As the Washington, D.C. office for our state associations, NSBA is committed to ensuring the voice and perspective of school boards are heard and recognized by members of Congress and the Biden administration. In pursuit of excellence and equity in public education, we advocate for federal policies that strengthen public schools and local governance. We also work to ensure that support for public education is a top priority for the nation.

In addition to the specific legislative issues outlined below, NSBA believes Congress must continue its oversight of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to ensure state and local flexibility in K-12 education. As states and districts work to implement the law, Congress must recognize the critical role of local school boards to lead the local district planning process and set policy and programs to best meet student learning needs.

NSBA believes the following legislative issues must be addressed in order for local districts to maximize educational opportunities that are available for every student to reach their greatest learning potential:

Authorizing and Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Securing full funding for and modernizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a critical issue for NSBA and school board members across the nation. IDEA was enacted to ensure that every student with a disability has access to a free and appropriate public education. Unfortunately, the federal government has not lived up to its promise to provide 40 percent of the excess costs to support students who need extra help. Instead, federal appropriations have consistently fallen well short, forcing states and local school districts to use funds from their general education budgets to cover the special education expenses the federal government should pay. That hurts all students.

NSBA urges Congress to meet its obligation to fund 40 percent of the cost of educating children under the requirements of the federal law and supporting the placement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) within mandatory spending portions of the budget to ensure that, over a period of time, the obligation will be met as a federal budgetary priority.

ADVOCACY ACTION REQUESTED: Contact your Member of Congress to urge them to support the IDEA Full Funding Act.

Introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), the bipartisan, bicameral IDEA Full Funding Act (S. 2217 in the Senate and H.R. 4519 in the House), would finally ensure Congress’ commitment to fully fund IDEA by establishing a clear path towards fully achieving the federal share of resources needed to address the unique needs of our students with disabilities. 

Prioritizing Student Mental Health

Congress should approve greater and sustained federal resources that expand access to mental health services and support comprehensive “wrap-around” services to schools, including a range of community resources to address safety and intervention. Also important is increased funding and additional resources to support local school districts’ efforts to address students’ mental health, safety, and social needs, including dedicated funding to hire health professionals, including school nurses, counselors, social services managers, and mental health professionals to support the health and well-being of America’s students.

ADVOCACY ACTION REQUSTED: Urge your members of Congress to support measures that will expand access to mental health support for students in local schools.

Supporting Increased Funding for Staffing Needs

The federal government can help address staff shortages in school districts across the country by retaining federal policies to provide loan forgiveness for teachers and principals who serve in public schools, encourage the simplification and transparency of the loan application process, and oppose predatory collection processes. States and school districts can also redesign and implement teacher compensation systems linked to the goals of increasing student achievement and high standards. To attract and retain highly qualified teachers, school boards should seek and support flexible compensation programs to reward teachers who have the qualifications and experience to teach students, especially in the most challenged, hard-to-staff schools and in the content areas of any schools experiencing shortages of qualified personnel.

ADVOCACY ACTION REQUESTED: Urge your members of Congress to identify areas where additional staff resources are needed and provide needed support.

Support Increased Funding for Expanded Broadband Access

Established in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) allows schools and libraries to provide students, teachers, and library patrons with devices and internet service in their homes. Demand for the program is very high. In the final application window, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received requests for $2.8 billion in ECF funds, which was more than double the amount remaining in the program. Without additional funding, many of these requests will not be met, leaving millions of students disconnected.

ADVOCACY ACTION REQUESTED: Urge your members of Congress to provide an additional $1 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund.