What is the Role of the Federal Government in Education?

Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States. It is states and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation. The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant state and local role. The result is that the Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is just under 10%, which includes funds not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Head Start program and the Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch program. These Federal programs are not affected by California’s Local Control Funding Formula.

History of Federal involvement in Education

The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandated the desegregation of public schools and gave the executive branch a legal precedent for enforcing equal access to education.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was a key part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and has set the basic terms of the federal government’s involvement in education ever since. Rather than mandating direct federal oversight of schools, ESEA offered states funding for education programs on a conditional basis. In other words, states could receive federal funding provided they met the requirements outlined in certain sections, or titles, of the act. Every major education initiative since then has been about recalibrating the balance first struck by ESEA. Until 1980, the program was reauthorized every three years, each time with more specific guidelines about how federal funds were to be used.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now IDEA) ensured that students with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education to meet their needs.

In 1979, the Federal Department of Education was established as a separate, cabinet-level government agency that would coordinate the federal government’s various initiatives and requirements. In the years since, we have had ESEA reauthorizations such as No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act.

In addition to ESEA, the Federal government continues to administer other programs, including two large ones that tend to get less attention; child nutrition and Head Start.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or no-cost lunches to children each school day. This program has played an essential role during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time of heightened food insecurity for so many families across our state and nation, this program has helped millions who may only get nutritious meals during the school day. The US Department of Agriculture recently announced the continued extension of nationwide flexibilities that allow free school meals for children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.

Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families. This program is intended to halt the development of an achievement gap by promoting the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from low-income families.

If the Federal contribution to the California public school system is less than 10% of the overall budget for schools, why is it important for PTA to spend time on this now? Due to the pandemic, a large federal investment in education is needed in order to stave off major state and local budget cuts that would disproportionately affect our most vulnerable students.

Want to learn more?

Why Should You Attend the 2021 California State PTA Legislation Conference?

Have you considered attending Leg Con 2021, but are still on the fence? Well, here are five reasons that will convince you that attending is DEFINITELY worthwhile:

  1. This is our first-ever virtual Legislation Conference — don’t you want to be able to say that you were at the very first? 
  2. You don’t have to be a policy expert or an advocacy rock star to get great benefit from the conference. The Legislation Conference is designed to meet the needs of everyone — from an advocacy novice to a policy wonk. Everyone will find something of value at the conference.
  3. There is so much to learn! Participants in the conference learn about various ways to advocate at the local and state level, hear about important issues that affect students around the state, and hear from policymakers in Sacramento.   
  4. Meet and network with leaders from across the state. One of the best things about the Legislation Conference is meeting other leaders who care about children and families as much as you do! 
  5. Students can attend too! Is your high schooler passionate about a cause, do they want to learn more about how our government works or how they can help make change? Students are always welcomed at the Legislation Conference.

Registration is now open! Click here for more information: https://capta.org/programs-events/legislation-conference/

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Parent Stories, Part 2

First, listen…

Unit PTA leader: We decided to move to an area where my Black son would see peers and school adults who looked like him. As a PTA leader, I know the power of advocacy and partnership with school staff. I advocated with his teachers about implicit bias and how harmful it was to send my son to sit at the desk for the same behavior his white friends engaged in but instead received a warning and allowed to sit on the carpet. We advocated with the school to address the bullying and use of unacceptable language around race. We advocated with the PTA and parents that even if we didn’t have a large African American population, an African American Living Museum should be a school event. There was some success but it was exhausting. After a few years, as a family, we decided that living in and being educated in a community that is integrated and more diverse was the right choice for us. We had read about how students of color are disciplined more, tracked for AP classes less, and the list went on. We wanted to minimize the impact of the embedded systemic bias.

Then, learn…

Even though #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month is over, we want diversity, equity and inclusion to be a focus all year round. California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of all families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Look at the demographics of families on your campus– Are they represented on your PTA board?  Are there activities that highlight and celebrate these families and make them feel like they are an integral part of your campus?  Does your library showcase authors and books with characters that represent these families?  Are your assemblies diverse enough that all children see themselves in the presentations?
  • Educate yourself, your board, and your school community about the challenges these families face by holding a book club or hosting listening sessions. 
  • Participate in the upcoming Listening Sessions that California State PTA will hold in January. 

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.

Click here to read part 4 of this series.

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Teacher Stories, Part 1

First, listen…

Educator: I use the word ‘grownups’, not parents, or mom and dads. I used to use those words but I learned that some of my students are being raised by their grandparents or other family members. Some had one parent because the other was serving in the military or incarcerated. Some were with foster families. All of that is important to me because it is important to my students that I know they have same sex parents, or are adopted and don’t ‘look’ like their other family members. All families are talked about because young children will create their own narrative if you don’t give them one. So I talk about all the wonderful and different ways families are formed. 

Then, learn…

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of all families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Make sure your PTA publications are inclusive. Remember that not all families look the same, so make certain that your PTA fliers reflect that.

