Federal Advocacy Center

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MABE’s Federal Advocacy Programs & Services

MABE’s Federal Advocacy Committee is led by Diana Hawley, Chair (Cecil County) and meets throughout the year to discuss pending issues and coordinate meetings on Capitol Hill. The committee is comprised of board members appointed to represent the association in advocating the positions of MABE and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to Maryland’s federal delegation, including our two U.S. Senators and eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, MABE representatives attend the annual NSBA Advocacy Institute in Washington D.C., and participate in the “Day on the Hill” congressional office visits (whether virtually or in-person).

MABE encourages all boards of education to participate in MABE’s Federal Advocacy Committee and NSBA’s Advocacy Institute to engage in advocacy at the federal level. Only through these continuous efforts can we ensure that our federal officials are well informed on the priorities and perspectives of local boards of education and the fiscal and policy issues arising under the myriad federal programs impacting public education.

For additional information, contact John Woolums, MABE’s Director of Governmental Relations at (410) 841-5414 or jwoolums@mabe.org.


MABE Federal Advocacy Committee

Upcoming Events

MABE Federal Advocacy Committee Meeting

January 8, 2024 - 3:00-4:00 p.m.

  • Agenda - Prepare for the Tuesday, January 30, 2024 Day on the Hill Visits with Members of Maryland's Federal Delegation

 

 

Federal Legislative & Funding Priorities

NSBA 2024 Advocacy Institute 

January 28-30, 2024, Maryland school board members joined other board members form across the nation for the NSBA Advocacy Institute, in Washington, D.C. The Advocacy Institute brought together education leaders to explore and discuss the latest developments in key education policy and legislation, champion the interests of public K-12 students, advocate for education priorities and federal policies, and network with colleagues from across the country. 

MABE "Day on the Hill" 2024
On Tuesday, January 30, 2024, members of MABE's Federal Advocacy Committee met with members of Maryland's federal delegation in their offices on Capitol Hill.

NSBA 2024 Equity Symposium
The NSBA Equity Symposium took place on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 in Washington, D.C. Maryland attendees connected with hundreds of school board members, public school advocates, and community leaders from across the country to examine and discuss equitable strategies for our nation’s public K-12 schools. T

For more information, contact MABE Director of Governmental Relations, John R. Woolums, Esq., jwoolums@mabe.org.

Federal News & Highlights

 


February 9, 2024

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Continue to Negotiate FY24 Education Funding Levels

The House and Senate remained in session this week focusing on several issues, including a highly anticipated international aid and border package. Much of the ongoing work to fund the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) progressed behind closed doors and away from the spotlight. As a reminder, current temporary funding for the Department of Education is scheduled to expire March 8. Appropriations leaders in both the House and the Senate met throughout the week to create legislation that can be quickly approved by both chambers - an effort to accelerate progress on FY24 appropriations as these deadlines draw closer.

Complicating the issue, the Senate is taking a two-week recess beginning next week. Funding expires for programs in four of the 12 appropriations bills March 1, and either the House or the Senate is out for all but three days of that time, leaving very little time for Congress to pass appropriations bills. During these negotiations, NSBA continues to engage with appropriations leaders on Capitol Hill to ensure federal K-12 investments are prioritized as part of the wider FY24 appropriations process.

House Education Committee Holds Hearing on Missing and Exploited Children

On Feb. 6, the House Education and Workforce's Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, led by Reps. Aaron Bean (R-FL) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) held a hearing titled "Protecting Missing and Exploited Children." The hearing focused on kids' safety in online environments, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle highlighting the potential for harm with new and emerging technologies while calling for new legislation to address the problem. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

Markey, Van Hollen, Meng Lead Colleagues in Letter of Support for FCC E-Rate Rulemaking

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY-06) led 64 of their colleagues in a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel supporting the FCC's proposal to expand the E-Rate program to allow schools and libraries to loan out Wi-Fi hotspots to students and educators. In the letter, the lawmakers call for the expansion and modernization of the E-rate hotspot program to reduce educational disparities and ensure that low-income students are no longer left behind. Read the press release here.

Nunn and Cartwright Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Teacher Shortage, Ensure Access to Quality Education for All Students
Reps. Zach Nunn (R-IA) and Matthew Cartwright (D-PA) introduced legislation to address the educator shortage across the country. The bipartisan "Strengthening Educator Workforce Data Act" would establish a permanent collection of demographic data on public schools and principals to assist in the recruitment and retention of teachers. Read the press release here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.7261 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants to eligible entities to carry out professional development for arts educators and creative arts therapists to learn how to best accommodate children with disabilities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Scott, David [Rep.-D-GA-13]
  • H.R.7250 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To strengthen Federal data collection regarding the teacher and principal workforce. Sponsor: Cartwright, Matt [Rep.-D-PA-8]
  • H.R.7233 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to provide for grants in support of training and education to teachers and other school employees, students, and the community about how to prevent, recognize, respond to, and report child sexual abuse among primary and secondary school students. amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to provide for grants in support of training and education to teachers and other school employees, students, and the community about how to prevent, recognize, respond to, and report child sexual abuse among primary and secondary school students. Sponsor: Moran, Nathaniel [Rep.-R-TX-1]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

New NCES Data Shows K-12 Enrollment Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

On Feb. 5, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published new data on public school enrollment patterns in prekindergarten through 12th grade. The new data highlighted that while student enrollments increased within the most recent 2021-22 academic year, overall student enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels.

"Total public school enrollment is still down, by about 1.2 million students, when compared with data collected just before the pandemic, but it was stable from 2021 to 2022. This points to a continuously changing school enrollment landscape," NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr remarked as part of the publication of the data. More information on this release can be found here.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Addresses Teacher Shortage; Student Loan Relief Efforts

During a Power Up summit hosted by the White House Initiative for Black Americans held at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona highlighted the connection between low teacher salaries and a lack of respect for educators. "The teacher shortage and teacher respect issue go hand in hand. We're out there pushing - not only for funding in education from the federal level, but we're pushing states to do more," said Cardona. Read more about the Secretary's appearance here.

USDA Announces Steps to Improve Child Health through Nutritious School Meals
At a Feb. 3 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Conversation on Healthy School Meals Roundtable, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced major initiatives at the USDA that would boost children's health through nutritious school meals, including gradual updates to science-based nutrition standards in school meals, recognizing school districts that have gone above and beyond in nutritional quality, and assisting small and rural school districts in improving the nutritional quality of school meals. Read more about the USDA's proposed efforts here.

 

 


COVID-19 Resources for School Systems

Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning

On August 22, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued updated guidance which:

  • Changed recommendation to conduct screening testing to focus on high-risk activities during high COVID-19 Community Level or in response to an outbreak
  • Removed the recommendation to quarantine, except in high-risk congregate settings
  • Removed information about Test to Stay
  • Added detailed information on when to wear a mask, managing cases and exposures, and responding to outbreaks

The guidance highlights that:

"Though this guidance is written for COVID-19 prevention, many of the layered prevention strategies described in this guidance can help prevent the spread of other infectious diseases, such as influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and norovirus, and support healthy learning environments for all. The next section describes everyday preventive actions that schools and ECE programs can take."

Guidance and links:


American Rescue Plan Act - U.S. Dept. of Education Resources

Maryland's ARP ESSER State Plan Approved

On October 14, 2021, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona approved Maryland's ARP ESSER State Plan. Highlights and the complete State Plan are available (with all other state plans) on the USED website.

Background & Resources

On Thursday, March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law. It is an unprecedented $1.9 trillion package of assistance measures, including $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. Funds are provided to State educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nation’s students. The resources provided below have been updated.


 

Weekly Federal Legislative & Agency Updates

January 26, 2024 (Archives)

January 26, 2024

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Congress Extends Temporary Funding for Another Month

Late last year, Congress extended Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) funding for the Department of Education and other agencies to provide more time for legislators to complete the annual appropriations process. Earlier this month, Congress finally reached a deal on aggregate spending levels, but appropriators still need more time to finalize the process. As a result, Congress passed another temporary funding bill last week. The Senate passed the short-term extension bill (77-18), followed by the House (314-108). Of note, nearly half of the Republican conference voted against this short-term funding extension. President Biden signed the bill into law shortly after House passage.

While this most recent development will provide more time for lawmakers to determine a pathway forward on full-year FY24 appropriations, leaders continue to struggle to find consensus on the next critical step in the federal appropriations process - establishing allocations for each of the 12 individual appropriations bills, known as 302(b) allocations. Once these allocations are determined, appropriations leaders can set to work negotiating program-level funding for federal investments like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As these efforts continue to unfold, NSBA will continue to advocate for a robust and strengthened investment in K-12 education.

House Subcommittee Holds CTE Hearing

Late last week, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, led by Reps. Aaron Bean (R-FL) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) held a hearing, "Preparing Students for Success in the Skills-Based Economy." Maryland's state Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Richard Kincaid, along with Kelly Mosley, a local CTE Director in Clay County, Florida, and Danny Corwin, Executive Director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, provided testimony to the committee on ongoing state and local efforts to provide greater CTE opportunities for K-12 students.

The hearing highlighted significant bipartisan support for CTE and touched on a number of key themes, including the importance of providing career exposure opportunities to students earlier in their educational journeys and the need to promote more inclusive, high-quality pathways to life after high school. Members of the committee and witnesses highlighted the urgent need to invest additional resources into CTE, noting that CTE spending represents just 3% of all K-12 spending in the United States and less than 1% when excluding the federal investment made in CTE by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). An archived webcast of the hearing, including opening statements and witness testimony, can be found here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       No education-related bills introduced this week.

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

U.S. Department of Education Announces Career Connected High School Grants

Making an appearance yesterday at Washington, D.C.'s Advanced Technical Center - a CTE school located in the nation's capital and recently featured in the Washington Post for its impact on chronic student absenteeism in the District - U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced a slate of new grants as part of his agency's career connected high school initiative. Cardona announced 19 grant awards in total, impacting 17 states, as part of this effort. Notably, the agency indicated that it received 160 applications for this funding totaling nearly $850 million. "The Biden-Harris Administration is going to keep on fighting to provide every student in every community with career-connected learning," Cardona said as part of the announcement. More information on these grants can be found here.

ED Publishes Educational Technology Plan

This week, the U.S. Department of Education released the 2024 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP): A Call to Action for Closing the Digital Access, Design and Use Divides. The national education technology plan was released as part of the requirements for the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994. It has been updated several times since its original release, most recently in 2016. This year's 2024 NETP frames and focuses on three key "digital divides" limiting the transformational potential of educational technology to support teaching and learning. These include use of digital technologies, how these technologies are designed, and access to them. More information on the plan can be accessed here.


January 19, 2024 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Pass Stopgap Funding Measure to Prevent Government Shutdown

Congressional leaders and the White House announced a new deal on aggregate spending levels for defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) portions of the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget. The agreement comes after months of unsuccessful negotiations between the chambers since the formal start of the current fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2023. Largely aligned with a previous legislative agreement enacted last year, the new deal is a big step toward finally completing the FY24 spending process. Negotiators are now working to allocate funds to specific agencies and programs, including for K-12 education.

However, current federal funding — extended last year via two short-term funding extensions known as continuing resolutions (CR) — is set to expire on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. With time running out and another snowstorm forecasted to hit Washington, D.C., lawmakers passed an additional CR to provide more time for FY24 negotiations. The new CR extended FY23 funding levels for four of the 12 federal funding measures through March 1 and for the remaining eight funding bills, including the Labor-HHS-ED measure that funds the U.S. Department of Education, through March 8.

Lawmakers Propose Bipartisan, Bicameral Deal to Expand Child Tax Credit
House and Senate lawmakers struck a deal that would enhance the child tax credit for the first time since an expanded program expired in 2021. The bipartisan deal would increase the maximum refundable child tax credit from $1,600 under current law to $2,000 by tax year 2025, according to the announcement. The plan, named The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, would increase the maximum refundable amount for low-income families with more than one child. Read more details here.

House Education Committee Holds Skills-Focused Hearing

The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on Jan. 18 titled “Preparing Students for Success in the Skills-Based Economy.” Witnesses included: Danny Corwin, Executive Director, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools; Kelly Mosley, M. Ed, Career and Technical Education Supervisor, Clay County District Schools; Richard Kincaid, Senior Executive Director of College and Career Pathways, Maryland State Department of Education; and Brandon Mabile, Strategic Development Manager, Performance Contractors, Inc. The witness’s written testimony and archived video of the hearing are available on the committee’s website (here).

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.7016 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a grant program for innovative partnerships among teacher preparation programs, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations to expand access to high-quality tutoring in hard-to-staff schools and high-need schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Lee, Susie [Rep.-D-NV-3]
  • H.R.7007 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To award grants to States to establish or improve, and carry out, Seal of Biliteracy programs to recognize high-level student proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in both English and a second language, and early language programs. Sponsor: Brownley, Julia [Rep.-D-CA-26]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

White House Focuses on Improving Student Achievement

The Biden administration is focusing its 2024 education agenda on academic recovery with an emphasis on attendance, high-dosage tutoring, and learning outside of school hours. The Education Department will lean on states and philanthropic support, among other resources, to advance learning, said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during a Jan. 17 event at the White House with President Joe Biden's domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden and several state leaders.

In conjunction with the event, the White House released a fact sheet on “Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024” and the Administration’s focus on proven strategies that will accelerate academic performance for every child in school. As such, the Administration is laying out an agenda for academic achievement for every school in the country “including accountability, reporting, grants, and technical assistance — to intensify its drive for adoption of three evidence-based strategies that improve student learning.” Those prioritized strategies are reducing absenteeism, providing high-dosage tutoring, and increasing summer learning and extended or afternoon learning time for students.  In conjunction with this announcement, the White House also announced commitments of several philanthropic and national organizations to support the academic achievement of students. Watch video from the event.

NSBA UPDATE 

NSBA Comments on FCC Home Wi-Fi for Students Proceeding

This week, NSBA joined other members of the Education and Libraries Network Coalition in filing comments responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to expand the E-rate program to include mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and related services for students and teachers at home. NSBA and our partners urged the FCC to allow E-rate funds to be used for this purpose, so that all students and instructional staff have access to broadband for digital teaching and learning. Reply Comments in the proceeding are due Jan. 29, and NSBA encourages interested members to file similar comments with the FCC. Read the filing.

NSBA Equity Symposium: Luncheon and General Session Speaker Announcement
Julieanna L. Richardson, Founder & Executive Director of The HistoryMakers, will join us at the NSBA Equity Symposium, Jan. 27, in Washington, D.C. This session will focus on the work of The HistoryMakers to raise awareness of Black history in school curriculums and provide best practices and takeaways for all communities to learn from. Register now!

 


January 12, 2024 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Keynote Announcement for NSBA's Advocacy Institute
Internationally renowned speaker for the NBA, NFL, English Premiere League, MLS, and Fortune 500 companies Gian Paul Gonzalez joins the impressive speaker lineup as a keynote for the NSBA Advocacy Institute on Jan. 28-30 in Washington, D.C. Gian Paul will share stories from his own life and the lives of others to remind audiences of the Keys to Resiliency, Healthy Habits, and Consistent Daily Pursuit of Long-Term Dreams, Goals, and Strategic Initiatives. Register today!

Congressional Leaders Announce FY24 Topline Agreement
Just before returning to Capitol Hill following Congress’ annual holiday recess, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a Jan. 7 agreement on aggregate spending levels, also known as toplines, for defense and non-defense discretionary portions of the federal budget.

The agreement largely aligns with the requirements contained in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) — legislation enacted last year that suspended the nation’s statutory borrowing limit while establishing a budget framework for federal fiscal year (FY) 2024 and FY25. This agreement also included a “side deal” agreed to by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), congressional Democrats, and the Biden Administration to provide approximately $69 billion in additional funding, beyond what was contained in the FRA, to avoid substantial cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs like K-12 education.

The agreement is a critical next step in the FY24 budget and appropriations process that has been ongoing since Oct. 1 of last year. Appropriations leaders must now work to negotiate 302(b) allocations — funding levels for each of the 12 individual appropriations bills that compose the federal budget and then subsequently determine program-level funding for federal initiatives and programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Current federal funding, which has been operating under two separate continuing resolutions (CRs) that temporarily extended FY23 funding levels for separate portions of the federal budget, is set to expire on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, respectively. Lawmakers will need to act by these dates, likely via another short-term CR, to avert a partial or full shutdown of the federal government as they continue to negotiate program allocations under this new FY24 agreement.

Complicating the pathways forward, a faction of conservative House Republicans has voiced significant opposition to this topline agreement and recently made efforts to stymie legislative activity in the chamber in protest of the accord. It remains unclear at the time of this writing how congressional leaders in both chambers will chart a course forward as they continue to develop and finalize FY24 appropriations legislation. As these efforts continue to take shape, NSBA will be advocating on behalf of local school boards to enact legislation that meets the significant funding needs of the K-12 community.

House Education Subcommittee to Hold CTE Hearing
On Jan. 18, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Aaron Bean (R-FL), will hold a hearing titled: “Preparing Students for Success in the Skills-Based Economy.” The subcommittee has not published the witness list for the hearing. The hearing will be live-streamed here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

              Congress in recess. No legislation introduced.

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Issues Guidance on Pandemic Funding
On Jan. 9, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) issued a guidance letter outlining the process K-12 schools and districts must undertake to obtain an extension to spend down federal aid provided by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The department is encouraging grantees to request an extension on this year’s spending deadline by Dec. 31, 2024, and outline how such an extension will contribute to the core goals and objectives of these funds. More information on how to apply for additional funding flexibilities, including related forms, can be accessed here.

USDA Publishes Near-Final Rule on Summer Nutrition Programs
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published an interim final rule related to two programs that were created via federal appropriations legislation passed by Congress in recent years. The interim rule would implement the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program, which provides funding to eligible students on a monthly basis, and provides new flexibilities related to rural communities providing non-congregate meal services for eligible students. More information on the proposal, including how to provide feedback to USDA, can be found here.

What Do Schools Need to Know About USDA’s Summer EBT Program?
This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will launch a new permanent nutrition assistance program known as Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer. Families with children who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals will receive $40 per child each month to buy food during the summer when school is out. Congress approved the program in December 2022 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act. States were required to file an intent to enroll in the program by Jan. 1. Over 30 states plan to enroll in the USDA program, while others, like Iowa and Nebraska, have declined to participate. Read more about the upcoming summer EBT program here.

EPA Announces Availability of $32 Million in Grants for Cleaner Schools
On Jan. 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of up to $32 million to address indoor air pollution in schools through the EPA’s Grant Funding to Address Indoor Air Pollution at Schools Program. The program aims to protect children’s health by providing resources to organizations that help K-12 schools in low-income, disadvantaged, and tribal communities develop and adopt comprehensive indoor air quality management plans to reduce indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in schools.

EPA anticipates awarding four to six grants of $5 million to $8 million to support five years of school indoor air quality and energy efficiency activities. Eligible projects to benefit schools include indoor air quality and greenhouse gas reduction capacity building, training and education campaigns, and research and demonstration projects. The deadline to apply is March 19, 2024. Grants will be awarded by fall 2024. Learn more.

Department of Education Proposes Key Grant Rule Changes
The U.S. Department of Education has published a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). The proposed rule would update EDGAR, which provides a framework for the Department's administration of discretionary and formula grant programs. The proposed changes range from technical updates to substantive revisions aimed at streamlining regulations, providing clarity, and increasing flexibility in grant administration. Key amendments include:

·       Updating definitions, removing outdated program references, and ensuring consistent terminology;

·       Incorporating statutory changes from the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” such as revising evidence tiers;

·       Revising the selection criteria and factors for discretionary grant applications to improve clarity for applicants and peer reviewers. New factors are proposed, including requiring logic models and plans for continuous improvement;

·       Providing flexibility around “new potential grantees” to promote diversity of applicants;

·       Allowing for data collection periods beyond a grant's project period to measure long-term impacts;

·       Requiring dissemination of grant-funded evaluations and research publications to improve public access;

·       Providing options, not requirements, for grant programs like using an independent evaluator or requiring applicants to have a logic model;

·       Streamlining regulations around construction, State plans, and participation of private school students; and

·       Clarifying monitoring and oversight processes for grant continuation awards and subgrants.

The Department estimates the proposed rule would result in a net reduction of burden for grantees. Most amendments are technical in nature or provide additional flexibilities. The public comment period will be open for 45 days from publication in the Federal Register.

 


January 5, 2024 (Archives)

Thanking School Board Members for Their Service to Students, Families, and Communities
In many states, January is School Board Appreciation Month. Other states hold their celebrations at different times of the year. Regardless of when your state has its annual appreciation, it is vitally important to take the time to recognize these hard-working, mostly volunteer public school servants.

As the first NSBA executive director with experience as a school board member, I want to take a moment to say a couple of words that school board members rarely hear: THANK YOU!

Thank you for passing the school budgets that provide the funding to hire teachers, buy tablets and other connected devices, heat our schools, and more. Thank you for tackling the tough questions in partnership with parents and community members. Thank you for holding the superintendents and the districts accountable for ensuring that ALL students are learning and receiving the support they need if they are struggling.

Read the rest of the message from NSBA Executive Director and CEO Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs and access School Board Appreciation Month social media graphics via this link.

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Set to Return Next Week

The House and Senate remained on holiday recess this week, but lawmakers are scheduled to return on Jan. 8. Congress has not yet reached consensus on fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations levels and has failed to pass the 12 individual spending bills that annually fund federal operations. Instead, lawmakers approved a temporary funding patch that featured two expiration dates. Funding for some federal agencies is scheduled to expire on Jan. 19, but funding for the U.S. Department of Education's operations and programs will not expire until Feb. 2.

Congressional leaders have not been able to reach consensus for several reasons. Most fundamental is reaching agreement on aggregate spending levels for defense programs and non-defense discretionary spending programs, such as the Department of Education's initiatives. Setting these topline allocations is an essential next step that would allow appropriators in both chambers to finalize program-level funding decisions. As these efforts take shape, NSBA will continue to advocate on behalf of local school boards and work to enact legislation that meets the significant funding needs of K-12 schools.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

            Congress in recess. No legislation introduced.

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

DOL Proposes Overhaul of Apprenticeship Regulations

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) shared a preview of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes significant and wide-ranging changes to the regulatory framework for registered apprenticeship programs.

Of note, the NPRM proposes significant expansion of the regulatory requirements related to a new program model that DOL is currently referencing as "Career and Technical Education (CTE) Apprenticeships." The NPRM seeks several other new regulatory requirements that would relate to state-eligible agencies with responsibility for CTE programs funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). A 60-day comment period will begin when the agency publishes the NPRM in the Federal Register. In addition, DOL has scheduled a webinar for Jan. 11 to provide an overview of the NPRM.

FCC Seeks Comment on Proposed K-12 Cybersecurity

On Dec. 28, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally invited public comment about the agency's proposed Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program. In recent weeks, NSBA has joined a coalition of national K-12, library, and privacy groups in meeting with FCC commissioners' advisors about the proceeding, including urging them to move quickly to approve the pilot. Comments are due on or before Jan. 29, 2024, and reply comments are due on or before Feb. 27, 2024.  

Discretionary Grant Program Updates

The U.S. Department of Education is accepting applications for the following programs:

·       Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program - National Center on Digital Access in Education: This program seeks to improve results for children with disabilities in a variety of ways. The absolute priority for this program is the National Center on Digital Access in Education, which would be required to work with partners to "improve the quality, availability, and timely provision of accessible digital educational materials and instruction for children with disabilities." Applications are due by March 4, 2024, and further information is available here.

·       Office of Indian Education Formula Grants to Local Educational Agencies: Funds received through this program must be used to support "comprehensive programs that are designed to meet the unique cultural, language, and educational needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students and ensure that all students meet challenging State academic standards." Applicants for this grant program must meet the deadlines for the Electronic Application System for Indian Education (EASIE) for Part I and Part II to be eligible for grant funds. The application for EASIE Part I would be due on March 8, 2024, and Part II would be due by May 10, 2024. Further information is available here


December 15, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers to Adjourn Without Spending Deal

The House and Senate will adjourn the First Session of the 118th Congress without completing the federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations process. Temporary funding for the U.S. Department of Education's functions and programs is slated to continue until February, but time is of the essence. Congress will have to act quickly to address the education budget, and all other federal funding, when legislators return in early 2024. NSBA will continue to work closely with legislators and other national groups to advocate on behalf of the K-12 community and work to enact legislation that meets the significant funding needs of K-12 schools.

HELP Committee Clears Bipartisan Education Sciences Reform Act Reauthorization

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed (20-1) S.3392, the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA), bipartisan legislation to update the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). The measure makes important updates to ESRA, including modernizing the State Longitudinal Data System Grant program and the education research and school district technical assistance functions overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. NSBA is closely monitoring the bill's progress, but we do not expect the measure to be considered by the full Senate until 2024.

House Advances Bipartisan Workforce Bill 

This week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved H.R. 6655, A Stronger Workforce for America Act (ASWA). The legislation would reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was last updated in 2014. Notably, for the K-12 community, the legislation proposes significant changes to youth funding authorized by WIOA, including allowing for new funding to be used by in-school youth populations for workforce development programming. The legislation also would encourage greater coordination between K-12 Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs of study and career pathways programs developed and implemented by local workforce development boards. NSBA does not expect the full House to consider the measure until 2024.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.6728 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require public school, and public institution of higher education, athletic teams and clubs to be designated for membership based on biological sex, and for other purposes. Sponsor: McClain, Lisa C. [Rep.-R-MI-9]
  • H.R.6655 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A Stronger Workforce for America Act Sponsor: Foxx, Virginia [Rep.-R-NC-5]
  • H.R.6585 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act Sponsor: Stefanik, Elise M. [Rep.-R-NY-21]
  • H.R.6715 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to make grants for hate crime prevention and prejudice reduction education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Velazquez, Nydia M. [Rep.-D-NY-7]
  • H.R.6706 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to fund the information clearinghouse through fiscal year 2031, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Morelle, Joseph D. [Rep.-D-NY-25]
  • H.R.6691 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 to establish a National Center for Advanced Development in Education at the Institute for Education Sciences, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Bonamici, Suzanne [Rep.-D-OR-1]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

White House Initiative Hosting Two Special Events Next Week
The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics is inviting individuals to join two special events next week:

  • Dec. 20 Conversaciones con Lideres: White House Fellows Alumni: A conversation with staff from the President's Commission on White House Fellows and Latino alumni of the White House Fellowship program on their experiences in the program. The White House Fellows Program is one of America's most prestigious leadership and public service programs. Through the program, rising Hispanic professionals can gain first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government. The White House Fellows Program is accepting applications for its 2024-2025 class through 3 P.M. ET on Jan. 5, 2024. RSVP here to join the conversation.

NSBA UPDATE 

NSBA's Rural Virtual Summit Draws Hundreds of Education Leaders Across the U.S.
On Dec. 13, NSBA held its first-ever virtual rural summit to address the intricate challenges and opportunities within rural education. Through engaging sessions with national experts, the event provided participants with valuable insights and strategies to navigate the unique landscape of rural education. Video from the summit is available at nsba.org/RuralVirtualSummit.

Just Released! New CPE School Funding Report
Since last fall, media, think tanks, and education groups have warned of a post-COVID fiscal cliff for K-12 schools. NSBA's Center for Public Education (CPE) compiled an informational brief highlighting three dilemmas and seven considerations, such as conducting data-driven fund reevaluations, to help district leaders prepare for the financial challenges ahead. Click here to download the report.

Supreme Court Watch: Will the Court Take On Competitive Admissions at a Public High School?

School districts around the country may be reexamining admissions and other policies if the Supreme Court accepts a case involving competitive high school admissions.

In Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, a group of parents and students challenge the Fairfax County (VA) School Board's recently changed admissions policy for Thomas Jefferson High School, one of the most competitive high schools in the country. The Coalition, with help from the Pacific Legal Foundation, claims that the Board's admissions policy for the high school discriminates against Asian American students in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

The Fairfax School Board adopted the policy in 2020 after much contentious debate, maintaining that its purpose was to reflect more socioeconomic diversity and countywide representation in the high school's student body. The 2020 policy allocates seats to each participating middle school equal to 1.5% of that school's eighth-grade student population. Prospective students are evaluated on the basis of grade-point average, "portrait sheet," a problem-solving essay, and "experience factors." After each middle school's allocated seats are filled, all remaining applicants compete under the same criteria for the roughly 100 remaining seats. The Board's resolution adopting the policy said, "[t]he admission process must use only race-neutral methods that do not seek to achieve any specific racial or ethnic mix, balance or targets." The federal appellate court panel determined 2-1 that the policy had no racially disparate impact on Asian American students; that the Coalition had not shown discriminatory intent; and that the policy passed Constitutional muster.

The Coalition filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case.

If the Court agrees to hear the case, it is likely to revise the standard to be applied to competitive admissions policies in the K-12 context based on its recent decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, decided in June. The Pacific Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of the challengers to Harvard and UNC's admissions processes in those cases, as did NSBA in support of the universities. The Supreme Court heard the cases together and issued a landmark 5-4 decision in June 2023 ruling that the use of race by Harvard and the University of North Carolina in their admissions programs violates the Equal Protection Clause, veering from prior precedents upholding race-conscious programs.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts said that both universities' admissions programs "lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today."

Although the Court's decision was limited to the facts before it, it raised many questions regarding its implications for policy at the K-12 level for policies beyond competitive admissions, such as staff diversity and student assignment. If the Court grants the petition in Coalition for TJ, it could shed some light on these questions.

Thus far, the Court has not issued a decision on the petition in Coalition of TJ v. Fairfax County School Board. The Court had listed it on its conference schedule for Dec. 1, but with the death of Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Supreme Court canceled its conference that day and rescheduled a large number of petitions and other matters to be considered Dec. 8. As the justices are not scheduled to meet before early January, it is likely this case will not be granted or denied until then. The NSBA legal team is monitoring the case and will provide further updates.

Read NSBA's amicus brief in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College.


December 8, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Network, Learn, and Advocate at NSBA’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C.
As a champion for schoolchildren in your district and across the country, you are invited to attend the NSBA Advocacy Institute, Jan. 28-30, in Washington, D.C. Join the voices connecting with congressional representatives to advocate for equity and excellence for the millions of public K-12 students. You will hear from Kymyona Burk, Ed.D., Senior Policy Fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Stay tuned for more programming and speaker announcements. Register now!

FY24 Funding Negotiations Continue with Little Progress
Since agreeing to a second temporary federal funding bill before Thanksgiving, lawmakers have struggled to make meaningful progress on the fiscal year 2024 budget. As a reminder, conservative House lawmakers spent most of the calendar year seeking to dramatically cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies. Most recently, the House Freedom Caucus appears to be softening demands for steep cuts to federal spending, signaling that they may support the aggregate spending levels agreed to over the summer as part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Despite this modest progress, a comprehensive bipartisan and bicameral agreement remains out of reach. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) recently floated the idea of a yearlong CR if an agreement could not be reached soon. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) has vocally opposed this idea. Temporary funding for the Department of Education will not expire until mid-February 2024. We do not expect further work on the education budget to resume until next year. NSBA will continue, however, to advocate for the significant funding needs of the K-12 community as part of the wider FY24 appropriations process.

Senate HELP Committee Announces Bipartisan Education Sciences Reform Act Bill
On Dec. 5, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unveiled the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA). The AREA is bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize and update the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). ESRA authorizes many critical federal education data and research functions, and this proposal would significantly update many aspects of the law.

Specifically, AREA aims to make education research more responsive to the needs of learners, teachers, and other education stakeholders while increasing the use of rigorous evidence to support teaching and learning better. A mark-up of AREA is scheduled for Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. ET. Watch the HELP Committee debate and vote on the bill on the committee’s website. The committee summary on the proposed changes to ESRA is here

House Education and the Workforce Committee Hosts Member Day Hearing
On Dec. 1, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held an open hearing for members of Congress to testify about their priorities and concerns. Several members testified before the committee and focused on an array of issues, including student access to advanced coursework and the importance of mental health. Watch the archived hearing here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.6592 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize the Secretary of Education to provide grants to local educational agencies to cover the costs of challenges to determinations not to discontinue the use of specific instructional materials, or the availability of specific school library materials, in public elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Frost, Maxwell [Rep.-D-FL-10]

·       H.R.6576 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To improve the full-service community school program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Lee, Susie [Rep.-D-NV-3]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Releases $277 Million in New Innovation Funding
On Dec. 5, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the availability of $277 million in new funding as part of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant program. This initiative is intended to support innovative approaches to education based on research and evidence, including rigorous evaluations of funded efforts.

“I am especially excited to have the Department of Education support innovative efforts across the country to enhance literacy, math, and STEM instruction broadly in underserved communities and set the stage for young people to succeed, as well as learn how to address real-world problems in today’s most cutting-edge fields,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona shared as part of the announcement

U.S. Teenagers’ Math Performance Down, Reading and Science Steady on Latest PISA Results
Released on Dec. 5, results from the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show an unprecedented drop in performance across the 81 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Compared to 2018, mean performance globally fell by 10 points in reading and almost 15 points in mathematics. Originally scheduled for 2021 and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 PISA is the first large-scale study with data on how the pandemic has affected student performance and well-being.

