In this edition of Take 5, Gary provides a MN legislative update and reminds members to mark their calendars for the upcoming MDE Back-to-School Conference and MASA Fall Conference.
The Advocate, June 2016
Assistant Director, Policy & Advocacy
AASA, The School Superintendents Association
Racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education is a complex issue that cannot be solved quickly or easily. It differs dramatically both across and within districts and states, and is linked to district finances, student and community demographics, and teacher and administrator training and capacity.
Recent federal investigations have determined that states are not appropriately identifying districts that have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education proposed regulations this spring that would dramatically increase the number of states and districts that must set-aside IDEA Part B funding to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality.
Based on the Department’s projections, 23 states will require between 50-80 percent of all districts to set aside 15 percent of their federal share for early intervening services to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in at least one disability, educational environment or discipline category. Given the under-funding of IDEA and the lack of resources to address special education at the state and local levels, the financial consequences of requiring districts to redirect federal resources away from the provision of special education and related services and towards early intervening services cannot be understated.
One of the most deeply concerning aspects of the proposed regulation is that it would require the calculation of significant disproportionality to be accomplished through a cell size of 10 students. The Department argues that this cell-size for a subgroup of students is appropriate and will lead to many more districts being labeled as having significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. We certainly concur with this conclusion but believe that using a cell size of 10 will require many districts to set aside resources to address a problem they do not need to solve. In particular, small rural districts will be greatly impacted by the use of a cell size of 10. A large family moving in and out of a district could influence whether or not they have access to 15 percent of its IDEA funds for special education services.
AASA also raised concerns with how districts with specialized programs would be impacted by the new regulation as well as districts with robust open-enrollment policies, a substantial population of migrant students or students in foster care, or districts that have experienced a major health or environmental crisis. A review of comments in response to the proposed regulations found that the vast majority of comments were negative and were written by school leaders, school personnel and school groups. It is our hope that the Department considers this feedback from the education community before promulgating these regulations.
AASA acknowledges the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as 21 states failed to find any districts as having significant disproportionality. But, more of the same does not make sound public policy. It is unknown whether districts that have set-aside IDEA funds for early intervening services to address this complicated issue have found much success through this approach.
It’s clear that researchers have yet to find a silver bullet solution to reduce significant disproportionality in identification and placement, although progress has been made on discipline. The approach districts must take to address disproportionality is multifaceted and requires resources that most lack.
The Department’s sledgehammer regulatory approach may only exacerbate inequities in school resources, which is the root problem facing districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. As we urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA, addressing this important problem in a meaningful and reasonable way will be a top priority for AASA.
As we look towards reauthorization, AASA has launched a new blog called A New IDEA to share thoughtful ideas about the reauthorization of IDEA by legal experts, practitioners and special education researchers.
As you know, the 2016 legislative session ended without a bonding bill or transportation bill being agreed to. The legislature did pass a tax bill and a supplemental budget bill. As of today, the Governor has yet to sign either bill. It appears that the leaders of the House and Senate want the Governor to call a special session so that they can complete the work of passing a bonding and transportation bill. The Governor has indicated that he will make his decision next week. He also indicated that he would have expectations for bonding projects that would need to be included in the bonding bill.
If there were a special session what would that mean for E-12 education world. If the Governor signs the supplemental budget bill, there would not be ay changes to what was passed by the House and Senate. If the Governor vetoed the supplemental budget bill then everything is back on the table. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out what the Governor wants to do. We will continue to keep you updated as the process moves forward.
As always, THANKS for what you do on a daily basis for the children of Minnesota. Please contact me if I can be of service at (651) 319-1211.
In this edition of Take 5, Gary provides a legislative update, reminds members about the upcoming MDE Back-to-School Leadership Conference and the MASA Fall Conference, and talks about the voting process in order to amend the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) constitution to allow for superintendent representation on the MSHSL Board of Directors.
The Advocate, May 2016
Senior Legislative Analyst
AASA, The School Superintendents Association
Children who are healthy and well fed are best suited to learn. AASA is a strong advocate for child nutrition – through our work on school breakfast, health insurance and coordinated school health among many other projects, we support the whole child and help our members ensure that their students are all given the best shot at a healthy lifestyle.
However, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act put in place burdensome regulations that have harmed the ability for many districts to run efficient and effective school nutrition programs. As Congress is working to reauthorize this bill, we are working to strengthen these nutrition programs through added flexibilities and support.
