August 28, 2018

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

Educator Shortages and the 115th Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 17, 2018

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

August Action: No Rest During Recess!

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

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

August 14, 2018

(RURAL EDUCATION, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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 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.

 

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 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 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 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 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."

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 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.

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. 

 

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)

 

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: 

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!

May 4, 2017(1)

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

We're One Week into May, and there's a lot to share!

Lots of advocacy information to catch you up on: 

  • FY17 Budget: Congress agreed to a final spending bill for FY17, the federal dollars that will be in schools for the 17-18 school year. The bill is not good, but it is about as good as Congress can do given the current funding environment. AASA did not endorse the bill, given deep concerns we have with proposed cuts and inadequate funding to core programs, but we did not oppose the bill either, given that the bill was bipartisan and as good as Congress could do given the current funding caps (We can have an entirely separate conversation on how Congress alone can address the cap issue….they put the caps into place, they can resolve them.) But, for purposes for FY17, we were neutral on the bill, highlighting the good as well as the bad, and delivering a clear message that FY18 has to be better. The bill passed the House on May 3 and is being voted on in the Senate on May 4 (May the 4th be with you…..) Read the AASA letter
    • Quick Summary of Education impacts in FY17 omnibus
    • Provides $66.9 billion for USED (accounting for Pell rescission), a $1.1 b cut from FY16
    • ESSA
      • Title I increase of $550 million (includes $450 m from SIG consolidation and $100 m in new funding; will still leave school districts short $100 m for ESSA implementation)
      • Title II is cut by $294 m (13%)
      • Title IV is funded at $400 m, and states can choose to run it competitively
       
    • IDEA receives $90 m increase (Federal share just over 16%)
    • Impact Aid increase $23 m
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers increase $25 m
    • Head Start increase $85 million
    • Includes reauthorization of DC voucher program
    • Does NOT include funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program
  •  
  • ACHAThe House passed the bill to repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act on May 4. Here’s the latest call to action, which includes the priority members (those that are leaning no). While the bill passed the House, advocacy can sway that and we need to keep the pressure on for the Senate vote.  Details on the blog.
  • Perkins Career Tech: The House today introduced its bill to reauthorize the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bill is sponsored by Rep Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). Other sponsors include Byrne (R-AL) Clark (D-MA), Ferguson (R-GA), Langevin (D-RI), Nolan (D-MN), and Smucker (R-PA). You’ll recall that AASA endorsed the 2016 version of the bill (here’s a good run down of that bill).  Key changes in the 2017 version (H/T EdWeek):
    • States have to set performance targets based on the process in their state plans. 
    • The bill says that two accountability indicators in the bill, those for "nontraditional" students and for program quality, now only apply to CTE "concentrators" who have taken two sequential CTE courses of study. In general, the bill defines CTE concentrators as those students who have "completed three or more career and technical education courses, or completed at least two courses in [a] single career and technical education program or program of study."
    • Maintenance-of-effort language has been changed that would now allow states to decrease their CTE funding by 10 percent in the year immediately following implementation of the new Perkins law. 
    • The U.S. secretary of education now has 120 days to review the plans, not 90 as in last year's bill.  
  • School Nutrition: Earlier this week, US Dept of Agriculture announced a partial rollback of regulations on the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, including delaying or weakening restrictions on salt and requirements for whole grains. This is a set of regulatory relief AASA has long championed. Check out Leslie’s blog post.
  • Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act: SRS/Forest Counties was NOT included in the FY17 funding bill. Your advocacy is working though because there is now Senate language to reauthorize the program. Sens. Hatch and Wyden introduced a bill to reauthorize the program for two years. Other Senators supporting the legislation include Crapo, Cantwell, Risch, Heinrich, Daines, Manchin, Gardner, Feinstein, Murkowksi, Sullivan, Tester, and Bennet.  WE MUST KEEP THE PRESSSURE ON CONGRESS TO ACT. Here is our call to action AND a recent social media campaign. Here’s a bulleted list of what’s in the bill:
    • Reauthorizes SRS payments for 2 years—retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
    • Clarifies the use of unelected title II funds;
    • Eliminates the merchantable timber pilot requirement (note:  this was never implemented by the Forest Service, and the Forest Service support its deletion);
    • Clarifies, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
    • Extends the time available to initiate title II projects and obligate funds for the 2-year reauthorization;
    • Title II and III Elections: For the 2-Year reauthorization, there won’t be enough time to go through the administrative process of the counties changing their elections and still getting their payments on time, so for reauthorization, the counties have to stick with their current elections.  
  • Executive Order on Federal Overreach (Regulations) in Education: President Trump signed an executive order (read it here) that directs USED and Secretary DeVOs to study “where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped on state and local control." Given the restrictions on federal authority in ESSA, the executive order has for the most part been perceived as more symbolic than substantive, at least on first impression.S.945 New HOPE Act (Cornyn – TX) Introduced April 26th, a bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 

 

May 4, 2017

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

Secure Rural Schools Social Media Campaign

In addition to the ongoing outreach to members of Congress (while at home, while in DC, in person and on the phone), it is time to add a little social media pressure. To that end, I have assembled all the information you need for a #SaveSRS twitter storm: 

  • A one-page word document explaining the whole project
    • This includes ready-to-go tweets you can cut and paste
  • An excel spreadsheet that lists the twitter handles for ALL members of Congress. THIS is where the good pressure can come in. At the end of the tweet, make sure to include the handle for your Senator(s) or Representative.

General Notes: 

  • The time to tweet is NOW (Use the tweets today, tomorrow and Thursday).
  • It is completely acceptable to use all of the tweets and to repeat them each day.
    • It is ok to send the same tweet three separate times (tagging a different member of Congress each time)
  • Make sure to tag anything you tweet with #SaveSRS.
  • New to twitter or want help setting up an account? Email me and we can make that happen.
  • Follow the BRAND NEW SRS twitter account (@ForestCounties)

If you are already familiar with twitter and just want to get going with the tweeting, here are some ready-to-go tweets:

 

 

  • FY17 CR must #SaveSRS FY 16 and 17 funding and extend program thru FY18 to ensure certainty for communities. 
  • Secure Rural Schools is critical program for forest communities in 41 states. #SaveSRS
  • As of 3/7, Congressional inaction means Secure Rural School Communities receive funding based on 1908 formula. #SaveSRS
  • Congressional inaction means 775 counties serving 4400 schools and 9 million students in 41 states face draconian budget cuts. #SaveSRS
  • No Secure Rural Schools means loss of county road, fire+safety services, and reductions in edu programs and services for students. #SaveSRS
  • Congress must honor commitment to the 775 rural counties + 4,400 schools in rural communities and districts served by SRS program. #SaveSRS
  • No #SaveSRS? Forest counties + schools face loss of essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.
  • Rural communities call on Congress to honor commitment and #SaveSRS
  • Education cuts don’t heal, and Congress must #SaveSRS to avoid teacher layoffs, increased class size, and reduced program offerings.

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2017

(RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Webinar: The Community Eligibility Provision in Rural Schools

We are excited to be hosting a webinar with FRAC and NREA to discuss the Community Eligibility Provision in rural schools. The Community Eligibility Provision allows high-need schools and districts to offer meals at no cost to all students and eliminates the need for household school meal applications. Schools that implement community eligibility often see increased participation in the  School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program and reduced paperwork burden. Schools in rural communities are an important access point for nutritious meals for low-income students and offering meals through community eligibility can help ensure students have access to the healthy meals they need to succeed.

The webinar will be held Monday, May 8 at 1:00 ET. You can register for the free webinar here.

April 12, 2017

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

Using Recess to Advocate for: Secure Rural Schools Funding

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 began in 1908 removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The federal government and Congress were expected to develop a long term system based on sustainable active forest management.

YOUR SCHOOL AND COUNTY safety net is unraveling.  APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED.

On March 7, since Congress failed to act on SRS and forest management, the National Forest Service issued 25 % payments of timber receipts to states based on the original 1908 Act.  Your 2016 payments, actually based on timber receipts, are well below Secure Rural Schools funding.  They were also cut 6.9% by sequestration.  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.

Congress must act on short term FY 2016- 2017 funding for Secure Rural Schools and active long term forest management programs generating revenues and local jobs.    

YOUR APRIL ACTION IS NEEDED TO SAVE SRS

Please contact the district office of your Member of Congress BETWEEN NOW AND APRIL 28:

 

  • Ask for and arrange a face to face meeting with your Member or District Director.
  • Bring specific information illustrating the loss of SRS funding in your county and your schools.  
  • Be specific, what programs are being cut, what students lose, and how these services will not be replaced without SRS funding. 
  • Bring parents and representatives of your community if possible.  
  • Tell your Member and staff what SRS funding means to his/her schools and communities.   

