March 29, 2012
RE: President Obama’s FY2013 Education Budget Proposal
Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks:
We appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony concerning the President’s FY2013 education budget proposal.
The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) represents state and territorial boards of education, state board attorneys, and state board executive secretaries. State boards of education exist in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
While the scope of state board of education member responsibilities is defined differently by each state, common areas of jurisdiction include: 1) setting statewide curriculum standards;
2) establishing high school graduation requirements; 3) determining qualifications for professional education personnel, including establishing standards for teacher and administrator preparation programs; and 4) establishing state testing and assessment programs. State board of education members are responsible for the educational interests of more than forty million students in public schools and more than three million students in postsecondary institutions.
NASBE believes all students should have access to a high-quality education in order to compete in a global economy. In order to accomplish this important objective, federal, state, and local governments need to adequately invest in education. We appreciate the President’s FY2013 budget proposal, which recognizes the need to provide adequate investments in education and focus those investments on ensuring college and-career readiness for all students and elevating the teaching profession.
INVESTING IN EDUCATION – CORE FORMULA PROGRAMS
While we appreciate the President’s budget proposal recognizes the importance of providing appropriate investments in education to preserve core formula programs such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), we are disappointed that the budget proposal does not address the federal government’s commitment to fully-fund IDEA. For 37 years, the federal government has not met its commitment to fully-fund the law at 40 percent of the cost with the states paying the rest. The federal government’s current funding of the law is at less than 20 percent. We encourage the federal government to meet its commitment so all students with special needs receive the education and resources they deserve.
TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION
We are encouraged by the President’s focus on technology and its use in schools and classrooms to support teachers, leaders, and students in learning their full potential.
The President’s budget proposal would provide $427 million for Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education Programs. The funding would support states and local school districts (LEAs) that use technology to address student learning challenges, increase student achievement, and increase teacher effectiveness in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and other core subject areas. We also support the proposed separate state grants to be used to transform teaching and learning in order to better meet the academic needs of their students through the Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants Program at $2.5 billion.
Under the President’s proposal, states would also be able to leverage Title I funding to build capacity in high-priority areas, including the use of technology to improve student instruction. The President’s proposal also provides for another round of the Investing in Innovation (I3) fund to support promising or evidenced-based uses of technology in schools and in the classroom, particularly in low-income area and in rural areas. We believe these are appropriate areas to provide federal dollars.
ELEVATING THE TEACHING PROFESSION
The President’s budget proposal consolidates several teacher and leader programs into three larger programs under Excellent Instructional Teams Program. As indicated earlier, the proposal provides $2.5 billion for state grants for effective teachers and leaders and provides $400 million for a new Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund based on the premise of the current Investing in Innovation fund to support best practices and encourage innovation. The President also requested $75 million for a new Teachers and Leaders Pathways Program to secure much-needed working professionals into the teacher profession, especially in high-need schools and in high-need subject areas like STEM. We support this focus on elevating the teaching profession and ensuring all students have access to effective teachers and leaders.
The plan also proposes a $5 billion one-time competitive grant program, Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching to fund states and school districts’ efforts to reform and improve the teaching profession. Those reforms would include making colleges of education more selective, improving professional development programs, tying pay to performance and revamping tenure standards to protect good teachers, making teacher salaries more competitive, rewarding teacher performance, and creating new career ladders for teachers. We believe this program would push states and LEAs to become even more innovative in reforming the teaching profession in their respective states in order to compete with other high-achieving countries.
We also support the President’s commitment to level the playing field between urbanized and rural and frontier states in his education budget proposal. Rural and frontier states and local school districts have unique challenges unlike their more urbanized counterparts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, provide adequate professional development to such teachers, and have adequate access to technology and broadband. The President weaves rural education as priority throughout his proposal and ensures all students would have access to essential resources and have the opportunity to excel in the classroom.
RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, DISSEMINATION AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
NASBE supports the President’s commitment to the on-going efforts for improving teaching and learning through a rigorous and responsive infrastructure of research, development, dissemination, and technical assistant. We believe that research-based evidence can and should inform educational policy and practice at all levels. Helping policymakers at the state and local levels gain access to and apply the best available empirical on critical issues should be a high priority for the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. In this regard, we support investments in such programs as the Regional Educational Laboratories program, the Comprehensive Assistance Center program, the Research- Development and Dissemination fund, the State Longitudinal Data Systems program, the proposal for an education initiative fashioned on the Defensive Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Investment in Innovation fund. We hope that through these combined programs education will eventually be transformed into an innovation-rich, evidence-based field similar to other sectors such as medicine and agriculture.
Again, we believe the federal government should continue to make appropriate investments in education especially during this current challenging economic environment. More and more jobs will require higher-order skills, like critical thinking, comprehension of complex text, and project-based skills. All of our nation’s students should have the opportunity to succeed and the key to such success necessities increasing our expectations and ensuring good teachers are in every classroom.