In the U.S., 15-year-olds performed 13 points lower in math than U.S. students their age in 2018 and 18 points lower than on the first PISA in 2003, making the math results among the lowest ever for U.S. students. Reading and science scores held steady. Compared internationally, U.S. students scored close to the OECD average in mathematics and higher than the OECD average in reading and science.

“These results are another piece of evidence showing the crisis in mathematics achievement, only now can we see that it is a global concern,” Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the PISA in the United States, told Education Week. “You can consider that as good news, perhaps, that we have rankings that are higher than they were before, but those rankings are due to others suffering more because of this pandemic than the United States. So I think it’s relative.”

ED to Host Webinar on Strategies for Supporting Full Student Participation
Engaging all students is essential for creating a positive school climate and a sense of belonging for students. This is especially important for student groups that are more likely to experience acts of discrimination, hate, and violence. For students to learn and participate fully in school, they need to be present, feel safe, and belong.

On Dec. 13, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments is hosting a webinar, “Strategies for Supporting Full Student Participation,” that will offer evidence-based practices to prevent, address, and ameliorate the effects of bullying, violence, and hate while also supporting school safety, school-based mental health, and positive school climates. The webinar will include an overview that explores why students disengage and key strategies to support all students meaningfully participating in school. Then, a panel of practitioners will share effective strategies for engaging a diverse population of students, as well as lessons learned and future considerations. Register here.

CDC Releases New Action Guide to Help Address Mental Health Crisis Among Young People 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new action guide for school and district leaders to support youth mental health. Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in Schools: An Action Guide for School and District Leaders can help schools build on what they are already doing to promote students’ mental health and find new strategies to fill in gaps.  

Recent data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report: 2011-2021 showed that adolescent mental health has been worsening for more than a decade and that key indicators of poor mental health have reached alarming levels. This action guide describes six in-school strategies that are proven to promote and support mental health and well-being. It also details specific approaches to implement each strategy and provides examples of evidence-based policies, programs, and practices.

School and district leaders can visit the CDC website to learn more about how the strategies and approaches can successfully be implemented in their schools.


December 1, 2023 (Archives)

Congress Returns from Recess  
Prior to Thanksgiving, Congress passed another short-term extension of federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) funding. The continuing resolution (CR) split the 12 individual spending bills that fund federal operations into two separate groups, each with a different expiration date. Of note for the K-12 community, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations component of this legislation would extend funding for programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) through Feb. 2, along with seven other spending bills. Four other spending bills are set to expire on Jan. 19 of next year.  

With these new funding extensions now in place, lawmakers must still work to negotiate full-year FY24 funding legislation. However, lawmakers appear to be prioritizing other items on the legislative agenda before turning to this important issue. As these efforts move forward, NSBA will continue to advocate for the significant funding needs of the K-12 community as part of the wider FY24 appropriations process.  

Democrats Urge Cardona to Finalize Title IX Rule 
On Nov. 30, a group of 65 lawmakers, led by the Democratic Women’s Caucus Chair Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging him to provide an update on when his department is expected to finalize its Title IX rule. 

Politico notes that the proposed regulation is “expected to overhaul much of the Trump-era Title IX policy that dictates how schools must respond to sexual misconduct.” It adds that the Biden administration is also “seeking to finalize its proposal on athletics eligibility that would make sweeping bans on transgender student sports participation illegal.” 

“We are concerned about the delay,” the lawmakers wrote to Cardona. “For years, students across the country have lived under former President Donald Trump’s Title IX policies that weakened protections for sexual assault and harassment survivors and sowed confusion about the extent of students’ protections against sex discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.” 

The Education Department has twice delayed releasing its final rule, promising the regulation in May and again in October. The lawmakers urged Cardona to “dedicate all necessary resources to finalize these rules as soon as possible.” Read the letter

Senate Republicans Urge Civil Rights Inquiries into K-12 Schools for Antisemitism 
A group of Republican senators led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) are urging the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to ramp up investigations into antisemitism at K-12 schools. In a letter, Ernst and more than two dozen of her colleagues demanded U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona explain to lawmakers what his agency is doing to address the rise of antisemitism in K-12 schools. An ED spokesperson noted that the department has already opened investigations into some school districts over antisemitism. Read more here. 

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced 

  • H.Res.892 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Expressing support for a whole child approach to education and recognizing the role of parents, educators, and community members in providing a whole child approach to education for each student. Sponsor: Bonamici, Suzanne [Rep.-D-OR-1] 
  • H.R.6472 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to codify a grant program to promote and assist in the reentry of justice-involved individuals into the workforce. Sponsor: Smucker, Lloyd [Rep.-R-PA-11] 
  • H.R.6458 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To terminate the Office for Elementary and Secondary Education of the Department of Education and provide block grants to States. Sponsor: Bergman, Jack [Rep.-R-MI-1] 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Announces New Community School Funding 
On Nov. 28, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the distribution of roughly $74 million in new funding for full-service community schools, which are K-12 schools intended to provide more holistic and comprehensive wraparound services and related supports to students and families to improve student outcomes.   

“I am proud that the Biden-Harris Administration is expanding the number of community schools across the country as an evidence-based strategy to Raise the Bar in education and to deliver on our commitment to support students, families, and whole communities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated as part of the announcement. The funding will target schools in four new states: Idaho, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio. More information can be found here.  

COVID Test Kits Available for Schools 
On Nov. 29, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced a new effort to distribute COVID-19 testing kits free of charge to K-12 schools across the country.  

“The Biden-Harris Administration remains a committed partner with schools in keeping our students and teachers safe and healthy,” said ED’s Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Roberto Rodriguez as part of the announcement. Additional information regarding the initiative can be found here.  

Deadline for Summer EBT Requests Draws Near  
An important deadline related to the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program is fast approaching. States, territories, and eligible tribal nations must notify the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service by Jan. 1, 2024, if they intend to operate a summer EBT program next year. Several states, including Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Chickasaw Nation, have already moved forward and confirmed their intention to provide this opportunity for students next summer. The program will provide $40 per month in food benefits during the summer months to eligible students.  

More information on this initiative, including how to apply, can be found here.  

ED Invites Applications for Discretionary Grant Programs 
The U.S Department of Education (ED) is now accepting grant applications for the following programs: 

  • The Education Research and Development Center Program, a research grant program through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) designed to provide reliable and valid information about education practices. Under this notice, only the following topics may be addressed: (1) Improving Rural Education; (2) Using Generative Artificial Intelligence to Augment Teaching and Learning in Classrooms; (3) K-12 Teacher Recruitment and Retention Policy; and (4) Improving Outcomes in Elementary Science Education. The IES will then fund four centers, each focused on one of these topics. The estimated range of awards for the programs falls between $1 million and $3 million, depending on the center. All applications are due by Mar. 7, 2024. Click here for more information. 
  • The Native American Language Program, which provides funds supporting schools that use Native American and Alaska Native languages as the primary language of instruction. In this notice, ED encourages “promoting education equity and adequacy in resources and opportunity for underserved students” in program applications. There are two absolute priorities for this program: (1) Develop and Maintain New Native American Language Programs and (2) Expand and Improve Existing Native American Language Programs. There are two competitive preference priorities: (1) Support Project Sustainability with Title VI Indian Education Formula Grant Funds; and (2) Preference for Indian Applicants. The Administration has requested $12,365,000 for Indian Education National Activities for FY2024, of which $2,400,000 will be used for this competition. Applications are due by Mar. 7, 2024. Further information is available here. 

November 17, 2023 (Archives)

Network, Learn, and Advocate at NSBA’s Advocacy Institute in Washington, DC
As a champion for schoolchildren in your district and across the country, you are invited to attend the NSBA Advocacy Institute on Jan. 28-30 in Washington, D.C. Join the voices connecting with congressional representatives to advocate for equity and excellence for the millions of public K-12 students. You will hear from Kymyona Burk, Ed.D., Senior Policy Fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Stay tuned for more programming and speaker announcements. Register now!

Congress Approves Funding Extension
After weeks of uncertainty, newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced plans over the weekend to advance legislation that would temporarily extend current federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) funds through early next year. The legislation splits the 12 individual spending bills that compose the federal government into two separate tranches — known as a “laddered” continuing resolution (CR) —with two separate expiration dates of Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. Of note for the K-12 community, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations component of this legislation would extend funding for programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) through the Feb. 2 deadline.

The laddered CR approach was initially met with skepticism by some lawmakers, as the strategy does not appear to fundamentally change the underlying dynamics of Congress’ current challenges in finding common ground on full-year FY24 spending. Nonetheless, the measure was introduced in the House this week and passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority by a margin of 336-95. Notably, 93 Republicans and two Democrats voted against the measure — a dynamic that, just a few months ago, led to the surprising ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this fall. The laddered CR was quickly taken up by the Senate, where it was passed on a bipartisan basis by a margin of 87-11. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Biden before current funding legislation expires on November 17.

The passage of a CR will provide lawmakers with more time to negotiate FY24 appropriations legislation. However, both chambers have struggled to make progress on their respective slates of appropriations legislation. Meanwhile, in the House, Republican leaders were forced to pull the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill from further consideration after it became clear the measure would likely not have the necessary support to clear the chamber. House leaders were forced to pull other spending measures from consideration for similar reasons in the last few weeks.

While the passage of the CR will avoid a government shutdown for the remainder of this calendar year, it remains unclear how Congress will use this additional time to either pass additional individual appropriations legislation, negotiate a larger full-year FY24 package, or take an alternative route altogether. NSBA will continue to advocate for robust funding throughout this process to ensure the significant funding needs of the K-12 community are realized.

Senator Sanders Requests Increased Education Department Funding for Civil Rights from Senate Leadership
In a letter to Senate leadership, HELP Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for a 27% increase in civil rights funding at the Department of Education to help address the rise in hate crimes. The funding request would be included in the next emergency supplemental funding package. Senator Sanders requested a classified briefing with the FBI, the Department of Education, and other government officials to learn more about the serious rise of hate crimes in schools and the general public. Read the full letter to leadership here. Read more in the press release here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.6402 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the exclusion for educational assistance programs and to allow the exclusion with respect to education-related tools and technology. Sponsor: Feenstra, Randy [Rep.-R-IA-4]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

FCC Proposes New Cybersecurity Program
On Nov. 13, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot program — a new initiative that calls for up to $200 million over the next three years to support K-12 schools and libraries harden their cybersecurity defenses. The proposal comes after many high-profile cyberattacks on schools and other institutions in recent years and in the wake of petitions filed with the FCC by NSBA and our national partners. Funding for the pilot program would be derived from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. The FCC is seeking input from the public as it continues to develop this proposal. Public comments will be due no later than 30 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

ED’s Office of Civil Rights Releases New Data
On Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new civil rights data from the 2020–21 school year demonstrating stark inequities in students’ educational access across civil rights indicators, including courses and programs, school staff, and student discipline.

High schools with high enrollments of Black and Latino students offered fewer courses in mathematics, science, and computer science than schools with low enrollments of Black and Latino students. Additionally, English learner students and students with disabilities, who received services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, had a lower rate of enrollment in mathematics and science courses when compared to enrollment rates of all high school students.

Regarding school staffing, the report finds that about 522,000 students, or about 1% of all students, went to schools where fewer than half the teachers met all state certification requirements. In those schools, 66% of students were Black or Latino. There was a similar divide with school counselors, with 77% of public schools having at least one counselor and 43% having at least one police officer or security guard. However, compared with their white peers, students of color were more likely to be in schools that had security staff but no counselor. Black students and those of more than one race were 1.2 times more likely to attend those schools, while the rate was 1.4 for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Native students.

“In America, talent and creativity can come from anywhere, but only if we provide equitable educational opportunities to students everywhere,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We cannot be complacent when the data repeatedly tells us that the race, sex, or disability of students continue to dramatically impact everything from access to advanced placement courses to the availability of school counselors to the use of exclusionary and traumatic disciplinary practices.”

Read ED’s press release to learn more and access additional findings from the data set.

 


November 3, 2023 (Archives)

Congress No Closer to Agreement on FY24 Education Spending

With new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) finally in place and another possible government shutdown only two weeks away, a new sense of urgency has swept Capitol Hill as lawmakers worked to pass several appropriations measures in both chambers this week. In the House, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations bill — legislation that provides funding for K-12 education programs — has been moved directly to the House floor for consideration. A vote is scheduled sometime during the week of Nov. 13. As a reminder, if enacted, this proposal would reduce funding for Title I of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) by 80% and would substantially cut funding or entirely eliminate many K-12 education programs. The Senate has not yet scheduled further consideration of its version of this legislation, which most recently advanced out of the Appropriations Committee and is awaiting consideration by the upper chamber.

Under the new leadership of Speaker Johnson, the House has continued to pass other spending proposals that would drastically cut federal funding for a variety of programs, falling well below the topline spending targets outlined in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). This bipartisan agreement was passed by Congress earlier in the year and avoided a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt obligations. At the same time, the Senate has continued to advance spending proposals that conform to the FRA agreement. With both chambers proposing wildly different visions for FY24 funding, it remains unclear how lawmakers will move forward by mid-month. Unless an agreement can be reached by the beginning of 2024, an across-the-board sequester cut to all federal programs, mandated by the FRA, will come into effect. As these efforts continue to unfold, NSBA is collaborating with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the wider K-12 education community are met as part of this process.

Republicans Seek Roadblocks for FCC’s School Bus Wi-Fi Plan

The federal government’s latest plan to close a “homework gap” for kids who lack Wi-Fi at home is to bring such services to one place they may spend hours per week: on the bus to and from school. The move is one facet of the president’s overall goal to bring high-speed internet access to every American. However, the school bus plan is drawing objections from Republicans that the cost isn’t worth the effort and will only enable unsupervised kids to spend more time on social media. In a divided vote, the five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a declaratory ruling on Oct. 19 that it will allow E-Rate program funding to be used for Wi-Fi on school buses starting July 1, 2024. Read more here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.6124 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a pilot program to award competitive grants for the integration of cybersecurity education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Thompson, Glenn [Rep.-R-PA-15]
  • H.R.6091 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to make grants to States for assistance in hiring additional school-based mental health and student service providers. Sponsor: Lee, Barbara [Rep.-D-CA-12]
  • H.R.6086 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) All Students Count Act of 2023 Sponsor: Jayapal, Pramila [Rep.-D-WA-7]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Biden Administration Unveils Artificial Intelligence Executive Order

On Oct. 30, President Biden issued a wide-ranging Executive Order regarding the “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence” (AI). The measure has several components, including how to support workers displaced by AI, strategies for attracting and retaining AI talent, and, of note for the K-12 education community, how AI should be responsibly used in educational settings. The Executive Order directs the U.S. Department of Education to develop resources, policies, and guidance on AI in education within one year. A factsheet with additional information can be found here.

ED Distributes New Funding for Educator Diversity and Compensation Efforts

On Oct. 25, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it was awarding $115 million in new funding via the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program — an initiative authorized by the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). These funds will support nearly 30 projects that aim to address teacher shortages while also increasing instructional staff diversity. This investment “will help states and school districts recruit and retain new talent, increase compensation, and address educator shortages that we know disproportionately impact students from our communities of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities and English learners," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said as part of the announcement.

Jewish Leaders to Biden Officials: “We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Ever”

During a closed-press meeting, a dozen Jewish leaders met in Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s Washington office to discuss steps the Biden administration is taking to counter antisemitism within K-12 and higher education communities. Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, were also in attendance. Read more on the officials’ comments regarding antisemitism here.

Department of Energy Program Funds Clean Energy Improvements at K-12 Schools

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the $500 million Renew America’s Schools Program to promote the implementation of clean energy improvements at K-12 public schools across the country. This first-of-its-kind investment, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), aims to help school communities make energy upgrades that will lower utility costs, improve indoor air quality, and foster healthier learning environments.

The Renew America’s Schools grant is the program’s flagship funding opportunity. This competitive award focuses on funding infrastructure upgrades at K–12 public school facilities, prioritizing high-need school communities. The first round of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) launched in November 2022. DOE anticipates releasing a second round of funding in Spring 2024. For further information about the Renew America’s Schools Program or Round 1 Selectees, please visit the website and sign up for updates or email schools@doe.gov.

 


October 27, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Learn from Experts and Advocate for Students
The NSBA Advocacy Institute, on Jan. 28-30 in Washington, D.C., will provide attendees with the latest developments in key areas of education policy. Don't miss the opportunity to learn from experts, champion the interests of public K-12 students, advocate for education priorities and federal policies, and network with colleagues from across the country. Plus, you will have the opportunity to visit your state's legislative delegation(s) on Capitol Hill. The early bird savings deadline ends Wednesday, Nov. 15 - register now! To learn more about Advocacy Institute, watch this short video.

House Elects a New Speaker
After more than three weeks without a leader, the House elected a new speaker on Wednesday - Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). Over the last several weeks, a slew of earlier candidates failed to garner the necessary support for this role, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and, most recently, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN). Following these failed candidacies, House Republicans reconvened on Oct. 24 to conduct another informal straw poll to determine a new candidate. After winnowing a field of eight declared candidates, Johnson ultimately prevailed over Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) by a margin of 128-29. The next day, acting Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) reconvened the chamber to vote for a new Speaker. Johnson prevailed over current Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) by a margin of 220-209.

Speaker Johnson was first elected to Congress in 2016 and has served most recently on the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. He has chaired the Republican Study Committee and was recently Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference.

With the election of a new Speaker, lawmakers can now turn to a growing agenda that must be addressed this fall. This work includes determining a pathway forward on federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) funding, with a new deadline of Nov. 17 fast approaching. As the House determines its next steps, NSBA will continue to engage with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure that the funding needs of the K-12 education community are met as this process continues to take shape.

What Educators Should Know About Mike Johnson, New Speaker of the House
In an Oct. 23 Dear Colleague letter, new House Speaker Mike Johnson outlines his plans to "rein in wasteful spending." He states that the House must pass all 12 government funding bills to be in a strong negotiating position with the Senate and White House. To save time, he proposes that the House Appropriations Committee discharge the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill - a bill that includes a 28% cut to education funding. He does not explain what he means by "discharge," but it could mean sending the bill directly to the House floor for a vote instead of going through the markup process in the full committee. Johnson also proposes a schedule that has the Labor-HHS-Education bill on the House floor the week of November 13.

In the past, Johnson has signed onto several education policies that have become top priorities for conservative Republicans across the country in recent years. Serving his fourth term in Congress, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) has supported banning instruction about gender identity and sexuality for children under age 10; prohibiting transgender girls from joining girls' athletic teams; and curtailing federal funding for any entity that teaches that the United States is fundamentally racist. Other policies that Johnson has supported could radically change the way the federal government dispenses funds to U.S. schools and create a federal program funding private school choice. Read more about the new speaker's educational views in this article from Education Week.

House Ways and Means Committee Holds Hearing on "Educational Freedom"
On Oct. 25, the House Ways and Means held a hearing, "Educational Freedom and Opportunity for American Families, Students, and Workers," which examined education, job training, and preparation for the workforce.

During his opening statement, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) called on Congress to expand 529 accounts to cover books and tutoring, educational therapy, and supplies for homeschoolers, as well as skilled trade and licensing programs to address America's skilled labor shortage. Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) said the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is ushering in good-paying jobs that do not require a four-year degree, adding that President Biden's new American Climate Corps will help train people for and create new jobs. During the Q&A portion of the hearing, Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said that school choice initiatives would "starve" public school funding.  A summary of the hearing is available here. Video and witness testimony from the hearing are available here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

White House Supplemental Request Includes Funding for Child Care and High-Speed Internet
On Oct. 25, the White House sent a supplemental funding request of roughly $55 billion to Congress for domestic priorities, including natural disaster relief, child care, and high-speed internet for rural, remote, and Tribal communities. The request also included $16 billion for child care costs, which would go to the Department of Health and Human Services for an additional year of funding to keep child care providers afloat. The request also would extend free and discounted high-speed internet for eligible households until December 2024 through the Affordable Connectivity Program. A fact sheet from the White House provides more information about the domestic supplemental funding request.

Later that day, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hosted a press call and underscored that child care is a top concern for families and must be a top priority for Congress. She noted that as Congress works to address key national security priorities, it must also address the problems families are facing at home by fulfilling the President's full request. Read Murray's press release here.

ED Announces $14 Million for Fostering Diverse Schools
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $14 million in new grants to help states and local school districts cultivate diverse school communities. The Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Project provides competitive grants to state and local education agencies to develop and implement diversity plans to increase the socioeconomic diversity of K-12 school systems.

"Every student in America deserves access to a high-quality education, but persistent racial and socioeconomic isolation in our schools continues to result in inadequate resources, lesser access to advanced courses, fewer extracurricular offerings, and other tangible inequities that disproportionately impact students of color and students from low-income backgrounds at every stage of their educational journeys and throughout their lives," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as part of the award announcement. More information can be accessed here.

FCC Approves Wi-Fi on Wheels Proposal
On Oct. 19, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved, on 3-2 party-line vote, a Declaratory Ruling clarifying that delivering Wi-Fi on school buses is an "educational purpose" and the provision of such service is therefore eligible for E-rate funding. The agency directed the Wireline Bureau to publish a supplemental Eligible Services List for program year 2024 to seek public comment on the specific services and equipment that should be eligible for E-rate subsidies to deliver Wi-Fi on buses. In November, NSBA expects the FCC to approve the publication of notices of proposed rulemaking for the other elements of FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel's "Learn Without Limits" initiative, which focuses on establishing a K-12 cybersecurity pilot program and permitting E-rate to fund home Wi-Fi hot spots. Learn more.

 


October 20, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

House Remains Without a Speaker

House Republicans continued to struggle this week to elect a new Speaker of the House. As shared previously, a group of House Republicans successfully removed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from this leadership role in recent weeks. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has been serving in an acting capacity since that time. However, McHenry’s role is limited in scope and authority.

Last week, current Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) won an internal Republican conference vote to be the House Republicans’ new Speaker-designate. Yet, his nomination was short-lived, and Scalise pulled out of consideration after it became apparent that he would not have the requisite support within his party to win a formal vote for the Speakership on the House floor.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), who was the runner-up in this earlier internal conference vote, has since been nominated by his party to be the new Speaker Designate — an informal first step that Republicans have taken to ensure that a candidate will have the necessary support to win the 217 votes necessary to become the next Speaker of the House. Since that time, however, Jordan has lost two House-wide Speakership votes, and it remains unclear if he will be able to garner the necessary support within his conference to lead the chamber. A third vote has yet to be scheduled, and it remains unclear how this current impasse will ultimately be resolved.

At the time of this writing, the situation remains extremely fluid. NSBA is monitoring this process closely and will continue to provide analysis of potential implications regarding federal funding and other issues of importance for the K-12 education community. 

Senators Smith, Padilla, Tillis, and Ernst Launch Bipartisan Mental Health Caucus
U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) announced the launch of their bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus. Amidst a national mental health crisis, the Senate Mental Health Caucus will serve as a forum for senators to collaborate on and promote bipartisan legislation and solutions, hold events to raise awareness of critical mental health issues, and destigmatize mental health. The caucus will work to improve prevention and early intervention efforts, expand the country’s mental health professional workforce, enhance our nation’s crisis response services, and increase access to evidence-based mental health treatment. Read more about the new mental health caucus here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·      S.3060 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to establish a Youth Mental Health Research Initiative in the National Institutes of Health for purposes of encouraging collaborative research to improve youth mental health. Sponsor: Klobuchar, Amy [Sen.-D-MN]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

FCC to Vote on Expanding E-rate

On Oct. 19, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considered a Declaratory Ruling that would clarify that the use of Wi-Fi on school buses is an educational purpose and the provision of such service is therefore eligible for E-rate funding. NSBA expects the agency to approve this E-rate use. In November, NSBA expects the FCC to approve the publication of notices of proposed rulemaking for the other elements of Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s “Learn Without Limits” initiative, which focuses on establishing a K-12 cybersecurity pilot program and permitting E-rate to fund home Wi-Fi hot spots.

ED Announces $11 Million for Parent and Family Engagement

On Oct. 11, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $11.4 million in new grants to help states and local school districts improve and strengthen efforts to engage meaningfully with parents and families. “The importance of parent partnerships in our schools is backed by years of research demonstrating how students benefit academically, socially, and emotionally from robust family engagement,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona remarked, in part, at the announcement of these new resources. Derived from the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program, the initiative provides resources for direct services to families and parents on how to engage with their student’s school and staff in ways that improve achievement and other outcomes. More on the announcement can be found here.

Outstanding School Leadership Awards Announced

On Oct. 16, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 2023 winners of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. As the name suggests, the award is intended to honor exemplary school leaders who have a demonstrated track record of success, particularly within communities and schools with significant challenges. “Great principals play a pivotal role in building thriving school communities and empowering teachers to meet the diverse needs of every student,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said at the announcement. More information on the awardees can be accessed here.

NSBA UPDATE 

NSBA Tells U.S. Supreme Court that Schools Need Flexibility to Assign Staff to Meet Student Needs
NSBA has filed an amicus brief explaining to the U.S. Supreme Court how a proposed change in employment discrimination law could disrupt crucial management tools for school leaders. In Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, a police sergeant sued the city after being transferred to a different division, claiming that she had been discriminated against based on her sex. The lower courts determined that the sergeant had not met the threshold to sue because she had not shown any objective harm from the transfer, such as a loss of pay. She asks the Supreme Court to re-interpret the longstanding requirement that employees be able to show such harm, and to create a new standard where job transfers would be considered “adverse” or harmful in every case. NSBA’s amicus brief, joined by AASA and ASBO, explains that the employee’s interpretation of the law would jeopardize critical school management tools like flexibly allocating teachers and staff. Schools need to be able to reassign staff to meet student educational and safety needs, NSBA explains. In fact, reassignments can be used to remedy — not cause — inequalities. The case will be argued on Dec. 6. Read NSBA’s amicus brief.

 


October 13, 2023 (Archives)

House Republicans Deliberate on New Speaker

On Oct. 3, a group of House Republicans successfully ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his leadership position. Since that date, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has been serving as acting speaker until the House formally elects a new speaker. Last week, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) announced that they would both seek the support of the House Republican caucus to serve as the next Speaker. Earlier this week, House Republicans hosted a candidate forum for Scalise and Jordan to make their case to colleagues regarding their candidacy.

On Oct. 11, House Republicans reconvened to vote informally for a new Speaker. This effort was intended to facilitate broader consensus regarding a candidate before calling the House back into session and beginning the formal process of electing a new Speaker. Majority Leader Scalise narrowly won this internal House Republican caucus vote by a margin of 113-99 — making him the new Republican nominee to be the next Speaker of the House.

The following day, however, Scalise abandoned his bid to be the next speaker, announcing Oct. 12 that he would withdraw after failing to secure the necessary support from his Republican colleagues. Jordan, who finished second to Scalise in internal GOP balloting this week, is still in the hunt, and other candidates could emerge. House Republicans plan to continue their deliberations behind closed doors on Oct. 13. It’s unclear when a vote could take place on the House floor.

NSBA continues to monitor this process closely and will provide ongoing analysis of the potential implications regarding federal funding and other issues of importance for the K-12 education community.

Hunting and Archery Education Continues; Rural Schools Relieved After Biden Signs Bill
Rural school district leaders were relieved after President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, protecting federal funds for K-12 schools with hunting education, archery, and sport-shooting programs. The bill became law after months of questions in rural America about Education Department guidance addressing how districts nationwide should interpret a provision in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a landmark piece of gun safety legislation passed in the wake of the massacre at an elementary school in May 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Read more about the bill here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.5914 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processes to approve programs of education for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Van Orden, Derrick [Rep.-R-WI-3]
  • H.R.5902 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require staff and faculty to report foreign gifts and contracts. Sponsor: James, John [Rep.-R-MI-10]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Secretary Cardona Appoints New Members to National Assessment Governing Board

U.S. Education Secretary Cardona announced the appointment of 11 prominent education leaders — seven new members and four reappointed members — to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the Nation's Report Card. The Nation's Report Card, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is the only nationally representative assessment of student achievement. Over the past year, NAEP provided critical insights into student learning gaps across subjects and grades worsened by the pandemic. It also provided data and important trends related to chronic absenteeism, literacy, and teacher confidence in getting students back on track. Read more about the new board members here.

Webinar Video Available: Improving Rural Teacher Retention: Developing Localized Strategies to Address Teacher Working Conditions

Administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) have collaborated with school districts, state departments of education, and other education stakeholders for nearly 60 years to help generate and apply evidence to improve learner outcomes.

In 2022, REL Northwest partnered with Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) in Alaska to identify evidence-based strategies and tools to continuously monitor and improve working conditions with the goal of increasing teacher retention. LKSD is the largest rural school district in Alaska, with 27 schools, 350 teachers, and about 4,000 students, many of whom are Yup'ik. The landmass of the district is about the size of West Virginia, spreading along the Kuskokwim River and Bering Sea coast of southwest Alaska. Travel is by jet from Anchorage and then by small plane, snowmobile, or boat from the regional hub, Bethel, to village sites.

A new webinar aimed at state and district leaders in rural settings shares research findings on teacher working conditions and a process for using research and local data to identify actionable strategies to improve working conditions in rural schools and districts. The webinar includes perspectives and insights from practitioners and researchers, including the Rural Superintendent of Schools from LKSD, a Montana State University Professor of Education in Rural Schools, and leading researchers on teacher working conditions. Watch the webinar.

Registration Now Open for 2023 National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will hold its 2023 National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security on Nov. 1-2. This two-day FREE virtual event will convene federal, state, and local school leaders to share actionable recommendations that enhance safe and supportive learning environments in K-12 schools. Through expert panels and keynote addresses by leaders in the field, the summit will explore current threats and issues in school safety and consider research-informed strategies for addressing security challenges. For more information or to register, visit cisa.gov/national-school-safety-summit.

 


October 6, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Narrowly Avert Government Shutdown
In a surprising turn of events last Saturday morning, Sept. 30, the now-former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced a 45-day legislative extension of current federal funding. Known as a continuing resolution (CR), this measure is intended to provide Congress more time to negotiate a path forward on longer-term appropriations legislation. For the last few months, House Republican leaders have repeatedly indicated that they would not allow the House to consider such an extension without significant spending and policy concessions demanded by conservative factions within the House Republican caucus. This past weekend, however, McCarthy abruptly set these demands aside on Saturday morning, several hours before a government shutdown was set to begin, and introduced a CR that would extend current FY23 funding for federal programs and operations through Nov. 17.

This measure was subsequently advanced by the full House of Representatives on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, 335-91. Following a contentious debate in the House, the bill was quickly sent to the Senate, where it was advanced on a substantial bipartisan basis by a margin of 88-9, before being sent to President Biden and signed into law.

In the short term, this legislation prevents a government shutdown and will provide more time for lawmakers to continue negotiating a path forward on full-year FY24 funding. Consensus on FY24 funding is likely to prove contentious in the weeks ahead, however, and will likely be challenging. The House has passed four of its 12 government funding bills while the Senate has passed none, with the two chambers not near agreement on total funding levels or programmatic funding in many cases.

As these negotiations progress, NSBA will continue to advocate for the passage of full-year FY24 appropriations legislation, including robust investments for K-12 education, as part of the wider appropriations process.

Speaker McCarthy Ousted from Leadership
A small group of conservative House lawmakers, primarily members of the House Freedom Caucus led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), introduced a “motion to vacate” resolution on Oct. 2. This formal legislative procedure ejected the sitting Speaker of the House from this position. As a reminder, to become Speaker earlier this year, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was forced to give several concessions related to the House’s rules to this group of conservative lawmakers, given the extremely narrow margin of control in the chamber. Among these concessions was a rule change allowing any single Republican member to introduce a motion to vacate measure, essentially giving rank-and-file members enormous control over the legislative process this year with the ability to threaten to oust the Speaker with this procedural process.

Ostensibly, this group of lawmakers, which has been seeking significant domestic spending reductions —including for K-12 education programs — was upset that Speaker McCarthy introduced a continuing resolution that did not conform with their preferred vision for FY24 funding. The motion to vacate was passed by the full House chamber by a margin of 216-210 — an unprecedented move that formally removed Speaker McCarthy from office. Shortly after the vote, McCarthy announced that he would not seek to be renominated for the position.

In the interim, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has replaced McCarthy on an acting basis until the House elects a new Speaker. Speaker Pro Tempore McHenry adjourned the House shortly after the vote and is expected to bring lawmakers back to Washington, D.C., next week. House Republicans are expected to convene early next week to consider several candidates currently vying for the Speaker position formally. Already, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) have announced their candidacy for Speaker.

NSBA is monitoring this process closely and will provide future analysis for implications for the K-12 education community.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.5852 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide training services linked to employment demand through skills training grants, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Norcross, Donald [Rep.-D-NJ-1]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Registration Now Open for 2023 National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will hold its 2023 National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security on Nov. 1-2. This two-day FREE virtual event will convene federal, state, and local school leaders to share actionable recommendations that enhance safe and supportive learning environments in K-12 schools. Through expert panels and keynote addresses by leaders in the field, the summit will explore current threats and issues in school safety and consider research-informed strategies for addressing security challenges. For more information or to register, visit cisa.gov/national-school-safety-summit.


