New Poll Shows Little Appetite for Vouchers but a Craving for Resources

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(Photo Credit: PDKpoll.org)

This week, PDK and Gallup released the results from the 2015 Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. In the season of presidential campaigning when it feels like Americans are constantly pitted against each other, it is a welcome respite to find widespread agreement on some issues related to public education.

The poll conducted 3,499 interviews via telephone and internet and found that the majority of public school parents are opposed to using public funds to finance private education. In fact, the national opinion on school vouchers is in line with National PTA’s longstanding position of opposing vouchers that divert critical public funds to private or sectarian schools. National PTA has repeatedly opposed vouchers—or public school portability—in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which some policymakers continue to advocate for despite a majority of Americans disfavoring them. National PTA also released a statement in response to the poll.

Perhaps the most unsurprising finding from the poll was nearly half of those questioned stated that a lack of financial support was the biggest problem facing American schools. Funding for public education has consistently been at the top of the list of issues impacting schools for the past 10 years. The answers could be in response to the continued cuts to education at the federal, state and local levels, which were exacerbated during the Great Recession.

National PTA—along with dozens of other organizations—routinely advocates to congress for increased investment for education programs. Despite the massive funding cuts, when respondents were asked about schools in their own areas, they were much more likely to have a favorable opinion of their schools compared to schools nationally. This is analogous to voters disapproving of the job congress is doing, but continue to approve of their own members of congress.

The poll also revealed that:

  • 67% of public school parents believe there is too much emphasis on standardized tests in schools in the United States.
  • 65% of public school parents overall said they wouldn’t excuse their own child from exams.
  • African-American and Hispanic parents being less likely to say they would excuse their child from standardized test compared to their white peers.

National PTA’s position on assessing students is supported by the poll results which found that “when asked to select from four approaches that would provide the most accurate picture of a public school student’s academic progress, standardized testing was again at the bottom of the list when compared with three other indicators of progress.” Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Dr. Daniel Koretz, recently told the Christian Science Monitor, “True accountability would include many unstandardized measures of student and teacher performance, everything from portfolios to observations, and that a limited amount of standardized testing then could be part of the oversight system to make sure teachers were applying appropriate standards.”

National PTA believes valid assessment does not consist of a single test score, and that at no time should a single test be considered the sole determinant of a student’s academic or vocational future. Rather, policy alternatives to social promotion and grade retention must be established.

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Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

Ending the Use of Restraint and Seclusion

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against a sheriff’s department in Kentucky after an eight-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl with ADHD and additional disabilities were handcuffed by the deputy sheriff for conduct related to their disabilities. The deputy sheriff used the handcuffs as a restraint on the students by positioning the handcuffs on the student’s biceps locking their arms behind their back, which the ACLU argues is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At the 2015 annual convention, National PTA recently approved a resolution against the use of restraint and seclusion on students that:

  • Limits the use of restraint and seclusion on students only to be used as a last resort in emergency[i] situations
  • Seeks to educate the school community and parents about the risks of excessive and/or inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion by untrained school personnel.

National PTA also promotes the use of positive or non-aversive interventions for school discipline.

There is overwhelming evidence that the use of restraint and seclusion on children is dangerous, life-threatening and not an effective technique for discipline. This also continues to be used across many states and school districts.

For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Education, students with disabilities represent 12% of public school students, but are 75% of all students subject to physical restraint and 58% of students subject to seclusion. The 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection found the use of restraint and seclusion to be significant with over 110,000 student cases documented, absent of data entries from multiple states and districts that do not report on restraint and seclusion.

In 2009, the United States Congress introduced legislation to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools across the nation, but no federal legislation has become statute. National PTA has supported the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the last few Congresses and will continue to support legislation that reduces the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The lack of federal action has led many states to create their own restraint and seclusion statutes and guidelines that vary widely. The Autism National Committee captured the legal landscape of restraint and seclusion laws nationwide in a recent report that found that only 25 states have laws providing meaningful protections against restraint and seclusion for all children and 35 states provide protections for children with disabilities.

Kentucky was one of the states that fell under both categories of meaningful protections, but there are many caveats and exceptions that limit children’s protections under state laws—such as room descriptions, types of restraints and seclusion, and what constitutes emergency and life-threatening situations compared to everyday actions. Many states do not even require parental notification when restraints or seclusion has been used on a child, limiting the parent’s ability to take action and correct the problem so that their child can learn in a safe environment.

National PTA will continue to support evidence-based alternatives to seclusion and restraint— such as positive behavioral interventions—that work to improve a child’s actions in school. We encourage parents and families to be aware of their school’s discipline policies and the restraint and seclusion laws of their state in order to help create a safe a supportive school environment for all children.