Finally: 

 

 

  • ASK your Member of Congress to tell his/her leadership to include SRS authorization and short term 2016-2017 funding when Congress finalizes FY 2017 funding by April 28. 
  • ASK for SRS 2016-2017 Funding  - critically needed to support essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services, and 
  • ASK for action on legislation to actively manage and restore National Forest and BLM lands promoting social and economic stability in local communities. 

PROVIDE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF EDUCATION PROGRAMS, FIRE, POLICE, ROAD, BRIDGE, AND LOCAL SERVICES YOUR COMMUNITIES ARE LOSING IF SRS FUNDING IS NOT REPLACED.   

To view interactive maps showing distribution of federal and payments: https://goo.gl/R0sDb9

 

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2017

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

AASA Executive Director Responds to President Trump's FY18 Budget Proposal

Earlier today, President Trump released details for his FY18 budget proposal. It is a 'skinny budget', in that it only covers discretionary funding, and within that, doesn't fully list the impact on all discretionary programs.The proposal cuts funding to the US Education Department by $9 billion (13 percent). It provides a $1 billion increase for Title I, but the increase is for states and districts to use for portability and choice. This is in addition to a new $250 million school choice/voucher program and a $168 million increase for charters, bringing the total amount of NEW funding in the President's budget for choice to $1.4 billion. The budget level funds IDEA, eliminates ESSA Title II Part A and eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

In response to this budget proposal, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement:

“AASA is deeply concerned that the first budget proposal from the new administration doesn’t prioritize investment in the key federal programs that support our nation’s public schools, which educate more than 90% of our nation’s students. While we would normally applaud a proposal that increases funding for Title I by $1 billion, we cannot support a proposal that prioritizes privatization and steers critical federal funding into policies and programs that are ineffective and flawed education policy. The research on vouchers and portability has consistently demonstrated that they do not improve educational opportunity and leave many students, including low-income students, student with disabilities, and students in rural communities-underserved. AASA remains opposed to vouchers and will work with the administration and Congress to ensure that all entities receiving federal dollars for education faces the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.  

“AASA is disappointed at the significant cuts proposed to critical education programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II. FY 18 dollars will be used by schools across the nation in just the second year of ESSA implementation, and the idea that this administration thinks that schools can do this work—and the administration claim they support this work—without supporting teachers and teacher leaders, and their professional development, is a deeply disconcerting position. 

“As recently as yesterday Secretary DeVos indicated an interest in supporting state and local education agencies, and “to returning power to the states whenever and wherever possible." AASA is concerned that while the department indicates they want to return power, the proposed funding levels—including continued level funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and cuts to core programs in ESSA—deeply undercut state and local efforts in these areas and expand the reality of federal requirements without commensurate support, further encroaching on state and local dollars. The return of power, however well intended, when systematically and deliberately paired with low funding, translates into unfunded federal requirements. 

“AASA remains committed to parity between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) dollars, and we are deeply opposed to the proposed $54 billion increase in defense discretionary spending being offset by NDD spending cuts. AASA supports robust investment in our nation’s schools and the students they serve, and we support increased investment for both defense and NDD funding by lifting the budget caps, as set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, for both. NDD programs are the backbone of critical functions of government and this proposed cut will impact myriad policy areas—including medical and scientific research, job training, infrastructure, public safety and law enforcement, public health and education, among others—and programs that support our children and students. 

“Increased investment in education—particularly in formula programs—is a critical step to improving education for all students and bolstering student learning, school performance and college and career readiness among our high school graduates.  AASA remains hopeful that our President, who has consistently articulated an interest in growing our economy, growing jobs, and keeping this nation moving forward, will recognize the unparalleled role that education plays in each of these goals and work to improve his FY18 budget to increase investment in the key federal K12 programs that bolster and improve our nation’s public schools, the students they serve and the education to which they aspire.”

 

 

 

February 14, 2017

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

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This is a Catch-All Education Update, JUST FOR YOU!

Secretary's Statement and Letter to Chiefs re: ESSA Implementation: Last week, Secretary DeVos issued a letter to all Chief State School Officers relating to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in light of the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  Read the letter.

