Federal Advocacy Center

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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.

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

NSBA Federal Legislative Priorities

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), working with and through our state associations to represent more than 90,000 local school board members, advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board governance. As a matter of priority, NSBA’s comprehensive advocacy and policy priorities reinforce a recent statement adopted by the association.

We affirm in our actions that each student can, will, and shall learn. Educational equity is the intentional allocation of resources, instruction, and opportunities according to need. We recognize that based on factors including but not limited to disability, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, students are deprived of equitable educational opportunities. This requires that discriminatory practices, prejudices, and beliefs be identified and eradicated. — NSBA Board of Directors, Adoption of the Definition of Equity, December 2017

To this end, NSBA believes the following legislative issues must be addressed in order for local districts to maximize educational opportunities that are available for every student to reach their greatest learning potential. In addition to the specific legislative issues outlined below, NSBA believes Congress must continue its oversight of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to ensure state and local flexibility in K-12 education. As states and districts work to implement the law, Congress must recognize the critical role of local school boards to lead the local district planning process and set policies and programs to best meet student learning needs.

Federal Legislative & Funding Priorities

For over seven decades NSBA has advocated for equity and excellence in education. NSBA will continue to work with the 117th Congress on our legislative priorities to ensure that public schools and the 50 million students that attend them get the support they deserve.

NSBA 2021 Advocacy Institute Highlights

Maryland school board members participated in the 2021 Advocacy Institute Online, a virtual event held on June 8, 9, and 10, and in conjunction with the conference held virtual meetings with representatives from Maryland's congressional delegation. Nationally known speakers, members of Congress, and officials from the Biden administration addressed the conference and national poll on public schools was released during the opening session that was commissioned by the National School Boards Action Center. Issues highlighted in the poll will include the homework gap, the importance of teachers, public school funding, the pandemic, private school vouchers, and other issues impacting education. The results from the poll are intended to drive messaging and communications as NSBA moves its advocacy agenda for public schools forward. 2021 Conference Agenda

NSBA Announces 2022 Advocacy Institute - January 23-25, 2022

Federal News & Highlights

Congressional Update

December 3, 2021

House Passes Short-term Funding Measure

Earlier this fall, lawmakers in Congress were unable to come to agreement on full-year funding for the current 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). As a result, Congress passed a short-term funding measure to continue government operations past the formal start of federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) on October 1, 2021. This measure was set to expire today, December 3. Lawmakers hoped to come to agreement on full-year FY22 funding during this period, but up until late last night had been unsuccessful. To avert a government shutdown and lapse in appropriations for laws like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), lawmakers have been working this week to pass another short-term extension of current federal funding. This measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), extends current funding levels for a pre-determined amount of time to provide Congress more time to work out a longer-term agreement for the remainder FY22.

Yesterday, December 2, the House passed a CR to extend current funding levels for federal operations and programs through February 18. This measure passed the chamber narrowly, along party lines, by a margin of 221-212. Shortly following House passage, the Senate began consideration of the legislation. The Senate quickly took up the measure after the House, working late into Thursday evening to consider and formally approve it by a much wider and bipartisan margin of 69-28. As these efforts unfold, NSBA is continuing to champion school districts' funding priorities including federal education formula dollars, such as ESSA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Administration Update

USED Approves Four More State ARP Plans

Following the American Rescue Plan's (ARP) passage earlier this spring, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states, territories, and outlying areas via a prescribed formula. USED held back the remainder of these funds until states and others submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two weeks, the Department approved four more of these plans, releasing the additional funds to those states and territories. Those receiving approval this week include American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Washington. Only a handful of states have outstanding ARP plans awaiting departmental approval. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans already approved, can be found here.

U.S. Department of Education Launches Two Communities of Practice to Help States Address Lost Instructional Time

This week the U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched two new multistate communities of practice to support states in addressing the impact of lost instructional time from the pandemic on students' social, emotional, and mental health, and academic well-being.

The Department is launching the Evidence-Based Interventions: Using American Rescue Plan Resources to Accelerate Learning Community of Practice with the National Comprehensive Center. This community of practice will work with states and communities in accelerating learning using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding in sustainable ways. The Department will invite teams of State Educational Agencies (SEAs), Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and partner community-based organizations (CBOs) to participate in the community of practice. Participants will explore different evidence-based strategies to accelerate learning and build their organizational capacity to support districts and schools in implementing these practices with fidelity, using the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for evidence-based interventions such as high-dosage tutoring and expanded learning time.

The Department is also launching the Toward an Equitable Education and Recovery: Transforming Kindergarten Community of Practice. This community of practice will engage a cohort of state and district teams to share best practices, policies, and initiatives that will allow the kindergarten year to become a more effective path to early school success and learning recovery, especially for those children who have been historically underserved and most adversely affected by the ongoing pandemic. The community of practice will consist of a series of virtual convenings on topics such as social-emotional development, family engagement, and supportive transitions that respond to disparities in access to in-person learning and nationwide under-enrollment for young children.

Additionally, the Department will continue to support states who participated in the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative (SLEC) through the Strategic Use of Summer and Afterschool Set-Asides Community of Practice. This series will support state teams and their partners in promoting strategic and sustainable use of ARP funding to accelerate learning through summer and out of school time programming. This community of practice will build on the success from the SLEC, which brought together 49 State Education Agencies across eight total events that reached more than 1,300 participants.

FCC Unveils Fifth Wave of ECF Dollars

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has committed nearly $170 million in new funding as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The ECF program was first established by the American Rescue Plan and allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet connectivity needs of learners, school staff, and library patrons at home during the COVID-19 pandemic-a key NSBA advocacy priority. This most recent funding round is expected to support 492 schools, 70 libraries, and 10 consortia to receive 380,000 connected devices and over 135,000 broadband connections. More on the announcement can be found here.

Commerce Committee Considers Rosenworcel Nomination

On Wednesday, December 1, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to vote on the nominations of several Biden Administration nominees, including Jessica Rosenworcel to be a Commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and to separately consider the nomination of Gigi B. Sohn in a similar role. Lawmakers raised a number of issues during the hearing including data privacy, net neutrality, and how the FCC plans to address the digital divide and related "homework gap" at the agency. Witness testimony, including an archived webcast of the hearing, can be found here.  The Committee voted to send Commissioner Rosenworcel's to the full Senate for confirmation.  Commissioner Rosenworcel has been a vocal proponent of efforts to close the Homework Gap.

New K-12 Bills

NSBA Update

  •  John Heim started in his new role as NSBA Executive Director/CEO on Tuesday, November 23. Dr. Heim previously served as the Executive Director of the Kansas Association of School Boards.
  •  We will return to our regular bi-weekly schedule of CSALS calls on Monday, December 6. The link is below.

Topic: CSALS Meeting

Time: Dec 6, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

 

(Archived Weekly Updates are provided below on this page.)

 


National COVID-19 Resources for School Systems

“Path out of the Pandemic: President Biden's COVID-19 Action Plan”

On September 9, 2021, the Biden Administration announced new measures to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The President’s plan to combat COVID-19 this fall has six main components. Below are the 6 prongs of the President’s plan and highlights of the ones most directly impacting schools.

  1. Vaccinating the Unvaccinated
  2. Furthering Protection for the Vaccinated
  3. Keeping Schools Safely Open
  4. Increasing Testing and Requiring Masking
  5. Protecting Our Economic Recovery
  6. Improving Care for Those with COVID-19


Vaccinating the Unvaccinated

The White House plan will seek to reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans by a sweeping new set of policies to require Americans who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to receive a COVID19 vaccination. These include: Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Ensure their Workers are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly: The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement this requirement.

  • State Plans are OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs operated by individual states or U.S. territories. There are currently 22 State Plans covering both private sector and state and local government workers, and there are six State Plans covering only state and local government workers. You can learn more about the Maryland OSHA State Plan here.
  • The rule is expected to include fines of up to $14,000 per employee for employers that do not comply with the new requirements. It is anticipated that the states that have OSHA plans in place will also be required to include public school teachers in those requirements, though details are still forthcoming and it is not clear how the rule will account for those states that have passed state laws forbidding vaccination requirements.

Keeping Schools Safely Open

The President’s plan calls for additional actions to ensure all schools consistently implement the science-based prevention strategies recommended by the CDC so that they can remain open for in-person learning and maintain the health and safety of all students, staff, and families.

