April 19, 2014

Federal Advocacy Center


The National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Institute, formerly known as the Federal Relations Network (FRN) involves local school board members from every congressional district in the country who are committed to grassroots advocacy for public education. The Advocacy Institute gives members an opportunity to make a difference in the education of our nation’s public school children.

MABE's Participation 

MABE's FRN Committee meets throughout the year to discuss pending issues and coordinate meetings on Capitol Hill. The committee is comprised of board members appointed to represent the association in communicating NSBA and MABE positions to Maryland's federal delegation, including our two U.S. Senators and eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, MABE representatives attend the annual NSBA's Advocacy Institute (formerly FRN Conference) in Washington D.C., and participate in the "Day on the Hill" congressional office visits.

MABE encourages all boards of education to participate in NSBA's Advocacy Institute and MABE's FRN committee to engage in advocacy at the federal level to ensure that our federal officials are well informed on the priorities and perspectives of local school systems and the fiscal and policy issues arising under the myriad federal programs impacting public education.

For additional information, contact John Woolums, MABE's Director of Governmental Relations at (410) 841-5414 or jwoolums@mabe.org

Federal Updates & 2014 Advocacy Institute Conference Information

FY2014 Funding Bill Finalized

Our advocacy efforts were successful as Congress passed a final consolidated funding bill for Fiscal Year 2014, after several months of stop-gap appropriations bills and an earlier government shutdown.  The bill is subsequent to the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act last December, which provides a two-year reprieve from the across-the-board budget cuts to education and other domestic programs imposed by sequestration. 

As a result, funding levels for Title I grants to school districts, special education, and many other education programs will be at or near their pre-sequester levels, before the across-the-board budget cuts were applied in FY2013.  For example, the funding bill restores about $1.1 billion of the $1.3 billion that was cut from Title I and special education funding, which will help many school districts address shortfalls that affected areas such as after-school enrichment, bulk purchasing for classrooms and staffing. 

The FY2014 appropriations bill will also fund Race to the Top (RTTT) at $250 million, which is more than a $270 million reduction from FY2013.  According to the legislation, the RTT funds "may be used for competitive awards to States to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs and early childhood education programs for children from low- and moderate-income families, including children with disabilities."  Also, $90 million is included for school safety, under Safe and Drug Free Schools.
NSBA's advocacy efforts for the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriation Act were focused on restoring funding for key foundational programs such as Title I and IDEA, before funding for competitive grants was considered.  We greatly appreciate your responses to our targeted grassroots action alerts, as well as the concentrated advocacy efforts that school boards have engaged in regarding sequestration for almost two years.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the funding bill (H.R. 3547) by a vote of 359-67.  The Senate vote was 72 to 26.

EPA Heeds NSBA's Suggestion for Longer Comment Period

As a direct result of NSBA's recommendation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending the deadline for comments on a rule for removing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in public buildings until March 28, 2014.  This enables NSBA to work with state associations and school districts to gather useful information to address this potentially costly mandate to local school districts.  The EPA plans to propose regulations by the end of the year requiring the removal of PCBs mostly found in fluorescent light bulbs in older (pre-1979) public buildings, including school buildings.  NSBA attended a briefing late November and was given the deadline of January 16, 2014 to submit comments related to the cost and time needed to inspect and retrofit all affected lighting fixtures in public school buildings, among other information.  NSBA recommended an extension due to the holidays, the start of a new school semester, and the complicated and technical nature of the issue so we could better assess the implications of such regulations. NSBA plans to send a survey to gather information from school districts as NSBA prepares its comments to the EPA.    

NSBA Advocacy Institute:  16 days and counting…

The clock is counting down to the start of the NSBA Advocacy Institute!  Get ready to:

• Experience a unique advocacy conference, designed especially for local school board members. 
• Strengthen your legal, legislative and public advocacy skills for your year round advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels.

Program highlights include:

• Learning about the federal overreach and the U.S. Department of Education
• Previewing NSBA's exciting new national campaign
• Meeting with members of Congress and lobbying on Capitol Hill (Congress will be in session)
• Delving into the most effective use of social media
• Learning how to craft your own messages to the media
• Discovering how to build and sustain a relationship with your members of Congress

Speakers Include:

• Claudio Sanchez, education correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR)
• Valerie Strauss, education correspondent for The Washington Post
• Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education
• Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist/author & associate editor of The Washington Post will discuss presidential leadership and the price of politics.
• Rev. Bernice King, Inspirational orator, author and daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will present on public education and equal opportunity for America's students.

