Category Archives: Advocacy

Federal Budget Threatens to Starve Education

From the ISTE Advocacy Network:

On March 16, 2017, The White House released the President's proposed "Skinny Budget" for FY18, a streamlined blueprint for next year's budget that does not contain much detail about specific changes. What is clear from this Skinny Budget is that the President is attempting to make good on his previously announced plans to shift $54 billion in domestic discretionary funding to defense spending and that the Department of Education would be one of the federal agencies that would suffer significant funding losses as a result. For education, the Skinny Budget proposes to cut $9 billion in funding, which it represents as a 13.5 percent decrease, below the current FY 17 levels.  While the Skinny Budget is silent on the ISTE-supported Title IV, Part A flexible block grant program, which would provide districts with funding for educational technology, it remains possible that the Administration will seek low or no funding for this program as the funding process plays out. While it is ultimately up to Congress to dispose of the President's proposals through the appropriations process and some Republican members have expressed skepticism about the President's proposals already, some significant education cuts are likely in the end.

If the Department of Education's overall funding level of $59 billion becomes law, it will take federal education support back to approximately FY08 levels. In his budget proposal,the President attains the majority of his cuts through eliminating: the $2.25 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program, a block grant that school districts use to hire and train teachers and administrators; the $1.2 billion 21stCentury Community Learning Centers program, which provides funding for after school and summer programs; the $732 million Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity program, a higher education need-based aid program; and the $3.9 billion Pell Grant surplus. The Skinny Budget also indicates that more than 20 other programs would be eliminated, including the Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs. The budget would protect IDEA, funding it at the same level as last year, and increase Title I funding but with a school choice twist.

The central aim of the President's education funding proposals is to begin to shift a significant share of federal dollars towards supporting his goal of providing parents and students greater school choice. The Skinny Budget would accomplish this in three ways:

  • adding $168 million to the existing Charter Schools Grant program;
  • establishing a new private school choice program (no details provided) and funding it at $250 million; and
  • increasing Title I by $1 billion but allowing those funds to move with students to public schools of their choice.

This last move, known as Title I portability, was the subject of intense debate during the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but Congress did not incorporate the concept into the final Every Student Succeeds Act.

Now is the time to get involved and let your Congressional representative know that you support public education. Not sure who represents you? Start here.

To keep up to date with the budget and other issues, join the ISTE Advocacy Network.

Position Statement Regarding the Nomination of Secretary of Education

a blue apple with a green leaf and brown stemThe Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education has issued a statement regarding the nomination of Secretary of Education. The statement includes the Board's beliefs regarding the essential qualifications of any Secretary of Education.

Position Statement Regarding the Nomination of Secretary of Education
Virginia Society for Technology in Education
Board of Directors

We, the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education, explicitly thank Senator Tim Kaine (D) and Senator Mark Warner (D) for their statements of January 25, 2017 and January 31, 2017, respectively, in which they addressed the appropriate and necessary qualifications for a United States Secretary of Education.

As Senator Kaine said in his statement, three qualifications are essential in any Secretary of Education.

Firstly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a strong track record of being “pro-public schools.” Such a candidate should ideally have been a public school teacher and a public school administrator, and must have demonstrated instructional leadership, educational leadership efficacy, and a consistent and unquestionable support of the importance of quality public schools in every community in America.

Secondly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a strong track record of being “pro-accountability.” Such a candidate should have strong data analysis skills, a robust understanding of assessment philosophy and practices, and be well-versed in current issues facing the education profession regarding curriculum, standards, and the evaluation and reporting of individual student skill mastery.

Thirdly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a clear, abiding commitment to civil rights. Every single student in the United States of America is innately deserving of dignity, personal identity, and equal protection under law. An appropriate Secretary of Education must have special concern, and ideally a strong track record, when it comes to protecting and empowering students with disabilities, students in at-risk categories such as those based on socioeconomic status, and students facing mistreatment.

Our Secretary of Education must be a strong advocate for every child in America, must have a track records as a “champion” for public schools, and must demonstrate an unflagging ability to conceive, articulate, and implement policies that will support both children and public schools without undue private or ideological influence.

