ACSA brings California’s message to Washington

A team of ACSA members traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with policy makers on education issues important to education leaders.

In the contingent were ACSA President Ralph Porras, Governmental Relations Senior Director Edgar Zazueta, Legislative Advocate Laura Preston, plus ACSA members Kirsten Vital, superintendent of Capistrano USD, Principal Brent Tilley of Inglewood USD, and consultant Kevin Gordon of the Capitol Advisors Group.

Among the issues on the agenda were the federal budget for education, fund-ing for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, career technical education, school choice, local control, and the Secure Rural Schools Act.

ACSA President Ralph Porras makes a point during a visit with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Majority Leader, one of many meetings ACSA leaders had with Washington, D.C. policymakers.

Federal budget

ACSA remains concerned about across-the-board cuts (sequestration) governed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and maximizing federal investments in Title 1; Title 2, parts A and B; Title 3; Title 4 and special education. Funding existing programs at the levels outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act is necessary before new educational programs can be created.

ACSA is urging Congress to support education spending levels meeting student learning needs and providing a well-rounded and complete education. ACSA strongly supports funding of Title 1 formula grants to meet the fully authorized level of $15.5 billion, Title 2, Part A at no less than the ESSA authorization level of $2.295 billion, funding not less than 22 percent of the authorized funds for the School Leadership Recruitment and Support Program found in Title 2, Part B, and fund-ing the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants at the authorized level of $1.65 billion in Title 4 programs.

Special education

When Congress originally passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it stated an intent to provide 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure to pay for this federal mandate. However, that promise has never come close to being fulfilled, with Congress funding up to 9 percent of the total amount spent in California.

ACSA supports gradually increasing funding to meet the federal government’s commitment to fund the 40 percent promise through the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, addressing the needs of high-cost students, place a cap on attorney’s fees, increase opportunities for expanded infant and preschool pro-grams, as well as increasing intervention services to address the growing special education student population. ACSA is opposed to portability of IDEA funds undermining the ability to plan and prioritize appropriate programs for our most vulnerable students, resulting in fewer dollars being spent on direct services for them.

Career Technical Education

ACSA’s position is that priority must be given to reauthorizing the Perkins Act to reflect the realities and needs of the current post-secondary landscape and the opportunities and challenges facing the nation’s economy. Perkins programs are vital to California’s efforts to strengthen our connections between secondary and postsecondary education. ACSA supports reauthorization of Perkins and improving its expanded access for students to high quality CTE programs.

Higher Education Act

Last year, Congress initiated legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. A renewed reauthorization effort is addressing the cost of higher education and development of teacher preparation programs. California has taken bold steps to improve our teacher and administrator preparation programs and resists overly prescriptive requirements that could interfere with the good work occurring in our state. Data used to determine whether an educator preparation program is effective must be valid and reliable.

ACSA expects there to be a role for K-12 districts to inform educator preparation decisions in order to improve the programs we hire from. But the association also expects to have an emphasis on holding higher education teacher and administrative preparation programs accountable for the students they are passing in order to meet the needs of all students.

School choice

California has embraced the concept of school choice. Since 1991, California is home to more charter schools than any other state in the nation. In addition, California offers Districts of Choice, allowing up to 10 percent of a student population to attend a school outside of the district of residence. Magnet schools, Linked Learning communities and dual-enrollment with community colleges are all part of public school choice in the state. While ACSA supports the various public school choice options, the association opposes school vouchers.

ACSA believes privatization of public education funding undermines our nation’s school systems, denying equitable educational opportunities to all students. There is a lack of transparency and accountability to taxpayers for funds appropriated to private schools. Furthermore, reports show that students with disabilities often cannot find a private school that can or will serve them. Students who attend private schools with vouchers are often denied the First Amendment, due process, and other constitutional and statutory rights provided to them in public schools. Schools that do not provide students with these basic civil rights protections should not be funded with tax-payer dollars.

Social Security

ACSA objects to two penalties the Social Security Act applies to California educators who retire from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the earned Social Security benefits for educators who have earned both Social Security retirement and CalSTRS retirement during their lifetimes. The second penalty is the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which reduces the spousal Social Security benefits for individuals who retire from CalSTRS. When a person has worked as an educator in California and their spouse worked in a Social Security eligible position, the penalty is applied against the Social Security spousal benefit. In many cases, the spousal benefit is reduced to zero.

ACSA is encouraging Congress to pass legislation to replace the WEP with a formula that equalizes benefits for certain individuals with non-covered employment. Recruiting mid-career professionals into the teaching profession is impossible if that individual will lose years of Social Security benefits they have paid into the system. California needs this change in fairness to our educators and to help address a severe teacher shortage.

Secure Rural Schools

For schools in forest counties, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act has restored pro-grams for students in rural schools and prevented the closure of numerous isolated rural schools. The SRS has been a primary funding mechanism to provide rural school students with education opportunities com-parable to suburban and urban students.

ACSA supports a multi-year reauthorization and the full funding of the Federal SRS and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, to ensure that forest counties have the ability to appropriately support local education programs. ACSA further sup-ports long-term forestry reform that would include appropriate funding for schools in areas of California that are heavily impacted by federal forest land.

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