March 28, 2012
The Perfect Fiscal Storm
During his recent testimony before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan blasted House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) FY13 budget proposal to slash federal spending, which the White House estimates would result in a more than 5 percent cut (-$784 million) to Title I grants (currently $14.5 billion) in FY13 and a 19 percent cut (-$2.7 billion) in FY14. Duncan also warned against the devastating consequences of sequestration—automatic cuts that will chop education funding by as much as 9 percent in January 2013—saying, "it is unconscionable for us to ask a generation of students to pay the price for adult political dysfunction."
But Duncan also found himself on the receiving end of bipartisan criticism about education funding from subcommittee Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and ranking Democrat Rosa DeLauro (CT). They share concerns that President Obama’s FY13 budget request emphasizes funding for new competitive grant programs at the expense of investments in cornerstone federal K–12 programs like Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Similarly, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of over 90 national education associations and institutions, including ASCD, applauds the overall education investments in the president’s budget request but is concerned with the proposed freeze on virtually all current education programs. CEF’s FY13 Budget Response (PDF) provides a succinct analysis of the effects of both the president’s budget proposal and sequestration on each federal education program.
CEF Executive Director Joel Packer recently told ASCD’s Legislative Committee that the deep divisions over multiple budget concerns are conspiring to become "the perfect fiscal storm" during next fall's congressional lame duck session, when Congress will have to decide whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, end sequestration, and raise the debt ceiling, all at the same time. It remains to be seen whether educators and students will be able to weather the storm or be forced to pick up the pieces in its wake.
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House Education Chairman Wants More Money for Special Education
House Education Chairman John Kline (R-MN) wants Congress to provide more money to support students with disabilities and ensure they are prepared for success after high school. In his letter (PDF) to Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rehberg and ranking Democrat DeLauro, Kline requests an increase in funding for Part B of IDEA, which helps states and school districts improve support services and education access for students with special needs.
Under current law, the federal government is authorized to fund up to 40 percent of the additional cost of educating students with disabilities. But the federal contribution has never approached that level, reaching a high of 18.5 percent in FY05. The president's FY13 budget proposal would drop the funding level to 15.8 percent.
Kline suggests that funds should be reallocated from "pet projects" and "programs with no track record for success, such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, School Improvement Grants, and Striving Readers, among others" to fulfill the nation's basic obligation to support students with special needs.
Both Rehberg and DeLauro could be sympathetic to Kline's request based on their critique of the president's emphasis on competitive programs at the expense of formula funding during Duncan's recent subcommittee testimony (see "The Perfect Fiscal Storm" story in this issue).
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School Leaders: Apply Now to Join ASCD's New Whole Child Network!
Whether your school is just beginning to implement a whole child approach to education or is looking to take its whole child efforts to the next level, ASCD's new Whole Child Network (WCN) offers something for you.
The WCN is open to all schools (public, charter, private, independent) of any grade level preK–12 within the United States and Canada. It will comprise between 10 and 15 schools that commit to comprehensive school improvement and community engagement using the tenets of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative—healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—and the indicators (PDF) as a sustainable approach to educating their students.
Each member school will receive
- A $10,000 grant for the 2012–13 school year, with the opportunity for renewal in the subsequent two school years.
- Customized support in implementing a whole child approach to education.
- An ASCD Institutional membership.
- A trip for five team members to attend ASCD's 2013 Annual Conference in Chicago, Ill.
The application deadline is April 30, 2012. Successful applicants will be notified by May 15, 2012.
WCN schools will kick off their activities with a two and a half day network training event during summer 2012, followed by one day of on-site training for each school, facilitated in partnership with ASCD's Whole Child Programs staff, to introduce the whole child approach within the school community.
ASCD staff will then work in close consultation with school officials to design an implementation plan. Elements that may be a part of that plan include a needs assessment and customized face-to-face trainings, tools, and products that address the various needs identified by the assessment. This may include instructional program improvements, job-embedded professional development, student support, health and safety adjustments, and teacher and leader effectiveness efforts.
To apply to become a Whole Child Network school, go to www.ascd.org/wholechildnetwork (PDF).
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Under the Microscope: The Controversial School Improvement Grant Program
The $3.5 billion federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, designed to help states and districts improve the lowest-performing schools, has been roundly criticized for its four prescriptive turnaround models, which require schools to replace principals and in some cases significant portions of their staffs.
But now three reports as well as preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education are beginning to shed light on whether the program has been able to increase student achievement. Two reports from the Center on Education Policy find the SIG program helps schools provide more intensive academic services and builds momentum for major reform. But concerns remain about the prescriptiveness of some SIG requirements, particularly in rural areas. Other challenges include finding and retaining staff in low-performing schools, staffing shortages in state education agencies that limit the ability to provide the schools with necessary support, and sustaining improvement efforts after the grants run out.
Another report from the Center for American Progress finds that state selectivity in doling out SIG grants varies widely. States like Vermont had a 100 percent application-approval rate compared to states like Louisiana that awarded grants to less than 30 percent of the schools that applied.
Meanwhile, at a conference in Washington, D.C., Duncan shared preliminary data that show the SIG program could be making a difference. Data from 700 of the 850 schools that participated in the program during the 2010–11 school year reveal that about one in four schools experienced double-digit increases in math proficiency and about one in five schools posted double-digit increases in reading proficiency.
But these promising findings could be too little, too late. The Senate Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) bill allows states to submit their own turnaround ideas to the secretary for approval, while the House ESEA bill eliminates the SIG program entirely.
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Keep Up with ASCD's Annual Conference Action
If you weren’t able to attend ASCD’s 2012 Annual Conference in person, that doesn’t mean you have to miss all the action.
Check out ASCD's online Conference Daily, your one-stop shop for all Annual Conference news and developments. Read stories about key sessions, the 2012 Outstanding Young Educator Award winners, and more. View a photo slideshow documenting each day's events and watch daily video roundups that make the conference come alive on your computer screen. You can also follow the action on Twitter at @ASCD.
For an even deeper dive into conference content, register for the 2012 ASCD Virtual Conference. You'll be able to access a package of 22 premier Annual Conference sessions featuring education experts like Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Charlotte Danielson, Atul Gawande, Robyn Jackson, and Doug Reeves.
Stay tuned for a synopsis of the conference’s policy session highlights, which will be featured in next week's Capitol Connection.
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