As the elected leaders of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s chief educational technology advocacy organization, and as experts in the field of education, the Virginia Society for Technology in Education believes it critical that educational leaders have clearly-expressed, consistently-held commitments to all students in all schools, most especially public schools, and who do not advocate for the wholesale privatization of public education.

We applaud Senators Kaine and Warner for their positions on the post of Secretary of Education, and support their advocating for an appropriate candidate in this and any nominee confirmation process.

Undersigned,
On behalf of the Board of Directors,

 

 

Chairperson
Board of Directors
Virginia Society for Technology in Education

PDF Version of Full Statement: VSTE Statement on Secretary of Education Nomination.

Gear Up for Advocacy

Keith David Reeves

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Chair Keith Reeves challenges us to become advocates for quality public education, especially in the area of virtual education.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you, my friends and colleagues in education here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you for helping to make our annual conference this year a marvelous success. About 1,200 of you joined me, Dr. Richardson, the Board of Directors, and our exceptionally-talented Conference Committee in Virginia Beach to raise our voices, our awareness, and our skill levels.

As we gear up for the second half of the year, I’d like us to re-spark our interest in paying attention not only to our kids and families in our respective schools, but to the “thirty thousand foot view” of Virginia education. I’d like you to take a moment, in your drive or workout or stroll to the store, to think of what you’d say if you had just a quick opportunity to say something to your local elected officials about educational technology.

If you stepped onto an elevator with your Delegate, what would you say about ed tech?

I think I’d play the role of the “Ghost of House Bills Past” and mention HB8, the failed legislation effort of the past two years that sought to back-door privatization in Virginia’s schools by putting K12, Inc. in control of a mandatory virtual school option in every school system in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe clearly understood this privatization effort, and vetoed the bill in early April 2016. (You may recall that VSTE was ardently against this bill, as we articulated in our February 2016 statement, and I made sure as Chairperson of the Board to be significantly vocal on the subject.)

Why mention it? Because it’s coming back.

Many people hear “K-12” and think we’re only ever referring to “kindergarten through twelfth grade,” but K-12, Incorporated is a for-profit corporation, not an age range. This perilous conflation may lead many to misunderstand the intent of legislation, and we have a role to play in raising our voices in clarity.

The reason VSTE and I stood against HB8 was simple: It put a state-level mandate on schools that put the power in a single corporation’s pocket, siphoning local funding away to fuel the fires of this new private engine.

According to sources who say they have spoken with him, Representative Dickie Bell (R) apparently intends to reintroduce a version of HB8 this year, as a competing measure against Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D) intended legislation, which would put a local-level mandate on schools and give them choice in how they implement virtual learning. Students who attend such programs have been shown in recent data analysis to underperform students who have the fuller advantages of the ever-more-personalized learning opportunities you, the talented and skilled educators of Virginia, provide in your local schools. While there are places where the Virtual Virginia pilot has been going well, we believe it most appropriate to allow local schools to evaluate programs and to mount pilots consistent with their needs and priorities, rather than create a law that all but guarantees sole-source contracting as the defeated HB8 did.

Let’s be clear about this: It is one thing to say “we want students to have the opportunity to learn online.” It is entirely another thing to say “And a sole-source corporate provider will be that option.” It is important for local school divisions to be able to select innovative, meaningful, and most importantly not-for-profit educational methods to ensure student learning is not commodified. The introduction of market principles into educational policy craft is a mistake, as I write about in my work, and we must take extraordinary care to ensure that we don’t see another back-door attempt to privatize Virginia’s public schools pass muster in the guise of providing good online learning.

Virtual education can do remarkable things for students when done right, such as the extension of supplemental counselor-assisted asynchronous high school instruction in Loudoun County, and the schools of Virginia need such professional educators making pedagogical decisions, not imposed structures of corporate influence.

It is my hope that we educational technology leaders can raise our collective voices to make the clear distinction to our legislators, whenever and wherever we can: Yes to innovative learning opportunities. No to corporatizing public education.

