NASSP Communications Director Bob Farrace was lucky enough to be at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, yesterday where President Obama announced a major private sector investment of nearly $750 million for schools to improve digital learning. The additional funding for education technology is a major win in the administration’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to “next-generation connectivity” in 5 years.

 Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T have pledged to provide their products, mobile and wireless services, and professional development for educators at a  reduced cost, or for free to certain low-income schools. According to a White House fact sheet, these commitments will “help make the most of the government investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put the best educational use.”

The US Department of Agriculture will also provide $10 million in distance learning grants for rural schools to purchase equipment and services such as videoconferencing.
 
At a Digital Learning Day event in Washington, DC, today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce a new $2 billion investment in broadband and wireless services for schools through the E-Rate program. NASSP is cautiously optimistic about this proposal, which would improve management of the program and make it easier and cheaper to disperse funds to high-need schools. We have been engaged in conversations with FCC officials about modernizing the E-Rate program, but we also reiterate our call for raising the cap on E-Rate so funds are sustainable in a digital learning environment that is constantly increasing the demands on our schools and the networks they rely on.
 
NASSP is very pleased to hear that President Obama will include funding in his FY 2015 budget proposal for professional development for teachers and school leaders as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. School leaders were very disappointed when funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program was eliminated in FY 2011 (need to check on the date), and we have been championing Congressional proposals to renew this federal investment.
 
NASSP will continue to engage federal officials in conversations about the importance of digital learning in our nation’s middle level and high schools and urge for a strong and continued investment in the ConnectED initiative.
 

NASSP Opposes New Private School Voucher Proposals

On January 29, 2014, in Federal Funding, by Amanda Karhuse

As part of National School Choice Week in late-January, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced two bills to greatly increase federal funding for private school vouchers at the expense of our nation’s public schools.

“NASSP have long stated its opposition to private school vouchers, which drain money away from public schools, reduce accountability in the education system, and ultimately harm public schools where the vast majority of our nation’s youth receive their education,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “We are especially dismayed that the proposals would eliminate federal education programs that we know are important to school leaders, such as literacy education and career and technical education, and would redirect funding for special education programs and services away from public schools.”

The Scholarship for Kids Act (S. 1968) would authorize nearly $24 billion (41% of federal education funding) for a Scholarship for Kids program. Eligible low-income children would be able to use the grant scholarships at any state-approved public or private school they attend or for supplemental educational services. According to Sen. Alexander, 11 million students would be eligible for the scholarships and would be worth approximately $2,100 per student.

In order to pay for the Scholarship for Kids program, the bill would consolidate more than 80 federal education programs previously allocated for programs under Title I of ESEA, including the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the High School Graduation Initiative, the School Leadership program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. States participating in the program would be relieved of having to comply with all requirements of ESEA except for provisions related to challenging academic standards and related assessments.

“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone has the same starting line,” said Sen. Alexander at an event in Washington, DC. “During this week celebrating school choice, there would be no better way to help children move up from the back of the line than by allowing states to use federal dollars to create 11 million new opportunities to choose a better school.”

The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act (S. 1909) takes a three-pronged approach to increasing private school vouchers. First, the bill would provide funds to states for disability school choice programs that would allow students with disabilities to use funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at any school of their choice. The legislation would also create a pilot school choice program for students living on military bases. Finally, the bill would greatly expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for students living in the District of Columbia.

“As someone who grew up poor and nearly failed out of high school, I know the importance of empowering parents and teachers to make a difference in a child’s life,” Sen. Scott said in a press release. “Kids who succeed in the classroom have a better chance of succeeding later in life. Education is the cornerstone of success, and the CHOICE Act is a great first step towards ensuring more kids across our nation have access to a great one.”

All students deserve the opportunity to attend great schools and federal resources should help support schools and students who need it the most. For this reason, NASSP encourages all principals and assistant principals to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the Scholarship for Kids Act and the CHOICE Act. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) to find the contact information for your legislators and send a letter today!

Last night, the lead House and Senate Appropriators, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), released a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.  The omnibus appropriations bill combines all of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large 1,582 page spending that covers every facet of federal spending including investments in education.

Within the $1.1 trillion dollar package, $156.8 billion was allocated to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee to divvy up to the various programs under its jurisdiction.  $70.6 billion of this allocation went to the Department of Education. This is $739 million below the FY13 post-sequester level.

