Federal Advocacy Center


MABE’s Federal Advocacy Programs & Services

MABE’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Committee 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 (formerly FRN Conference) in Washington D.C. and participate in the “Day on the Hill” congressional office visits.

MABE encourages all boards of education to participate in MABE’s FRN 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.

2019 Advocacy Institute – The 2019 Advocacy Institute was held from January 27-29, 2019 at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Check out the Agenda and contact MABE for information on how to participate in FRN and future Advocacy Institutes.

Priority Issue – Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and IDEA Position Statement for Members of Congress

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

Federal News & Highlights

NSBA’s Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Updates
(Updated March 1, 2019)  

Congressional Updates

House Education Committee Approves School Construction Bill
The House Committee on Education and Labor reported the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 865) this week by a vote of 26 to 20Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) acknowledged NSBA during the Committee’s meeting to consider the legislation.

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would invest $100 billion through grants and tax-exempt municipal bond programs to states and school districts for school infrastructure repairs, modernization and new construction. H.R. 865 would reinstate tax credit bonds for school infrastructure projects (such as the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program) that was rescinded as part of a cost-savings measure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The legislation would also support enhanced broadband for school buildings and would increase funding for infrastructure in Impact Aid districts. Specifically, H.R. 865 would authorize $70 billion in appropriations for grants to school districts from FY2020 to FY2029 and would authorize $30 billion in bond authority to states and school districts for calendar years 2020-2022. In addition, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act would provide more than $173 million from FY2020-2023 for capital improvements in school districts that educate large populations of federally connected students–including those who reside on Native American trust lands and those whose parents are enlisted in the Armed Forces—through the Impact Aid program.

NSBA informed the Committee’s development of this legislation and has advocated for the provisions noted above. Conversely, NSBA has urged the Committee to remove language in this bill regarding wage and labor rates (Davis Bacon) that would impact local school board governance and authority over contracts with service providers. NSBA emphasizes the right of local school boards to retain all necessary decision-making authority when contracting with private companies and urges an exemption of the Davis Bacon provisions applicable to the school bond programs.

NSBA will continue to advance the policy positions of the Delegate Assembly for school infrastructure and in opposition to the Davis Bacon provisions regarding the Rebuild America’s Schools Act as it is negotiated for consideration by the full House. House Democratic leaders would like H.R. 865 to be a component of a broader federal infrastructure package that may be considered later in the year. We are working to support a similar bill in the Senate without the Davis Bacon provisions.

House Education Subcommittee Focuses on Seclusion and Restraint
Earlier this week, the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing on school’s use of seclusion and restraint. The following witnesses testified at the hearing:

  • George Sugai, Ph.D., Professor and Carole J. Neag Endowed Chair, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
  • Renee Smith, Coventry, Rhode Island
  • Jacqueline Nowicki, Director of Education Workforce and Income Security, Government Accountability Office (GAO), Washington, D.C.
  • Allison Sutton, M.Ed, Special Education Teacher, Wichita Public Schools (USD 259), Wichita, Kansas

Subcommittee Chairman Sablan (D-NMI) opened the hearing by saying that ensuring the safety and health of both students and staff in every classroom is important. He added that seclusion practices are not appropriate for schools and require resources and time that could be spent in the classroom.  He said 39 states have laws that reduce seclusion practices, but 11 states have no laws preventing it.  Ranking Member Allen (R-GA) said every child is unique, that a one size fits all approach will not work, and that the committee should tread carefully to ensure any legislation does not interfere with educators’ abilities to respond quickly and efficiently to a difficult situation.  Witnesses’ written testimony can be read here. NSBA expects Democratic committee members to follow-up on the hearing by re-introducing the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which may be considered by the House education committee later this year.

House Education and Labor Committee Announces Higher Education Act Plans

Updating the Higher Education Act (HEA) is among the top education policy priorities of the House Education and Labor Committee. The HEA is important to school boards because the law includes provisions that directly impact school districts’ work, such as educator preparation and induction, college access programs, and incentives for attracting new teachers to the profession. NSBA sent a letter to Congress specifically calling on federal leaders to place a greater focus on educator preparation, including on recruiting and preparing teachers to work in high need fields, such as special education. This week, the Education and Labor Committee announced plans to hold five HEA hearings focused on the following topics: 

  • The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach
  • Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers
  • The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education
  • Engines of Economic Mobility: The Critical Role of Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions in Preparing Students for Success
  • Innovation to Improve Equity: Exploring High-Quality Pathways to a College Degree”

The committee has not yet announced dates for these hearings, but we expect them to be staggered throughout the first half of 2019.