  • Requiring Staff in Head Start Programs, Department of Defense Schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-Operated Schools to be Vaccinated
  • Calling on All States to Adopt Vaccine Requirements for All School Employees
  • Providing Additional Funding to School Districts for Safe School Reopening, Including Backfilling Salaries and Other Funding Withheld by States for Implementing COVID Safety Measures
  • Using the Department of Education’s Full Legal Authority to Protect Students’ Access to In-Person Instruction
  • Getting Students and School Staff Tested Regularly
  • Providing Resources to the FDA to Support Timely Review of Vaccines for Individuals Under the Age of 12

NSBA highlights of the President's Plan

 


Return to School Roadmap

On August 2, 2021, USED released the "Return to School Roadmap," a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall. The Roadmap provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities.

The Roadmap includes three "Landmark" priorities that schools, districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are set up for success in the 2021-2022 school year.

These include:
(1) prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and educators,
(2) building school communities and supporting students' social, emotional, and mental health, and
(3) accelerating academic achievement. As part of the Roadmap, the Department will release resources for practitioners and parents on each of these priorities, and will highlight schools and districts that are using innovative practices to address these priorities.

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released:

  • fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three "Landmark" priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways.
  • guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC's recently updated K-12 school guidance.
  • checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.

Other Resources


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 APR ESSER State Plan, the letter reads, in part:

Dear Superintendent Choudhury:

I am pleased to approve Maryland’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) State plan. This plan, together with the unprecedented funding available under ARP ESSER, will help ensure that districts and schools in your State can
continue to reopen safely; support sustained access to in-person instruction; and address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), particularly those students most impacted by the pandemic.

Maryland’s plan is consistent with all ARP ESSER statutory and regulatory requirements and addresses all of the ARP ESSER State plan elements. This letter, along with Maryland’s approved ARP ESSER State plan, will be posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’s) website, and the Department will immediately release the remaining one-third of your State’s ARP ESSER allocation for your use.

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 Keep Our PACT Act and What it Would Mean for Title I and Special Education Funding

Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Susie Lee introduce the Keep Our Promise to America's Children and Teachers Act or the Keep Our PACT Act

On April 19, 2021 U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to meet its obligation to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis over the next 10 years.

“Every child in our country deserves access to a quality education. But for too long, Congress has fallen short on our promise to fully invest in our students and our schools,” said Senator Van Hollen. “It’s time we hold up our part of the bargain and provide full funding for Title I and IDEA. I urge the Congress to take up this legislation immediately to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed, no matter what zip code they live in. We can no longer just pay lip service to education — we must make good on our promise to students, parents, and teachers across the country.”

Maryland’s local boards of education strongly endorse the “Keep Our PACT Act” to provide much needed, and long overdue, mandatory funding increases for the programs that serve our most vulnerable students through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In Maryland, the Kirwan Commission on Education Innovation and Excellence developed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act to phase in substantial state funding increases for special education, all economically disadvantaged students, and a community schools program for schools with high concentrations of poverty. This community schools program provides grants to public schools in which at least 75% of the students were eligible for free and reduced-price meals (FRPM), in accordance with standards for community schools, wrap-around services, and the positions of community school coordinator and full-time professional health care practitioner. The Keep Our PACT Act would provide the assurance of robust federal funding aligned with these central pillars of Maryland’s own Blueprint initiative.

Maryland’s local school systems strive to provide the highest quality special education services with available local, state and federal funding. The challenge to do so is enormous when federal funding falls short, and state and local funding is called upon to close the gap. Historically, Congress has only provided approximately 15 percent of the funding required to educate students with disabilities.

Today, Maryland’s local boards of education recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures have presented enormous challenges for all students, families, and educators, but especially difficult for students receiving special education services. Through each school system’s education recovery and reopening plan, school systems are diligently working to provide all students eligible for special education services with access to continuity of learning through distance and in-person instruction and the delivery of other services.

For too many years, the demands of fully funding legally mandated special education services are impacting funding for all other education programs and services. For many students, special education involves not only highly qualified classroom teachers, but also supports including speech-language pathology and audiology services, assistive technology, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, early identification and assessments, counseling services, transportation and mobility services, and more. Maryland is committed to providing a world-class education for all students, and closing the gap to provide adequate and equitable funding to support special education services must be a top priority.

Therefore, MABE is pleased to endorse your bold action to introduce the Keep Our PACT Act which will fulfill a long overdue promise to our students with disabilities. We believe that your 10-year glidepath to mandatory full funding of IDEA and Title I is a sound plan that should be accepted as a reasonable and cost effective solution.

Weekly Federal Legislative & Agency Updates

 

November 15, 2021 (Archive)

President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. The final version of the legislation passed the House on Nov. 6th by a bipartisan vote of 228-206.

The legislation passed the Senate in August by a bipartisan vote of 69-30, but stalled in the House as Democrats tried to negotiate a deal on a separate $1.9 trillion economic package, another key component of Biden's agenda that many Democrats had tied to the fate of the infrastructure bill.

While the bipartisan infrastructure bill did not contain funding for school construction there are several significant items of interest to PreK-12 schools including:

  • A total of $65 billion for broadband investment to help families access the internet and afford devices (Division F, starting on page 2014);
  • $5 billion for clean-energy school buses;
  • $500 million over 5 years for competitive grants to schools and non-profits for energy efficiency improvements;
  • $200 million over 5 years to remove lead contamination in school drinking water, as part of a much bigger drinking water program; and
  • Reauthorizes and extends until 2023 the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which helps fund schools in 700 counties that have federal forest land.

For months the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill has been linked to the Build Back Better Act (Reconciliation Bill) which contains money for many domestic priorities.  Consideration of that bill is expected to proceed.


November 12, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Moves to the President's Desk

On Friday, November 5, the House approved (228-206) the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R.3684). Thirteen Republicans voted for the bill with six Democrats voting against it. The bill includes $65 billion to expand broadband access, $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure, including $200 million allocated to eliminate lead contamination in schools, and $5 billion for clean-energy school buses. The measure also reauthorizes and extends, until 2023, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which helps schools in 700 counties that have federal forest land. President Biden is scheduled to sign the bill on Monday, November 15, alongside leaders from both parties.

House Expected to Consider Build Back Better Package Next Week

House Speaker Pelosi plans to begin debate next week on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) package, which includes over $400 billion for universal pre-K and childcare program, $300 million for Emergency Connectivity Fund, and hundreds of millions for teacher recruitment and retention, school leadership, and more.  However, five Democrats have signaled that without further information from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) about the bill's cost, they may not vote in favor of the package. Democratic leaders suggested this week that CBO may provide high level estimates next week to address these concerns, even though the detailed estimates may require more time.

Complicating Congress's work on BBB, temporary government funding approved by Congress in September is scheduled to expire only three weeks from today (December 3). Congress may need to pass another temporary funding bill to keep the government's doors open and provide appropriators more time to negotiate a final budget for fiscal year 2022.

Senate Panel to Hold Confirmation Hearing for FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel

On November 17, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing to consider the President's nomination of FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel to continue serving at the agency. Unless the Senate approves her nomination before the end of the year, Rosenworcel will be forced to step down from the agency no later than January 3, 2022. Members of both parties have expressed support for Rosenworcel, so NSBA expects her nomination to be approved when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving Recess. The committee has not yet scheduled the confirmation hearings for the president's other FCC nominee, Gigi Sohn, or for the nominee to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Administration Update             

Vaccination Support Requested by Secretaries

On Monday, November 8, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona & Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to school principals asking for assistance with several key components to getting children vaccinated.  The letter requested leaders assist by: 1) hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at their school, 2) distribute vaccine information to all families with children ages five to eleven, and 3) hold conversations with school communities on the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Available for Children 5-11 -- Resources

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for children ages 5-11, the administration estimates that approximately 900,000 children received their first dosage of the vaccine as of Wednesday, Nov. 10. According to administration officials, more than 700,000 appointments are currently available at local pharmacies. 

On Monday, November 8, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona & Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to school principals asking for assistance with several key components to getting children vaccinated.  The letter requested leaders assist by: 1) hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at their school, 2) distribute vaccine information to all families with children ages five to eleven, and 3) hold conversations with school communities on the COVID-19 vaccine.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided a "Guide to Hosting COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics at School." 

