National PTA’s New Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools

As schools across the country are increasingly impacted by violence and natural disasters, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, families, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. Every child has a right to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for each community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA promotes the establishment of and support for school safety policies and procedures that emphasize family engagement, adequate funding for student supports and services, and conditions that create and foster positive and welcoming school environments. The association also promotes the implementation of evidence-based policies and best practices articulated in A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which was written and has been endorsed by the nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners.

The position statement further states that National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators—but defers to local, collaborative decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement for school building security. If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer (SRO) or other security agency within a school building, the association believes there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school that articulates the role of the SRO.

“National PTA believes teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “Families, students, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, community leaders and elected officials must work together to ensure students feel safe and schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students.”

Advance Illinois Launches Equity Dashboard

The new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model for school fundingin Illinois has had the first $350 million payment delivered earlier this month. This new funding begins the process of improving Illinois’s worst-in-the-nation funding equityby targeting the largest increases in state funding to the districts furthest from an adequate level of funding based on the EBF formula. Illinois still has a long way to go until every school district is adequately funded, but this payment represents an important first step on that journey.

To help families and communities understand what the new EBF model means in terms of money for their local school district, Advance Illinois has created an Equity Dashboard. The interactive dashboard allows you to see an overview of state funding levels, a comparison of school districts across the state, compare student demographics, and lookup your local school district to see its current level of funding and how the new funding will affect the district.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edwardunder Creative Commons license.

 

Three Reasons Why ISBE’s FY 2019 Funding Request Matters

You may have seen in the news recently that the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) budget request for the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY) is $15.7 billion, an increase of $7.5 billion over FY 2018. With Illinois’s financial issues well known, even ISBE acknowledges that this request is not going to be fully funded. But it is still important that legislators address this request. Here are three reasons why ISBE’s funding request matters:

  1. In arguing against SB 2236, a bill that would require the General Assembly to fund public education prior to funding the private school scholarship program, some legislators have backed away from increasing education funding, calling equitable funding an “aspirational goal” and calling the chances of adding $350 million to FY 2018 funding “slim to none.” ISBE’s budget request forces legislators to confront the true full cost of adequately funding education in Illinois and makes underfunding education a conscious, knowing decision.
  2. A new report out this week shows that Illinois’s worst in the nation education funding equity has continued to get worse. Last year’s report indicated that Illinois spent only $0.81 on a low-income student for every $1.00 spent on a non-low-income student. The new report shows that amount has now dropped to $0.78 spent on a low-income student. That same report showed that Illinois ranked 45th in state funding for education, with only 40% of school funding coming from the state. The lack of state funding puts increasing pressure on local school districts to increase local property taxes to adequately fund education. ISBE’s budget request lays bare Illinois’s lack of state funding for education.
  3. The new evidence-based funding (EBF) model adopted by the General Assembly last fall now details how underfunded schools are on a district level. No longer can legislators hide behind statewide averages that show them providing 80% of the state’s foundation level of funding. The EBF model now clearly shows that some districts in Illinois are only 45% adequately funded. Because the EBF model also takes into account a district’s ability to increase funding through local property taxes, the failure of the state to provide adequate funding to these districts is clear. ISBE’s budget request is based on providing 90% of every district’s adequacy target and shows how significant the state’s underfunding education is for each child in Illinois.

 

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

Illinois PTA Advocacy Day 2017

Today is Illinois PTA Advocacy Day. Even if you can’t join us in Springfield, you can still participate. If you have a few minutes sometime in the next few days, send an e-mail to your legislators. The text is prewritten for you, though you can edit it or add more if you would like to. Then, add your contact information and hit send.

If you have a bit more time, schedule a meeting with your legislators at their district offices. They will be in Springfield this week for the veto session, but will be back in their districts next week. If you’re not sure how to set up a meeting or how to talk to a legislator, be sure to check out our webinar from last year on How to Meet with Legislators.

Illinois PTA is advocating on three key issues this year for Advocacy Day:

  • Education Funding: The new funding formula starts Illinois on a path towards adequate and equitable funding, but without additional funding added to the formula in future years, we will continue to have the most inequitable school funding in the country.
  • Environmental Concerns: Based on our 2017 resolutions on climate change and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), we are asking legislators to support science-based regulations on carbon emissions and fracking operations to protect children’s health and the environment.
  • Justice-Involved Young Adults: Based on our report to the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we are asking lawmakers to consider legislation treating those ages 18 to 24 involved in the justice system differently from those 25 and older, as scientific research indicates that young adults in that age range behave much more like teenagers than adults due to brain development.

If you are unsure what to say about these topics to your legislator, check out our 2017 Hot Topics webinar or contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty, who can provide you with talking points and handouts to share.

Finally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard on important advocacy issues in the future. Find out about Illinois PTA Calls to Action by signing up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network.