August 15, 2019(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Call to Action: Support Categorical Eligibility

Earlier this summer, USDA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would limit states’ability to implement Broad-based Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which provides eligible low-income households with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that can be used at authorized grocery stores. Under current law, families may become SNAP-eligible by either (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements, or (2) being deemed automatic or “categorically" eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant (TANF).

Originally, TANF was designed as a broad-purposed block grant to finance a wide range of social welfare activities, including government-subsidized employment, childcare, and cash. By automatically enrolling TANF eligible households in SNAP, the Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) program enabled states to support families on the cusp of the federal poverty line through short-term financial crises by ensuring their continued access to food security. Cat El also benefited schools by making TANF students automatically eligible for Free and Reduced Priced Lunch. 

The proposed rule by USDA is slated to have the following effects: 

  1. It will require TANF recipients to receive aid for 6-months or more before determining whether a household is eligible to receive SNAP benefits; 
  2. The rule will limit types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment; and 
  3. The change will require state agencies to inform the Food Nutritional Service of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.  

If passed, the Cat El rule will hurt students by taking away food security from thousands of TANF households and creating a more onerous application process for families trying to receive SNAP benefits. For schools, the consequences of the rule will be felt immediately, as more than 500,000 students will no longer qualify for free school meals. Moreover, approximately 3.1 million families will lose their SNAP benefits. To support our students, it is imperative that our school system leaders let USDA know that this is unacceptable. Comments must be filed by September 23rd. We need your help to broadcast the importance of Cat El for students, families, and schools. A template for filing comments can be found here, and you can submit your comments by following this link

 

August 15, 2019

 Permanent link

New Public Charge Regulation Will Impact School District Finances

Last December, AASA and many individual superintendents weighed in on a Department of Homeland Security regulation that would change the definition of who is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes. We argued that the proposed regulation put the health and well-being of millions of immigrant children at risk and could place new burdens on school districts to provide health and nutrition related services for children who qualify for these benefits through federal programs.

Despite AASA’s objections, today the final regulation was finalized and it will be effective on October 15th. As children head back to school it is important that school leaders anticipate that some of the budgeting they have done for this school year could be impacted by the regulation. To be clear: this regulation only impacts families who are here legally. To put a pin on this, nearly 19 million, or 25% of children, had an immigrant parent as of 2017, and the large majority of these children were citizens. About 10 million, or 13%, were citizen children with a noncitizen parent. This is going to impact a lot of kids.

Specifically, for districts with large numbers of immigrant families, it may be considerably more difficult to get consent for the district to bill Medicaid as a result of the regulation. Here’s why: the regulation says that if a parent accesses Medicaid more than two times than their pathway to citizenship may be denied. The regulation specifically says that a child who accesses Medicaid via school-based services (whether IDEA eligible or not) would not have that access held against them, but since districts must obtain consent from parents to bill Medicaid there is a deep concern that parents will not give consent either because they are skeptical that it will not impact their family negatively or because they juts don’t want to wish entangling anyone in their family in the Medicaid system. The financial repercussions for districts are obvious: money district leaders are expecting to be reimbursed via Medicaid will not be there and you’ll have to dip into local dollars to pay for professionals and services that Medicaid should totally cover or just stop offering some of the non-IDEA healthcare services you provide to children if those are optional.

On the nutrition side, the regulation directly targets kids. If a child accesses SNAP (as well as their parent) their access to this federal benefit would hinder their ability to become citizens. This is absolutely crazy. A child cannot support themselves financially and if they need access to food it should not be held against them if they wish to become a U.S. citizen. This aspect of the regulation that impacts children and adults alike is intentionally directed to reduce access to food supports for legally present immigrant families. It will lead to intensive food insecurity for children and schools will have more kids coming to school with unmet nutritional needs who are not ready to learn. Districts can, of course, try and pick up the pieces by sending food home to families and operating their own food banks, but this costs money that many districts don’t have to spare. Start thinking about how you’re going to handle this issue locally.

On the housing side district leaders should anticipate an uptick in the number of children qualifying for McKinney Vento services and needing transportation. The regulation states that reliance on Section 8 Housing Vouchers will be held against an adult who wants to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. Of course children benefit by having access to stable housing and when families forego this housing benefit then children lose their access to a stable home, so this will directly harm children. However, district leaders need to be anticipate that transportation costs they previously budgeted for may be insufficient as a result of the uptick in children who are moving away from housing developments and are in shelters or in other housing situations that are less stable. District leaders are responsible for the educational stability of these children as families seek other affordable housing options and must respond accordingly if more students qualify for McKinney Vento services.  

All in all, this regulation can be summarized a deeply flawed policy that will exacerbate the needs of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable. This rule, as released today, will have a devastating impact on the children that we educate and the school district budgets we manage.

 

 

July 29, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Of Schools, Busing, Integration and Outdated Federal Policy

Today's guest blog post is published in coordination with the latest episode of the AASA PEP Talk podcast, which focuses on an arcane provision in federal policy--an outdated anti-busing provision that continues to exist merely because Congress hasn't erased it. The guests on the podcast penned this related blog post, and we are happy to share it here with you:

by Philip Tegeler, Executive Director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council; and Sunil Mansukhani, Principal, The Raben Group

Few expected busing to be a major issue during the June 27 Democratic debate.  The spirited exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden was unexpected by just about everyone, since this issue has largely been considered to be a relic of a bygone era.  However, some of this past history still stubbornly lurks in federal legislation to this day, in the form of harmful federal restrictions that prevent school districts from using federal funds for transportation for school integration purposes.  Such a restriction handcuffs school districts at a time when cross-racial understanding is more important than ever.

Until the beginning of this fiscal year, there were two provisions in federal appropriations laws that contained this ban.  Thus, a school district that wanted to voluntarily take steps to counter increasing racial segregation would not be able to use federal money to help pay for the transportation that would inevitably be needed.  For over 40 years, these two provisions were re-authorized without much discussion.  Yet, when the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) brought these provisions to the attention of Congress a couple of years ago, no one could give a reason for their continued presence today.

We are delighted to report that Congress finally removed these appropriations provisions at the beginning of this fiscal year.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  There is a similar provision (Section 426) in the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) that has also been on the books for over 40 years.  GEPA is a law which governs the Department of Education.  Again, no credible reason for keeping Section 426 has been presented.  Inertia can be a formidable opponent to progress. 

This archaic provision could be removed at no cost to the federal government.  Furthermore, removing Section 426 would provide school districts with greater flexibility to choose how to best allocate their federal funds for the benefit of their communities.  Removing Section 426 of GEPA should be, and is, achievable.  Allowing school districts to have more flexibility in how they spend federal funds is something that we can all agree on.

Ongoing research at Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) demonstrates that transportation remains central to school integration efforts in districts across the country.  Specifically, CECR’s research included public K-12 districts who confirmed with CECR that they are actively implementing a formal voluntary (i.e., not court ordered) integration plan.  A recent CECR report revealed that 59 school districts across the country, which collectively serve about 3.7 million students, are voluntarily pursuing school integration plans.

As CECR’s research indicates, removing Section 426 would have an immediate impact on school integration efforts that are happening now.  Most notably, it would make federal funds available for student transportation for the four most common methods of contemporary school integration - magnet schools, attendance zone boundary changes, controlled choice, and student transfers. Transportation is crucial as NCSD research has shown how school choice relies upon proactive measures like free transportation to be an effective tool in promoting equity.

In addition to the school districts identified by CECR’s research, numerous other districts could benefit from repealing Section 426, including those that engage in inter-district integration programs, those districts whose Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) funds are ending, school districts that have magnet schools but do not receive MSAP funds, and the approximately 150-200 districts that are currently under a court order to desegregate.  In the “The State of Integration in 2018,” the NCSD describes these, and other, forms of school integration underway across the country.  Organized in short state-level summaries, the report describes many efforts that could be accelerated with repeal of Section 426, such as New York state’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, which affirms the use of federal Title I funds “to support the efforts of districts to increase diversity and reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic isolation.”

In addition to supporting existing efforts, repealing Section 426 may lead more districts to pursue new school integration efforts.  As a follow up to the CECR report described above, CECR researchers have conducted case study interviews with leaders in a select number of districts.  Although conclusive findings from this work are not yet available, a clear theme is evident across interviews.  As detailed on CECR’s blog, district leaders are confused about what forms of integration are acceptable and are fearful that their plans may attract a legal challenge.  By removing a key barrier and clarifying what is legally permissible, repealing Section 426 will help open the doors to additional district efforts to pursue integration.

We urge you to call your senators and House member to request this harmful provision be removed from GEPA.  The United States Capitol switchboard can be reached at (202) 224-3121. It is time for Section 426 to go.  

FOOTNOTE: 

 

  1. The National Coalition on School Diversity is a growing network of civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to support government policies that promote school diversity and reduce racial isolation. NCSD also support the work of state and local school diversity practitioners.
  2. There is an exception to GEPA Section 426 in the MSAP program.

 

July 22, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: AASA E-Rate Call to Action: File Reply Comments with the FCC, Protect E-Rate!

This blog post was updated to reflect that the initial comment period closed July 29 but that superintendents and educators can (and should!) continue to file reply comments until the extended August 26 deadline. 

BACKGROUND: Earlier this summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to the schools and libraries program, known as E-Rate. In the NPRM, the republican FCC Commissioners pose and consider setting an overall cap for the programs financed under the Universal Service Fund (USF). As a reminder, the USF is a system of telecommunications subsidies and fees designed to promote and expand universal access to telecommunications in the US. It is authorized by the Telecommunications Act and was created to support and serve four distinct programs: schools and libraries (E-Rate), rural health care, lifeline, and Connect America Fund. Full details on the blog

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACTION. Our goal in mobilizing the AASA membership is to create a groundswell of feedback from the field, highlighting for the FCC not only the importance of E-Rate, but also how their proposed changes threaten E-Rate and what those changes will mean for your schools. We need all hands on deck, and we need as many comments filed as possible. Here's what you can do: 

  • Call to Action: While it is good that national organizations have weighed in individually and collectively, it is even more important that state associations, independent districts and other non-profits reiterate their concern for protecting E-Rate. Help us clarify that the E-Rate program is a successful program that has proven critical in the extensive expansion of connectivity for schools and libraries across the nation. Help us clarify that E-Rate is important in supporting school and library access to online resources and communication and collaboration. Help us highlight why the proposed funding caps to USF and its specific programs are short sighted policy that will undermine the ability of schools to continue to address growing connectivity needs. Reply comments are due by August 26. Instructions on how to file your comments are included below.
  • Background and AASA Summary: Available here
  • How to File Comments 
    • HOW AND WHERE: You can file directly with the FCC OR email your comments to AASA staff and have them submitted for you. Full directions are below. 
    • WHEN: Reply comments are due August 26. Reply comments matter; the priority is on getting as many school district comments filed as possible. 
    • File Comments with the FCC
      • COMMENTS ARE DUE August 26. 
      • Draft your response comments. You can refer to the AASA summary/background document, create your own comments and/or work from AASA’s template. Format your response as a Word/PDF document (include district letter head!).
      • Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings
      • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 06-122
      • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
      • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form. 
       
    • File Comments with AASA staff: If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. 
      • For August 26 Comments: Please email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson at aasa.org) your final comments no later than 5 pm ET on Wednesday August 21 with the subject line ‘Please file E-Rate comments.’  
       
      Questions? Email Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org)
     

July 9, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

The Advocate (July 2019)

Every month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the July 2019 piece:

July in Washington, D.C. means one thing (and I am not talking about the humidity!). It means the annual AASA Legislative Advocacy Conference. As I write this, we are just five days away from our joint conference with the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and we expect nearly  250 school superintendents and school business officials to be in DC to weigh in on federal policy and help Congress understand how to ensure their policy priorities and proposals are written in such a way so as to prioritize and strengthen public education.

Attendees will split time between professional development and preparation for Capitol Hill visits with time on the Hill, meeting with their federal delegations. The policy priorities at this year's conference—including the talking points and content handed out in the conference folder—include Medicaid in Schools, Infrastructure, E-Rate, annual appropriations, school nutrition, higher education act, forest counties and IDEA full funding. Featured speakers include FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, U.S. and U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and VanHollen (D-MD). Panel topics include school finance and funding formulas, Census 2020 and schools, immigration and schools, and an overview of federal regulations and Supreme Court decisions, among others. If you can't be here, we'll miss you, and hope that you can consider joining us next year.

Related to that, I wanted to share our 2019 advocacy challenge: can we ask our members—and then support them in their efforts—to increase their level of AASA advocacy engagement ONE level? I'm listing various ways for you to engage, below, and these are all in addition to reaching out to us directly. (And by 'us', I mean your AASA advocacy team. I've listed our names, titles, email addresses and Twitter handles at the bottom of the article.) 

  • Brand New to Federal Advocacy? Sign up for our advocacy network. Our advocacy department offers a variety of ways to stay engaged. If you subscribe to our advocacy network, you will automatically receive our weekly and monthly updates, as well as Calls to Action (the most efficient way to directly engage when we need superintendents to contact members of Congress or a federal agency). You can sign up by emailing Chris Rogers, our policy analyst at crogers@aasa.org. 
  • Follow our blog and podcast: These sources often overlap with the newsletters and include everything from the latest reports and links to good news articles, as well as quick updates on the Hill and ways for you to engage with advocacy. Our blog is The Leading Edge, and our podcast is Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk.
  • Engage with AASA Advocacy at the National Conference on Education (NCE): We always offer five-to-six policy-related sessions at NCE and host a formal federal relations luncheon with a keynote speaker. It's a great way to integrate your advocacy learning and professional development while already on the ground. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.
  • Join the AASA Advocacy Community: Launched officially during the AASA advocacy conference, this is a one stop shop for the latest AASA advocacy update, full index of all AASA advocacy communications, and a forum to connect and discuss education policies and AASA priorities with other edu-advocates.
    • We’re created a new space for members involved in AASA advocacy efforts to connect, learn and share resources all in one place. Our goal is to bring together the voices and talents of educators with a passion for advocacy at local, state and the national levels under one umbrella. To achieve that goal, our advocacy team will be actively involved in the community, contributing content, loading and linking resources and responding to any questions, comments, and concerns posted. 
    • If you’re ready to get started, please log in to the community using the details below and then take a few of the suggested actions! 
    • Log in with your AASA membership username and password at http://connect.aasa.org. If you don't know your username it should be the email address associated with your AASA membership and the password can be reset if needed (just click forgot password on the sign-in screen). Please contact membership@aasa.org if you require additional assistance signing in. 
  •  Here are a few options for getting started in the platform: 
    • Visit the AASA Advocacy Network community and introduce yourself in the discussion thread that has been started. 
    • Access the Leadership Portfolio page to update your info. 
    • Upload your profile photo and update fields such as bio and job history. You may also import information directly from LinkedIn.
    • Join other communities which speak to your interests, and don't worry, there are many more communities to come. 
    • Update your Community subscriptions, establish notification overrides, and create Consolidated Digests, click on 'Notifications' in the upper left corner of the Online Community to update your preferences.
    • For help you may refer to the FAQ section at https://connect.aasa.org/participate/faq.
  • Save the Date for our 2020 Advocacy Conference: Join us NEXT July 7-9, as we wrap up the 116th Congress and head into the final push of the 2020 presidential elections. We have no way of knowing what education policy discussions will be dominating our work, but we do know that your voice, participation and support matter.
  • Commit to Making Regular Contact with Your Congressional Delegation: Can you do it once a month? Or, let's just start with once a quarter! If you can make that commitment, we can fully support that. Let us know when you want to make contact, and if you have a specific topic in mind. We can send you the name and email address of the appropriate education staffer. We are happy to provide any background information or talking points you may need in crafting your message. 
  • Contact Your AASA Advocacy Team: It is an explicit member benefit of belonging to both your state association and AASA that you have access to our advocacy team. Our job is to represent your priorities in all aspects of federal advocacy and to support you in your advocacy teams. Think of us as an extension of your administrative team, and never hesitate to reach out: 
    • Noelle Ellerson Ng, Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, nellerson@aasa.org (@Noellerson)
    • Sasha Pudelski, Advocacy Director, spudelski@aasa.org (@SPudelski) Please note that Sasha is out on maternity leave until early August.
    • Chris Rogers, Policy Analyst, crogers@aasa.org (@CXRogers16) 

July 9, 2019

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

2019 Legislative Advocacy Conference Resources

It is our sincere hope that you are enjoying your time at the conference. As promised, here are the slides, handouts and resources we owe you. If  there is anything missing, we will update this blog post accordingly! 

July 2, 2019

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

AASA and AESA File Joint Comments in Response to FCC Petition to Rulemaking

In our weekly legislative corps, we mentioned a pending item at the FCC related to E-Rate applications in Texas. In a nutshell: In late June,  a handful of education service center administrators from Texas was in town to meet with staff in three different offices at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a petition for rulemaking related to E-Rate. This is a narrow lane of advocacy for a Texas-specific issue for now but could have broader federal implications. The meetings were focused on highlighting how the E-Rate applications under question were fully compliant with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, were responding to policy incentives built into the 2014 modernization, built on the long-standing premise of competition and market forces and pricing, and that the petitioners (providers) making the motion are looking to use federal policy as a bandaid, a remedy for them not receiving federal funds for an RFP to which they did not respond/receive a bid. 

As follow up to those meetings, AASA partnered with AESA to file a detailed response to the petition for rulemaking, providing a thorough overview of the E-Rate applications from the ESCs, their compliance with E-Rate and state/local procurement requirements, and focusing on how the petitioners are looking to use federal policy to fix a problem that doesn't exist, to establish monopolistic protections for incumbent providers, and to ensure a protected path for access to federal funding (without having applied in the first place). Read our full comments, as well as the ex-parte letters filed after our meetings with the offices of Cmsrs. Pai, Carr and O'Rielly

June 28, 2019(1)

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Joint Letter Calling For Increased Federal Funding In Teacher Quality Partnership Grants

On Wednesday the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), AASA, and a group of 26 other education organizations issued a letter to Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, urging members to maintain funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant at $53.1 million. The TQP program, authorized under Title II of the Higher Education Act, is the only federal initiative targeted directly to higher education-based teacher preparation programs, and it is designed to help ensure that high-need schools are staffed with profession-ready teachers.

At a time when the teaching profession faces declining enrollment, teacher shortages, and retention challenges, increased federal investment in solutions such as the TQP grant program are vital. TQP grants support intensive partnerships between high-need school districts, high-need public schools, institutions of higher education, and other eligible entities to prepare profession-ready teachers. The program requires student teachers to undergo no less than two years of induction, mentoring, or teacher residency models. In addition, grantees must prepare new teachers to teach students with disabilities and English language learners, to use research and data to inform instruction and to have literacy teaching skills so that upon program completion teachers are fully prepared for the rigors of providing daily classroom instruction. Thus far, 70 programs have received funding via the TQP grant, and preliminary results show over 500 high-need public schools are seeing improvements in the quality and retention of their teachers, and correspondingly enhancements in the quality of their students' learning. AASA was proud to sign onto the letter and support the TQP program.

June 28, 2019

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Allied Organization Child Nutrition Reauthorization Letter

Yesterday, the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO), and AASA issued a letter to the Senate Agriculture and House ED and Labor Committees, listing a set of priorities for the federal School Lunch and Breakfast program as Congress attempts to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2015.

The letter calls on House and Senate Committee Leadership to ensure that beneficial, cost-effective school nutrition programs can continue to help nearly 30 million students each day, especially students from low-income households, gain access to quality nutritious food while improving their overall health, development and academic success. 

Specifically, the allied organizations’ letter request Congress to sustain the progress we've achieved of improving the Federal School Meals programs by returning to a five-year administrative review cycle, modifying the Smart Snacks in Schools Rule, Increasing USDA Foods (Commodities) support for the School Breakfast Program, and opposing  School Meal Block Grant Proposals.

AASA was proud to join SNA and ASBO in urging the Committees to take up these critically important measures while they work to reauthorize child nutrition programs.

 

June 18, 2019(2)

(E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Of E-Rate and Approps: An Advocacy Update

E-Rate Update: A recent proposal from the Federal Communications--under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai (Republican)--would place limits on the amount of money the e-Rate program could make available to support school and library efforts to improve internet access. Unlike previous proposals we have responded to at the FCC, which have been narrow in scope and focused on E-Rate--this latest proposal targets the broader umbrella program--the Universal Service Fund (USF)--that includes three other sister programs (Rural health care, the Connect America Fund and Lifeline). Currently each of the four USF programs operate under their own cap you'll recall that the E-Rate cap currently sits at just over $4 billion, a cap established in the 2014 E-Rate modernization. The FCC's proposal would set a cap for the overall USF. THe proposed cap is nearly $2 billion above current levels. Specific to E-Rate, the proposal would pair E-Rate with Rural Healthcare under a single cap. This is of particular concern to us because while E-Rate is currently undersubscribed, school and library demand will only continue to grow, and even if these connectivity prices continue to fall, the reality of increasing demand and skyrocketing costs with rural health care create a scenario where one USF program is pitted against another, with rural schools competing with rural health care for connectivity needs. This should not be an 'either, or' funding approach; the USF program was designed to address four distinct connectivity needs, a core tenet this proposal blatantly disregards. The proposal will follow the normal comment period. As an initial reply, AASA partnered with our EdLiNC coalition to request an extension on the filing deadline. You can read that letter here

Big take aways? Moving forward, know that this is the top advocacy priority for the summer. We will be utilizing a full member press to ensure the FCC hears loud and clear about the importance of the E-Rate program, how the proposed partner cap creates an arbitrary competition between complementary programs, and threatens to undermine the viability of the overarching program. Our efforts will focus on the FCC, as this is where the proposal originated and where the decision will be made, but we will also exert messaging effort on Capitol Hill, as Congress oversees the FCC and the Telecommunications Act, the authorizing statute under the overall USF program. 

Appropriations Update: House Democrats plan to pass a nearly $1 trillion spending package this week, a move that would tie up loose ends from the intra-party fight in April over the fiscal direction of the country. Passing H.R. 2740 would require solid support throughout the House Democratic caucus, because Republicans have said they won’t back the measure, which includes Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water appropriations. To reach the 217 votes currently necessary for a majority, Democrats can lose support from no more than 17 of their 235 members. AASA sent a letter of support for the bill, with the Committee for Education. Later in the week, the House will begin consideration of its second appropriations package (H.R. 3055) that includes Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD funds. Agencies and programs covered by those five appropriations bills would receive about $320 billion in fiscal 2020 discretionary funding under the measure. Over on the Senate side, negotiations on a possible deal to raise the discretionary caps on defense and non-defense spending have not yet been fruitful, and have led to contemplating looking for a deal to raise just the FY 2020 caps, meaning that Congress would have to face a huge spending cut down to the sequester-level caps for FY 2021 in an election year.  That is not an outcome that congressional leadership want.

Big take aways? We are not in the clear when it comes to avoiding a shutdown, nor is there a clear path forward on raising the caps. That said, the question is not so much 'Will Congress raise the caps?' as much as 'How much will Congress raise the caps, and will they address FY20 and FY21 in one package, or will they have to renegotiate in an election year?". 

June 18, 2019(1)

(STUDENT DATA PRIVACY, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Join Us In Person (or Online!) for Free Student Data Privacy Bootcamp!

AASA: The School Superintendents Association and the Future of Privacy Forum are thrilled to invite you or your designee to attend an exclusive free Student Privacy Bootcamp for School Superintendents and Policymakers on Monday, July 8th, at FPF's office in Washington, DC (1400 I st NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC). This event will also be live-streamed.

The goal of the training program is to gather superintendents and policymakers to help them understand the regulatory requirements and best practices to properly handle student data in a complex and rapidly changing environment. The full event is from 8:30 - 11:30am ET. You can see the agenda and register to attend in person or via live-stream here

Questions? Contact Amelia Vance with FPF (avance@fpf.org) 

June 18, 2019

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

Guest Blog Post: New SALT Workaround Regulations Narrow a Tax Shelter, but Work Remains to Close it Entirely

This guest blog post comes from Carl Davis, with the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy. Carl serves as the research director at ITEP. This blog post originally appeared on the ITEP blog and is published here with permission. Follow Carl on Twitter @carlpdavis (carl at itep.org)

Today the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its final regulations cracking down on a tax shelter long favored by private and religious K-12 schools, and more recently adopted by some “blue state” lawmakers in the wake of the 2017 Trump tax cut.

The regulations come more than a year after the IRS first announced the launch of this project and about nine months after it unveiled an initial draft. Overall, the regulations are a big improvement but fall short of ending the tax shelter entirely for wealthy investors. The IRS has indicated that additional guidance will be needed to deal with a variety of lingering issues, though it remains to be seen what that guidance will entail.

At issue are state and local tax credits for taxpayers who make so-called “charitable donations” to specific causes cherry-picked by elected officials, including private K-12 schooling. For years, private school donors have used tax credits in exchange for donating to school voucher programs to beef up their federal charitable write-offs at little or no cost to themselves, since up to 100 percent of their “charitable gifts” to such funds are reimbursed with state tax credits (18 states offer these types of credits). A large state tax credit for private school donations combined with the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions allowed some high-income taxpayers to receive a tax benefit larger than their actual donation. In essence, state and federal law incentivized donations to private schools through a system of credits and deductions that allowed high-income taxpayers to profit from so-called donations. 