AASA National Conference on Education: We will be in New Orleans March 2-4. Sign up today! Specific to advocacy, here are the policy sessions where you can find Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I:

 

  • Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law (3/2, 9 am)
  • AASA Advocacy meet & Greet (3/2, 9 am)
  • State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For (3/2, 2 pm)
  • Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era (3/3, 10:45 am)
  • The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools (3/3, 12:30 pm)
  • Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices (3/3, 3:45 pm)
  • Federal Relations Luncheon: Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers(3/2, 12:30 pm)

Of Funding: There is no real update. The current continuing resolution (for FY17, the dollars that will be in your schools for the 17-18 school year) runs through April 28. Staff are split among the various options for how Congress will wrap the FY17 discussion, which will in part be shaped by a time crunch for floor time, as Congress works through the Congressional Review Act, confirmations, normal order AND starts FY18 negotiations.

Rural Education Caucus: Your member of Congress may not be on an education committee, but there is always a way to be involved. Is your Congressional district rural? Does your state have rural? Then an easy ask is for your members of Congress to join their respective chambers' Rural Education Caucus. When you make the outreach, ask them to contact Rep. Sam Graves' office on the House side or Sen Tester on the Senate side to sign up!

 

February 1, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Webinar: Changes to REAP Program in 2017 & 2018

Join USED's Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) team for REAP: Changes to the Program in FY 2017 & 2018 Webinar, being held February 14 and February 16.

This webinar will provide an overview of changes to program eligibility and processes as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act and explain what state education agencies can expect in FY 2017, 2018 and beyond.

Respond by clicking one of the dates below to send a notification to REAP@ED.gov. 

The day before each webinar, you will receive a meeting invitation with a link to access the webinar.

 

 

January 10, 2017

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

AASA Releases Transition Memo

As the new year, new Congress, and new administration get under way, AASA shares its transition memo, identifying areas where the Trump administration could take steps that work to strengthen and support the nation's public schools.

The text of the transition memo is below, or you can read the PDF version.

Please direct any questions to the AASA advocacy team (Noelle Ellerson Ng, Sasha Pudelski, or Leslie Finnan).

 

Dear President-Elect Trump,

As you begin to think more deeply about your policies and priorities for improving the education of students in the United States, AASA, The School Superintendents Association stands ready to work with you and your Secretaries to ensure the 13,000 school districts we represent and the children they educate are well-served by your Administration. Throughout our more than 150 years, AASA has advocated for the highest quality public education for all students, and provided programing to develop and support school system leaders. AASA members advance the goals of public education and champion children’s causes in their districts and nationwide. 

Given that less than 10 percent of our budgets are derived from federal dollars, we strongly support increased local control over education decisions. We championed the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act for many specific reasons, but most generally for taking the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription rampant under No Child Left Behind and swinging it firmly back to state and local control. AASA believes there is a critical role for the federal government in improving K-12 education, but that role is meant to strengthen and support our public schools, not dictate to them. We write to delineate the policy areas in which we believe the Trump Administration can do just that: support and strengthen our public schools. The following outlines our sincere suggestions for areas where we think your administration’s leadership is most important.

Provide states and school districts with flexibility to implement ESSA

State and local education agencies are deeply involved in efforts to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As regulations, guidance and technical assistance designed to support implementation have been released by the Obama administration, certain proposals have run counter to the spirit and intent of the underlying statute and act to undermine the state and local flexibility intended by law makers. One of the best examples of this is within the proposed regulations for the law’s Title I ‘Supplement, Not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions. Title I was designed to be a flexible program, giving school districts and schools latitude to spend Title I funds on a broad array of educational services as long as they are consistent with the program’s purposes. The SNS rule as it is currently drafted substantially limits how school districts and schools may allocate resources, restricting and even undermining the ways in which Title I can support at-risk students. The proposal glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines intentional, evidence-based efforts aimed at increasing education equity. The proposal will restrict—rather than support—the ways in which state and local resources can be used to most effectively and equitably support at-risk students.

What you can do: We believe that a simple path the administration could follow in supporting state and local flexibility is to default to the underlying statute (which includes a test auditors could use) and refrain from additional unnecessary prescription. 

Reduce the administrative burden on districts

Increases each year in the amount of data requested by the Obama Administration has become the norm for school leaders. This surge in data collection has been particularly difficult for small, rural school districts to meet. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been particularly to blame for the uptick in data collection through changes made to the Civil Rights Data Collection. In its last iteration for the 2015-2016 school year, the Department increased data collection by 17 percent.  Prior to the Obama Administration, the data was not required to be collected by all districts. In particular, smaller districts were exempt from participating in the collection every two years given the enormous burden it imposed. The Obama Administration chose to remove this exemption and require every district to submit data regardless of the size of district or burden this imposed.  

