ACSA’s platform for federal advocacy
August 19, 2019
On Sept. 15-17, ACSA advocates will join education leaders nationwide in Washington, D.C., to petition Congress on four specific, equity-based issues. ACSA advocates from every region are needed and encouraged to attend these meetings and offer their expertise. The first of these issues centers on the federal funding portion of issues discussed during Legislative Action Day with regard to special education. As the U.S. Department of Education continues to propose funding cuts, ACSA and the National Association of School Superintendents stand strong in the conviction that rather than cutting funding, the USDOE should focus on gradually increasing education funding to meet the federal government’s 40 percent promise. This is a federal commitment made in 1975 with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to pay 40 percent of the average per student cost for every special education student. This per student cost can be upwards of $16,921, according to the National Education Association.  Federal funding for IDEA programs assist in providing for the education of all children with disabilities, expanding infant and preschool programs, and providing much-needed interventions to address the growing special education student population. Congress must also offer additional federal investments in the IDEA formula grant programs. The federal advocacy team will also specifically request that the USDOE commit to improving the quality of and access to preschool programs for children with disabilities.  Federal education funding has seen a steady decline as Congress has eliminated approximately 50 programs in the past decade. Even though education funding consists of only 2 percent of the federal budget, it constitutes an important part of school resources. In some districts, federal funding accounts for a far greater share of the total budget, especially in schools with a large percentage of students who are poor, living on military bases, or Native Americans. If the federal contribution increases, more of the state and local budgets could be used to meet other education needs.  Programs funded through the Every Student Succeeds Act, such as the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II-A) and Impact Aid, have provided important resources to meet the needs of school leaders and students. The president’s proposed elimination of Title II, Part A funding, a $250 million loss for California alone, would be catastrophic for schools and students. ACSA and NASS advocates will encourage congressional representatives to strengthen the federal investment in ESEA’s primary formula programs – Titles I, II, and III. These essential funds serve California’s lowest income students and communities and supplement local efforts to close achievement gaps.   Additionally, advocates will focus on Title IV’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grant which allows for a flexible source of funding for improving student’s academic achievement, providing all students with access to a well-rounded education (including STEM programs, civics education, and the arts), improving school conditions for learning, and promoting effective technology use. Student services are particularly important after the 2018 school shooting in Florida, as district leaders are redoubling efforts to identify potential threats, improve school climate and mental wellness, and increase security. While in Washington, ACSA advocates will also discuss two equity-focused legislative items. The first, introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris in spring 2019, is designed to provide a $40 million competitive, equity-focused STEM grant program for school districts. This funding supports STEM education for students of color, girls, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities. The United States is facing a projected shortage of nearly 1 million STEM professionals by the year 2025; ACSA advocates will make the business case for investing in underrepresented student populations as a means of both closing equity gaps and building a much-needed national workforce in these key areas. The final issue is the Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 17. The act would amend the Civil Rights Act to “prohibit discrimination ... on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes.” The U.S. Senate received the bill for consideration on May 20, 2019.
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