For further information about the CDC's COVID-19 vaccination recommendations for pediatric populations, please see the following information: 

FEMA Public Assistance Webinar Scheduled Nov. 1

For school districts that may be preparing to host on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinics, funding and resources are available through the American Rescue Plan Act's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) fund, as well as reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These funds can help cover the costs of hosting a clinic, including onsite set-up and operations as well as outreach and engagement activities. 

To provide details about its reimbursement process, FEMA will be hosting a webinar Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 11 a.m. (EST). This is an opportunity to ask FEMA directly about its public assistance and reimbursement process. Here is the link to participate https:/fema.zoomgov.com/j/1604866652.

FCC Announces Fourth Wave of ECF funding

On Monday, November 8, the FCC announced the fourth wave of funding commitments totaling over $421 million for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.  To date, the FCC and USAC have committed over $3.05 billion in program funding to school and library applicants and exceeded the stated goal of issuing funding commitment decision letters for 70 percent of all applications within 100 days of the closing of the first filing window.  With the first four waves, the FCC and USAC are providing support for over 6.8 million connected devices and over 3.5 million broadband connections to support 6,954 schools, 613 libraries, and 80 consortia. The FCC and USAC will continue to quickly review applications and will be issuing additional funding commitment decisions on a rolling basis in the coming weeks.

New K-12 Bills

  • R.5919 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve the child and adult care food program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]

November 5, 2021 (Archive)

House Democrats Revise Build Back Better Act

On Wednesday, November 3, the House Rules Committee unveiled revised text for the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) -- $1.75 trillion legislation that would invest in a number of President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ domestic priorities, including K-12 education. The revised text did not substantially change or impact any NSBA legislative priorities. The current bill includes $300 million in supplemental funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), $113 million for “Grow Your Own” teacher and school leader development programs, $112 for teacher residency initiatives, $112 million for school principal support, and $161 million for personnel development efforts under Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

The House Rules Committee met late into the night on Wednesday, hoping to tee up a vote sometime today (Friday). Should the current timeline hold, and with both Chambers out on recess next week, the earliest the BBBA could be taken up by the Senate is sometime during the week of November 15. However, key members of the Democratic caucus, particularly Sen. Manchin (D-WV) have so far been noncommittal regarding their support for the proposal as currently constructed in the House. This likely means that the Senate will make changes to the legislation prior to final passage. It remains unclear what potential changes will be made to the bill in order to garner the Senator’s support.

If there is a vote on Build Back Better Act, it is likely that would be followed by a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which previously passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote.  It was unclear at 3 p.m. Friday when or whether these votes would take place.

Administration Update

USED Approves Two More State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats earlier this year, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to states and K-12 school districts this past spring. Since that time, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. The Department held back the remaining third of these funds, however, until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of the resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, November 4, USED approved two more of these plans, sending the additional funds to California and Colorado. Only five more states, along with Puerto Rico, have yet to be approved. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by the Department so far, can be found here.

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard on Employee Vaccination Released

The White House released the President’s COVID-19 Action Plan in September, directing the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. This week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. It also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects. OSHA released a webinar to help employers and workers familiarize themselves with the requirements. There is a 30-day comment period for interested parties to submit comments.

The Administration will be holding a webinar for those interested in learning more about the ETS  and its effect on public sector organizations in the context of K12.

Friday, November 12 at 1:00-1:45pm ET: ETS briefing with focus on K12. RSVP for K12 session: https://pitc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_xr-IgFJLRZOYOigU-G4TbQ

As a reminder, here is a table of states impacted by the ETS:

Cover all employers (incl. State and Local Government Employers) Covers State and Local Government Employers Only
Alaska

Arizona

California

Hawaii

Indiana

Iowa

Kentucky

Maryland

Michigan

Minnesota

Nevada

New Mexico

North Carolina

Oregon

Puerto Rico

South Carolina

Tennessee

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

Wyoming

Connecticut

Illinois

Maine

New Jersey

New York

U.S. Virgin Islands

From: OSHA Jurisdiction Over Public Schools and Other State and Local Government Entities


CDC Endorses COVID Vaccine for Children 5-11

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that children aged 5-11 be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. The CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has online information and resources for those interested in outreach efforts. Last month the White House released a fact sheet on operational planning for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11, in anticipation of approval by the appropriate regulating bodies.

New K-12 Bills


Congressional Update

October 29, 2021 (Archive)

Build Back Better Framework Agreement Announced

On Thursday, October 28, President Biden announced his administration, along with key Democratic Congressional leadership, had come to an agreement on a $1.75 trillion framework to enact a slew of domestic priorities, including those impacting the K-12 community. Following this announcement, the House Rules Committee held a hearing to begin formal consideration of this proposed legislation dubbed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376). While the legislation must still move forward via the Congressional budget reconciliation process—a maneuver that allows certain spending legislation to be passed by simple majorities in both legislative chambers—the announcement and related introduction of legislative text marks a significant step.

If enacted, the proposal would include over $800 million for teacher and school leader development, training, and recruitment efforts. This figure would include $113 million for “Grow Your Own” teacher and school leader development programs, $112 for teacher residency initiatives, $112 million for school principal support, and $161 million for personnel development efforts under Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) among other proposed funding for similar purposes. In addition, the bill would provide roughly $400 billion for child care services and universal pre-K. Significantly, the legislation proposes $300 million in additional funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund to close the Homework Gap—a key NSBA priority.

The legislation is still far from being enacted and is subject to change as lawmakers in Congress continue to debate and negotiate the contents of the package. As this process unfolds, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure the K-12 community’s needs are well represented in any final legislative package.

Administration Update

White House Announces Actions to Increase COVID-19 Screening Testing in Schools

This afternoon, the White House announced additional actions to help states, schools, and school districts establish screening testing programs in more schools.  Actions include: ED and CDC partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation to accelerate school-based screening testing for students and staff, connecting schools to national testing experts to set up and sustain screening testing programs, publishing a start-up guide for schools on how to launch screening testing programs, making additional personnel available to help state health departments coordinate school-based screening testing through the CDC Foundation, guidance for school districts on providing incentives to parents and guardians to participate in screening testing programs, and a CDC directory for schools to identify a provider and get started with testing.

FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Children 5-11

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age is administered as a two-dose series, 3 weeks apart, but is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms).

FCC Announces $1.3 Billion in ECF Funding Requests While Biden Administration Nominates FCC Leadership

On Monday, October 25, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had received nearly $1.3 billion in requests for funding as part of its second application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. The $7.1 billion ECF program was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan and allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the ongoing pandemic.

This round of funding will provide nearly 2.4 million connected devices to eligible recipients and over 564,000 broadband connections. Securing initial funding for the ECF was one of NSBA’s top legislative priorities and the organization is now working with other national groups to obtain resources to continue the program as part of its initiative to close the “homework gap.”  More details about which schools and libraries will receive funding can be found here.

The day after this announcement, President Biden announced that he renominated Jessica Rosenworcel to serve on the FCC. He also designated her to serve as the agency’s chair. The Biden Administration also announced that Gigi Sohn would fill the FCC’s open seat, likely serving as the administration’s point person on issues pertaining to net neutrality. Given that Commissioner Rosenworcel must leave her current post at the end of 2021 if she is not confirmed, Senate Democratic leaders are widely expected to move forward with her confirmation process relatively soon. Sohn’s nomination is likely to move on a similar timeline.

Senate HELP Committee Advances ED Nominees

On Tuesday, October 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) considered the nominations of several Biden Administration nominees, including two officials to serve in key roles within the U.S. Department of Education (USED)—Sandra Bruce to serve as the Department’s next Inspector General and Amy Loyd to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education (OCTAE). The committee approved seven out of the eight nominees during the hearing by voice vote, advancing them for consideration by the full Senate sometime in the near future.

OSERS Guidance on IDEA Part C

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has released two new documents regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C programs for services to infants and toddlers. These Q&A documents address child find, referral and eligibility (https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/QA-on-Child-Find-10-29-2021.pdf) and early intervention services (https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/QA-on-Early-Intervention-10-29-2021.pdf). We are forwarding this guidance for your information as school districts may not typically provide Part C services but do coordinate transition services for children approaching their third birthday from Part C to Part B programs, that address services for children ages 3-21.