What you can do: We believe a simple and meaningful change your administration could make is to reduce the data points collected by the Civil Rights Data Collection to the most critical items necessary for monitoring compliance with the Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act. Further, the Department could return to the practice of the Bush Administration and revert to the traditional sampling procedures (stratification, estimation, etc.) that were used previously to survey districts for compliance. Further, require an internal audit of all data that is collected by the U.S. Department of Education in every division of the Department and ensure this data is legislatively mandated, non-duplicative and utilized in a manner that could benefit K12 students. Specifically, request that Department personnel whether any current data collection is focused on answering the question ‘Should we be collecting this data?’

Undo financially destructive regulations and absolve unfunded mandates

Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment through annual appropriations was 18 percent in 2005. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from. 

To exacerbate special education funding shortfalls, on December 12, 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new IDEA regulation that would have profound financial implications for districts. This regulation attempts to re-write the statute of IDEA pertaining to findings of significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. While AASA believes this aspect of the statute is critically important, we think that the Administration has misinterpreted what the statute says and allows the Department of Education to amend it in ways that are not legally sound. In particular, USED will require states to impose a specific methodology to determine what districts have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. If the Department’s estimate is to be believed, between 300 and 500 million dollars allocated to districts to provide direct services to students with disabilities would have to be utilized differently. 

What you can do: In your first budget as President, address this unfunded mandate and pledge to work with Congress and OMB to create a path towards fully funding IDEA. If that can’t be accomplished, support changes to IDEA that would allow districts flexibility in reducing their local investment in special education if they can find more efficient ways of serving students with disabilities. Given the underfunding of IDEA discussed above, we ask that you rescind the regulation immediately and urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. 

Support rural school leaders and students

Rural school districts were not well-served by the Obama Administration. The dissemination of hundreds of millions of dollars through competitive programs like Race-To-The-Top and the Investing in Innovation led to few rural districts receiving any assistance during a significant economic downturn. Furthermore, the increased administrative burden documented below, exacerbated by cuts in federal funding proved to be a double hit for rural school districts. While the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) was preserved under the Obama Administration they did propose setting aside an unspecified amount of REAP dollars to provide competitive grants to innovative rural districts. The REAP program is a critical formula funding source for rural communities because it levels the playing field for small and high-poverty rural districts. 

What you can do: Support federal policy that flexibly supports the unique needs of rural communities, including REAP, Impact Aid, and Forest Counties, among others. REAP, in particular, helps districts overcome the additional costs associated with their geographic isolation, smaller number of students, higher transportation and employee benefit costs, and increased poverty. Funding REAP helps offset the impact of formula cuts and competitive dollars for small rural districts. Oppose attempts to distribute federal funding through competition, which inherently disadvantages rural districts who lack the resources and personnel to compete for funding. Create an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education to ensure that rural schools and communities are appropriately supported by the Department and considered in any discussion of new or existing education policies.

Ensure Higher Education regulations don’t burden local school districts 

On October 12, 2016, the Department of Education released final regulations regarding the evaluation of teacher preparation programs. These regulations require principals and school administrators to complete surveys and track and disseminate student outcomes for teachers in their schools who have graduated from a state teacher preparation program within the last three years. Besides adding an unprecedented and unfunded new burden to LEAs in the guise of improving teacher preparation programs regulated by the Higher Education Act this creates an unhealthy incentive to send graduating teachers to schools where students will do the best and may only exacerbate the current teacher shortage prevalent across the U.S. It could also create problems with the privacy and use of student data and new demands for data sharing across K12 and higher education institutions that are not technically realistic in some states.

What you can do: Reverse these regulations, and support a reauthorized Higher Education Act that does not place unnecessary burdens on the K-12 school system.

Avoid unnecessary environmental regulations

The Obama administration has made efforts to regulate school building materials, despite evidence that such regulations would not provide great enough benefit to justify the cost burden. Specifically, a rule will likely be proposed to require school and day care facilities to remove any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardant chemicals used until they were banned in 1979. Few schools still contain light ballasts with these chemicals, and most of those that do have already scheduled their removal.

What you can do: Do not continue with this or other similar regulations. Please be sure to consult with AASA and other similar groups before imposing regulations that would cause great cost burdens on already struggling school systems. 

