Nation’s Principals Launch 2016 Advocacy Agenda on Capitol Hill

By Kelly D. Pollitt
March 2016, Volume 39, Issue 7

Principals from across the nation recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to help launch a comprehensive advocacy agenda that elevates the principal’s voice in federal education policy. The launch occurred during NAESP’s annual National Leaders Conference (NLC), which hosted nearly 200 principals and state association advocates who engaged in important discussions to influence congressional action on implementing the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA), the FY 2017 federal budget, student data privacy, and higher education policy. The campaign messages reflect the need for oversight of ESSA implementation, especially in regards to investing in the support and development of strong instructional leadership to improve student outcomes, as well as necessary shifts in accountability systems away from the overuse of standardized testing.

State and district comprehensive support for principal leadership. Leaders in the House and Senate education committees are holding oversight hearings with the U.S. Department of Education (USED), state and local leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss how states and districts will tackle adjustments to state accountability systems, educator support initiatives, and implementation of other programs now offered through the largest federal education law. During NLC, principals talked with their members of Congress about pressing states and districts to focus on building capacity in systems to better recruit, prepare, and support principals in the profession, and taking advantage of how they can now support instructional leadership—an area that was overlooked in the last version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act. ESSA now offers states an unprecedented ability to support principal leadership through a variety of “use of funds,” including a new state set-aside of 3 percent of Title II Part A allocations, which are distributed to states by formula. But new state authority under the law allows states to choose whether or not they will take advantage of this new allowable use of funds. NLC attendees urged congressional leaders to work with their states and districts to make sure that there is a clear understanding of the law, which encourages states to make a strong investment in the principal pipeline—or programs to support aspiring and early career principals—as well as provide on-going support for instructional leadership.

Shift accountability system away from over-testing and toward growth. In addition, principals urged congressional leaders to emphasize that under the new law, states can shift accountability systems in a way that will appropriately factor student growth measures, including individual student growth, as part of a differentiated accountability model. States and districts also have the ability to access programs that will help them better manage assessment systems to review and eliminate unnecessary state assessments, which is a key concern of principals throughout the nation’s schools. The new law provides programs to help states and districts reduce over-testing and require collaboration between educators and policymakers to determine solutions.

Budget Priorities

As Congress prepares the FY 2017 budget priorities and begins to align education funding to ESSA programs, principals also urged Congress to fund federal education programs so that schools have the ability to improve instruction and meet the learning needs of every student. Principals asked Congress to abide by the overall spending levels set forth by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and support funding increases for formula grants in the newly-authorized ESSA, such as Title I and Title II Part A state grants, to help schools meet the needs of disadvantaged students and to strengthen educator capacity. Principals urged Congress to fund discretionary programs that provide principals with direct instructional leadership support and a newly-authorized Title IV block grant program that will help schools provide a well-rounded experience for all students through arts-integration and use of technology, as well as address issues such as providing school counselors, physical education programs, student mental health services, drug use prevention, and social and emotional learning.

Finally, principals advocated to boost funding for Title I programs and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to make sure that Congress fulfills its obligation to “fully fund” state grants to help meet the costs that are associated with educating special needs students.

NAESP will continue to carry the messages that principals and state level advocates delivered on Capitol Hill throughout the year. For more information about the 2016 advocacy agenda that was successfully launched, please contact Kelly Pollitt, Chief Strategist, Policy and Alliances at

Kelly D. Pollitt is NAESP’s Chief Strategist, Policy and Alliances.

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