New K-12 Bills

 


October 22, 2021 (Archive)

Senate Releases Remaining FY22 Spending Bills

On Monday, October 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee released drafts of the remaining nine fiscal year 2022 (FY22) spending bills that had not been considered by the committee. Among these was the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations bill, which provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the related federal programs it oversees. Overall, the proposal would, if enacted, provide $98.4 billion for USED—an increase of $24.9 billion compared to the previous fiscal year. While this proposed funding level is $4 billion short of President Biden’s initial budget request to Congress earlier this year, the legislation would amount to a nearly 34% increase for USED.

Significantly, the legislation seeks to nearly double the amount of funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), proposing an additional $16.6 billion for this program for a total of $36 billion. Additionally, the legislation would provide a slew of increases to other notable ESSA funding streams including an additional $45 million for Title II-A and $100 million in additional funds for the law’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program (Title IV-A).

The proposal is not expected, however, to be formally marked up by the Senate. Rather, these bills will be used as the basis to begin bicameral and bipartisan negotiations for full-year FY22 funding—legislation that must be completed by December 3 when current short-term funding is set to expire. Earlier this year, the House completed work on its set of spending bills which also envision significant increases for many of these same programs. These negotiations are intended to resolve the differences between the two chambers. As this process gets more fully underway, NSBA’s advocacy team is working to ensure that the proposed funding increases for key K-12 programs by the Senate and the House are ultimately enacted.

Administration Update

President Biden Issues Executive Order to Advance Educational Equity

On Tuesday, October 19, President Biden issued an Executive Order creating a new White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. The order enumerates several actions that the Administration has already taken or plans to take to provide greater economic opportunity for black families and communities, close educational achievement gaps for black learners, improve health outcomes for these communities, and outlines a number of steps the administration plans to take regarding criminal justice reform among other elements. In addition, the order establishes an interagency governmental working group to support the initiative’s broad remit. A related factsheet outlining this order can be found here.

USED Releases New Mental Health Resource

Also on Tuesday, October 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released a new resource titled “Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health which aims to provide “information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.” The resource includes the seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K–12 schools, and higher education settings and recommendations for each of the challenges examined in the resource. The release is part of the Department’s wider response to the ongoing pandemic and the mental health challenges facing students. A press release providing more information on this resource can be found here.

Catherine Lhamon Confirmed

On Wednesday, October 20, Catherine Lhamon was narrowly approved by the Senate to become the next Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The vote was evenly split along partisan lines, requiring a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Lhamon previously led OCR under President Obama where she oversaw a controversial overhaul of Title IX—a move that has continued to be a primary source of opposition for Republican lawmakers. In addition to Lhamon’s confirmation, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations of two other USED officials, including Sandra Bruce to be the Department’s next Inspector General as well as Amy Loyd, to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education (OCTAE).

Updated CDC Resources

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its resources for school administrators in responding to COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 Vaccinations for Kids Ages 5-11 — White House Fact Sheet on Operational Planning

This week the Biden administration released a fact sheet on operational planning for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11, if it is approved by the appropriate regulatory bodies. The FDA's independent advisory committee meets on Oct. 26 and the CDC's independent advisory committee meets Nov. 2-3 to consider. The actual timeline for distribution will depend on the timeline from the FDA and CDC advisory committees, but the administration is making preparations for once that approval is received. If approved, the dosage would be one-third the strength of the regular dose given to individuals ages 12 and up.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 are subject to the very same multi-step testing and approval process as all other COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 vaccines, including those routinely recommended for childhood vaccination. More details are available on the CDC website.

School Worker Shortage Webinars

The U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury will hold a two-part webinar series — “Using American Rescue Plan Funds and Other Federal Supports to Address State and Local Teacher and School Staff Labor Shortages” — on Wednesday, Oct. 27 and Thursday, Oct. 28 from 4-5 p.m. (ET). The Oct. 27 webinar will focus on teacher and substitute teacher shortages. The Oct. 28 webinar will focus on staff shortages, such as school bus drivers and food service workers.

The purpose of these webinars is to discuss the underlying causes of these shortages and share effective practices happening at the state and local levels and how federal resources, including those under the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) and the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), can be used to support and sustain these efforts.   

  • To register for Webinar 1: Teacher and substitute teacher shortages Oct. 27, 2021 4 p.m. (ET)

https://www.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJIsd-2sqzkpH2KJhWPp_Vv7Iy7vjInHSBM

  • To register for Webinar 2:Staff shortages, such as school bus drivers and food service workers  28, 2021 4 p.m. (ET)

https://www.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJItf-mrrTgpHMb_X3ytzYvojdCHoncw8H0

New K-12 Bills


Congressional Updates

October 15, 2021 (Archive)

Short-term Debt Limit Extension Enacted

On Tuesday, October 12, the House formally voted on and approved a short-term increase of the nation’s borrowing authority, known as the debt limit. Lawmakers passed this measure along party lines by a margin of 219-206. Following passage, President Biden signed the legislation into law, which provides $480 billion in additional borrowing authority for the U.S. Treasury Department. This extension is estimated to go through early December—a time when Congress must also act to pass a full-year funding measure for the current federal fiscal year (FY22) for programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Prior to this vote, however, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to President Biden making clear that his party will likely filibuster future Congressional efforts to pass a longer-term measure that would extend or suspend the current debt limit. Republicans’ opposition tees up a high-stakes set of decisions that lawmakers must navigate simultaneously by early December both on this issue as well as regular FY22 funding for the federal government.

Nevertheless, the short-term agreement provides more time for Congressional Democrats who are currently negotiating over the size and scope of a forthcoming domestic spending package, one that could potentially provide additional resources to the K-12 community in the form of dedicated funding for school facility construction and improvements, as well as additional funds to support ongoing broadband connectivity efforts. As these discussions continue, NSBA’s advocacy team is working to ensure the needs of K-12 schools and students are adequately addressed in a final package.

FCC Approves Additional Emergency Connectivity Fund Applications

On Tuesday, October 12, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced $1.1 Billion in new commitments as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund’s second wave. The funding will cover 2.4 million Devices and 1.9 million broadband connections. The approved projects will benefit students and staff at 2,471 schools, and the patrons of 205 libraries. The FCC has approved over half of the applications filed during the program’s first application window and we expect the remaining qualified applications to be approved in the coming weeks. Securing initial funding for the ECF was one of NSBA’s advocacy priorities and we are now working with other national groups to obtain resources to continue the program as part of our initiative to close the “homework gap.”

 

Administration Update

New Members Added to Assessment Governing Board as Test Scores Drop

On Wednesday, October 13, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona formally appointed five board members to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)—the entity responsible for overseeing and setting policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more commonly known as the nation’s report card. Dana Boyd, an elementary school principal, Tyler Cramer, a local business leader, and Beverly Perdue, former Governor of North Carolina were each reappointed to the 26-member governing board. In addition, Scott Marion, a testing and measurement expert, along with Viola Garcia, a local school board member, were newly appointed.

This announcement came just before the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) released new findings indicating declines in reading and math scores since 2012 for 13 year-olds. “This was the first time in the almost 50-year history of the long-term trend assessments that we observed declines among 13-year-olds,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr, who went on to note that “These performance drops are especially notable among lower-performing students, who no longer demonstrate competency in skills that students were able to do almost a decade ago in both subjects and age groups.”

USED Approves Four More ARP Plans

This past spring, Congressional Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which authorized $122 billion in supplementary funding for K-12 school districts. Since that time, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding via formula to help schools and states respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Department, however, held back the remaining third of this funding requiring that states and territories submit plans detailing how these new financial resources would be used to support learners cope with the impacts of the public health crisis and related disruptions to schooling. As part of this ongoing effort, USED has been periodically reviewing and approving state ARP plans for this purpose. On Thursday, October 14, the Department approved four more of these plans for Guam, Maryland, Nebraska, and Virginia. Seven states and Puerto Rico are still awaiting approval from the Department, along with the release of these remaining ARP funds. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.

USED Roundtables

The U.S. Department of Education is hosting Community Conversations, a series of education roundtables. The department invited NSBA to have local school board members participate in meetings where senior department officials can hear first-hand about the challenges around reopening schools. They currently have three scheduled in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta, on Oct. 19, 20, and 22 respectively.

