriers, remains underfunded and could use a funding increase. The apparent surplus in Category 2 dollars may look tempting to the FCC and CAF supporters, leading to calls to transfer unused E-Rate dollars to CAF. The data collected in this rulemaking may stand as evidence that schools are not using or do not need some or all of their Category 2 funds, providing the FCC pretext to transfer E-Rate dollars to CAF. Once those dollars are transferred out of E-Rate, they may be gone forever and stand as a precedent for lower overall funding for E-Rate for years to come.

Call to Action: The FCC has asked for the public to submit initial Comments on this Public Notice by October 23rd and Reply Comments by November 7th. Schools, districts, educators and parents should file comments in the next month that tell the FCC: Hands-off E-Rate Category 2 funds. A strong response from the education community might prevent the FCC from taking action to transfer E-Rate funds.

How to File Comments with the FCC

  • COMMENTS ARE DUE October 23
  • 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.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings 
  • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 13-184
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
  • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form.

If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than Friday October 20, with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’

 

October 9, 2017(1)

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

Save SALT-D: Tax Reform Impacts Schools!

Call to Action: Save #SALT-D! (Tax Reform Impacts Schools)

 

TELL CONGRESS SALT MUST BE PRESERVED: 
NOT LIMITED, RESTRICTED OR MODIFIED IN ANY WAY

 

BACKGROUND: When it comes to tax reform, AASA is engaged in an effort to preserve the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech responded to the proposed elimination of SALT-D in a statement last month: "AASA is deeply opposed to the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D). We believe any comprehensive tax reform legislation must preserve this deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. SALT-D prevents double taxation for local residents. Elimination of this deduction would increase tax rates for certain tax payers, reduce disposable income, limit ability and support for local taxes, and damage local, state and national economies." AASA is a proud member of the Americans Against Double Taxation, a coalition of state and local government organizations, service providers and other stakeholders dedicated to protecting the state and local tax deduction (SALT), a federal tax deduction claimed by 44 million American taxpayers that supports vital investments in infrastructure, public safety, home ownership and education.

CALL TO ACTION: There were multiple reports last week suggesting that a variety of alternative proposals may be on the table to restrict, limit or modify SALT rather than eliminate it entirely as the “Big Six” first proposed. Our allies in the House have confirmed these reports, and told us these talks are progressing rapidly.  

This is the first of several critical crossroads we expect to face, and we need your help to make calls to Congress immediately, urging Members to fully preserve SALT, and reject proposals that undermine this deduction which has been a central tenet of our federalism for over 100 years.  

The good news is that the talk of alternatives to eliminating SALT means our voices are being heard by Members of Congress, and they now know there is strong and widespread opposition to taking away SALT.  However, we must remain vigilant and fully engaged because so-called compromise proposals can sound reasonable, but they also can be harmful to homeowners, middle class taxpayers, state and local governments and the public services they provide, much like full repeal of SALT.  

The SALT messages we need to deliver are:  

 

  1. We stand firmly for the preservation of the full deduction for state and local taxes, and urge you speak out in favor of SALT and vote against any tax reform plan that eliminates, restricts or modifies this deduction.
  2. SALT has been a fixture of the federal tax code and our nation’s fiscal federalism for more than 100 years to guard against double taxation of households and protect the fiscal integrity of state and local governments, and it should remain in the tax code without limitation.  
  3. Any limitations, restrictions or changes to SALT would undermine these fundamental principles of our federalism and create a slippery slope that would subject SALT to continued erosion whenever Washington needs more money – at the expense of 44 million middle class households and homeowners who now claim this deduction. 
  4. The elimination of SALT is one of the largest sources of revenue in the “Big Six” tax plan, estimated at $1.3 trillion dollars taken from 44 million households.  Thus, any compromise and anything less than preserving the full deduction, is sure to cause millions of taxpayers to pay higher taxes, undermine funding for state and local government and the services they support, and possibly cause home values to decline as well.  

Targets: Calls to any Members of Congress are helpful. Please don’t be shy; more calls are better than fewer. We can’t overdo it. We need to mobilize. The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. If you need contact information for your Congressional delegation, let us know. Thanks so much.

 

October 9, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Update on LGBTQ Student Rights and Policies

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at GLSEN. Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to Sarah Munshi (sarah.munshi@glsen.org).

Much has transpired over the past year related to transgender students’ rights – in the courts, in public policy, and in public debates. At GLSEN, we want every student, in every school, to be valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We believe that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow.

With so much happening in America today, it is more important than ever that every student, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, understand that their school is a safe, welcoming place in which they can learn and thrive. As superintendents and school leaders are faced with critical decisions in their communities that deeply impact students’ school experiences and their success, we want to be sure that accurate information for creating inclusive and non-discriminatory schools and classrooms is readily accessible. Even as the law continues to evolve regarding protections for transgender students, there is clearly nothing that as a matter of law should preclude policy and practice that is educationally grounded and research-based.   

Resources to support your schools include the U.S. Department of Education’s guide, “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students,” and GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s “Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.” Policies such as these have transformed the educational experience for transgender students while critically avoiding any disruption or harm to the educational experience of other students. Thousands of schools across the country have successfully implemented these policies.*   A growing body of evidence shows that districts and schools that adopt and implement all-inclusive policies and practices – including restroom policies – are effective in establishing physically and psychosocially safe schools, resulting in better health and education outcomes for transgender students. 

As the leading national education organization working to create safe and affirming schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, or gender expression, GLSEN is proud to lead the effort. Working with school leaders, teachers, parents, and students—as well as national education organizations and associations whose memberships and constituents work directly in schools every day—we seek to provide practical and actionable support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students. And with an extensive Chapter network, currently comprised of nearly 40 Chapters across the country, GLSEN and our volunteers stand ready to work with you ensure that schools are safe and affirming for all, through the resources listed above, direct support, and professional development from GLSEN staff and Chapters.

* GLSEN and Movement Advancement Project, “Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities,” April 2017.  http://lgbtmap.org/transgender-youth-school.

 

October 2, 2017

 Permanent link

Action Alert: Support Extension of Children's Health Insurance Program

The CHIP Program expired on September 30th. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children that ensure they are healthy enough to learn.

CHIP provides essential funding to support states to cover uninsured children. Any delay or a failure to immediately extend funding for CHIP will jeopardize coverage for children who are eligible for school-based health-related services leading to immediate and lasting harmful effects for America’s most vulnerable citizens. A lapse in coverage for children places more barriers on their ability to come to school ready to learn. During a time of great uncertainty in the healthcare system, children need the consistent, reliable health coverage CHIP provides today.

More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs. Fifteen states exclusively use CHIP funds to extend their Medicaid programs, meaning all children who qualify for CHIP receive identical services and benefits as their traditional Medicaid-counterparts. In most states a substantial portion of children served by CHIP receive Medicaid services and benefits protections. Districts in these States bill Medicaid for health services they provide to CHIP eligible children. This funding stream is critical to ensuring that healthcare services can be delivered to eligible students in the school building.

A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. The health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this school year. The failure to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them.

