LegCon Update to Board Colleagues

Always a challenge - and an opportunity! - to re-cap and synthesize a national conference, especially a legislative conference as dense as NASBE's, for BESE colleagues. Here goes. 

Take-aways from NASBE's 2017 Legislative Conference: Leading in a Time of Change

This was my second NASBE LegCon (and fifth NASBE conference overall) since my appointment to BESE. The focus: federal education issues affecting states, with ESSA taking center stage. Each session offered insight into emerging issues under ESSA and strategies to connect policy with practice while advancing equity and excellence in education in times of change. As always, it's most gratifying to connect and learn from other State Board Members: the change that's happening in education is creating unprecedented opportunity for State leadership to shape education policy.
  • Following an orientation session for new board members, Sunday's Quarterly Board of Director's Meeting (the Board is charged with setting all policy for the association) kicked off over lunch at noon. We were briefed by staff and members of the leadership team:
    • NASBE is now fully staffed and has welcomed a Communications Associate and a Project Manager for Hewlett and Wallace work.
    • Finances are in great shape, with thanks to NASBE's Treasurer and Finance Director.
    • A number of working groups were activated:
      • Bylaws
      • Dues
      • The Future of Study Groups
      • Staff Policies + Procedures Review
    • Work continues apace for the Annual Conference in Atlanta GA (November 1-4, 2017)
  • Monday's Opening General Session featured remarks from US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).
    • The Secretary said she wants to "break the bad habit of the Department of Education being in your way" and that "the president's budget reflects this". (ICYMI: the president has proposed a roughly $9.2 billion cut to US ED, thus commencing the budget convo). Says, "nothing short of excellence should be a common theme" and "we should not rest until each child has an opportunity to learn and thrive". She spoke for about 8 minutes and took no questions. My take-away: The Secretary has a huge responsibility, but the budget, if passed as proposed, will decimate the US Department of Education and she fully supports the president's budget.
    • Senator Chris Murphy said he's a "proud product of the public school system" and that he's "proud of this country's innovative idea to provide public education". He's "hopeful about ESSA" and that the "Department of Education was going to help schools and districts". He said, "the proposed budget is catastrophic" and "a preview of what is going to come, if we aren't successful". He warned that "setting the bar too low will feed the idea that you don't need the Department of Ed...they want to say that the public education system cannot deliver and give support to privatized education". He encouraged SBEs to "build high standards". The Senator spoke for about 15 minutes and took questions. Take-away: US ED will be a "light touch" and States must be bold, strengthen collaboration skills with local districts and stakeholders.
  • General Session + Moderated Panel Discussion: Forging Partnerships to Shape and Advance Education Policy Agendas: Players, Perspectives, and Possibilities. Panelists: former WV Governor Bob Wise, President of Alliance for Excellent Education; Cheryl Oldham, US Chamber of Commerce; Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, AFT; Merrit Jones, Student voice; Kris Amundson, NASBE President/CEO (moderator). Take-away: Broad, inclusive engagement of diverse stakeholders is not a "nice to have" but essential to building and sustaining education policies that improve opportunities and outcomes for all students -> ->Is MA up to the task?
  • General Session: Components of a Changing Education Policy Agenda. Panelists: David Griffith, ASCD; Melissa Tooley, New America; Robin Lake, Center on Reinventing Public Education; Robert Hull, NASBE; Abigail Potts, NASBE (moderator). Take-away: With new authority to determine the components of a high-quality education, SBEs should identify major educational opportunities as they plan their policy agenda for the future.
  • Policy Landscapes and the Environment for 2017: How will Upcoming Federal Policy Affect State Actions? Panelists: Reg Leichty, Foresight Law + Policy; Patrick Lyden, Current Government Relations. Take-away: Connect with federal legislators early and check-in with them regularly.
  • Concurrent Session: Exploring Options for Parents: Innovation & Alternatives in Schooling. Panelists: Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Robin Lake, Center on Reinventing Public Education; Todd Mann, Magnet Schools of America; Paige Kowalski, Data Quality Campaign (panelist + moderator). Take-away: Expanding options in schooling are advancing.
  • Concurrent Session: Relentless Pursuit of Equity in Education Policy. Panelists: Peter Cookson, AIR; Guy Johnson, Partners for Each and Every Child; Dr.Estela Lopez, CT/SBE; Kimberly Charis, NASBE; Abigail Potts, NASBE (moderator). Take-away: SBEs must encourage equity discussions that informs policymaking supporting racial equity and the needs of historically underserved students.
  • General Session: Questions Boards Should Ask About Their ESSA State Plans. Panelists: John King, Former US Secretary of Education, The Education Trust; Kris Amundson, NASBE President/CEO; Michael Magee, Chiefs for Change; Sandra Boyd, Achieve (moderator). Take-away: SBEs must be the citizen voice at the table.
  • Northeast Area Breakfast Meeting. SBE Members from CT, DC, DE, MA, ME were present, providing comments, suggestions, and feedback for NASBE.
  • General Session with Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN). He's the Chair of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee. As a House Representative, he's also a co-author of ESSA. He shared this thoughts on ESSA saying, "accountability is a good thing" and "it's up to states to decide what that looks like". NASBE President/CEO Amundson pushed back on new template, saying "it has unwound some of the intent of ESSA on stakeholder engagement further than the law allows". Rokita said he "will support NASBE on this issue" and that "focus will shift next to the Higher Education Act" (HEA). When asked, "What do you see and what is your view on choice" he said, "I'm a State's rights guy, so why would I be for a federal mandate on choice? The president referenced a $20 billion figure, so how does that $20 billion look? Probably in tax credits" and that he's "not seeing a Title I transfer". Take-away: Unclear this will happen before Congressional mid-term elections.
  • General Session: Public Launch of State Board Insight. Panelists: Robert Hull, NASBE; Sarah-Jane Lorenzo, NASBE; John-Paul Hayworth, DC/SBE. A new database was unveiled: it's drawn from publicly reported SBE meeting minutes and agendas with a potential to help SBEs, researchers, journalists, educators, and community members uncover key insights about ESSA and more. Take-away: Check it out HERE.
  • After lunch, to conclude our conference, Student Representative Nathan Moore and I visited with Congresswoman Clark's and Senator Warren's Legislative Staff. We shared NASBE's concerns on Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018 Appropriations Priorities, Perkins CTE, and E-rate + Lifeline Programs:
    • Congress should fully fund ESSA programs with a focus on the law's major formula programs and other initiatives designed to promote educational equity.
    • Congress should reauthorize the Perkins CTE this year and commit to ensuring that more students, particularly students in low-income communities, have access to high quality CTE opportunities aligned to higher education, business, and industry needs.
    • Lawmakers should strongly support the E-rate and the Lifeline Programs, which are critical tools for connecting students to broadband services.
Announcements
  • Each year, NASBE recognizes distinguished leaders for their contributions to improving education for all children. Information about making those nominations, as well as for nominations to the 2018 Board of Directors will be forthcoming from NASBE.
  • Save the Dates:
    • New Member Institute, Renaissance Arlington Capital View, Arlington VA, June 9-10, 2017 (as a NASBE member State, NASBE pays hotel and airfare for members up to 18-months into their term on BESE).
    • Annual Conference, Atlanta GA, Westin Buckhead Atlanta, November 1-4, 2017
Please be in touch with any questions or comments.