For years, these perverse tax shelters went unchallenged. But then in 2017 federal lawmakers enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which capped the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000. Lawmakers in higher-income states, which have a greater number of taxpayers affected by the SALT cap, began to take interest in this shelter as a way of helping their residents cut their federal tax bills. If federal law no longer allows SALT payments above $10,000 to be deducted, why not allow taxpayers to make “charitable gifts” (reimbursed with tax credits) to their state or local government instead of tax payments? New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon enacted these arrangements. Then the IRS noticed the surge of interest in this tax strategy and decided to get involved. 

Under the new regulations, people receiving state tax credits in return for donations will have to subtract those credits when determining the real, deductible amount that they donated. For example, if a taxpayer donates $100 to support private or public education in Pennsylvania but receives a $90 tax credit in return, then only $10 of their donation will be deemed truly charitable and eligible for the federal charitable deduction. In other words, the regulations inject a welcome bit of common sense into the federal tax code’s definition of “charity.” 

Some private school groups were up in arms about this proposal when it was first unveiled and argued that this change should only be implemented in the context of donations to public schools, not private ones. But the IRS wisely rejected that argument and will treat donations to all types of entities in the same way. Failing to do so would have created a grave inequity in our tax code, would have been unnecessarily complex and would have reopened the door to more creative SALT cap workaround schemes. 

The main area where the regulations fall short, however, is in their treatment of investors donating stock or other property in exchange for tax credits. As ITEP explained in its comments on the initial draft of these regulations, investors in states such as South Carolina with stock they wish to offload will be advised by their accountants to “give” their stock away in return for a 100 percent tax credit, rather than sell that stock on the open market. To the IRS, selling a stock generates cash income that triggers a taxable capital gain, but a state tax credit received in return for donating stock has typically remained invisible. A South Carolina taxpayer with $75,000 in capital gains income, for example, could come out ahead by about $23,100 if they take their payment in the form of a state tax credit rather than cash, as ITEP has shown. In other words, some investors making so-called “charitable gifts” will continue to turn a profit as a perverse reward for sham generosity. 

Without question, Congress could fix this lingering problem if it wished. Legislation introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) in the previous Congress, for instance, would require taxpayers to pay capital gains tax if they receive a large state tax credit as compensation for their gift of stock or property to a private school voucher organization. This improvement to our tax code’s measurement of real “charity” is worthwhile and could even be expanded to cover contributions of appreciated property to any organization. 

But the IRS has also indicated that it might seek to address this problem on its own, as it mentions that additional guidance will be needed on a number of issues including the portion of federal law governing treatment of capital gains income. 

Regardless of whether Congress or the IRS is the body to ultimately take action, it’s clear that additional work is needed to preserve the integrity of the charitable deduction by reserving it for real acts of charity, not sophisticated tax planning. Today’s regulation is a great step in that direction, but it shouldn’t be the final word.

June 14, 2019

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

PEP Talk Podcast with John Forkenbrock: Let's Talk Rural!

The latest episode of the AASA policy podcast PEP Talk features John Forkenbrock. He joins AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng for a colorful conversation about a career spanning Capitol Hill, association work, public education and everything in between.

John Forkenbrock is a longtime AASA friend, making a career out of education policy and advocacy. His passion for strong public schools and rural education was central to his time on Capitol Hill and in education associations. Currently serving as a leader with Organizations Concerned with Rural Education (OCRE), John was previously the executive director for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). In this episode, he chats with AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng, and the conversation is as filled with policy insights as it is with colorful stories from an accomplished education career. Give it a listen today!

June 13, 2019

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K-12 Group Letter of Support for the PREP ACT

This week, AASA and a group of K-12 organizations issued a letter of support for the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee. The letter, which was led by NSBA and signed by AASA, AFT, CCSSO, NAESP, NASBE, NASSP and NEA recognizes that more must be done to stop increasing levels of educator attrition and prepare beginning teachers to meet the needs of diverse student populations. The letter calls on the Senate HELP committee to include the bill in any forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (which, according to the rumors, should drop any day now). 

As you may recall from our last blog post on this issue, the bipartisan PREP act provides a practical approach for updating Title II of HEA by incentivizing teacher preparation programs to develop teacher quality partnerships between elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions; increasing recruitment of diverse educators; and promoting clinical based practices such as teacher residency, induction and mentoring models. The bill offers Congress a path to ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future, while also minimizing the burdens of implementation by supporting local and state policy and practice improvements already underway. AASA was proud to magnify the voice of superintendents on this issue and signed onto the joint letter, which can be viewed here.  

June 11, 2019

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

NEW Toolkit: Crowdfunding Policies for School Districts

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the national nonprofit DonorsChoose.org have joined forces to create an updated toolkit for school district leaders to maximize the impact of crowdfunding in their schools. The Back to School Crowdfunding Toolkit was a first step in helping district administrators understand best practices in vetting and using teacher crowdfunding sites. The new Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit outlines policies and practices that district administrators can enact to support teacher innovation with appropriate safeguards.

Teacher use of crowdfunding sites to receive critical resources for their classrooms is on the rise. However, district leaders often have questions about the process and best practices to ensure safety and transparency. The new toolkit provides insights from AASA members and DonorsChoose.org on how to ensure equity and responsible use of crowdfunding in their districts. 

Our new toolkit Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit can be found here.

 

June 8, 2019(1)

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

June 2019 The Advocate: Forest Counties Update

Each month, the AASA advocacy team writes an article for The Advocate, designed to be used by our state affiliates in their respective monthly newsletters. The Advocate is a great way to expand the relationship between our national and state organizations, to provide members with a timely update on a relevant topic, and to highlight the priorities of AASA advocacy. This month's topic? Forest counties.

The Advocate: June 2019

This month we dig deep on the Secure Rural Schools and Counties program. It is a critical program that benefits a large majority of states in the nation, with especially important roles in the Pacific Northwest and states with a large amount of federal forest land.

By way of background: In December 2000, with support from the National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition (NFCSC), the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was signed into law. This bill provided Title I payments to counties (for roads) and to public schools. It also provided payments to counties to invest in Title II Forest Improvement Projects on National Forests and Title III for specific projects and programs in counties.

The Act also authorized the counties to create, in cooperation with the USFS, collaborative Resource Advisory Committees. This Act was enormously successful in that it restored county and school revenues to their 1980's and early 90's levels, resulting in restoration of public services and school programs. The 62 Resource Advisory Committees completed more than 4,000 projects on national forest lands without a single lawsuit or appeal. The original SRS authorization expired in September 2006.

Congress funded the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for the short-term FY 2017-2018 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625) which extended SRS funding for FY 2017- 2018. SRS funding for two years provides very short-term financial support for the disintegrating SRS safety net serving 9 million students and county citizens in 4,400 school districts in 775 forest counties in 41 states. No funding was provided in FY19, and no funding has been proposed for FY20 to date.

National forests and communities burned at significant rates over the last few years. 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. 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.

With this background, our most recent success related to SRS has been to secure funding, albeit in a patchwork of short-term funding bills. We need the FY20 appropriations bill to include funding for at least FY20 and FY19 (retroactively) if not also for FY21. For longer term stability, though, the SRS coalition we belong to has pivoted to a two-prong strategy: In addition to the usual push for annual funding, we are also looking for a significant restructuring of the program, to remove its reliance on the annual appropriations process. To that end, we were pleased to see the recent reintroduction of the bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, first introduced in December 2018, which would make SRS permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. This bill has yet to be introduced in the House, but we are making inroads.

Moving forward through the summer, the ask should be to ensure that your Senators have signed on to the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act and ask them to commit to securing funding for SRS in the final FY20 funding package, including retroactive funding for FY19.

June 8, 2019

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

Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System

Earlier this week, in collaboration with 12 other national partners, NCLD created a set of resources that identify new ways to think about education technology and equity: Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System. The report explores the conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives. NCLD also worked with partner organizations, including AASA, to translate how local, state, and national policy makers can play a role in ensuring technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities. The following resources include actionable steps and key considerations. AASA was pleased to endorse and support the local action primer.

 

 

May 28, 2019(2)

(RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

US Senators Introduce Bill to Bolster Secure Rural Schools Program

ICYMI: Just before adjourning for the Memorial Day weekend, a group of Senators introduced legislation designed to bring stability to the critical Secure Rural Schools Program.

This blog post is an excerpt from the legislation's press release: 

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, today reintroduced legislation to provide much-needed financial certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services. The bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which the senators first introduced in December 2018, makes the Secure Rural Schools program—which expired at the end of FY 2018—permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services. 

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS)—originally co-authored by Wyden—was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Since then, Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch have worked to give SRS a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands.

Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a 25 percent share of timber receipts from federal U.S. Forest Service lands and a 50 percent share of timber receipts from federal Oregon and California Grant Lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. As those revenues have fallen or fluctuated due to reduced timber harvest and market forces, SRS payments helped bridge the gap to keep rural schools open, provide road maintenance, support search and rescue efforts and other essential county services. Since enacted in 2000, SRS has provided a total of $7 billion in payments to more than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety.

In recent years, however, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services. The senators’ Forest Management for Rural Stability Act ends the uncertainty and provides rural counties financial security.

Legislative text can be found here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here and a longer summary of the bill can be found here.

May 28, 2019(1)

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NEW PEP Talk Episode: Edu-nomics Professor Bruce Baker!

Our numbers aren't mighty (yet!) but we think the content packs a punch. Here's the latest AASA PEP Talk podcast episode, all about school finance formulas and a great new report running a detailed comparison across all 50 states. This was a fun one! Listen today.

AASA's Noelle Ellerson Ng chats with Professor Bruce Baker, the dynamo behind @SchlFinance101 and one of the AASA advocacy team's favorite people to talk to when it comes to school finance and education funding formulas. In this episode, we focus on his most recent paper, one that takes a fresh--and also understandable and approachable--analysis of all 50 state funding formulas. Professor Baker works at Rutgers University specializing in school finance, education policy & quantitative analysis. Listen to the episode today.

The paper referenced in the episode is The Adequacy and Fairness of State School Finance Systems, written by Bruce Baker for the Shaker Institute.

May 28, 2019

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

NWEA Launches Educators for Equity Grant Program for Equity in Pre-K - 12 Learning Opportunities

NWEA’s Inaugural Program will Award $10,000 Grants to School Districts and Organizations to Support Academic Growth of Underserved Students

The Educators for Equity Grant Program aims to help schools and teachers foster student growth for preK-12 students who face systemic barriers to academic opportunities. The program, from not for profit NWEA,  will award grants of up to $10,000 to eligible schools, districts, and non-profit organizations to help fund initiatives and programs designed to support the academic development of underserved students. 

“Our goal with this program is to help foster equity in educational opportunity and outcomes, so all students leave secondary education prepared to successfully fulfill their postsecondary education, training, and workforce aspirations. We look forward to working collaboratively with these schools and organizations to support student growth and learning.” said Chris Minnich, CEO, NWEA.

To be eligible for a grant, applicants must be a U.S. school serving students from pre-K through 12th grade and either a public school or not-for-profit organization.  Applicants will be evaluated on evidence base; equity mission; cultural relevance; and academic focus. Use of NWEA products and services is not required for eligibility. 

For more information on the NWEA Educators for Equity program or to apply, please visit https://www.nwea.org/our-mission/educators-for-equity/. The application deadline is June 30, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

This guest blog comes from Christine M. T. Pitts, Ph.D., Policy Advisor for Policy and Advocacy at NWEA>

May 23, 2019

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

Special Invitation: Free Student Privacy Bootcamp, July 8 in DC!

AASA, The School Superintendents Association and the Future of Privacy Forum are thrilled to invite you or your designee to attend an exclusive free Student Privacy Bootcamp for School Superintendents and Policymakers on Monday, July 8th, at FPF's office in Washington, DC (1400 I st NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC). 

The goal of the training program is to gather superintendents and other policymakers to help them understand the regulatory requirements and best practices to properly handle student data in a complex and rapidly changing environment. This event is grant supported. The full event is from 8:30 - 11:30am ET. You can see the agenda and register for the event here

Please contact Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org) if you have any questions. I hope you can join us!

May 20, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Letter to Education Policymakers re: Title IX

Today's guest blog post is reposted, with permission, from the National Women's Law Center.

Background: NWLC recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. In response to these concerning actions, NWLC has drafted a letter reminding education policymakers and leaders that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  The letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001.

Blog Post: Today, we sent a letter to educational policy makers in every state to remind them that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has not changed, despite all of the actions taken by Betsy DeVos to try to weaken Title IX protections for survivors and all students.   

As we’ve written about before and told the Department of Education, DeVos is trying to make unlawful, cruel, and impractical changes to Title IX that are at odds with the very purpose of the statute.  These rules, if they go into effect, would discourage reporting of sexual harassment, protect schools from liability for failing to respond to known sexual harassment, and mandate unfair investigations. And we’re not alone in thinking this – more than 100,000 individuals, organizations, and education institutions submitted comments to the Department telling them this.   

Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. 

Our letter reminds education policymakers that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  Our letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001. And it also mentions that these rules, like many other regulatory actions by this Administration, are likely to face challenges in court.  So it’s not only unnecessary to make changes to policy as though these proposed rules are final, but also probably not the smartest decision.  

If you’re concerned your or your loved one’s school or university is prematurely changing their rules, please share this letter with them. You can also use our toolkit to learn more about survivors’ rights under Title IX.  

Blog post written by Shiwali Patel, Senior Counsel for Education

May 16, 2019

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

DQC Guest Blog Post: Infographic on the power of spending data

Our newest guest blog post comes from our friends at Data Quality Campaign and relates to the ESSA fiscal transparency requirement. They’re talking about the important opportunity this data represents, and more immediately useful, link to a very helpful infographic on the power behind this unprecedented collection and reporting of school spending data.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to publish school-level spending data on report cards starting next year. While your state may already publish some version of per-pupil expenditures on its school and district report cards, those numbers are usually a district average—in other words, the total expenditures of the entire district, divided by the number of students in the whole district. The new per-pupil expenditure data will include the expenditures at each school, like programs, special courses or interventions, and the actual salaries of the teachers in that building, which is likely to show different per-pupil expenditure amounts at each school. You and your team may have already been in conversations with your state about how to collect this information.

While transparency about school spending is important for policymakers and communities, it is most valuable in the hands of leaders like you who can use it to make sure that every student is getting the resources they need. As you work with the state to collect school-level spending data, you and your team need to view this data side by side with information about the students in your schools, including their academic outcomes. Looking at school-spending data alongside student success data can prompt conversations within your district about how many resources schools have in comparison to one another, and whether the way resources are allocated is helping you meet the goals you have for your students. Now that school spending data is available statewide, you can also take a look at similar school districts’ spending and student outcomes and have conversations with your peers in other districts. Local leaders, including principals, school boards, and district leaders like you have the most important role in both acting on and communicating about school-level spending. 

Brennan McMahon Parton is Director, Policy and Advocacy for Data Quality Campaign

 

May 14, 2019

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

New PEP Talk Podcast: #Census2020 and Schools

In the latest episode of Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, we hear from Georgetown University's Nora Gordon. We talk about what I think is the sleeper issue of 2019 for education: understanding the importance of robust and accurate Census participation for schools. I promise, it's way more engaging than it sounds. Plus, accurate census data is the backbone of what helps allocate federal, state and local dollars to communities for the next ten years....an accurate count matters! Give it a listen here.

May 10, 2019(1)

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AASA Proud to Support National Day of Action for Title II, Part A

On May 15, AASA, along with a group of national education organizations (listed below), will be hosting a day of action supporting the $500 million increase the House Appropriations Committee appropriated for Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title II, Part A is a necessary program that can be used to recruit, retain and train teachers, principals and other school support personnel. We invite your organization to participate and hope you can mobilize your members to contact their congressional representatives notifying them about their support of the recently proposed increase.

To help your organization, state affiliate or district participate, the sponsoring organizations have developed a toolkit with draft social media posts and outreach for your members and affiliates. Access the toolkit here. Please note that graphics to accompany the social media posts will be added to the toolkit soon as well. 

If you have any questions regarding the day of action, please feel free to contact Zach Scott at scottz@nassp.org. Thank you for your time, and we hope your organization is able to join us in supporting this important program.  

Sponsoring Organizations

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • ASCD
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials
  • Learning Forward
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Consortium
  • New Leaders

 

May 10, 2019

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

AASA Advocacy: Rapid Round Up

It was a busy week here in DC, and the most efficient way to share that information is a rapid-fire round up in a blog post. Here's what we have for you: 

CEF FY20 Budget Book: This week, AASA was happy to have David Young, Superintendent of South Burlington Schools (VT) on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of federal investment in education, focusing on head start and early ed. Superintendent Young was here as part of the annual Budget Briefing day by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 115+ national organizations and institutions committed to increasing federal investment in education. AASA is a long time member and serves on the board of CEF. AS part of the hill event, CEF released its FY20 Budget Response, a detailed analysis of what the president proposed for all education programs and what it means for our nation’s school, students and communities. Access the report here

Voucher Victory on the Hill: The SECURE Act is a bill that moved out of the House Ways and Means committee last week, and included a very problematic provision that would allow expansion of 529 plans, giving wealthy families a tax break for enrolling—or keeping their children enrolled—in private schools and homeschools. This tax break decreases available funding for public education budgets, hurting the 90 percent of students served by our nation’s public schools. While the bill passed out of committee with the bad language, education groups (including AASA) were successful in negotiating its removal before the bill goes to the floor in the next week or so. We will remain diligent, in case Republicans consider introducing the provision as a stand alone amendment during the full vote. For now, though, a good advocacy effort resulted in stronger policy that supports public education. 

Title I Formula Report, Finally!: You’ll recall that as part of our push for ESSA reauthorization, AASA was out in front in highlighting how the current Title I formulas include unintended consequences that result in less poor districts receiving more money per pupil compared to poorer districts. While the formula wasn’t rewritten in law, the final ESSA did require USED to complete a study evaluation the Title I formula and a series of specified analysis and scenarios. The report was due in June of 2017 and was finally released this week (just one month shy of being two years late). The report stops short of making any specific recommendations about improving the accuracy and allocation of the formulas, provide a great synopsis of each of the formulae and related implementation provisions. You can read the report here. Moving forward, the real question is “How will Congress use this report to inform how they structure the next Title I formula? Will Congress use this information to decide how to allocate their federal Title I dollars among the four formula elements of Title I? How will Congress and states react to what we learned about the impact of hold harmless, state minimums, and state set asides in skewing full intended allocation of federal dollars?” Read the report (all 250 pages!) here.

House Passes FY20 LHHS Bill: On Wednesday the House appropriations committee approved legislation that would provide significant increases for grants aimed at disadvantaged students, after-school programming, and social-emotional learning. The bill provides more than $4 billion in additional funding for USED in FY20, a stark contrast to the President’s proposal, which would cut USED by more than $8 billion. The bill has yet to pass the full House, and is likely much higher than what would pass the Senate and well above anything the president would sign. The path forward for USED funding is anything but certain, with real threats of shutdown, continuing resolution and sequester all at play. We will continue to monitor the process. Check out a detailed write up of the House appropriations committee bill. 

  • AASA was pleased to sign the CEF letter of support for the House FY20 proposal. Give the letter a read. 

District Revenues and Expenditures Ticked up Between 2015 and 2016: A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examined information about revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public school districts. The national median of total revenues per pupil and expenditures per pupil increased across all public school districts between budget years 2015 and 2016. To view the full report, please visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019303 

May 8, 2019

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May Advocate

After the 2018 tragedy in Parkland, Fla., AASA heard from countless school leaders that Congress needed to “do something” to make it easier and more affordable for districts to meet the increasing mental healthcare needs of children. We took this concern seriously and throughout the past year connected with experts and policymakers in the healthcare and education fields to try and understand what, if anything, could be done at the federal level to improve access to and the delivery of healthcare services—particularly mental healthcare services for children.

 Through the culmination of our work, AASA released a report in February examining the school-based Medicaid program and the role it plays in enabling districts to meet mandates under IDEA as well as provide enhanced healthcare services to Medicaid eligible children.

Medicaid is actually the third largest funding stream (after Title and IDEA) provided to districts, yet it represents less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending annually. Districts began billing Medicaid in earnest in the early 1990’s for services directly related to a child’s IEP. However, more districts lately have taken advantage of Medicaid to do screenings, provide transportation to children, enroll kids in the Medicaid program and coordinate healthcare services with outside providers.

In 2017, we surveyed school leaders and found they used the reimbursement stream from Medicaid to hire and keep school personnel who can deliver healthcare services to kids. Delivering healthcare services to kids in school, the place they spend most of their time, is the most logical and efficient way of reducing health barriers to learning early and effectively.

Unfortunately, our aforementioned report found that there are major barriers to participate in the school-based Medicaid program and that many small and rural high-poverty districts are totally precluded from pulling down resources via Medicaid that could be critically helpful to meeting the educational and healthcare needs of their students.

Why aren’t school districts participating in the Medicaid program? It has to do with guidance that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) drafted in 2003 that forced school districts to bill like clinics and other healthcare providers. CMS was concerned by fraud and abuse in the program and thought they needed to crack down on school districts. What wound up happening was total overkill. They created a very duplicative and onerous billing system for districts that did not recognize that schools are different from doctors’ offices in many ways and that Medicaid and schools have a unique financial relationship unlike other healthcare entities.

While some school systems were able to manage the new billing systems and requirements by hiring folks to handle the paperwork in house, many districts were forced to contract with third-party billing companies to manage the paperwork in order to continue participating. Based on our report, the result of this fairly ancient CMS guidance is that there are now real structural inequities in the implementation of the school-based Medicaid program that have permanently shut out smaller, high-need districts from pulling down much needed federal resources.   

Our goal this Congress is to fix these inequitable policies in the school-based Medicaid program. Thankfully, our policy solution doesn’t cost much money and doesn’t even require a change to any statute or regulation, but it does require a bipartisan commitment in the House and Senate to improve the efficiency of the school-based Medicaid program so more districts and kids can access Medicaid reimbursable services.

Specifically, we are asking Congress to place a mandate requiring CMS to issue new guidance that would provide states with the flexibility to utilize a cost-based reimbursement system that would dramatically reduce paperwork that providers need to complete and make it far simpler for districts to bill Medicaid for healthcare services for kids.

This has two major benefits: First, it makes our SISPs, nurses and other healthcare providers happy because they get to spend more time helping kids each day and deal with a lot less paperwork on the back end (which frequently drives them out of working in school-based settings). Second, it allows districts to recoup costs that are currently being spent on a billing agency and utilize those resources to expand healthcare services for children or free up local dollars to support other health or educational initiatives.

What can you do to help? We are hopeful we’ll have bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate this summer that would streamline the Medicaid paperwork for districts and incentivize states and districts to expand healthcare access to kids in schools. When those bills are introduced, please take a moment to reach out to your Representative and Senators and tell them you support any legislative proposals that would address the healthcare issues of your students that get in the way of their academic success.

At a time when we have an uptick in children who lack health insurance coverage and a surge in children coming to school with unaddressed mental health needs, there is an urgency to improve the reimbursement stream for school-based Medicaid programs so schools can deliver more services to more students. This new reimbursement model for schools has the potential to benefit students and families, district personnel and administrators and ensure more efficient and effective delivery of healthcare services to children in schools.  

May 1, 2019

(ESEA, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Two New Education Reports: ESSA Implementation and Teacher Compensation

Last week, the Center on Public Education released two reports that will be of interest to school leaders. AASA was pleased to participate in the conversations supporting the ESSA report, and to connect researchers directly to school superintendents for the deeper interviews. We share the teacher compensation report for its general relevance, given the ongoing policy discussions and strikes at the local level related to teacher pay, and the role of teacher pay in recruit and retention.

The first report, State Leader Interviews: How States are Responding to ESSA’s Evidence Requirements for School Improvement, explores state efforts to assist local educators with selecting evidence-based interventions to improve low-performing schools. The report also contains some recommendations for making research more accessible to educators.

The second report, Are Public School Teachers Adequately Compensated?, provides a context for understanding the issues surrounding teacher pay, including information on how public education is funded and several recent analyses of teacher compensation in each of the 50 states.

Both reports are available on the CEP web site (www.cep-dc.org) and can be downloaded free-of-charge

April 25, 2019

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Sandy Hook-AASA Webinar on STOP School Violence Funding

Yesterday, AASA and Sandy Hook Promise presented a webinar titled Federal Funding for Districts to Improve School Safety: A Primer on the STOP School Violence Act. In case you weren't able to join us and get this great information and technical assistance about this federal grant opportunity you can download the presentation at this link. 

In addition, here are some additional resources provided by our presenter Katrina Velasquez, Esq., M.A., Center Road Solutions, L.L.C., which you may also find useful

1. All the RFPs for the STOP School Violence Act grant portion that is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and focuses on mental health training, threat assessment, anonymous reporting/technology

RFP on Prevention & Mental Health Training: https://www.bja.gov/funding/STOPMHT19.pdf

RFP on Threat Assessment & Anonymous Reporting Systems: https://www.bja.gov/funding/Stoptech19.pdf

RFP on Training & Technical Assistance Center:  https://www.bja.gov/funding/STOPTTA19.pdf

2. The RFP for the COPS side of the STOP School Violence Act grant program which focuses on law enforcement training/coordination and security infrastructure: https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp

 

April 15, 2019(1)

(RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL HEALTH) Permanent link

Rural Matters Podcast: Rural Healthcare

Our friends at the Rural Matters podcast have shared their latest episode, focused on challenges facing rural health care providers. Give it a listen!

