Below are National School Boards Association Legislative Highlights from July 25, 2014:
Thomas B. Fordham Institute Concurs with NSBA: USED Not Authorized to Attach Strings to ESEA Waivers
On July 23, the Fordham Institute re-affirmed local school boards’ belief that the U.S. Department of Education (and many other federal agencies) have exceeded their authority in establishing costly requirements and mandates, not supported by specific legislative language. The Fordham Institute published a concise critique of the Department’s practice of attaching strings to ESEA waivers and establishing other requirements not authorized by law. NSBA welcomes the growing recognition that the education needs of children are not served when state and local authority is eclipsed by federal intrusion.
NSBA has long stated that local school governance has been unnecessarily eroded through policies and requirements that reach beyond legislation and Congressional intent. Teacher evaluation and equitable distribution requirements are just two policies imposed by the U. S. Department of Education (USED) in exchange for ESEA waivers, although the ESEA statute is silent on both. NSBA pushed back on federal overreach by introducing the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386/S 2451). The Act will properly recognize the importance of local school board governance in education and strengthen the process for local meaningful input as a condition for the Department’s implementation of regulations, rules, grants and other policies. Much of HR 1386 has already been incorporated into the House ESEA reauthorization bill, and a Senate version was recently introduced. Local school board members are encouraged to urge their U. S. Senators and their Representative to become a sponsor if they have not already.
FCC Releases Report & Order on E-Rate Modernization: Invites Comments on Future Funding Needs
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released the long-awaited Report & Order on E-Rate modernization this week. The 178-page document details implementation of performance goals & measures, ensuring cost-effectiveness and administrative simplicity in the program, and providing affordable access to broadband.
In addition, the FCC invites public comment on meeting future funding needs. NSBA has urged the FCC to increase resources for high-need schools and libraries, and is carefully reviewing the Report & Order in order to submit recommendations. Interested school districts are encouraged to do the same. The deadline to submit initial comments is September 15, 2014 and the deadline for reply comments is September 30, 2014.
Washington State Must Abide By School Choice Law
The federal government has rejected Washington state’s request to be exempt from a requirement under No Child Left Behind that students at struggling schools be given the option to switch to a higher-performing school. In a letter to state officials, Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle said it was important for parents to be notified that under the law, they have the right of school choice.
NSBA’s advocacy efforts to support the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) included sending a letter on July 17 urging the U.S. Department of Education to exempt Washington’s education agency from the 14-day requirement to issue letters informing parents of school choice options for schools deemed “failing” under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The NSBA letter voiced strong opposition to the requirement, indicating that to issue such letters is counterproductive because many schools are making significant progress, and the action would erode residents’ trust in public schools.
Washington had received a waiver from the most punitive requirements, but the U. S. Department of Education revoked that waiver when state lawmakers refused to change the state’s teacher evaluation system earlier this year. The NSBA letter also argued that such a requirement would negatively impact voting on upcoming bond issues and levies for capital improvement projects to improve school infrastructure; and hurt the schools’ abilities to sustain and build support from businesses and industry.