Congressional Update

September 29, 2023 (Archives)

Stalemate on Funding Continues in Congress

Current federal funding is set to expire this Sunday, Oct. 1. Despite this quickly approaching deadline, lawmakers in the House and Senate remain divided on how to avert a lapse in federal appropriations at the start of the 2024 federal fiscal (FY24) year. Neither chamber has yet been able to advance FY24 appropriations legislation this year, including measures that fund the U.S. Department of Education (ED). With FY24 set to begin shortly, lawmakers must pass a continuing resolution (CR) to avert a government shutdown - temporary legislation that would extend current funding levels for a specified period. The Senate is currently working to advance a CR that would extend current FY23 funding levels through mid-November. However, House Republican leadership has indicated that they will not consider this overwhelmingly bipartisan proposal.
This current impasse on federal funding is due to a group of conservative lawmakers in the House who have demanded significant policy and spending concessions in exchange for their support. With narrow majorities in both chambers, this group of lawmakers has been able to effectively stymie progress towards both short-term and longer-term funding agreements that have been proposed by Congressional leadership over the last few weeks. With FY24 set to begin on Oct. 1, and with no new progress towards agreement on funding at the time of this writing, a government shutdown appears imminent. As this impasse continues, NSBA will continue to engage with partners in Congress to advocate for robust funding for critical programs important to the K-12 community and urge lawmakers to pass full-year appropriations to provide much-needed budget certainty to the K-12 community.

House Oversight Committee Holds Hearing on Ransomware Attacks 

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Subcommittees on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation and Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs held a hearing this week titled "Combating Ransomware Attacks." The hearing included witnesses from Venable, LLP, The University of Vermont Medical Center, Palo Alto Networks-Unit 42, and Dr. Lacey Gosch, Assistant Superintendent of Technology, Judson Independent School District (TX), who testified regarding the experience of JISD's ransomware attack.

Dr. Gosch discussed the depth and breadth of the attack that affected many individuals and cost the district $3 to $5 million in total costs, including the ransom of $547,000. She noted that recovery took more than a year, and though insurance coverage was helpful, much of the payout went to attorney fees, and several aspects of the attack were not covered by insurance. She highlighted the need for schools to balance costs between curriculum, staffing resources, and tech equipment and that oftentimes, tech equipment is pushed aside for more tangible needs. She recommended recovery and mitigation funding programs be developed similar to E-Rate to assist school districts with ransomware attacks as well as standards set for school districts to ensure they are better protected. Recommendations from other witnesses included multifactor authentication, hardening of systems, and more. Watch the archived livestream here.

Senate Approves Anna Gomez as FCC Commissioner  

After a long delay, the Senate approved (55-43) the nomination of Anna Gomez to serve as a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). She will be the fifth commissioner, allowing the FCC a full slate of Commissioners as they move forward on a variety of priorities. Gomez was sworn in this week and will begin her tenure immediately. With a full complement of Democratic commissioners for the first time since the beginning of the Biden Administration, Chairwoman Rosenworcel will have the ability to move forward with proceedings that may require partisan votes, including her Learn Without Limits proposals.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.5705 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To support national training, technical assistance, and resource centers, to ensure that all individuals with significant expressive communication disabilities have access to the augmentative and alternative communication the individuals need to interact with others, in order to learn, work, socialize, and take advantage of all aspects of life in the United States. Sponsor: Dingell, Debbie [Rep.-D-MI-6]
  • H.R.5704 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To promote State requirements for local educational agencies and public elementary and secondary schools relating to the prevention and treatment of concussions suffered by students. Sponsor: DeSaulnier, Mark [Rep.-D-CA-10]

Administration Update

ED Awards New Professional Learning Funding  

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced this week that it has awarded 138 new awards totaling $35 million to support the development of instructional staff and personnel that serve students with disabilities. "Investing in the preparation and professional development of a strong, diverse workforce to serve children with disabilities is critical, not only to the well-being of individuals with disabilities, but to improve outcomes for all children. Special educators, early intervention providers, and related services providers are essential professionals in our schools, early childhood programs, and communities, but far too many states are struggling to hire qualified personnel in these roles," said Glenna Wright-Gallo, assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services as part of the announcement. More information on the grants can be accessed via this press release.

Update on Discretionary Grant Programs  

The Department of Education invited applications for the following program:

  • Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) – Grants to Charter Management Organizations for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (CMO Grants) – The Charter Schools Program grants to Charter Management Organizations are authorized under Title IV, Part C of ESEA and awarded on a competitive basis in order to replicate or expand one or more high-quality charter schools. This notice includes three competitive preference priorities and two invitational priorities. The competitive preference priorities are: (1) Racially and Socioeconomically Diverse Student Bodies; (2) High School Students; and (3) Promoting High-Quality Educator- and Community-Centered Charter Schools to Support Underserved Students. The invitational priorities are: (1) Collaborations between Charter Schools and Traditional Public Schools or Districts that Benefit Students and Families across Schools; and (2) Promoting Pathways to Multilingualism. Finally, this notice also includes a statutory priority from ESEA to "promote racially and socioeconomically diverse student bodies." The estimated available funds for this program total $122,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by January 5, 2024, and further information is available here.

September 22, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Congress Remains Deadlocked on FY24 Funding
This week, the House and the Senate continued to struggle to find consensus on a pathway forward on federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) funding, including spending levels for the U.S. Department of Education. With FY24 set to begin on Oct. 1, lawmakers must pass stopgap spending legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to extend current federal funding levels as negotiations on longer-term FY24 legislation continue. House Republican leaders, however, are struggling to build consensus within their own caucus about the duration and content of the CR as well as longer-term FY24 spending proposals. As a result, a government shutdown appears increasingly likely on Oct. 1. While the Senate was expected to advance several more FY24 measures this week, those efforts have also failed to move forward as initially scheduled.

Both impasses are due to opposition from conservative Republicans demanding significant spending and policy concessions in exchange for their support for both a CR and, more broadly, full-year FY24 funding legislation. In addition, Republican lawmakers in the House have only considered spending proposals that dramatically reduce current federal funding, including K-12 education, by amounts far beyond the requirements of the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) approved earlier this year. With the margins of control in both chambers extremely narrow, continued conservative opposition and demands to further cut domestic programs and exact other concessions has stalled Congress' ability to reach consensus. As this impasse continues, NSBA will continue to engage with partners in Congress to advocate for robust funding for critical programs important to the K-12 community.

House Holds Hearing about Confucius Classrooms and K-12 Schools
In a Sept. 19 hearing titled "Academic Freedom Under Attack: Loosening the CCP's Grip on America's Classrooms," the House Education and Workforce Committee's Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Aaron Bean (R-FL) argued that the Chinese Communist Party is influencing American K-12 education. Chairman Bean cited Confucius Classrooms, which he said are a national security threat, compromise academic freedom, and censure essential historical events and issues. Committee Democrats said the hearing fueled anti-Asian hate. A recording of the hearing, including witness testimony and opening statements, can be accessed here.

House Holds WIOA Hearing
On Sept. 20, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing titled, "Strengthening WIOA: Improving Outcomes for Jobseekers, Employers, and Taxpayers." The hearing focused extensively on several issues related to the pending reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which the committee is currently considering. Lawmakers and witnesses discussed strategies and approaches to better support youth populations and provide them with more robust training options. A recording of the hearing, including witness testimony and opening statements, can be accessed here.

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Book Bans Hearing
On Sept. 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled "Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature." The hearing focused, in part, on recent efforts to ban certain books in K-12 education settings. Witnesses included researchers, parent advocates, and state leaders as they discussed this topic. A video archive of the hearing can be found here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.5413 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require the Secretary of Education to issue a rule requiring schools to implement protocols for suicide prevention, postvention, and trauma-informed care. Sponsor: Nunn, Zachary [Rep.-R-IA-3]
  • H.R.5407 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve direct certification, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Hayes, Jahana [Rep.-D-CT-5]
  • H.R.5569 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act with respect to reimbursements under the child and adult care food program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Landsman, Greg [Rep.-D-OH-1]
  • H.R.5567 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit elementary and secondary schools from accepting funds from or entering into contracts with the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Joyce, David P. [Rep.-R-OH-14]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

U.S. Department of Education Announces Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community
On Sept. 7, the U.S. Department of Education announced the launch of the Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community, a multi-state effort to make kindergarten a transformational experience at the start of each student's formal education journey. State education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) will be invited to participate in a community of practice where they can benefit from peer learning, receive technical assistance, and share best practices to transform how students experience kindergarten, including the transitions into kindergarten and first grade. Read the press release here.

Education Department Celebrates Completion of Nationwide Unlocking Pathways Summit Series
The four-part series was part of the U.S. Department of Education's Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative, aimed at helping young Americans access good-paying jobs created by President Biden's "Bidenomics" agenda. The series was supported by the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Commerce, and Labor to increase and expand access to high-quality career pathways, helping young Americans prepare for careers of the future in in-demand fields. Each Summit included state teams of key decision makers across the K-12, Higher Education, and Workforce systems, and the U.S. Department of Education was joined at each event by senior leadership from both federal agency partners and state leaders. Read more here.

ED Awards New Career Opportunity Grants for Students With Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced late last week that it had awarded nearly $200 million in new funding for 20 demonstration projects intended to support students with disabilities transition to life after graduation. This grant funding, overseen by ED's Rehabilitation Services Administration, is structured to facilitate partnerships between vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local education agencies, and other stakeholders to provide these opportunities for these learner populations. More information about these grants can be found here.

ED Recognizes Blue Ribbon Schools
On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognized 353 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023. The effort to recognize these schools is based on student academic performance or wider progress towards closing achievement gaps among learners. This is the 40th cohort of the National Blue Ribbon School initiative. During the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona remarked, in part, "The leaders, educators, and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. . ." More about the announcement, including descriptions of the winning schools this year, can be found here.

ED Announces Efforts to Improve Student Achievement

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) made a series of announcements on Sept. 13, regarding recent efforts it has undertaken to accelerate student learning and improve student achievement. As students across the nation return to classrooms for the new school year, ED highlighted several recent efforts to improve student reading and math outcomes, address chronic absenteeism, expand the capacity of schools to provide out-of-school time opportunities, and to address gun violence and improve student mental health. More information on these announcements can be found here.

Update on Discretionary Grant Programs

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) invited applications for the Education Research Grant Programs for research that will provide information about education practices that focus on supporting learning and improving academic achievement, as well as education opportunities for all learners. There are three competitions in this notice:

(1)   Research Training Programs in the Education Science – applications for this competition must focus on Early Career Development and Mentoring Program for Education Research; Early Career Development and Mentoring Program for Faculty at Minority-Serving Institutions; or Methods Training for Education Researchers;

(2)   Statistical and Research Methodology in Education – applications for this competition must focus on Core Grants; or Toolkits, Guidelines, Compendia, and Review Papers;

(3)   Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Education Policy and Practice – applications for this competition must focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE) Network or Digital Learning Platforms Network.

Congress has not yet enacted an appropriation for fiscal year 2024, but ED is inviting applications now so that applicants have adequate time to prepare the applications. Awards vary for all three competitions, with awards ranging from $80,000 up to $800,000. For all three competitions, the applications will be due by January 11, 2024. Further information is available here.

Update on Proposed Regulations Affecting Schools
As reported two weeks ago, the Departments of Justice and Labor both have issued proposed rules that could affect schools. But the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has yet to release any proposed regulations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, scheduled for August. As of Sept. 20, the Unified Regulatory Agenda still lists Aug. 2023 as the intended publication date.

  • Website Accessibility: In July, the DOJ released a proposed rule on accessibility of web information and services of state and local governments. This long-awaited proposal would require public entities including school districts to adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.1, Level AA as the technical standard applicable to public entities web-based information and services. There would be exceptions for certain archived and third-party content, as well as public schools' password-protected course content, and individualized password-protected documents. Schools would still have to provide "effective communication" and make "reasonable modifications," so, even documents falling under one of these exceptions would still need to be provided in an accessible format if a person with a disability requests them. A summary of the proposed rules is available here. Public comments must be submitted by Oct. 3, 2023.
  • Overtime: The Department of Labor released proposed rules on "Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees." As described by DOL, the proposed rule would update and revise the certain regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, and professional employees. The proposal would increase the standard salary level and the highly compensated employee total annual compensation threshold, and would provide an automatic updating mechanism that would allow for the timely and efficient updating of all the thresholds to reflect current earnings data. The FAQ and DOL Press Release describe the proposed rule in more detail.

September 8, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Senate Returns to Capitol Hill
The Senate reconvened this week following its annual August recess. Lawmakers in the House are due back to Capitol Hill next week. Upon their return to Washington, D.C., the Senate has focused primarily on addressing Congress’s failure to complete work on the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Just before the August recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee successfully advanced all 12 individual appropriations bills that compose the federal budget on a bipartisan basis.

The House, meanwhile, has been unable to similarly advance spending proposals, including legislation providing funding for the K-12 education programs authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). More importantly, the House and Senate’s proposed funding levels for FY24 differ substantially, with lawmakers in the lower chamber proposing significant cuts to federal spending that do not conform to the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) — a legislative agreement reached earlier this year that prevented a default on the nation’s debt obligations.

Stopgap legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), will likely be needed to avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins. Lawmakers are continuing to negotiate a path forward. Conservative lawmakers in the House recently issued a series of policy and spending demands in exchange for their support for any CR, including prioritizing spending levels that fall well below those required by the FRA. House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), have further indicated that they want a short-term CR rather than one lasting through the end of the year. In contrast, the Senate and the Biden Administration want a temporary funding extension lasting until the holiday season to provide more time to negotiate a full-year appropriations package.

Given the significant differences between the House and Senate FY24 spending proposals and the positions currently taken by the House, Senate, and the White House, negotiations are expected to be extremely contentious. As these talks progress, NSBA will continue to advocate for robust funding for critical funding streams important to the K-12 community.

Ranking Member Cassidy Issues Request for Information on AI

On Sept. 6, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) published a new white paper on artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential implications for policy areas falling under the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction. AI is still an emerging topic for Congress, with two hearings scheduled next week in the Senate within the Judiciary and Commerce Committees.

Cassidy requested feedback from the public and stakeholders regarding several issues likely to arise in the coming years as AI is further deployed and leveraged in different facets of daily life, including in education. Specifically, Cassidy seeks feedback on whether and how AI can be used in educational settings, how education leaders promote a better understanding of AI, both among students and their peers, and how these technologies can be used to improve student learning while not diminishing learners’ critical thinking skills. Feedback is due back by Sept. 22 and can be emailed here

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.5350 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Investing in Tomorrow's Workforce Act of 2023 Sponsor: Schneider, Bradley Scott [Rep.-D-IL-10]

·       H.R.5327 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Empowering Parents Act Sponsor: Good, Bob [Rep.-R-VA-5]

·       H.R.5326 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Empowering Local Curriculum Act Sponsor: Good, Bob [Rep.-R-VA-5]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Education Secretary Calls Digital Divide ‘Equity Issue of Our Moment’ During KC Visit
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona made stops in Kansas and Missouri as part of a multistate tour, labeling internet access “the new pencil” as he discussed the government’s efforts to expand broadband connectivity. “In order for students to achieve at high levels, (internet access) is a necessity,” Cardona told educators. Cardona also said parents’ concerns ranged from their children’s safety to their desire for their kids to be challenged in the classroom. Read more here.

ED Announces Educator Diversity Efforts
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has announced that it will host two convenings in late October to find, promote, and encourage wider educator diversity efforts. The first of these national meetings will be a Conference on Equity in Opportunity in Denver, Oct. 26-27. The second meeting, the Teach to Lead Summit, will take place in Denver on Oct. 27. The announcement also highlighted recent ED efforts to prioritize teacher diversity through investments in teacher quality partnership grants, Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence programs, and the Supporting Effective Educator Development grant program. More information can be found here.

Departments of Justice and Labor Issue Proposed Rules Affecting Schools

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice issued proposed rules in July on the accessibility of web information and services of state and local governments. This long-awaited proposal would require public entities, including school districts, to adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.1, Level AA, as the technical standard applicable to public entities' web-based information and services. There would be exceptions for certain archived and third-party content, as well as public schools’ password-protected course content, and individualized password-protected documents. Schools would still have to provide “effective communication” and make “reasonable modifications,” so even documents falling under one of these exceptions would still need to be provided in an accessible format if a person with a disability requests them. A summary of the proposed rules is available here. Public comments must be submitted by Oct. 3, 2023.

On Aug. 30, the Department of Labor released proposed rules on "Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees." As described by DOL, the proposed rule would update and revise certain regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, and professional employees. The proposal would increase the standard salary level and the highly compensated employee total annual compensation threshold, and would provide an automatic updating mechanism that would allow for the timely and efficient updating of all the thresholds to reflect current earnings data. The FAQ and DOL Press Release describe the proposed rule in more detail.


September 1, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

House and Senate Will Reconvene in Early September
Congress remained adjourned this week for its annual August recess. Lawmakers are not expected to reconvene until after the Labor Day holiday, when they will face a daunting agenda and legislative schedule, including the need to determine a pathway forward on federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) funding. With FY24 set to begin on Oct. 1, negotiations will likely prove contentious as the House and Senate's respective visions for funding levels, especially regarding K-12 investments like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), differ substantially. When Congress's FY24 spending negotiations resume after the recess, NSBA will continue to strongly advocate for robust funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title I-A, IDEA Part-B, and other critical funding streams for the K-12 community.

Senate Field Roundtable Focuses on Protecting K-12 Schools from Cyberattacks
On Aug. 21, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight held a field roundtable, "Improving Federal Collaboration to Protect Our K-12 Schools from Cyberattacks," at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

During the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Maggie Hassan (D-NH) emphasized the urgent need for federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities to collaborate on enhancing cybersecurity for K-12 schools. She noted that cyberattacks disrupt learning, with recovery costs exceeding $1 million per incident, exacerbated by stolen sensitive data. Hassan highlighted recent initiatives, including a coordinating council, to bolster K-12 cybersecurity. Additionally, federal resources are being allocated through agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Government panelists, including Daniel King from CISA, provided insights on strategies, challenges, and the importance of preventative measures, while Alton School Board (NH) Chair Pamela McLeod highlighted the crucial role of collaboration, more resources, cybersecurity experts, and technology integration in schools. Watch a video of the roundtable.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

Congress in recess. No bills introduced.

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Cardona Announces Back to School Bus Tour
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has announced a "Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar"- a weeklong multistate trip across the nation to highlight the work schools, districts, institutions, and states are doing to support students as they collectively return to classrooms over the next few weeks. The tour, scheduled for Sept. 5-8, will include stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and will include a focus on the Biden Administration's efforts to address teacher shortages, provide quality out-of-school time programming, and develop robust career pathway programs. More information about the tour can be accessed here. In addition, the Department also recently published a factsheet highlighting the Biden Administration's ongoing efforts to support K-12 education as students return to school this fall.

Office of Civil Rights Issues New Guidance on Race and School Programming

On Aug. 24, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued new guidance regarding how and in what ways schools may include programming aimed at fostering racially inclusive communities. The guidance updates OCR's legal interpretation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Today's resource shares with school communities practical guidance about whether and when federal civil rights laws permit - and in some cases require - schools to take actions related to race, as well as whether and when these same laws may require that schools not act based on race," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon. The full letter can be accessed here.

Biden Welcomes Students Back to School
On Aug. 28, President Biden visited a Washington, D.C., public middle school to highlight his government's efforts to combat struggling U.S. student performance since the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the impact of school shutdowns during the pandemic, nearly $200 billion in federal funds has been allocated to address pandemic-related learning loss. Studies show students, on average, would need more than an additional four months of instruction in math and reading to catch up to pre-pandemic levels. Read more here.

How Medicaid is Trying to Boost Schools' Health Funding
Schools across the country are missing out on millions of dollars from an unlikely federal source, Medicaid, because of longstanding bureaucratic hurdles that the Biden administration is now trying to address. The federal Medicaid office earlier this year streamlined its processes for reimbursing schools for health services, hoping to get millions or even billions more dollars into school coffers and expand the types of care provided to students. The changes were triggered by last year's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which requires Medicaid to increase comprehensive health care in schools - particularly for mental health care. Read more about potential funding for schools from Medicaid here.

New Education Data Tool: Education Across America - At a Glance

On Aug. 30, the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences released "Education Across America: Cities, Suburbs, Towns, and Rural Areas." This new data tool includes comparisons of key statistics across the four geographic locales (i.e., cities, suburbs, towns, and rural areas) using NCES data. Topics include family characteristics, educational experiences, educational outcomes, and school resources and staffing, with an initial emphasis on rural areas.

 


August 25, 2023 (Archive)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

August Recess Continues 

Congress will return in early September from its annual August recess to a wide range of important issues, including finding consensus on full-year federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations. NSBA's advocacy team anticipates that lawmakers will most likely need to consider several potential pathways forward to bridge the enormous spending gap between the House and Senate's respective visions for FY24 education and other funding, especially regarding funding Title I-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. When Congress's FY24 spending negotiations resume after the recess, NSBA will continue to be a strong advocate for robust funding for ESEA, Title I-A, IDEA Part-B, and other critical funding streams for the K-12 community. 

House Republicans' Bill Would Freeze Education Department Hiring 
A trio of House Republicans this month introduced legislation that would freeze hiring at the U.S. Department of Education. Florida Rep. Aaron Bean (R), bill sponsor and chair of the House Early Childhood, Secondary, and Elementary Subcommittee, said in a statement that imposing a hiring freeze "is just the first step to decrease the role of the federal government and return education policy to where it belongs - the state and local level." The bill applies to political appointees. It also would claw back the Education Department's funding for salaries and expenses that would go unused under the legislation. The legislative proposal likely has no chance of passing a politically divided Congress, but it does signal some Republicans' position on the Education Department. Read more here

Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee Holds K-12 Cybersecurity Field Roundtable with Local School Board Member 
The Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats And Spending Oversight held a "field roundtable" in New Hampshire this week titled "Improving Federal Collaboration To Protect Our K-12 Schools From Cyberattacks." Subcommittee Chairwoman Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led the hearing, which featured testimony from Pamela McLeod of New Hampshire's Alton School Board and several Department of Homeland Security officials. An archived video of the event is available here. NSBA, working with a number of national partners, has called on the Federal Communications Commission to make K-12 cybersecurity an allowable investment of the E-rate program.   

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Congress Asked To Amend Bill Barring Funding for Hunter Ed, Archery  
A federal Department of Education decision not to fund hunter education and archery programs, based on its reading of 2022's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is drawing increasing pushback, with the National Wildlife Federation calling on Congress and the Biden administration to "act quickly, in bipartisan fashion, to amend" the bill when lawmakers reconvene next month. Word of the Department of Education's interpretation of the act began to emerge in late July, with a piece posted to Fox News reporting the agency had determined that "school hunting and archery classes are precluded from receiving federal funding." Read more on this story here

Meet the Woman Leading the GOP's Charge on Schools and Work
In her 18th year as a member of Congress, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Chair of the Education Committee, is the rare Republican to score an exception from her party's term limits on committee chairmanships in Congress, entrusting her to lead on hot-button education and labor issues going into 2024. "I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time," said Foxx, who's become one of the leading female voices on culture war issues when some of the loudest critics have been men, such as Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. Since taking the helm of the House Education and Workforce Committee, she's secured House passage for the GOP's cornerstone education plan for a "Parent's Bill of Rights," a bill restricting transgender student-athletes, and helped build the conservative case against President Joe Biden's Labor secretary nominee, Julie Su. Read more on the Congresswoman here

Biden-Harris Administration Launches SchoolSafety.gov Awareness Campaign to Support Schools With Safety Resources
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice, launched a public awareness campaign to highlight federal school safety resources and evidence-based practices available through SchoolSafety.gov. The initiative is one of several new actions the Biden-Harris administration is taking to support safer schools and communities. Through the campaign, the administration will educate school administrators and personnel, teachers, parents and guardians, and state and local government officials about school safety resources available at SchoolSafety.gov. The goal is to advance the mission and maximize the benefits of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act by accelerating and enhancing the implementation of programs and initiatives that will help families, communities, and schools build capacity and establish and expand successful school safety strategies. Read more here

U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Issues Resource on Race and School Programming 
On Aug, 24, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Race and School Programming to guide schools on lawful programs to promote racially inclusive school communities. This resource clarifies the circumstances under which schools can – consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations – develop curricula and programs or engage in activities that promote racially inclusive school communities.  

If individuals within a school community have questions or would like technical assistance, they may contact the OCR office serving their state or territory by visiting ocrcas.ed.gov/contact-ocr

Sign-on Letter Calls on Congress to Avoid a Shutdown and Enact Acceptable FY 2024 Funding 
Several organizations representing a range of non-defense discretionary policy areas are circulating a sign-on letter urging Congress to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 by passing a clean extension of government funding that provides time to enact full-year funding at levels that address pressing needs. The letter does not endorse specific policies but notes the need to fund key services, including child care, education, job training, and many others. The deadline to sign on is Aug. 30, and national, state, and local entities can sign. You can read the letter and sign here.

 


August 4, 2023

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Congress Recesses for August; Big Spending Decisions Loom Upon Its Return

This week, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress returned to their districts and states for the annual August recess. Congress is expected to return in early September to a long list of important issues, including the need to find consensus on full-year federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations.

Just prior to recessing for August, the House Appropriations Committee chose to not mark up the subcommittee-passed FY 2024 Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education appropriations bill, perhaps signaling that several Republicans on the committee do not support the subcommittee’s drastic cuts, including a $22 billion (28%) cut for U.S. Department of Education programs.

In contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved all 12 government funding bills on a bipartisan basis — something that hasn’t happened since 2018 — although it has not considered any appropriations bills on the Senate floor. Unlike the House subcommittee bill, the Senate did not include the drastic cuts to education programs and would fund most programs roughly in line with current FY23 levels of investment. In addition, the Senate bill would provide an additional $175 million for Title I and an additional $175 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). See this chart [LINK] from the Committee for Education Funding to compare the funding levels between the House and Senate bills.

Complicating matters, there are only 12 days in September when the House is scheduled to be in session. That leaves little time for the House to consider appropriations bills individually — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised not to pass appropriations bills in a large omnibus package — and then conference with the Senate to produce final bills before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

In past years, Congress would extend current funding levels via a temporary stopgap spending measure to provide enough time to finish the FY 2024 bills. In this instance, however, House conservatives are opposed to continuing funding at current levels and may even insist that any continuing resolution include an across-the-board cut. With the House and Senate bills so far apart and limited time until the Sept. 30 deadline, some conservatives are already talking about a government shutdown, believing it will force others to concede to funding cuts to get bills passed.

When Congress’s FY24 spending negotiations resume after the recess, NSBA will continue to be a vocal advocate for robust funding for ESEA, Title I-A, IDEA Part-B, and other essential K-12 funding.

Rep. Scott Urges Lhamon to Investigate Racial Discrimination in College Admissions and School Policies
On August 1, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the top Democrat on the House education committee urged the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to proactively open investigations into racial discrimination in schools.

In his letter to Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Education Secretary for Civil Rights, Scott asks the U.S. Department of Education to “promptly issue comprehensive guidance clarifying the obligations elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) have to their students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).” He notes that Title VI was enacted to “ensure the federal government stood with Americans historically discriminated against on the basis of their race, color, or national origin. Over the last 60 years, a conservative federal judiciary has slowly warped a law designed to ensure Americans of every race have equal footing in our society into one that bans any consideration of race at all. This perversion of intent reached a new low with the decisions in the recent Harvard and University of North Carolina (UNC) cases overturning the consideration of race as one of many factors IHEs may use in their admissions process.”

Lawmakers Introduce Career Counseling Legislation

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced the Creating Opportunities to Thrive Act (COTA). The legislation would expand federal support for career counseling programs and allow for more comprehensive public outreach via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Broadly, COTA is intended to ensure that more learners across the nation are aware of the services, supports, and programs offered by WIOA and other federal investments in skills development. More on the legislation can be found here.

Congressional Republicans are Criticizing Florida’s New Public School Standards
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing criticism from the majority of the Black Republicans serving in Congress for new public school standards that teach that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills. Reps. John James (R-MI) and Wesley Hunt (R-TX) became the latest to speak out. James tweeted his disapproval, saying that “nothing” about slavery was a “net benefit” to his ancestors. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only Black Republican in the Senate, also rebuked DeSantis. Read more about Florida’s education standards surrounding slavery here.

Top Republican Moves to Reverse Biden’s Block on School Archery, Hunting Class Funding
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) introduced legislation that would protect federal funding for archery and hunting education courses nationwide. The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act would amend the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to clarify that school programs "training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports" are eligible for funding. Read more about the legislation here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.5111 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to prioritize programs that provide evidence of performance. Sponsor: Houchin, Erin [Rep.-R-IN-9]

·       H.R.5110 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to clarify that the prohibition on the use of Federal education funds for certain weapons does not apply to the use of such weapons for training in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports. Sponsor: Green, Mark E. [Rep.-R-TN-7]

·       H.R.5095 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To freeze hiring activity for the Department of Education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Bean, Aaron [Rep.-R-FL-4]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Summits to Help Young Americans Access Good Jobs

On July 25, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the Unlocking Pathways Summit series, a key part of the “Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success” initiative, aimed at helping young Americans access good-paying jobs. The series will increase and expand access to high-quality career pathways to help young Americans pursue jobs in today’s in-demand fields and be prepared for careers of the future. To register for a summit, click on the link below:

·       Aug. 10: Aurora, CO

·       Aug. 17: Madison, WI

·       Sept. 12: Biloxi, MS

ED & Labor Departments Announce New Teacher Preparation Efforts

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new efforts to improve the educator talent pipeline and address persistent nationwide shortages of qualified instructional personnel. The agencies announced the development of new national apprenticeship standards for K-12 teachers, developed by a collection of organizations known as the Pathways Alliance. These standards serve as a template for interested states and local stakeholders to develop and implement their own registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) for the K-12 teaching profession.

In addition, ED and DOL announced the availability of $27 million in new funding for educator preparation programs, an additional $65 million for DOL to help develop and scale more K-12 teacher RAPs, identified a new intermediary to further expand on these efforts, and issued a policy brief highlighting promising best practices amongst states. More on this announcement can be found here.

Biden Administration Issues New Cyber Education and Workforce Strategy

On July 31, the Biden Administration announced the completion of its first-ever National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES). This strategy will address the education and workforce needs of the cyber and information technology sectors of the economy. The announcement includes commitments from public and private entities and makes a number of recommendations for improving education and workforce development efforts to support this segment of the economy more effectively. More on the strategy can be accessed here.

 

 

 


July 28, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Senate Considers FY24 Funding Legislation
On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered a slate of federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) spending bills. Among these is the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations legislation - a measure that provides funding for K-12 education programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While specific details about the proposal are expected soon, the measure would provide $79.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the programs it oversees. This is roughly in line with current FY23 levels of investment. In addition, the measure would provide an additional $175 million for Title I-A grants as part of ESSA and an additional $175 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

This funding proposal stands in stark contrast to the Labor-HHS-ED spending proposal recently advanced in the House. As shared previously, the House proposal, if enacted, would cut ED's budget by nearly 30 percent while dramatically reducing funding for Title I of ESSA by 80 percent. The bill would eliminate or drastically reduce funding support for several other critically important education programs, with dire consequences for the K-12 education community. For these reasons, NSBA has strongly opposed the House bill. While the full House Appropriations Committee was initially expected to continue consideration of the legislation this week, lawmakers are now expected to take up the proposal after the upcoming August congressional recess. For insight on how the two parties are messaging the House appropriations bill for education, read summaries from the Republicans and Democrats.

NSBA's advocacy team is engaging with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the K-12 education community are realized as part of this ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24. However, the radical differences between the House and Senate visions for FY24 funding will likely prove challenging to overcome as the new federal fiscal year, set to begin on October 1 of this year, draws nearer.

House Holds Learning Loss Hearing

On July 26, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing, "Generational Learning Loss: How Pandemic School Closures Hurt Students." The hearing included testimony from several witnesses, including Catherine Truitt, Superintendent of North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction. The hearing focused on the impact school closures have had on students and highlighted troubling assessment data that demonstrated significant decreases in student academic achievement. For a detailed summary of the hearing, including summaries of opening statements, click here. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be accessed here. 

Child Care Funds Sought as Congress Looks to Fall Supplemental
Child care advocates are pushing for $16 billion in supplemental funding as members of Congress push for a variety of priorities to be included in an emergency package expected later this year. Both Democratic appropriations leaders Senate Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and the House panel's Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are longtime supporters of child care subsidies. DeLauro called for more money and criticized House Republicans for proposing to cut the Department of Health and Human Services' early childhood education program Head Start, eliminate an Education Department program that provides child care at campuses and keep Child Care and Development Block Grant funding steady in fiscal 2024. Read more on Congress' push for more child care funding here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

 ·       H.R.4844 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to clarify the availability and appropriateness of training for local food service personnel, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Pocan, Mark [Rep.-D-WI-2]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Issues New IDEA Guidance

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued updated policy guidance to clarify legal protections afforded to students with disabilities and their families. The updated guidance was issued in conjunction with a Dear Colleague letter sent to states outlining the primary supervision requirements contained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance can be accessed here

Biden Administration Announces Over $5 Million for California to Reduce Lead in Schools and Child Care Facilities
Under the Biden administration's new 'Investing in America' agenda, the EPA announced $58 million to protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities across the country, including $5.4 million for California. The new Voluntary School and Child Care Lead Testing and Reduction Grant Program funds voluntary lead testing, compliance monitoring, and for the first time, lead in drinking water remediation projects. Read more about the EPA's announcement and the Biden Administration's safety protocols for schools regarding lead testing here.