New K-12 Bills

The President signed the S.1917 - K-12 Cybersecurity Act of 2021 which requires the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to study the cybersecurity risks facing elementary and secondary schools and develop recommendations that include cybersecurity guidelines designed to assist schools in facing those risks.  The study will evaluate the challenges that schools face in securing systems and sensitive student and employee records.  The agency has 120 days to complete the review and report back to Congress and also requires CISA to develop online training tools for school officials.


October 8, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Lawmakers Agree to Short-term Debt Limit Extension

After an intense and protracted standoff over the last few months, lawmakers in the Senate announced that they had reached agreement to modestly increase the nation’s borrowing authority (known as the national debt limit) by $480 billion. The agreement, at least temporarily, ensures that the nation will avert a default on its debt obligations. Announced on Wednesday, October 6, this measure is estimated to give the U.S. Treasury Department additional flexibility to service the nation’s debt, likely through early December.

The short-term agreement is intended to provide additional time for lawmakers to determine a longer-term solution for the debt limit. Significantly, the agreement likely means that the debt ceiling will need to be addressed again around the same time that lawmakers must determine full-year funding for the federal government and related programs for the current federal fiscal year (FY22).

The debt ceiling agreement comes after a series of earlier legislative proposals to extend or suspend the debt limit were unanimously rejected by Republican Senators who have continued to argue that Democrats should achieve this unilaterally via the budget reconciliation process. Given the rules of the Senate, to overcome Republican opposition to a debt limit increase or suspension Congressional Democrats required 60 votes. With an evenly divided Senate, Democrats lacked the necessary votes to overcome this Republican filibuster.

Earlier this week, however, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered this short-term debt ceiling extension promising to provide at least 10 Republican votes to overcome this obstacle. Late Thursday evening, McConnell delivered 11 votes, allowing the measure to be considered by a simple majority. The Senate subsequently voted 50-48 in favor of the short-term measure, sending the bill the House where it is widely expected to pass.

Senate Commerce Committee Continues Privacy Hearings

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a third in a series of hearings focused on consumer privacy. The hearing, title “Enhancing Data Security,” included a focus on several possible policy changes that could impact schools' work with community and private sector partners. Although not covering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – that law falls under the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction – school board leaders should closely follow the committee’s work in this area. Bipartisan consensus appears to be emerging within the committee about expanding the Federal Trade Commission’s staff to better enforce existing privacy requirements. This greater capacity, perhaps including through a new privacy bureau, could include stronger enforcement of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to businesses that handle student data when working with schools. The hearing also showed renewed interest by some committee members and witnesses about expanding the FTC's jurisdiction to include non-profits and about stretching COPPA to cover older students, not just learners younger than age 13.

Administration Update

Department of Justice Steps Up Efforts to Address Violent Threats Against School Officials

Late last month, NSBA sent a letter to President Biden requesting federal assistance in helping to stop threats and thwart acts of violence again students, public school board members, and public district and school leaders. Earlier this week, October 4, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) responded to this request, with Attorney General Merrick Garland issuing a memorandum directing his Department, along with the FBI, to take a series of “. . . additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.” The memo goes on to note that the Department is currently determining how best to utilize federal law enforcement tools for this purpose and details that DOJ plans to also create specialized training and guidance for school boards and school administrators. More information on the Justice Department’s response can be found here.

USED Proposes New Maintenance of Equity Implementation Requirements

On Tuesday, October 5, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published two notices in the Federal Register regarding the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) maintenance of equity requirement (MOEquity). The first notice outlines a set of new data reporting elements regarding a new requirement that states publish information demonstrating that high-poverty school districts are not receiving disproportionate cuts to local school budgets. This MOEquity requirement was a condition for states receiving ARP money. More information on these notices can be found here and here.

Senate Confirms New USED Nominees

On Wednesday, October 6, the Senate voted to confirm three high-level nominees for positions within the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Those approved for positions included Gwen Graham, who will oversee the Department’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs as Assistant Secretary, Elizabeth Merrill Brown, who will serve as USED’s General Counsel, and Roberto Rodriguez, who will oversee the Department’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. There are a number of other USED appointees still awaiting Senate confirmation. This includes Amy Loyd, who has been nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) as well as Catherine Lhamon, who was previously nominated to lead the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Although Lhamon’s nomination has been stalled in committee, more recently Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has filed a measure to move this nomination to the floor for a full vote sometime soon.

USED Approves Four More ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats earlier this year, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to K-12 schools this past spring. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has since distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. The Department held back the remaining third of these funds, however, until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this ongoing effort, USED approved four more of these plans this week, sending these additional funds to Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Wyoming. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.

New K-12 Bills

 


October 1, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Government Shutdown Averted

Earlier this week Senate Republicans unanimously voted down short-term funding legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that would extend current funding levels for federal programs, like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and avoid a shutdown of federal government operations. The measure, which was passed by the House last week, funds the government and related programs through December 3 and would also have included a suspension of the debt ceiling—a key issue at the heart of Congressional Republican opposition to the legislation. On Thursday, September 30, leaders in the Senate removed the debt ceiling provision from this CR, passed the legislation out of the chamber by a vote of 65-35, and sent it back to the House where lawmakers in the lower chamber quickly approved the measure 254-175. President Biden then signed the legislation into law late Thursday night, averting a shutdown of the federal government.

Lawmakers must still determine full-year funding for FY22, but now have approximately nine additional weeks to find agreement on this issue. At the same time, however, The U.S. Treasury Department anticipates that the agency will run out of borrowing authority to service its current debt obligations by October 18. Failure to suspend or raise the debt ceiling—the total allowable amount of money the federal government is permitted to borrow—would result in a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt. While Democrats have attempted to include a suspension of the debt ceiling in the CR, and have more recently attempted to pass a stand-alone suspension of the debt ceiling on Wednesday, Congressional Republicans have continued to insist that Democrats pass this on their own via the ongoing budget reconciliation process. At present, it remains unclear how lawmakers will ultimately address this issue in days and weeks ahead.

Uncertain Future for Infrastructure and Reconciliation Bills

Late Thursday night, September 30, the lawmakers in the House were expected to take up and vote on the Senate-passed, bipartisan infrastructure bill (formerly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework or BIF). Continued disagreement between progressives and moderates within the Democratic Party, however, forced leadership to pull this measure from consideration late Thursday evening. Both sides remain at odds over how to pass the BIF—a priority for moderates—along with a wider domestic spending package via the reconciliation process which remains a key priority for progressives. Congressional Democratic leadership are continuing to negotiate internally with their caucus in an effort to collect the necessary support to pass both measures this fall. As these talks continue, NSBA will continue to advocate for the significant infrastructure and connectivity needs of the K-12 community.

House Education Committee Explores School Reopening Efforts

On Wednesday, September 29, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing to learn more about the challenges facing schools as they work to open safely this fall for in-person instruction. The hearing also explored how states and school districts are making use of the funding provided by the American Rescue Plan towards this end. Witnesses included Dr. Jesus F. Jara, Superintendent of Schools in Clark County School District, NV, Denise Forte, Interim Chief Executive Officer of The Education Trust, David Zweig a journalist for The Atlantic and Wired Magazine, along with Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean & Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice at Brown University’s School of Public Health. An archived video of the hearing, along with written testimony from witnesses, can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Holds School Reopening Hearing

On Thursday, September 30, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing exploring issues related to school reopenings amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra provided testimony to the committee regarding best practices and answered questions from committee members. In particular, Secretary Cardona highlighted the Biden Administration’s ongoing efforts to support K-12 schools safely reopen, including the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing work to implement and distribute Congressionally approved pandemic aid dollars to school districts. More information on the hearing, including an archived webcast and related testimony, can be found here.

Administration Update

USDA Announces Supply Chain Disruption Funds for Schools

On Wednesday, September 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of new funds to address a range of issues including to support school meal programs. The announcement specifies that up to $1.5 billion will be made available to help K-12 schools respond to and address supply chain issues as they relate to school meal programs. Per a USDA press release, the Department anticipates that these funds will be used for, “[the] procurement of agricultural commodities and enable USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to enhance the toolbox for school nutrition professionals working hard to make sure students have reliable access to healthy meals.”