AASA supports a comprehensive reauthorization of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act – one which addresses the challenges stemming from the 2010 law. Superintendents throughout the country have complained of decreased participation, increased cost, increased food waste and unhappy students. School food service directors have complained of increased administrative burden, limited ability to serve the foods their students eat and difficulty finding products that fit the regulations. AASA is not looking to repeal the standards completely – too much good work has been done already. Instead, we have been asking for some common sense changes to increase the flexibility, and allow schools and districts to best serve their students.
The shining star of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act is the Community Eligibility Provision. This provision, now in its second year nationwide, allows schools or districts with 40 percent or more of their students identified as in poverty to serve breakfast and lunch to all students in the school or district without taking applications. This provision has proven very successful in increasing participation, decreasing administrative burden and improving the well-being of children. Besides removing any barriers to accessing the food, Community Eligibility also removes the stigma attached to free meals. As AASA member Morris Leis said at a Congressional briefing, “This prevents embarrassment for some students and puts all (children) on an even playing field when it comes to getting their meals.”
In the winter, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill, which AASA opposed. It did not do much to increase flexibility and included a requirement for increased verification of student eligibility that would significantly increase administrative burden and cause some students to lose their access to meals.
The House is currently considering a bill that would have mixed implications for superintendents. It requires all nutritional standards to be reviewed with an eye on cost and participation as well as nutrition – this would ensure that school meals are both healthy and practical. However, it also includes a similar provision for increased verification of eligibility as well as a change in the Community Eligibility Provision, which would cause 7,000 schools to lose their current eligibility.
We are continuing to work with Congress to ensure that any reauthorization of this bill reflects the needs of superintendents around the country. While healthy meals are essential for our students’ success, it is crucial that we allow local districts to best serve their students. We hope a reauthorized child nutrition bill reflects this need.
Find AASA’s positions on this bill and other child nutrition issues on The Leading Edge blog here.
In this edition of Take 5, Gary provides an update on the voting process in order to amend the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) constitution to allow for superintendent representation on the MSHSL Board of Directors.
As we approach May I want to share a couple of dates with you for upcoming MASA events. Though the current school year is winding down, I hope you will put these dates on your calendar for next year. The MDE Back to School Conference will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 9-10 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest. We’re working with Commissioner Cassellius to create a powerful professional learning experience. As in the past, you are encouraged to bring a team to this conference. Watch for details in the next month or two.
The MASA Fall Conference will be held on Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday, October 2nd, 3rd and 4th at Madden’s in Brainerd. Per the direction of the Executive Development Committee, the conference will provide opportunities for our members to share the successful programs that are being implemented in their districts. We will also have a fabulous exhibit hall with more than 80 exhibitors.
I hope you are able to attend both events. At MASA, we listen to your feedback and continually attempt to improve upon your professional growth experiences. As always, our goal is to meet your needs and to help you be successful in your district.
Thanks for all that you do every day!
The Advocate, April 2016
Associate Executive Director
AASA, The School Superintendents Association
Negotiated Rulemaking: The Sausage Making Stage of ESSA Legislation
Four months ago, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While the bill is more than 1,000 pages in length, it lacks the level of detail necessary to fully support successful implementation at the local level, and that is where the regulatory process comes in.
Negotiated rulemaking—the specific version of regulation playing out right now—is the in-person version of regulation. A committee of approximately 25 stakeholders representing the education, civil rights, disabilities and other related communities convene to review specified topics in the hopes of reaching consensus on what shape the regulations should take. In this round, negotiated rulemaking (“neg reg”) is focused on assessments and supplement/supplant, with the broader assessments bucket capturing computer adaptive assessment, assessment for English learners, alternate assessment, exception for advanced mathematics assessments in 8th grade and the high school assessment flexibility pilot.
AASA joined eight other national organizations in a letter to Secretary King encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the final product be consistent with the scope and spirit of ESSA and represent, to the extent possible, broad support from the neg reg committee. In particular, the groups encourage USED to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress designed to empower communities.
Mr. Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools in Georgia and an AASA member, is a member of the committee, appointed to represent the voice of school board and district leaders. AASA’s advocacy team has covered the first six days of neg reg (Mar 21-23 and Apr 6-8), and the group will convene one final time, April 18-19. As much as I would like to be wrong, it seems unlikely that the group will be able to reach consensus. What are some of the sticking points?
For purposes of moving forward, the committee will have two considerations: SNS will be considered on its own, and the assessment pieces will be considered in one joint bucket, with all five items to be voted on collectively, an ‘up’ or ‘down’ vote.
Stay tuned to the AASA Leading Edge blog as the rest of the neg reg process plays out. And, as a point of reference, we are regularly asked some of our go-to resources for education policy news. They’re listed here:
A valuable program for parents, kids and schools is about to end unless you help. As you know, the High School League Foundation has sent thousands of dollars to schools and parents through the League’s sales tax exemption. The tax switched back on as the result of legislative inaction on July 1, 2015. Absent legislative action, no Foundation funds will be available for parents and schools for the 2016-17 school year for the first time in a decade.