National PTA has a Diversity Toolkit that you can use to help your unit connect with all the families on your campus https://www.pta.org/home/run-your-pta/Diversity-Equity-Inclusion

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.

Click here to return to the blog homepage.

Global Diversity Awareness Month: Student Stories, Part 2

First, listen….

Student: It wasn’t until I took an AP class my sophomore year where the books we read were by authors of color. I became really interested in who gets to choose the books that I am taught in school. I found out it’s up to the teacher to find a way to buy these books that are not on the usual approved list. That didn’t make sense to me. I am now involved in a student-led group to have more student voice in deciding things like the books we read. All students should get to read these books, not just the AP class or the new ethnic studies elective. All our classes should have authors of all histories. 

Then, learn…

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of our racially diverse students and their families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Attend the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee’s Listening Sessions November 16, 17, 18 and 21, 2020 https://capta.org/resource/listening-sessions-on-race-and-racism/
  • When your PTA raises funds for your library request that a certain percentage of the funds be spent on racially diverse authors.  We want all children to see people who look like them on our library shelves. 
  • Include students in your PTA!  We have lots of tips on ways to include student participation in your PTA ( http://toolkit.capta.org/membership/involving-students/).  One of the best ways to include students is to invite them to our Legislation Conference which will have a Racial Injustice and Social Advocacy theme this year.  More information about the dates and cost will be released soon, so be sure to visit our webpage from time to time to get updates. https://capta.org/programs-events/legislation-conference/

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to return to the blog homepage.

Global Diversity Awareness Month: Student Stories, Part 1

First, listen…

Student: Whether I wear pants or a skirt, I sing the same. Does it matter if I wear pants instead of a skirt? Yes it matters to me. I don’t understand why my teacher and principal insist on me wearing a skirt to sing in the choir. It feels as weird as showing up to school in a bathing suit and nothing else. I already feel uncomfortable at school. It would be just one small thing that would make me think, ‘At least this one teacher knows and accepts me.’

Then, learn….

During #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month and all year round, California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of LGBTQIA+ students and their families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Review school policies in regard to bullying and support revisions and amendments to those policies that specifically address the topics of sexual orientation and gender identification/expression as they relate to harassment and bullying.  https://capta.org/focus-areas/community-concerns/lgbtqia/
  • Use the Welcoming Schools Checklist to see how your PTA is doing in welcoming all families into your school.  http://downloads.capta.org/hea/WelcomingSchools_Checklist.pdf
  • Use the California State PTA Position Statements and Resolutions as you do studies of local legislation that impacts families of LGBTQIA+ students.  If you need support in this process, reach out to your Council or District Board and they can support you.

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to return to the blog homepage.

Global Diversity Awareness Month: Parent Stories, Part 1

First, listen…

Parent: There it was — in print. The new Superintendent wrote in his message to the whole district that special education was taking funds meant for general fund programs. My heart sank. My child and thousands like her were positioned as the ‘taker of funds’ and not a part of the school community. My child is a general education student first, then a student who needs additional services and supports in order to learn. This was just one more example of how my child, and others like her, are segregated socially. The segregation or separateness is social and physical and affects how our children see themselves and how others see them. If our children were taught from preschool that their peers who act, think, learn, move differently belong with them, then our general community, workplaces, housing, city planning, higher education would be full of people who had experience being around individuals with disabilities of all kinds.

Then, learn…

During #GlobalDiversityAwarenessMonth and all year round, California State PTA has position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of special education students and families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Participate in your school and district Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) process and actively advocate for special needs programming.  https://capta.org/resource/seasons-of-lcap-development-and-engagement/
  • Learn about ways to support Special Education Families and why you should consider including a Special Needs Committee as part of your PTA Board https://capta.org/focus-areas/education/special-needs/
  • Use the California State PTA Position Statements and Resolutions as you do studies of local legislation that impacts special needs families.  If you need support in this process, reach out to your Council or District Board and they can support you. 

During the Back to School Season, help families of special needs students with transition by sharing these tips (available in six different languages) https://capta.org/focus-areas/education/special-needs/tips-for-parents-of-students-with-special-needs/

Ask the Governor to Support Later School Start Times

California State PTA is co-sponsor of SB 328 which advocates for a later school start time for middle and high schools. Last week it was approved by the state legislature and now it is sitting on the governor’s desk waiting for his signature or his veto.

The bill would update Education Code to mandate a start time of no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools and would give school district 3 years to implement the change. Why is this an important piece of legislation? Research shows that early school start times are keeping our teens from getting the 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep they need and that a later start time would improve graduation rates, decrease depression and suicide risk in teens, and reduce their risk of being overweight.

