School board members from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. February 6th-8th for a meeting of the National School Boards Association.
Kenny Rhody, DeKalb County School Board member, attended as the Tennessee School Board Association's Federal Relations Network Upper Cumberland District Coordinator.
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Members of the Tennessee FRN help school board members gain direct access to their members of Congress and federal officials to lobby for issues that are directly impacting their districts.
Rhody said it is an honor for him to have been chosen for this position. "Before the Fall TSBA meeting of the Upper Cumberland, the President of TSBA wanted me to submit my name to run for the Upper Cumberland Federal Resource Director position. I spoke of the position with our Director of Schools, Mark Willoughby and after a lengthy discussion, he urged me to apply as it could help DeKalb County by giving us a voice."
"At the TSBA Fall District Meeting of the Upper Cumberland, I was elected FRN Director of which I and other directors from across the state were schooled and brought up to speed on the laws and mandates, Race to the Top stats, and other issues that may affect the schools of Tennessee."
"The Tennessee delegation met with U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, U.S. Representatives Diane Black, Steve Cohen, Scott Desjarlais, Marsha Blackburn, and others to work hard for the education bills and funding issues that affect us locally. We are concerned about (1) the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), funding of Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to federal levels of 40% of the extra costs to meet the requirements of IDEA instead of 17 1/2% as is the funding level for this year, 2010-11; (2) changing the underfunded or no funded mandates imposed on the schools; (3) providing temporary relief of sanctions from ESEA; (4) expanding support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (STEM) and (5) funding the new Federal Child Nutrition Act."
Rhody said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke to the delegations about the nation's challenges and importance of our work. "Tennessee is improving in our nation from 45th place to number two behind Massachusetts, according to the latest reports. All the nation's eyes are on us in Tennessee and several million dollars are on the table for passage. We must work hard to bring those dollars home to Tennessee to work for our children. Now , according to Secretary Duncan, is the time to work hardest for them."
The NSBA is asking the Congress to make significant changes to the mandates and sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Act and restore maximum flexibility to local school boards in the delivery of Federal Education Programs; to increase Federal Funding for Title I grants and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help disadvantaged students and school districts close achievement gaps; and to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or provide temporary relief from sanctions. The ESEA was last reauthorized on January 8, 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act and serves as the major federal law supporting K-12 public education in America. The law, first enacted in 1965, established federal policy and authorized federal funding to assist states and local school districts to improve the academic performance of all students enrolled in public schools regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, proficiency in English or disability. However, officials say NCLB is flawed in that it bases its assessment of school quality on a student's performance only on a single assessment and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions that have not proven to have significant impact on improving student of school performance compared to other options.
The U.S. Department of Education has released a "Blueprint for Reauthorization of ESEA" which provides a comprehensive set of initiatives by which the federal government intends to support local school districts to raise student performance and close the achievement gap for academically-struggling students in public schools. Additionally, the "Blueprint" would shift the emphasis from being more punitive to more supportive of local school districts with a renewed emphasis on students graduating from high school being college and or career-ready.