For a more detailed agenda and to register, visit www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute

ESEA Reauthorization

In the SenateOn June 4, 2013, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and replace the failed tenets of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill wasco-sponsored by every Democratic member of the HELP Committee, including the Committee’s second highest ranking member, Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski. On Wednesday, June 12th the HELP Committee passed S. 1094 with Democaratic support and Republican opposition

Click here for a brief summary of S.1094, the Strengthening America's Schools Act.

In the House - On July 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Student Success Act, H.R. 5. The bill passed by a vote of 221 to 207, with no Democrats voting in support.   

Click here for a brief summary of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act

Note: NSBA supports H.R. 5, but opposes the Title I portabillity provisions adopted through an amendment offered by Rep. Cantor. Click here for the AASA critique of the Title I portability amendment.

In addition, H.R. 5 was amended to include major provisions of the NSBA initiated Local Governance Flexibility Act, discussed below. Click here for NSBA's letter supporting H.R. 5.

To learn more, read the full Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on both House and Senate approaches to reauthorizing ESEA.

ESEA Reauthorization: NSBA's and MABE’s Position - What to Tell Congress

MABE joins the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in urging local school boards and other stakeholders to tell members of Congress that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act established a rigorous but theoretical accountability system for the nation's public schools. Unfortunately, what has evolved in the name of accountability is a measurement framework that bases its assessment of school quality on a student's performance on a single assessment; and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions not always targeted to the students needing services, and, to date, not yet proven to have a significant impact on improving student performance and school performance.

Maryland's local school board members need to tell their members of Congress that after eleven years of enactment of the federal law, local school districts continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of this complex law are imposing far more dysfunctional and illogical implementation problems than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the capacity of local school districts.

NSBA proactively provided to the Senate HELP committee staff an NSBA report, The report focuses on one of the problems of the Senate's version of ESEA – the ESEA Title I comparability provision.

To learn more about NSBA's recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA, including how to Take Action on H.R.5 and S.1094: 

NSBA Issue Brief on ESEA Reauthorization 

- NSBA’s Legislative Action Center


The Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act

          NSBA's and MABE's Position & What to Tell Congress

MABE joins NSBA in urging Maryland's boards of education to request that their members of Congress in the House of Representatives join their colleagues as co-sponsors of the NSBA bill, the Local School Board Governance & Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386). View the Issue Brief

This legislation would recognize the vital role and responsibilities of local school board governance and local school district decision-making in designing, developing and delivering high quality educational services for our nation’s schoolchildren.  The legislation also would ensure that the U.S. Department of Education fulfills its role as a policy implementer rather than a policy-maker, and performs that role with proper recognition of local governance. 

Bottom Line: the U.S. Department of Education should not be imposing its rules and priorities on our nation’s local school districts by trying to by-pass Congress and minimizing local control. Local school boards are in the best position to judge the needs of their educational communities.

Take Action to urge House co-sponsorship
Take Action to urge Senate sponsorship and co-sponsorship of a companion bill in the Senate. 


Federal Funding for Public Education: Senate Appropriations Committee Update

NSBA and MABE continue to advocate for increased federal funding for education. On July 11, 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its recommendations for a Fiscal Year 2014 funding bill that would reverse the budget cuts to education programs from sequestration and would increase funding for Title I grants and special education. Specifically, the measure would appropriate a $1.6 billion increase for Head Start that consists of $1.4 billion to “expand Early Head Start, including the creation of new Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships, to serve children and families from before birth through age 3.”

During the Committee meeting, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced an amendment that would add an additional $43 million to special education grants, which was adopted.  Compared to FY2012 before the sequester was implemented,  the bill would provide a $168 million increase for special education.  Please see this NSBA chart that details the funding status for select education programs.

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said that she is going to do her best to get the bill on the Senate floor for debate.  The last time a Senate Labor-HHS-Education bill was on the floor was 2007, she stated.  NSBA submitted a letter of support for the Committee record, which also urges greater funding for special education.

In the House, the likelihood of a Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bill for Labor, Health & Human Services, Education being considered soon is unclear.  Recently, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an overall allocation for the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee that could reduce funding for education by more than 18 percent, which would equate to more than a $4.5 billion cut to Title I grants and special education, for example.


In 2012 and early 2013, MABE encouraged all local boards of education to adopt resolutions to urge Maryland's federal delegation to take action to avoid the drastic cuts to federal education funding that would result from "sequestration". Sequestration refers to the mandated across-the-board reductions in all discretionary domestic and military spending beginning in fiscal 2013. Click here for more information and MABE's Stop Sequestration! Advocacy Packet


Maryland and the Federal Government

NSBA Advocacy