August 28, 2018


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)


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, 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

August 17, 2018


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 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 

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

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


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!