While not all sequester cuts were restored to every education program, NASSP was pleased to see that the bill places a priority on formula funded programs of importance to NASSP members such as Title I, IDEA and Career and Technical Education State Grants.  As you may recall, NASSP and NAESP sent a joint letter to House and Senate appropriators outlining our organizations’ priorities in the omnibus spending bill.   Here’s how our priorities fared in the bill:

Title I

Title I grants to local education agencies received $624,583 million back from the FY13 post-sequester levels to put it at $14.38 billion for FY 2014.  This is still below the FY 2012 level of $14.5.

IDEA

IDEA state grants received $11.47 billion in the FY 2014 omnibus.  This is approximately $500 million more than the FY 13 post-sequester level, however like Title I the FY14 allocation is still below its FY 12 level.

School Leadership

Unfortunately, the School Leadership Program was cut from its FY13 post-sequester level of $27.6 million to $25.8 million.  The FY14 level is a $3.3 million dollar cut from FY12.  This is extremely disappointing considering the President requested $98 million in his FY14 budget proposal and currently less than 4 percent of Title II “allowable use” funding currently goes to principal professional development.

Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program

The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program received $158 million in the FY14 omnibus bill.  This is a $6.6 million increase from  the FY13 post-sequester level, while still not back to its FY12 level.

Career and Technical Education State Grants

Like most of our other priorities, Career and Technical Education State Grants received an increase from the FY13 post-sequester level.  CTE state grants were funded at $1.12 billion for FY14.  This is a $53 million dollar increase from FY13, but does not return the program to its FY12 funding level.

Enhancing Education Through Technology

Unfortunately, this program still remains unfunded.

Early Childhood Education

The big winner in the omnibus for education is Head Start.  It received an addition $1 billion over its sequester-level funding to top out at $8.6 billion for FY14.  The omnibus bill also provides $250 million in an early learning Race to the Top grant program for states to develop and enhance pre-K opportunities for 4-year olds.

Another program that received more funding than its FY12 level was the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities National Programs.  The program supports school safety and climate initiatives such as alcohol abuse reduction, drug and violence prevention and education, and school emergency preparedness activities.  This grant program received $90 million in the FY14 omnibus, which is $25 million more than its FY12 level.

The omnibus is likely to reach the House floor as early as Wednesday and then proceed to the Senate for final passage on Thursday or Friday.  The House passed a three day extension of the FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) by voice vote Tuesday afternoon, with the Senate to follow to provide enough time for the omnibus to pass when the current CR expires on Saturday.

 

 

The US Department of Education announced in December that five applicants would be granted nearly $120 million in the second round of the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition, which aims to personalize education for all students in the classroom. The program is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between educators and students.

 

The FY 2013 winners were selected from 31 finalists out of the more than 200 applications received by the Department. They are:

  • Clarendon County School District Two in South Carolina (consortium of four rural districts)
  • Clarksdale Municipal School District in Mississippi
  • Houston Independent School District in Texas
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts)
  • Springdale School District in Arkansas

 

“These winners serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to develop innovative plans to drive education reform and improve student achievement,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These diverse, trailblazing districts have a clear vision and track record of success for models of personalized learning that aim for every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

 

According to the Department’s press release, grantees were selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers.

 

NASSP State Coordinator Danny Brackett is the principal of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and said that educators were “PUMPED” upon hearing the announcement of their $25.8 million award. “We’re excited that we have a chance to positively influence the instruction of all 1,300 teachers in our district and all 21,000 students.”

 

The Springdale Public Schools will implement instructional strategies that engage and empower students and has identified 11 projects to accelerate student achievement, close the experience gap, and deepen student learning. Many of their goals are aligned to NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including additional advisory time for college and career planning and personalized learning plans for each student. The district is also planning to emphasize the use of technology and expand its existing career academies to align with external standards and college entrance requirements.

 

The district’s plan is also focused on professional development with an assurance that all school leaders and leadership teams will receive training on the new systems put in place designed to support college and career readiness. Collaborative planning time will be expanded to allow participating teachers to engage in student-centered conversations in professional learning communities focused on effective implementation of personalized learning environments. The use of an existing data dashboard and student-centered model will foster increased opportunities for staff to use data to inform their instructional approaches and consider individual student needs.

 

More information about the Race to the Top-District program and the FY 2013 winners can be found on the Department’s Web site.

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NASSP joined forces with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) to send a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations subcommittees outlining our organizations priorities as they prepare a Labor-HHS spending bill.  The Labor-HHS appropriations bill will be part of a larger bill to fund government programs that Congress must pass by January 15 in order to avoid another government shutdown.  Read the letter here.

