Urge Congress to Invest in Public Education
Federal education investments are critical in helping school districts target supports for students and advancing student achievement. From Title I funds under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for disadvantaged children to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for students in special education, federal investments provide more than $35 billion each year for public K-12 programs.
In December 2015, Congress passed a funding bill for FY2016 that provided some increases in both Title I and IDEA - $500 million and $415 million, respectively. However, in FY2013, funding for education programs was slashed by $2.5 billion under across-the-budget cuts known as “sequestration.” Although further cuts were averted in FY2016 and FY2017, there remains no permanent solution to lift the annual budgetary caps.
In May, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 244), Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund federal programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 79 to 18. H.R. 244 provides increases for Title I grants, special education and Impact Aid programs, in addition to a $400 million allocation for the new Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Additional details are available, per this summary posted by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Please reference NSBA's letter regarding FY2017 appropriations and the Committee for Education Funding's FY2014-2018 Education Funding Chart.
In addition, the Administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress to provide greater detail about the policy goals referenced in the initial FY2018 budget blueprint released in March. While the Administration would increase funding in Title I to promote school choice, the proposal would also eliminate several education programs and would target reductions in others. Overall, the $4.1 trillion budget proposal would redirect resources, including those for healthcare and after-school programs, to school choice through a $1 billion "Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success" (FOCUS) grant program.
Why You Need to Act Now
Increasing the federal share of funding for special education (IDEA) is paramount and should be prioritized before funding new programs that have no proven results. Specifically, Congress should fulfill the promise of funding the federal share of IDEA at 40 percent per-pupil cost. The current federal share is only at 16 percent.
As school districts begin implementing ESSA, Congress must also fully fund the requirements in the new law to support capacity building, professional development, curriculum development and other instructional changes. Lastly, Congress needs to act now to find a permanent solution to prevent further reductions in education funding for future fiscal years.
Read more about education funding and NSBA's position here.
Advocacy Resources and Tips
- Federal funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is crucial for local school districts to meet the needs of their students, especially during a time of increasing demands on schools due to new federal mandates.
- Cuts in federal funding, especially those made recently due to sequestration (across-the-board budget cuts), have had a direct effect on students. School districts have had to make tough budget decisions during a time when economic pressures are still being felt across the country.
- Congress should restore funding for Title I and IDEA grants, support and advance measures that will address the shortfall in investments for special education and Title I grants for disadvantaged students.
- Funding for Title I and IDEA should be a priority for K-12 spending before considering future funding for new programs that may not have proven results for effectiveness.
- Congress should create a plan to sustain and grow funding for Title I and IDEA in future fiscal years, including meeting its promise to fully fund IDEA, which was defined as 40 percent of the costs of special education. Currently, the federal share of funding for services to students with disabilities is 16 percent.
While this takes the most amount of work to prepare and accomplish, a face-to-face meeting allows you to make a personal appeal directly to the Member and their staff. You don’t have to travel to Washington, D.C., Members have state or district offices where they routinely meet with constituents.
- Call or email the Member’s office to request a meeting with the Member or the staff person that handles the issue. Be clear and concise in your request so the office can identify the right staff person if the Member is not available.
- Read over NSBAC talking points and the above background material on the issue – you don’t need to be an expert. Just have a good understanding of the issue and what NSBAC is seeking from Congress.
- Know what Congress or the Member is doing on the issue. Is Congress presently considering legislation to address the issue? Is Member’s office you are calling on the Congressional Committee that addresses the issue? Offices which are on the Committee that takes charge of an issue are more likely to be familiar with and in a better position to take action on an issue. Check out NSBAC's resources on Congress and key committees.
- Think of a personal example to make your point – how the issue impacts your school district, state or school. Be prepared to present this personalized view on the issue in a way that Congressional office will see a connection to the cities and towns which they represent (i.e. in Jefferson Elementary school…)
- Be clear and direct in stating your purpose at the meeting. Provide a few key points to back up your argument. Include the personal connection to the issue. Lastly, ask the Member to support the NSBAC position.
Phone calls are an effective and fast way to communicate with your members of Congress, especially when a critical vote is expected to occur. Sometimes you may be able to talk directly with your member of Congress or their key education staffers and have a more substantive conversation. Even if you don’t, your calls may be tallied by the receptionist who will inform the member of Congress of given counts of constituents for and against a particular issue.
- Read over the NSBAC talking points and the above background materials on the issue – you don’t need to be an expert. Just have a good understanding of the issue and what NSBAC is seeking from Congress.
- Know what Congress or the Member is doing on the issue. Is Congress presently considering legislation to address the issue? Does the Member you are calling sit on the Congressional Committee that addresses the issue? Offices that are on the Committee that takes charge of an issue are more likely to be familiar with and in a better position to take action on an issue. Check out NSBAC's resources on Congress and key committees.
- Think of a personal example to make your point — how the issue impacts the students in your school district or state.
- Be concise and direct on the phone. Stick to the main points of the issue and make sure to briefly personalize it so there is a direct connect to the Member’s Congressional district/state.
- Don’t just express your views. Ask what the Member’s views are and ask them to support your position. Finish the conversation by asking the Member’s office to keep you updated on how the Member votes on the issue.
One of the most effective ways to raise the awareness of an issue and get others to join you in acting is to educate the local media. Ensuring that the media understands the impact of an issue and the NSBAC position will lead to better stories that help advance your work.
- Meet with those who decide what gets published or broadcasted. Your local paper likely has an editorial board or an editor who decides what gets published – both opinion pieces and news stories. Television stations also have a similar structure. Web-only media publications may not have a set structure, but you can likely find out via their website or by calling/emailing them.
- Ask to meet with this individual or individuals to educate them on your issue. Provide NSBAC materials to help make your point. Make sure to connect the issue to how it impacts the readers of the paper.
- Contact reporters or bloggers (in the case of a web-only publication) that cover issues that you are concerned about.
- Educate them directly on the issue and provide them with materials to help them write a story (background, summary, how it impacts the local community or the focus they cover).
- Work to maintain this relationship overtime and establish yourself as a resource for them.