Write or Call Your Representatives and Senators With the Following Message:

  • The CHIP program ensures low-income children are healthy enough to learn by covering basic health screening, immunizations and many other critical health services.
  • Schools rely on CHIP funding to supplement the healthcare services they provide to students. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services low-income children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn.
  • More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs.
  • School districts depend on CHIP to finance many of these services and have already committed to the staff and contractors they require to provide mandated services for this current school year. The failure of Congress to continue funding CHIP would merely shift the financial burden of providing services to the schools and the state and local taxpayers who fund them.
  • Support the bipartisan bill to extend the CHIP program for five years in your chamber. 

 

September 21, 2017

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

Speak Up 2017: Why Your District Should Participate

Each year, the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning asks K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. Speak Up is both a national research project and a free service to schools and districts everywhere. Since fall 2003, Speak Up has helped education leaders include the voices of their stakeholders in annual and long-term planning.

Why should your schools participate in Speak Up? 

  • Gain a better understanding of what your school’s technology needs are and make more informed funding decisions.
  • Learn about the aspirations for your teachers for using technology more effectively – and what is holding them back.
  • Find ways to improve school-to-home communications using new technology tools.
  • Ensure that your students and parents have a voice in national, state and local decisions about education.
  • It’s free.

Speak Up 2017 will be open for input from October 16, 2017, through January 19, 2018. Participate at any time during that window.

Surveys take 15-20 minutes to complete. All information is 100 percent confidential. No identifying information is collected. All local data is ONLY shared with the registered primary contact. Registered schools/districts receive all of their data – for free – in February, plus national data for comparison. Speak Up is facilitated by Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization.

Register today: tomorrow.org/speakup.

September 19, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Call-to-Action: Save Medicaid in Schools

I know this seems like a bad case of deja vu, but we need superintendents from the following states to step up again and make some noise about Medicaid in schools and how important it is to the children you educate. If you live in AK, AZ, ME, NC, ND, OH, or WV please take 5 minutes out of your schedule to make a call to your Republican Senator(s). 

Here is your script: 

  • As a constituent and a superintendent, I oppose the passage of Graham-Cassidy. Rather than close the gap and eliminate the rate of uninsured children in America, the current proposal will ration the health care America’s most vulnerable children receive and undermine the ability of districts to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities and students in poverty.  
  • Children represent 46% of all Medicaid beneficiaries yet represent only 19% of the costs. Currently, 4-5 billion dollars flow to school districts every year, so they can make sure students with disabilities who need the help of therapists can learn and that students who can’t get to a doctor regularly can receive the basic medical care they need to learn and thrive. The current proposal will jeopardize student's ability to receive comprehensive care at schools and create barriers to access.   
  • Graham-Cassidy would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.   

Email your Senators 

Calling is much more effective, but if you choose to write your elected officials, use this template.

Dear Senator xxx,

As a constituent and a superintendent, I strongly oppose Graham-Cassidy, which would radically change Medicaid as we know it through block grants, per capita caps, or repealing the Medicaid expansion that has served as a lifeline to millions. 

Specifically, a per capita cap system will undermine states’ ability to provide America’s neediest children access to vital healthcare that ensures they have adequate educational opportunities and can contribute to society. Medicaid is a cost-effective and efficient funder of essential health care services for children. In fact, while children comprise almost half of Medicaid beneficiaries, less than one in five dollars spent by Medicaid is consumed by children. Accordingly, a per capita cap, even one that is based on different groups of beneficiaries, will disproportionally harm children’s access to care, including services received at school.  

A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education. However, children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs. As such, school district personnel regularly provide critical health services to ensure that all children are ready to learn and able to thrive alongside their peers. Schools deliver services effectively and efficiently since school is where children spend their days. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care and educational outcomes for students. Providing health and wellness services for students in poverty and services that benefit students with disabilities ultimately enables more children to become employable and attend higher-education.

The current proposal would be devastating to schools and children, particularly those children with disabilities. Graham-Cassidy would undermine critical healthcare services my district provides to children. It would also lead to layoffs of school personnel, the potential for new taxes to compensate for the Medicaid shortfall, and shifting general education dollars to special education programs to compensate for these cuts.  

I urge you to reject the Graham-Cassidy, and any subsequent effort to significantly change the funding structure of Medicaid.

September 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Back in Action: Congress Has A Full Plate this Fall

With Congress back in session for its first full week since July, it’s time for a quick recap of what unfolded over the August recess and last week. First thing, though, some context:

Congress has a lot on its plate for this month, and only 12 (!) working days, including the ones from last week. On their to do list? 

 

  • FY18 appropriations work: If Congress worked according to the rules, they would pass each of the 12 appropriations bills independently, and do so prior to October 1. Congress hasn’t completed the process in this order and on this timeline since the mid-90s. Their options are to either complete the work, have a shut down, or pass a short-term bill to fund government (called a ‘continuing resolution’ or ‘CR’).
  • Emergency funding for Harvey, Irma and wildfires: Congress will need to take explicit action to provide emergency funding to the millions of people impacted by this confluence of natural disasters. This triple whammy adds its own set of political calculations and pressures which will be at play for the other items on this to-do list. 
  • Debt Ceiling: Congress has to take action to raise the debt ceiling to the nation can continue to borrow to pay down debt (payments for debt already accrued). 
  • Raising Funding Caps: Much of the funding pressure at play right now stems from the continued pressure of funding caps—established through the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the subsequent ‘sequester’. While Congress is bound to these caps, they are the ones that can raise the caps, or address revenue and spending pressure through nuanced conversations about tax policy, rather than blunt, across-the-board cuts. Specific to education, these caps results in federal allocations that leave the FY18 investments below the levels of FY10.
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: This is something we are following. I would love to tell you that Congress has this on their radar. While there is broad bipartisan AND bicameral support (WHAT?!?!), it needs a push to be moved. This will need to be attached to a larger vehicle (think: appropriations bill). You can read our related blog post and call to action here.
  • Defense Authorization: This is an annual defense policy bill that has to be considered. It will consume both time and political chits. 
  • Continued efforts related to Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal/Replace: While the bill momentum has slowed immensely, this week could be one final push. Led by Senators Cassidy and Graham, there could be a push that would turn ACA’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid funds intro a block grant program.  Part of the concern here is that media attention and public pressure are diverted to the other political conversations and natural disasters. How quickly Congress seems to have forgotten how unpalatable it was to cut Medicaid or make it a block grant. Need a reminder, or want to share it with your delegation? Check out the AASA Medicaid report.
  • DACA: President Trump announced his plans to end the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and then announced he wouldn’t take action for six months, essentially kicking the can down the road and forcing the hand of Congress to address their intentions related to protecting these children/young adults. 

So where do we stand? Last week, Congress passed—and the President signed—combination legislation that provides short-term federal funding (Avoiding a shutdown), temporarily raises the debt ceiling, AND provides $15.25 billion in emergency funding for Hurricane Harvey. December 8 is now the date to watch: the CR AND the debt ceiling will expire on this day. 

While this agreement is progress, it complicates an already complex Congressional calculus: December was already crunch time in a chamber that wanted to rewrite tax code by the end of the year. This overall December debate could grow more complicated if it includes Democrats pushing for increased spending in domestic programs in exchange for Trump’s military increases; Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico; and the aforementioned DACA debate.