Synopsis: Michelle chats with Barbara Yawn (“Dr. Barbara”), family physician and clinical researcher in the rural space and Eric VanStone, founder and principal of Rural Medical Education Collaborative, a divisions of Talem Health, about the challenges facing rural health care providers today, including delivering care to patients without immediate access to care, particularly specialty care. Providers need to learn how to deliver care in a way they may not be used to, Yawn points out. That might include how to provide more with less, for example, through telehealth. One of the ways to engage busy rural primary clinicians about what’s happening today in health care is to make sure the information provided is practical and useful for both them and their patients, says Yawn. In general, VanStone and Yawn notes, rural residents have higher rates of chronic diseases, including COPD, oncology, and diabetes, and mental illness than their urban counterparts. That requires a different population health approach, she says. For example, the environmental factors affecting rural patients might be quite different than those affecting urban patients. It’s critically important Yawn to provide preventative care in the rural setting. Finally, VanStone notes, all the medical education his collaborative provides on a complimentary basis. Access the episode.

April 15, 2019

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

New PEP Talk Episode: Education Superhighway's Evan Marwell

We are pleased to share the latest episode of PEP Talk, AASA's Education Policy Podcast. In this episode, we talk with Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Superhighway. Evan and Noelle talk everything from E-Rate to connectivity and everything in between. We were pleased to chat with Evan, and want to also link to our latest and most updated E-Rate resources landing page.

April 9, 2019

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Contact Info for USED Office of State and Grantee Relations

AS part of the Trump administration's reorganization of the US Education Department (USED), they reorganized the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) to include a new Office of State and Grantee Relations (SGR). In a communication to state chiefs of education, USED wrote,

"SGR will serve as the primary point of contact for all grantees and stakeholders for concerns related to OESE and its programs.  SGR will provide high-quality customer service to you as grantees and stakeholders, while simultaneously developing a greater understanding of the relevant education issues at your regional, State and local level.  SGR will also actively explore new strategies for better outreach, communications and conveyance of information from OESE to its grantees... As the single point of contact, SGR will provide customer service to all of OESE’s grantees and external stakeholders, including State Education Agencies (SEAs).  SGR will answer your questions, coordinate resources to address complex issues, and connect you to technical assistance within OESE and throughout the Department."

USED included an SGR contact list with email addresses and staff assignments. Unlike the traditional state mailboxes you may have used in the past, these state mailboxes will also be available for use by any grantee in that state—SEAs, local education agencies, discretionary grantees that operate separately from an SEA, etc.  Please send your inquiries to the state mailbox that corresponds to your State using the format [statename].OESE@ed.gov (for example, Michigan.OESE@ed.gov).  Of course, you are always welcome to use the general SGR email address or phone line at any time for any request.

 

  • SGR General Mailbox: SGR@ED.GOV
  • SGR General Phone: 202-453-5563

 

April 5, 2019

(STUDENT DATA PRIVACY, ED TECH) Permanent link

AASA Proud to Partner on Policymaker's Guide to Student Privacy

AASA was pleased to partner with our friends at Future of Privacy Forum, who led an effort to pen the now released Policymaker's Guide to Student Data Privacy! The guide is designed as a tool for the creators of new laws, rules, standards, and other policies. The guide is a sorely-needed resource for federal, state and local policymakers interested in developing thoughtful student data privacy legislation. States have passed more than 113 student privacy laws since 2013. As various policymaking organizations continue to consider new laws, rules, policies, and other safeguards for student data, this guide is intended to serve as a resource to aid and inform those efforts.

By providing a comprehensive overview of student privacy issues, the guide is a jumping off point for policymakers looking to craft or update laws addressing student privacy. It covers existing federal laws as well as the broad approaches that have been taken at the state level, including the types of policy approaches that have caused unintended consequences. Additionally, the guide addresses specific student privacy issue areas that are commonly addressed by policymakers such as school safety, third party data use, transparency, and parental rights. 

Policymakers at the local, state, and federal level must work together with parents, educators, administrators, district officials, and edtech vendors in order to create a thoughtful, and workable, approach to student privacy that avoids duplicative effort. 
The guide was written collaboratively with an Advisory Council of other student privacy experts from the following organizations: Data Quality Campaign, National School Boards Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Conference of State Legislatures, AASA – The School Superintendents Association, and Alliance for Excellent Education.

April 2 ,2019

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AASA Joins NSBA And Others In Amicus Brief For SCOTUS Case On Immigration Question In Census

AASA joined with the national organizations representing public school leaders in a joint amicus brief for the Department of Commerce v. State of New York court case, set to go before the Supreme Court and related to the inclusion of an immigration-related question in the census. The education groups filed a brief that included, in part, an emphasis on the importance of accurate census data and the critical role it plays in ensuring that federal resources are distributed as intended and to true areas of need. As written in the summary: "In the area of public education alone, an inaccurate census count could impact billions of dollars flowing to vulnerable population groups in the parts of the country most in need." Read the full brief here.

Our friends at NSBA spearheaded the effort, and we were joined by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association of School Business Officials International. 

April 2, 2019(1)

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PEP Talk Podcast Featuring NAFIS' Leslie Finnan

Earlier this year, AASA launched Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, a podcast to highlight anything and everything that could be edu-policy related and interesting, tied into AASA's education policy and advocacy work.

You can check out all our episodes to date here, and today we want to highlight the latest episode, featuring a guest with a name near and dear to AASA: Leslie Finnan, stopping by in her new role as the head of advocacy and policy at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). We loved getting the chance to catch up with our former teammate and always public ed advocate.

April 2, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Coalition Letter Urging Higher Allocation for LHHS-Education Appropriations Bills

AASA joined more than 500 organizations in a joint letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership urging a bigger allocation for the FY 2020 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations.  The letter was signed by 550 organizations that support investments in the bill’s many programs.  AASA joined the letter through our work with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). CEF helps lead this letter annually with the Coalition for Health Funding, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, and the Coalition on Human Needs.

March 27, 2019(1)

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

AASA Joins Education, Privacy, Disability Rights, and Civil Rights Groups to Release Principles For School Safety, Privacy, and Equity

Today, AASA and 39 other education, privacy, disability rights, and civil rights organizations released ten principles to protect all students’ safety, privacy, and right to an equal education. The principles are meant to serve as a starting point for conversations with policymakers and school officials about how to keep students safe while respecting their dignity and encouraging their individual growth. Check out the principles here

Signatories of the Principles for School Safety, Privacy, and Equity:

 

  • AASA: The School Superintendents Association
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • The Advocacy Institute
  • The Arc of the United States
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Association of University Centers on Disability
  • Autism Society
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus
  • Center for Public Representation
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
  • Disability Independence Group, Inc
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • EPIC
  • Florida Association of School Psychologists
  • Florida League of Women Voters
  • Florida Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  • Future of Privacy Forum
  • Intercultural Developmental Research Association
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • Mental Health America
  • National Association of Councils on   Developmental Disabilities
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • National Center for Youth Law
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • Public Advocacy for Kids
  • Sandy Hook Promise
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • TASH

 

March 27, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Opposes Senate FY20 Budget Proposal

You'll recall that the president kicked off the annual budget and appropriations process for federal fiscal year 2020 (FY20) earlier this month when he released his FY20 budget proposal. Spoiler: It's bad for education, AASA opposes and it is a non-starter with Congress. You can read our full analysis here.

From here, the action moves to Capitol Hill, where the Congress picks up its work to advance the process. If this were school house rocks, each chamber would adopt their own budget resolution (a document that sets the overall dollar amount for the budget, but devoid of program specific details). Then, it shifts from budget to appropriations, as the overall allocation is divided between the 12 'slices' of the federal budget, the 12 appropriations bill. For our purposes, we follow the labor, health, human services, education and other (LHHS) bill. Then, each chamber's 12 appropriations sub committees will propose, consider and adopt the 12 individual bills, then the full appropriations committee would repeat the process, and then those House and Senate bills would have to be conferenced/reconciled to settle differences, before a final vote and going to the president's desk. That was a super simplified explanation, and really almost irrelevant, since the process hasn't worked like that--on time--since the mid 1990s.

So, right now, we are on the budget resolution portion. For FY20, this is a critical step. The budget caps put into place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 run through 2021, and those caps--which equate to cuts--were exacerbated by the cuts of sequester, also a by-product of the Budget Control Act. In a nutshell, if Congress does not raise the caps for FY20, we face a serious funding cliff that could revert funding levels at USED to those of a decade ago. 

So what's going on with the Hill? There is no guarantee that each Chamber will pass a budget resolution, and that's not a deal breaker (Congress can vote to raise the caps in other vehicles). But for now, the chambers are attempting to move through normal order. This week, the Senate budget committee is set to consider the proposal supported by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY). AASA opposes the budget resolution, and you can read our letter here. 

In a nutshell, the resolution--while it could pass the committee--isn't expected to get much further. The proposal mirrors the low funding levels of the president's FY20 budget, locking in the post-sequester caps for both FY20 and 21, as well as the next three years. For FY20 alone, those type of cuts could translate into a cut to USED of nearly $9 billion (12.5%!).  The resolution is in stark contrast to Congress' funding efforts each year since 2013. Put another way, regardless of party leadership or polticial positioning, every fiscal year since 2013, Congress has voted to restore the cuts of sequester and raise the funding caps to pre-sequester levels. This budget proposal is the direct opposite of that and pretty much the opposite of what we expect the House to use as its starting point.

This all said, Chairman Enzi is acting within the responsibility of his committee, is moving through normal process, and is compliant with the Budget Control Act. While we oppose his proposal and urge him to advance a proposal that resolves the sequester cuts, we remain committed to working with him and his committee through this process. Stay tuned!

March 26, 2019

(IDEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Chairs IDEA Funding Coalition, Leads 25 Orgs in Effort to Introduce Bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Bill

AASA is the chair of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a group of national education and related groups committed to getting Congress to honor its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with special needs. This is a commitment they made when signing IDEA into law in 1975, and one they have chronically failed. To date, the closest they have come to this goal through the annual appropriations process was 18% in 2005, and is under 15% in the current federal fiscal year, 2019.

To that end, our coalition leads the effort to work with Congress to introduce the legislation that gives Congress a clear ten-year glide path to realize their commitment, and we are so pleased that this year's bills, in both the House and Senate, are bipartisan and were introduced during Public Schools Week.

Co sponsors in the Senate include Sen Chris VanHollen and Sen Pat Roberts (a long time IDEA funding supporter who had stepped away from the role, returning this year for his final Senate term), and Rep Jared Huffman on the House side. 

You can read out letter of support here, and a quick thanks to ALL the groups in our IDEA Funding Coalition signing on to the letter.

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
    • American Dance Therapy Association
    • American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
    • American Federation of Teachers
    • American Music Therapy Association
    • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies
    • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
    • Association of School Business Officials International
    • Council for Exceptional Children
    • Council of Administrators of Special Education
    • Council of Great City Schools
    • Learning Disabilities Association of America
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
    • National Center for Learning Disabilities
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
    • School Social Work Association of America
    • The ARC of the United States

    March 21, 2019

    (ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

    AASA Feedback on Changes to Equitable Services

    Earlier this month, USED handed down a clarification related to equitable services in ESSA that would allow third party or outside players to be religiously affiliated. For background: Under ESSA, public schools have to offer/provide the same services to vulnerable students in private schools that are available to students in the public schools. Under current practice, some schools make that work by providing a teacher or the related salary. Or, while current law prohibits the money from going directly to the private school, districts consult with the private school leaders to determine what services need to be provided and if they need to use an outside contractor. Under previous interpretation, there was a prohibition against any such organization being religious in affiliation. In light of Trinity Lutheran (The SCOTUS case the is a foot-in-the-door approach to vouchers and allows for public dollars to go to private schools in narrow circumstances), USED was clarifying that prohibition against these contractors being religious was illegal. This means that schools can now consider proposals or bids from religious groups. While this is not likely sizeable in terms of dollars that may ultimately flow to private providers that are religiously affiliated, it is a seismic shift in that public dollars will end up in private schools. 

    In response to the change, AASA submitted the following comment to USED:

    On Monday, March 11, the US Education Department (USED) announced that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017), eligible organizations cannot be disqualified from receiving a public benefit solely because of their religious character, USED will no longer enforce statutory provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that previously restricted school districts from contracting with religious organizations to provide equitable services on the same basis as any other organization. The Trinity decision expanded federal law to allow provision of public dollars to private entities/schools in a narrow circumstance, and we want to ensure that this USED application of this interpretation does not spill over into a further expansion. That is, it is a creative interpretation of legal logic to expand a decision that is it ok for a contractor to use public funds to resurface a playground in a private school to then allow that flexibility to apply to a contractor who will provide instructional services. 