Rebuild America’s schools

A strong K-12 public school infrastructure is essential if we hope to be globally competitive. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot be expected to learn in school facilities that are physically unsafe, or that lack functioning bathrooms or appropriate heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, this is the state of too many of our school buildings across the U.S. According to the 2016 State of Our Schools Report, from FY1994-FY2013, school districts and states spent an average annually of $46 billion on utilities, operations, maintenance, and repair from their operating budgets; an average of $12 billion  per year on interest on long term debt—mostly for school construction bonds; and about $50 billion per year for capital construction from their capital budgets for new construction, facilities alterations, system and component renewals, and reducing the accumulation of deferred maintenance. The National Council on School facilities estimates that the nation's districts need to spend about $77 billion annually to modernize school buildings. 

What you can do: Ensure your infrastructure plan addresses the infrastructure needs of school districts. 

Align the K12 education system with skills demanded in workplaces

Last Congress, the House passed legislation to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Senate was unable to act last fall despite a vote of 405-5 in the House to pass the bill.  The federal government’s most significant K-12 investment is in career and technical education. Yet, in some places there remains a disconnect between the education students receive in high school and their employment options. We must address this gap by passing a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act that will strengthen the bonds between business/industry and K12 districts and higher education institutions. School leaders must have data that informs them about what major employers are moving in/out of states and how our high schools can help them meet their workforce needs. We also need to invest more in CTE at the federal level. Under the Obama Administration, Perkins CTE funding fell by 13%. 

What you can do: Recommend greater funding for Carl D Perkins CTE to ensure school districts have the equipment, curriculum and appropriate personnel to offer the courses students need. Urge both chambers to work together to pass a bipartisan CTE reauthorization bill that continues the trend of reducing the federal footprint in K12 education policy.

Support and strengthen school lunch and breakfast programs 

The National School Lunch Act was first implemented in 1946 to ensure students had access to at least one healthy meal per day. It was designed as a fully federally funded program. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act ushered in a dramatic change in how school food services are provided. The strict meal standards have posed a financial and practical burden on many districts throughout the country. The new legislation offered a 6¢ per meal increase, though estimates have shown that the new standards increased costs by 35¢ per meal. While AASA would not support a full repeal of these standards, as much great work has been done to improve the provision of healthy meals, we do support tweaking the most problematic standards to provide relief to those districts having the most trouble meeting the new standards.

What you can do: Support legislation that provides common-sense changes to the nutrition standards, so schools can focus on feeding their students.  Support legislation that increases the federal investment in school lunch and breakfast programs. 

Support public education

While it’s clear that your Administration would like to prioritize expanding private school vouchers, in any and all forms, to students we urge you to consider the practical and financial implications of redirecting current federal K12 funding away from the public school system that must serve all students. There are currently 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Even if vouchers were adopted widely as you propose, public education would remain our primary system; in states with voucher systems, most students would continue to attend public schools. Moreover, voucher programs are an ineffective and damaging education policy. Study after study has shown that private school vouchers do not improve student achievement or provide greater opportunities for the low-income students they purport to serve. Private voucher schools do not provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, such as those in Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Private school voucher programs do not offer real choice as most state-voucher systems allow private schools to reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability, disciplinary history, English proficiency to ability to pay. Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayer money. In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in students from each public school, therefore, is usually negligible and does not decrease operating costs of those public schools. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases. To the extent that non-public schools would have access to federal dollars, all entities receiving public dollars must face the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.

As President it is incumbent that you ensure all students have access to quality public schools and that in a broader conversation of school choice, the focus is on ensuring that the nation’s public schools remain a high-quality and viable option for all families. 

What you can do: Ensure that the U.S. Department of Education promotes effective education policies and programs designed to strengthen and support our nation’s public schools and directs resources to local school districts to improve the education of the 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools.

In closing, we look forward to working with you and your administration to provide all our nation’s students with  excellent public education opportunities and welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss these priorities further. 

December 5, 2016

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

Congress Must Act Now: Fund Secure Rural Schools Program!

Background: The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 42 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. 

Relevance: As we begin the final weeks of 2016 and the 114th Congress, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (Forest Counties) remains zero-funded. While Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, they have not funded SRS for 2016, meaning that 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program are currently receiving zero funding through this program. With these cuts, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded. 

Call to Action: Contact your members of Congress (your Senators and your Representative) to discuss Secure Rural Schools (SRS, or Forest Counties).  Let them know what your budget looks like without this funding and that they need to do something for SRS funding. And, ask them to relay their concern and desire for action with Congressional leadership.  It is critical that Leadership hears from Members that SRS and Forest Management are issues that must be addressed as Congress comes back to work for the Lame Duck session.  Create your own story about what happens if we get nothing. 