Education Secretary Cardona Defends Public Education in Speech to AFT
In a July 24 speech at the American Federation of Teachers' Teach Conference in Washington, D.C., Education Secretary Miguel Cardona addressed his appreciation for teachers and the need for public education priorities to stay relevant in education policy. He stated that the "ABCs" of teaching include agency, or more effort from the U.S. Department of Education to advocate for teachers; better working conditions for teachers and professionals in the industry and competitive teacher salaries; and recognition of the importance of education professionals to students. Cardona also outlined the impacts of the education cuts proposed in the House Education, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. Read Cardona's remarks here.

President Biden's Remarks on Artificial Intelligence
On July 21, President Biden offered remarks on the importance of recognizing the growth of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry and the responsibilities that both governments and the private sector hold in pursuing such advanced technologies. He said his recent visits with AI leaders taught him the range of perspectives, possibilities, and risks of AI. He said companies have agreed to find ways for AI to help meet society's challenges and to invest in education and new jobs to help students and workers prosper from the enormous opportunities of AI. Read the President's remarks here.

Discretionary Grant Program Updates

·       The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Technical Assistance on State Data Collection – National Technical Assistance Center to Improve State Capacity to Collect, Report, Analyze, and Use Accurate IDEA Data to Address Significant Disproportionality. Authorized under section 611(c)(1) of the IDEA, the program seeks to improve states' ability to meet IDEA data collection and reporting requirements. Applications are due by September 11, 2023, and further information is available here.

·       The Institute of Education Sciences, which is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education, invited applications for the Education Research and Special Education Research Grant Programs. Further information is available here.

 


July 21, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Additional Education Budget Activity Expected on Capitol Hill Next Week
This week, lawmakers in both chambers continued to make progress on appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2024 (FY24). The recently enacted bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) — the new debt limit law that includes a topline spending cap for FY24 largely in line with current FY23 levels — was widely expected to support lawmakers in advancing legislation ahead of the start of the next federal fiscal year set to begin Oct. 1. House Republican leadership has moved forward, however, with spending bills in recent weeks that dramatically reduce federal spending well below the FRA’s caps. At the same time, Senate appropriators are approving spending proposals that align with the FRA, setting both chambers up for a standoff later this year.

Late last week, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS-ED) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY24 spending proposal for legislation that provides funding for education programs, including those like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The subcommittee approved the spending bill, on a party line vote, after a contentious hearing. Disconcertingly, the proposal would, if enacted, cut the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) budget by nearly 30 percent while dramatically reducing funding for Title I of ESSA by 80 percent. The bill would eliminate and drastically reduce a slew of other important education programs, resulting in devasting effects on K-12 education systems throughout the country. NSBA strongly opposes this proposal and will continue to monitor the bill as it goes to the full House Appropriations Committee as soon as next week.

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) are making progress on a separate slate of FY24 spending bills. Murray and Collins recently announced how they will divvy up nearly $14 billion in rescinded funds, as part of the FRA, which they plan to use as part of the wider FY24 process. Encouragingly, Chair Murray and Ranking Member Collins have indicated that they plan to use at least $2 billion of these funds for their forthcoming FY24 Labor-HHS-ED spending bill. In practical terms, this means that the Senate is likely to emerge with a spending proposal that avoids making the misguided and drastic cuts to K-12 education envisioned by House Republicans.

As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team is closely monitoring the process and engaging with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the K-12 education community are realized as part of this ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24.

NSBA Supports Introduction of Teacher and Principal Shortage Bill in the Senate

On July 19, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), along with other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act. This legislation would, if enacted, make a series of changes to federal policy to better support state and local efforts intended to attract and retain a high-quality educator and administrator workforce. NSBA is proud to support the introduction of this legislation and looks forward to working with Congress towards its enactment. For more information, read Kaine’s press release, which include a link to the bill text.

House Passes Schools Not Shelters Act; Senate Unlikely to Consider Bill
On July 19, the House passed the Schools Not Shelters Act (H.R. 3941) by a vote of 222 to 201. If enacted, this legislation would prohibit K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) from using their facilities to house or otherwise shelter migrants. Specifically, the proposal would withhold federal funding from schools or IHEs if their facilities are used in this way. The measure is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratically controlled Senate.

Hassan, Shaheen, and Kuster Introduce Bill to Support Children with Disabilities
Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), as well as Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH), joined in introducing a bill to deliver on the commitment of full funding for educational and early-intervention services for children who experience disabilities. Read more here.

Jayapal, Wyden, Brown, Welch Introduce Legislation to Improve Child Nutrition
Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Peter Welch, (D-VT) introduced legislation that would improve child nutrition by expanding access to locally grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables for school meal programs. The Local School Foods Expansion Act of 2023 directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a program for at least 14 participating states and school food authorities to buy locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables with existing National School Lunch Program funds. Read more about the school nutrition bill here.

Grijalva on His Uphill Battle to Improve Public Education
Representative Rául Grijalva (D-AZ) recognizes that bills to improve public education and increase access for English language learners do not have much of a chance in this Congress, but he still introduced a package of bills aimed at improving dual-language learning and providing better resources to students who are learning English for the first time. The Supporting Young Language Learners' Access to Bilingual Education Act would help establish dual language programs in communities with a high percentage of low-income students, including English learners. Read more about the Congressman and his efforts to improve public education here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.4711 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To limit the authority of the Secretary of Education to propose or issue regulations and executive actions. Sponsor: Grothman, Glenn [Rep.-R-WI-6]
  • H.R.4565 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the weights used to determine amounts for targeted grants and education finance incentive grants for local educational agencies under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Sponsor: Thompson, Glenn [Rep.-R-PA-15]
  • H.Res.597 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3935) to amend title 49, United States Code, to reauthorize and improve the Federal Aviation Administration and other civil aviation programs, and for other purposes, and providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3941) to prohibit the use of the facilities of a public elementary school, a public secondary school, or an institution of higher education to provide shelter for aliens who have not been admitted into the United States, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Houchin, Erin [Rep.-R-IN-9]
  • S.2363 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to promote and expand high-quality youth apprenticeship programs and provide support and incentives to help employees establish such programs. Sponsor: Hickenlooper, John W. [Sen.-D-CO]
  • H.R.4620 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish a program for the procurement of domestically grown unprocessed fruits and vegetables to provide healthier school meals, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Jayapal, Pramila [Rep.-D-WA-7]
  • H.R.4613 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require a school food authority to make publicly available any waiver of the Buy American requirement, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Garamendi, John [Rep.-D-CA-8]
  • H.R.4599 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish grant programs to improve the health and positive youth development impacts of youth sports participation, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Allred, Colin Z. [Rep.-D-TX-32]
  • H.R.4595 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To repeal the Federal charter for the National Education Association. Sponsor: Good, Bob [Rep.-R-VA-5]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Special Education Grants Now Available
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is accepting grant applications for the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities program. The program, which seeks to “promote academic achievement and to improve results” for children with disabilities, provides technical assistance, supports model demonstration projects, disseminates information, and implements activities supported by scientifically based research. Applications are due by Aug. 31, 2023, and further information is available here.

 


July 14, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

FY24 Appropriations Take Shape; House Appropriations Bill Would Cut Title I By 80%
Lawmakers returned this week to Capitol Hill for a busy three-week work period ahead of Congress’ annual August recess. On top of the agenda is the need to address appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2024 (FY24).

The recently passed Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) outlines topline spending caps for fiscal year 2024 (FY24) and fiscal year 2025 that roughly freeze federal funding at current fiscal year 2023 (FY23) levels. The FRA was widely expected to provide lawmakers greater clarity regarding how to move forward with this process. Shortly after the passage of the FRA, however, House Republican leadership announced plans to move forward with a series of spending bills that reduce federal spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, rather than FY23 levels as required by the FRA. Shortly after this announcement, Senate leaders outlined plans for FY24 that align much more closely with the FRA’s requirements. In practical terms, these divergent approaches put Congress on a likely path towards conflict over the direction of federal spending.

Most recently, the House and Senate appropriations committees have advanced legislation for roughly half of the dozen individual spending bills that compose the federal budget. On July 13, Republican leaders on the House Appropriations Committee unveiled the text of their Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill, which provides annual funding for education programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The bill proposes an overall cut of 15% to the U.S. Department of Education’s budget and an 80% cut to Title I. Specifically, the bill would rescind $8.7 billion in advance funding for Title I grants to states that school districts were planning to use for the school year starting this fall and cut new funding by $6.0 billion. In total, the bill would cut Title I by $14.7 billion in FY24, from $18.4 billion to $3.7 billion.

The House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to markup and advance this legislation on Friday, July 14. Subcommittee markups are usually quick, with the minority saying why they oppose the bill and the majority saying what they like about the bill. Members usually wait until the full committee markup to offer amendments. Democrats will not support this bill, and many education insiders believe that some Republicans from swing districts will have trouble with the steep cuts in this bill to popular education programs like Title I, making it an open question as to whether this bill will ever be brought to the House floor.

Timing for comparable efforts in the Senate regarding their Labor-HHS-ED bill is still forthcoming, but could be the last week of July. Regardless of timing, the Senate will be will very different from the House bill. Ultimately, both chambers will need to reconcile differences between the two versions of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill prior to the start of FY24 on October 1.

As these efforts continue to move forward, NSBA’s advocacy team is closely monitoring the process and engaging with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the K-12 education community are realized as part of this ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24.

Former Reps. Urge Congress to Reauthorize the READ Act and Keep International Education a Priority
In an op-ed for The Hill, former Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ed Royce (R-CA) write that it is “imperative for Congress to reauthorize the READ Act for another five years.” Enacted in 2017, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act ensures that the U.S. government has a “comprehensive strategy to partner with countries around the world to strengthen their education systems, improve learning outcomes, and better reach young girls, as well as other vulnerable or marginalized populations.” Lowey and Royce note that Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NJ) have introduced bipartisan, “clean” extensions of the legislation to “ensure that the administration is held accountable for the results of its international education programs (through) annual reports to Congress and continues to update our basic education strategy.”

House Judiciary Grills FBI Director on Protecting School Boards, Other Allegations
FBI Director Christopher Wray was interrogated and scrutinized by House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee during a July 12 hearing. Topics of interrogation included FBI memos about school boards, investigations into former President Donald Trump, and bipartisan concerns about the FBI’s misuse of collecting data and data privacy. Read more about the recent House Judiciary hearing here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.4565 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the weights used to determine amounts for targeted grants and education finance incentive grants for local educational agencies under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Sponsor: Thompson, Glenn [Rep.-R-PA-15]

·       H.R.4550 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to carry out a grant program to support the recruitment and retention of paraprofessionals in public elementary schools, secondary schools, and preschool programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Kuster, Ann M. [Rep.-D-NH-2]

·       H.R.4541 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To improve the identification and support of children and families who experience trauma. Sponsor: Davis, Danny K. [Rep.-D-IL-7]

·       S.2217 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide full Federal funding of such part. Sponsor: Van Hollen, Chris [Sen.-D-MD]

·       H.R.4519 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide full Federal funding of such part. Sponsor: Huffman, Jared [Rep.-D-CA-2]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

FCC Chair Proposes New K-12 Cybersecurity Pilot Program
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed a new, three-year, $200 million pilot program to assist K-12 schools and libraries in strengthening their cybersecurity.

“I believe that taking this step now will give us valuable insights about whether and how the FCC can leverage its resources to help address the cybersecurity threats that schools and libraries face,” Rosenworcel said as part of the announcement.

NSBA strongly supports the Chairwoman’s proposal, which follows NSBA’s recent submission of comments to the FCC urging the agency to modernize the E-rate program’s cybersecurity provisions.

“Cyberattacks present a triple threat to our nation’s schools and libraries. Cyberattacks shut down computer networks, resulting in lost learning time for students and financial losses to districts, but they can also put the personal data of students and school employees at risk, potentially resulting in the theft of social security numbers, birth dates, and other private information,” said NSBA Executive Director and CEO Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs. “Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s proposal is a smart approach to combat these threats. We appreciate her ongoing commitment to our nation’s schools and students, and we urge her fellow commissioners to support her proposal.”

NSBA expects the FCC to announce a formal notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming weeks to create the pilot program. The rulemaking will seek comments from the public regarding ways to improve and further refine the program prior to finalizing it, subject to a vote of the full commission. NSBA plans to submit additional comments to the agency after the notice of proposed rulemaking is published.

Virtual Meeting: President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics
On July 20 from 12-5 p.m. ET, the President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (Commission) will hold its second virtual meeting to establish Commission committees; hear from federal leaders; and discuss next steps towards advancing duties of the Commission.

In support of Executive Order 14045, the Commission’s duties are to advise the President, through the Secretary of Education, on matters pertaining to educational equity and economic opportunity for the Hispanic and Latino community in several areas, including improving educational opportunities and outcomes; promoting career pathways for in-demand jobs; and increasing public awareness of and generating solutions for the educational and training challenges and equity disparities that Hispanic and Latino students face. Reserve your spot at the virtual meeting.

Biden Administration Focuses on Child Care
With the American Rescue Plan’s support for the child care system expiring this September, the Biden administration announced its new guidelines for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The guidelines directed the agency to follow an executive order, which would use a preexisting child care reimbursement program, known as the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), to lend funding to those in need and ease inefficiencies. The administration wants states to pay the child care centers for placements at the beginning of the month and make applying for grants accessible online. Read more about the new executive order on child care here.

P3 Pilot Applications Announced

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) issued a notice inviting applications for selection as Performance Partnership Pilots for disconnected youth (P3). This pilot authority has been authorized by Congress since 2014. It is aimed at better supporting disconnected youth populations by allowing ED and other federal agencies to waive certain requirements of existing federal funding streams like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins V), and other similar investments. In doing so, recipients of these funds can braid and blend federal resources more easily, allowing for greater coordination of services for these populations. More on the announcement, including how to apply, can be found here.

Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Grants Program - July 28th Deadline Extension

The Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Grants Program provides competitive grants to local educational agencies (LEAs), consortia of LEAs, or one or more LEAs in partnership with a state educational agency (SEA) to develop or implement and make publicly available as a resource for other LEAs and SEAs, school diversity plans that improve school conditions for student learning by supporting voluntary efforts to increase school socioeconomic diversity in preschool through grade 12. This grant program reopened on July 11, 2023, to allow applicants more time to prepare and submit their applications. More information about the grant can be accessed here.

Energy Department Announces School Infrastructure Funding

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $178 million in new grant funding for local school districts in 22 states via the Renew America’s Schools grant program. This grant program was created as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The program aims to help schools and districts make improvements to facilities that improve energy efficiency and foster healthier learning environments. More information about the grants can be found here.

 


July 7, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Van Hollen, Huffman to Reintroduce IDEA Full Funding Act
NSBA has learned that Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) plan to soon reintroduce the IDEA Full Funding Act — possibly as soon as July 10. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would finally ensure Congress' commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Full funding for IDEA has long been a priority for NSBA and its members. In support of the legislation, NSBA Executive Director and CEO Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs shared the following statement with Van Hollen’s office:

“School boards and educators are committed to providing students with disabilities and their families the supports they need to become working, contributing, engaging members of society. However, for far too long the federal government has failed to meet its IDEA funding commitment. The federal government must begin providing the level of dedicated annual funding for students with disabilities commensurate not only with IDEA’s vision and goals, but also with our moral commitment to these vitally important students and their families. NSBA strongly supports the IDEA Full Funding Act, which will establish a clear path towards fully achieving the federal share of resources needed to address the unique needs of our students with disabilities. We thank Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their leadership on this issue and we appreciate the bipartisan support from the bill’s many co-sponsors.”

Congress on Two-Week Recess, but Busy Weeks Ahead 
The first week of July on Capitol Hill has been quiet, with the Senate and House on a two-week recess. NSBA expects the remaining July legislative schedule, however, to be very active. When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., legislators will begin a busy four-week session focused on the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process, including work on the U.S. Department of Education's budget. Congress also will continue hearings and other committee activities on several topics with implications for schools, including children's privacy, education research and technical assistance, and youth apprenticeship and other workforce policies. Although this work will not be completed before the long summer recess that begins in early August, we expect Congress to make a number of key decisions that will set the stage for action later this year. NSBA will continue to call on Congress to fund school districts’ budget priorities while also serving as a resource on challenging topics like student privacy, broadband connectivity, and more. Our full weekly update will return next week after Congress resumes its work. 

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

Congress in recess. No bills introduced.

 


June 30, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

NSBA Joins National Organizations Urging Congress to Extend Temporary Reimbursement Increases for School Meals

On June 30, 2023, the Keep Kids Fed Act (KKFA) will expire, meaning schools will no longer receive additional funding for school breakfast, lunch, and other meals unless Congress takes action to address this issue. Joined by 17 other national organizations, NSBA urged Congress to extend the KKFA's temporary school meal reimbursement increases for an additional year to help local communities continue to feed the millions of students served by these programs over the summer and during the 2023-2024 school year. The letter recognizes that the KKFA was passed to assist communities recovering from the pandemic but notes that many of the same economic challenges remain, including high inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and rising food insecurity. Read the letter.

House Explores Skills-based Hiring
Late last week, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing titled "Competencies Over Degrees: Transitioning to a Skills-based Economy." The hearing focused on changes that could be made to reorient systems of education, workforce development, and employment to strengthen approaches and programs that provide the skills needed for further economic opportunities and to reward better the attainment of these competencies in the labor market. The hearing also explored the issue of the "paper ceiling"- the ongoing challenge of increasing numbers of workers being overlooked for jobs they would otherwise qualify for because they lack a four-year degree.

Witnesses and lawmakers explored a wide array of issues in this context, including potential changes to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and federal apprenticeship legislation to facilitate this vision for the future. In particular, the hearing also emphasized the importance of alternative pathways to postsecondary education and training and highlighted the importance of communicating these opportunities earlier to students within the K-12 continuum. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

Foxx and Cassidy Question Biden's Lack of Transparency in Creating Title IX Rule
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, "blasted" the Biden administration's "lack of transparency in creating its new Title IX rule," saying it "forces schools to allow biological males to compete in women's sports or risk losing federal funds." The lawmakers expressed "concerns over the rushed review and public comment period," adding that it "limited Americans' ability to provide feedback on a rule that has serious implications for women and girls' athletics." Read a press release from Foxx and Cassidy here.

Senators Speak Out Against Transgender Athletes in Women's Sports
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) spoke out in opposition to a proposed rule change to Title IX that would prohibit full bans on transgender students from participating on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) gave similar remarks. Ernst and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) have introduced a resolution to declare an official "National Women's Sports Week" in honor of Title IX. Ernst also addressed the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, passed by the U.S. House along party lines in April. While it is unlikely to be heard in the Democratic-led Senate, the White House said Biden would veto the legislation. Read more about the rule change here.

U.S. Desperately Needs Cyber Talent, Congress Says
With almost 700,000 cybersecurity job openings, the U.S. does not have enough cybersecurity experts to protect the nation's critical infrastructure and federal networks from cyberthreats, according to members of industry and Congress. Representatives and witnesses painted an alarming picture of the shortfall in cybersecurity talent during a June 22 House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee on cybersecurity and infrastructure hearing. Leaders in the industry noted that students need proper education in classrooms but also access to available resources in everyday life. Read more about the U.S. need for cyber talent here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.4379 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to expand the summer electronic benefits transfer for children program to include benefit transfer during school closures, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Levin, Mike [Rep.-D-CA-49]

·       H.R.4342 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To support educational entities in fully implementing title IX and reducing and preventing sex discrimination in all areas of education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Matsui, Doris O. [Rep.-D-CA-7]

·       H.R.4336 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to eliminate certain requirements under the summer food service program for children, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Kim, Andy [Rep.-D-NJ-3]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

FCC Chair Proposes Expansion of E-rate Program

Speaking at the American Library Association's annual conference earlier this week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal to allow E-Rate funding to support Wi-Fi on school buses and to support Wi-Fi hotspots so that libraries, school libraries, and schools can check the devices out to patrons or students in need. The proposed changes to the E-Rate program will require a full vote of the Commission. At the end of her remarks, Chairwoman Rosenworcel also acknowledged the field's cybersecurity concerns. She said, in part, ". . . as we modernize (E-rate), we also know that network security is a growing concern for schools & libraries." NSBA supports these proposed program improvements and welcomes the Chairwoman's acknowledgment of the relentless cyberattacks facing the nation's schools. Her speech is available here.

Administration Unveils Broadband Funding Distribution

In late 2021, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) - legislation that provides nearly $1.2 trillion in total funding over the next decade for the nation's surface transportation network and other core infrastructure. Part of the IIJA investments aims to help close the "Homework Gap" by increasing student access to high-speed broadband internet connections. Over $42 billion in IIJA funds were earmarked for this purpose via the creation of a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. This new initiative provides funding to states to close the digital divide, especially in rural communities and other areas that lack sufficient broadband connectivity.

This week, the Biden Administration unveiled the state allocations for these funds, which can be found here. These allocations were made based on a broadband access map created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that the funds are targeted at areas where the investments are needed the most. Further details regarding this funding availability can be found here.

Biden's Investing in America Tour Highlights "Bidenomics" Agenda
A term often used by the president's political opponents is now one the Biden administration hopes to flip to their advantage as it promotes results of legislative gains from the past two years. "Bidenomics," is the term used as Education Secretary Cardona and the President travel across the country to promote the administration's agenda for manufacturing, infrastructure, energy, and workforce development. Ahead of the "Investing in America Tour," Secretary Cardona said he would like to see more apprenticeships and STEM education. Read more about the White House economic initiative here.

USDA Proposes Serving Flavored Milk to High School Students Only
The USDA is offering two alternatives to the current dietary guidelines and plans to gather public feedback on both approaches. The two proposed alternatives to the current milk standard are Alternative A, which would limit flavored milk (fat-free and low-fat) availability at school lunch and breakfast to high school children (grades 9-12) only. Alternative B would maintain the current standard, which allows all schools to offer fat-free and low-fat milk, flavored and unflavored, at school lunch and breakfast. Under both scenarios, added sugars in flavored milk (such as chocolate and strawberry) would be limited. Read more here.

 

NSBA UPDATE 

NSBA Reacts to Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Affirmative Action in University Admissions
On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are unconstitutional because they rely in part on racial considerations.

"As an organization focused on equity and excellence in public education, today's Supreme Court decision is very disappointing," said Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, NSBA's incoming Executive Director and CEO. "Diversity is the backbone of American society and a core tenet in our democracy. Exposure to diverse cultures and individuals is a critical component to preparing our K-12 students to live and work in a modern society and be competitive in an increasingly global workforce composed of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Without educational policies focused on these goals, communities are often separated along racial and socioeconomic lines. Even with these policies in place, schools are growing more segregated, with roughly 40 percent of Latino and Black students attending intensely segregated schools, compared to about 33 percent in 1988."

Read NSBA's press release, which also includes statements from NSBA Chief Legal Officer Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. and NSBA President Kristi Swett.

McCotter-Jacobs Quoted in Washington Post
Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, who will assume a new role as NSBA's Executive Director and CEO on July 1, was recently quoted in the Washington Post regarding a raise for Fairfax County (VA) School board members.

"More often than not, people don't really know the extent of the work required to be a school board member," McCotter-Jacobs said. "I think states across the country and local governments across the country are coming to realize that the work is so heavy."

McCotter-Jacobs said higher pay also could open the opportunity for serving on school boards to more people from a wider range of backgrounds. "To the extent that you want to ensure that people can serve who bring a voice from various perspectives in the community, I would say from that regard, that's probably more appealing," she said. Read the article.

NSBA's American School Board Journal Recognized for Editorial Excellence
On June 27, NSBA's American School Board Journal (ASBJ) received two awards - a gold and silver - during the 43rd annual EXCEL Awards. Presented by SIIA, the EXCEL Awards are the largest and most prestigious program recognizing excellence and leadership in association media, publishing, marketing, and communication.


June 23, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Senate Appropriators Set Funding Framework

As previously shared, the recent legislative agreement Congress and President Biden reached in recent weeks, known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), extends the nation’s borrowing authority for the next two years. Of significance for the K-12 education community, the FRA establishes new spending caps for that same period of time for federal fiscal years 2024 and 2025. In a recent development last week, House Republicans announced their intention to move forward with individual spending bills that, taken together, provide much less funding for domestic programs, like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), than required by the FRA. This is setting up a likely scenario where the House and Senate propose radically different funding levels for the upcoming 2024 federal fiscal year, set to begin formally on Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), has recently announced its intention to establish topline spending caps, known as 302(b)s, that align with the FRA. The committee is expected to consider these proposed 302(b) allocations on June 22, which are intended to provide roughly the same amount of funding for education programs, like ESSA, at current federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) levels. As these efforts continue to take shape, NSBA’s advocacy team will be closely engaging with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to ensure that the significant funding needs of the K-12 education community are realized as part of the ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24.

Senate Hearing on Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans
On June 21, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.” The hearing recognized the progress made in protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. It also served as a call to remain steadfast in defending these rights against a tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being introduced across the country, particularly targeting transgender youth. Witnesses included Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Kelley Robinson, who said, “LGBTQ+ people of the United States of America are living in a state of emergency.” Watch a video of the hearing here.

Democratic States Push Congress on Child Care as Federal Subsidies Dry Up
Democratic governors are pushing Congress to make significant investments in child care as the last pandemic-era federal child care subsidies are set to lapse this fall, pushing providers and parents into uncertain territory. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina led a June 13 letter, signed by nine other Democratic governors, asking top congressional leaders to maintain the current funding levels and increase recurring funds for child care as they draft their fiscal 2024 budget bills. Read more about the push for increased child care funding here.

Iowa Congressman Zach Nunn Proposes Act to Improve K-12 Cybersecurity
After his experience serving on the White House Security Council, Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA) was exposed to the dramatic impact of cybersecurity incidents on schools and education. As a result, he recently proposed the bipartisan Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act, co-led by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), which focuses on easing access for schools to information about cyberattacks and ways to enhance cybersecurity. The act focuses on creating the School Cybersecurity Information Exchange, which is a publicly accessible website containing cybersecurity’s 12 best practices, training, and lessons that specifically target the needs of K-12 schools. Read more about the act here.

Senators Urge Department of Education to Reinstate Title IV Funds
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and their colleagues in sending a public comment letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging him to reinstate the Gainful Employment Rule. The proposed Gainful Employment Rule uses a debt-to-earnings (DTE) ratio and an earnings premium (EP) test to determine whether career education programs, including all programs at secondary and higher education levels, are providing value and preparing students for “gainful employment.” Programs that consistently saddle students with too much debt or do not produce wages for their students higher than a high school graduate would lose eligibility to receive Title IV federal financial aid. Read Van Hoellen’s press release here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.4186 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to establish employer-directed skills accounts, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stefanik, Elise M. [Rep.-R-NY-21]

·       H.R.4179 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the General Education Provisions Act to allow the release of education records to facilitate the award of a recognized postsecondary credential. Sponsor: Neguse, Joe [Rep.-D-CO-2]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Supporting Home Internet Access
NSBA is assisting the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in publicizing the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30/month ($360/year) for internet access to all families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Families on tribal lands can qualify for up to $75/mo. Currently, more than 17 million Americans are signed up, but many more are eligible, according to the FCC. Applying for the program is simple via this link. Please help spread the word about this program that can assist families in your state and district.

 

NSBA Joins Group Letter to ED and FTC Regarding Education Technology and Student Privacy
NSBA joined several organizations representing school superintendents, educational service agencies, school principals, teachers, and rural educators in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding a provision in the proposed settlement order with ed tech provider Edmodo. The settlement agreement’s definition of “school” could make it more difficult for school districts to adequately provide education technology to students and vet that technology to protect student privacy. Read the letter.

Math and Reading Scores Drop Among Nation’s 13-Year-Olds
Math scores among the nation’s 13-year-olds had the largest drop since the federal government began its assessments in 1973, according to the 2023 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend (LTT) test released on June 21. Average scores for 13-year-olds declined 4 points in reading and 9 points in mathematics compared to the previous assessment administered during the 2019–20 school year. Compared to a decade ago, the average scores declined 7 points in reading and 14 points in mathematics. Lower-performing students saw greater declines than higher-performing peers in math on the recent LTT assessment, a trend found on other recent NAEP assessments. These results provide further evidence that U.S. students are struggling academically amid achievement declines that worsened during the pandemic, particularly in math.

“Today’s results underscore why the Biden-Harris administration remains laser-focused on our plan to Raise the Bar for the academic achievement of all students and maximize the American Rescue Plan’s historic investments in recovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We continue to offer technical assistance, issue guidance, and hold convenings focused on the specific strategies included in our Raise the Bar: Lead the World Plan for improving academic performance and tackling disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes. More action is needed at every level to reverse decades of educational neglect and to Raise the Bar for all students.”

Access the complete test results.

Education Department to Propose Rules on Ancestry Bias in Schools
The U.S. Department of Education plans to propose amending regulations that address the enforcement of K-12 and college cases involving harassment or discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, according to a regulatory announcement. The proposed rulemaking for Title VI, which comes amid an increase in school-based antisemitic incidents, is expected to be released in December. In its announcement, the Education Department said the proposed rule would align with the Biden administration’s initiatives on combating antisemitism and advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities. Read more here.

Education Department Announces New Native Language Grants

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the availability of approximately $8 million in new funding intended to support several federal initiatives aimed at better supporting Native students. “Our efforts to Raise the Bar for multilingual learners includes strengthening and revitalizing Native languages and the recruitment, retention, and leadership of Native educators,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said as part of the announcement. The new grantmaking is aimed at three separate ED initiatives that together are aimed at increasing tribal capacity to serve learners, preserve Native languages, and promote educator recruitment and retention efforts throughout the nation. More information regarding these grants can be found here.


June 16, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Supporting Home Internet Access
NSBA is assisting the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in publicizing a program providing $30/month ($360/year) for internet access to all families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Families on tribal lands can qualify for up to $75/mo. Currently, more than 17 million Americans are signed up, but many more are eligible, according to the FCC. Applying for the program is as simple as accessing Affordable Connectivity Program. Please help spread the word about this program that can assist families in your state and district.

A May 10 article in Broadband Breakfast notes that Verizon and Comcast — two of the biggest internet service providers associated with the program — are urging Congress to extend more funding to the Affordable Connectivity Program. Representatives from both companies have warned that the $14 billion allocated for the program could run out “as soon as the first quarter” of 2024.

House Republicans Propose Significant Cuts to Domestic Spending

After months of on-and-off-again negotiations, congressional leaders and President Biden recently reached a deal to suspend the debt ceiling and avert a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt obligations. The agreement, known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), extends the nation’s borrowing authority for the next two years and, importantly for the K-12 education community, establishes new spending caps for that same period of time for the federal fiscal years 2024 (FY24) and FY25. Upon the release of the agreement, leadership for House Republicans touted the FRA saying, in part, “The Fiscal Responsibility Act does what is responsible for our children, what is possible in divided government, and what is required by our principles and promises.”

Less than two weeks since the FRA’s enactment, House Republicans have signaled that they intend to move forward with FY24 spending bills that do not conform to the requirements of this agreement. In a recent development earlier this week, the top House Republican appropriator, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), announced that she plans to move forward with a series of spending bills that reduce federal spending to FY22 levels rather than FY23 as required by the FRA. Recent press reports have indicated that the committee is planning to advance spending legislation for the Labor-HHS-ED spending bill, where ESSA funding and other education programs derive funding from, that could potentially include a $60 billion cut to funding for this portion of the federal budget — a nearly one-third reduction in funding over current levels of investment.

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) have indicated that they plan to move forward with FY24 spending proposals in the coming weeks that do conform to the FRA. This puts Congress on a likely path towards another future disagreement over federal spending later this fall, with the chambers potentially moving forward with spending proposals that are dramatically different. This divergence will make the reconciling differences between the chambers’ proposals even more challenging ahead of the start of the FY24 on Oct. 1 and a mandatory, across-the-board sequester cut of 1% to all federal spending should Congress not reach an agreement by Jan. 1, 2024. As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will be closely monitoring these developments and engaging with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the K-12 education community are realized as part of this ongoing budget and appropriations process for FY24.

House Education Committee Advances School Shelter Legislation

On June 13, the House Education and the Workforce Committee marked up and advanced the Schools Not Shelters Act (H.R. 3941). If enacted, this legislation would seek to prohibit K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) from using their facilities to house or otherwise shelter migrants. Specifically, the proposal would withhold federal funding from schools or IHEs if their facilities are used in this way. The committee advanced this legislation by a margin of 20-16. It now goes to the full House chamber for further consideration, but the measure is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratically controlled Senate.