    We share USED’s goal to support school districts in providing high-quality educational services to students and teachers. To that end, we encourage USED to consider and make clear those ways in which it will prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in circumstances where school districts choose to contract with religious organizations to provide equitable services, and in turn instruct states as to how to effectively include this in their monitoring. In addition, we encourage USED to remain diligent in its enforcement of other applicable statutory provisions and we encourage LEAs to ensure that their activities are compliant with those provisions, including the requirement that any contractor be independent of the private school for which it is providing services (i.e., the contractor does not have administrative or fiscal direction and control over the private school) and that the educational services and other benefits being provided by the contractor are “secular, neutral, and nonideological.” As with any other contractual arrangement funded by federal dollars, transparency and accountability in these arrangements are critical to supporting students’ and teachers’ success and the responsible allocation of limited financial resources. 

     

    March 15, 2019

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

    AASA Analysis of Trump FY20 Budget Proposal

    On March 11, President Trump released his FY20 budget proposal, his plan/strategy/priorities for federal funding in FY20 (which starts Oct 1 and runs through Sept 30; FY20 education dollars will be in schools during the 2020-21 school year).  It should be noted that this budget is dead on arrival and is a non-starter with Congress, who will do their own bipartisan work to reach a compromise on final FY20 dollars. AASA monitors this proposal out of diligence to all federal funding proposals, but puts little to no stock in the proposal itself. 

    You can read the full AASA analysis here.

    AASA maintains that a budget, whether that of our organization or the schools that AASA members lead, reflects our mission and priorities: we fund what we support, and we support what we fund. To that end, President Trump’s proposed FY20 budget continues his trend of introducing federal budget proposals that fall short of the simple willingness and ability to prioritize support for strengthening and supporting our nation’s public schools and the students they serve.  

    OVERVIEW: The president’s FY20 budget proposal continues his administration’s prioritization of privatization, at the direct expense of the nation’s public schools and the 50 million students they serve every day. The FY20 US Education Department (USED) budget proposal is organized around six major initiatives:

     

    • Increase access to school choice
    • Support high-need students through essential formula grant programs
    • Protect students by promoting safe and secure schools
    • Elevate the teaching profession through innovation
    • Promote workforce development for the 21st century
    • Streamline and improve post-secondary aid programs

     

    Overall, the proposal seeks one of the largest-ever cuts to domestic discretionary spending. The proposal cuts non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding from its current level of $597 billion to the FY2020 funding cap of $543 billion (a cut of $54 billion, or 9%). The proposal preserves funding for defense discretionary funding. More specific to education, the FY20 budget proposal for USED provides $64 billion for the federal fiscal year starting October. This is a cut of $7.1 billion (or 10 percent) compared to USED’s final FY19 allocation. The proposal eliminates 29 programs, totaling $6.7 billion, with a significant portion of those cuts targeting programs that support educators, school leaders, literacy and college affordability. The budget proposal uses these cuts to pay for a new federal tuition tax credit (voucher), funded at $5 billion in FY20 and at $50 billion total over ten years, as well as increases for the DC Opportunity Scholarship voucher. At the 30,000 foot level, the AASA response to the proposed FY20 budget is a reiteration of our commitment to equity in education, to the idea that all students deserve a robust high-quality education, and to the belief that our nation’s public schools are best positioned to achieve this unparalleled national priority. We subscribe to the idea that ‘When our students succeed, our nation succeeds’ and as such, believe that federal investment is critical to helping to level the playing field for our nation’s neediest students. The limited federal dollars, though a small share of overall education funding, yield a mighty impact when purposefully invested.

    AASA outright opposes the president’s FY20 budget proposal, for myriad reasons: for its flawed premise; for its failure to resolve the funding pressures of sequester; for its continued prioritization of privatization; for missing the opportunity to introduce a budget document that is not dead on arrival with Congress; for its blunt cuts to non-defense discretionary funding; and for its disregard for parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, among others. AASA welcomes the opportunity to work with Congress to complete a timely, bipartisan, bicameral FY20 budget that raises the federal funding caps, uses FY19 as the base funding level, and supports and strengthens public education. 

    March 13, 2019

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    AASA Endorses Bipartisan Teacher PREP Act

    As Congress gears up for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, AASA was pleased to work with Senators Kaine and Collins to have legislation introduced that will alleviate the on-going teacher shortage. The Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act will help ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future with a special focus on addressing shortages in rural communities. The bill would provide funding to states to encourage school districts to create partnerships, residency programs, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. You can read more about the bill here.

     

     

    March 5, 2019

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    AASA Responds to USED Proposal for Supplement, Supplant

    Earlier this week, AASA filed comments in response to USED's proposed guidance on Supplement, Not Supplant for ESSA Title I. Read our comments.

     

     

     

    February 28, 2019

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

    This Week in AASA Advocacy: Letter on House Infra Bill AND the 2019 Leg Agenda

    Two items of note this week:

    • AASA Releases Final 2019 Legislative Agenda: Drafted by the AASA executive committee in January, and revised and ratified by the AASA governing board at the National Conference for Education in LA earlier this month, the final legislative agenda is available for your reference. This document represents the organization's federal legislative priorities and is used by the policy and advocacy team as 'marching orders' on Capitol Hill. Join us in DC in July for our annual advocacy conference for your chance to weigh in on these important issues.
    • House Education & Labor Committee Passes Infrastructure Bill: Earlier this week, the committee passed the Rebuild America's School Act, which would provide about $100 billion for school infrastructure, through a combination of $70 billion in direct federal spending for renovation, repairs and modernization, and $30 billion in tax-credit bonds. AASA sent a letter of support (with our friends at AESA). The path forward is far from clear: this bill merely authorizes the funds; Congress would need to actually provide the funding via annual appropriations. Given that FY20 discussions will require a sizable funding cap increase to merely preserve level funding, the likelihood of Congress finding another $100 billion is really limited. Stay tuned!

    February 25, 2018

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    AASA Joins Letter on Gun Violence Research

    Earlier this month,  AASA joined 166 national, state, and local medical, public health, and research organizations in asking the House and Senate to provide $50 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct public health research into firearm morbidity and mortality prevention. You can read the letter here

    February 22, 2019

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    AASA Releases New Medicaid Report-- Leads Letter to CMS

    Two Medicaid in schools related pieces to share in one blog post! The first is that yesterday we released our brand new report called Structural Inefficiencies in the School-Based Medicaid Program Disadvantage Small and Rural Districts and Students, which describes how immediate Congressional action could ensure school districts of all sizes can deliver healthcare services more efficiently and to a greater number of students. We were thrilled the report reflects the viewpoints of over 750 school leaders in 41 states and their experience participating in the school-based Medicaid program in their states. 

    At a time when we have an uptick in children who lack health insurance coverage and a surge in children coming to school with unaddressed mental health needs, there is an urgency to improve the reimbursement stream for school-based Medicaid programs so
schools can deliver more services to more students. We believe the passage of federal legislation, “The Improving Medicaid in Schools Act” would allow states to implement a uniform, cost-based reimbursement methodology that would ensure districts of all sizes can be reimbursed by Medicaid for meeting the healthcare needs of their students regardless of their administrative capacity and student population. The proposal leverages an existing and proven process for Medicaid claiming that ensures strong accountability measures are still in place, but that will simultaneously reduce the burden
on State Medicaid Agencies and insurance companies
to manage and respond to a high volume of Medicaid transactions from districts.

    You can read the report and executive summary at aasa,org/Medicaid/

    Related to this report, AASA and Mental Health America led a letter signed by over 40 national education, health and child welfare organizations to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare asking that they provide greater opportunities for districts to share the barriers they are facing in participating in the Medicaid program.  

     

    February 19, 2019

    (E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

    E-Rate Funding Remains Available, Underutilized!

    As the largest education technology program in the country, the Schools and Libraries program (E-rate) has transformed Internet access in our nation’s schools. However, with digital learning opening new opportunities for students and teachers, schools and libraries must continue to utilize the program to prepare their networks for the future -- and we want to help.

    Before 2015, a large portion of the funding was reserved for subsidizing school phone lines; little funding was set aside to support schools with upgrading their internal networks. In 2014, AASA played a lead role in modernizing the E-rate program, advocating for key changes such as: 

     

    1. A policy update to make the program broadband-centric; and
    2. A critical vote to increase the funding cap to ensure that applicants could access meaningful funding both Category 1 (internet access) and Category 2 (internal networking).

    Since the changes, 83% of schools accessed Category 2 funding in 2018 (up from 15% in 2015) and twenty million more students have access to the minimum connectivity needed to take advantage of digital learning (Source: EducationSuperHighway). Still, more than $1 billion in E-rate funding is left on the table each year. 

    With the possibility that Category 2 funding may expire after this funding year, now is the time for districts that have funding remaining to apply.  To understand your available Category 2 budget, find your school district on Compare & Connect K-12, or visit the USAC budget tool

    If your district has remaining funds, we encourage you to meet with your technology staff to make sure you can take advantage before they expire. With the E-rate 471 filing window set to close on March 27, 2019, school districts must get started now to meet all required deadlines. 

    Stay tuned for more posts with E-rate updates and free resources to ensure all students have access to the broadband needed to take advantage of digital learning.

     

    February 14, 2019

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    FY19 Appropriations: Is the end in sight? Will Congress and the President avoid another shutdown?

    Up against the clock of a short-term federal funding deal that expires on February 15, it appears Congress has reached consensus on a compromise bill to fund the remaining portions of the federal government, a middle ground on the contentious border security debate, and avoided another shutdown. The Senate is expected to consider and adopt the proposal today, and the House will follow suit. It is anticipated—but not certain—the President will sign the deal. He has indicated, but not confirmed, support. The deal needs to be finalized before midnight on Friday to avoid a shutdown. This will bring the final FY19 appropriations process to a close (nearly 5 months after the fiscal year started on October 1). You’ll recall that education was largely untouched in the shutdown, as our portion of the appropriations process was funded on time last fall.

    The conference report can be found here, a section by section summary here, and an explanatory statement here

    I am including a top-line summary of the funding levels included in the bill. Of the programs and agencies impacted, we were most closely following the Department of Agriculture, as it is the agency that funds the school meals programs. (H/T to our friends in the Children’s Budget Coalition for this quick list): 

     

    • Department of Homeland Security: $49.4 billion, $1.7 billion above FY 18
    • Agriculture-Food Drug Administration: $23.042 billion in discretionary funding, $32 million above FY 18 
      • WIC is funded only at $6.075 billion, a $100 M cut from FY 18
      • Summer EBT and School Meal Equipment grants are level funded with FY 18 at $28 M and $30 M, respectively
    • Commerce Justice Science: 71.5 billion, $1.6 billion above FY 18 
      • Census is funded at $3.83 billion, an increase of more than $ 1 billion over FY 18
      • Title V Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Grants received $24.5 Million, $3 million below FY 18
      • Youth MENTOR grants received $95 million, a $1 million increase over FY 18
      • CASA level funded at $12 million
    • Interior-Environment: $35.6 billion, $300 million over FY 18
      • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is level funded at $74.6 million
      • Indian Education Elementary and Secondary School Programs are funded at $582.58 million, an increase of $3.3 million over FY 18.
    • Transportation and Housing Urban Development: $71.1 billion, a $1 billion increase over FY 18
      • Includes more than $17 billion in funding for new infrastructure projects
      • Public and Indian Housing received $31 billion, a $716.6 million increase over FY 18
      • The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes received $279 million, an increase of $49 million above FY 18
    • State and Foreign-Ops: $54.2 billion in discretionary funding, including $8 billion in OCO funding—a $200 million increase over FY 18
    • Financial Services: Level funded at $23.42 billion. 
      • The IRS received $11.3 billion, an increase of $75 million above FY 18. $77 million is designated for implementation of FY 2017 tax legislation

     

    February 13, 2019

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    FINAL Details for NCE Fun Run with November Project Los Angeles

    Ok, not for nothing: This morning, I ran with the same run club that is hosting our run fun on Friday. If the people who have RSVPed to the first 'officially unofficial NCE fun run' for Friday show up, we will have more runners than the run club itself. Keep up the hype, keep recruiting (bring a friend!) and I can't wait to see you all Friday morning. I'm hoping for a #SuptTakeOver!!

     

    • WHEN: Friday February 15, 2019; 6 am SHARP!
    • WHERE: 12th and Figueroa, just outside of Staples Center
    • WHAT: NCE Fun Run.
    • RSVP here (whether just interested or wanting to commit 100%); I will use this list for a final email on Thursday night to share my cell for text and call purposes.
    • Getting There: You can either meet us at 12th and Fig (look for the group of runners, likely wearing a lot of neon!) or you can meet up with me in the lobby of the JW Marriott. I'll be in the lobby at 5:45 am, and we will leave the lobby at 5:55 to make it to the start. Any questions? Shoot me an email (nellerson at aasa dot org). 

