NASSP Urges Support for American Jobs Act

On September 12, 2011, in Federal Funding, by JoAnn Bartoletti

President Obama this morning announced his plan to send the American Jobs Act to Congress. NASSP strongly endorses the president’s call for investing in our children by funding more teachers and school modernization, for which the Act provides.

The need is indeed great, as states are facing the depletion of ARRA funds and still suffering the effects of the recession. The results are real and dire: The Council of Economic advisers projects that states will have to lay off 280,000 teachers during the next school year and crumbling facilities are strained by a $270 billion backlog in repairs and maintenance. The advent of online testing that will accompany the Common Core State Standards adoption intensifies an already urgent need for schools to modernize facilities to prepare students for 21st century work and life.

This bill is about all of us. It’s not about supporting an ideology or institution, but supporting our children–those who will be our caretakers and leaders in the next generation–with educators and facilities that will empower them to thrive.

To underscore our support, NASSP was proud to recommend two member principals, Virginia Minshew of Park View High School in Sterling, VA (a 2010 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School), and Jane Spence of Bowie High School in Bowie, MD, to join the president in the Rose Garden for his address. Their presence is front-line testimony that the support outlined in the American Jobs Act matters to schools. We encourage all school leaders to add their voices to these principals’ and use the Principal’s Legislative Action Center to encourage their members of Congress to support the American Jobs Act.

School leaders on Twitter can also visit www.TweetCongress.org to send a quick message to elected officials. First, find your members of Congress by zip code or name, them send a message in 140 characters or less, like:

@Jim_Moran From Falls Church. Pls support the #JobsAct 2 preserve teacher jobs and modernize schools 4 our kids. http://ow.ly/6s5pQ

Whether by e-mail, tweet, or good ol’ fashioned phone call, be sure your members of Congress know that your students need their support!

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As a member of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, NASSP is very pleased that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act (S. 1403). The bill seeks to ensure that the federal government fulfills its promise under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to pay 40% of the excess cost of educating a child with a disability.

“This bill represents a necessary step for improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities and preparing them to reach their potential and secure competitive employment in our 21st century workforce,” said Chairman Harkin in a press release. “Full funding of IDEA—at no additional cost to the federal government—will provide much-needed relief to already-strapped school districts and fulfill the promise we made 36 years ago to help communities provide a high-quality education to all students.”

Since its passage in 1975, funding for IDEA has hovered at 16-17% annually with the exception of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 which allocated $12.2 billion (34%) for the law. Under the bill, Congress would appropriate $11.5 billion in FY 2011 with annual increases up to $35.3 billion in FY 2021. To offset the increased costs for special education programs and services, the bill would double the tax on cigarettes and small cigars from $50.33 per thousand ($1.0066 per pack) to $100.50 per thousand ($2.01 per pack) and sets equivalent increases for other tobacco products.

NASSP and our coalition partners sent a letter to Chairman Harkin and the other bill cosponsors expressing our strong support for the IDEA Full Funding in July. We will continue advocate for the bill and other proposals to increase funding for special education programs and services as the FY 2012 appropriations process moves forward this fall.

IDEA Legislative Recommendations

On November 5, 2009, in IDEA/Special Education, by Mary Kingston

On Nov. 3, 2009, NASSP released its Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Task Force Legislative Recommendations. The nine recommendations were developed by the IDEA Task Force, which is composed of 11 active middle level and high school principals or assistant principals and four representatives from institutions of higher education from across the country.

The mission of the task force was to study the effects of the federal IDEA law and regulatory language on school leaders and propose recommendations regarding the changes that should be incorporated into a newly reauthorized law.


Legislative Recommendations

Assist states and districts in effectively recruiting and retaining highly qualified special education teachers.

  • According to the Center of Personnel Studies in Special Education, 98% of the nation’s largest school districts report shortages of special education teachers; more than 50,000 special education teachers are required to address this shortage.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently noted that the number of special education teachers needed is expected to increase through 2014 at a rate faster than the average occupation. The reason for this demand is projected increases in the number of students requiring special education and related services and the number of current teachers who will transfer to general education, retire, or leave education for other professions.
  • Some states and districts are successfully recruiting and retaining highly qualified special education teachers by offering targeted salary increases for hard-to-recruit positions, bonuses for critical subject-area shortages, housing incentives, tax credits, and loan forgiveness.
  • Extension of the High, Objective, Uniform State Standards of Evaluation (HOUSSE); mentoring; induction programs; and financial incentives are all possible strategies that could help address the shortage of special education teachers.

Expand professional development opportunities and technical assistance that aids teachers, school leaders, and support personnel to more effectively provide instructional and other services to all students with disabilities.

  • While in the past, students with disabilities may have received special education and related services in alternative settings or classrooms, 52.1% of students in 2004 were educated for most of the school day inside the regular classroom.
  • Many teachers and school leaders lack the coursework and field experience needed to lead local efforts to create learning environments that emphasize academic success for students with disabilities.
  • The overrepresentation of English language learners in special education classes suggests that most educators have difficulty distinguishing students who truly have learning disabilities from students who are struggling for other reasons, such as limited English.
  • Additional funding for professional development and technical assistance would allow providers to offer more effective instruction based on brain research and offer educators strategies on how to effectively teach students with disabilities.
  • School leaders must have timely access to research on effective instructional strategies, assessments, and growth models, etc., provided by the Technical Assistance and Dissemination Centers, in order to comply with regulations and procedures required under IDEA and to provide a better education for students with disabilities.