In addition to your Senators and Representative, please contact any House/Senate leadership from your state. A full list of House and Senate leadership is below: 

Please contact the advocacy team if you need email addresses for the education staffers in any of these offices. 

House of Representatives: Leadership

 

  • Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) 
  • Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 
  • Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) 
  • Republican Conference Chairman: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) 
  • Democratic Leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 
  • Democratic Whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 
  • Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 
  • Democratic Caucus Chairman: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)  

 

US Senate Leadership

 

  • Republican Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 
  • Majority Whip:  John Cornyn (R-TX) 
  • Republican Conference Chair: John Thune (R-SD) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Barrasso (R-WY) 
  • Republican Conference Vice Chair: Roy Blunt (R-MO) 
  • Democratic Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV) 
  • Democratic Whip: Richard Durbin (D-IL) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (D-NY) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair & Policy Committee Chair: Patty Murray (D-WA) 

 

September 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Kick Off for Rural Students!

The RWDC focuses on STEM education for rural students. For the last five years students have learned precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is the biggest area of innovation and opens the door to many careers for rural students. On September 22, 2016 we will be flying an unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by students. You will see the plane take off, fly and take images of crops to collect data to support precision agriculture. There will also be interviews with the students who designed the plane. We hope you and your students will join us for the event! Please save the date! Follow the event using the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

The RWDC supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in high schools through an annual competition. The goal of the RWDC is to motivate and prepare students for the STEM workforce and teach innovation. The RWDC is Real World in the following ways: Students (1) solve Real Problems; (2) use Real Tools; (3) play Real Roles; and (4) make Real Contributions. Through their participation in RWDC each year students are challenged to optimize the design of a plane. Students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the mission of precision agriculture. 

If you are unable to attend you can see a replay of the event at following link: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

September 6, 2016(1)

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

Back to School Advocacy Wrap Up: Of Appropriations, Epi Pens, ESSA Regulations and Secure Rural Schools

Recess is over, for the kids and the adults, and that means Congress is back in town and back to session. In an effort to provide a one-stop succinct overview of what happened during recess, this blog post is a wrap up of the topics AASA advocacy was monitoring this summer. You can access an related preview in the first part of our ‘Back to School’ editions of Legislative Corps, AASA’s weekly advocacy update here. (And email Leslie Finnan to subscribe to the newsletter: lfinnan@aasa.org)

Appropriations: We provided a one pager with talking points as it relates to AASA’s legislative priorities for federal funding in fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which starts October 1. FY17 dollars will be in schools for the 2017-18 school year, the first year of ESSA implementation. Congress will not complete its appropriations work on time. When they are unable to complete the appropriations process (consideration and adoption of the 12 stand alone appropriations bills that collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), they can either pass short term funding solution (called a continuing resolution, or CR) or there is a shutdown. There will NOT be a shutdown this year (it’s a presidential election year!), so we are looking at a CR scenario.

Time wise, the House could vote on an initial version of a CR as early as the week of September 19, giving the Senate one week to work through the details before adjourning for another recess. How this CR process plays out is a factor of length, internal republican politics, and riders:

  • Length: Will it be a short term CR that kicks into December, post-election but before the new administration? Will it be six months, into the new administration? Or will they pass a long-term continuing resolution, freezing funding for FY17? (Hint: the long-term CR is less likely. It removes discretion over cuts and increases, and from an education point of view, would be concerning both for funding levels AND ESSA construct. FY16 was allocated for NCLB program construct; FY17 is an ESSA year, and the programs and funding are structured differently).
  • Internal Republican Politics: Will Speaker Ryan be able to harness his caucus for a unifying vote? Will the House Freedom Caucus hold the line on its budget priority (a six month CR), and in doing so, play nicely with House Leadership or drive a wedge and force Speaker Ryan to work with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Dems to avoid a shutdown? In terms of what to expect for Democratic funding priorities within this negotiation, look for anti-Zika money, gun violence, lead poisoning, and support for opioid abuse programs. 
  • Riders: Policy riders are a hiccup in appropriations. It blends two usually distinct entities: appropriations language (paying for a program) and authorizing language (the policy behind a program). Policy riders end up on appropriations bills when Congress needs to move a policy that they can’t move through normal order. It also is increasingly used when a policy may not move on its own, but doesn’t warrant enough opposition to force an overall ‘no vote’ on a larger appropriations bill (which would shut down the government). AASA typically opposes policy riders and supports clean appropriations bills.

