June 2014 Leaderboard

From the Editor
Kathleen Vail

Money and Brown

By now, you’re probably putting your district budgets together, looking at what worked this past school year, and what did not.

Because we know it’s budget time for most school boards and districts, we’ve included articles on operations and finance in this issue. Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy writes about how the landmark health care law -- the Affordable Care Act -- has been impacting school districts. Our Seeking Counsel column by school lawyer Jessica Rogers gives you some ideas on how to prepare for the coming requirements of the law. Money Matters columnist Glenn Cook looks at how the long and cold winter cost districts money and time for student learning.

May also marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. We are commemorating the landmark event with our cover story by Senior Editor Del Stover. Stover traveled to Pittsburgh and spoke with other districts about school resegregation. He asks educators and others: Can we stop it? Should we?

Please send us your opinions at editor@asbj.com.

 -- Kathleen Vail, Editor-in-Chief, kvail@nsba.org 

Have a board training scheduled or want some in-depth information on a school governance topic?

ASBJ’s topical anthologies can provide the deep dive you’re looking for. Go to www.asbj.com/TopicsArchive/ASBJ-Anthologies to browse subjects. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Ask us at editor@asbj.com.

Get ASBJ on your tablet!

Check out the digital edition of the magazine on ASBJ.com. When you download it to your tablet or e-reader, you can easily check out Internet links and resources. You also can view our video features, including the newest video accompanying our cover story on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

Tom on Point
Thomas J. Gentzel

The legacy of Brown v.Board of Education

The 60th anniversary of the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, has prompted many public officials and organizations, NSBA among them, to praise the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision and its impact on all Americans.

The accolades are entirely fitting. They recognize how far we have come as a nation since “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But there is a downside to all of this veneration: The more we enshrine the decision and sanctify it as an historic relic, the more we risk overlooking it as a living document with a powerful message for today.

Simply put, while we have made tremendous strides over the past 60 years in eliminating the vestiges of America’s divided public education system, in too many places "separate but equal" continues to exist.

In this month’s cover story, ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover notes that de facto school segregation -- caused mainly by housing patterns that divide increasingly along income and racial lines -- remains high for black and Hispanic students, both between and within school districts. As a result, many educators, by default, are left trying to make “separate but equal” systems work more than a half century after a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled such schooling was “inherently unequal.”

Then, too, we are witnessing a new form of segregation in many communities under the guise of “school choice,” which often has the effect of resegregating students by race or economic circumstances. This is not the melting pot education system we need to ensure that all children have access to great schools wherever they live.

Despite these disappointments a generation and a half after Brown, we also have much to celebrate. Although large achievement gaps remain among many black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, public schools have made extraordinary progress in continuing to close them.

As Jim Hull, the senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education, notes in two recent EDifier blogs, between 1975 and 2012, black 17-year-olds improved their reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) by 28 points, while the scores of Hispanic 17-year-olds rose by 21 points. The nation’s on-time high school graduation rate, at 80 percent, is the highest in history, prompting U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former pro and college basketball player, to celebrate at the NBA celebrity All-Star game by wearing the number 80.

Public schools are achieving these successes despite being challenged by an ongoing lack of funding. In March, NSBA applauded the Obama administration’s proposal to raise school funding nominally in fiscal 2015. But that amount is not nearly enough to make up for the damage caused by recent federal budget sequestrations.

Also in March, NSBA joined more than 1,000 groups dedicated to education, health, and social welfare in urging Congress to make up a 3.6 percent gap between current funding for education and related programs and fiscal 2010 funding levels.

Equal educational opportunities also require full federal funding for special populations of students who are among those most affected by the recent economic downturn: children with disabilities and those living in poverty. Yet Congress has not lived up to its long-held promise to adequately fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

For example, in order to adequately meet the educational needs of the 10 million children who qualify for Title I, federal appropriations would need to rise by more than $30 billion. And when critical federal programs such as IDEA and Title I are underfunded, states and cash-strapped school districts must make up the difference.

Adding to this challenge are the actions of a deep-pocketed school privatization movement that aims to greatly accelerate the proliferation of for-profit charter schools and voucher programs. NSBA believes well-designed charters that are authorized by their local school boards can play an important role in K-12 education.

However, it strongly opposes voucher programs and the wholesale expansion of ill-conceived charters, which drain money from public schools, increase segregation, and lead to the kind of two-tiered educational system the justices in Brown so eloquently opposed.

Earlier this year, we asked you to Stand Up 4 Public Schools, and you have responded with a passion and dedication that none of us could have imagined. The promise of Brown -- the promise of an equal, accessible, world-class education for all Americans -- is what you are working to fulfill -- as school board members, active members of your state school boards association, and supporters of NSBA and its national campaign. Together, we are not simply honoring Brown: We are carrying its promise into the 21st century.

Thomas J. Gentzel (tgentzel@nsba.org) is the executive director of NSBA.

President's Corner
Anne M. Byrne

We are the voice of public education

As we mark the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, NSBA’s mission to “advocate for Equity and Excellence in public education through school board leadership” rings strong and true. We must stress both equity and excellence. And this must be accomplished through school board leadership.

The good news is that America’s graduation rates are going up. The latest Center for Public Education analysis shows that the on-time graduation rate is about 80 percent, and it rises to around 85 percent when you include summer and five-year graduates.

Many educators have labored long and hard to make that happen. But we must not forget or ignore the low-performing schools. We cannot rest until each child -- whether in an urban center, suburb, or rural area -- is given the opportunity to be successful. And each school district must be successful, or public education will always be fighting for credibility.

It’s hard work, but I believe school board and superintendent governance teams can make it a reality. If you are working with a struggling school, do not give up. Each child’s future is at stake.

Here is a partial list of what will advance student achievement:

• A systemic approach to incorporate all the ingredients to make school governance effective.

• High expectations for all our learners, with clear goals.

• High standards for every child.

• Student achievement, front and center on every board agenda.

• Strong and collaborative relationships with staff and community.

• Use of data and assessments strategically to further our vision and mission.

• A strong governance team that includes the superintendent.

• Development of a vision and mission for our school district.

• Accountability for student outcomes.

• Commitment to have safe, nurturing school environments that are conducive to learning.

It is exciting to see school board members and NSBA take up the challenge to promote public education and challenge the naysayers through NSBA’s Stand Up 4 Public Schools national campaign. For too long, we have allowed the conversation about public education to come from others. That time is over.

We must demand the critical resources necessary to ensure success. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.”

We are the voice of public education. We stand for school board governance and student achievement. We are the voice for our children and our community. Let’s use that voice to promote public education and lead all of our students to succeed.

Anne M. Byrne is NSBA’s 2014-15 president and a member of New York’s Nanuet School Board.