Begin transition planning that includes measurable postsecondary goals and transition services by the time a student reaches the age of 14 or by eighth grade.

  • Quality transition planning and implementation is dependent upon coordination and partnering between all governmental agencies that may serve students with disabilities. The sooner those partnerships can be established, the likelihood of success increases for each student.
  • Parents of students with disabilities experience substantial challenges with service delivery systems, day-to-day living, residential locations, and uncertainty about the future. Some parents view themselves as their children’s case managers, with responsibility for identifying and coordinating resources and supports, providing specialized nursing services and therapies, and finding little emotional energy and time to plan for the future.
  • Introducing students with disabilities and their families to the opportunities available after high school and self-advocacy strategies at an earlier age (i.e. 14 instead of 16) will enhance students’ abilities to achieve their postsecondary goals.
  • Focusing on post-high school transitions brings both relevancy and real world applications into the classroom thereby enhancing student motivation for learning.
  • According to the National Longitudinal Transition Study, nearly eight in 10 young adults with disabilities engaged in some form of activity related to employment or postsecondary education after exiting high school.

Research and develop exemplary models in the areas of instructional and intervention strategies, assessment tools, development of individualized education programs (IEPs), and transition planning in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

  • For example, autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the nation. Currently, one in 150 individuals are likely to be diagnosed with autism. However, very little research and development exists in regards to how best serve students with autism.
  • Model IEPs and forms that are brief and effective must be researched and developed and made readily available to districts in order to reduce paperwork thereby increasing time available for instruction.
  • In order to increase the quality and effectiveness of transition programming, model transition programs and forms that are aligned to the IEP and are brief and effective must be researched and developed, and made readily available to districts.
  • Developing a model for transition planning, with emphasis on the Summary of Performance, would allow for enhanced communication between colleges, technical and training programs, as well as careers without college, regardless of where the student may choose to reside.

Ensure a linkage between states’ data systems to streamline paperwork and increase consistent and appropriate access to services for students with disabilities who transfer between schools, districts, and states.

  • In 1999, the Government Accountability Office cited a correlation between academic disabilities and transience as a cause of the overidentification of migratory children who qualify for special education and related services. For this reason, Section 1308 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires districts to ensure the linkage of records pertaining to migratory children with a disability for the purpose of electronically exchanging, among the states, health and educational information for such children.
  • Since students with disabilities who are transient may not be classified as migratory, this required linkage should be expanded to include all students who receive special services.

Develop an assessment and accountability system for the purpose of calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) that allows for students with disabilities to be assessed at their current instructional level, as determined by the students’ IEP teams.

  • A student’s IEP team is in the best position to know a student’s individual abilities as well as which assessments will accurately demonstrate that student’s individual growth toward meeting state standards and
    benchmarks.
  • Districts should be allowed to assemble both formal and informal evaluations into a comprehensive portfolio for each student that includes standardized assessments, criterion referenced tests, cognitive tests, teacher and parent observations, course performance, and intervention strategies to determine the appropriate assessment for the student.
  • Legislation (H.R. 4100) was introduced in the 110th Congress to establish a competitive grant program that would allow states to conduct pilot programs to determine the effectiveness of assessing students with disabilities who are achieving significantly below gradelevel proficiency at their instructional level.

Provide incentives for highly qualified teachers to acquire dual certification in special education and general education.

  • Dual-endorsed teachers bring with them a skill set that allows them to better work with all students. For example, positive behavior supports work best when applied schoolwide.
  • Incentives, such as loan forgiveness or tax credits, to general education teachers who pursue special education certification, may help recruit and retain more special education teachers.
  • Currently in many school districts, special education teachers and teaching assistants are placed in regular education classrooms to provide individualized instructional support for special education students (i.e. inclusion). Dual-endorsed teachers require less external support thereby allowing special education personnel to be redistributed into more effective intervention services.

Create a common set of standards of care and assessments for each of the disabilities enumerated in IDEA.

  • IDEA 2004 defined a child with a disability as “a child with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this title as ‘emotional disturbance’), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.” However, differences in the determination of these conditions have resulted in inconsistencies in the services provided to students within a state and between different states.
  • Clarification of the standards of care would ensure that each student would receive “comparable” services within a particular school or district, and when the student transfers within the same state or outside of the state.

Fully fund IDEA.

  • From 1995 through 2004, the total number of students ages 6–21 receiving special education and related services under IDEA increased from almost 5.1 million to more than 6.1 million, and the largest increase occurred for students in middle level and high schools.
  • When Congress first passed IDEA in 1975, the federal government agreed to pay for the excess costs of educating a child with a disability compared to a general education student, which translates to 40% of the national average per-pupil expenditure (APPE).
  • School districts were allocated $22.8 billion (34.2%) in federal funding under IDEA in FY 2009, which includes funding allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and regular annual appropriations.
  • The IDEA shortfall increases demand on school districts’ general fund balance, forcing them to raise taxes or eliminate critical education programs and staff.

