Reaction — 2019 State of the Union Address

Statement by

Ernest Logan, President 

American Federation of School Administrators

I am pleased to say that the state of our union, the American Federation of School Administrators, is strong. As the school leaders who create the environment for academic achievement, we remain united in our focus on the children we serve every day.

We are disappointed in President Trump’s lack of focus on education and the next generations of Americans. The most glaring example is his silence on the imperative to rebuild our education infrastructure. Now is the time to invest in building schools, not walls.

For too long, we have neglected the environment in which public school students learn. A recent study found that the nation should be spending $145 billion per year to provide our students with safe, healthy and modern 21st Century schools, but we invest $46 billion less than that each year – or almost a third lower.

Without these investments, too many of our students attend school in unsafe, crumbling and poorly ventilated buildings, many of which also have unsafe drinking water. We cannot condone such neglect.

House Education & Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) understands the importance of safe, healthy and modern schools. He has responded by introducing legislation that would spend $100 billion to rebuild our nation’s schools. As the President considers a big infrastructure bill this year, he must not forget about our nation’s public school buildings. As Congress considers calls to spend billions of dollars on walls, it should instead remember the unquestionable value of building facilities for our children.

In the face of the rising tide of school violence, America’s teachers are rising up across the country. In areas as different as Los Angeles and Oklahoma, teachers have pointed to the lack of school counselors and mental health professionals in public schools as an acute problem and demanded more funding. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a student-to-psychologist ratio of no more than 1000 to 1, but the actual ratio in most school districts is 1,381 to 1.

The federal government’s Title IV-A flexible block grants, for which AFSA advocates on Capitol Hill, allow districts to spend their allocations on mental health services. But because these funds are not specifically dedicated to mental health services, hard-pressed school districts often use the grants to meet other needs. I urge the President to put more funding towards this specific imperative and for teachers to continue to speak out and draw attention to mental health issues.

Lastly, top-notch professional development for teachers and principals is essential for students to succeed. Too many states and districts, though, skimp on professional development because their budgets are so stretched. Title II-A grants spread $2 billion annually across the country for professional development, and several states provide specialized professional development for their principals. But far too many principals continue to lack access to professional development opportunities. We need more support from every level of government to ensure that our educators have the right training and tools to get the job done.

School facilities, mental health services, and professional development are three of the biggest needs facing the nation’s public schools.  They are also areas in which the federal government has traditionally played a role.  The President should no longer ignore the needs of America’s children and families.  And Congress must step up and give education the priority it deserves.  The nation’s future depends on it.