Congressional staff will be working over the next few weeks to finalize all of the appropriations bills.  We are anticipating that the omnibus spending bill will be released the week of January 6.  Keep checking the Principals Policy Blog and follow the NASSP Government Relations staff on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki for the latest updates.

 

Wednesday evening, December 18, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act with a bipartisan vote of 64- 36.  All 53 Democrats, 2 Independents and 9 Republicans – Senators Susan Collins (ME), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Hoeven (ND), Johnny Isakson (GA), Ron Johnson (WI), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH) – voted in support of the bill.

The deal now goes to the President for his signature.  While many are cheering over the passing of the legislation, Congress’ work is not done.  This is just the beginning.  Now, Congress must produce an omnibus spending bill that combines all federal appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2014 under the new spending levels that were established in the Bipartisan Budget Act.  This all must be completed by January 15, 2014 when the current funding mechanism, the FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out.

We will be closely following this process and advocating to ensure several key investments in education that are important to middle level and high school leaders are funded at the highest levels possible in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.  Our major priorities include:  Title I, IDEA, the School Leadership Program, Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, and the Career and Technical Education State Grants.

Keep up to date with the latest developments on the FY 2014 budget here on the Principals Policy Blog and by following Amanda Karhuse and Jacki Ball on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki respectively.

Happy Holidays and here’s to more bipartisanship in the House and Senate in 2014!

 

As the self-imposed deadline of December 13 approached for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R- WI) to reach an agreement, the two announced the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 on December 10 which will replace $63 billion of sequester cuts over two years, evenly divided between defense and non-defense programs.

This deal will replace 87% of the fiscal year 2013 non-defense discretionary (NDD) sequester cuts in fiscal year 2014.   Non-defense discretionary funding is the category of the federal budget that covers almost all domestic federal programs, including investments in education.  For fiscal year 2015, the deal replaces $18 billion of sequestration cuts and raises the NDD spending cap slightly to $492.5 billion.

The Bipartisan Budget Act will be considered first by the House of Representatives then the Senate.  It is expected to be voted on the in the House on Friday, then the Senate early next week.  If the bill is signed into law, the various appropriations committees will be able to generate spending bills under the new levels before the expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) which expires on January 15.

“We are generally pleased,” Joel Packer, Executive Director of the Committee for Education (CEF) said. “While not what we ideally hoped for, which was a complete replacement of the entire sequester for the remaining eight years, this deal does stop the cuts.”  CEF is a coalition of 112 national education organizations and institutions of which NASSP is a member, who lobbies on behalf of increased investments in education.

The next important juncture for education funding will come with the top line spending level provided to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee which funds a vast majority of education programs including Title I, IDEA and the school leadership program which NASSP closely tracks.  Stay up to date with the latest on the federal budget and education policy here on the Principals’ Policy Blog and by following Amanda and Jacki on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki.

 

Three school leaders will serve as Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows at the US Department of Education for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year. Although the principals will remain at their schools, they will serve as advisors to Secretary Arne Duncan and his staff and help ensure that the principal’s perspective is included in the creation and implementation of new federal policies and programs. The principals will also help develop the mission and goals for the Principal Ambassador Fellowship (PAF) program, which aims to have one principal work full-time at the Department during the 2014-15 school year.

“Each year I have the opportunity to visit schools and meet with leaders across the country who are committed to improving educational outcomes for our nation’s students,” said Secretary Duncan in a press release. “Principals are a linchpin in the effort to improve student success and raise achievement at any scale, and I look forward to working with the 2013 Principal Ambassador Fellows to continue a thoughtful conversation on the best ways to sustain and support school leaders for the long haul. Their firsthand knowledge of the challenges principals face will help shape policy and programs across the country to better prepare our nation’s children for college and career.”

After Department officials spent a day shadowing principals across the DC area during National Principals Month in October 2012, one of the participants highlighted the lack of principals’ voices in dialogues surrounding education policy at a debrief event with Secretary Arne Duncan.  The Secretary agreed with him, and then announced the creation of the PAF program at the 2013 NASSP Conference: Ignite in February 2013. NASSP spread the word about the PAF program to our members and encouraged all principals to apply, but we did not participate in the selection process of the three new Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows.