In the coming months, I issue to you the same charge then-Vice Chairperson Karen Streeter offered to you from the dais at the 2016 Conference in December: Find time to engage with your elected officials. Encourage them to scrutinize any bill that says “virtual” on it, and offer to engage with them on the subject. Lend your voice. Lend your ideas. Lend your assistance, so that our students are well-represented and have the opportunity to learn from excellent local professional teachers using locally-selected online materials that best serve the needs of your community. A state-level one-size-fits-all mandate that hands the reins of curricular and implementation powers to for-profit enterprises would jeopardize the state of education in the Commonwealth, and that is a misstep we simply cannot afford.

On behalf of your Board of Directors, thank you for your continued support of quality educational opportunities for our students, and of the mission of your Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

US Department of Education Needs Your Input By August 18

The US Department of Education is requesting YOUR input on educational needs in your region!

The survey requests feedback on the most pressing educational issues and how the Department of Education’s Comprehensive Centers can provide assistance to address those issues. The Department of Education would appreciate feedback from anyone who has an interest in the current state of education and ideas for where improvements are most needed.

Please complete the online survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PML2GPN at your earliest convenience.  It would be appreciated if you could add your state and/or region into the text box, although this information is not specifically requested.  Information will be compiled by regions, when possible, in order to best support each region.

There are Regional Advisory Committees whose members are interested in gathering more detailed information as well.  If you feel that you have additional information to share, please contact the Regional Advisory Committee members in your region and share with them.  The deadline for the information gathering portion of this project is August 18, so don’t delay!

Here is some context for how the gathered information will be used:

The Comprehensive Centers (Centers http://www2.ed.gov/programs/newccp/index.html) program is authorized by Title II of the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 (ETAA), Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002. The Department of Education (Department) funds these Centers to provide technical assistance to State education agencies (SEAs) that builds SEA capacity to: support local educational agencies (LEAs or districts) and schools, especially low-performing districts and schools; improve educational outcomes for all students; close achievement gaps; and improve the quality of instruction.

Before a competition for the Centers program is held, the ETAA requires the establishment of ten Regional Advisory Committees (RACs). The purpose of these committees is to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions. To the extent the Secretary deems appropriate, the Department will use the information submitted by the RACs, along with other relevant regional surveys of needs, to establish priorities for the next cohort of Centers.

Thanks for taking the time to read this message, and complete the survey!

Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PML2GPN

Support School Librarians: End School Censorship

State Senator Amanda Chase has suggested that school librarians in Chesterfield County should be dismissed for making certain book recommendations as part of summer reading lists.

EveryLibrary, a school library advocacy group, has initiated a petition that will be sent to both Senator Chase and the Chesterfield County School Board asking them to reconsider their stance on this issue.

Please consider signing the petition to support intellectual freedom.

House Committee Approves $1 Billion of Funding

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved $1 billion of funding in fiscal year 2017 for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants Program (SSAEG), Title IV, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Brian Lewis, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) commented positively on the funding, which falls short of full funding, but is much higher than the Senate Appropriation Committee's $300 million.

Read the full statement at the ISTE website.

VSTE Advocates for Fully Funding Title IV, Part A

Dr. Karen Richardson, VSTE Executive Director, was part of a press event on Capitol Hill, May 18, 2016, asking Congress to fully fund Title IV, Part A, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program, which includes the initiative's critically important education technology provisions.

We are urging VSTE members to contact Congress to ask them to fully fund this program. You can learn more about this issue and send a letter at the CoSN Advocacy website.

Here are her remarks:

My name is Karen Richardson and I am Executive Director of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. CSTE is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. My role here today is to talk about the importance of fully funding Title IV, Part A in the context of this program's education technology priority.

My first exposure to computers came in 1984 at my first job at a large metropolitan art museum. While I began there in a world of typewriters and paper, within a year, a PC arrived on my desk as well of the desks of almost everyone else in the professional staff.

