Advocacy Update: Principal Recognition, Federal Funding, and Other Policy Priorities
By Kelly D. Pollitt
September 2014, Volume 38, Issue 1
Members of Congress returned from the summer recess for a brief period to address several legislative and funding bills before returning to home states to campaign for the mid-term elections. Yesterday, the Senate adjourned until November 12 and the House has a few short days left to consider its business by the end of the 113th Congress. Lawmakers have been eager to appropriate funds to keep the federal government running, and to provide funds for President Obama’s proposal related to Syria. Here are a few updates.
National Principals Month
While wrapping up the federal budget issues and other legislative work, the Senate managed to pass a resolution introduced by Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with other co-sponsors, to honor principals throughout the country and officially designate October as National Principals Month.
The same resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and co-sponsors in July. The House version will not be considered by the full chamber given the rules governing non-binding resolutions—the House simply does not pass them under the Republican majority.
NAESP and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) are once again pleased to celebrate October 2014 as National Principals Month!
FY 2015 Funding the Federal Government
The Senate passed a temporary funding bill to cover funding for all federal agencies and departments to keep the federal government open in the short term. The bill also included Title 10 authority and funding for the president to train Syrian rebels against the Islamic State group, ISIS. The House passed the bill earlier in the week.
The temporary federal funding bill—known as a Continuing Resolution (CR)—extends FY 2014 funding under all current terms and conditions, through Dec. 11, 2014. The CR lays the groundwork for an omnibus appropriations bill that Congress will negotiate and pass in the lame duck session after the November elections.
Going forward, Congress will have to consider that the annualized rate of spending contained in the bill for FY 2015 from FY 2014 would exceed the FY 2015 cap that was set in the Budget Control Act. The final bill expected in December for FY 2015 may include spending cuts for some federal departments and programs, as well as a very small 0.0554 percent across-the-board cut. As a result, Department of Education programs could be cut by $37.3 million. But this will not be in effect during the CR period—only after the final bill is negotiated.
Other Legislative/Policy and Administrative Updates
The Senate Education Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2789, to provide full Federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill would fully fund the federal commitment to IDEA by gradually increasing the federal government’s share of the excess costs of educating students with disabilities to its committed level over 10 years. Specifically, this legislation will increase the federal dollars appropriated from $11.5 billion in fiscal year 2014 to $35.6 billion in fiscal year 2023. NAESP strongly supports this legislation through its work with the IDEA Full Funding coalition.
The number of students with disabilities has increased more than 25 percent over the past 20 years, a growth that federal funding has struggled to support. In FY 2014 (the 2014‐2015 school year), the federal share for IDEA is 15.8 percent, less than half of the Congressional commitment to students with special needs. NAESP is hopeful that as federal budget considerations move forward, IDEA may receive some level of increase as the full-funding issue has bipartisan support. House Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, John Kline (R-MN), has been a proponent of the federal government fulfilling its commitment to fully fund IDEA. Congress committed to states to cover up to 40 percent of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities. However, Congress has failed to deliver on that promise, and the law has been consistently and grossly underfunded for decades.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education proposed revised requirements for School Improvement Grants (SIG). According to the notice, “…the proposed requirements would implement language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, to allow LEAs to implement evidence-based, whole-school reform strategies and State determined school improvement intervention models, provide flexibility for rural LEAs implementing a SIG intervention, and extend the allowable grant period from three to five years. Additionally, the proposed requirements would make changes that reflect lessons learned from four years of SIG implementation.”
NAESP will provide public comment on the notice, in particular on its position related to the SIG models. Currently, each school intervention model mandates the removal of the school principal at the outset of any School Improvement Grant program. NAESP recommends that a principal leadership review and evaluation be conducted as the first step of a school needs assessment within the School Improvement Grant program contained in Title I of the ESEA. This must lead to a comprehensive school improvement plan. Any effort to evaluate the effectiveness or performance of principals must be developed at the state and local level.
NAESP Position on SIG Use of Funds
Further comments will include:
- Support for SIG to give states and local educational agencies assistance in developing fair, objective, and comprehensive evaluation systems, based on the “core competencies of effective school leadership.”
- Give priority to state and local education agency principal evaluation systems that rely on highly trained mentors, coaches, or veteran principals to give districts the capacity to evaluate principals—especially those principals who have a demonstrated track record of successful school reform and improvement efforts.
- Give priority or authority only to local educational agencies, upon the completion of effective evaluation of principals, to determine if dismissal of the principal is warranted.
NAESP will remain sharply focused on several specific federal education funding issues as Congress proceeds with the FY1015 appropriations process in the lame duck session. Title I, full funding for IDEA, and increasing the level of existing funds provided for principal professional development in Title II Part A are critical priority areas. Following are key points that will be emphasized in the advocacy agenda:
Prioritize education formula grants for increases in FY 2015 over competitive grant programs. These programs are foundational educational investments that support our most vulnerable students.
Support an increase to Title I basic and targeted grants to states and districts to serve low-income students. Reductions to Title I over the last three years have hurt the neediest students and school districts, especially at a time when closing the achievement gap is a critical educational and economic imperative.
Support funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to reach the federal share of the additional per pupil expenditure of educating students with disabilities, per current law. Right now the federal government only funds 14.5 percent of the costs, which falls short of the pledge to provide 40 percent.
Support a redirection of Title II Part A funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for principals’ professional development. Currently, states spend less than 4 percent of current Title II funds ($2.5 billion) on instructional leadership. Statute requires that districts spend funds on both teachers and principals.
Support ConnectED to provide funds for education technology, including educator professional development, particularly through the Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program, a federal formula program that has not been funded for several years.
For more information on the NAESP advocacy agenda, please contact Kelly Pollitt, Associate Executive Director, Policy, Public Affairs and Special Projects at email@example.com.
Kelly D. Pollitt is Associate Executive Director for Policy, Public Affairs, and Special Projects at NAESP.
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