Forestville school board president advocates for education to be top priority

FORESTVILLE Sylvester Cleary, president of the Forestville Central School Board, joined more than 700 school and state school boards association leaders urging the U.S. Congress to stop federal budget cuts to public education, reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, allow more flexibility and input into the U.S. Department of Education’s decisions, and provide federal funding to strengthen school safety.

Cleary was in Washington D.C. to take part in the National School Boards Association’s 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference, held Jan. 27-29. He is a participant in NSBA’s Federal Relations Network, a national grassroots legislative effort that urges members of Congress to make public education a top priority.

“We must ensure that all local school districts have greater flexibility to make educationally sound decisions, and Congress adequately funds public education so we can continue to advance student achievement,” Cleary said.

School funding is a major concern for local districts. Unless Congress intervenes before March 1, 2013, federal cuts to public education from sequestration would total more than $3 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and would erode the base of funding for key programs, including those for students with disabilities and disadvantaged students, year after year.

School board leaders are requesting that Congress accelerate investments in public education that support local efforts to continue to raise student achievement and appropriate full funding for Title 1 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates. Building on the recent focus on school safety, school boards would like Congress to help fund the hiring of new-school resource officers and help school districts improve their emergency plans.

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system. However, all too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific intent of the law. As a result, school board leaders are seeking members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation that recognizes the benefits of local school district governance and ensures that maximum local flexibility and decision-making are not eroded through the U.S. Department of Education actions.

Because local school boards are responsible for implementing federal policies, Congress also should listen to their recommendations and concerns in completing the ESEA reauthorization.

“Congress and the U.S. Department of Education must obtain meaningful input from local school boards, as local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts,” Cleary said.

Founded in 1940, NSBA is a not-for-profit organization representing state associations of school boards and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. working with and through our state association. NSBA advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA is online at www.nsba.org.

“I’m asking every citizen in the Western New York area to stand with those who are standing up for the right of a sound basic education, which gives our students the opportunity to become productive citizens, by contacting their congressmen and letting them know that our future as a country depends on how well we educate our students. Now is the time,” Cleary said.