For the rest of FY18, check out this side-by-side comparison of Trump’s FY18 proposal, compared to that of the House and Senate. In a nutshell, Trump’s proposal is draconian, the House proposal is less bad (but not good!) and the Senate proposal is the least bad. It is important to know that Congress is bound to the pressures of the funding caps, which limits their ability to invest in programs. I am not going to go into detailed analysis of the House and Senate bills because: while the House bill has passed the full chamber it is unlikely the Senate bill will ever be voted on. The overall number with which the House and Senate started were different. From that overall number, the allocations to the various subcommittees also varied. So, in addition to the fact that the Senate bill, for education, was less bad and had different allocations and priorities, it is in part because they are summing to different baselines.

When you factor in that they have already agreed to a short term CR, it opens up the likelihood that we have another short term CR, and a small chance for a year-long CR. When we have a CR, programs are level funded. That is, FY18 programs would be funded at FY17 levels. Which would be ok, except for the fact that the FY18 caps are BELOW the FY17 level, meaning that unless there is explicit action within a CR, there could be a chance for across-the-board cuts to bring us into compliance with the FY18 caps. Which reiterates the importance of Congress to address the funding caps by a balanced effort to raise the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary funding. It also increases the likelihood that the House and Senate will instead negotiate a middle-ground FY18 deal, though I can’t yet read if that middle-point would be above or compliant with the caps. 

In short, as per usual, the funding conversation has a lot of moving pieces. While we have avoided a shut down until December 8, this year has a very significant number of additional political stressors that will up the ante and ‘politicking’. Your voice will be important in helping Congress understand the importance of adequate and appropriate investment in education. 

 

September 6, 2017

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

AASA Joins 4 Other National Organizations in Joint Statement Supporting Public Education, Urges Other Organizations to Sign on!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary Principals, and the National Education Association issue this joint statement in support of public education, and we call on other national education associations to sign on in support. We will use this joint statement to highlight the broad, diverse support that exists for our nation’s public schools as we continue to advocate for federal policy and supports that strengthen our schools and the 50 million students they educate. AASA is including this effort as part of our broader year-long 'I Love Public Education' campaign and we are pleased to have the support of our colleague organizations in this latest effort.

Please join AASA, AFT, NAESP, NASSP, and NEA in supporting this statement. You can join today! Sign up now. 

Joint Statement in Support of Public Education

"We issue this joint statement in support of public education and our continued commitment to the highest quality public education for all students.

"Public education is the foundation of our 21st-century democracy. Our public schools are where our students come to be educated in the fullest sense of the word as citizens of this great country. We strive every day to make every public school a place where we prepare the nation’s young people to contribute to our society, economy and citizenry. 

"Ninety percent of American children attend public schools. We call on local, state and federal lawmakers to prioritize support for strengthening our nation’s public schools and empowering local education leaders to implement, manage and lead school districts in partnership with educators, parents, and other local education stakeholders and learning communities.  This support would also provide for such necessities as counseling, extra/co-curricular activities and mental health supports that are critical to help students engage in learning.

"We support and value inclusive and safe high-quality public schools where children learn to think critically, problem solve and build relationships. We support an environment where all students can succeed beginning in the earliest years, regardless of their zip code, the color of their skin, native language, gender/gender identity, immigration status, religion, or social standing. 

"We promote advancing equity and excellence in public education, and implementing continuous improvement and evidence-based practices. Every child has the right to an education that helps them reach their full potential and to attend schools that offer a high quality educational experience.

"We support stable, equitable, predictable and adequate funding for great public schools for every student in America so that students have inviting classrooms, as well as well-prepared and supported educators. These educators include teachers, paraprofessionals and principals who provide a well-rounded and complete curriculum and create joy in learning. Our school buildings should have class sizes small enough to allow one-on-one attention and have access to support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them.

"We believe that public tax dollars should only support public schools that are publicly governed and accountable to parents, educators and communities. In no way should local, state or federal funding be taken away from public schools and given to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. 

"We reiterate our love for public education and pride in our public schools. We will continue to promote the promise and purpose of public education, to elevate the great things happening every day in our public schools, and to engage communities about strategies that help students succeed.  We affirm our commitment to fight for resources and policies that would undermine these values."

Signed this, the 6th day of September, 2017: 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary Principals
  • National Education Association

 

 

September 5, 2017(2)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Partners with CoSN for 2017 Infrastructure Survey

It's back to school, which means a LOT of things. Including time for the annual AASA/CoSN infrastructure survey. For the past several years, we have collaborated with CoSN on this survey as a way to assess the current state of broadband and technology infrastructure in U.S. school systems. The survey gathered insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, to assess key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

The survey has been distributed. We switched formats this year, and each district is receiving it's own, distinct URL. It was deployed to the main contact in the CoSN database, and we are writing this blog post to put this on your radar and to encourage you to check with your tech/IT team to ensure your district response is captured. 

Dear Education Leader: 

AASA, in partnership with education researchers at MDR and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), recently launched the fifth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. 

This year, CoSN has partnered with Forecast5 Analytics to provide premium results in an online workbook of visual data analytics that will allow you to compare to districts across the country on IT infrastructure strategies.

Last week, we sent a custom survey link to your technology director. We ask that you follow up with your Technology Department to ensure that your school district is represented. The deadline is Friday, September 25th. 

Districts that participate in this survey will receive a report giving a high level overview of the survey results. You will also have an opportunity to request detailed survey results from Forecast5 once you have completed the survey.

Thank you for your help! 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com. 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email survey@forecast5analytics.com.

September 5, 2017(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Stand Up, Speak Up, Act Now for Secure Rural Schools

Congress must fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Congress is funding many programs in Fiscal Year 2017 but has not yet funded SRS for the 9 million students in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states across the country.

The SRS safety net has unraveled in 775 counties and 4,400 school districts serving 9 million students in 41 states. Congress has failed to act on SRS and forest management.  The Secure Rural Schools program a safety net for forest communities in 41 states has expired.  SRS payments 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 must extend and fund the SRS safety net until the federal government produces long overdue sustainable active forest management systems. Lacking SRS 2016 authorization the National Forest Service issued 25% payments of timber receipts to states based on the 1908 Act.  The 2016 payments actually based on timber receipts are substantially below SRS funding forcing local school district and county budget cuts.        

Without immediate Congressional action to fund SRS for the short term and to establish forest policy, forest counties and school districts are cutting irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.

SEPTEMBER ACTION: STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR SRS: ASK your Senators and Representative to STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT NOW FOR Secure Rural Schools as Congress funds FY 2018 and disaster relief. Tell your Member what lost SRS funds and 2016 funding based on shared timber receipts mean for students, and for roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education, roads, bridges, police, fire, and safety programs.

 

  • Ask your REPRESENTATIVE to STAND UP, SPEAK UP AND ACT NOW FOR SRS. Needed: Immediate action on short term SRS funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services.
  • ASK your House REP. to join Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to cosponsor H.R.2340 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK your Senators to join Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Wyden (D-OR) to cosponsor S. 1027 extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability. 

PLEASE STAND UP, SPEAK UP ACT NOW For SRS. Congress can and must fund SRS short term for 2016-2017. Forest county communities are losing irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. 