Stay in the loop! Sign-up to get our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and visit our Takes Action Network for the latest advocacy news and legislative updates.

[i] Emergency is defined as an unanticipated and already occurring event that is placing the individual or others in imminent danger of physical harm.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

National PTA Lauds Senate Judiciary Committee Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Nation’s Juvenile Justice System

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2015 (JJDPA), which has protected the care and treatment of children and youth in the justice system for over 40 years.

The bill, S. 1169—which Congress last reauthorized in 2002—would close loopholes in the law to prevent youth from entering the system for minor offenses, and make provisions to ensure the continuation of children’s education while detained and a smooth transition back into the classroom.

National PTA believes that this bipartisan reauthorization is a positive step towards a safer and more supportive juvenile justice system that helps every child reach his or her potential. Earlier this month, we cosigned a letter in support of the bill with other national and state organizations.

The bill will move to the Senate floor for further consideration. In June, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced a JJDPA reauthorization bill—H.R. 2728—in the House.

According to a recent report by the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC), despite key reforms to reduce youth incarceration and detention, more than 600,000 children and youth are arrested each year in the U.S. A majority of these arrests could be more effectively treated in community-based settings.

The report also found that:

  • Over 60,000 of these young people are being held in detention centers awaiting trial—thousands for minor offenses such as skipping school.
  • About 250,000 are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system annually.
  • Of nearly 55,000 children in state prisons, most are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
  • On any given night, more than 6,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons.

Our organization has advocated for a fair, safe and rehabilitative juvenile justice system for over 100 years, dating back to the association’s first resolution in 1899, addressing how children are handled in the judicial system.

We continuously support the prohibition of incarcerating youth in adult facilities; addressing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in the juvenile justice system; and finding alternatives to detaining nonviolent youth.

Other provisions in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015 include:

  • Prohibiting children who commit status offenses—conduct that would not be a crime if committed by an adult such as breaking curfew, skipping school or running away—from being kept at a correctional facility.
  • Encouraging alternative options for status offenders.
  • Making sure detained youth are kept separate from adults.
  • Providing clear directions for states to develop plans to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among youth who come in contact with the juvenile system. States and state education agencies would also need to develop plans and collaborate with juvenile detention facilities to continue a child’s education while detained and allow for a smooth transition back to the classroom.

Keep checking our blog for updates on the JJDPA reauthorization process and other legislation to better the lives of every child in education, health and safety.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 Senate Passage

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) was passed by the Senate on a vote of 81-17. National PTA applauds the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for crafting the historic and bipartisan legislation. We believe that this bill is a solid foundation for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB). The Senate bill will soon go to a Conference Committee with the House to work out the differences between its reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).

Throughout the consideration of the reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB, National PTA and PTA members across the nation strongly advocated for the inclusion of several provisions to improve family engagement in the bill. Thousands of PTA members and advocates called, emailed and tweeted at Senators voicing their support for amendments to improve family engagement in the bill. Because of this impressive grassroots advocacy by PTA members, the Senate adopted an amendment by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) that will provide school districts and schools with the capacity to effectively engage families in their children’s education. The inclusion of this program in the Senate bill is a huge victory for children and families. The House bill (H.R. 5) also includes this program.

Furthermore, in large part to the efforts of local PTA members, the bill contains several other laudable family engagement provisions such as the inclusion of parents in the development of school district plans to support student achievement and promote family engagement strategies in early childhood learning programs. Additionally, through the leadership of Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Jack Reed (D-RI), language was also included to encourage Title I school districts to invest additional resources in family engagement. In total, 178 amendments were introduced, with 65 accepted and 13 rejected. Several accepted amendments included the creation of a student data privacy commission to inform policymakers on updates to current laws governing this issue, addressing student access to digital learning resources at home, and the establishment of a full-service community schools grant program. Other amendments that were adopted include a proposal from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) allowing certain funds to be spent on mental health awareness programs and one by Sen. Bennet that would require states to limit the total time students spend on tests.

National PTA has long advocated against any proposal that would permit federal dollars to follow a student to another public school or for private school vouchers. The association was pleased that several amendments that attempted to do so were defeated.

Now that both houses of Congress have passed bills to reauthorize the ESEA-NCLB, they must come together to work out the differences between the two bills in conference committees. Once there is agreement, the bill will go back to each chamber of Congress for another vote. The final step is to send the bill to President Obama for his approval. We are excited that this long overdue reauthorization is closer to a reality. National PTA will continue to work to improve educational opportunities and experiences of all children across the United States.


Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

Special Video Message from President Bay: Thank You PTA Advocates!

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that strengthens family engagement provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. The passage of the amendment is a testament to the power of our collective voice to make a difference for all students and schools.

