Thursday, April 14, 2022

ICYMI: California School Boards Association Leaves the NSBA


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CSBA Board of Directors decides against renewing NSBA membership


Dear CSBA member:


CSBA is recognized for its advocacy in the California Legislature on behalf of the state’s public schools. This is a reputation and a responsibility that we take with the utmost seriousness. Yet, in order to fully leverage our capacity in service of public education, we also engage in lobbying at the federal level. This federal advocacy takes many forms, one of which is membership in the National School Boards Association, an organization of state school boards associations like CSBA.


During the most recent review of CSBA’s membership in NSBA, conducted at CSBA’s March 26 board meeting, the board opted against renewing our annual NSBA membership. The board also declined to pursue membership in any other organizations that have emerged following the departure of numerous state associations from NSBA. The nearly unanimous decision to leave NSBA, when the current membership period ends on June 30, underscores the strength of the arguments for severing this relationship.


March 26, 2022, was not the first time CSBA questioned whether California’s interests were being properly represented by NSBA. Many of you received a message on Oct. 4, 2019, announcing that CSBA’s board of directors had voted to suspend the organization’s membership in NSBA. That email listed a number of reasons for the decision including CSBA’s inequitable representation in NSBA’s governance structure and the organization’s lack of support for policy issues of importance to California. It also communicated our dissatisfaction with some of NSBA’s business practices and lack of coordination and communication with CSBA as a state association member. We said at the time, and believe today, that the numerous challenges faced by NSBA makes it difficult to effectively represent CSBA’s interests at the federal level.


In addition, NSBA’s ability to effectively advocate for public education has significantly deteriorated since 2019 due to a lack of effective executive and board leadership ongoing financial challenges, and a lack of focus on its core mission around effective national advocacy. These issues are just some of the concerns that have prompted 21 other state school boards associations to terminate their membership with NSBA or decline to renew it. As a result, the organization’s future is in doubt and its present situation does not offer sufficient value to justify continued membership.


For more than a decade, CSBA extended NSBA the benefit of the doubt and took numerous steps to remain in the organization, including expressing our concerns verbally and in writing beginning in 2011. Multiple CSBA presidents as well as CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy have met with NSBA’s board of directors to air concerns, and yet these issues persist. Ultimately, the board determined that we could no longer continue to participate in NSBA without undermining our mission, jeopardizing the success of our own strategic initiatives, and sacrificing our core values and commitment to promote the interests of California governing board members and the students you serve.


Recognizing that this day might come, CSBA has been steadily increasing its presence in D.C. to compensate for the growing ineffectiveness of NSBA and allow for more robust and more direct advocacy on federal matters. We have developed a strong partnership with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) that serves as a launchpad for new policy and advocacy activities at the federal level. One example of this approach is our first Coast2Coast lobbying trip, scheduled for late April, where school trustees, superintendents and other education leaders will travel to the nation’s capital to advocate for California-specific legislative priorities. Coast2Coast will provide a level of direct advocacy not offered by any national organization, let alone NSBA, and will build on the work our federal lobbying firm does in D.C.


CSBA’s impending departure from NSBA signals a clean break with an approach to federal lobbying that has not always served CSBA’s interests well. I am excited by the prospects for this new era and the opportunity it grants CSBA to pursue a federal advocacy strategy that most directly serves the state’s interests and its public schools.


CSBA President Dr. Susan Heredia

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