NAESP Applauds the Focus on Early Childhood, Principal Professional Development, School Safety and Mental Health in the Administration's Budget
President Obama released an ambitious education budget to Congress yesterday that will provide an overall 4 percent increase to the Department of Education. The proposal seeks to ensure that all children come to school ready to learn, that teachers and principals will be afforded additional professional development, and that schools have the means to begin to address school safety and mental health issues.
“NAESP is encouraged by the areas of the President’s FY 2014 budget plan that lay out an ambitious agenda in early childhood, provide principals with greater access to professional development, and give schools the resources to start to address school safety and mental health issues through evidence-based practice. These are the strategies that elementary and middle level principals know will improve schools that have been overlooked by policymakers for far too long. In a time of scarce resources, these areas are wise investments and proposals that we hope Congress will take seriously,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of NAESP.
The Obama administration’s proposal, Preschool for All, includes an unprecedented federal expansion of early learning opportunities for all 4-year olds from families whose incomes are at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. The plan includes $1.3 billion in 2014 and $75 billion over the next 10 years in mandatory funding to create new partnerships with states to provide high-quality preschool through a mixed-delivery system, but focusing on school-based programs or linking community programs to schools. The mandatory funds would be paid for by creating a new tobacco tax. Funds will be awarded to states, who must meet requirements for high-quality prekindergarten programs, and then distributed to local school districts – or local school districts in partnership with other early learning providers – to provide the services. A portion of the program will be administered through the Head Start and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which the Department of Health and Human Services oversees. The Department of Education would have discretion over a new $750 million program piece, which would provide competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems and prepare to expand access to high-quality preschool for all four year olds.
NAESP enthusiastically supports the portion of the plan to provide $98 million for principal professional development, which would triple the investment in Title II funds for the School Leadership Program (SLP) in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Principals are also pleased to see funds directed to programmatic support for schools to address safety and mental health issues to decrease gun violence prevention.
“It is exciting to see the emphasis on early learners, more support for principals, and funding for programs that will help principals create a positive school climate during a time when we are facing an overwhelming number of challenges in schools,” NAESP President Mark Terry said. “Principals work hard to make sure that teachers and students come into a building that gives them a positive environment to teach and learn in every day. Especially as they lead the implementation of new school and classroom practices related to college and career-ready standards, teacher evaluation, and getting ready for new assessment systems. We are glad to see stronger support for principals to meet these responsibilities and be able to excel as an instructional leader,” said Terry.
The budget summary indicates that the U.S. Department of Education plans to redesign the SLP to offer competitive grants in 2014 to evaluate and expand large-scale and evidence-based professional development for in-service principals. Principal recruitment and training will be supported through an additional 25 percent set-aside of Title II funds, especially for principals in turnaround schools, as well as through the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund (formerly known as TIF grants) for states and districts to reform compensation and evaluation systems.
School safety and mental health issues are addressed in the FY 2014 proposal in several areas, including a new $50 million program for School Climate Transformation Grants. Funding would support schools in creating a positive school environment, the use of multi-tiered decision-making frameworks, decreasing bullying and peer victimization, improving organizational health and perceptions of school as a safe setting, and increasing academic performance in reading and math. States and school districts will also be able to apply for funds from a $30 million program to improve emergency management planning. The program will help schools begin to address safety needs through one-time grants that must support local school districts and the schools to develop, implement, and improve emergency management plans.
NAESP looks forward to working with the President and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to implement programs and initiatives in early childhood, principal professional development, school safety and mental health to ensure that all elementary and middle level principals will receive the knowledge, tools, and resources to be successful. The association will continue to advance an advocacy and policy agenda that will help build principals’ capacity to serve as the catalyst for school improvement. For more information on the NAESP policies and positions, including on early childhood, P-3 alignment, school safety and mental health issues, please visit www.naesp.org/advocacy.