Second Window for Connectivity Funds

On Wednesday, September 29, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the opening of a second application filing window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. Created as part of the American Rescue Plan, the ECF Program allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This second opportunity to apply for funding will remain open through October 13. Eligible schools, libraries, and consortia will be able to submit request for funding to make eligible purchase between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. More information on how to apply can be found here.

New K-12 Bills

  • R.5428 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To require the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to publish an annual report on indicators of school crime and safety that includes data on school shootings, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [D-FL-23]
  • R.5424 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) 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: Rep. Kim, Andy [D-NJ-3]
  • Res.689 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Expressing support for the designation of September 2021 as "National Workforce Development Month" and recognizing the necessity of investing in workforce development to support workers and to help employers succeed in a global economy. Sponsor: Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]
  • R.5396 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to establish standards of liability for harassment on the basis of sex, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Dingell, Debbie [D-MI-12]
  • R.5380 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Helping Students Plan for College Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Kim, Andy [D-NJ-3]

NSBA Update

NSBA Asks White House for Federal Support to Protect Education Leaders

NSBA sent a letter to President Biden on Wednesday, September 29, asking for federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials. The letter underscores that local school board members want to hear from parents and community members on important issues and it acknowledges that such feedback is at the heart of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. It also notes, however, that there must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs. “As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” the letter argues. Read the press release and the letter at https://nsba.org/News/2021/federal-assistance-letter.

 


September 24, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Approves Continuing Resolution and Suspension of Debt Limit

The House and Senate face several fast-approaching deadlines including funding government operations beyond the end of the current fiscal year which is September 30, 2021, increasing the federal debt ceiling before authorized borrowing levels are reached in October, and continuing to move the two major infrastructure bills forward. On Tuesday, September 21, the House approved a bill (220-211) that would provide temporary funding for federal operations until December 3, 2021, as well as provide a debt limit suspension until December 2022. The Treasury Department projects a debt default sometime in October if Congress fails to increase the debt limit.

Nearly every Senate Republican has indicated that they will not support a debt limit increase, so the House’s decision to couple the issue with the temporary funding required to continue government operations after September 30 has triggered a standoff that could lead to a government shutdown. Senate Republicans argued this week that Democrats should pass the debt limit increase as part of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package they plan to pass without Republican support. With neither side budging, Congressional leaders must find a compromise over the next few days. A government shut down can still be avoided, but school districts should note that a short term shut down is not likely to have significant implications for the nation’s schools.

Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Process Slows in the Senate

This week, Senate Democrats scrapped plans – at least temporarily – to mark-up the remaining fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills, including the draft Labor Health and Human Services and Related Agencies bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education and the agency’s programs. Senate Republicans said they are withholding support from any spending bills until topline allocations are provided for both defense and non-defense spending for the coming fiscal year. Given this impasse, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Leahy (VT) may soon release the twelve draft fiscal year 2022 spending bills publicly with plans to use the drafts as the baseline for starting discussions with the House about an Omnibus spending package. Democrats aim to complete negotiations on an omnibus spending bill – including the Department of Education’s budget – prior to the early December deadline included in the continuing resolution approved by the House this week and awaiting further action in the Senate. That deadline could shift before Congress approves the continuing resolution for the president's signature and Congress could also delay the FY22 appropriations process a second time by adopting another continuing resolution. NSBA will continue monitoring the process and encouraging Congress to provide the funding schools need to support their students.

House Budget Committee to Vote on $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

On Saturday, the House Budget Committee is expected to mark up the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, including significant new investments in education.  As a reminder, this package, crafted to enact President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, may be passed by simple majorities in both chambers of Congress. If enacted, the bill would provide: $450 billion for universal pre-K and childcare subsidies for eligible families, $111 billion to provide two years of free community college and a $500 increase to Pell grants, $82 billion for K-12 school infrastructure, $80 billion for workforce development programs, $198 million for teacher residency programs, $198 million school leadership programs, $197 million for “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation programs meant to increase teacher workforce diversity, and $297 million for Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Along with the above education priorities, the measure also includes $4 billion to continue the Emergency Connectivity Fund for connecting students and staff to home broadband and devices. Following approval by the Budget Committee, House Speaker Pelosi must set a date for the bill’s consideration by the full House. This decision is complicated by divisions with the House Democratic Caucus about whether the body should first vote on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, or the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill already approved by the Senate. The House is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan bill on Monday, but that date could slip if the Speaker does not have the votes required to approve the measure. NSBA expects to learn more over the weekend about both bills and will update members when new insights are available.

Senate Employment Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Apprenticeships

Earlier this week, the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety held a hearing titled “Getting America Ready to Work – Successful on the job, apprenticeship training programs to help workers and business get ready to work.” The discussion was part of the Congress’s work to update the National Apprenticeship Act, including finding ways to ensure that federal apprenticeship programs benefit parts of the workforce – such as early childhood education – that may not have traditionally taken advantage of the program. The hearing included witnesses from Toyota, CareerWise, and Pinnacol Insurance and emphasized the importance of apprenticeships and the need for skilled workers. Subcommittee Chairman Hickenlooper (D-CO) noted in his opening remarks that there is a need to build a bipartisan coalition to advocate for the investment needed for a highly skilled workforce not just for the careers of today, but for the careers of the future. Ranking Member Braun (R-IN) discussed the possible reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and noted that apprenticeships are a topic of bipartisan agreement.  Witnesses and members alike highlighted the importance of workforce and education working together with an industry led approach for success.  The hearing also emphasized the need to reach students early in middle school to provide insights and experiences on career opportunities.

Administration Update

Education Secretary Cardona Travels the Midwest on School Tour

Education Secretary Cardona and Deputy Secretary Marten kicked off their Return to School Road Trip school tour on Monday, visiting schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan throughout this week to promote in person learning for students.  Many of the schools and communities featured in the tour have successfully implemented the priorities within the Return to School Roadmap and have used federal pandemic relief funds to support these efforts. Learn more about the school visits, the Return to School Roadmap, and administration’s back to school priorities here.

FCC Announces First Wave of Homework Gap Grants

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced an initial wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program funding commitments totaling over $1.2 billion. The approved commitments account for approximately 20% of the total amount requested during the initial application filing window and will fund 3,663 applications from 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia across all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The FCC will continue to review applications and will be making additional commitments on a rolling basis in the coming weeks.

second application filing window will open on September 28, 2021, and close on October 13, 2021. During this window, applicants will be able to submit requests for funding for purchases made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, to meet the needs of students, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to basic educational opportunities and library services.

Additional information about the ECF applications filed in the first filing window is available on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) Open Data platform and can be found at ECF FCC Form 471 dataset. This dataset contains detailed information from the ECF applications filed in the first filing window, which ran from June 29, 2021, to August 13, 2021, including applicant details, requested funds, individual product or service details, and funding commitment information.

U.S. Department of Education Awards First Project SAFE Grant

Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced a new grant program—Project Supporting America’s Families and Educators (Project SAFE)—to provide additional funding to schools and districts who have run afoul of these state-level restrictions, many of which are at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current guidance. This week the Department of Education announced the first Project SAFE award to Alachua County in Florida. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis contingent on funding availability.  The grant application can be found here.  For more information on applying contact Amy Banks at ProjectSAFE@ed.gov.

U.S. Department of Education Announces 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools

The Department of Education announced the 2021 cohort of National Blue Ribbon Schools.  This year’s 325 schools are recognized for either being exemplary high-performing schools and are among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests or because of their exemplary achievement gap-closing schools are among their state's highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school's student groups and all students.  More details about the schools can be found here.

U.S. Department of Education Awards Promise Neighborhood Grants

On Wednesday, September 22 the Department of Education announced $40 million in new Promise Neighborhood Grants. The funding for these grants is authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and are intended to “significantly improve academic and developmental outcomes for children living in communities of concentrated poverty.” The grants assist by enabling education and community leaders to address the many interlocking impacts that concentrated poverty exerts on a child’s educational journey. The services proposed in the grantee applications will provide services to support students from early childhood through the course of their K-12 education.  The announcement includes seven grantees from the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and South Carolina.