Epinephrine Pens: At the end of August, the exponential rise in the cost of epinephrine pens (epi pens) garnered a lot of media and Congressional attention. In a nutshell, the company that owns the brand name medicine within Epi Pen (Mylan) raised the price of the pens by more than 400 percent since 2007. EpiPen is a $1 billion business per year for Mylan. Mylan controls about 98% of the epi pen market. The CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). There was no action on Capitol Hill related to policy that would impact schools, but it did bring up the 2013 federal policy that incentivizes states to have policies that require schools to stock epi pens and train staff in the administration of Epi Pens. There is not an effort to repeal that provision, but AASA did have a lot of outreach to press and the hill as they followed up on our earlier opposition to the proposal, citing both policy and cost implications. Read our related AASA blog post from 2013. In a quick outreach to our advocacy network, we received nearly 100 detailed responses outlining what your states and districts currently do related to epi pens, including stocking, training, and cost. Thank you to everyone who responded. Want to join the AASA advocacy network ? Email Noelle Ellerson (nellerson@aasa.org). 

ESSA Regulations: USED is knee-deep in its efforts to issue guidance, regulations and technical assistance to support ESSA implementation at the state and local level. You can check out the AASA ESSA Resources Library for our set of support materials, including links to all of the related ESSA material from USED. 

  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Accountability
  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Assessment forthcoming
  • Still to come: AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations for Supplement/Supplant

USED Regulations and Guidance: The Department has been on a roll when it comes to releasing guidance and regulations for a number of federal programs. The list below captures those that have been released since July 15:

Forest Counties: A bulk of time on the hill in August was dedicated to maintaining awareness of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Program (Forest Counties). This program provides federal funding to those counties who have a large presence of federal land (national parks or forests). As a result of the federally managed land which is not subject to property taxes, local counties and schools receive funding through this program in recognition of the federal policy that hinders local ability to generate funds for local county and school needs. You can check out our August Call to Action on the program, including our one-pager. We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded 

 

 

 

February 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

USED Webinars on Rural Education

USED has announced a set of three webinars focused on rural education, being held this week.

The team responsible for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is focused on increasing communication and collaboration among professionals at the Department of Education, and is hosting these stakeholder webinars as an overview of the rural education grant programs.

They have scheduled 3 separate one-hour webinars: 

  • February 16th, 1 pm ET
  • February 17th, 10 am ET
  • February 18th, 10 am ET

The logon information for each webinar is listed below.  To join a session, please click on the hyperlink listed below the session date. To hear the session, you will need to call in using the toll free number.  If you experience any problems or need additional information prior to the session date, please contact LaToya Harper-Williams (latoya.harperwilliams@ed.gov).

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 1: 
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Time: 1:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 747 774 951
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code.
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US)
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 2: Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 742 091 740
Session password: 12345 

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

2016 REAP Kickoff Webinar Session 3: 
Date: Thursday, February 18, 2016
Time: 10:00 am, Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
Session number: 749 021 177
Session password: 12345

To Access the Webinar:

  1. Go to https://educate.webex.com/educate/k2/j.php?MTID=td47f8f1ed43f61c954c6e2feb3370ab4
  2. Enter your name and email address (or registration ID). 
  3. Enter the session password: 12345 
  4. Click "Join Now". 
  5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen. 
  6. Please join the training session and call in to the number below and enter the Attendee access code. 
    Call-in toll-free number (Verizon):1-877-951-6686 (US) 
    Attendee access code: 582 801 1

 

 

January 20, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

AASA Organizes 2016 National Rural Education Advocacy Summit

On March 14th and 15th, rural education leaders will assemble in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with leading federal policymakers to discuss issues of great interest and concern to rural schools and communities. The Rural Education Policy Summit is convened by the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC) to outline the policy and funding priorities for rural education leaders in Congress.  During the day and half long gathering, attendees will meet with leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss areas of policy and funding importance for rural schools. In addition, the group will meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Rural Education Achievement Program and the impact of recent policy changes issued by the Department on rural schools. The group will also meet with nationally recognized policy experts to discuss recent research on improving rural teacher recruitment, graduation rates and efficiency of state and local resources. After these meetings, the group will gather to develop the 2016 Legislative Agenda and discuss how to best support their policy goals over the next year. 

There is no cost to participate in the Washington D.C. convening for rural education leaders. Registration will close on February 5, 2016. For the complete schedule and accommodations details, please email, me, Sasha Pudelski (spudelski@aasa.org) or call (703)-875-0733.