 

September 5, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Leads CHIP Funding Extension Letter

Today, AASA led a letter on behalf of the 35 national organizations who belong to the Save Medicaid in the Schools Coalition, expressing our support for a full, clean extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years at current funding levels. We are writing to Congress because if CHIP is not appropriately expedient and robustly funded then every child educated in public school districts will be harmed.

More than half of the nearly nine million children served by CHIP are eligible to receive services in school through their state Medicaid programs. Fifteen states exclusively use CHIP funds to extend their Medicaid programs, meaning all children who qualify for CHIP receive identical services and benefits as their traditional Medicaid-counterparts. In most states a substantial portion of children served by CHIP receive Medicaid services and benefits protections.  If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for these children’s healthcare then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services these children receive that ensure they are healthy enough to learn. 


September 1, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Join Your Colleagues in San Francisco to close Attendance Awareness Month!

This guest blog post comes from Lee Funk, Executive Director of the Attendance Institute

The Attendance Institute, a non-profit agency dedicated to promoting student engagement, is hosting its second annual summit, “Cultivating Success,” in San Francisco on September 29, 2017. This event will focus on multiple routes to successful student performance and will take place on Friday, September 29, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis.

The goal is to bring together innovators, scholars, and result-minded leaders who have real solutions for increasing student achievement and, ultimately, success in life. The forum will stress what proven results are possible—not years in the future, but now.

Ryan J. Smith, the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization, will deliver the keynote address and Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer, the Associate Deputy Director for the Bureau of Indian Education, will speak during the luncheon.

The Institute’s research staff will unveil the results of a study involving over 70 districts and more than 700,000 students on the effectiveness of systemic interventions for reducing chronic absenteeism and improving graduation rates.

For more information go here: http://attendanceinstitute.org/.

August 30, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Dan Domenech: Show Your Support for Public Education

Today's guest blog comes from AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech, and he calls on local school districts to consider and adopt their own version of the 'I Love Public Education' resolution adopted by AASA at our advocacy conference this summer. Please direct any questions to Tammy Barbara (tbarbara@aasa.org) and Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org). 

In July, AASA launched the I Love Public Education campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight the success and opportunities of public education and demonstrate how public schools develop future generations of successful students. 

Following the AASA governing board's unanimous adoption of the Resolution in Support of Public Education, it's time to take the message to the local level: school districts

AASA is working with other national and state organizations to adopt a multi-organization "I Love Public Education" resolution that we can leverage on Capitol Hill. But, when it comes to amplifying the message, the power lies with our members. At the local level, there is nothing stronger than a unified message from the nation's public school districts, each proclaiming 'I Love Public Education'. 

To that end, we ask our members to work with their local school board to make the resolution a meeting agenda item, and that the board and superintendent work together to adopt their district's 'I Love Public Education' resolution this fall. You can adopt the AASA version unedited, you can modify this version, or you can use our version as a starting point for your district's unique 'I Love Public Education' resolution. Whatever you adopt, we want to hear about it. Please submit your district resolution via email to LovePublicEducation@aasa.org, fax to 703-528-2146 or mail to AASA, attn: Tammy Barbara, 1615 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. 

Steps

 

  1. Review the AASA resolution
  2. Add the resolution to a school board meeting agenda this fall. 
  3. Work with your board to adopt your district's version of the resolution. 
  4. Share your resolution with AASA.  

 

Looking to do more? There's a lot more at the local level than just the school district. Could your town or county board adopt the resolution? Can your mayor or town official adopt a version of the resolution? Could you generate a 'community partner' version, open to local officials, the chamber of commerce, and other local entities? 

At a time when education policy is undermining 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. Beyond adopting a resolution, you can join the conversation on Twitter by using the #LovePublicEducation hashtag. 

We appreciate the work you do to ensure the children of this country receive the best education possible. Let us know how we can help you. 

August 28, 2017

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

Supporting What Matters: As schools reconvene, will Congress support public education, mirroring public opinion?

Guest blog post by AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech

The end of summer means the start to another school year. It means time for this year’s annual PDK poll. Each year, for the last 49 years, PDK has polled the public’s attitudes toward public schools, and each year, the results are a telling insight to shifts and mainstays as it relates to public support for public schools. This year is no exception.

When it comes to our nation’s schools, the overarching message from the public remains steady: academic achievement isn’t the only mission, and as such they support investments in career preparation and personal skills. Much like the shift from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was about clarifying that a child is more than a test score, this year’s results echo the idea that a child’s education is more than just academics. 

This summer, AASA launched its ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign, a year-long effort to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. The campaign is designed to facilitate deliberate conversations and strong, meaningful actions on the efforts to bolster our schools to best support the students they serve. We are working to reshape the current national dialogue on public education to highlight the critical role public schools play as the bedrock of our civic society and their work to prepare students to be successful, contributing members of their local, national and global communities. It’s a campaign central to our work supporting public school superintendents, and it is in strong parallel to a big takeaway from the annual poll, that parents’ main concern remains wanting to ensure their children are prepared for life after they complete high school. 

The public continues to support public schools. We are all too familiar with the quick-draw that negative headlines garner for public schools. But, as the PDK poll has long documented, people support and give good grades to the schools they know. And this year? The proportion of Americans who gave their community’s public schools an A grade is at its highest point in more than 40 years of PDK polling: 15 percent of Americans gave their local schools an A, up from 9 percent a decade ago. In tandem with increased support:

  • 49 percent of Americans gave their local public schools an A or B grade, matching the average since 1999;
  • 22 percent of Americans refer to a lack of funding as the biggest problem facing their local schools;
  • Americans continue to oppose rather than favor using public funds to send students to private school (52 percent to 39 percent), and opposition rises to 61 percent when the issue is discussed with more nuance/detail.

School isn’t the only thing that gets back to session in September. This support for public education will prove critical as Congress returns from their summer work session (sometimes called ‘recess’). With less than 50 work days remaining in the year, there is a lot on their plate. They must address the annual appropriations process and avoid a shut down, and there is a very good chance they will have to navigate the debt ceiling debate. How can Congress invest funding in the career preparation and personal skills of students when the current funding caps are so low—below 2010 levels? Despite the public’s documented support for public schools and non-academic programming, Congress is considering eliminating ESSA Title II and deep cuts to more than a dozen other programs. Layer that on top of an administration that has prioritized investment in privatization and voucher programs—at direct odds with public opinion—and you can see how important the ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign becomes in ensuring that the voices and priorities of the public, and the public schools, are reflected in federal policy.

 

You can access my full statement on the release of the PDK poll here. You can access the full 2017 PDK poll here

August 28, 2017

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

Guest Blog: U.S. Superintendents Excited About Their District's Future

This post originally appeared at www.gallup.com/poll/217088/superintendents-excited-district-future.aspx and is posted here with permission.

Guest Blog by Tim Hodges, Gallup

Download the full report for free here: www.gallup.com/reports/217103/gallup-k-12-superintendent-report-201708.aspx

K-12 students returning to class this fall are being welcomed back by leaders who are optimistic about the future of their school district. Eighty-five percent of U.S. public school district superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about their district's future. These attitudes are largely unchanged from 2015, when 86% responded positively to the same question.