Fast forward to today, where it would be a very unusual business that did not provide a computer for its working professionals, maybe even multiple devices including laptops and phones. And yet, we seem to still be arguing over whether we should provide funding for computers for students and educators. Moreover, even with all of the technology training private sector employees receive now, there is still debate as to whether we should fund technology professional development for educators. We simply cannot allow digital technologies and technology training to continue to be add ons for our classrooms in a world where they are otherwise ubiquitous. 

Thirty-two years after I received my first computer at my job, far too many of our students and teachers are in schools -- and sometimes in homes -- without access to technology and broadband. It is far worse in our poor and rural communities where broadband access is more difficult to find and more expensive and personal devices are unattainable luxury items.

And yet despite all the challenges, many schools ARE innovating: the are opening up makerspaces in libraries, finding ways to offer multiple pathways to learning for their students, initiating 1:1 programs to level the playing field, sending mifis home with students and teaching kids to code. But fully funding Title IV, Part A would really help all of our schools to innovate.

Fully funding Title IV, Part would mean opportunities for all. It would allow school districts to invest in appropriate, on-demand professional development for educators, allowing them to not only understand how to use the latest digital tools and devices but to integrate them into their classroom curricula and personalize learning. It would allow districts to purchase devices, equipment and software for their neediest students, helping close what we call the "homework gap" which prevents too many low income and rural students from full participation in their educations. It would allow states and districts to hire technology directors, who have the expertise needed to orchestrate education technology initiatives. It would allow districts to provide their students with the computer science and coding skills that will make them successful not just in high school but in college, the workplace and life.

Back in 1984, I didn't know that I even needed a computer. Today, I know that technology is indispensable for my life and work. And it is the same for the lives and futures of our children.

I am here today to urge Congress not to shortchange our students and our country by underfunding this important program. My message is simple: fully funding Title IV, Part A is vital to us all.

Webinar Event: District Strategies for Achieving Digital Equity

Vincent Scheivert, Chief Information Officer, Albemarle County Public Schools (VA) will be a panelist for the upcoming webinar Digital Strategies for Achieving Digital Equity conducted by The Alliance for Excellent Education and Consortium for School Networking. Registration is required for this free webinar which will be held May 6, 2016, from 11:00 to 11:30 AM. This will be the first in a series of webinars exploring digital equity and broadband access.

Vince will be joined by Keith Krueger, Chief Executive Officer, Consortium for School Networking, and Kamila Thigpen, Manager of Digital Learning Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education.

CoSN released its “Digital Equity Action Toolkit” on the 2016 Digital Learning Day. This webinar will provide an overview of resources available in the Toolkit to help education leaders address digital equity in broadband access. It will also include a discussion about emerging strategies that districts are using to overcome disparate levels of access within their communities.

Participants are welcome to submit questions to the panelists to be addressed during the webinar.

Learn more and register now. 

 

ISTE’s ESSA Primer: Meet the New Law, Not Like the Old Law

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 4:00 - 5:00 PM ET

ISTE's legislative counsel, Jon Bernstein, will provide an interactive introduction to help you understand what ESSA has in store for educators. The webinar will include:

• An explanation of ESSA's new framework, including implementation milestones
• A deep dive into SSAEG and how it may benefit ISTE members
• A federal funding forecast for next school year
• Opportunity to get your questions answered

You will need a free ISTE account in order to RSVP for this event.

Learn more

E-Rate Application Filing Window Extended

On April 15th, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) announced that the FY2016 E-Rate application filing window will be extended to allow applicants more time to submit their applications. This move followed letters from a number of parties, including one signed by VSTE's parent organization, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), seeking an application window extension because of problems that applicants were encountering in navigating E-Rate's new application portal.
Specifically, USAC is extending the window for all applicants by four weeks with a new closing date of May 26. 2016. When that window closes, USAC will open a second filing window for consortia and libraries, which will close on July 21, 2016. USAC indicates that the reason for the longer window for consortia and libraries is that many are unable to complete their applications until their member/related school district(s) finalize their discount rates in the system.
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