I want to take a few moments to thank you for your advocacy efforts because this could not have happened without you being a voice and your hard work and dedication to the mission of PTA.

Thank you again to all of our members and advocates and keep up your tremendous advocacy on behalf of our nation’s children and families!

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!


Laura Bay is National PTA President.

The Every Child Achieves Act Makes it Through the First Week of Floor Debates

Last week, the U.S. Senate began floor debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)—a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB). The primary law governing K-12 education at the federal level, ESEA-NCLB is eight years overdue for reauthorization. National PTA has consistently advocated for a bipartisan and comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB, and it is a key public policy priority for our association. However, the bipartisan bill is far from perfect and National PTA has been working with U.S. Senate offices for several months to improve the bill for children and their families.

Most notably, National PTA has been working on two amendments that would improve family engagement programs and resources in states and school districts. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced an amendment on July 8 that would authorize Statewide Family Engagement Centers. These centers would give states and school districts the capacity to support effective implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement. Additionally, an amendment offered by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) would allow local education agencies to use more than 1 percent of their district-level Title I funding for family engagement programs. Debate has yet to occur on either of these amendments, but National PTA is following the floor action closely.

Earlier in the week, we were pleased to see an amendment by Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) which National PTA advocated for, was included in the bill to ensure family engagement strategies are allowable activities in the Early Learning Alignments and Improvement grant program. By weeks end, there were more than 130 amendments filed with 19 passed, three rejected and a few amendments tabled for further negotiations. Similar to the House, there were a few proposals introduced that could allow for the portability of Title I funds to public and private schools, which were amongst the amendments that were rejected. National PTA was pleased to see that school voucher programs and Title I portability were not accepted, so far, in the Every Child Achieves Act. We will continue to advocate against methods that take federal funding away from the students that need it the most.

National PTA sent a letter to the Senate outlining our priorities for reauthorizing ESEA-NCLB before the floor debate began and will continue to communicate National PTA priorities to all Senators as debate continues.

There were a number of agreed upon amendments, ranging from ensuring access to STEM subjects for underrepresented students to a crackdown on sexual assaults in schools to authorized studies on tribal schools and student services, amongst others. National PTA was pleased to see the adoption of an amendment that would allow school staff additional means to “certify” that students are homeless and an amendment that encourages states and school districts to integrate school library programs into their plans for improving student academic achievement.

The Every Child Achieves Act will resume consideration on the U.S. Senate floor at 5:30 p.m. EDT today and could be voted on for final passage as early as Thursday, July 16. National PTA continues to work with members of the Senate to provide families the necessary resources to effectively be involved in their children’s education.

Make sure to stay connected with our legislative actions by checking our PTA Takes Action webpage to send letters to your elected officials in support of our federal legislative priorities as well as reading the One Voice blog and following National PTA on social media platforms.


Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

On Second Attempt, House Passes ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization Bill

On Wednesday, July 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) by a vote of 218 to 213. The Student Success Act would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB), which is the primary law governing the federal role in K-12 education. ESEA/NCLB has been due for reauthorization since 2007. Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-MN) lauded the chamber’s ability to pass the Student Success Act, stating “I’m pleased the House has advanced responsible reforms that would give the American people what they deserve: a commonsense law that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”

Wednesday’s passage of the bill was the second attempt this Congress by the House to pass the Student Success Act, after the bill lacked the number of votes to pass in February and was pulled from the floor. The bill made it back to the floor this week after the House Rules Committee agreed to allow four additional amendments to be offered. National PTA sent a letter to the House of Representatives that outlined the association’s position on certain provisions in the bill and potential amendments. The House considered a total of 14 amendments before final passage — adopting five, rejecting eight and withdrawing one.

During floor debate, an amendment was rejected that could have allowed states to contribute federal dollars to private schools. National PTA has consistently opposed any attempt to divert public funding to private schools. Furthermore, National PTA believes portability of Title I funds to either a public or private school is in direct conflict with the original intent of Title I, which is to provide assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. Unfortunately, the Student Success Act does allow the portability of Title I funds to public schools. Ranking Member of the Education and the Workforce Committee Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) stated that “the most egregious of the bill’s provisions is the so-called Title I portability provision — which changes the funding formula to reduce funding in low-income areas and gives more money to rich areas.”

National PTA is pleased that the Student Success Act maintains two important family engagement provisions — resources in Title I for family engagement at the district level as well as the state-based, competitive family engagement program infrastructure. National PTA is also appreciative that the Student Success Act eliminates a one-size-fits-all accountability system, allows for multiple measures of student achievement in state accountability systems and maintains provisions requiring the disaggregation of assessment data by subgroups.

However, National PTA has concerns with several components of the bill, including the elimination of a measure that seeks to ensure education programs are sufficiently funded from year to year, the lack of adequate parameters for the use of alternate assessments, and the inclusion of Title I public school portability provisions.