While school leaders are largely positive about their local situation, this optimism is much harder to find in their opinions of the overall K-12 public education system. About one in three superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about the future of U.S. public education, down sharply from 44% just two years ago. The percentage who either disagree or strongly disagree is up from 24% to 38%, with those most negative about the future of the nation's public school system increasing from 6% to 15%.

Several factors influence leaders' opinions about the future of education. The latest Gallup survey of superintendents suggests that the most pressing challenges facing school districts are changing.

In the past four years, concern has risen among school leaders about improving the academic performance of underprepared students, and this is now the top concern of those tested. Fiscal challenges remain a significant source of concern for superintendents, as was the case in 2013. Superintendents also report high levels of concern about the effects of poverty on student learning (a question asked for the first time in 2017). Complete results for all issues tested this year appear at the end of this article.

At the same time, concern about meeting rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level has moved down in the rankings. Possibly related to this, revamping curriculum is also less of a concern for school leaders than it was in 2013 -- a time when the Common Core State Standards and new federal legislation increased attention on student assessments.

Bottom Line

Public school superintendents begin the new school year optimistic about their own local district, although they are less confident in the nation's schools overall. Local district leaders still struggle to manage difficult fiscal situations and are increasingly focused on the challenges of reducing achievement gaps for underperforming students and addressing the needs of students in poverty. These and other challenges will continue to have the attention of leaders as the nation's students return to school.

About the Study

Gallup developed this research study of K-12 superintendents of public school districts in the U.S. to understand their opinions on important topics and policy issues facing education. Since 2013, Gallup has conducted the survey at least annually. The 2017 report addresses a variety of issues, including:

  • the workplace engagement of superintendents
  • human capital needs in the district, such as recruiting, selecting and retaining talented teachers and principals
  • factors in teacher performance evaluations
  • federal, state and local education policy issues
  • superintendent-board relations

The full report is available for download here.

SURVEY METHODS

This survey is an attempted census of U.S. public school district superintendents. Gallup used a purchased sample list of 12,432 K-12 school districts across the U.S. to email their superintendents to invite them to participate in a web survey. Gallup conducted 2,326 web interviews from June 15-July 9, 2017, achieving a 19% response rate. The sample of superintendents was weighted to correct for possible nonresponse bias by matching the obtained sample to targets for all U.S. school districts from the National Center for Education Statistics database on district enrollment, geographical region and location of the district in a city, suburb, town or rural area. The weighted sample thus can be projected to represent public school district superintendents nationwide.

 

August 3, 2017

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate: August 2017

The summer of 2017 has been one to remember. From shake-ups at the White House to intense health care debates, it’s never been more difficult to keep track of everything happening in Washington. While the health care votes during the week of July 25 were a sign that sometimes policy can trump politics, we are not out of the woods yet. There are still backroom deals purportedly underway to try and dismantle Medicaid.

Though  much of the attention appears to be on Obamacare and fixing the problems related to the coverage in the exchanges, we can’t  forget that a majority of House members and more than  40 Senators support the idea of block-granting Medicaid dollars to states. These high numbers mean that our work to educate Congress about school-based Medicaid is far from over.

We can and should relish in our highly-publicized and highly-regarded efforts to educate leaders on Capitol Hill, numerous state and national partners and millions of citizens across this country about school-based Medicaid. But, we need to keep educating and advocating.

Even if the House and Senate wash their hands of the Medicaid entitlement conversation for the rest of this Congressional session, there is a newfound appetite to “trim” Medicaid funding. Let’s be clear: any trim to the Medicaid program will hit schools, which are not front-line healthcare providers, first. We can never compete with hospitals, long-term care facilities, insurers, and other key health care players for limited Medicaid funding. That’s why these talking points on the importance of Medicaid in schools should be ones you remember for a long, long time.

In addition to fighting to preserve Medicaid, there is a smaller battle being waged to protect health care for kids who receive it through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Before the end of September, Congress must decide whether to extend funding for CHIP, which provides health insurance for 9 million children.

CHIP provides health care coverage for kids not quite poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid. In 15 states, kids eligible for CHIP look the same as kids eligible for Medicaid, and school reimbursement for services for CHIP kids as well as Medicaid kids is identical. In 29 states, a smaller portion of CHIP kids are treated as Medicaid beneficiaries and districts can also reimburse for the services they provide them.

The stakes are high if Congress fails to reauthorize—every  state will exhaust its  federal CHIP allotments at some point in fiscal year 2018 and a few states are expected to exhaust their federal CHIP allotments by December 2017. As a result,  millions of kids will lose health care. Consequently, your district may lose critical Medicaid dollars and be forced to provide basic health care services for even more kids to keep them healthy enough to learn. Outreach is underway  in both the House and Senate to urge them to support the extension of  funding for this program.

On the positive side, if Congress continues to treat Medicaid as an entitlement program for the near future there is a great opportunity for states and districts to pull down even more Medicaid funding, thanks to the reversal of the “free care” rule.

In December 2014, the “free care” rule prevented districts from being reimbursed by Medicaid for providing any service that is ordinarily provided for free to the community at large, even if Medicaid would cover these services for its beneficiaries in other contexts. For example,  if a school nurse examined  a Medicaid-eligible student as part of a universal screening, federal funds could not be used to cover that exam because all students would be able to access the service without being charged. The rescinding of this rule means that the child’s examination would be covered and reimbursed by Medicaid.

States are already in the process of seeking approval from CMS to start billing, so it’s worth connecting with other health and education advocates in your state to pursue whether your state is amending its plan to allow districts to start billing for these services as well. 

July 19, 2017

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

AASA Advocacy in Action: Week of July 17

Fresh off of last week's successful AASA/ASBO legislative advocacy conference (all conference materials and the evaluation can be accessed here) we hit the ground running for another busy week on Capitol Hill. And it is only Wednesday!

ESSA: On Tuesday, AASA President Gail Pletnick testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. You can access her testimony and an archive of the hearing here.

Appropriations: Today, the House appropriations committee considers the FY18 LHHS appropriations bill, which would provide funding for schools in the 2018-19 school year. AASA sent a letter expressing our concern with the proposal to the subcommittee last week and a similar letter to the full committee. Here’s a quick overview of what is in the bill, and we've linked to a comparison chart.   

  • Provides $66 billion for USED, down $2.4 billion from the current budget.
  • The House bill does NOT fund the Trump request for $1 billion for a portability/open enrollment provision in Title I, Part E, nor does it provide funding for a proposed $250 million voucher program.
  • IDEA Part B receives a $200 m increase
  • Title I is level funded
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers is cut by $200 m
  • Charter Grants increase $28 m
  • ESSA Title IV is funded at $500 m
FCC/E-Rate: Today, the Senate will confirm Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Ben Carr as Commissioners in the FCC. Ajit Pai is a carry over from the Obama administration and will serve as Chairman; Jessica Rosenworcel returns to the FCC after her term expired, and Ben Carr joins the FCC as a first-time commissioner. Pai and Carr are joined by Michael O’Rielly as the Republican members, and Rosenworcel returns to join Mignon Clyburn as the Democrats on the commission.  You'll recall that Commissioner Rosenworcel was a tireless champion of E-Rate, schools, connectivity and the homework gap in her previous term and AASA is beyond thrilled to have the chance to work with her again. Read our letter of support.
Webinars: In the last month, AASA held two webinars related to advocacy/policy, including one just this week. Both are linked below: 
  • Get the Lead Out: Testing for and Removing Lead in School Water Systems (Archive)
  • Financial Transparency Requirement in ESSA (Archive)

 

July 13 ,2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response to House LHHS FY18 Bill

On July 13, the House Appropriations LHHS subcommittee is set to mark up its FY18 proposal, which includes funding for USED, and will largely provide funding for schools in the 18-19 school year.