The value of the tax exemption is easy to quantify. Over $825,000 per year is returned to schools to reduce the cost of student participation fees and provide support for extracurricular activities. All of the sales tax revenue is returned to kids, parents and programs.
The program will end this year without legislative action. The League is actually paying the tax now.
Last year, bills were introduced by Senator Greg Clausen (D, Rosemount) and Representative Roz Peterson (R, Lakeville) to make the tax exemption permanent. As a former school board member and a former member of the MSHSL Board, Representative Peterson knows the value of the program. The same is true of Senator Clausen, a former school principal. Their bills, SF 41 and HF 263, had different fates. The Senate bill was incorporated into the Senate omnibus tax bill. The House bill was heard but was not included in the House omnibus tax bill. (No reason was ever given for not including the language in the House Tax bill.) Unfortunately, the tax bill was not adopted when the House and Senate failed to agree on the major tax issues.
You can help save this program.
Over the next eight weeks the fate of this program will be decided by the legislature. This issue is currently in the Omnibus Tax Bill Conference Committee (HF 848/SF 826).
The members of this important committee include the following legislators:
House: Davids; Draskowski; Barrett; Swedzinski and Pelowski
Senate: Skoe; Rest; Kownen; Dziedzic and Gazelka
Everyone needs to contact their legislators, particularly members of the House, and encourage members to support the repeal of the sale tax on MSHSL tickets. Tell legislators of the significant programs you have supported with these funds. Tell them about the support to parents. Tell them this is a priority. If you live in the legislative district of one of the conferees, make certain you call them. Also, contact both the House and Senate leadership and encourage them to make this a priority. Contact the Governor’s office as well.
Last week a state legislator commented that the most effective lobbying is pick up the phone and call your legislator. I couldn’t agree more. Your opinion matters. These personal contacts are absolutely essential to saving this valuable program.
All legislative contact numbers and emails can be found on the House and Senate web sites:
Together we can do great things for kids.
MASA is pleased to partner with The Midwest Instructional Leadership Council (miLc) to present a professional development opportunity next week that will support excellent instruction for middle and high school students. The workshop, "Improving Content Area Literacy: Instructional Strategies for Middle and High School (Grades 6-12),” will be presented by Dr. Kevin Feldman, and will take place on Tuesday, April 5 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.
The day-long workshop will explore evidence based instructional strategies for teaching content area literacy skills for middle and high school students. Our presenter will model the practices for participants throughout the day and will explain both the supporting research and the details for successful implementation. Participants will receive resources to support their work and will have opportunities for guided practice prior to using what they have learned in their districts and classrooms.
Dr. Feldman, is the Emeritus Director of Reading and Intervention with the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) and an independent educational consultant working with publishers, schools, and districts across the country. His career in education spans forty-one years. As the Director of Reading and Intervention for SCOE, he develops, organizes, and monitors programs related to PreK-12 literacy and the prevention/remediation of reading difficulties.
We are glad to be able to offer resources to enhance our members’ instructional leadership practices, as well as those of their leadership teams, and we are grateful to miLc for their partnership. The nine-year-old miLc is a multi-state organization led by a group of educational leaders, many of whom are from Minnesota and are also MASA members. miLc consults with schools and districts to support school-wide improvement efforts. miLc sponsored events include conferences, workshops, and trainings supporting research-based practice in the areas of assessment, instruction and leadership.
There are a limited number of workshop registrations remaining. To register for Tuesday’s workshop, go to: www.regonline.com/ContentLiteracy
As I write this blog post, we have just experienced almost of foot of snow in the south metro area. From my perspective I hope this is winter’s way of saying good-bye! I’m ready for spring and all of the beauty that this time of year brings. Trees, shrubs and flowers are awakening from a long winter's rest. In our schools some of you have had a spring break and some are going into a spring break. As we move towards April and the last quarter of the school year, it can become a very exciting and busy time of year. Always remember that your leadership is vital to maintaining the focus on student learning and engagement. Whether you are the superintendent or a district level administrator your modeling is vitally important. As always, I greatly appreciate the passion that that you bring to your job on a daily basis. Our students are well served by your commitment! Best wishes for a successful last quarter of the year!
In this edition of Take 5, Gary talks about about the upcoming MASA/MASE Spring Conference, reminds members to donate to the MASA Foundation Spring Fundraiser, talks about an exciting upcoming professional development opportunity in April, and provides a legislative update.