House Examines Postsecondary Innovation

On June 14, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing titled “Postsecondary Innovation: Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” While the majority of the hearing focused on the need to fundamentally rethink many aspects of higher education, witnesses and lawmakers discussed at length the critical role K-12 schools play in students’ wider postsecondary readiness. In particular, the importance of dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities was highlighted extensively during the hearing, as was the need to fully invest in K-12 education through Title I of ESSA — a key strategy emphasized during the hearing to prepare students earlier for their future endeavors. A webcast archive of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Republicans Introduce Student Debt Bills
On June 14, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Republicans released a package of five bills to increase transparency about college costs and financial aid, streamline repayment options by providing one standard 10-year repayment plan and one income-driven option, and to limit loans for graduate students. Additional information is available in this one-page fact sheet and press release, which includes links to more detailed descriptions of the bills.

Chairman of House Homeland Cybersecurity Panel Wants K-12 Cyber Education

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), who chairs the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee, called for “an all-of-the-above approach” to address the nation’s cyber workforce shortfall, noting that some estimates show that there are over 700,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the country, with 40,000 of these vacancies in the public sector alone. He argued that a greater focus on cybersecurity education in K-12 schools would help fill the vacant cyber jobs across the country. He also argued that less rigorous educational requirements to enter the profession would ease the labor shortage. Read more about the push for cyber education for K-12 schools here.

Bill Seeks to Teach Kids the “Power of the Outdoors”

A bipartisan group in Congress would like to extend the type of environmental literacy across the nation under companion bills introduced in April dubbed the No Child Left Inside Act. The idea, according to Senate sponsor Jack Reed (D-RI), and co-sponsor Susan Collins (R-ME), is to authorize about $100 million for grants to “fund educational programs that aim to get children outside” and to “promote professional development for teachers on how to integrate environmental literacy and field experiences into their instruction.” Read more about the new education initiative here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.4083 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve oversight of private charter management organizations, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Tlaib, Rashida [Rep.-D-MI-12]
  • H.R.4022 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to include indoor agricultural technology as an activity that supports well-rounded education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Espaillat, Adriano [Rep.-D-NY-13]
  • H.R.3941 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Schools Not Shelters Act Sponsor: Molinaro, Marcus J. [Rep.-R-NY-19]
  • H.R.3930 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require schools to offer flavored milk under the school lunch program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Tiffany, Thomas P. [Rep.-R-WI-7]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Department of Education Proposes Rule Change to IDEA
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is proposing a rule change under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “to remove the requirement for public agencies to obtain parental consent prior to accessing for the first time a child’s public benefits or insurance (e.g., Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)) to provide or pay for required IDEA Part B services.” This proposed change is open for public comment until August 1, 2023. Read more on the proposed change here.

Education and HHS Secretaries Highlight Resources to Address Mental Health Needs of Young People and Make Communities Safer from Gun Violence

On June 16, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a joint letter to governors highlighting resources to help states, communities, and schools support students’ mental health and well-being, particularly students impacted by gun violence. The letter highlights the Education Department’s investments and capacity-building efforts to expand and improve school-based mental health services, address community violence, provide wraparound supports, and promote a safe and supportive school climate. The letter also outlines HHS’s efforts to support the development of school-based mental health supports; prepare and train school personnel, emergency first responders, law enforcement and others to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health impacts from gun violence; and increase treatment and support services for individuals and communities affected by trauma, including trauma caused by gun violence.

ED Announces New Teacher Recruitment and Retention Grants
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the availability of $368 million in new grant funding made available via the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program and the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive program. “Now more than ever, we need more innovative approaches to supporting the return and retention of outstanding, well-prepared, well-supported educators who meet the needs and reflect the diversity of their students,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education James Lane said when the grants were announced. More information regarding these grants can be found here and here.

 


June 9, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

NSBA Advocacy Team Meets with Members of Congress on IDEA, Title I, Broadband, and Other Issues

The NSBA Advocacy Team met with several members of Congress over the past few weeks. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Suzie Lee (D-NV) recently introduced legislation to fully fund IDEA and Title I programs, and your advocates met with their staff members to express support and offer assistance. The team also attended a Zoom meeting with Van Hollen on June 8.

Earlier this month, the NSBA Advocacy Team met with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito's (R-WV) staff and discussed her support for broadband access, student mental health, and online safety. In a meeting with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's (R-MS) staff, they also shared concerns about the safety of children online.

During a visit to Senator Jack Reed's (D-RI) office, the team heard support for full IDEA funding and support for the "Educators for America Act," a program to strengthen recruiting and retaining teachers. Reed also supports student literacy that requires evidence-based reading programs in Title programs. Senator Dick Durbin's (D-IL) staff also shared their support for fully funding IDEA and for action to recruit and retain education staff.

The NSBA Advocacy team continues to visit with members of Congress, focusing on those most closely associated with education issues. Watch the NSBA Connector for information about these visits.

Congress Looks to Next Steps for Funding

As shared previously, lawmakers recently advanced, and President Biden signed into law, the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) - legislation that suspends the debt limit through 2025 and establishes new spending caps for that same two-year period. A summary of the FRA can be found here. The spending caps contained in the bill will freeze current federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) funding levels for the upcoming FY24 appropriations process and will allow for a 1% increase in FY25. In addition, the FRA includes a provision that strongly encourages Congress to pass all 12 federal appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year. If lawmakers are unable to

reach that goal, an automatic spending reduction would be applied to the entire federal budget until full-year appropriations legislation has been passed.

With this new appropriations framework now law, Congress is expected to begin marking up individual spending bills in the coming weeks and months. However, less than a week after passage, recent reports indicate that House Republicans may attempt to move forward with spending bills that use lower spending caps than those contained in the FRA. Ahead of these legislative efforts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has provided additional clarity regarding nearly $400 million in rescinded pandemic aid funds that were also included as part of the FRA. In a recent letter to Education Stabilization Fund grantees, ED has made clear that no K-12 education funds that have already been obligated and sent to states will be included in these amounts. NSBA's advocacy team is monitoring these developments closely and will continue to engage with partners in Congress to secure needed investments in K-12 education as part of the upcoming FY24 budget and appropriations process and beyond.

House Education Committee Examines Department of Labor FY24 Budget

On June 7, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing examining the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor and, relatedly, its recent FY24 budget request to Congress. Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su - whose confirmation is currently stalled in the Senate -was the sole witness at the over three-hour-long hearing. The hearing focused on a wide array of topics, including how to further align and coordinate publicly funded workforce development efforts and K-12 education systems. In addition, lawmakers and Su discussed apprenticeship programs, including ways to grow and expand the use of apprenticeships to develop and prepare future K-12 teachers. A webcast archive of the hearing, including statements and testimony, can be found here.

Lawmakers Markup New Legislation With K-12 Impacts

On June 6, the full House Education and the Workforce Committee marked up several pieces of legislation, including two measures with implications for the K-12 education community. The first, H. Res. 461, explicitly condemns using K-12 education facilities to house migrants. The second, H.R. 1147, would make changes to national school meal programs to allow schools and districts to serve whole milk. Both measures were advanced out of committee and now head to the full House chamber for further consideration. However, these measures are not expected to be taken up by the Senate should they clear the House later this year.

Senate HELP Committee Examines Mental Health

On June 8, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing, "Why Are So Many American Youth in Mental Health Crisis? Exploring Causes and Solutions." The hearing, which featured U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy and Katherine Neas, the U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and the Rehabilitative Services, focused on root causes

related to youth mental health challenges and provided a forum for discussion on ways to address these issues. A second panel also is providing testimony regarding these issues. A webcast archive of the hearing, including statements and testimony, can be found here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

· H.R.3872 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require the Secretary of Education to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to conduct a study on the possible mental health effects of a lockdown drill or active shooter drill in elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Pettersen, Brittany [Rep.-D-CO-7] · H.R.3804 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to address workforce gaps, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Bice, Stephanie I. [Rep.-R-OK-5]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

U.S. Department of Education Releases School Safety Infographic to Mark Internet Safety Month

June marks Internet Safety Month and the start of summer break across the country. With children and adolescents potentially spending more time online over the next few months, it's important to know they can encounter a range of potential safety threats and risks in the digital world, including cyberbullying, online exploitation, and cybercriminals.

Teaching children about digital risks and how to avoid them can be one of the most effective ways to help young people make smart and safe choices in their online interactions. In recognition of Internet Safety Month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a new SchoolSafety.gov infographic outlining the issue of online safety and providing tips, strategies, and aligned resources specifically geared towards parents and guardians, school communities, and students.

FBI and ED Host Call on "Swatting" The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Education held a call on June 6 on the increase of "swatting" and its effect on schools and students. Swatting is defined as calling in a false threat or hoax alarm. It is thought to have originated with video gamers calling in false reports to police departments to intimidate or get even with online opponents. The practice has resulted in victims being accidentally killed by police departments.

The increase in cases has taken two general forms: personal and political. Calls to schools have taken the form of calling in everything from traditional bomb threats to fake active shooter reports. Obviously, these can be highly disruptive to school and traumatic to students, staff, and law enforcement.

The authorities on the call recommended several actions for school staff:

1. Work with local law enforcement to develop a system for routing emails or calls directly to law enforcement;

2. Create a system for recording and maintaining a record of the threat;

3. Train frontline employees on what to listen for on calls; and

4. Report every incident to law enforcement, even if it is known to be a hoax.

Swatting is a felony and, in many cases, is a federal offense. Students and parents need to understand the consequences of engaging in this practice. It also should be noted that artificial intelligence and video technology will make it more challenging to detect fakes and easier to make credible threats.

President Biden to Name Department of Education Coordinator for Book Bans President Biden will announce new actions to address discrimination against LGBTQIA+ Americans, including the appointment of a new point person at the Education Department to address an increase in book bans. Administration officials detailed new efforts in the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other agencies to provide housing support and push back on book bans that disproportionately affect LGBTQ youth. The book ban coordinator at the Education Department will communicate with schools, making districts aware that book bans can violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students, according to the president's domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden. Read more here.

ED Announces School Infrastructure Grants

On June 2, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a notice inviting K-12 schools and districts to apply for roughly $40 million in new funding to support school building and related infrastructure improvement projects. ED anticipates making 8-13 awards, between $3 and $5 million each, to support these efforts. In addition, ED is planning to set aside an additional $2 million for the creation of a National Center on School Infrastructure to provide technical assistance and best practices to states and schools as part of this wider initiative. More information about the grants, including how to apply, can be accessed here.

Discretionary Grant Program Updates

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited applications for the following programs:

· The Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) Program provides funds for full-service community schools to "improve the coordination, integration,

accessibility, and effectiveness" of services for children and families. These programs focus specifically on those children who are attending high-poverty schools. The Department defines "full-service community schools" to include those schools that "meet the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve by leveraging local nonprofit, private sector, and public partnerships to bring wraparound services into school buildings, such as mental health supports, dental services, and assistance with shelter and nutrition." The Department recently published final priority and requirements for the FSCS Program available here. The estimated available funds for this program total $74,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by Aug. 8, 2023, and further information is available here.

· The Indian Education Discretionary Grants Program - Native American Language Resource Centers Program will provide funds to establish and operate one or more Native American language resource centers. This program encourages projects that "preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice and develop Native American languages." The estimated available funds for this program total $2,900,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 27, 2023, and further information is available here.

· The Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) - Grants to Charter School Developers for the Opening of New Charter Schools and for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (Developer Grants) - is authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). CSP Developer Grants are used to enable charter school developers to open and prepare for the operation of new or replicated charter schools or to expand high-quality charter schools. The estimated available funds for this program total $4,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 7, 2023, and further information is available here.

· National Center on School Infrastructure - Funds for the National Center on School Infrastructure program will be used to establish a national center on school infrastructure to serve as a clearinghouse of resources to develop safe, healthy, sustainable, and equitable public school infrastructure and to provide technical assistance to Supporting America's School Infrastructure grantees and high-need local educational agencies in order to improve public school facilities for students. The estimated available funds for this program total $2,000,000 annually. Applications are due by August 7, 2023, and further information is available here.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) invited applications for the Transformative Research in the Education Sciences and Using Longitudinal Data to Support State

Education Policymaking Grant Programs. IES is announcing two competitions through this notice - one competition relating to using longitudinal data to support state education policymaking; and one competition for transformative research in the education sciences. Congress has not yet enacted an appropriation for FY24 - the actual level of funding will depend on final congressional action. Applications are due by Aug. 17, 2023, and further information is available here.


June 2, 2023

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Congress Passes Debt Limit Legislation; President Biden Expected to Sign Today

Since the start of the 118th Congress, lawmakers have struggled to agree on whether and how to raise the nation’s statutory borrowing authority (known informally as the debt limit or ceiling). This borrowing cap must be raised to pay for expenses Congress has already incurred. In recent weeks, the U.S. Treasury Department has estimated that the federal government will exhaust current options to service these debt obligations by June 5. Failure to raise the debt limit would result in an unprecedented default on the United States’ debt and would have severe economic consequences for the nation’s economy.

For the last several weeks, House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and President Biden have been intensely negotiating the contours of an agreement to raise the nation’s debt limit in exchange for spending and policy concessions. Over the Memorial Day weekend, lawmakers announced that they had reached agreement on this critical issue. The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) will suspend the debt limit for the next two years, through 2025, and establishes new spending caps for that same period. A summary of the FRA can be found here.

These spending caps, which will apply to the upcoming 2024 federal fiscal year (FY24) and the next (FY25), freeze current levels of federal investment in domestic programs, like those funded by the Every Student Succeeds Act, at roughly current FY23 levels. The FRA also contains a provision that incentivizes the passage of all 12 federal appropriations bills later this year. Should Congress not achieve that goal, an automatic spending reduction would be applied to the entire federal budget until full-year appropriations legislation has been passed. Further, the bill would allow for a 1% increase in funding for domestic discretionary programs in FY25. Collectively, these provisions are intended to slow federal discretionary spending, which has been a significant priority for Congressional Republicans.

In addition, the FRA rescinds approximately $28 billion in unspent pandemic aid funding, including an estimated $391 million in unobligated Education Stabilization Funding (ESF). While the ESF includes funding streams for K-12 education, higher education, and private schools, early analysis of the legislation indicates that most of this rescinded funding will come from unclaimed postsecondary resources as part of the ESF. This means that these rescissions will likely have a minimal impact on school districts, given most of these resources have already been spent or otherwise obligated for future use. Finally, the FRA includes several other policy concessions sought by House Republicans, including imposing new work requirements for certain social safety net programs and modest reforms to permitting for energy projects.

On May 31, the full House chamber passed the legislation by a margin of 314-117, with 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats voting in favor of the proposal. On June 1, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 63-36, with 44 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and 2 Independents supporting the bill. President Biden is expected to sign the bill today, June 2, just prior to the June 5 deadline laid out by the Treasury Department. NSBA’s advocacy team is closely monitoring this process and is continuing to analyze the impacts on the K-12 education community.

Rep. Katie Porter Introduces Bills to Improve Student and Educator Mental Health
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced two bills to improve the support students and teachers receive when struggling with mental illness. Porter’s Student Mental Health Rights Act, co-led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), directs the U.S. Department of Education to establish guidance and determine campus compliance with federal laws that protect students with mental illnesses. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has announced companion legislation in the Senate. Read more here.

Senators Sanders and Murray Release Report on Worsening Child Care Crisis
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member and former chair of the committee, released a new report finding that child care across the U.S. could become more expensive and more difficult to find if Congress fails to act before September 30, 2023. The critical child care funding contained in the American Rescue Plan saved high-quality child care slots for 10 million children nationwide and 1 million child care jobs, but the funding is set to expire on September 30, putting access to affordable child care at risk. Read more here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.3747 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To rename the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Green, Al [Rep.-D-TX-9]
  • S.1762 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to prohibit the use of corporal punishment in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Murphy, Christopher [Sen.-D-CT]
  • H.R.3726 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to study student mental health at institutions of higher education and to issue guidance on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 for mental health and substance use disorder policies of institutions of higher education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Porter, Katie [Rep.-D-CA-47]
  • H.R.3713 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend projects relating to children and to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs. Sponsor: Napolitano, Grace F. [Rep.-D-CA-31]
  • H.R.3711 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit the use of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary school facilities to provide shelter for unlawfully present aliens, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Molinaro, Marcus J. [Rep.-R-NY-19]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Condition of Education Report Released

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Nation Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published its annual report on the condition of education in the United States. The report examines a host of issues facing education across the country, including school enrollment recovery from the pandemic, K-12 teacher shortages, student achievement, and wider efforts to recover lost instructional time due to school closures. The full report can be accessed here.

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Resource on Confronting Racial Discrimination in Student Discipline
On May 26, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (Justice) jointly released a Resource on Confronting Racial Discrimination in Student Discipline. The Resource provides examples of the Departments’ investigations of such discrimination over the last 10 years, reflecting the long-standing approach and continuity in the Departments’ enforcement practices over time and the continuing urgency of assuring nondiscrimination in student discipline in our nation’s schools. Investigations covered in the Resource involved concerns of discrimination in schools’ use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests, referrals to law enforcement, involuntary discipline transfers, informal removals, and other discipline against Black, Latino, and/or Native American students. The Resource also demonstrates ways school districts can take steps to proactively improve their administration of student discipline. Related fact sheets accompanied the release of the Resource.

Education Department Worries AI Might Be Used to Spy on Teachers
The U.S. Department of Education is worried that artificial intelligence (AI) systems could be used to surveil teachers once the systems are introduced into the classroom. The report warns that allowing AI in classrooms would make teachers’ jobs “nearly impossible.” The report, "Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning,” argues that AI should never be used to replace human teachers. It also assesses the prospects of expanding AI into classrooms in hopes of increasing teaching efficiency but worries about increased teacher surveillance and lack of privacy. Read more here.

Timing Update on Title IX Rulemaking
In the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, the Biden administration announced its priorities in amending regulations that implement Title IX to ensure full protection against sex discrimination for students in federally funded education and programs. The post noted that the department is updated its Spring Unified Agenda to now reflect an anticipated date of October 2023 for the final Title IX rule. Additionally, the department is updating its Spring Unified Agenda to reflect an anticipated date of October 2023 for its proposed Athletics regulation. Read more here.

Treasury Department Announces Approval of Funding for Broadband
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced the approval of $151.1 million for high-speed internet projects in Mississippi under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF), which is part of Biden’s Investing in America agenda. Mississippi is approved to receive $151.5 million for broadband infrastructure projects, which the state estimates will connect approximately 47,300 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed internet through the Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) fund. Read more here.

ED Now Accepting Applications for Activities for Underserved Populations Program
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is now accepting applications for the Activities for Underserved Populations program. The program relates to services provided under the Rehabilitation Act, specifically focused on services provided to individuals with disabilities from underserved backgrounds. Further, this program seeks to increase the capacity of minority entities and Indian Tribes to participate in activities under the Act. This grant program has one absolute priority: “Improving the Delivery of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to, and the Employment Outcomes of, Individuals with Disabilities from Underserved Populations.” The estimated available funds for this program total $910,490, which will be reduced by up to $9,000 in the first year of the award to support peer review for the competition. Applications are due by July 21, 2023, and further information is available here.

 


May 26, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Debt Ceiling Deadline Looms

This week, Congress and the Biden Administration have continued to vigorously debate the contours of a deal to raise the nation's borrowing authority, also known informally as the debt limit or debt ceiling. This borrowing cap must be raised to pay for expenses lawmakers in Congress have already incurred. Currently, the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that the federal government will exhaust current options to service these debt obligations by early June. Failure to raise the debt limit would result in an unprecedented default on the United States' debt and would have severe economic consequences for the nation's economy.

Despite the urgency of the situation, negotiations between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the Biden Administration have made little formal progress this week. As shared previously, House Republicans have sought significant spending and policy concessions from Democrats and President Biden in exchange for raising the nation's borrowing authority for roughly one year. According to recent reports, House Republicans are seeking to freeze federal spending at federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) levels and limit discretionary domestic spending by one percent for the next decade. Notably, House Republicans reportedly want to exempt defense spending and other areas of the federal budget from these spending reductions, meaning these cuts would disproportionately impact other components of the federal budget, including education.

On May 24, the Biden Administration updated its analysis of the impact on non-defense programs of cutting fiscal year (FY) 2024 discretionary spending down to the FY 2022 level. Based on the four government spending bills already approved by House Appropriations subcommittees, the White House calculates that remaining funding would need to be cut by at least 30% if defense spending is spared from cuts. The White House analysis includes examples of the impact of cuts on various education and workforce programs, as well as state-by-state fact sheets. Negotiations continue between the White House and House Republican leaders to craft a package to lift or suspend the debt ceiling paired with cuts and caps on future discretionary spending, some changes to mandatory spending programs, and other changes that could receive support from a majority of Congress.

Negotiators have, so far, been unable to find agreement on this and several other issues unrelated to federal spending, including the imposition of new work requirements for certain social safety net programs. Most recently, House appropriations leaders have canceled planned markups for several FY24 spending bills - an acknowledgment that the ongoing debt limit negotiations are likely to set new overall spending constraints for the upcoming federal fiscal year. At this time, these discussions remain extremely fluid. As these negotiations continue, NSBA's advocacy team will continue to closely monitor developments related to this situation and the potential impacts a final deal may have on the K-12 education community.

Rep. Castor Applauds the Administration's Actions to Protect Kids Online

Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) released a statement applauding the Biden administration's efforts in cybersecurity for students through the PRIVACY Act, which creates an interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health and Safety led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Commerce. The Congresswoman is focused on the issue of strengthening and expanding protections for kids online, reintroducing legislation that holds Big Tech companies accountable for doing their part. Read more on cybersecurity and Rep. Castor's efforts here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.3618 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a grant program to encourage schools to conduct independent facility security risk assessments and make hard security improvements, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Williams, Roger [Rep.-R-TX-25]
  • H.R.3609 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To ensure that broadband maps are accurate before funds are allocated under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program based on those maps. Sponsor: Meuser, Daniel [Rep.-R-PA-9]
  • H.R.3607 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish high-quality dual language immersion programs in low-income communities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Grijalva, Raúl M. [Rep.-D-AZ-7]
  • H.R.3605 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award institutions of higher education grants for teaching English learners. Sponsor: Grijalva, Raúl M. [Rep.-D-AZ-7]
  • H.R.3582 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude certain post-graduation scholarship grants from gross income in the same manner as qualified scholarships to promote economic growth. Sponsor: LaHood, Darin [Rep.-R-IL-16]
  • H.R.3565 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize the Federal Communications Commission to use a system of competitive bidding to grant a license or a permit for use of electromagnetic spectrum and to direct proceeds from such a system of competitive bidding for communications and technology initiatives, and for other purposes. Sponsor: McMorris Rodgers, Cathy [Rep.-R-WA-5]
  • H.R.1713 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) DOE and USDA Interagency Research Act Sponsor: Lucas, Frank D. [Rep.-R-OK-3]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Announces New Diverse Schools Initiative
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a new report examining school diversity while also marking the 69th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which brought about the desegregation of the nation's schools. The report, entitled "The State of School Diversity in the United States," reviews existing data on racial and socioeconomic diversity in public schools and finds that while progress has been made since this historic Supreme Court ruling, school segregation patterns have persisted in many communities across the country. To address this, ED has launched a new Fostering Diverse School Demonstration program - an initiative funded through Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Local education agencies and consortia are encouraged to apply for grant funding under this initiative by July 7, 2023. More information can be found here.

Surgeon General Issues New Advisory About Effects of Social Media Use on Youth Mental Health

On May 23, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new advisory highlighting the potential risks of social media use on the mental health of children and adolescents. While acknowledging the benefits social media can offer, Murthy emphasizes the need to address the harm it can cause to young people's well-being. With the majority of teenagers using social media platforms, Murthy urges policymakers, technology companies, researchers, families, and young people themselves to take urgent action to understand the impact of social media, maximize its benefits, and create safer online environments for children. Read the advisory.

To help school leaders understand the association between social media use and adolescents' mental health, NSBA's Center for Safe Schools and Center for Public Education developed a report, Follow Me and Like My Beautiful Selfies: Social Media Use and Adolescent Mental Health, after reviewing over one hundred relevant empirical studies, professional or federal research papers, and media articles. A webinar accompanying the report reviewed what adolescent mental health issues have manifested the most during the pandemic; identified how teenagers use social media and what research says about the association between social media use and adolescents' mental health; and reviewed professional recommendations, state policies, and local practices that have been adopted to promote positive use of social media and mental well-being. Access the full recording here.

Biden Administration Unveils New Actions to Protect Youth Online

The Biden-Harris administration announced a slate of new actions that are designed to better protect youth on social media and online platforms by applying a whole-of-government approach to address issues concerning mental health, safety, and privacy. The White House noted that "undeniable" evidence links these technologies to the country's "unprecedented youth mental health crisis," with rates of depression and anxiety rising sharply among young people. Among LGBTQ students, 69% report having persistent feelings of sadness or depression. Read more here.

NASA, Department of Education Partnership Strengthens STEM Education

NASA and the U.S. Department of Education signed a memorandum of understanding, strengthening the collaboration between the two agencies, including efforts to increase access to high-quality STEM and space education for students and schools nationwide. Specifically, the agreement enhances and expands the agencies' long-standing partnership that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math to students from diverse backgrounds to pursue an interest and a career in STEM and space industries. It reinforces the importance of the Biden-Harris administration and NASA priorities for STEM, climate, space exploration, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. Read more here.

Discretionary Grant Program Updates
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invites applications for the following programs:

  • The Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants Program. Authorized under ESEA section 2212, the program focuses on developing, implementing, improving, or expanding "comprehensive performance-based compensation systems (PBCS) or human capital management systems (HCMS)" for teachers and school leaders, with a particular focus on teachers and leaders in high-need schools. The estimated available funds for this program total $95,452,236, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by June 28, 2023, and further information is available here.
  • Education Innovation and Research Competitions. Applications are now being accepted for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program's Early-phase, Mid-phase, and Expansion competitions. Evidence-based projects that include STEM, social-emotional learning, educator recruitment and retention, and other field-initiated innovations are welcome. Click here for more information about the competition and relevant deadlines.

May 19, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Struggle to Find Consensus on Debt Limit
For the last few weeks, Congressional leaders and President Biden have been intensely debating whether and how to raise the nation's statutory borrowing authority, known informally as the debt limit or debt ceiling. Current forecasts estimate that the federal government will breach this borrowing authority-which is intended to pay for debts Congress has already incurred-in early June. Failure to raise the debt limit would have catastrophic consequences for the nation's economy. This week, lawmakers continued to meet and negotiate but have made little progress.

More recently, these discussions have been limited to senior staff representing the Biden Administration and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy - a development widely viewed to mean that these discussions are narrowing a potential set of issues that could compose a compromise. These issues reportedly include several Republican priorities, including permitting reform, work requirements for social safety net programs, and, of particular note for the K-12 education community, potential caps on the overall size of the federal budget for the next several years. As shared previously, House Republicans are demanding concessions from Democrats on these topics in exchange for raising the debt limit. As of this writing, these discussions remain extremely fluid.

As these talks continue, NSBA's advocacy team will continue to closely monitor developments related to this situation and the potential impacts it may have on the K-12 education community.

Cardona Testifies in the House

On May 16, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing examining the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget request and related priorities. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the panel regarding a wide range of topics, including recently proposed Title IX rules, critical race theory, parents' rights, and many other hot-button K-12 education issues. A summary of the hearing is available at this link, and an archived webcast of the hearing, including opening statements, can be found here.

Sen. Murray Highlights Importance of Strong Investments in Education
At a Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the president's fiscal year 2024 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke about the need to invest in education to ensure our kids can live up to their full potential and to strengthen our workforce and keep the American economy competitive. Read more on the Chair's statements here.

Rep. Kildee Explains Position on Quality Education
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) wrote an opinion piece on his position on education, emphasizing the need to prioritize a safe learning environment for students, highly trained teachers, and access to resources needed for success. Kildee expressed his disapproval of the recent House passage of H.R. 5, stating the bill imposes cultural wars, and further causes political division in classrooms. Kildee discussed his continued efforts to advocate for education and secure federal funding for access to high-quality education. Read his full statement here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.3374 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out a grant program for early childhood STEAM activities. Sponsor: Kuster, Ann M. [Rep.-D-NH-2]

·       H.R.3364 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to increase the age of eligibility for children to receive benefits under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, and for other purposes. Sponsor: DeLauro, Rosa L. [Rep.-D-CT-3]

·       H.R.3331 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to modify requirements for local school wellness policies. Sponsor: Manning, Kathy E. [Rep.-D-NC-6]

·       H.R.3276 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish a pilot grant program to make grants to school food authorities to provide 100 percent plant-based food and milk options, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Velazquez, Nydia M. [Rep.-D-NY-7]

·       H.R.3265 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to address the teacher and school leader shortage in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Schneider, Bradley Scott [Rep.-D-IL-10]

·       H.R.3264 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a refundable tax credit for certain teachers as a supplement to State efforts to provide teachers with a livable wage, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Schiff, Adam B. [Rep.-D-CA-30]

·       H.R.3233 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To remove college cost as a barrier to every student having access to a well-prepared and diverse educator workforce, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Garcia, Jesus G. "Chuy" [Rep.-D-IL-4] (

·       H.R.3228 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program to increase the recruitment and retention of school-based mental health services providers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [Rep.-R-PA-1]

·       H.R.3211 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Labor to carry out a competitive grant program to support community colleges and career and technical education centers in developing immersive technology education and training programs for workforce development, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Blunt Rochester, Lisa [Rep.-D-DE-At Large]

·       H.R.3204 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to make breakfasts and lunches free for all children, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Omar, Ilhan [Rep.-D-MN-5]

·       H.R.3197 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To make demonstration grants to eligible local educational agencies or consortia of eligible local educational agencies for the purpose of increasing the numbers of school nurses in public elementary schools and secondary schools. Sponsor: Titus, Dina [Rep.-D-NV-1]

·       H.R.3179 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize funding to expand and support enrollment at institutions of higher education that sponsor construction and manufacturing-oriented registered apprenticeship programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Craig, Angie [Rep.-D-MN-2]

·       S.1581 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to remove college cost as a barrier to every student having access to a well-prepared and diverse educator workforce, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Booker, Cory A. [Sen.-D-NJ]

·       S.1574 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to establish the Mental Health Excellence in Schools Program to increase the recruitment and retention of school-based mental health services providers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Shaheen, Jeanne [Sen.-D-NH]

·       S.1538 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants for outdoor learning spaces and to develop living schoolyards. Sponsor: Heinrich, Martin [Sen.-D-NM]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Proposes New Rules to Increase Student Access to Health Services
On May 17, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it would publish a new rule on how public agencies, including school districts, provide certain public benefits or insurance to otherwise eligible children. This proposal would increase the ability of school districts to make use of resources from Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and other similar programs by amending regulations related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B by eliminating the requirement to obtain parental consent prior to providing services.

Current regulations require public agencies to obtain parental consent prior to providing these public benefits. The proposal is intended to advance the Biden Administration's wider mental health strategy by increasing the resources available to public agencies to support greater access to health and mental health services. ED is inviting public comment for the next 75 days on the proposal. More information, including how to comment, can be found here.

Biden Administration Announces New Mental Health Grants
This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $95 million in new awards to school districts and postsecondary institutions in 35 states nationwide. The grants were funded as part of last year's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and are intended to help schools and eligible entities increase mental health services as well as strengthen the mental health professional pipeline. More information can be found here.

ED Proposes Priorities for CTE Grants
On May 15, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published proposed priorities for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act's (Perkins V) Innovation and Modernization (I&M) grant program. Last year, Congress provided an additional $25 million for Perkins V's I&M account to advance innovative approaches to delivering CTE programs. The priorities proposed by the department include career advisement and counseling, dual and concurrent enrollment, work-based learning, and industry-recognized credentials. These priorities align with ED's wider "Career Connected High Schools" initiative, which is conceived using these same priority areas. Notably, Perkins V formula funding - resources that go to every state and school district - currently support these same activities in CTE programs throughout the country. ED is inviting feedback on these priorities for the next 30 days. More information can be accessed here.

Schools Are Following the GOP Lockdown Mantra - Tapping Biden Cash
A May 14 article in Politico notes that Republican presidential hopefuls and local leaders "want to lock down schools after a streak of mass killings - and the White House won't stand in their way." President Joe Biden has said schools should not be "turned into prisons" to address a spate of violence, but he argues against those who want to step up classroom defenses after deadly shootings in Tennessee and Texas. The article notes that the White House is "unlikely to ever endorse Trump's persistent demands to arm teachers with guns" but seems to be aligned with Republican policy on school safety concerns. Read more here.

 


May 12, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Debt Ceiling Impasse Continues
Earlier this week, top Congressional leaders from both parties in the House and Senate met at the White House with President Biden to determine a pathway forward for increasing the nation’s statutory borrowing authority (known informally as the debt ceiling or debt limit). Recent estimates from the U.S. Treasury Department have indicated that the federal government will exhaust its current options by June 1 of this year. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would result in a national default on the nation’s existing debt obligations and would have devastating economic consequences.