National PTA is committed to working with Congress to reauthorize the ESEA/NCLB this year. The Senate is currently debating its reauthorization bill — the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) — and is expected to continue doing so next week. National PTA will continue to advocate for robust family engagement provisions within ESEA/NCLB reauthorization and ensure educational equity for all children and their families. As the process moves forward, the association will keep members updated through blog posts, action alerts and letters sent to Congress.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act-No Child Left Behind to Be Reauthorized

IMG_0150Last week, National PTA joined with nine other education organizations to urge the U.S. Senate to bring the bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB) to the floor for debate. “We applaud the Senate HELP Committee for their great bipartisan progress, but Congress must put kids first and finish its work before the August recess by bringing the bill to the Senate floor.” said Frances Frost, president of Montgomery County Council PTA (MD) to members of the press.

Frances represented National PTA at the event with leadership from other national organizations, including the National Education Association (NEA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), The School Superintendents Association (AASA), National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB is National PTA’s top education priority and National PTA believes that the U.S. Senate should put kids first before Congress takes its summer recess by voting on this important legislation. In response to the press conference, Senate leadership announced that the bill is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor starting July 7.

National PTA is advocating for the inclusion of stronger family engagement provisions in the Senate bill. In particular, National PTA urges Senators to approve two amendments to the bill that will enhance family engagement in states and local districts. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) will offer an amendment to support state and local capacity building through Statewide Family Engagement Centers. These centers will build local capacity to train, coordinate, and develop family and community relationships to support student achievement and family engagement. Senators Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have a bipartisan amendment that will increase the investment in family engagement for qualifying local education agencies from 1 to 2 percent.

While National PTA seeks improvements to the bill, National PTA is pleased that no public or private school portability or voucher provisions were included. We are also pleased that bill requires states to establish challenging academic standards for all students and create statewide accountability systems to ensure all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Additionally, the bill allows for multiple measures of student achievement in state determined accountability systems.

We will need PTA advocates to prepare to encourage their Senators to strengthen family engagement provisions and ensure that every child receives the high-quality education he/she deserves. Stay tuned for more updates on the reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB through the One Voice blog and by following @NationalPTA on Twitter.


Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

Secretary Duncan Announces Parents’ Set of Rights at National PTA Convention

arneduncan2015At National PTA’s Convention on Friday, June 26, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a set of rights that outline what families should be able to expect for their children’s education. The rights identify three aspects of high-quality educational opportunities that every parent should be able to obtain for their child.

To help prepare every student for success in life, families have a right to:

  • Access high quality preschool
  • A safe, supportive, well-resourced school with challenging academic standards
  • Affordable, quality, post-secondary education or training opportunities

During his remarks, Duncan emphasized that the set of rights take place during three pivotal stages of a student’s life. In addition, they prepare them for success in college and careers as engaged, productive citizens.

National PTA agrees that all parents should have access to high quality early learning opportunities for their children. Research shows that providing effective, targeted support and interventions to children and parents beginning at birth leads to higher levels of long term education and career achievement. Additional studies also point to the enormous benefits of early childhood education such as Head Start. For example, a study found that Head Start participants are about 8.5 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school, 6 percentage points more likely to have attempted at least one year of college, less likely to be unemployed, no longer enrolled in school or in poor health (Deming, 126, 2009). Early childhood education is not just a priority for our children and families; but it is the right investment to make..

National PTA also supports having high standards that demand a lot from students but are also consistent, articulate, and developed collaboratively with educators, parents and students. Yet, parents are acutely aware that their children cannot achieve to their full potential if they do not feel safe and supported at school. Policymakers and schools can and should do more to prevent bullying and school violence and prioritize education funding to provide the necessary resources to support teachers, counselors, and other school and instructional support staff.

Every parent should have the opportunity to ensure their children have acquired the necessary 21st century skills through high standards, access to post-secondary education and/or career training. These skills are critical to ensuring a strong economy and a vibrant future. Today’s workplace requires employees to be able to think on their feet, make decisions and solve problems. As the demand for highly skilled workers continues to increase, it is imperative that America’s youth are prepared with critical thinking and reasoning skills necessary to engage in our complex work environments and compete in our global economy.

Parents are not only an integral part in their children’s lives at home but are crucial to their success in school. Collectively, parents have the power to transform educational opportunity in this country.

National PTA remains committed to working with Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education to ensure every child has access to high-quality educational opportunities throughout their life and the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Join Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue he started at National PTA’s Convention on family engagement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.


Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

Deming, D. (2009). Early Childhood Intervention and Life-Cycle Skill Development: Evidence from Head Start. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(3), 111-134.