    Other Things to Note:

     

    • Want a shirt? Keeping things officially unofficial, the team shirt for November Project is any shirt you bring with you, that can be spray painted with our stencil logo. If you have an extra shirt, one you'd like to 'tag', just bring it with you Friday morning. They'll have stencils and spray paint. 
    • This group runs in all weather. Rain or shine or snow or dark, this group is weather proof. If it's 6 am on Friday, the fun run will be happening!
    • The run is open to any and all fitness levels and paces. We will be working out with November Project LA, the LA chapter of my favorite DC running community. 
    • The workout is circuit based, meaning it is NOT point to point, so no need to worry about pace, getting lost, being held back, or being left behind. The workouts always include options for modifying up/down based on your fitness level or workout goals. 
    • Generally speaking, November Project workouts combine running (usually ¼ - ½ mile at a time, broken up with ‘spice’, different types of body weight exercises: squats, pushups, burpees, and the like). You can go as fast or slow as you like. 

    See you at conference (and Friday morning!)

     

     

    February 12, 2019

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    All the Policy & Advocacy Fun at NCE19!

    It’s go time here in LA. It’s finally the week of #NCE19, and I am happy to give a quick overview of all the advocacy/policy related content at conference. Sessions and details are below. And, as always, make a point to say hi to Sasha and me if you see us, and follow on twitter (@Noellerson and @SPudelski). Here’s what we have in store: 

    • Feb 14, 9-10 am: Federal Funding to Address School Safety and Mental Health (Room 510)
      Are you aware of all the funding streams, new and existing, that are available to improve mental health for students, hire school resource officers and improve school security infrastructure? If not, this session is for you! We will walk through the various formula and competitive grant opportunities that exist at different federal agencies that will enable you to use federal funding to meet the behavioral health and safety needs of your students.  We will also touch on private grant opportunities that can be available to districts to keep students safe. Download the presentation.
    • Feb 14, 12-1:30 pm: Federal Relations Luncheon: Educational Inequality & School Finance (Room 515A)
      Our nation's public schools receive and spend money. Lots of money. As part of this year's luncheon, Dr. Baker will look at the cyclical effects of teacher labor markets and competitive wages, as well as the cyclical effects of revenue at the state and local levels, and the current role of the courts to influence, impact and shape school funding realities. A can't miss session! Download the presentation.
    • Feb 14, 2-3 pm: Rural School Consolidation (Knowledge Exchange Theatre)
      Rural school districts face unique financial and political pressures. Low enrollment and revenue plague many schools. One suggested remedy in many states is to consolidate small rural schools or districts. In this panel, leaders with experience in rural schools will discuss the pressures on rural schools and the dangers of consolidation. Panelists will provide data and anecdotes on consolidation and other recommendations rural and small schools face in many states. No slides to share.
    • Feb 14, 3-4 pm: ESSA Fiscal Transparency: How to Communicate About Money (Room 510)
      Some of the most contentious issues district leaders face are about money. Those are about to get even more intense as a slew of school-by-school financials are released (per the ESSA requirement). This workshop-style session is designed to equip leaders to engage with their communities and principals (and the media!) on emerging financial data with the goal of leveraging dollars do the most for students. We’ll share new messaging research on how to talk about money in ways that can help unite (versus divide) communities, particularly amidst financial scarcity. Download the presentation.
    • Feb 15, 8-9 am: Student Data & Privacy: What to Expect in the New Congress (Room 511A)
      This year, Congress and state legislatures are expected to consider hundreds of policies related to student data and privacy, including the first reauthorization of the federal policy FERPA. This session will give an overview of the latest trends at the state level, what to expect at the federal level, and what it all could mean for the nation's public schools.
    • Feb 15, 11:15 am -12:15 pm: Federal Education Update (Room 510)
      Featuring Noelle Ellerson Ng and Sasha Pudelski. AASA's legislative portfolio is diverse and the opportunity for impacting federal education policy in the new Congress is deep. This session will cover AASA's 2019 legislative agenda priorities, including Perkins implementation, IDEA, vouchers, higher education, rural education, E-Rate, appropriations, school nutrition, privacy and more. Download the presentation
    • Feb 15, 12:45 to 1:45 pm: E-Rate and YOUR District (Room 510)
      E-Rate Speed Date: Changes to the E-Rate program have yet to reach their full impact. Hear from an E-Rate expert, a superintendent and an ed-tech director on the opportunities and obstacles schools and the E-Rate program face in their work to expand school connectivity. Come ready to think and hear about additional ways your school can access E-Rate dollars to bolster your district connectivity. Download the presentation.
    • Bill Daggett's Friday NCE General Session: Re-envisioning Learning: Addressing the Critical Needs of our Students Download the presentation.

     

    January 26, 2019(2)

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    Introducing Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, the AASA Advocacy Podcast!

    We’re trying something new in the new year: we’re launching Public Education Policy (PEP) Talk, the AASA podcast. 

    PEP Talk is the officially unofficial podcast for the AASA advocacy team, and this podcast is one more way to engage with our advocacy team. 

    PEP Talk will focus on the research, advocacy, and policies impacting public school superintendents. Guests will include superintendents, researchers, advocates, policymakers, and other folks doing interesting things in the field. If we do it right, with each episode you’ll learn something new and hopefully come away thinking about some of these issues in a new light.

    Each episode will be a new topic from a different angle. We’ll talk federal, state and local policies impacting superintendents and public education. We’ll talk advocacy. We’ll bring in folks to discuss new and interesting research and emerging trends in the field. . . and any other topic we think you might want to hear about. 

     

    If you have a show idea or guest you think we should have on, shoot me a note: nellerson@aasa.org or on twitter @Noellerson.

    Check out our first episode, where Sasha and I talk all things AASA Advocacy, including everything to expect and consider in 2019!!

    January 26, 2019(1)

    (ESEA) Permanent link

    USED Releases Non-Binding Guidance on Supplement, Not Supplant Provision in ESSA Title I

    As if the temporary end of the shutdown wasn’t exciting enough, on Friday, USED contributed to a busy education-policy new cycle by releasing non-binding guidance related to the supplement, not supplant provisions of ESSA Title I.

     

    • Background: ‘Supplement, not supplant’ (SNS) is a provision in federal law designed to ensure that federal funds are in addition to—not in place of—state and local dollars. The guidance released on Friday applies only to ESSA Title I, but not to other federal education programs that may have separate SNS provisions. Under NCLB, the SNS provisions had been beefed up to a level that was burdensome and unnecessarily complicated. While the core provision remains unchanged from NCLB to ESSA, the big change is that under ESSA, no LEA can be required to identify that an individual cost or service is supplemental. This provision rules out requiring an LEA to use the three presumptions to comply with the supplement not supplant requirement, which were based on an analysis of individual costs. LEAs no longer have to demonstrate SNS at the individual cost or service level. Congressional Research Service released a good primer on SNS in early 2015.
    • New Guidance: The guidance released by USED is a very light touch, especially compared to the regulations proposed under the Obama administration. The guidance released on Friday aligns much more closely with the guidance document that had been released in the summer of 2015 (before ESSA was even reauthorized!) You’ll recall AASA had deepreservations regarding the Obama regs, which mandated equalized spending and would have resulted in forced transfers, among other concerns. The new guidance avoids those traps, also clarifies that LEAs do not have to publicly disclose their SNS methodology on their websites, but does clarify that LEAs can’t simply use their per-pupil spending to demonstrate compliance with SNS. The guidance includes sample methods LEAs can use in demonstrating SNS, clarifies that list is not finite, and reiterates that USED cannot mandate the SNS methodology.

     

    You can read the guidance here.

    January 26, 2019

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    Join Us for a Fun Run at NCE! See You in LA!

    This blog comes from Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy, avid runner, and someone who loves to share a great running community with AASA members.

    We interrupt the policy focus of this blog to share information related to a fun run opportunity at NCE. 

    After 4 years of successful ‘officially unofficial fun runs’ at the AASA advocacy conference, we are bringing the fun to NCE. Pack a set of work out clothes, throw in your sneakers, and #justshowup for a little #freefitness and fun before the Friday meetings.

    As you know, I love education policy, DC and running. I also love running in new cities, and NCE represents a great way to host a fun run, a way to combine running in LA before we get to the education policy and education leadership work of NCE. It’s a chance to get some fresh air, see the city before it fully wakes up, before a day of networking and learning.

    This year, for our inaugural ‘Officially Unofficial Fun Run’ at the National Conference on Education in LA, we will run on Friday morning, February 15, at 6 am. The run is open to any and all fitness levels and paces. We will be working out with November Project LA, the LA chapter of my favorite DC running community.

     

    • What to Expect: The workout is circuit based, meaning it is NOT point to point, so no need to worry about pace, getting lost, or being left behind. The workouts always include options for modifying up/down based on your fitness level or workout goals. Generally speaking, November Project workouts combine running (usually ¼ - ½ mile at a time, broken up with ‘spice’, different types of body weight exercises: squats, pushups, burpees, and the like). You can go as fast or slow as you like. 
    • Details: We will workout with the LA chapter of my favorite DC run club, November Project. The group is one of the most welcoming running communities I have run with, and I have brought supts to not only the DC location, but also San Diego and New Orleans when our conferences were in those cities. And now, LA!!

     

    If you are interested in participating in this year's run (including if you aren't sure but want to receive information about it!, please submit your name and email address at the RSVP link here

    Please note that this is a fun run, and all runners/walkers participate of their own will. Participants assume all responsibility for any related fun, enjoyment, sweating, or incident.  

     

     

    January 25, 2019

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    The federal shutdown is, well, shut down. For now.

    Late on Friday, both the House and Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution and the president signed it into law, bringing the longest partial government shutdown in history to close in its 35th day. Following increased pressure amid growing negative polling, and air stops in major airports due to lack of workers, which sent ripples up and down the east coast, the president announced he would sign a funding deal to temporarily end the shutdown. 

    The agreement level funds the portions of the government that had been shutdown, buying Congress time to wrap up the appropriations work for FY19. In addition to funding the government through February 15, the agreement creates a conference committee on homeland security. This committee will have the three week work period to negotiate the deal. The short term deal includes zero money for the border wall. The path forward remains anything but certain, as the president has already indicated that he remains open to declaring an emergency to secure funding for the wall. It is feasible Congress could pass stand alone bills for all impacted portions of the government (except homeland security, the slice of the pie that would include funding for a wall). That said, this path forward, funding all parts of government except homeland security would significantly reduce the consequence of another shutdown, as well as dilute any perceived pressure the president could leverage in negotiations related to wall funding, should another shutdown occur.

    As a reminder, of the 12 appropriations bill (which collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), these are the ones that remain incomplete: agriculture, commerce, financial services, homeland security, interior, state/foreign ops, and transportation. These are the ‘slices of the funding pie’ funded through February 15, and subject to the consequences of another shutdown if Congress fails to fund them for the remainder of the FY19 fiscal year. 

    Stay tuned. As a reminder, US Education Department and Health & Human Services, the two agencies that provide the bulk of federal funding provided to schools, are already fully funded, not part of the current shutdown and face no threat of any additional shutdowns in 2019. If there is another shutdown and it includes the agriculture appropriations bill, it will impact the SNAP program as well as the school meals programs (breakfast, lunch and after school meals). We’ll be monitoring this.

    January 23, 2019

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    AASA Joins 7 National Organizations in Letter to Urge Senate to Fund School Meals Programs

    Today, AASA joined seven national organizations in a joint letter addressed to President Trump, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, urging them to adopt the House-passed FY19 agriculture appropriations bill.  Writing "The USDA appropriations provides the funds critical to supporting our schools’ breakfast and lunch programs, helping to feed more than 30 million children from low income families each day.", the groups express unanimous support for ensuring that our nation's students don't pay the price for the current shutdown. You can read the full letter here.

    January 18, 2019

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    Call-to-action: Weigh in on proposed Title IX Regulations

    The DeVos Administration has proposed some significant changes to how school districts respond to and investigate allegations of student sexual misconduct under Title IX. These changes include:

    •  Allowing districts to ignore sexual harassment/abuse reported by a student unless the student reports it to a teacher, Title IX coordinator or administrator  
    • Not requiring district to investigate or implement corrective action if a child reports harassment or abuse by a teacher to another teacher, instead of an employee with authority to institute corrective measures, such as a Title IX coordinator or school principal. 
    • Requiring districts to dismiss a formal Title IX complaint by a student if the alleged conduct occurred off-campus or online
    • Opening districts up to requests by parents and students that they employ “live hearings” where students would be cross-examined by the other’s “advisor of choice” on alleged misconduct
    • Requiring a separate and higher standard to be used for claims of student harassment and misconduct when compared to employee harassment and misconduct

    Taken as a whole the proposed Title IX regulations would greatly alter the policies and practices from the 2001 Title IX guidance that district personnel have implemented for almost two decades. Further, these regulations have the potential to increase the likelihood of litigation in districts because they so severely restrict when and how districts can investigate and under what circumstances students can report. As a result, we are deeply worried that students may be less likely to view the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as the main avenue for addressing and resolving their Title IX complaints against schools and instead pursue formal litigation against districts. Also, the new regulations will require significant new training of districts and cause confusion to school personnel regarding their responsibilities to report sexual harassment, including sexual assault.