New K-12 Bills

  • R.5339 To clarify the requirements of authorized representatives under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Luetkemeyer, Blaine [R-MO-3]
  • R.5337 To establish a National social emotional learning clearinghouse. Sponsor: Rep. Larsen, Rick [D-WA-2]
  • R.5336 To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide additional criteria for the Dislocated Worker Project, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Keller, Fred [R-PA-12]
  • R.5328 To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a grant program to make grants to the parents of students served by local educational agencies that teach critical race theory, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bishop, Dan [R-NC-9]
  • R.5327 To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a grant program to make grants to the parents of students served by local educational agencies that require students to wear face masks during in-person instruction, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bishop, Dan [R-NC-9]
  • R.5308 To amend section 9A of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require that local school wellness policies include a requirement that students receive 50 hours of school nutrition education per school year. Sponsor: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8]
  • R.5288 Teaching Engaged Citizenship Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Scanlon, Mary Gay [D-PA-5]

 

NSBA Update

NSBA, AASA Issue Joint Statement Calling for End to Threats and Violence Around Safe School Opening Decisions

In response to increasingly tense public forums and online discussions related to safe school openings amid the enduring COVID-19 pandemic, NSBA issued a joint statement on Wednesday with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, calling for an end to threats and violence targeting school board members and school district superintendents.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact everyone, we are concerned with the increasing reports of our members—school superintendents and school board members—who are working to ensure a safe reopening of schools while addressing threats and violence and being undermined by those who do not agree with their school guidelines for COVID-19 best practices,” the statement reads. “School leaders across the country are facing threats because they are simply trying to follow the health and scientific safety guidance issued by federal, state, and local health policy experts.”

The statement includes quotes from NSBA President Dr. Viola M. Garcia, NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven, AASA President Paul Imhoff, and AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech.


September 17, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Democratic Reconciliation Package Continues to Take Shape Amid Looming Fiscal Deadlines

Last week the Democratic lawmakers in the House formally began efforts to advance a $3.5 trillion domestic spending package via a special legislative process known as budget reconciliation. Congressional Democrats hope to enact this package, modeled off of President Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda, using the budget reconciliation process-a move that allows lawmakers to pass certain legislation via simple majorities in both chambers of Congress. On Friday, September 10, the House Education and Labor Committee approved its portion of this legislation, voting along party lines 28-22 to advance their slice of the bill out of committee.

The committee's proposal, which envisions $82 billion in K-12 school infrastructure funding among other NSBA legislative priorities, now goes back to the House Budget committee where this, along with other components of the legislation, will be combined into one legislative package for a full chamber vote. This broader package will also include $4 billion, approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to continue the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The full house chamber is expected to vote on this measure in coming weeks.

Once the legislation clears the House, the package will be transmitted to the Senate where its future is a bit more uncertain. House and Senate Democratic leadership are widely expected to continue negotiations over the contents and contours of the reconciliation package behind closed doors for the time being. Given the dynamics of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, it is likely that the topline figure of $3.5 trillion will be reduced in order to garner support from the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

As these efforts continue, the federal fiscal year deadline of October 1 is fast approaching. Lawmakers will need to act before that date to pass regular funding legislation and avert a government shutdown. At present, Congress is widely expected to pass temporary stopgap funding legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), which would extend current funding levels for federal programs for a to-be-determined period of time while lawmakers continue to negotiate on full-year funding. Further complicating matters, however, is the need to raise the nation's borrowing limit. Known as the "debt ceiling," this allows the federal government to continue to borrow money to pay for expenses already incurred. At present, Senate Republicans are withholding their support for this action, arguing that Democrats should simply include the measure in their forthcoming reconciliation package. Should Congress fail to act, the federal government would be forced to default on its existing debt obligations which would have a catastrophic impact on the economy.

With time running short, lawmakers must find a pathway forward on each of these issues as both chambers are poised to formally reconvene next week for votes.

 Administration Update

 USED Approves Four More State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats earlier this year, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to K-12 schools this past spring. Since that time, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. The Department held back the remaining third of these funds, however, until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, September 13, USED approved four more of these plans, sending these additional funds to the states receiving approval this week which include Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, and Maine. Only 12 more ARP plans have yet to have their ARP plans approved. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.

 President Biden Unveils Hispanic and Latino Education Initiative

On Monday, September 13, President Biden signed an executive order establishing two panels to advise the Biden Administration and provide recommendations regarding how to better serve Hispanic and Latino student populations. According to the order, Latino students lag behind other groups in several important areas such as preschool enrollments and rates of high school graduation. The two panels-one focused on equity housed at the U.S. Department of Education along with a 22-member presidential commission-will examine these issues and provide recommendations and ongoing counsel and advice to President Biden and Secretary Cardona on how best to address them. Information regarding the membership of both panels is still forthcoming.

 Secretary Cardona Kicks off Return-to-School Road Trip

On Tuesday, September 14, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona would be starting a back-to-school bus tour beginning next week. The tour is intended to showcase how students, educators, and communities are returning for safe in-person K-12 instruction for the 2021-22 school year. More information about the road trip, including scheduled stops throughout the country, can be found here.

 Bills

  • H.R.5255 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend section 7014 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to advance toward full Federal funding for impact aid, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Levin, Mike [D-CA-49]
  • H.R.5252 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to award competitive grants for the purpose of developing, offering, improving, and providing educational or career pathway programs for workers, to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program that awards grants to State coalitions that build or expand career pathways programs in schools within the State, and to establish a program that awards grants to eligible agencies to carry out career pathways programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10]
  • H.R.5249 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish a pilot program to provide selected States with an increased reimbursement for school lunches that are comprised of locally-grown foods, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Delgado, Antonio [D-NY-19]
  • H.R.5223 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) School MEALS Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Hayes, Jahana [D-CT-5]
  • S.2737 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to amend the American History and Civics Education program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require inclusion of programs that educate students about the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights. Sponsor: Sen. Inhofe, Jim [R-OK]
  • S.2730 - 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a pilot grant program to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive mental health services programs in elementary schools and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Padilla, Alex [D-CA]

September 10, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Education Committee Advances Reconciliation Proposal

On Wednesday, September 8, the House Education and Labor Committee released the text of its portion of Congressional Democrats’ forthcoming budget reconciliation package. As a reminder, Congressional Democrats are working to enact a $3.5 trillion domestic spending package via the budget reconciliation process—a legislative maneuver that allows Democrats to advance certain legislation via simple majorities within both chambers. Congressional Democrats aim to use this forthcoming package to complement a narrower infrastructure package passed recently by the Senate. Until consideration of this wider $3.5 trillion bill is complete, House Democratic leaders have held off on consideration of the infrastructure bill. In this way, Congressional leaders hope to garner the necessary votes to advance both proposals later this fall.

The release of this reconciliation text is a significant next step in the wider legislative effort. Following the release of the text, the House Education and Labor Committee began a markup of this legislation where committee members considered nearly fifty proposed changes to the underlying legislative text. This markup is still ongoing and so far, the changes adopted by the committee have not significantly altered the main contours of the proposed legislation. If enacted, the bill would provide a number of investments in K-12 education, including $82 billion for K-12 school infrastructure, $197 million for “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation programs meant to increase teacher workforce diversity, $198 million for teacher residency programs, $198 million for school leadership programs, and $297 million for the Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In addition, the bill proposes significant new funding, by some estimates $450 billion, for universal pre-K and childcare subsidies for eligible families. Separate from the House Education and Labor Committee’s work on their portion of the reconciliation bill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is also expected to consider and advance legislation that could potentially include additional funding for broadband connectivity efforts through the Emergency Connectivity Fund—another key NSBA legislative priority.

With the House committee’s work expected to wrap up next week, lawmakers on the House Budget Committee must next stitch these various proposals back together into a single legislative package for the full chamber’s consideration. Congressional Democratic leadership has set a nonbinding deadline of September 15 to complete this work. The reconciliation bill’s prospects in the Senate, however, remain opaque and it is unlikely that lawmakers in the upper chamber meet this deadline. Formal plans for consideration of the legislation have yet to be made public and it is widely expected that the Senate will move forward with a smaller overall reconciliation package, likely necessitating further reductions to the proposals contained in the version proposed by the House. As the budget reconciliation process moves forward, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue working to ensure the needs of the K-12 community are fully represented in a final legislative package.