Since the beginning of the year, House Republicans have demanded a litany of policy and spending concessions from Democrats and the Biden Administration in exchange for raising the debt limit. These demands include significant and dramatic cuts to domestic discretionary programs, including K-12 education. Democrats in Congress and the White House have maintained that the debt limit should be extended without preconditions to avoid a default and negotiations conducted separately on issues unrelated to the nation’s borrowing authority.

Unfortunately, the meeting that took place on Tuesday failed to provide a clear path forward beyond this current impasse. With the debt limit deadline fast approaching, lawmakers have directed their staff members to begin behind-the-scenes negotiations on a potential compromise. This situation remains fluid, and NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to closely monitor developments related to this situation and the potential impacts on the K-12 education community.

Cardona Testifies on FY24 Budget in the Senate
On May 11, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) hosted U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, to testify on the Biden Administration's FY24 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The hearing focused on a wide range of K-12 education issues including teacher workforce shortages, ongoing state and local efforts to support students in recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, supporting rural education initiatives, and strategies for improving career and technical education pathways.

In his testimony, Cardona highlighted the administration’s request for $2.2 billion in additional funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act and emphasized the Department’s broader desire to “. . . ensure every student receives a high-quality education.” Click here for a more detailed summary of the hearing or visit this link for an archived webcast of the hearing, including Cardona’s testimony.

Senate Confirms ED Nominee
On Wednesday, May 10, the Senate formally confirmed Glenna Wright-Gallo to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. “Ms. Wright-Gallo has spent decades supporting students with disabilities and their families both in the classroom and as an administrative leader in the Utah and Washington public education systems,” U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, said after the 52-44 vote in the Senate to confirm ED’s newest Assistant Secretary. More on the confirmation can be accessed here.

K-12 Anticipates a Summer of School Construction
As schools plan for a surge of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER)-supported upgrades over summer break, many administrators remain concerned about spending deadlines. Although Congress approved the ESSER funds in 2020 and 2021, it takes months or even years to plan and execute construction projects. Supply chain problems and labor shortages created even more challenges for districts that must spend the funds by federally imposed deadlines depending on the three ESSER allocations. The last and largest allocation at $121.9 billion, known as ESSER III, has an obligation deadline of Sept. 30, 2024, and a spending deadline of Jan. 28, 2025. Read more here.

Cassidy, Colleagues Request Info to Ensure Proper Use of COVID Education Funds
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) requested information on the U.S. Department of Education’s oversight of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program to ensure proper protocols are in place to prevent abuse and mismanagement of federal funds. Read more here.

Omar and Sanders to Introduce Free School Meals Legislation
Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and colleagues are set to introduce legislation to revive one of the coronavirus pandemic era’s most popular social experiments: universal free school meals. The bill would permanently end child hunger in schools, they argue, by offering free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a snack to all students from preschool to high school, regardless of income. It would also restore a federal program that saw about 30 million kids a day getting free meals as the once-in-a-century pandemic forced a reimagining of the role and responsibility of government in providing a social safety net. Read more here.

Rubio Plan Would Cut Junk Food, Soda from SNAP
The days of buying junk food and soda with benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could soon be over if a bill in the works from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) passes. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Rubio wrote SNAP is “in dire need of reform.” Rubio said Congress could update SNAP’s eligibility requirements in the next farm bill, a package of legislation passed every five years that sets agriculture and nutrition policy. His bill would eliminate soda and prepared deserts from SNAP, pushing people to healthier choices. Rubio also anticipates working with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to align SNAP benefit standards with the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Read more here.

Scott, Bonamici Praise Biden Push to Expand Free Access to School Meals
House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture supporting its proposal to expand children’s access to free school meals by strengthening the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The proposed rule lowers the threshold for schools to participate in CEP from 40% of students to 25%, which would provide schools with more flexibility to invest in offering free school meals for their students and allow more students to benefit from this proven assistance.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.3151 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to make publicly available information on infant formula procurement under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. Sponsor: McBath, Lucy [Rep.-D-GA-7]
  • H.R.3143 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to award grants to eligible entities to carry out teacher leadership programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Gallego, Ruben [Rep.-D-AZ-3]
  • H.R.3138 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide for additional activities, resources, and data collection with respect to English learners, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Espaillat, Adriano [Rep.-D-NY-13]
  • H.R.3113 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to eliminate reduced price breakfasts and lunches and to require that the income guidelines for determining eligibility for free breakfasts and free lunches be 200 percent of the poverty-level, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Porter, Katie [Rep.-D-CA-47]
  • H.R.3112 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish statewide community eligibility for certain special assistance payments, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Porter, Katie [Rep.-D-CA-47]
  • H.R.3055 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to include certain mental health professionals as specialized instructional support personnel. Sponsor: Harder, Josh [Rep.-D-CA-9]
  • S.1502 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to award grants to eligible entities to carry out teacher leadership programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Lujan, Ben Ray [Sen.-D-NM]
  • S.1468 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to ensure that Federal work-study funding is available for students enrolled in residency programs for teachers, principals, or school leaders, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Kennedy, John [Sen.-R-LA]
  • S.1452 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to promote mental wellness and resilience and prevent and heal mental health, behavioral health, and psychosocial conditions through developmentally and culturally appropriate community programs, and award grants for the purpose of establishing, operating, or expanding community-based mental wellness and resilience programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Markey, Edward J. [Sen.-D-MA]
  • S.1403 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a grant program to award grants to accredited public institutions of higher education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Mullin, Markwayne [Sen.-R-OK]
  • S.1397 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to modify the Federal TRIO programs. Sponsor: Collins, Susan M. [Sen.-R-ME]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Education Secretary Hosts Information Session on President’s Budget and Debt Ceiling

On May 9, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona held an information session to discuss President Biden’s budget request for education, as well as the damaging cuts that have been proposed for various education programs around debt ceiling discussion.

During the listening session, Cardona highlighted a recent fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that outlines how proposed cuts would hit certain education programs, including Title I, IDEA, full-service community schools, Title IV-A and mental health, as well as programs benefitting teachers, as represented in this graph. ED also created individual state fact sheets to demonstrate how the proposed cuts would impact education funding in every state. For example, in Kansas, the proposed cuts would result in approximately $26 million less in Title I funding for Kansas schools, impacting an estimated 150,000 students. Additionally, as many as 78,000 children in Kansas with disabilities would face reduced supports — “a cut in IDEA funding equivalent to removing approximately 400 teachers and related services providers from the classroom,” the fact sheet notes.

Cardona also used the listening session to promote ED’s “Raise the Bar, Lead the World” initiative, which includes three key priorities: 1) Achieving Academic Excellence; 2) Boldly Improving Learning Conditions; and 3) Creating Pathways for Global Engagement.

ED Announces New Rounds of SLDS Funding
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the availability of a new round of State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant program funding. These resources are intended to support states in developing and modernizing SLDSs to improve the usefulness of student-level data and develop more cohesive and comprehensive P-20W (early education through workforce) data systems. This latest round of grants will promote four priorities for proposals and projects that seek to improve data infrastructure and interoperability, promote college and career readiness, strengthen school finance, and support various state-level policy concerns. Only state education agencies may apply for funding, and they must express interest by May 19. More on how to apply for funding can be found here.

Presidential Scholars Announced
This week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars announced the 59th cohort of U.S. Presidential Scholars—an initiative that annually recognizes 161 high school seniors for academic, technical, and artistic achievements. The selection process takes into consideration a number of criteria, including transcripts and test scores. A full list of scholars can be found here.

ED Encourages Federal Work Study to Help With Learning Recovery
On May 10, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter to college, university, and school district leaders regarding the Federal Work Study (FWS) program and wider efforts to help students recover from lost instructional time during the pandemic. The letter is meant to encourage postsecondary institutions to use FWS funding — provided to institutions as part of the Higher Education Act — to support opportunities for enrolled students to serve as tutors, mentors, and other supportive roles and to assist in the implementation of afterschool and out-of-school time programs aimed at helping students recover lost learning and instructional time due to the pandemic. The letter also highlighted other funding sources that can be used in support of similar efforts.

DOE Announces $4.5M to Build K-12 Staff and Lower Energy Costs for Schools
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the Phase 1 Winners to share in the $4.5 million Energy Champions Leading the Advancement of Sustainable Schools Prize (Energy CLASS Prize), a competitive award promoting energy management in school districts across America. Twenty-five Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will each receive a $100,000 cash prize to establish, train, and support energy managers in their schools. Read more here.

Education Secretary Op-Ed: Show Me Your Budget, I’ll Tell You Your Values
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona argues in a May 5 op-ed in K-12 Dive that education cuts in a House Republican budget proposal would be “staggeringly reckless.” Cardona argued that one proposal from House Republicans would slash education funding by 22%, with cuts falling hardest on schools in low-income areas, facing staffing shortages, and/or having students needing critical special education services. Cardona indicated he would urge members of Congress to resist education funding cuts over the next several weeks.

Discretionary Grant Announcements
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities Program – Preparation of Related Services Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities who have High-Intensity Needs. This program works to prepare personnel to work in special education, early intervention, and related services, as well as regular education to work with children and youth with disabilities. This program further ensures that personnel have skills and knowledge, through practices that are determined through scientifically based research, to be successful in serving these children. The one absolute priority for this competition is: Preparation of Related Services Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities who have High-Intensity Needs. The estimated available funds for this program total $6,750,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by June 29, 2023, and further information is available here.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education is accepting applications for the Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program – Grants for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities. To assist charter schools with costs relating to acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities, the Credit Enhancement Program provides funding for innovative methods of seeking loans and bond financing. These grants go to financial institutions to help with the credit of charter schools to finance projects and ensure affordable interest rates. The estimated available funds for this program total $50,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by June 26, 2023, and further information is available here.

 


May 5, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Lawmakers Agree to Meet Next Week on Debt Ceiling

Since the beginning of the 118th Congress, lawmakers have struggled to agree on whether and how to raise the nation's statutory borrowing authority (known informally as the debt limit or ceiling). In recent weeks, House Republicans have advanced legislation that would dramatically cut investments in domestic programs - including K-12 education by nearly 22% - in exchange for raising the debt ceiling through the spring of 2024. However, the legislation contains several policy provisions, including significant funding reductions, that Congressional Democrats and President Biden have indicated they will not support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in a Dear Colleague letter this week, re-emphasized Democrats' position that the debt ceiling should be extended without preconditions and shared plans to hold hearings in the coming weeks to draw attention to House Republicans' recent legislative proposal.

As the impasse continued this week, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, wrote to lawmakers indicating that she expects the federal government to reach this limit as soon as June 1 of this year. Following her letter, President Biden invited top Congressional leaders from both parties and chambers to meet on May 9 to further negotiate a path forward. As these efforts get underway, NSBA's advocacy team will continue to closely monitor this situation and the potential impacts a resolution will have on the K-12 education community.

House Lawmakers Introduce Apprenticeship Proposal

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the National Apprenticeship Act of 2023. If enacted, the law would comprehensively update, for the first time since 1937, the primary federal law that authorized registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs). It would codify and update existing RAP rules and regulations while providing more than $3.8 billion in funding for the expansion of these and related programs for new occupations and a wider array of learners. Notable for the K-12 community, the legislation would also formalize expectations for pre- and youth-apprenticeship programs which often serve as on-ramps from education into RAPs. More information about the bill can be found here, including a related fact sheet and bill text.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Labor is hosting a listening session at 3pm this afternoon, May 5, to receive input from the public regarding improvements and enhancements that can be made to the existing RAP system. More information regarding this opportunity can be found here.

Cardona Expected to Testify Next Week

Next week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is expected to testify before Senate appropriators regarding the Biden Administration's federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget request - the second appearance Cardona has made this year regarding the proposal. Cardona is expected also to appear before lawmakers in the House and the Senate charged with crafting K-12 education policy in the coming weeks and months ahead. NSBA's advocacy team will update the K-12 community next week regarding this hearing.

Bipartisan Bill to Expand Tax-Free Uses of Pell Grants
Last week, four chairs and ranking members of various House Ways and Means subcommittees introduced the "Tax-Free Pell Grant Act," which would expand the uses of Pell Grants that are tax-free. Currently, any portion of a Pell Grant used for college costs beyond tuition and fees is treated as taxable income. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) introduced the bill, which would expand tax-free allowable uses of Pell Grants to costs such as buying a computer or paying for child care. Learn more here.

Cassidy, Markey Reintroduce COPPA 2.0 to Protect Online Privacy of Children
Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) have reintroduced the Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0), legislation to update online data privacy rules for the 21st century to ensure children and teenagers are protected online. COPPA 2.0 would stop the data practices fueling today's youth mental health crisis. "Children and teenagers are going to use the internet. Parents should be confident their children are safe when doing so," said Dr. Cassidy. "This bill prohibits internet companies from collecting personal information on young teenagers without consent."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn Files Bipartisan Bill to Protect Children on Social Media
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is taking another swing at requiring social media companies to make an effort to keep child users safe online. Alongside Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Blackburn re-introduced the Kids Online Safety Act, which aims to require social media platforms to shield children from addictive algorithms and inappropriate content, create tools for parents to report abuse, and undergo annual audits. If passed, the act would require social media companies to make the strongest privacy settings, create reporting tools, accept responsibility, and provide algorithm datasets.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

NAEP Scores Show Decline in History and Civics 
Earlier this week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which oversees and administers nationwide assessments of student achievement in a wide range of subjects, published new data regarding nationwide assessments of students' understanding of history and civics.

Average scores dropped 5 points on the NAEP U.S. history assessment between 2018 and 2022. The decrease continues a trend of declining scores that began in 2014. In civics, average scores declined by 2 points since students last took the test in 2018, the first decline since the assessment began in 1998. Additionally, only 22% of eighth-graders scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level in civics, while 31% scored below NAEP Basic.

More information regarding these assessments can be accessed here.

Google, Microsoft CEOs Called to AI Meeting at White House
A White House-issued invitation sent to the CEOs of Google and Microsoft and seen by Reuters noted President Joe Biden's "expectation that companies like yours must make sure their products are safe before making them available to the public." Concerns about fast-growing AI technology include privacy violations, bias, and worries it could proliferate scams and misinformation. In April, Biden said it remains to be seen whether AI is dangerous but underscored that technology companies had a responsibility to ensure their products were safe. Social media had already illustrated the harm that powerful technologies can do without the right safeguards, he said.

Department of Education Issues New FERPA Guidance on Student Health Records
The U.S. Department of Education has issued two new guidance documents that focus on student health records and remind school officials of their ongoing obligations to protect student privacy pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This guidance document provides school officials with general information about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), with a particular focus on student health records maintained by educational agencies and institutions and by third parties acting on their behalf.

U.S. Agencies Push for Companies to Adopt Secure-by-Design Practices
Top U.S. cybersecurity officials have been meeting with industry representatives and tech executives to press the need for companies to adopt secure-by-design principles that are a core part of the Biden administration's national cybersecurity strategy. The push is part of an effort championed by the White House and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency to reduce the number of vulnerabilities in commercial software and shift the burden for maintaining cybersecurity from consumers back to tech vendors.

Funding Applications Now Being Accepted for a Variety of Grant Programs

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited applications for the following programs:

  • Mental Health Personnel Technical Assistance Center – This discretionary grant program provides funding for the Mental Health Personnel Technical Assistance Center. The Center would provide technical assistance to grantees that have received funds from the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration grant program and the School-Based Mental Health Services grant program. Further, resources and information created at the technical assistance center would support SEAs, LEAs, IHEs, and others in the preparation of school-based mental health service providers. The estimated available funds for this grant program total $2,600,000 annually for 48 months, with a possibility of an extension of the timeline and an opportunity for additional funding. Applications are due by August 31, 2023, and further information is available here.
  • State Tribal Education Partnership Grant Program – Authorized under section 6132 of ESSA, the State Tribal Education Partnership Grant serves a variety of purposes, including to: "(1) promote Tribal self-determination in education; (2) improve the academic achievement of Indian children and youth; and (3) promote the coordination and collaboration of Tribal educational agencies (TEAs)…with State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) to meet the unique education and culturally related academic needs of Indian students." The goal of this program is to help strengthen government-to-government relationships with Tribal Nations. The Department will use the notice of final priorities, requirements, and definitions for this competition recently published in the Federal Register here. The estimated available funds for this program total $2.4 million, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 3, 2023, and further information is available here.
  • American History and Civics Education National Activities Program – Authorized under ESEA section 2233, the American History and Civics Education National Activities Program seeks to encourage innovative instruction, learning strategies, and professional development activities and programs for school leaders, particularly focusing on instruction, strategies, activities, and programs that would benefit students with low-income backgrounds and other underserved populations. These activities and programs include such topics as American history, civics and government, and geography. The estimated available funds for this program total $18,975,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 12, and further information is available here.
  • American History and Civics Education – Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics – To strengthen educators' knowledge of American history, civics, and government education, the Academies Program would establish a Presidential Academy that would offer workshops for new and veteran teachers. Funds for this program also would establish Congressional Academies for high school students to enrich their learning in these subjects. The estimated available funds for this program total $2,975,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 12, 2023, and further information is available here.

 


April 28, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Secretary Cardona Testifies in the House
On Tuesday, April 18, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education regarding the Biden Administration’s federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget request.

The hearing focused on a wide range of education-related issues, including recently proposed changes to Title IX regulations, student debt cancellation, reforms to the federal Pell Grant program, and the need for broader transparency in K-12 education. Notably, the hearing focused on the ongoing Congressional debate regarding the nation’s borrowing limit and the impact Republicans’ current proposal would have on many K-12 education programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

A recent letter from Cardona outlined the significant and negative impacts House Republicans’ proposals for raising the nation’s borrowing authority, known as the Debt Ceiling/Limit, would have if enacted. A webcast archive of the hearing, including testimony and opening remarks, can be found here.

Speaker McCarthy Unveils Republicans’ Debt Limit Proposal
Since the start of the 118th Congress, lawmakers have been intensely debating the need to raise the nation’s borrowing authority, known informally as the Debt Limit or Debt Ceiling. Continued disagreements on how to achieve this have resulted in a political stalemate between the parties in Congress over the last few months. In a new development, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released a new proposal that would drastically reduce federal discretionary spending back to FY22 funding levels, resulting in significant cuts to many K-12 education programs and other domestic programs. In addition, the proposal would limit increases in federal spending to 1% over the next decade, significantly reducing the ability to meet the growing demand for education programs.

The proposal also calls for a slew of other Republican policy priorities, such as reclaiming unspent pandemic aid funding, defunding new investments in the Internal Revenue Service, work requirements for social safety net programs, and many other proposals. In exchange, the proposal would extend the debt limit through March 31, 2024, or by $1.5 trillion—whichever occurs first. The legislative proposal is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming days.

House Holds School Choice Hearing
On Tuesday, April 18, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled “School Choice: Expanding Educational Freedom for All.” The hearing focused on school choice policies and legislative proposals that would allow more federal funding to be used for non-public schools. In particular, the hearing highlighted the recent Parents Bill of Rights legislation that aims to provide parents with more information regarding school choice options. A webcast archive of the hearing can be found here.

House Approves Anti-Trans Sports Bill
House Republicans approved their measure to restrict transgender students from playing on women’s sports teams at federally funded schools and educational institutions by a 219-203 vote Thursday morning. The legislation, H.R. 734, is a key part of the GOP’s education agenda and mirrors more than 20 laws that have been adopted in states across the country. It bars transgender women from playing on teams consistent with their gender identity and amends Title IX, the federal education law that bars sex-based discrimination, to define sex as based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.

Transgender students would be able to practice or train with a program designated for women or girls. Additionally, the bill would not “prohibit schools or institutions from permitting males to practice against women’s sports teams,” according to a fact sheet from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The bill is not expected to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has issued a veto threat. But the vote shows that Republicans are working to spotlight the issue — and it comes amid a GOP-led push in states across the country to pass similar bills restricting transgender athletes’ participation in sports. Read more here.

Sen. Van Hollen, Rep. Lee Introduce Bill to Fully Fund Title I, Special Education
On April 19, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-NV) introduced their “Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act” legislation to put Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis.

“Keeping the American promise of equal opportunity for all means ensuring every child has access to a first-rate education,” said Van Hollen. “But too many students have been left behind as a result of the federal government shortchanging Title I and IDEA. The Keep Our PACT Act is about upholding our end of the bargain to make the needed investments in education for underserved communities and students with disabilities.”

Title I, which gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools, is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, disadvantaging the most vulnerable students living in poverty. According to the National Education Association, the Title I funding gap for school year 2020-2021 was $30.6 billion. Similarly, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40% of the cost of special education, but Congress has never fully funded the law. According to the National Education Association, IDEA state grants are funded at less than 14%. Text of the bill is available here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.2690 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To reduce exclusionary discipline practices in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Pressley, Ayanna [Rep.-D-MA-7]
  • H.R.2650 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education to develop and implement best practices for occupation-specific education for school resource officers. Sponsor: Higgins, Clay [Rep.-R-LA-3]
  • H.R.2649 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education to conduct a survey of all public schools to determine the number of school resource officers at such schools. Sponsor: Higgins, Clay [Rep.-R-LA-3]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Secretary Cardona to Discuss Early Childhood Education in Columbus, Ohio
On April 20, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will travel to Columbus, Ohio, where he will focus on early childhood education programs, discuss family engagement, and then head to a community college to celebrate Community College Month. First, Secretary Cardona will head to Columbus City Schools’ Avondale Elementary School, utilizing the site for a meeting with military families to discuss the Department's support for the families of service members, highlighting the Month of the Military Child. Afterward, he will tour the school to see ways that teachers are working across grades to support instructional alignment and continuity in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. See Secretary Cardona’s full schedule here.

OSERS Unveils New Grant Program
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative  Services (OSERS) announced a new grant funding opportunity known as the Pathways to Partnerships Innovative Model Demonstration Project. The program will provide $224 million in new funding for projects that strengthen collaboration between state agencies, local school districts, and other key stakeholders to improve students’ access to postsecondary education and independent living opportunities. More on the announcement can be found here.

New Special Education Grant Available
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities — Preparation of Early Intervention and Special Education Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities Who Have High-Intensity Needs program.

This discretionary grant program supports personnel development and preparation in early intervention and special education, as well as regular education working with children with disabilities. Further, this grant program seeks to ensure personnel have the skills and knowledge to successfully serve these students. The one absolute priority for this program focuses on preparing fully credentialed scholars to serve children with high-intensity needs. The estimated available funds for this program total $6,750,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by June 13, 2023, and further information is available here.


April 14, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Education Secretary Cardona Set to Testify Next Week 

The House and the Senate are expected to return next week following a two-week recess. When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, they will likely turn their attention to the fiscal year (FY24) budget and appropriations process, among several other priority areas.

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is expected to testify before the House Appropriations Committee next Tuesday, April 18. The hearing will focus on the Biden Administration’s recent FY24 budget request to Congress and will provide an opportunity for committee members to examine the proposals contained in the president’s request. This hearing will be the first of several committee discussions on this topic expected to take place over the coming weeks and months as Congress deliberates about the FY24 budget.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.2567 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act with respect to expanding community eligibility, and for other purposes. Sponsor: McGarvey, Morgan [Rep.-D-KY-3]
  • H.R.2552 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preserve and protect the ability of State and local governments, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives to provide broadband services. Sponsor: Eshoo, Anna G. [Rep.-D-CA-16]
  • H.R.734 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 Sponsor: Steube, W. Gregory [Rep.-R-FL-17]
  • H.R.2495 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require State educational agencies to hire and train school resource officers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Garcia, Mike [Rep.-R-CA-27]
  • H.R.2540 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a universal child assistance program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Tlaib, Rashida [Rep.-D-MI-12]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

ED Proposes New Title IX Rule
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) proposed a new rule regarding student athletic eligibility under Title IX — a longstanding federal civil rights law that is intended to prevent sex-based discrimination. The proposal specifically seeks to address the issue of transgender athletes’ eligibility to play on sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The proposed rule would prevent schools from adopting or implementing policies that broadly ban transgender students from athletics participation but leaves additional flexibility for schools to make further determinations based on their unique circumstances. The proposal comes as House Republicans continue to advance legislation (H.R. 734) that would broadly restrict transgender students from participating in school sports. The full proposed rule can be found here and will be open for public comment for 30 days.

ED Seeks Peer Reviewers

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) published a request for peer reviewers for a slew of upcoming competitive grant opportunities. Peer reviewers serve a critical function of objectively reviewing grant applications for various discretionary grants that ED oversees each year. Those interested in applying to serve as a peer reviewer can do so here.

First Lady Highlights Career Pathway Efforts in Vermont

Last week, First Lady Jill Biden visited an electric aerospace company based in Vermont to highlight the company’s ongoing work in the clean energy sector and its efforts to provide career pathways for local students. The First Lady was joined by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R), and other federal, state, and local officials. In particular, the visit highlighted North Country Career Center, an Area Technical Center serving K-12 students and adult learners in the area, and provides a number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways to growing, in-demand sectors of the state’s economy.

"What you are doing in this community is the future of our workforce and how we grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out. These aren't red ideas or blue ideas. They're American ideas," said Biden during the visit. Additional coverage can be found here.

ED Highlights Digital Equity Resources

Recently, leaders from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published a blog post highlighting efforts the Biden Administration is taking to support states and local leaders in implementing the broadband and digital equity programs authorized in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law passed by Congress in recent years. The post notes that states are endeavoring on the first phase of implementation and offers suggestions for how to make these plans, and the efforts that are set to follow, a success. More on the post can be found here.

ED Publishes New FAQ on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections Grant Program

On April 12, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published Final Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections Frequently Asked Questions – Nonregulatory Guidance. The guidance replaces the draft public comment version of guidance published in November 2022.

ED encourages states to utilize the final guidance in continuing to implement Stronger Connections competitions that reflect parent, educator, and community feedback and emphasize evidence-based practices in establishing safe, healthy, and supportive learning opportunities and environments. ED recently released Guiding Principles for Creating Safe, Inclusive, Supportive, and Fair School Climates, which provides additional guidance for achieving these goals.

ED will conduct additional, direct outreach to State Title IV-A/Stronger Connections Grant Coordinators to promote effective implementation of the final guidance.

ED launches investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is opening an investigation into Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools on whether the school division is failing to respond to notice of sexual assaults in school division high schools as required by Title IX. This investigation stems from two sexual assaults at two of the school district's high schools in 2021, carried out by the same student who was transferred to the second school after the first incident. Read more here.

Education Secretary: Focus on Banning Assault Weapons, not Books

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said people seeking to remove books about race and diversity from schools should concentrate on banning assault weapons instead, during an April 11 interview with Reuters about challenges facing the U.S. education system. Cardona said he was witnessing an unprecedented attack on public education, including specific curricula, in an effort to bolster private schooling. Read more here.

 


April 7, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

House Passes Parents Bill of Rights Legislation

On March 24, lawmakers in the House formally passed the Parents Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 5). If enacted, the bill would establish new legal protections and enumerated rights for parents regarding their child's education. The bill narrowly cleared the chamber (213-208) with all Democrats voting against the measure. Notably, five House Republicans voted against the bill as well. As previously shared, 22 amendments to the legislation were considered ahead of this final vote, half of which passed. Among the changes to the legislation were new requirements that schools provide parents with timely notification regarding cyberattacks and a mandated study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the impact of the bill on parents' existing rights.

The legislation now heads to the Democratically controlled Senate, where the measure is not likely to be taken up. In a recent Statement of Administration Policy, the Biden Administration also outlined opposition to the measure. However, the proposal is a cornerstone of the House Republicans' wider policy platform and is likely to be featured prominently in future electoral cycles.

House Holds Employment Hearing
On March 28, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing titled "Unleashing America's Opportunities for Hiring and Employment." Witnesses included economists and employer representatives who discussed policies that directly impact the labor market. Of note for the K-12 community, witnesses and committee members frequently highlighted the importance of high-quality educational pathways that lead to further opportunity and greater economic growth. In particular, members highlighted the importance of career and technical education programs and related pathways as a primary way to address ongoing labor shortages in key sectors of the economy. More information on the hearing, including an archived webcast, can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Seeks Input on ESRA

On April 5, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) issued a request for information (RFI) regarding the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), Educational Technical Assistance Act, and the National Assessment of Education Progress Authorization Act. In particular, the HELP Committee is seeking input from the public and the K-12 community on issues that should be addressed in potential updates, known as reauthorizations, of these laws which authorize a wide range of education-related research, technical assistance, and statistical collections. Feedback in response to this request is due by the close of business on April 19th. A letter outlining a series of questions related to the RFI can be found here.

House Leaders Request Information Related to Pandemic Funds
On April 3, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chair Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) issued a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona requesting documents and information related to the use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. Specifically, the letter is seeking information regarding how these funds were used by schools and local education agencies. The full letter can be accessed here

GOP Senator Says DOE is Imposing 'Dangerous Delays' on School Security Funds
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, is warning the Biden administration that "confusion" about funds granted in last year's bipartisan school safety bill could lead to "dangerous delays" in protecting campuses from mass shooting events. Cassidy called on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to direct his department to clarify that schools can use funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to boost their security and hold security training sessions. He also demanded a written plan of action that includes how the administration plans to "remove federal administrative barriers to the spending of dollars by districts" under the law. Read more here.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) on Women's Education to Appropriations Committee
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), the Co-Chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus (DWC) Policy Task Force, along with Chair Lois Frankel (D-FL), Policy Task Force Co-Chair Kathy Manning (D-NC), Vice Chairs Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Nikema Williams (D-GA), and Chief Whip Lucy McBath (D-GA) led a letter outlining the DWC's appropriations priorities and making clear that investments in women and girls shouldn't be partisan. Of the highlighted priorities, IDEA and STEM programs and properly ensured funding were requested. Read more here.

Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) on Education Reform and School Safety
After another outcry around the nation following the mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school, Congresswoman Julia Letlow (R-LA) said she wants to see more federal dollars go toward mental health to "stave it off on the front end," going so far as to suggest possibly putting mental health professionals in each classroom. However, she emphasized that it will take Congress coming together to find real solutions. Rather than promising any commitments to new gun control measures, the Congresswoman emphasized the need for continued focus on mental health. Read more here.

Sen. Ted Cruz Fights to Pass Two School Safety Bills on Senate Floor
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has reintroduced the Securing Our Schools Act and the Protect Our Children's Schools Act and called for their immediate passage. The bills would improve school security and access to student mental health resources and allow schools to use unspent, previously appropriated federal COVID-19 education-related funding to improve school security. Read more here.

Sen. Bob Casey Introduces K-12, Postsecondary School Safety Bill
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced three bills to make education more accessible to students with disabilities and help ensure their safety at school: the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act, the Safe Equitable Campus Resources and Education (SECuRE) Act, and the Promoting Responsible Emergency Protocols (PREP) for All Students Act. These policies would make transitions to postsecondary education smoother, campus emergency procedures more accurate, accessible, and inclusive of students with disabilities, improve training for school security and staff, and develop stronger federal oversight and support. Read more here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

·       H.R.2479 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for safe schools and safe communities. Sponsor: Weber, Randy K., Sr. [Rep.-R-TX-14]

·       H.R.2477 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 to permit qualified law enforcement officers, qualified retired law enforcement officers, and persons not prohibited by State law from carrying a concealed firearm to carry a firearm, and to discharge a firearm in defense of self or others, in a school zone. Sponsor: Weber, Randy K., Sr. [Rep.-R-TX-14]

·       H.R.2476 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To keep schools safe using unobligated Federal funds available to the Secretary of Education to respond to the coronavirus. Sponsor: Weber, Randy K., Sr. [Rep.-R-TX-14]

·       H.R.2456 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women's Health, to create educational materials with respect to covered disorders for elementary and secondary school students, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Williams, Nikema [Rep.-D-GA-5]

·       H.R.2455 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to provide for grants in support of training and education to teachers and other school employees, students, and the community about how to prevent, recognize, respond to, and report child sexual abuse among primary and secondary school students. Sponsor: Wild, Susan [Rep.-D-PA-7]

·       H.R.2425 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to make allotments to States to carry out full-day kindergarten programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Gallego, Ruben [Rep.-D-AZ-3]

·       H.R.2424 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to permit video or telephone certifications in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [Rep.-R-PA-1]

 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

USDA Extends Comment Period for School Meals Proposed Rules
As shared in early February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new proposed rules governing the nutritional standards for school meal programs. The newly proposed rules seek to reduce the amount of added sugars allowed in school meals, gradually reduce sodium limits, and aim to promote whole grain products among other proposed changes to existing school meal standards. Initially, the comment period for this proposal was set to close on April 10 but has now been extended to May 10 to give the public additional time to review the changes and provide feedback to the Department. More information on the announcement can be found here.

Biden Administration's Budget Could Jump-Start Ed Research on ChatGPT
Amid advances in artificial intelligence and continual improvements to technologies like ChatGPT, educators are steadily growing more comfortable with using AI tools for lesson planning, grading, and providing homework feedback. President Joe Biden's FY 2024 budget request includes a $63 million increase in funding for the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education's nonpartisan arm for statistics, research, and evaluation. The funding would enhance federal support for education research efforts that could lead to an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-Ed) and the discovery of new use cases for AI-driven tools like ChatGPT. Read more here.