    Please take a moment to read AASA’s comments for more information on the Title IX regulations and then submit your own comments. We have created a short template you can copy below. The deadline to comment is January 30th. Directions on how to comment are also below. If you need any assistance filing comments please reach out to Sasha directly. 

    AASA Template:

    Dear Secretary DeVos:

    As the xxxxx in xxxx district, I ask that you not move forward with the proposed regulations titled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance.” These regulations would radically alter the process districts have been using since 2001 to investigate claims of sexual harassment and discrimination and lead to new costs for districts in retraining employees on the obligations of district personnel to report and investigate Title IX allegations by students and staff.

    However, our greatest concern with the proposed regulations is that they will undermine our efforts to ensure each and every child we educate has a safe and healthy learning environment. Specifically, we read these regulations as making it more difficult for students to report sexual harassment and assault as well as tying the hands of districts that choose to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct that take place off-campus. It will also open districts to using questionable practices like informal mediation and live hearings that could add new and unanticipated burdens on district personnel as well as limit a student’s decision to move forward with an investigation.

    While we welcome flexibility from the federal level and regulatory relief generally, these proposed regulations will make it more difficult for districts to respect and respond to the rights of students and employees who experience harassment and discrimination. Please withdraw these proposed regulations.

     Sincerely, 

     Xxx  

    How to File Comments on Title IX Regulation 

    • Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2018-OCR-0064-0001 
    • In the ‘Comment” box, type something similar to this: “As the superintendent of xxx, I  submit the following comments on the proposed regulation titled “ Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance.
    • Below the comment box:  
      • Upload your file
      • Enter your first and last name.
      • Click ‘continue’
    • Review the information on this page, including a check to ensure your document is attached.
    • Click the ‘I have read and understand’ item.
    • Click ‘Submit Comment’

     

    January 17, 2019

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    AASA Launches ‘Superintendent Spotlight’

    As part of our year-long Leaders Matter campaign, AASA today launched Superintendent Spotlight, an effort to recognize exemplary public school district leadership. Each week in 2019, AASA will highlight two superintendents from a different state, and at the end of the year, we will have a nation-wide listing of 100 of the top school system leaders in the nation. AASA partnered with the executive director of the our school superintendent affiliate in each state and asked them to nominate two outstanding superintendents, educators who embody leadership and a commitment to impacting their school communities and student learning.  Each week, we’ll feature a different state and it’s two nominees, and this week, we are happy to start with our nominees from Arkansas! We’ll share the weekly announcements online, on social media, and in various AASA newsletters.

    January 9, 2019

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    USED Announces REAP Webinars: What You Need to Know for 2019

    Please join the U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) for the REAP: What LEAs Need to Know in FY 2019 Webinar on one of the following dates:

     

    • Tuesday, January 15, 2018, from 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. (EST)
    • Wednesday, January 16, 2018, from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. (EST)
    • Thursday, January 17, 2018, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (EST)

    After attending this webinar, local education agencies (LEAs) will:

     

    • Understand how eligibility for SRSA and RLIS grants is determined
    • Understand allowable activities for which SRSA and RLIS grants may be used
    • Understand the FY 2019 grant-making timeline
    • Know how to apply for the REAP grant(s) for which they are eligible
    • Know what to look for when reviewing the REAP eligibility spreadsheet 
    • Know where to find REAP-related resources and guidance

     

     

    Please click the appropriate link below to register for the webinar you plan to attend. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the webinar. Please note that each webinar contains the same information.

     

     

    If you have questions regarding the webinars, please send them to: REAP@ed.gov.

    January 4, 2018

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    Trump Administration Rescinds 2014 Discipline Guidance

    On December 21st, the U.S. Department of Education in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice officially revoked the 2014 School Discipline Guidance. A nonbinding document, the guidance suggested that schools could be in violation of civil rights laws if they disciplined students of color at higher rates than other students. Earlier in the week, the Federal School Safety Commission Report indicated the Administration would be rescinding this guidance.

     An AASA survey of 950 school district leaders conducted in April found that just 16 percent had modified their discipline policies and practices because of the guidance. Less than 1 percent of all respondents found that the guidance had a negative impact on school personnel's ability to administer discipline, while 7 percent said it had a positive impact. In our survey’s conclusion we wrote “The 2014 discipline guidance itself has not been transformative in changing discipline policies and practices for districts.” Given the limited impact the guidance has had on district discipline policies and practices AASA did not feel it was appropriate to weigh in on whether the guidance should stay in place ore be rescinded. Regardless of the guidance, districts have the same obligation to abide by civil rights laws, address discriminatory discipline practices, and are free to adopt policies on their own that mirror the approach recommended by the 2014 guidance.  

    January 3, 2019

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    AASA Signs Letter to USED and FTC Related to Guidance on COPPA and FERPA

    Just before the holiday, AASA joined with 14 other national groups--representing education, business and consumer advocates--to send a letter asking the U.S. Department of Education and the FTC for additional guidance on the intersection of COPPA and FERPA. The final letter was sent to both agencies and can be read here.

    In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission hosted the workshop, “Student Privacy and Ed Tech.” The workshop brought together a wide range of stakeholders interested in protecting student privacy, with speakers representing districts, companies, and advocates. Almost all participants agreed that more clarity is necessary on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements. However, more than a year later, ED and the FTC have not yet provided that guidance. 

     

    December 18, 2018(1)

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    ISTE ESSA Title IV-A Implementation Guide

    ISTE’s Using ESSA to Fund Edtech: Getting the Most Out of Title IV-A guide makes specific recommendations for incorporating technology into all three major funding categories of ESSA Title IV-A (i.e. well-rounded education, safe and healthy schools, effective use of technology). The guide pulls evidence from current research and examplar cases around the country to show how innovative digital tools and edtech-related professional learning opportunities can reinforce many of the uses permitted under ESSA. It also provides clear next steps for state edtech directors and district technology coordinators to help them place edtech at the forefront of funding decisions. Sections of the guide focus specifically on top spending priorities identified by the AASA survey conducted earlier this year. 

    For a specific example, according to the survey, social and emotional learning programs are currently a big priority among educators and is something that ESSA allows Title IV-A funds to be used for. In the guide ISTE includes information about what the research says about using edtech to support SEL initiatives as well as examples of school districts already engaged in this type of work.

    December 18, 2018

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    AASA Issues Statement on the Federal School Safety Commission Report

    Alexandria, Va. – Dec. 18, 2018 – Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement on a report issued today by the Federal School Safety Commission.   

    “We appreciate that the Federal School Safety Commission has put forward a report that lifts up some promising school district practices related to building positive school climates, addressing and mitigating cyberbullying, and promoting screening and early intervention for mental/substance use disorders. In particular, we are glad the Commission endorsed one of our key recommendations—create a federal clearinghouse to assess, identify, and share best practices related to school security measures, technologies and innovations for school district leaders.  

     “While a compendium of recommendations can be helpful to a well-resourced district, which can adopt and implement a multitude of best practices found in the report relatively easily, we are concerned the majority of districts in the U.S. cannot dedicate the resources to fulfilling some of the most basic recommendations of the report. 

    “Further, only one recommendation in the report suggests Congress increases funding and we are deeply concerned that districts with varying needs and resources will not be able to benefit from the report simply because they lack access to the funding that would enable them to adopt some of these best practices and policies.  

    The Commission has chosen to ‘pass the buck’ to states, hoping that states will find the money to support state and district efforts; or worse, advise federal agencies on how they can use limited, existing federal resources to comprehensively address the myriad of challenges that prevent tragedies in schools. The disconnect between the expansion of a federal list of best or improved practices—many of which have substance—in light of the current funding trends, merely dilutes the opportunity for improving student safety and will leave many policy makers and educators playing a game of ‘shuffling of deck chairs’ as they scramble with yet another growth in the federal list of things they could and should do without the appropriate support. 

    “Specifically, if a district cannot afford to hire a mental health provider, it’s hard to imagine how recommendations to adopt comprehensive school-based mental health care services could be meaningfully implemented. Similarly, if a district has been unable to afford updating its buildings for 40 years, it’s impossible to imagine they would be well-served by a recommendation to limit entry points by rerouting roads or eliminating access points to the building.    

    “Ultimately, the Federal School Safety Commission’s report has limited utility for school leaders and its purported audience, if school leaders lack the resources to fulfill the best practices and recommendations of the report.

    “Finally, we are disappointed by the decision to recommend policy changes related to the 2014 discipline guidance within the School Safety Commission report is misplaced. The 2014 guidance has flaws and limited value for school leaders based on our 2018 survey of school leaders that found only 16 percent of districts modified policies and practices because of the guidance. What school leaders have most strongly objected to was how the prior Administration investigated school district discipline policies prior to and after the issuance of the guidance. This concern is not addressed by simply rescinding the guidance nor is it addressed by any of the policies in the report.” 

    December 12, 2018

    (SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

    USDA Issues Changes to School Nutrition Rules

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

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

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

    Find AASA's statement here.

    December 11, 2018

    (SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

    Farm Bill Compromise Reached

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

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

    December 10, 2018

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

    December 3, 2018

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    AASA Submits Comments on Public Charge Regulation Proposal

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

     

    November 29, 2018

    (ESEA) Permanent link

    Opportunities in ESSA for College in High School Programs

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

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

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

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

    How ESSA treats college in high school programs;

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

    How states are prioritizing these programs in their accountability systems.

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

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

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

    November 8, 2018

    (RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

    Supreme Court Decision on Age Discrimination

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

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

    Education Week posted an overview of the issue here.

    November 5, 2018(1)

    (RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Education at the Polls: Vote for Secure Rural Schools!

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

    VOTE NOVEMBER 6 FOR SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS AND COUNTIES

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

    VOTE NOVEMBER 6

    SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS and COUNTIES

     

    November 5, 2018

     Permanent link

    IRS Hears Concerns About Voucher Tax Credit Programs

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

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

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

    November 2, 2018

     Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

    Why does this matter to school leaders?

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

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

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

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

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

    What can you do to help?

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

    October 22, 2018

     Permanent link

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

    October 18, 2018

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

    Guest Blog Post: Trump Regulatory Agenda

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

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

     

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

     

     

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

    October 9, 2018

    (SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

    AASA Files Comments on IRS Tax Shelter Regulation

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

    You can read our comments here.  

     

     

     

    October 3, 2018

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Let's Rehash the Fun of FY19 Funding

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

     

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

     

     

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

     

    October 2, 2018

     Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

    Practical steps you can take:

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

    2. Reflect and share these resources.

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

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

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

    4. Engage with ELSF.

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


    October 1, 2018

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

    Rural Matters Podcast: October 2018

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

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

    September 20, 2018

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

    AASA Supports National Voter Registration Day: Can You?

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

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

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

    What Can I Do?

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

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

     Things to Consider

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

    September 17, 2018

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

    AASA Contributes to National PTA Back-to-School Toolkit

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

    September 13, 2018

    (ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

    September 11, 2018

     Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

    How to File Comments with the IRS

    Comments are due by October 11, 2018

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

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

    September 10, 2018

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    SEED Partnership Program Timeline EXTENDED to Sept 19

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

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

    Here are key details:

     

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

     

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

     

    August 28, 2018

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

    Educator Shortages and the 115th Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    August 17, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    August 17, 2018

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

    August Action: No Rest During Recess!

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

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

    August 16, 2018

    (ED FUNDING) Permanent link

    Senate Begins Mark Up of 2018 LHHS Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

     

    August 14, 2018

    (RURAL EDUCATION, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    August 13, 2018

     Permanent link

    AASA Signs Countering Hate Statement; Signs Letter Supporting PTACs

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

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

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

     

    August 9, 2018

    (ED TECH) Permanent link

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

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

     

    August 7, 2018(1)

    (ESEA) Permanent link

    ED Issues Guidance on McKinney-Vento Spending

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

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

    August 7, 2018

    (SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

    AASA Leads Letter to Administration on Regulatory Treatment of Voucher Programs

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

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

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

    July 24, 2018

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    Update on Perkins CTE Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    July 10, 2018

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

    AASA ASBO Legislative Advocacy Content

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

     

     

    July 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

    June 25, 2018

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    New COPS Grants Are Available

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

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

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

    June 25, 2018

    (PERKINS) Permanent link

    AASA Responds to Senate Rewrite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 18. 2018

    (WELL-BEING) Permanent link

    AASA Statement on Family Separation

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

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

     

    June 18, 2018(1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    June 18, 2018

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

    Guest Blog: School Safety & Door Barricades Guide

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

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

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

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

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