You can read AASA's letter of response

July 11, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

We are deep into Day Two of the AASA/ASBO Legislative Advocacy Conference. We are beyond pumped to have nearly 300 school system and business leaders in town, advocating FOR schools, FOR students, and FOR public education. Can't be here? Follow along on twitter: #AASAadv, #LovePublicEducation, @SPudelski, @LeslieFinnan, @AASAhq, and @Noellerson.

If you are on the Hill today, be sure to tell us how it went! 

And, as promised, here are the meeting materials:   

We also referenced a few other resources on during the Wednesday panels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29, 2017

(WELL-BEING, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

Read the full letter, here.

June 27, 2017

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Our Independent Review of State ESSA Plans and What We Found

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success. This blog post in is coordination with the release of their broader review of ESSA plans. The Collaborative partnered with Bellwether Education to convene more than 30 bipartisan education policy experts to review state plans.

Several weeks ago, we told you about our independent peer review of state ESSA plans. Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems.

That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success  teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of these plans. Our effort looks beyond compliance, and focuses in on how states can improve their accountability systems. Our goal is to provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback to help ensure that state systems are serving all students and providing a more equitable learning environment that fosters success. We assembled a list of phenomenal expert peer reviewers who boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. 

Today, we will release the results of this peer review process.

Our findings already went to state departments of education and Governor’s offices. It is our goal to be as transparent as possible – this is not a “Gotcha” exercise, but it is an advocacy tool. We believe that by using our peer review process, the 17 states that have already submitted a plan can improve upon it, and that the 34 states that will submit a report in September can apply our recommendations. We sincerely hope that through implementation efforts at the state, district and school level, these ideas will help improve classroom results for students, parents, and teachers. 

Here are some high-level findings, beginning with some noteworthy strengths across the state plans

 

  • We saw much more robust measures of school quality (e.g. including science, art, physical education). Several states were looking to promote more holistic views of school quality;
  • At the high school level, states are pursuing a number of innovative college- and career-readiness indicators (AP, IB, SAT/ ACT, industry certifications, etc.) and refocusing efforts to ensure students are prepared for life after high school;
  • All 17 states included some measure of student growth; and 
  • Even though states could opt to include new, additional indicators of school quality, they are continuing to place strong weight on academics 

 

You will see that we have gone to great lengths to highlight the best practices we found in the 17 state plans so far, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also push for plan improvements

 

  • Too many states had goals that were untethered to the state’s long-term visions or were ignored in the accountability system;
  • There is a troubling shift across states towards normative accountability systems, focused on how schools compare with one another, not an external standard; and  
  • Our peers believe that state plans can do more upfront to ensure student subgroups are not overlooked or overshadowed. Our peers had a strong equity lens and as a result, no state received the highest mark possible for having adequate checks in place to ensure all students and subgroups are tended too. 

 

Lastly, an important point to make which has direct impact on district leaders: these state plans had vague or underdeveloped school improvement plans, with only one state earning the highest mark possible for its proposals to actually turn around low-performing schools. This is a key area where states must do better, as the primary purpose of accountability systems is to drive school improvement.

How can you help? As part of our announcement today we are also launching a new website, CheckStatePlans.org. This interactive, user-friendly website will help parents and community members make sense of complicated state ESSA plans. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 

 

June 22, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Supports Bipartisan Perkins CTE Reauthorizatoin

Today the House will vote on a bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. Yesterday, AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives commending them for their work to reauthorize the Perkins. While the bill is not perfect (see letter for more details), there is much to like and we are thrilled to see so many of our policy priorities incorporated into the legislation.

June 21, 2017

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

Rural Education: We’re Stronger Together

The House Rural Education Caucus, under the leadership of Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) hosted a rural education briefing on Capitol Hill, open to hill staff and the broader public.  More than one-half (53%) of the nation’s public school districts are categorized as rural in the 2013-14 NCES Rural Education in America. As public schools educate more than 50 million students each year, it is critical that federal education policies address the needs of all our students, including the unique opportunities and obstacles faced in rural communities.   

  • Nearly 8.9 million students attend rural schools—more than the enrollments of the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago—and incredibly, the nation’s next 75 largest school districts combined. 
  • More than one in four schools are rural, more than one in six students attend schools in rural areas, and more than one in four rural students is a child of color. At least half of public schools are rural in 13 states.
  • Half the nation’s rural students live in just 10 states. The largest rural enrollments are in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, and Michigan.
  • Half of rural school districts in 23 states have enrollment smaller than 485 students (the national median enrollment for rural districts).  

This briefing highlighted federal education programs critical to supporting rural education, including Impact Aid, the Rural Education Achievement Program, and Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties, as well as more general federal education policies with impacts on rural communities, including ESSA, Medicaid, Perkins Career/Tech, E-Rate, and federal appropriations.

The materials from the briefing are available below: 

June 19, 2017

 Permanent link

What States receive the most money for school-based Medicaid?

By Sasha Pudelski

The GOP health care proposal to change Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant could mean that school districts are cut off from receiving Medicaid reimbursement permanently. With a significant shortage of federal funding to support Medicaid, districts will be in the unenviable position of competing with hospitals, doctors and other providers for limited reimbursement from states. While districts receive less than 1% of the federal Medicaid allocation, that money represents the third largest federal funding stream in education.  

Here are the states that will lose the most most school-based Medicaid funding: 

#1 by a wide margin is Texas. Districts in Texas receive about $444 million dollars annually from the Medicaid program (250 million of which comes from the feds).

#2 is my home-state of NJ which captures about $286.6 million annually. Yeah Jersey!

Coming in right behind NJ is IL, which is #3. IL school districts receive $286.4 million annually.

#4 is New York with $273.6 million in school-based Medicaid reimbursements.

PA is #5 with $253.3 million heading back to school districts. As a state with one of the most expensive special education budgets in the country, I’m sure PA districts are eager to have this funding to support their students.

#6 is Michigan. Michigan school leaders have relied on Medicaid billing for health and special ed services or decades and its billing rate for school-based Medicaid ($250.2 million) is therefore not surprising.

#7 is Wisconsin, with $187.7 million, which IS surprising. Given it’s not a super populous state, the billing rate for school-based Medicaid is considerably high.  Of note is that the feds contribute a sizeable amount, $107 mil, each year.

#8 is California with $180.3 million each year. You would think they would be higher, huh?

#9 is Massachusetts with $147 million split evenly between the states and the feds.

And last, but not least is North Carolina with 142 million where the feds pitch in about $87.2 million annually.