Administration Updates

Department of Agriculture Provides School Districts Hiring Flexibility for Nutrition Directors

In a major victory long sought by NSBA, this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a final rule that “adds four flexibilities to the hiring standards for new school nutrition program directors in small local educational agencies (LEAs) and new State directors of school nutrition programs under the Professional Standards regulations for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.” The final rule will take effect in 60 days.

Secretary DeVos Endorses School Choice Tax Credit Proposal

Secretary DeVos announced support for a proposal to create a $5 billion federal tax credit for those who donate to scholarships for private schools and other educational programs. The Secretary made the announcement with Sen. Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Byrne (R-AL) who noted that they plan to introduce the “Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act”. NSBA issued a statement strongly opposing the proposal and we will advocate against it on Capitol Hill. We do not, however, believe the proposal will move through either the Senate or House, given widespread Democratic opposition to the Cruz-Byrne plan.

Department of Education Seeks Comment on Planned ESSA Title IV-A Survey

The U.S. Department of Education published notice in the Federal Register this week seeking comments on a survey designed to identify state and local activities supported by the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants under Title IV, Part A of ESSA. The grant program seeks to improve academic achievement by increasing capacity of states, school districts, schools, and local communities to: 1) Provide all students with access to a well-rounded education; 2) Improve school conditions for student learning; and 3) Improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. This study will conduct a survey of all states in Spring 2918 to obtain information about the types of activities states and school districts are supporting with these grant funds. Comments are due by March 27, 2019 and further information is available here.

FCC Extends E-rate Special Construction Deadline

This week, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended a key deadline for some E-rate special construction applicants.  During March 2018, some E-rate special construction applicants, for funding year 2016 and 2017, received incorrect program information from the Universal Service Administrative Company. That information caused those applicants to miss key implementation deadlines.  The Wireline Bureau’s action this week protects the integrity of the funding provided to program participants affected by the error. School Districts with 2016 or 2017 E-rate special construction applications should review the Wireline Bureau’s decision, which can be accessed here.

NCES Publishes New Educational Progress Report

On February 20, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new report that “profiles current conditions and recent trends in the education of students by racial and ethnic group.” The report covers 36 measures across preschool through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes. The publication features “two new spotlights on the characteristics of public school teachers by race/ethnicity and the characteristics of postsecondary institutions serving specific minority groups.”

Department of Education Planning Important Survey Examining ESSA, Title IV-A Block Grant

The Department of Education published a notice in the Federal Register this week announcing plans to study the early implementation of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grant, which was created by Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The program provides school districts with a flexible source of funding focused on three broad areas: (1) providing all students with access to a well-rounded education; (2) improving school conditions for student learning; and (3) enhancing the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. The Department is planning to survey states and school districts this Spring to obtain information about the types of activities they are supporting using the program’s fiscal year 2018 funding.

Secretary DeVos and Deputy Secretary Zais Visit South Carolina for STEM Tour

Last week, Secretary DeVos and Deputy Secretary Mitchell Zais traveled to Florence County, South Carolina. They were joined by Representative Tom Rice (R-SC), South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette, and South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman to visit rural elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. The purpose of the official visit was to learn about the schools’ STEM initiatives, including hearing directly from students, teachers, and community partners. They also visited Florence-Darlington Technical College’s Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology.

Notable New Legislation

  • R.1395 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve mental health services for students, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Roe, David P. [R-TN-1]
  • R.276 Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act Sponsor: Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]
  • R.1352 To provide for parity for Guam and the United States Virgin Islands under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Plaskett, Stacey E. [D-VI-At Large]
  • 579 A bill to provide grants to eligible local educational agencies to help public schools reduce class size in the early elementary grades, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]
  • 545 A bill 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: Sen. Cortez Masto, Catherine [D-NV]
  • R.1364 To amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. “Bobby” [D-VA-3]
  • 568 A bill to amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]



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.