Biden Administration Pushes Forward on Title IX Sports Rule
The Biden administration is pushing forward on its agenda to codify protections for transgender students. The Education Department sent its proposed Title IX rule on athletics participation to the White House Office of Management and Budget, a key procedural step to unveiling the policy that's expected to safeguard transgender students' right to play on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The administration's Title IX final rule on sexual misconduct, which would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, might be released as early as May. Read more here.

USED Issues New Guidance Related to Corporal Punishment
On March 24, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a Dear Colleague letter to Governors, Chief State School Officers, School District and School Leaders, urging them to end corporal punishment in schools. Practices such as paddling, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment were explicitly identified in the letter as being ineffective at addressing student behavioral issues. Despite research and evidence pointing to other more effective forms of student behavioral interventions, corporal punishment remains legal in 23 states. The full Dear Colleague letter can be accessed here.

USED Unveils Work-Based Learning Effort 
The U.S. Department of Education recently launched the "Career Z Challenge"-a new grant competition intended to spur innovative approaches to expanding student access to work-based learning opportunities. The multiphase grant competition will seek to identify promising best practices that can be scaled elsewhere in the nation. Local education agencies and schools that receive federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act funding are eligible to apply and share their ideas for how to improve and expand work-based learning. More information on the challenge can be found here.

Discretionary Grant Program Updates

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited applications for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers National Technical Assistance Center. The program will provide funding to establish a national technical assistance center to support SEAs that operate 21st century community learning centers. These centers provide assistance to students outside of school to "accelerate academic recovery and support students' social, emotional and mental health." The estimated available funds for this program total $4,600,000 in fiscal year 2023 and $4,100,000 in each following year. Applications are due by May 30, 2023, and further information is available here.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Disability Innovation Fund, Pathways to Partnerships Innovative Model Demonstration Project. The program provides grants to support innovative activities to increase competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. This discretionary grant competition will fund "multiple innovative model demonstration projects focused on the creation of systemic approaches to transition services for children and youth with disabilities." The estimated available funds for this program total $224,023,590, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by June 5, 2023, and further information is available here.

 


March 24, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Parents Bill of Rights Legislation Advances

House Republicans, led by Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA), recently introduced and marked up the Parents Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 5) - legislation that seeks to create new legal protections and enumerated rights for parents regarding their child's education.

On March 22, the House Rules Committee convened to determine the path forward for this legislative proposal for the full House chamber to consider further. During the Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers voted along party lines to advance a rule that stipulates how the bill will be debated among lawmakers, how and which amendments will be considered, and establishes procedures for the legislation's consideration. More information about this hearing can be found here.

The bill is expected to be adopted by the House Republican majority but is unlikely to be taken up by the Senate at this time. Earlier in the week, President Biden issued a Statement of Administration Policy highlighting the Administration's opposition to the legislation. 

Senate Appropriations Outlines Hearing Schedule

In anticipation of further Congressional efforts to advance federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) legislation this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced a series of hearings to examine the Biden Administration's Congressional budget request. A hearing examining the U.S. Department of Education's FY24 budget proposal is currently scheduled for May 11. The full list of hearings can be found here.

Biden Administration Details Potential Cuts in Education, Food Aid, and More Under GOP Plan

Federal departments and agencies say U.S. House Republicans' plans to cut federal spending would result in reductions to key programs like food aid, education assistance, and wildfire management. The series of letters from across the federal government released on March 20 detail exactly how plans to cut at least $130 billion in domestic spending during the upcoming fiscal year could impact people's everyday lives.

 "If implemented, 200,000 children will lose access to Head Start, and 100,000 children will lose access to childcare, undermining early education and parents' ability to go to work. As if that was not enough to deter these harmful cuts, 1.2 million women, infants, and children would lose vital nutrition assistance they receive through WIC," said House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), referring to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that provides grants to states.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, promised conservatives within his party that he'd cut spending during the upcoming fiscal year, slated to begin Oct. 1, back to the prior year's levels. The promise was one of many McCarthy made to hold-out Republicans in order to become speaker.

Read more here.

Attacks on SNAP Endangers America's Children and Veterans
"Defending and protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in this year's farm bill is critical for the well-being of America's families," writes Rep. David Scott (D-GA) in an op-ed for The Hill. Scott notes that the continued effects of COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and the avian bird flu outbreak in the U.S. are "expected to further contribute to inflation and increased food costs, putting pressure on the wallets of Americans." He writes that the lowest-income Americans, including SNAP recipients, will "disproportionately feel these impacts, which, in addition to the 2021 Thrifty Food Plan reevaluation mandated by the bipartisan 2018 farm bill, have led to increased outlays in the program." Read Scott's op-ed here.

TikTok Defenders Emerge in Congress
A group of progressive members of Congress plans to mount a public defense of the social media app TikTok against the backdrop of bipartisan efforts to facilitate a ban of the app in the U.S. While opposition to TikTok has abounded on Capitol Hill, it has proven difficult to find lawmakers who will speak favorably of the Chinese-owned company amid scrutiny of its data collection practices. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-VA), a leading critic of TikTok, told reporters he is concerned about "the notion of this many Americans' data in jeopardy, and the ability to have this platform to be used for propaganda purposes." Read more here.   

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced 

·       H.R.1689 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize the Secretary of Education, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to award grants to eligible entities to support the mental and behavioral health of elementary and secondary school students, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Spanberger, Abigail Davis [Rep.-D-VA-7]

·       S.889 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to provide consumer protections for students. Sponsor: Merkley, Jeff [Sen.-D-OR]

·       H.R.1619 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require schools to provide fluid milk substitutes upon request of a student or the parent or guardian of such student, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Carter, Troy [Rep.-D-LA-2]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

USDA Proposes New School Meal Rule 

On Thursday, March 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) proposed a new rule intended to expand student access to free and reduced-price school meals. The current set of rules requires that 40% of a school's student population be low-income in order to provide free school meals to the entire student population. This proposal would lower the community eligibility provision threshold from 40% to 25% in an effort to qualify more schools for this benefit to provide meals for their students. The proposal will be open for 45 days for public comment and input. More on the rule can be found here

USED Issues Teacher Pipeline Guidance 

Recently the U.S. Department of Education's (USED) Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) issued a Dear Colleague letter outlining ways state and local leaders can leverage federal funds to strengthen teacher pipeline efforts. Specifically, the guidance outlines ways that resources from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V) can be used to support various teacher recruitment, retention, and development initiatives. The letter can be found here.

The U.S. Department of Education invited applications for the following programs:

·       Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) – Grants to State Entities (State Entity). The CSP State Entity Program, authorized under Title IV-C of ESEA, provides grants to state entities to award subgrants in order to open new charter schools and replicate and expand high-quality charter schools. This notice includes one absolute priority: Best Practices for Charter Schools Authorizers. This priority requires applicants to demonstrate that the State entity has "taken steps to ensure that all authorized public chartering agencies implement best practices for charter school authorizing." The estimated available funds for this program total $173,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by June 5, 2023, and further information is available here.

·       Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education – Open Textbooks Pilot Program. The Open Textbooks Pilot program supports projects that create new open textbooks and expands the use of open textbooks and course materials in courses that are part of a degree-granting program. These projects should focus on achieving the highest level of student savings through "sustainable, expanded use of open educational resources in high-enrollment courses" or in programs that prepare students for in-demand fields. The estimated available funds for this program total $10,626,704, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by May 16, 2023, and further information is available here.

·       Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program. The Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program provides funds to be used on projects relating to undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages in the United States. This notice includes two competitive priorities: (1) Applications from Minority-Serving Institutions or community colleges, whether as individual applicants or as part of a consortium of institutions of higher education or a partnership between nonprofit educational organizations and IHEs; and (2) Applications from IHEs or consortia of these institutions that require incoming students to have successfully completed at least two years of secondary school foreign language instruction or that require each graduating student to earn two years of postsecondary credit in a foreign language (or have demonstrated equivalent proficiency in the foreign language); or, in the case of a two-year degree-granting institution, offer two years of postsecondary credit in a foreign language. The estimated available funds for this program total $2,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by May 22, 2023, and further information is available here.


 

March 10, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Advances Two Bills: Parents Bill of Rights and Transgender Women in Sports

On March 9, after a more than 15-hour markup on March 8, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed two bills. The "Parents Bill of Rights Act," or H.R. 5, would ensure parents have the right to know what schools are teaching their children, as well as the right to protect their children's privacy, the right to be heard, the right to be updated on violent activity at a school, as well as other general rights relating to education.

The majority of amendments introduced by Democrats were voted down by the Republican majority. However, several amendments passed, including providing broadband access for students and prohibiting federal involvement in school curriculum. Similarly, Republicans offered a variety of amendments focused on notice of speakers at school-sponsored events, school choice amendments, and the review of professional development materials. This bill passed along party lines, with many amendments offered during the markup.

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) explained the second bill, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023, or H.R. 734, seeks to strengthen the laws and existing protections for women and girls in sports by defining sex as based on an individual's biology and genetics at birth. This bill also passed along party lines, with some amendments offered during the markup.

According to Chairwoman Foxx in her Opening Statement, these bills show "Republicans' commitment to America" and, specifically, the "Parents Bill of Rights Act secures…constitutional rights for our parents."

Click here for a summary of the hearing, including details on Opening Statements and amendments that were offered.

These bills will now go to the full House for a vote. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) indicated the House will vote on the Parents Bill of Rights in the next two weeks. A summary of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 is available here. A summary of the Parents Bill of Rights legislation is available here.

Speaker McCarthy, Trump Push "Parents' Rights"
Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail are making a big push on "parents' rights." Former President Trump, in a March 6 email to supporters, included excerpts from a campaign speech in which he described himself as a "champion of parent's rights." He said, "I will fight for PARENTS' RIGHTS, including universal school choice, and the direct election of school principals by the parents" in the email. "If any principal is not getting the job done, the parents should be able to vote to fire them and select someone who will."

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy held an event to highlight the Parents Bill of Rights Act, legislation introduced the day before by more than 70 Republicans. A fact sheet on the bill from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce reads, "parents have a God-given right to make decisions for their children." Read more on the GOP's push for the Parental Bill of Rights here.

Foxx Pledges Stronger Accountability for Higher Education
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is planning to leverage the decline in public perception of higher education to usher in a new era of stronger accountability for the nation's colleges and universities in her role as chairwoman of the House education committee. This is "exactly the right time" to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, Foxx said in a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed. The last reauthorization was in 2008, and the law is supposed to be renewed every five years. Foxx and other lawmakers have tried over the years to pass comprehensive higher education legislation - only for those efforts to fail - and observers are skeptical that meaningful higher education bills can pass both chambers during this session of Congress. Read Foxx's interview with Insider Higher Ed.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.1429 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for a Federal partnership to ensure educational equity and quality. Sponsor: Trone, David J. [Rep.-D-MD-6]
  • H.R.1424 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 to extend additional reimbursement rates for certain child nutrition programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Spanberger, Abigail Davis [Rep.-D-VA-7]
  • H.R.1415 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to hire and retain school social workers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Moore, Gwen [Rep.-D-WI-4]
  • H.R.1412 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish the Foundation for Digital Equity, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Matsui, Doris O. [Rep.-D-CA-7]
  • H.R.1403 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to create a new national program to support mid-career workers, including workers from underrepresented populations, in reentering the STEM workforce, by providing funding to small- and medium-sized STEM businesses so the businesses can offer paid internships or other returnships that lead to positions above entry level. Sponsor: Houlahan, Chrissy [Rep.-D-PA-6]
  • H.R.1387 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to increase civics education programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Cleaver, Emanuel [Rep.-D-MO-5]
  • S.667 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to provide for a Federal partnership to ensure educational equity and quality. Sponsor: Cardin, Benjamin L. [Sen.-D-MD]
  • S.662 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to create a new national program to support mid-career workers, including workers from underrepresented populations, in reentering the STEM workforce, by providing funding to small- and medium-sized STEM businesses so the businesses can offer paid internships or other returnships that lead to positions above entry level. Sponsor: Rosen, Jacky [Sen.-D-NV]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

President Biden Unveils FY24 Budget Request
On March 9, President Biden released his long-anticipated federal fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget request to Congress. The request proposes a nearly $11 billion increase for the U.S. Department of Education's (USED) budget, including the various programs and initiatives it implements and oversees. This proposed increase is roughly 14% higher than the USED's FY23 budget, which Congress approved this past December.

Of note for the K-12 community, the budget proposes a 12% or $2.2 billion increase in funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) - formula grants that deliver funding to more than 90% of school districts across the nation. In addition, the budget proposes $16.8 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - a roughly 14% increase totaling $2.1 billion over FY23 enacted levels. The president's budget also encourages Congress to address a slew of other education issues, including teacher workforce shortages and multilingual education, and seeks to provide more funding for comprehensive community schools programming.

"President Biden's latest budget proposal calls on Congress to act with urgency and provide our schools with the resources needed to raise the bar in education by promoting academic excellence and rigorous instruction, improving learning conditions, and answering unmet challenges like the educator shortage and the mental health needs of our students," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. "Our administration is also pushing for dramatic new investments in high-quality preschool that provide all our youngest learners with a sturdy bridge to elementary school success. The Biden-Harris budget also supports the Department of Education's efforts to boost global competitiveness by expanding opportunities for multilingual learning, redesigning high schools to include multiple pathways to college and career, and supercharging state and local efforts to make free community college a reality nationwide."

Additional details regarding the budget are expected to be available in the coming days and weeks. The release of the budget formally begins the wider FY24 budget and appropriations process in Congress -an effort expected to be challenging in a divided Congress. As this process gets underway, NSBA's advocacy team will continue to work with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure the funding needs of the K-12 education community are reflected in the final legislation.

Click here for a table summarizing the president's requested spending levels for a number of key early learning, K-12, and workforce accounts. For additional information on the president's budget request for all programs and activities under the U.S. Department of Education, read the FY 2024 Education Budget Summary and Background Information.

FCC Nominee Withdraws Nomination

Earlier this week, Gigi Sohn withdrew her nomination to serve as a commission at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Her nomination, which has been stalled for nearly a year and a half, was met with increasing criticism about her previous roles and outspokenness. The FCC is currently without its full slate of five commissioners and is split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats, making bipartisan agreement necessary to make progress on important work. A new nominee has not been announced, and consideration of one will likely take several months.

Biden Education Chief: GOP Using Schools 'As a Means to Divide'
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona highlighted Democrats' efforts at "parent partnership" in a March 1 op-ed for Newsweek, indirectly hitting back at Republicans who are attempting to paint Democrats as uncaring about parental rights in education. In his opinion piece titled "We are Raising the Bar for Parent Partnership in Our Schools," Cardona backed the Biden Administration by stating its priorities in encouraging parental engagements directly with the Department of Education and school communities.

Four Ways the National Cybersecurity Could Shape K-12
The K-12 cybersecurity landscape faces numerous challenges - from finding and retaining staff to facing the ongoing threat of ransomware attacks that can shut schools down for days and result in the theft of district funds or sensitive data. With the White House's release of its National Cybersecurity Strategy on March 2, some K-12 technology experts remain cautiously optimistic the plan will lay a foundation for much-needed upgrades to help school districts nationwide. A key focus in the national plan is to shift the burden away from local governments and under-resourced consumers. Read more on the impacts of cybersecurity on K-12 here.

Schools Want to Close COVID Learning Gap Before Federal Funds Run Out
In a race to overcome the COVID learning gap, billions in federal aid are now being put to work. Still, states and school districts have spent less than half of their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, according to the latest federal data. A deadline looms: The rest of that money must be allocated or spent by 2024, or it will be lost. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found two decades of improvements were wiped away during the coronavirus pandemic. The declines were widespread but were most pronounced among the students who had already been struggling well before 2020. Read more here.

 


March 3, 2023 (Archives)

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

House Republicans Introduce Parents Bill of Rights Legislation

On Wednesday, March 1, Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) introduced the Parents Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 5). The legislation was co-sponsored by 73 Republican colleagues in the chamber, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), among other members of House Republican leadership. The bill aims to establish additional legal protections and enumerated rights for parents regarding their children's education. "As a mom of two and a former educator, I believe for a child to succeed, they need families and educators to work together as partners throughout the learning process," Letlow said as part of the bill's introduction.

Later in the day, Speaker McCarthy, Chair Foxx, and other House Republican leaders held an event to highlight the legislation and elevate stories from parents and families who are supportive of the proposal. A factsheet for H.R. 5 can be found here, and the full text of the measure can be accessed here.

House Republicans Ban Education Earmarks 

For the last few years, members of Congress have been able to make specific funding requests in support of projects or initiatives related to their home state or district. Known formally as "community project funding" in the House and informally as "earmarks" elsewhere, these requests totaled $200 million in last year's federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) spending package for K-12 initiatives. Yesterday, House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) announced new guidance for the upcoming FY24 budget and appropriations process. Among other notable changes, the guidance will not allow earmarks for the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill - legislation where K-12 education programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act derive funding - in the upcoming budget and appropriations cycle.

Elsewhere, the Senate has announced that it will still allow such requests this year, which will be due April 13. NSBA continues to analyze these new appropriations rules and their potential impact on education funding for the coming federal fiscal year.

House Ed Chairwoman Foxx Expresses Confidence in Parental Bill of Rights

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) gave a speech during a forum with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Members of the House Republican Conference, and concerned parents on the reintroduction of the Parents Bill of Rights Act. The Chairwoman acknowledged its impact on education freedom in America, stating, "One of the greatest blessings in life is to raise children - it's a solemn responsibility that every parent takes immense pride in." She gave full support and expressed confidence that "The Parents Bill of Rights will support parents' rights movements across America" and stated that it is every parent's "duty as stakeholders in their children's education." Watch the entire event here.

Comprehensive Labor Bill Introduced Amid Historic Public Support for Unions

A bipartisan group of House and Senate Members introduced the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2023 (H.R. 20), a comprehensive proposal to protect workers' right to come together and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. The House bill was introduced by the Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The Senate companion was introduced by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Read more about the bill here.

Federal Bill Pushes for Whole Milk in Schools

A federal bill introduced in the House by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Kim Schrier (D-WA) would allow schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to serve whole milk. Earlier this month, a federal bill allowing schools to serve flavored milk got a second life in Congress. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed revisions to the milk requirements in school meals, one of which would limit flavored milk to high schools. The full text of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act has yet to be released. It has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Workforce. H.R. 1147 would enable both flavored and unflavored whole milk to be served. Read more here.

New Investigative Counsel for House Education and the Workforce Committee

Kent Talbert is now investigative counsel for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. He was formerly a senior adviser to the deputy Education secretary under the Trump administration. Talbert is a proven leader in the K-12 and higher education sectors, with in-depth legal, policy, and management experience in the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as in private practice. See Talbert's profile here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.1185 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To allow a State to submit a State management decision to the Secretary of Education to combine certain funds to improve the academic achievement of students.
  • H.R.1207 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve diversity in accelerated student learning programs. Sponsor: Cohen, Steve [Rep.-D-TN-9]

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Department of Education Announces Required Cybersecurity Updates for Postsecondary Institutions to Comply with the Safeguards Rule 

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released an announcement about updates that postsecondary institutions must make to their cybersecurity and data protection policies to comply with the Federal Trade Commission's amended Standards for Safeguarding Customer Information (Safeguards Rule), a component of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). The effective date for most of the changes to the Safeguards Rule is June 9, 2023. The announcement provides a summary of the changes to the Safeguards Rule, explains the impacts of the changes on postsecondary institutions, and describes changes to ED's enforcement of the GLBA requirements. Read more about the Safeguards Rule here.

Vice President Harris Remarks on Expanding Affordable High-Speed Internet Nationwide

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Benedict College in South Carolina to speak on the issues regarding the nation's access to affordable, high-speed internet. Harris stated that access to high-speed internet is "not a luxury, but a basic necessity." The Vice President included statements on the importance of high-speed internet to the students and parents who struggle with completing schoolwork and everyday tasks due to the lack of access to high-speed internet. Harris announced the administration's $65 billion investment in the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. Read the Vice President's full speech here.


February 24, 2023

Congressional Update

HELP Committee Holds Healthcare Shortage Hearing

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on Feb. 16 to examine persistent workforce shortages within the healthcare industry. Witnesses included an array of postsecondary institutional leaders, many of whom emphasized the importance of quality career advisement starting in high school and middle school. The hearing also emphasized the importance of early career exposure to help put more students on pathways leading to careers in the healthcare industry. Witnesses also highlighted the impact of high-quality work-based learning opportunities, particularly apprenticeships, as a useful strategy to meet ongoing workforce challenges in the sector. An archived recording of the hearing can be found here.

Senate Appropriations Committee Takes Shape

Last week, the new Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations committee - Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), respectively - announced the leaders for the individual subcommittees that compose this committee and oversee federal funding for the 12 spending accounts that make up the federal budget. Of note for the K-12 education community, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) will serve as Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. This entity oversees and determines annual investments in federal education programs and initiatives. More information on the announcement can be found here.

Democrats Playing Defense on Education

The Democratic Party is increasingly playing defense on education as Republicans ramp up their rhetoric on the issue. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Republicans have sought to brand Democrats as the party that doesn't care about parental involvement in education, using mask mandates and school closures as a wedge while leaning into topics such as how LGBTQ identity and Black history are taught. Read more about the divided politics of education policy here.

Ranking Member Cassidy Opposes Biden Labor, Education Nominees

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, expressed his opposition to four Biden administration nominees following an off-the-floor HELP committee executive session. The committee voted on the nominations of Karla Gilbride for General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Jessica Looman for Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor, LaWanda Toney for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education, and Glenna Wright-Gallo for Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education. The nominees voted on were previously nominated and considered by the HELP Committee during the 117th Congress but failed to receive floor votes. The nominees reported out of the committee include Gilbride (12-9), Wright-Gallo (13-8), and Toney (12-9). Looman was not reported favorably. Read more in Cassidy's press release.

Some States Have Passed Universal Free School Meals

Since the pandemic, some public schools have offered free breakfast and lunch to students, regardless of their family's financial circumstances. However, the majority of municipalities in the U.S. have no such policy. In 2021, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduced the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021, a bill that would permanently provide free meals to all school children. The bill has not moved since being introduced in the House in 2021, which left many states picking up where the federal government left off. Read about the current landscape of free school meals across states here.

Title I Funding Has Doubled - But Its Most Potent Formula Is Stuck in the Past

Last year, lawmakers approved $18.4 billion for Title I, the largest line item for K-12 education in the federal budget and a vital resource for ensuring all students get the education they need. But despite two decades of steady increases to Title I, including $1.8 billion over the last two years, this opinion piece in The 74 argues that Congress may not realize it's ignoring one of the most effective tools for directing that money to the schools it's intended to serve - the Concentration Grant. Read more about the Concentration Grant and Title I funding here.

State Legislative Push for School Choice Gains Momentum Nationwide

Two years ago, 2021 was declared "The Year of Education Choice," when 19 states enacted 32 new or expanded education choice policies. This year could be even bigger as more states consider making choice policies available to all K-12 students. Read more about states' push for parental choice here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.1147 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow schools that participate in the school lunch program under such Act to serve whole milk. Sponsor: Thompson, Glenn [Rep.-R-PA-15]

Administration Update

A New Federal Funding Option to Help Schools Battle Cyberattacks?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has wrapped up its initial public comment period on a proposal to allow school districts to use federal E-rate money for advanced cybersecurity tools. Most in the K-12 community are hoping the FCC acts sometime this summer or fall to expand E-rate eligibility to include modern firewalls and other cybersecurity products. That would allow school districts to start using those federal funds to defend their networks beginning in 2024. But it's no guarantee the FCC will ultimately move in that direction. Read more about cybersecurity funding issues for schools here.

Biden Admin Pressured to Reconsider Policy Changes on Transgender Athletes

A coalition of 28 organizations sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona expressing their alarm about the Department of Education's (DOE) plans to grant Title IX protections to transgender and gender nonconforming student-athletes. The organizations, which represent parents, athletes, public interest lawyers, policy experts, and civil rights groups, cite an agenda published last month, which would require public schools and colleges to permit sports participation based on gender identity as opposed to biological sex. Read more here.

Biden Renews Call for Action on Gun Control Following Michigan State Mass Shooting

At an annual meeting with county leaders, President Biden said there is much more work to be done on gun control legislation, such as banning assault-style weapons, which are typically used in most mass shootings. The call for gun control came after another school shooting at Michigan State University, which followed shortly after the fifth anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting. Read more about the Biden administration's efforts to confront gun violence here.

USED Distributes Additional Mental Health and Student Wellness Grants

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced new grant awards last week totaling more than $188 million across 170 grantees and 30 states. Derived from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the funding supports mental health efforts to support students across the country. The grants are part of a wider Biden administration initiative to address mental health issues nationwide. More on the announcement can be found here.

USDA Issues Updated Meal Benefit Guidance

In anticipation of the end of the public health emergency declaration later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new guidance which provides additional detail regarding the pandemic EBT program (P-EBT) and related benefits for school children. The new guidance provides answers to commonly asked questions regarding the future of the P-EBT program and how states currently operating these benefit programs should plan to move forward with it. More information on this announcement can be found here.

Grants Available for Migrant Education Program Consortium Incentive Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education is accepting applications for the Migrant Education Program Consortium Incentive Grant Program, which provides grants to SEAs participating in a consortium to "improve the delivery of services to migratory children whose education is interrupted." This program provides financial incentives to SEAs that receive Title I, Part C funding. This competition has four absolute priorities: (1) Services designed to improve the proper and timely identification and recruitment of eligible migratory children whose education is interrupted; (2) Services designed (based on a review of evidence-based research) to improve the school readiness of preschool-aged migratory children whose education is interrupted; (3) Services designed (based on a review of evidence-based research) to strengthen the involvement of migratory parents in the education of migratory students whose education is interrupted; and (4) Services designed (based on a review of evidence-based research) to improve the educational attainment of out-of-school migratory youth whose education is interrupted. The estimated available funds for this program total $3,000,000, with a total of 30 awards to SEAs. Applications are due by April 24, 2023, and further information is available here.

Grants Available to Improve Results for Students With Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is accepting applications for the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities program. This program focuses on "(1) promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology; (2) supporting educational media activities designed to be of educational value in the classroom for students with disabilities; (3) providing support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom; and (4) providing accessible educational materials to students with disabilities in a timely manner." This competition includes one absolute priority: The Center on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for Young Children with Disabilities. The estimated available funds for this program total $1,450,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by April 24, 2023, and further information is available here.

The Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities Program works to prepare personnel to work in special education, early intervention, and related services, as well as regular education to work with children and youth with disabilities. This program further ensures those personnel have skills and knowledge, through practices that are determined through scientifically based research, to be successful in serving those children. The one absolute priority for this competition is: Associate Degree Preservice Program Improvement Grants to Support Personnel Working with Young Children with Disabilities - this will ensure that associate degree programs are adequately preparing personnel to provide supports and evidence-based practices to help young children with disabilities in inclusive early childhood programs. The estimated available funds for this program total $2,00,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by April 24, 2023, and further information is available here.


February 17, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

Senate HELP Committee Organizes and Considers Nominations
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee — the committee responsible for K-12 education policymaking in the Senate — met for the first time last week to formally organize and adopt rules for the start of the 118th Congress.

New HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) emphasized his desire to focus on a wide range of domestic policy issues, including a focus on critical workforce shortages within the teaching profession and healthcare sector. Sanders attributed teacher workforce shortages primarily to low wages and poor working conditions. The organizational meeting also featured high-level remarks from other committee members, including new HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) who highlighted many other priorities for the coming Congress. As part of the meeting, members adopted rules for the committee unanimously, as well as a budget, before adjourning. An archived webcast of the meeting can be found here.

Following this organizational meeting, the HELP Committee reconvened this week to consider several Biden Administration nominees for roles within the U.S. Department of Education (USED), including Glenna Wright-Gallo as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) — a role vacant since 2019. In addition, the committee also considered the nomination of LaWanda Toney to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for USED. Both nominees had previously been approved by the panel last year but were not advanced further.

Senate HELP Committee Chair Sanders Hosts Teacher Pay Townhall

Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a town hall with leaders of the two largest teacher unions, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and several teachers to raise awareness about teacher pay and tout forthcoming legislation that would create a nationwide minimum salary for K-12 teachers.

“Raising teacher salaries to at least $60,000 a year and ensuring competitive pay for all of our teachers is one of the most important steps we can take to address the teacher shortage in America and to improve the quality of our public school system in America,” Sanders said during the event.

An archived webcast of the town hall is here.

Florida Congresswoman Wilson Proposes Minimum $60K Salary for Teachers in New Bill

Another person pushing for a $60,000 minimum teacher salary is former school board member Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), Ranking Member of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee. In December 2022, she introduced the American Teacher Act, which was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, but fell short of making it to the House floor for a vote. Wilson and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) reintroduced the legislation in the House following President Biden’s call for public school teacher raises in his State of the Union Address. Forty-seven other members of Congress are co-sponsoring the bill (HR 9566). Read more about the reintroduced bill here.

Ending ‘Government-Run Monopoly’ on Schools Is Top Priority for Rep. Virginia Foxx

Republican lawmakers, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), have made parental rights in education a top priority after assuming control of the U.S. House. Foxx plans to support school choice policies that send public funds to private schools and bills that promote parental rights. Read more about Foxx’s K-12 priorities in Education Week. (Subscription required)

Senate Judiciary Committee Examines Children’s Online Safety

On Feb. 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Protecting Our Children Online.” The hearing examined the impact of large technology and social media companies’ products on school-aged children. Notably, concern over this issue was bipartisan, with Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with their colleagues, emphasizing their shared concerns regarding these issues. Witnesses testified about the impact that social media platforms, in particular, are having on children and encouraged lawmakers to consider legislation to address the negative impacts on young people.

See the attached PDF for a summary of the hearing. A video archive of the hearing is here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.1050 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to make grants for the purpose of increasing access to data literacy education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stevens, Haley M. [Rep.-D-MI-11]
  • S.410 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to authorize a Federal report and longitudinal study regarding the effects of social media on users under age 18. Sponsor: Hawley, Josh [Sen.-R-MO]
  • S.395 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to give Americans the option to delete personal information collected by internet operators as a result of the person's internet activity prior to age 13. Sponsor: Durbin, Richard J. [Sen.-D-IL]

Administration Update

Biden Signs Order to Enhance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities

A recent Executive Order from President Biden stated the administration’s priorities on enhancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, including provisions for advancing educational priorities. Read more here.

USED Announces Over $188 Million for Mental Health and Wellness

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced awards of more than $188 million across grantees in over 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-needs districts. With funding provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), these investments help advance President Biden’s Mental Health Strategy. Read more about the grant and student mental health priorities here.

USED Announces Grants to Enhance Diversity and Address Teacher Shortage

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced its first-ever awards, totaling over $18 million, for the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program grants to increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen the diversity of our teacher pipeline, and address teacher shortages. Read more about the grant program and its awardees here.

USED Hosts Raise the Bar Convening
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) hosted its fifth and final “Raise the Bar” convening to engage with the education community regarding ways to advance the Department’s vision for education this year. The virtual convening featured work underway in Minnesota to develop public-facing dashboards to track learning recovery and related pandemic spending. The convening also included discussions on how states, districts, and schools have approached learning recovery and how to recover from other impacts of the pandemic.

Family Engagement Partnership Announced

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recently announced a new partnership initiative with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Overdeck Family Foundation to expand and support family engagement efforts. As part of the new engagement, the partnership will deliver a learning series aimed at helping education leaders and other stakeholders implement best practices related to family engagement that are evidence-based and support wider student success.

Grants Available to Improve Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is now accepting applications for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2023 for Development of Innovative Technology Tools or Approaches to Improve Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities.

The program focuses on “(1) promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology; (2) supporting educational activities designed to be of educational value in the classroom for children with disabilities; (3) providing support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom; and (4) providing accessible educational materials to children with disabilities in a timely manner.” The estimated available funds for this program total $2,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by April 14, 2023, and further information is available here.

U.S. Teen Girls Experiencing Increased Sadness and Violence
Released Feb. 13, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that nearly 3 in 5 (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 — double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.

“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma. These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., CDC’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director for Program and Science. “Proven school prevention programs can offer teens a vital lifeline in these growing waves of trauma.”


February 10, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

President Biden Delivers State of the Union
On Feb. 7, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address to a joint session of Congress. The speech focused on the President and Congress’s accomplishments over the last two years, including significant investments in schools and other domestic priorities, while also reiterating a need to “finish the job” in the 118th Congress — a recurrent theme that the president returned to throughout the evening. During the speech, the president touched on a wide range of issues, including calling for the need to provide universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, raising teacher salaries, highlighting the need for further mental health investments for students and schools, and calling on Congress to provide greater resources for connectivity while also urging action on stricter privacy and online protections for minors.

While the speech included a wide range of other topics, the president consistently highlighted the centrality of education as part of America’s ability to compete within the wider global economy. Notably, he touched on recent Career and Technical Education (CTE) initiatives saying, “Let’s finish the job, and connect students to career opportunities starting in high school, provide access to two years of community college, the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree. Let’s offer every American a path to a good career, whether they go to college or not.”