Please note that all these numbers are from a CMS doc that looks at FY15 numbers. Capturing the school-based Medicaid dollars uniformly is not easy (and my guess is that this is a pretty good underestimation) since states can authorize billing for certain things (and deny billing for others) and districts aren’t always aware of all the money they can be pulling down. As school leaders know, the decision to invest in the infrastructure, training/PD and technology to bill Medicaid is expensive and difficult and districts won't do it unless it makes a lot of financial sense. We don’t know exactly what districts in each state bill (the state departments may be able to help with that info) but if you want a quick list of Medicaid eligibility by school district click here. If only the conversation in D.C. was about how to make sure every district with high proportions of Medicaid eligible kids was billing, so they could maximize services for kids with disabilities and kids in poverty. Unfortunately, it’s not.  

 

June 13, 2017

 Permanent link

If you're a supt who hasn't taken action to protect Medicaid in schools now, you're missing a major opportunity to make a difference in the debate on Capitol Hill

As a school leader you know school-based Medicaid programs are really important to students, to school personnel and to communities. We need Congress to understand this point now more than ever. Please take 5 minutes. Make a call, send an email, do whatever you can to weigh in with your Senators. If you miss the opportunity to protect school-based Medicaid programs you are missing an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this debate. 

Below are your talking points. Download this sample letter and make it your own. If you prefer to call, there is also a script for that below. If you aren’t sure how much money you get as a district, feel free to refer to the state numbers that I have attached. Please share this widely with your staff and other school leaders you know.

General Talking Points

·   Medicaid provides critical health care services to children across the country in a variety of settings, including in schools.

·   Medicaid pays for some services in school settings for eligible Medicaid-enrolled students. This is an efficient and impactful delivery system because schools are where children are. Increasing access to health care services through Medicaid improves health care AND educational outcomes.

·   Medicaid funding to schools is critical to ensuring access to services for these students. Without Medicaid funding, schools will be unable to meet student need and already strained school budgets will not be able to keep up.

·   Proposals to cap federal funds directly shift costs to state budgets—and state budgets are already strained.

Consequences of Block Grants or Per Capita Caps

·       Cuts or changes to Medicaid funding could undermine Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT). The goal of EPDST is to assure that health problems are diagnosed and treated as early as possible, before the problems become complex and treatment more costly.  Changes to the funding structure of Medicaid could limit the availability of critical and cost-saving preventative care.

·       Together with CHIP, Medicaid has been enormously successful in providing access to health services to more than 44 percent of our nation’s children. From vaccinations, well-child check-ups, and chronic disease management, to oral health, vision care, and prenatal care for expectant mothers, Medicaid ensures that children get the services they need to grow, develop, and go to school ready to learn.

·       Children constitute approximately 44 percent of the Medicaid beneficiaries, but only about 19 percent of the costs for Medicaid. Current proposals to cap or limit state funding are misguided and threaten to disproportionately harm children’s access to care.

·   Block granting Medicaid could result in reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost-sharing by beneficiaries — all of which would reduce access to care.

·   Reduced funding via block grants or per capita caps will disproportionately harm our nation’s children.

·      Per capita cap serves only to cut federal costs by setting arbitrary limits on federal Medicaid spending. This would be equally devastating for the vulnerable populations that rely on Medicaid, including primarily, low-income children, and the disabled.

Sample Call Script/Talking Points

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask the switchboard operator to be connected to your Senator’s office.

Once connected, be sure to introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent.

“I am calling to urge Senator [XXX] to reject any proposal that significantly cuts Medicaid and institutes a block grant or per capita caps. School-based Medicaid serves as a lifeline for children who can’t access critical healthcare and services outside of their school. This proposal will have devastating effects on children, especially those with disabilities that we serve in my district. I urge Senator xxx to oppose any effort to restructure Medicaid and jeopardize the ability of school districts to continue to receive Medicaid funding on an as-needed basis. Thank you for passing this message along to the Senator.”

 

 

 

June 12, 2017

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 7, 2017

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

June Advocacy Challenge, Part 2: ESSA Title II Funding

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

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

    Dear ____,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sincerely,
    [Educator’s name]

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

June 2, 2017

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

The Advocate, June 2017

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

The Latest on Federal School Choice Policy

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

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

USED Shares Preliminary FY 2017 State Allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A

USED has released preliminary FY 2017 state allocations for ESEA Title IV, Part A. In a message to state chief school officers, they provide initial allocations for states via ESSA Title IV Part A:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017 was signed into law on May 5, 2017.  It appropriated funding for Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program State Grants. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 preliminary allocation, by State, can be found here.  While the amounts are not yet final, these estimates may be helpful in planning and informing decisions at the State level.  A final allocation table will be issued prior to the distribution of Grant Award Notification documents on July 1, 2017.

Additional information on this program may be found at https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/resources/essa-title-iv-part-student-support-and-academic-enrichment-non-regulatory-guidance-webinar.

Also, please note this program is part of the Revised State Plan Assurances Template released on May 17, 2017.  These assurances must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education by June 2, 2017, to ensure timely allocation of FY 2017 funds.

You may find more information about federal education funding by State at https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/index.html.

May 24, 2017

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Response and Analysis for FY18 Budget Proposal

On May 23, President Trump released his federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal. Federal fiscal year 2018 (FY18) starts October 1, 2017 and runs through September 30, 2018. These are the federal funds that will be in school districts for the 2018-19 school year. This year’s budget proposal is the first from the Trump administration and represents a marked departure from recent budget proposals. Unlike recent years, which prioritized and protected education investment, this proposal disinvests in education across the entire continuum, reducing support for early education, elementary education, and secondary education programs.

You can read AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech's statement in response to the proposal here.

Or, you can access AASA's written summary and analysis here.

 

May 16, 2017

 Permanent link

AASA Supports House Committee Action on Perkins CTE Reauthorization

Tomorrow the House Education and Workforce Committee will mark-up the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act  which reauthorizes the Perkins CTE Act.  AASA applauds the Committee for its work to improve on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in a bipartisan manner and we are grateful that many of hte priorities AASA pushed to have addressed were incorporated in this legislation. You can read the letter, which details our praise for the bill as well as a few outlying concerns with the legislation here.  Senate action to reauthorize Perkins CTE is not expected soon.

 

May 12, 2017

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

The Advocate, May 2017

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

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

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

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

  • Provides $66.9 billion for USED (accounting for Pell rescission), a $1.1 b cut from FY16
  • ESSA
    • Title I increase of $550 million (includes $450 m from SIG consolidation and $100 m in new funding; will still leave school districts short $100 m for ESSA implementation)
    • Title II is cut by $294 m (13%)
    • Title IV is funded at $400 m, and states can choose to run it competitively
  • IDEA receives $90 m increase (Federal share just over 16%)
  • Impact Aid increase $23 m
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers increase $25 m
  • Head Start increase $85 million
  • Includes reauthorization of DC voucher program
  • Does NOT include funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

May 11, 2017(2)

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

May Advocacy Challenge: Rural Education

This month's advocacy challenge (find the full 2017 Superintendent Advocacy Challenge here!) is all about rural. And in fact, is just one of two options this month; we'll issue the second advocacy challenge the week of May 22, assuming President Trump does, indeed, release the full detail of his FY 2018 federal budget. In the mean time, on to rural!