PTA is asking you to join us in asking Governor Newsom to sign this bill. Click here to send him an email: http://bit.ly/2kwkULm

Federal Legislative Highlights by Derby Pattengill

NATIONAL PTA

National PTA has taken a positions on a number of bills currently being debated in the 116th Congress. Click here for the complete list. Some notable bills include:

HR5 Equality Act (SUPPORT)
This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

HR 2021 Investing For The People Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill increases discretionary spending limits, modifies the procedures for enforcing the limits and establishes budget enforcement procedures in the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill increases both the defense and nondefense discretionary spending limits for FY2020 and FY2021. It also modifies the procedures for enforcing the spending limits to limit adjustments for funding designated for Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism, allow specified adjustments for Internal Revenue Service enforcement activities and the 2020 Census and modify the sequestration process.

HR8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill, along with a similar Senate bill (S42), seek to close a loophole in the background check process. This bill has already passed the House.

California State PTA

California State PTA has also taken positions on some federal legislation this term. Click here for the complete list.Some highlights include:

HR 330 The Climate Solutions Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill encourages strong renewable energy standards by requiring that 100 percent of electricity sold in the United States be generated from renewable sources by 2035. It will also aggressively target greenhouse gases by requiring such emissions to be 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also creates a national energy efficiency standard. Rep. Lieu has long been active in fighting climate change, having introduced versions of the Climate Solutions Act in both the 114th and 115th Congress.

HR 1395 Youth Mental Health Services Act of 2019 (SUPPORT)
This bill will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve mental health services for students. Specifically, it identifies and disseminates best practices for mental health first aid, assists in the establishment and implementation of emergency planning and establishes or identifies agreements with local agencies to improve coordination of services.

NATIONAL PTA LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE

On March 12-14, 14 PTA leaders from California attended the 2019 National PTA Leg. Con. We had a total of 12 meetings at the capitol, including the offices of both of our senators as well as the Department of Education. It is a great experience advocating in Washington DC. Please consider attending the conference next year. Our asks at the meetings included:

  • Pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (HR 865/S.266). These bills seek to include public schools in any infrastructure package. Infrastructure is a bi-partisan issue with it being a priority for both the Speaker of the House as well as the President.
  • Oppose S.634 (Cruz) and similar Congressional bills. This bill provides tax credits for school choice. The Parent Teacher Association advocates for the improvement of public education for all children and to guarantee public funds are not diverted to any private school choice proposal and/or voucher system. PTA also opposes tax credits and deductions for elementary and secondary school tuition and other education-related expenses for public and nonpublic school students.

Our association believes that private school choice systems have detrimental effects on our public school systems. Public dollars must remain invested in public schools for the benefit of all students and the future of our nation.

  • Fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. When Congress originally passed IDEA, they promised to cover 40% of the extra cost of special education. In other words, they would pay for nearly half of the additional cost required to educate students with disabilities (when compared to the cost per student without disabilities). Unfortunately, Congress has never come close to fulfilling that promise. The number of students with disabilities served under IDEA has increased by 25 percent in the past two decades. Yet, the IDEA state grant program is currently only funded at around $13 billion. The federal government is only covering 14.6% of the additional cost.

Support HR. 330(Lieu) The Climate Solutions Act of 2019.  The California State  PTA recently took a support position on this bill that seeks to move toward 100% renewable energy sources and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.

LEARN MORE

Learn more about California State PTA’s advocacy efforts and how we take positions on legislation at www.capta.org/advocacy.

Questions? If you have any federal legislation or federal advocacy questions, please do not hesitate to contact California State PTA Legislative Advocate Derby Pattengill at DP9@CAPTA.org

 

2019 Legislation Conference Recap

2019 has just begun and the California State PTA Legislation Team is gearing up for a busy season. California State PTA hosted its annual Legislation Conference in Sacramento in January. PTA members came from across the state to learn and advocate. After two jam-packed days, attendees left full of new information and feeling empowered.

Attendees got a chance to see the big PTA picture behind the slogan “every child. one voice“. ONE voice for educating our elected officials the value of increasing school funding… ONE voice speaking loud and clear about the data behind later school start movement… ONE voice about mental health and support services. ONE VOICE for all of California’s children.

Panel discussions at the Legislation Conference highlighted how our low per pupil funding puts California at the bottom of the nation in counselors, health professional, school nurses, learning specialists, librarians and administrators to student ratios. This directly impacts our students and their ability to learn and be socially connected.

First time attendees to the conference realized that they are part of a nationwide organization. Federal advocate Derby Pattengill (President of Ninth District PTA, which serves San Diego and Imperial county) addressed school climate and how it impacts not just students, but the school community overall. He spoke about how to identify issues within school communities and once issues are identified, how to go about working on those issues.

Twenty-Third District PTA (Riverside county) brought 12 students to the conference! After the first day of the conference, these students were engaged and definitely empowered for conversations the next day when they met with legislators and their staff in our State Capitol.

The goal of the Legislation Team was to create an atmosphere where both first-time and experienced attendees all learned something new and left empowered, engaged and inspired. If you missed the conference this year, be sure to talk with your PTA / PTSA to include attending in the budget for next year, and don’t forget to include students… they are our future!