Reinforcing the Biden Administration’s growing interest in CTE, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited high school career academies in Omaha, Nebraska, the following day to discuss students’ experiences in these programs. A full transcript of the SOTU address can be accessed here.

House Education Committee Hosts First Hearing
The newly renamed House Education and the Workforce Committee, Chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held its first hearing this week titled, “American Education in Crisis.” Witnesses included Virginia Gentles, Director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum; Colorado Governor Jared Polis; Scott Pulsipher, the President of Western Governors University; and Monty Sullivan, the President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

The hearing was intended to highlight aspects of the committee’s likely agenda over the next year ranging from K-12 and postsecondary education to workforce development. During the hearing, several K-12 topics were discussed at length, including parents’ rights, the role of gender identity in the classroom, school choice, teachers unions, learning recovery from the pandemic, and an examination of how pandemic aid dollars for education were used.

See attached for a summary of the hearing. Archived video and witness testimony are available at https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=408802.

Boosting ‘Pathetically Low’ Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
Restoring respect for the nation’s teachers and boosting their pay so starting salaries aren’t “pathetically low” are top of mind for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as he prepares to take over the Senate committee that oversees education. More on Sanders’ priorities can be found here. (Subscription Required)

Congress Expands Scrutiny of Junior R.O.T.C. Programs
Congressional leaders have expanded their scrutiny of the military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, asking for information about the program’s enrollment practices, curriculum, and sponsor relationships with the National Rifle Association. Read more here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.863 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a publishing house from knowingly furnishing sexually explicit material to a school or an educational agency, to prohibit Federal funds from being provided to a school that obtains or an educational agency that distributes sexually explicit material, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Mills, Cory [Rep.-R-FL-7]
  • S.301 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for qualified elementary and secondary education tuition. Sponsor: Rubio, Marco [Sen.-R-FL]
  • S.275 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to establish a vetting process for prospective applicants for high-cost universal service program funding. Sponsor: Capito, Shelley Moore [Sen.-R-WV]
  • H.R.845 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to create a demonstration project to fund additional secondary school counselors in troubled title I schools to reduce the dropout rate. Sponsor: Sánchez, Linda T. [Rep.-D-CA-38]
  • H.J.Res.28 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Expressing support for designation of the week of February 6, 2023, through February 10, 2023, as "National School Counseling Week". Sponsor: Sánchez, Linda T. [Rep.-D-CA-38] (
  • H.R.821 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require providers of social media platforms to prohibit children under the age of 16 from accessing such social media platforms, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stewart, Chris [Rep.-R-UT-2]
  • H.R.819 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act with respect to the types of milk offered under the school lunch program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stefanik, Elise M. [Rep.-R-NY-21]

Administration Update

USDA Proposes Revisions to Child Nutrition Programs

In a Federal Register notice dated February 7, 2023, Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service, proposed key regulatory revisions to the agency’s child nutrition programs.

“Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release as part of the announcement.

USDA based the changes on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and incorporated feedback from a recent stakeholder engagement campaign. According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the proposed changes put “children’s health at the forefront while also ensuring that the nutrition standards are achievable and set schools up for success.” The proposed revisions include the following:

  • New added sugars standards: The rules would propose limits for leading sources of added sugars in both the school lunch and breakfast programs and would provide for a weekly limit of adding sugars to less than 10% of calories per week.
  • Reducing school meal sodium: The rules would reduce the weekly school meal sodium limits gradually.
  • Strengthen the Buy American provisions: These rules would clarify and strengthen the Buy American provision in school meal programs in response to complaints that the current provisions are ambiguous and lack specificity.
  • Long-term milk standards: The USDA offers two proposals here — under the first, milk would be limited in grades K-8 to a variety of unflavored milk. The second would maintain the current requirements allowing all K-12 schools to offer fat-free and low-fat, flavored, and unflavored.
  • Whole grain standards: The USDA also offers two proposals: (1) the USDA would maintain the current requirement specifying that 80% of grains must be whole grain-rich; or (2) require all grains to meet the whole grain-rich requirement but provide for enriched grains to be offered on one school day per week.

In addition to the proposed changes listed above, the NPRM proposed changes to school meal requirements, such as menu planning options for American Indian and Alaska Native Students; changes to afterschool snack requirements; substituting vegetables for fruits at breakfast; crediting nuts and seeds; flexibility in hiring requirements and other technical corrections; among others.

Public comments must be received by April 10, 2023. Instructions for submitting comments are available here. If you have any questions about the proposed policy changes or rulemaking process, please contact Andrea Johnson (Aunie.Johnson@FLPAdvisors.com). USDA estimates that the final rule will be issued prior to the 2024-2025 school year.

Education Secretary Asks Education Leaders to Help “Raise the Bar”

On Feb. 6, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letter to education leaders outlining his priorities for the Education Department and asking education leaders to “join forces” to raise the bar for students across the country.

The letter repeats the three priorities Cardona shared during his “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” speech on Jan. 24: achieving academic excellence for all children; boldly improving learning conditions; and creating pathways for global engagement.

Cardona said he would follow up “in the coming weeks” with links to specific strategies and available grant funding streams. He wrote that the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act “provided a significant down payment on transformational change in education,” but he also acknowledged that those funds alone are insufficient. Read the attached letter, which includes contact information for education leaders seeking additional information or follow-up meetings.

Special Education Discretionary Grants Now Available
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Center on Dispute Resolution. This program seeks to promote academic achievement and improve results for children with disabilities. The absolute priority for this program will fund an agreement to establish and operate a Center on Dispute Resolution, which will provide technical assistance to support dispute resolution options, including methods of dispute resolution required under IDEA and early resolution practices. The estimated available funds for this project total $750,000, contingent on the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by April 4, 2023, and further information is available here.

Education Leaders Laud Federal Funding for Ed Research
According to a blog post from the American Educational Research Association, legislation signed by the President late last year adds $70 million in annual funding for the Institute of Education Sciences, the Department of Education’s nonpartisan arm for statistics, research, and evaluation, as part of the $1.7 trillion government funding bill known as the omnibus package. Of the additional $70 million, $40 million is devoted to researching instructional methods and tools to address challenges like K-12 learning loss that occurred during COVID-19. More on the funding can be found here.

FRAC Receives $2 Million Grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture to Support Equitable Access to Child Nutrition Programs
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has announced it has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct and support research on expanding equitable access to federally funded child nutrition programs. More on the funding can be found here.

Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards for SFAs
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working together with Action for Healthy Kids to provide Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards for School Food Authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP). More on the awards can be found here.

 


January 27, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

118th Congress Continues to Take Shape
Earlier this week, both the House and the Senate reconvened after recessing for the recent Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Lawmakers in the House continued to make important decisions related to committee assignments this week, which will have lasting impacts on K-12 education funding and policymaking for at least the next two years.

Of particular note, House Republicans announced that Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) will lead the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee — the body that determines the U.S. Department of Education’s budget and related programs. In addition, Republicans have named new members to this committee, as have Democrats, but neither party has assigned members to specific subcommittees.

Elsewhere, House Republican Leadership announced that the newly renamed House Education and Workforce Committee will be smaller in size than previous Congresses. Led by Chair Virginia Foxx (R-VA), the committee will include the following Republican members this Congress—listed in order of seniority: Joe Wilson (SC-02); Glenn Thompson (PA-15); Tim Walberg (MI-05); Glenn Grothman (WI-06); Elise Stefanik (NY-21); Rick Allen (GA-12); Jim Banks (IN-03); James Comer (KY-01); Lloyd Smucker (PA-11); Burgess Owens (UT-04); Bob Good (VA-05); Lisa McClain (MI-09); Mary Miller (IL-15); Michelle Steel (CA-45); Kevin Kiley (CA-03); Aaron Bean (FL-04); Eric Burlison (MO-07); Nathaniel Moran (TX-01); John James (MI-10); Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05); Brandon Williams (NY-22); and Erin Houchin (IN-09).

House Democrats have yet to provide a list of members who will be on the committee this year, although leadership recently confirmed that Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) will serve as Ranking Member.

In the Senate, committee assignments are still being determined. A needed “organized resolution” is the next step in the process within the Senate, but Senators have not yet moved forward with this procedural requirement.

As Congress works to organize, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to monitor these developments and engage with policymakers as the new 118th Congress continues to take shape.

House GOP Looks To Expand Education Savings Accounts to Cover Private Schools, Homeschooling

House Republicans are introducing legislation that would expand 529 education savings plans so that money saved under these plans could be applied to all grade levels, including for private and homeschooled students. More on the legislation can be found here.

Sen. Scott, Colleagues Introduce National School Choice Week Resolution

U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Congressional School Choice Caucus co-chair, and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), recently introduced a resolution designating Jan. 22-28, 2023, as National School Choice Week. More on the resolution can be found here.

Read the approval letter.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.463 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To have education funds follow the student. Sponsor: Good, Bob [Rep.-R-VA-5]
  • H.R.452 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow parents of eligible military dependent children to establish Military Education Savings Accounts, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Banks, Jim [Rep.-R-IN-3] (Introduced 01/24/2023)

Administration Update

Secretary Cardona Lays Out USED Priorities
In a major speech on Jan. 24, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona outlined his vision for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for the coming year. The speech entitled “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” highlighted several priority areas for the department this year, including efforts to boost academic excellence, improve learning conditions, and create more pathways to opportunities for learners.

Significantly, Secretary Cardona highlighted the importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE) saying, in part, “We must challenge our myopic view that emphasizing the importance of career pathways is about limiting students, or the view that it’s four-year-college or bust. Advancing career pathways in high schools is about more options for students, not less. What it does is prepare them for the careers of today with options, and in some cases, their employer will pay for their future education. If we do this well, our graduates will be able to compete on a global stage. It’s my intention to Raise the Bar so we can lead the world in advanced career and technical education.”

Secretary Cardona’s full remarks can be found here.

USED Outlines How Schools Can Use Federal Funds to Sustain Tech Programs

In a Jan. 25 letter to K-12 leaders, Roberto Rodríguez, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education (USED), emphasized that any tech investments made with federal dollars need to be part of a broad strategy to bolster teaching and learning.

USED Webinar Shares Risks, Solutions for Teen Fentanyl Use

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recently hosted a webinar — the first of two focusing on fentanyl dangers and solutions — targeted to state and district education leaders, school administrators, student support personnel, educators, parents, and education stakeholders. More on the webinar can be found here.

FDA Asks Experts to Review Seafood Safety for Children Through Health Equity Lens

Recognizing the cultural significance of seafood varies among different groups of Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked an expert panel to consider health equity and environmental justice issues in their review of children’s exposure to toxins from seafood. More on the FDA’s panel can be found here.

USED Awards Over $35 Million for Grants to Support Cradle-to-Career Solutions in High-Needs Communities

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recently announced new awards totaling more than $35 million for the Promise Neighborhoods and Project Prevent grant programs. Promise Neighborhoods grants provide coordinated support services and programs to students from low-income backgrounds at every stage of their education, from early childhood through their careers. More on the funding can be found here.

USDA Invests $25M to Expand Healthy Incentives in SNAP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is improving access to fruits and vegetables by expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s healthy incentive initiatives. This year, FNS will select up to three states to receive funding and support to run an Electronic Healthy Incentives Pilot, or eHIP, for SNAP participants in their state, according to a news release. More on the incentives can be found here.

USED Announces 2023 Presidential Scholars Slate of Candidates

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced 5,000 students who were named as candidates to become U.S. Presidential Scholars — an initiative that annually recognizes 161 high school seniors for academic, technical, and artistic achievements. A panel of educators and experts will review these candidate nominations and, using a variety of criteria including transcripts, test scores, and portfolios of work, narrow down the list to approximately 600 semifinalists later this spring. Ultimately, the commission will select the final 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars for the upcoming 59th cohort in the program’s history, expected to be announced this  May. More information on the program can be found here.

CISA Publishes K-12 Cybersecurity Report and Toolkit

On Jan. 24, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a long-awaited report, “Protecting our Future: Partnering to Safeguard K-12 Organizations from Cybersecurity Threats.” Congress directed CISA to write the paper through passage of the K-12 Cybersecurity Act. The report provides a number of recommendations for K-12 education leaders, including investing in cybersecurity measures, recognizing and actively addressing resource constraints, and focusing on collaboration and information-sharing. CISA also has provided a toolkit to provide additional support to education leaders seeking to implement these recommendations.

Office of Indian Education Accepting Applications for Formula Grants to LEAs
The Office of Indian Education Formula Grants program supports the development and implementation of elementary and secondary school programs that serve Indian students through grants to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), Indian Tribes and organizations, and other eligible entities. These funds must support “comprehensive programs that are designed to meet the unique cultural, language, and education needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students and ensure that all students meet challenging State academic standards.” The estimated available funds for this program total $110,381,000. Part I of the application is due by March 10, 2023, and Part II is due by May 12, 2023. Further information on this grant program is available here.

Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program Now Accepting Grant Applications
The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program provides for the study of modern foreign languages and area studies in the United States, which includes providing opportunities for faculty, teachers, and students to conduct group projects overseas. This can include (1) short-term seminars, curriculum development, or group research or study; or (2) long-term advanced intensive language programs. For fiscal year 2023, the Administration has requested $8,811,000 for awards for the Fulbright-Hays Overseas program — the Department intends to use an estimated $3,717,000 for this competition. Applications are due by March 27, 2023, and further information is available here.

USED Approves Short-Term Changes to Maryland’s ESEA Consolidated State Plan

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) published Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) consolidated state plan amendments that states submitted using the COVID-19 State Plan Addendum for the 2021-2022 school year. The Department recently approved Maryland’s state plan addendums.


January 20, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

Congress Remains on Recess
This week both chambers of Congress remained on recess in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Lawmakers are expected to return next week to continue organizing the House and the Senate, including expected announcements regarding assignments to committees with jurisdictional responsibility for K-12 education policymaking, including the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Additional clarity also is expected in the coming weeks ahead regarding the specific lawmakers who will have responsibility for overseeing K-12 education funding through the Appropriations Committee. Recently, House Republicans announced that Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) will lead the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee-the entity with direct oversight over the U.S. Department of Education's budget and related programs. In the Senate, comparable committee leadership details are still forthcoming.

As Congress works to organize, NSBA's advocacy team will continue to engage with partners on Capitol Hill to ensure school boards' perspectives and policy recommendations are prioritized in the new 118th Congress.

'DARPA for Education' Is a Good Start. Now, Congress Must Do More
In a recent opinion piece for The 74, Dan Correra, CEO of the Federation of American Scientists, writes that the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations recently passed by Congress plants the seeds for a foothold to establish a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - DARPA - for education.

The spending package directs the Institute of Education Sciences to pilot a DARPA-like program "to support a new funding opportunity for quick-turnaround, high-reward scalable solutions intended to significantly improve outcomes for students." The goal is to help address the massive COVID-19 learning disruptions experienced by schools and the longstanding achievement gaps impacting some of the nation's most vulnerable students through applied research and development. Read more here.

House GOP Introduces Bill Requiring K–12 Schools to Post Curricula Online
House Republicans have proposed legislation to require K–12 schools that receive federal funding to post their curricula online for the sake of transparency for parents. The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that local education agencies "post the curriculum . . . on a publicly accessible website of the agency." The legislation is dubbed the "Curriculum Review of Teachings Transparency Act." More on the bill can be found here.

These Four Charts Explain Federal Fiscal 2023 K-12 Spending
When the final round of COVID-19 pandemic aid was passed, many had one question in mind: What would happen when the funding dried up? At the time, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona advocated for a "sustained effort" even after the American Rescue Plan's Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund expired. Following that call, the Biden administration did, in fact, make ambitious requests in its Education Department budget proposals. The latest request to increase funding for K-12 received its answer in late December, when Congress passed appropriations for fiscal year 2023. More on the funding can be found here.

Budget Compromise Ditches Child Tax Credit, Increases Education Spend
The recently approved Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending bill required a series of compromises. In order to secure the minimum of ten Republican votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate, Democrats were forced to abandon some priorities, including reauthorization of the Child Tax Credit, which successfully reduced child poverty. The FY 2023 appropriation includes an increase of $59 million for English language acquisition, to a total of $890 million. Special education is being allocated $15.5 billion ($934 million more than last year), including a $20 million increase for teacher preparation and professional development. Read more here.

Administration Update

USED Announces $63 Million for Community Schools, Publishes Best Practices Toolkit
On Jan. 18, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it was distributing $63 million in new funding for Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants. These five-year grants will support a wide array of educational stakeholders, including local education agencies, states, and others, to establish or expand Community Schools-schools that collaborate with other entities to provide more holistic supports and services for students and families. The grants are intended to foster more of these partnerships in states and local communities where awards have been made. The announcement coincides with the release of a new toolkit from the Biden Administration, which highlights strategies and best practices regarding the establishment and expansion of Community Schools.

Grant Applications Now Accepted for Special Education Parent Information Centers Program
The Special Education Parent Information Centers grant program provides funding to assist parents of children with disabilities with training and information to help them improve outcomes for their children. The absolute priority for this grant program is "Technical Assistance for Parent Centers" -– funds will be used to establish and operate five parent technical assistance centers. The available funds for this program total $2,940,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by March 28, 2023. Further information is available here.

Biden White House Extends COVID Public Health Emergency Through April
The Biden White House announced that it is extending the COVID public health emergency for another 90 days following increased cases of the latest subvariant. The increased coronavirus, flu, and RSV cases have led to a growing number of schools and other locations returning to masking. Ann Arbor Public Schools in Michigan reintroduced a two-week mask mandate from January 9-20 following increased illnesses in December. Some schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania also have returned to required indoor mask-wearing. Other school systems, such as Chicago Public Schools, asked students and staff to test themselves for COVID before returning to school. More on the public health emergency extensions' effect on schools can be found here.

Charter School Funding Remains Steady for Second Year Under Biden
Charter school funding has so far remained stable under the Biden administration, as requested by President Biden and approved by Congress, despite uncertainty about the then-incoming president's support for charter schools. During Biden's term, the U.S. Department of Education has requested and received $440 million from Congress for the Charter School Program grant every fiscal year. More on the funding can be found here.

Federal Government to Spend $35 Billion on Getting Kids Ready for School
The U.S. Departments of Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services will spend $35 billion preparing students to succeed in school as opposed to educating them. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 allocated $45 billion to the Department of Education for K-12 education, of which about $20 billion is designated for indirect educational activities, such as after-school programs, learning enrichment programs, and social and emotional learning. More on the news can be found here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • H.R.322 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To modify the Federal TRIO programs. Sponsor: Davidson, Warren [Rep.-R-OH-8]
  • H.R.305 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To authorize the Secretary of Education to carry out a grant program to assist local educational agencies with ensuring that each elementary and secondary school has at least one registered nurse on staff. Sponsor: Wilson, Frederica S. [Rep.-D-FL-24]
  • H.R.287 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that local educational agencies applying for certain Federal education funds post the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools online, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Fitzgerald, Scott [Rep.-R-WI-5]
  • H.R.271 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for greater accountability with respect to Federal activities and expenditures relating to COVID-19, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Estes, Ron [Rep.-R-KS-4]
  • H.R.245 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a grant program for nebulizers in elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor: Jackson Lee, Sheila [Rep.-D-TX-18]

January 13, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

McCarthy Elected Speaker of the House
Early Saturday morning, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was formally elected Speaker of the House after a tumultuous week that saw 14 failed vote attempts to elect a new leader for the chamber. Throughout last week, a small group of House Republicans withheld their support for McCarthy's Speakership bid leading to the week-long impasse. After providing a series of concessions to this group of lawmakers, some of which still have not yet been made public, McCarthy garnered most of this group's support while others voted present. This reduced the threshold he needed to win the Speaker's gavel. Some of the concessions could impact education funding for the coming year, including a promise McCarthy gave to these members to only advance appropriations legislation later this year at or below federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) funding levels. With a narrow four-seat majority in the House, and with all Democratic lawmakers voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), this combination of handshake agreements and concessions provided the support McCarthy needed to secure the Speakership - a critically important leadership position that he has sought since 2015.

Rep. Virginia Foxx Chosen to Chair House Education and the Workforce Committee
On Jan. 9, House Republicans chose Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to return to the chairmanship of the House Education and the Workforce Committee - a position she held when Republicans last controlled the House. (The Committee was titled "Education and Labor" under Democrats and is once again "Education and the Workforce" under Republicans.)

In a press release, Chair Foxx outlined her agenda, noting that "Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities. We must stop this administration's reckless and destructive regulatory agenda." Her legislative and oversight agenda will be vastly different than that of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the incoming chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As with most committees, it doesn't seem likely that there will be much substantive bipartisan, bicameral legislation moving forward this Congress.

U.S. House of Representatives Adopts New Rules Package
On Jan. 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules package on a mostly party-line vote (the only Republican voting against it was Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX)). The new set of rules includes many of the concessions Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made to win over the 20 hard-right conservatives who initially refused to support his bid to become Speaker of the House. Among other things, the new rules make it easier to remove the Speaker and establish new investigatory committees. They also make it harder to raise taxes or spend federal money, among other significant changes. In addition to what is found in the new rules package, a number of other deals McCarthy struck have been reported and are expected to emerge in the coming weeks. It is worth noting that the new House rules do not ban earmarks, although the House could opt to do that later.

Of note to school districts, the rules package creates a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic as part of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, replacing the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The panel's focus will include the effectiveness of federal relief and support programs - one of the areas where school district and state spending of ESSER dollars is expected to come under scrutiny. The panel also will likely focus on the societal impact of decisions to close schools, where remote learning is expected to be scrutinized.

NSBA is continuing to analyze these new rules and their potential impact on education funding and policymaking in the new Congress.

A Change in Federal Funding May Make the 'Homework Gap' Worse
A Jan. 10 article in Education Week notes that the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package approved in December does not contain any additional funding to continue the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), even though there is still a lot of demand for it and even after dozens of education groups, including NSBA, asked lawmakers to continue funding it.

The fund was established during the pandemic to help schools and libraries provide their communities with tools for remote learning. Congress, through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, appropriated $7.2 billion for the program. So far, the FCC has doled out $6.5 billion, and the fund has helped millions of students and educators who didn't have access to broadband or digital devices at home.

Education advocates note that there is about $1.3 billion in demand for ECF funds, but only $600 million left to satisfy that demand, meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of demand from school districts and libraries for ECF funds will go unfulfilled unless more money is allocated for the program.

Advocates hope that Congress will pass additional funding, whether through a stand-alone bill or as part of the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process, but it might be a steep hill to climb with a divided government. Alternatively, states and school districts could offer some patchwork funding to provide these services to their residents and students. However, a recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics found that schools are winding down their efforts to supply students with home internet access, most likely driven by federal COVID-relief aid drying up. Read the article. (Subscription required)

Administration Update

ED Proposes New Income-Driven Repayment Plan for Student Loans
On Jan. 10, the U.S. Department of Education proposed regulations to create a new income-driven repayment plan that would cut monthly repayments in half for some students while simplifying the program. The department's press release and an accompanying fact sheet describe the proposed changes.

An NPR article offers behind-the-scenes details on how failed December negotiations led to a freeze for student aid administration for fiscal year 2023. It also examines how that funding freeze could impact the proposed income-driven repayment plan; restarting student loan payments after the pandemic pause; completing a multi-year plan to update student loan servicing; and proceeding with the department's plan for student debt relief if the Supreme Court rules that the plan is permissible.

Possible Changes Coming to SNAP Benefit Amounts in 2023
There are several changes that may affect SNAP household's benefit amounts over the coming months. The temporary boost to SNAP benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, known as emergency allotments, will end nationwide after the February 2023 issuance. In addition, households that receive SNAP and Social Security benefits will see a decrease in their SNAP benefits because of the significant cost of living increase to Social Security benefits that took effect on Jan. 1, 2023. For more information on these changes, please see the announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Former Biden Campaign Spokesman Moving to Education Department
Kamau Marshall, a former chief campaign spokesman for Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, moved from the U.S. Trade Representative to the Education Department. Marshall became a senior adviser to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in the agency's office of communication and outreach. Marshall will focus on issues regarding kindergarten to 12th grade at the Education Department, as well as higher education and student debt relief and oversight. More on Marshall can be found here.

Here's the Education Department's Next Regulatory Agenda
The U.S. Department of Education unveiled sweeping regulatory priorities, pinning a publishing date for its final Title IX rule and announcing policy negotiations on such topics as accreditation and distance learning. The Biden administration's policy roadmap follows regulatory work over the last two years that largely moved to clamp down on for-profit institutions and bolster protections for student loan borrowers. As Congress remains gridlocked with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a wafer-thin Republican House majority, most substantial policy changes will likely stem from executive action. More on the agenda can be found here.

Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced

  • R.245 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To establish a grant program for nebulizers in elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor: Jackson Lee, Sheila [Rep.-D-TX-18] (Introduced 01/10/2023)
  • R.65 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow States, in accordance with State law, to let Federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children follow low-income children to the public school, charter school, accredited private school, or supplemental educational service program they attend, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Biggs, Andy [Rep.-R-AZ-5] (Introduced 01/09/2023)
  • R.174 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit the provision of Federal funds to a labor organization the members of which are education professionals. Sponsor: Jackson, Ronny [Rep.-R-TX-13]
  • R.201 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit the provision of Federal funds to any State or local educational agency that denies or prevents participation in constitutionally-protected prayer in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rouzer, David [Rep.-R-NC-7]
  • R.202 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To provide for the elimination of the Department of Education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rouzer, David [Rep.-R-NC-7]
  • R.216 - 118th Congress (2023-2024) To prohibit Federal education funds from being provided to elementary schools that do not require teachers to obtain written parental consent prior to teaching lessons specifically related to gender identity, sexual orientation, or transgender studies, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Van Drew, Jefferson [Rep.-R-NJ-2]

 

 


January 6, 2023 (Archives)

Congressional Update

Congress Passes End-of-Year Spending Package
Prior to the holiday season, the 117th Congress struggled to agree on full-year funding legislation for the current 2023 federal fiscal year (FY23). This important legislation was the last remaining agenda item lawmakers needed to pass before the concluding the 117th Congress. Just a few days before temporary funding legislation was set to expire, lawmakers released a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY23 for all federal operations and programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). With the holidays fast approaching, lawmakers in both chambers quickly took up and passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis with the House voting for passage 225-201 and the Senate voting in favor of the package by a margin of 68-29. Shortly after these votes, President Biden signed the package into law (H.R. 2617).

The new law provides a $3.2 billion increase to the U.S. Department of Education’s budget — an approximately 4 percent increase over FY22 funding levels. Of significant note for school districts, the omnibus spending package provides $850 million in additional funding for ESSA Title I formula funds (a 4.8 percent increase); a $903 million increase in state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); $100 million in additional funding for Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (a total increase of 7.8 percent), as well as a slew of other school board member funding priorities. NSBA’s advocacy team applauds this result and is looking forward to working with Congress this year to secure additional investments in K-12 education as part of the upcoming FY24 federal budget and appropriations process.

Also included in the omnibus spending package is permanent funding for a comprehensive approach to summer meals for children. Read more.

118th Congress Begins Amidst Uncertainty
The newly elected members of the House and the Senate convened this week to formally begin the 118th Congress. As a reminder, Democrats retained control of the Senate, increasing their slim majority to 51-49 this Congress, while Republicans took control of the House with a narrow majority of 222-213. In the Senate, the start of the new Congress was a short affair. Senators gathered throughout the day on Tuesday, Jan. 3, to swear in new members, formally name Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) the president pro tempore of the Senate (as the second longest serving Democrat in the chamber) and attend to other logistical housekeeping items. Following these activities, the Senate recessed until Jan. 23.

In the House, however, efforts to formally begin the new Congress have been upended by the new majority’s inability to elect a new Speaker of the House. The presumptive front runner for this position, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, has been unable to garner the 218 votes required to become speaker. A small contingent of House Republicans, about 20 or so members, are opposing McCarthy. It remains unclear how or when these disagreements within the House Republican Caucus will be resolved. In the meantime, the House has not been able to convene formally for the 118th Congress — including the swearing in of new members — because a speaker has not been elected. NSBA will continue to monitor these developments closely.

What to Know About Rep. Walberg’s Education Priorities
As head of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Tim Walberg would expect to prioritize school choice, address learning loss, and bolster the rights of parents in education, according to the Michigan congressman's office. Walberg’s priorities are similar to those of Rep. Virginia Foxx, who is also vying for the post. They line up with the GOP’s “Commitment to America” agenda, and also put school choice and parental rights at the top of the list. The congressman’s office said that he would want to ensure that there is oversight on the administration’s actions on student loans, Title IX, pandemic-related school closures, and the use of COVID-19 funds. Student privacy protection is also on Walberg’s list. More on Walberg’s priorities can be found here.

Administration Update

President Biden Re-nominates Gigi Sohn to Serve as FCC Commissioner
For the last few years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), composed of five members, has been evenly split between Democratic and Republican appointees, with one seat remaining vacant. This vacancy has been open for some time due, in part, to the evenly divided Senate in the 117th Congress. President Biden initially nominated Gigi Sohn to be the fifth member of the FCC in October 2021, but her nomination remained stalled in the Senate for a variety of reasons explored in greater detail here. On Jan. 3, President Biden renominated Sohn for this position. With a true majority in the Senate chamber this year, Democrats are expected to advance and ultimately approve Sohn’s nomination. This will likely provide Democrats with a majority at the FCC sometime in the future.

E-Rate Money for Cybersecurity? The FCC Is About to Get an Earful From Schools
As cyberattacks on schools grow increasingly disruptive and complex, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to hear what educators think about allowing schools to use federal E-rate funds to pay for more advanced internet security firewalls. The request for comment on that proposal — often the first step in revising the rules for federal programs — was posted on Dec. 14, and comments are due Feb. 13. The FCC is likely to get an earful from the K-12 community over the next two months, including some voices clamoring in favor of the proposal, and others who caution it may divert resources from the E-rate’s primary focus of connecting schools and libraries to the internet, without doing much to improve cybersecurity. More on the story can be found here.

Discretionary Grant Program Updates

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the following programs:

  • Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program — National Center on Technology Systems in Local Educational Agencies — The Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program seeks to improve results for children with disabilities in a variety of ways. This discretionary grant program focuses on funding a cooperative agreement to create a National Center on Technology Systems in Local Educational Agencies (LEAs). This Center will assist LEAs by providing a framework to implement instructional and assistive technology systems that are comprehensive and sustainable. The estimated available funds for this program total $700,000 out of $29,547,000 requested funds for the ETechM2 program for fiscal year 2023. Applications are due by March 6, 2023, and further information is available here.
  • State Personnel Development Grants — The State Personnel Development Grants program assists State Education Agencies (SEAs) with their personnel preparation and professional development programs, focusing specifically on early intervention, educational, and transition services for children with disabilities. This grant program has two absolute priorities: (1) Effective and efficient delivery of professional development; and (2) State Personnel Development Grants, which require submission of a state personnel development plan. The estimated available funds for this program total $12,891,338 out of $38,630,000 for the SPDG program for fiscal year 2023. Applications are due by March 6, 2023, and further information is available here.

New Year, New Title IX Regulations
Almost six months ago, the Biden administration released its proposed revisions to the Title IX regulations for public comment. Looking to reverse the changes made by the Trump administration, the proposed amendments broaden the definition of sexual harassment, eliminate the requirements for a live hearing and cross-examination and allow for a single individual to both investigate sexual misconduct complaints and determine guilt or innocence. Now that the public comment period has closed, the U.S. Department of Education will begin reviewing comments and drafting final changes. More on the proposed changes can be found here.

New Report Uncovers Cybersecurity Challenges Facing K-12 Schools
The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) produced its first K-12 Report as a way for K-12 leaders to understand their cyber risk better and take decisive actions to mitigate it. The cybersecurity threat to K-12 schools is persistent, and the potential harm of cyber attacks threatens both the vital work of our education system and the data security of an entire generation of young Americans. Ransomware remains the most impactful cybersecurity threat to K-12 schools, often resulting in significant financial loss and taking schools offline for days. More on the report’s findings can be found here.

 

 


 

 


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Maryland

State Resources – Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) 

State Board Approves Accountability Report Cards 

On Dec. 4, 2018, the Maryland State Board of Education released the approved format, contents, and online accessibility to the new Maryland Report Card accountability reporting system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

State Board Approved ESSA Accountability Plan

U.S. Dept. of Education Resources – Maryland’s State Plan Review and Approval 

MABE Presentation: From NCLB to ESSA… An Introduction to the Every Child Succeeds Act

  • The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, represents a comprehensive revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which since 2002 has been known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). MABE and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) agree that ESSA provides a historic opportunity for school boards across the country to help shape how this law will impact their schools, teachers, and students. Unlike NCLB, ESSA reduces the specificity of federal requirements while increasing the ability of states and school systems to define how school boards and individual schools are held accountable for student achievement. With the passage of this law, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and States are now embarking on the work to implement its provisions.

For more information, please see the Every  Student Succeeds Act section in our Priority Issues for the 2018 legislative session.