 

Sharif El-Mekki

Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus

Philadelphia, PA

 

Jill Levine

Normal Park Museum Magnet

Chattanooga, TN

 

Rachel Skerritt

Eastern Senior High School

Washington, DC

 

The PAF program is meant to complement the Teacher Ambassador Fellowship program, which is now in its sixth year at the Department. For more information about the program, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/principalfellowship/index.html.

 

As part of President Obama’s goal to redesign American high schools, yesterday he announced a new collaboration between the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education to provide high school students “with the industry-relevant education and skills they need for a successful future.”

Under the administration’s proposal, $100 million in Department of Labor revenues from the H-1B visa program would be made available on a competitive basis for Youth CareerConnect Grants. Grants would be awarded only to schools districts with a strong public private partnership that includes, at a minimum, a local workforce investment system entity, a business, and an institution of higher education. Applicants would also be required to provide a 25% match in order to receive the grant.

The proposal is very similar to the administration’s blueprint on Perkins reauthorization that was released in April 2012, and which has received negative feedback from members of Congress and the education community. In our comments to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, NASSP expressed concerns about those provisions of the blueprint requiring a private sector match at the local level, mandatory partnerships with institutions of higher education, and a competitive grant competition versus formula funding.

Applications for the CareerConnect Grants tare due on January 27, 2014, and awards would be made in early 2014 for program implementation to align with the 2014-15 school year. Additional information is available on the Department of Labor’s Web site.

The President’s announcement overshadowed a hearing conducted earlier in the day by the House Education and the Workforce Committee to discuss reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. In his opening remarks, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed concern about the administration’s proposal, stating, “I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education—without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.”

Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the US Department of Education, said that CTE “has enormous potential to successfully prepare all Americans—including the disadvantaged—for college and careers.” Not yet able to discuss the President’s new proposal, she outlined the four principles in the administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization, arguing that the federal investment in CTE “must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential.”

Other witnesses at the hearing talked about the importance of engaging businesses to help design CTE programs and provide mentoring and internship opportunities for students, aligning K-12 education with industry credentials, and encouraging more agreements between high schools and institutions of higher education.

A highly skilled workforce is obviously on the minds of members of Congress these days. Last Friday, NASSP member and Illinois High School Principal of the Year Lazaro Lopez testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a subcommittee hearing on training builders and manufacturers for the future. Now an associate superintendent, Lopez talked about his success at Wheeling High School, a Title I comprehensive high school with a STEM focus organized around career pathways. The school has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, hospital lab with senior care facility, a nanotechnology research lab, and the goal is for all students to graduate with a “Diploma Plus.”

Lopez outlined three key “non-negotiable principles” that drove the work of their career pathways: 1) a sequence of courses that lead beyond high school; 2) external experiences that provide students a real world understanding of career areas through internships or problem-based learning experiences; and 3) an opportunity to earn college credit and/or an industry certification.

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As the House Education and the Workforce Committee works to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, last reauthorized in 2006, NASSP offered recommendations today to ensure that the law strengthens career and technical education (CTE) programs to promote college and career-readiness for all students.

The central focus of our comments was on educator quality, ensuring that school leaders are able to manage high-quality CTE programs and CTE teachers are knowledgeable and proficient in both effective teaching methods and technical skills. NASSP recommended that state leadership activities be focused on leadership development and technical assistance for districts and schools. States should be allowed to use Perkins funds to provide professional development opportunities for current CTE leaders and to support leadership training programs that help current principals manage CTE programs in their schools.

NASSP also provided recommendations on the qualifications and training for CTE teachers and the unique professional development opportunities needed for individuals who come into the profession through alternate routes. Essentially, professional development must strengthen the capacity of CTE teachers to collaborate with content area teachers and integrate academic and CTE curricula and coursework. Implementation of new, higher college and career-ready standards in most states will also require a focus on making numeracy and literacy relevant in CTE courses. Finally, CTE teachers will need additional training to ensure that they’re knowledgeable of the latest equipment and certification requirements of their industries.

The comments from NASSP also included recommendations to personalize the learning environment for each student, encourage CTE programs and career counseling at the middle level, and evaluate the effectiveness of CTE programs through multiple measures of student performance.

NASSP also expressed concern about the blueprint for reauthorization that was released by the US Department of Education in March 2012. We opposed the provisions to require a private sector match at the district level, permit only consortia of districts and postsecondary institutions and their partners to apply to States for Perkins funding, and allocate Perkins funds at the district level by a competitive grant.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on Perkins reauthorization on November 19 and is expected to move quickly to markup.

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