This month 35 seats in the U.S. Senate were up for election, and when the dust had settled, eight new members were elected. The states with new Senate members include: Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia. Following is an in-depth portrait of the new members of Congress. All quotations are taken directly from the officials’ Websites and are not indicators of record or future action. [This article will be updated in the near future with new information on Mark Begich (D), who recently defeated incumbent Senator Ted Stevens (R) from Alaska. Additional information will be provided when the Minnesota race between incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) is decided.]

Colorado
Mark Udall (D)
Elected to the Senate with 53% of the vote, Udall had previously served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the issue of education, Udall believes that NCLB has fallen short of its expectations, and needs significant reform.

To this end, in 2007 he introduced the CLASS Act (H.R. 2070), a bill supported by NASSP, and which would have improved the determination of adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB by requiring the use of multiple measures of student achievement, while also improving the assessment of students with disabilities by allowing schools to take a Individual Education Program team decision into account when determining the performance of such students. The bill would have also improved the assessment of English language learners (ELLs) by excluding the test performance of ELLs who had resided in the United States for less than three years.

Idaho
Jim Risch (R)
Elected to the Senate with 58% of the vote, Risch is currently serving his third term as Lieutenant Governor of Idaho. Risch also served as Idaho’s 31st governor, during which time he called a special session of the Idaho Legislature, which was intended to “bring much needed property tax relief to Idaho taxpayers,” and which resulted in the creation of “a strong and protected source of funding for Idaho public schools.”

Nebraska
Mike Johanns (R)
Elected to the Senate with 58% of the vote, Johanns does not support NCLB, and believes “the role of the federal government should be to assist and partner with the state and local school districts, not control and administer them.” In like fashion, he “supports standards, but not the federal government dictating the standards for [Nebraska, and] will push back on any attempts to implement more mandates on the states.”

Johanns supports funding special education at the full 40% of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure, as well as increasing funding for Pell Grants.

New Hampshire
Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Elected to the Senate with 52% of the vote, Shaheen believes that AYP “should be reconfigured to take into account whether students and the school at large are making progress between years, not just progress as measured against an externally imposed goal. Schools should [also] be allowed to develop a variety of assessments in order to show academic progress rather than the current single high stakes exam.”

Shaheen also supports providing more opportunities and incentives to teachers to encourage high quality professional development.

On the issue of special education, Shaheen believes that within eight years the federal government should fund the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) at the full 40% of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure.

New Mexico
Thomas Udall (D)
Elected to the Senate with 61% of the vote, Udall was serving his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was active in education policy and was a member of the House Democratic Education Task Force.

During his ten years in Congress, Udall has supported several bills that would enhance education, including the Teacher Tax Credit Act which provides a tax credit for teachers and principals who work in certain low-income schools, as well as the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, which would increase the amount of student loan forgiveness for teachers in mathematics, science, and special education.

Udall also supports increased federal funding for special education and a number of other programs designed to assist underserved youth, including: 21st Century Learning Centers, TRIO and Upward Bound, and programs funded through the Carl D. Perkins Act.

North Carolina
Kay Hagan (D)
Elected to the Senate with 53% of the vote, Hagan believes that NCLB needs to be significantly reformed and fully funded.

Hagan supports the use of growth models to give schools credit for making gains in student achievement, as well as differentiated consequences for schools not meeting AYP to help them address their individual needs.

Additionally, Hagan supports the use of multiple measures of student achievement in determining AYP, and would “push for NCLB to include incentives for states to align their K-12 standards with the ‘real world standards’ of college and the workplace.”

Oregon
Jeff Merkley (D)
Elected to the Senate with 49% of the vote, Merkley supports several significant investments in education, including fully funding the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, IDEA, NCLB, and increasing the size and number of Pell Grants to help high schoolers and their families cope with rising college tuition costs.

Merkley also believes that a complete overhaul of NCLB is necessary, arguing that “A school’s improvement should be measured not only by test scores, but also by students’ improvement over time, attendance, graduation rates and other standards that states themselves determine.”

Virginia
Mark Warner (D)
Elected to 65% of the vote, Warner has a long record of fighting for education reform. As the Governor of Virginia from 2002 – 2006, he made several investments in education, increasing K – 12 funding in Virginia by over $100 million in 2002 and 2003, and again by almost $1.5 billion in 2004.

During his governorship, Warner has also paid a great deal of attention to high schools and school leaders through his “Education for a Lifetime” initiative, launching Project Graduation and Senior Year Plus, which sought to increase high school graduation rates and increase student preparedness for college and the workforce.

In recognition of the central role that school leaders play in education reform efforts, Warner also launched the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which is “designed to develop a cadre of principals trained to ‘turn around’ consistently low-performing schools [by using] … tried-and-true business principals of turning around failing businesses.”

Warner has criticized the implementation of NCLB, and has argued that it is underfunded by $70 billion.

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