This month’s advocacy challenge is focused on rural schools and communities, and highlights two specific programs that target and support rural districts. A third rural program—Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is featured in a separate post, and is more of an update related to a new application process. You can access that on the blog 

Impact Aid:  

  • Background (Hat Tip: USED). Impact Aid is designed to assist United States local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. Many local school districts across the United States include within their boundaries parcels of land that are owned by the Federal Government or that have been removed from the local tax rolls by the Federal Government, including Indian lands. These school districts face special challenges — they must provide a quality education to the children living on the Indian and other Federal lands and meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, while sometimes operating with less local revenue than is available to other school districts, because the Federal property is exempt from local property taxes.

    Since 1950, Congress has provided financial assistance to these local school districts through the Impact Aid Program. Impact Aid was designed to assist local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands. The program provides assistance to local school districts with concentrations of children residing on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, or other Federal properties and, to a lesser extent, concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties who do not live on Federal property.

    Over 93 percent of the $1.3 billion appropriated for FY 2016 is targeted for payment to school districts based on an annual count of federally connected school children. Slightly more than 5 percent assists school districts that have lost significant local assessed value due to the acquisition of property by the Federal Government since 1938. More than $17 million is available for formula construction grants.

    Impact Aid has been amended numerous times since its inception in 1950. The program continues, however, to support local school districts with concentrations of children who reside on Indian lands, military bases, low-rent housing properties, and other Federal properties, or have parents in the uniformed services or employed on eligible Federal properties. The law refers to local school districts as local educational agencies, or LEAs.

    AASA works in close coordination with the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) on all things related to Impact Aid. Here’s a really good Impact Aid primer (Hat tip: NAFIS!) NAFIS also shared an excellent one-page document summarizing the critical nature of investing in Impact Aid, and how the funding works.

  • Talking Points: Right now, the focus is on ensuring adequate and continued investment in Impact Aid, particularly as it relates to FY18. 
    • Impact Aid funds are efficient, flexible, and locally controlled.
    • Impact Aid funds are appropriated annually by Congress. The US Department of Education disburses the funding directly to school districts.
    • School district leaders decide how Impact Aid funds are spent, including for instructional materials, staff, transportation, technology, facility needs, etc.
    • The final FY18 budget allocation must include robust investment in Impact Aid. AASA is opposed to program cuts in the program, including the proposal to eliminate funding for the support payments for federal property program (within Impact Aid).  

Secure Rural Schools:  

  • Background: The Secure Rural Schools program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 41 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The expectation is that the federal government and Congress will develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management. Congress needs to act on active long term forest management programs generating local jobs and revenues.  Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, but has not funded SRS for 2016.  775 Counties and over 4,400 schools serving 9 million students in 41 states now directly face the grim financial reality of budget cuts and the loss of county road, fire and safety services, and reductions in education programs and services for students. The negative impact of lost SRS funds for counties and schools in Rocky Mountain states are compounded by reduced PILT payments.  All these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives in or visits forest counties. Congress must continue the historic national commitment to the 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Talking Points: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW: YOUR REPRESENATATIVES ARE IN THEIR DISTRICTS May 8-15 -- Contact your Member TO STAND UP, SPEAK OUT NOW FOR SRS. Tell what the loss of SRS funds means to schools, roads and other essential services in your community. Provide examples of cuts to education programs, road, bridge, police, fire, and safety programs. 
    • Ask your Member to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT FOR SRS NOW calling for immediate action on short term SRS and funding for Fiscal Years 2016-2017 to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
    • ASK your House member to cosponsor H.R.2340 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK your Senator to cosponsor S. 1027 - To extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. 
    • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands to promote economic development and stability.   

 

May 11, 2017(1)

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

Update: Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) has application for FY 2017

It has come to our attention that we failed to clearly understand and communicate a new requirement for the Small Rural Schools Achievement Programs (SRSA), under the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP).

BACKGROUND: The REAP program was reauthorized as Title V of the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is compromised of two grant programs, the Rural and Low Income Schools (RLIS) program and the SRSA program. School districts receiving REAP money are in fact receiving either RLIS or SRSA funding.

When it comes to these programs, RLIS is money that goes to the state. Details on how a district can receive RLIS funds will be provided by their state. The SRSA program flows directly from USED to school districts, and there is a critical change for FY 2017: Beginning in FY 2017, local education agencies (LEAs) will need to apply each year to receive SRSA grant funds. The FY17 SRSA application window will be open from May 1 thru June 30, 2017. Applications received after the deadline will be processed only to the extent that funds remain available.  

  1. Steps for Applying: Obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number (if your LEA does not already have one).
    • LEAs can obtain a DUNS number for free through the Dun & Bradstreet Website. After submitting a request, you should receive a DUNS number within 1-2 business days. 
     
  2. If your LEA has a DUNS number, verify that the number is active in the System for Award Management (SAM).
    • For additional information and to verify that your district’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact SAM’s help desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time)  
     
  3. Complete the SRSA application on Grants.gov. Instructions will be included with the application on Grants.gov.
    • NOTE: The application will become available when the application period opens in May. The application will become unavailable when the application period ends. 
     

 DUNS number registration and re-activation

  • An LEA must be registered in SAM and have a DUNS number that is active in Sam and G5 at the time of application to register in Grants.gov and apply for an SRSA grant.
  • An LEA’s DUNS number must also be active for the LEA to be able to draw down the funds.
  • If your LEA’s DUNS number is nearing the end of its “active” status, it is best to reactivate the DUNS in SAM at least 7-10 business days prior to expiration date to allow time for the validation process.
  • To determine if your LEA’s DUNS number is active and registered in SAM, please contact the SAM Federal Service Desk toll-free at (866) 606-8220, (EDT - 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.)
  • If your LEA does not have a DUNS number, you can submit a request for one on the Dun & Bradstreet website, www.dandb.com.

Why this change? The REAP SRSA program beneficiaries were routinely leaving $2 million unused. These funds went unclaimed, largely, because eligible schools did not know that they had money and/or they had not completed the process to obtain/verify their DUNS umber. For context, more than 1,600  SRSA grantees hadn’t received money they were eligible for. The new application procedure is aimed at addressing these shortcomings.  The application ensures appropriate and current contact information—which is critical in small rural districts who may experience above-average staff turnover/churn. One districts have their DUNS number, they will be able to receive their monies and draw down their funding.  USED has engaged in a series of webinars on the new application and process and will continue to hold these webinars—roughly two per week—throughout the duration of the application period. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION  

  • You can access the archived REAP webinars are the following URLs:  
  • Upcoming Webinars: To provide additional assistance, the REAP Team will begin hosting SRSA APPLICATION WALK-THROUGH WEB SEMINARS. During these seminars, a REAP program officer will walk participant LEAs through the SRSA Application while the LEAs complete the application in Grants.gov. The first walk-through web seminar for FY 2017 will take place on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. We will host additional walk-through web seminars every Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning Tuesday, May 16, 2017, until Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Tuesday web seminars will be held from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time, and Wednesday seminars will take place from 1-2  p.m. Eastern Time. You MUST register in grants.gov prior to the webinar.
  •  
  • To register for one of the dates listed below, click the corresponding hyperlink below. Participation is capped at 350 attendees per session, so be sure to register early!