Administration Update

White House Announces Additional COVID Measures  

On September 9, the Biden Administration released A Path Out of the Pandemic a sweeping new set of policies to require many Americans who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In addition to a new vaccine requirement for all federal employees and contractors, the Department of Labor has been instructed to develop a rule through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requiring any private employer with 100 or more employees to require vaccination against COVID-19 or require employees who will not get vaccinated to test at least weekly. The rule is expected to include fines of up to $14,000 per employee for employers that do not comply with the new requirements. It is anticipated that the states that have OSHA plans in place will also be required to include public school teachers in those requirements, though details are still forthcoming and it is not clear how the rule will account for those states that have passed state laws forbidding vaccination requirements. Additional details are expected once the rule has been made public; a number of Republican governors have already signaled that they plan to fight the new requirements in court.

Department of Education Announces New COVID-19 Grant Program for Districts

On Thursday, September 9, Department of Education announced the launch of a new grant program “to provide additional funding to school districts that have funds withheld by their state or are otherwise financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, such as universal indoor masking”.  The grant program, Project SAFE (Supporting America's Families and Educators), anticipates using funding from Title IV, Part F, School Safety National Activities, of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Per the Department, school districts are eligible to apply for the grants to restore funds withheld by the state, which includes pay cuts for school board members and superintendents due to the district’s implementation of COVID-19 safety measures like mask requirements.  The amount of funding available through Title IV has not been disclosed by the Department and the process to apply has not yet been made available.

NSBA Update

NSBA Statement on Biden’s Plan to Stop the Delta Variant and Boost COVID-19 Vaccinations

In response to President Joe Biden’s announced new policies on vaccination and testing to keep schools and the economy open, NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven released a statement praising the path forward. “President Biden’s plan to provide support—financial and otherwise—will allow school board members to make the necessary decisions to keep students and school staff safe,” Slaven said.

Additionally, Slaven encouraged the public to support their local school board members. “For their hard work, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, and others who work in service to our students are being subjected to online and in-person threats, abuse, and harassment,” he said. “This must stop.” The statement urges the country to put aside partisan differences and come together to defeat the virus.
New Resources from NSBA’s Center for Public Education

The Center for Public Education (CPE) developed a new research brief titled "How States Implement Hold-Harmless Provisions in 2020 and 2021.” As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts across the country are experiencing a decrease in student enrollment while states face reduced revenues and budget deficits. Hold-harmless provisions in state aid formulas, which restrict declines in revenues for school districts, may lessen the financial blow to districts that would otherwise lose money. This research brief examines the role of hold-harmless provisions and investigates which states are implementing them.

In a new blog post, CPE analyzes data sources in health and education at all levels of government to provide a national picture on vaccines, face masks, and instructional models during the 2021-22 school year.   

 


August 27, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Advances Budget Reconciliation Framework

Earlier this week, House lawmakers returned briefly from their annual August recess to formally consider and vote on a rule outlining how House leadership intends to advance several critical pieces of legislation by the end of September. This effort is part of Congressional Democrats’ “two-track” legislative strategy which intentionally links the $550 billion Senate-approved Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) along with a much larger $3.5 trillion budget framework. This framework, known as a budget resolution, unlocks a legislative process, known as reconciliation, that allows Congress to pass certain legislation by simple majorities in both chambers. Through the reconciliation process, Congressional Democrats hope to include additional Democratic priorities including childcare, universal pre-K, free community college, and K-12 facilities infrastructure among other priorities currently under consideration.

Prior to the vote, a group of 10 Democratic moderates led by Rep. Gottheimer (D-NJ) had been withholding their support for advancing these bills in this fashion, insisting that the House first take up and consider the IIJA, before moving on to the wider reconciliation process. However, a larger group of Democrats opposed this approach given that moving the IIJA before a reconciliation package would leave little incentive for moderates in both the House and the Senate to support Democrats’ wider aspirations with the $3.5 trillion budget package. By linking the two proposals in this way, Congressional Democratic leadership intends to garner the votes necessary to pass both of these bills in both Chambers in the weeks ahead. By Tuesday, Democratic Congressional leadership and this group of moderates found agreement, augmenting the underlying legislative rule to include a non-binding commitment to vote on the IIJA no later than September 27. With this agreement in hand, the House cleared this procedural hurdle by a party-line vote of 220-212 Tuesday morning.

With this step in the process complete, the reconciliation process in the House formally begins, with committees in both chambers now ostensibly working on legislation conforming to the proposed $3.5 trillion budget framework. As these efforts move forward, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to impress upon lawmakers the significant infrastructure and connectivity needs of the K-12 community.

Administration Update

FCC Announces New ECF Funding Availability

On Wednesday, August 25, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had received $5.14 billion in funding requests from the first round of applications which would support 9.1 million internet-capable devices and 5.4 million broadband connections. These funds are part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)—a program that was created by the American Rescue Plan, providing $7.2 billion in funding to eligible schools and libraries to purchase broadband plans and devices for students, school staff, and library patrons. As part of this announcement, the FCC has committed to opening a second application filing window to give schools and libraries the opportunity to apply for the remaining funds. This window will be open from September 28 to October 13. More information on this announcement can be found here.

USED Reaffirms IDEA Guidance

On Tuesday, August 24, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued a letter to state and local stakeholders reiterating its commitment to ensuring that all learners with disabilities, including children and families, have access to high-quality educational experiences and relevant early interventions. The letter builds on guidance previously issued by the OSERS, regarding the appropriate implementation of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) as schools and districts begin the 2021-22 school year. This guidance, in the form of an FAQ, can be found here.

USED Approves Three More State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to K-12 schools this past spring. Since that time, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. However, the Department held back the remaining third of these funds until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, August 27, the Department approved three more of these plans, disbursing these additional funds to those states. States receiving approval this week include Alaska, Connecticut, and Illinois. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.


 

August 20, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Remains on Recess

After a flurry of activity last week in the Senate, legislative action on Capitol Hill has been relatively quiet this week as both chambers of Congress remain on recess. In anticipation of the House’s early return from its annual August holiday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently instructed the House Rules Committee to begin work crafting a rule that will allow votes to commence next week on a bipartisan infrastructure package, recently approved by the Senate, along with a budget resolution advancing Congressional Democrats’ separate efforts to pass a sizeable amount of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. By linking both proposals together in this way, Congressional Democratic Leadership aims to garner the votes needed to pass these bills in both chambers in the weeks ahead.

As this process unfolds, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure that lawmakers appreciate the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community.

Administration Update

USED Announces Civil Rights Data Collection

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced in a letter to school superintendents that it will move forward with the normally biannual Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for the coming 2021-22 school year. This would mark the first time that USED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has conducted this critically important data collection over consecutive years. The Department hopes that the newly added data collection will “. . . advance equity at a time when the nation’s educational landscape has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and schools are receiving substantial new federal funding to address new and longstanding challenges.” A press release from the Department, detailing these changes, can be found here.

President Biden Directs USED to Push Back on State Anti-Mask Mandates

On Wednesday, August 18, President Biden issued a memo directing U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to “use all available tools” at his Department’s disposal to ensure a return to safe, in-person K-12 instruction for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The directive comes amid a wave of Republican-led states imposing new laws or regulations preventing school districts and institutions from implementing mask mandates—a key COVID-19 mitigation strategy. "As I’ve said before, if you aren’t going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who is trying . . . we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children," Biden said during an address on Wednesday.

Department of Education to Host Webinar on Safely Returning to In-Person Instruction
The U.S. Department of Education is hosting a webinar series to support educational settings in safely sustaining or returning to in-person instruction. The series features lessons learned and best practices from faculty, staff, schools, districts, institutions of higher education, early childhood education providers, and other places of educational instruction describing approaches to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. The next webinar, Returning to School: Strategies for Reengaging PreK-12 Students, scheduled for Wednesday, August 25, 2021, from 3:00-4:15pm ET.  Following brief presentation by the federal agencies, field-based practitioners will share strategies they have found effective to reengage students, including special populations, through outreach and sustained connections.  You must register to participate.


August 13, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Senate Advances Infrastructure Package(s)

The Senate has been uncharacteristically busy the past week, as lawmakers in the chamber formally considered and passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by a margin of 69-30 on Tuesday, August 10. The bipartisan legislation would, if enacted, provide $550 billion in new funding for physical infrastructure projects throughout the nation such as roads, bridges, and transit. Notably for the K-12 education community, the legislation proposes $65 billion for broadband connectivity efforts, $5 billion for electric buses, $500 million for competitive grants to make energy efficiency improvements within schools, and $200 million for lead abatement efforts at K-12 facilities.

The IIJA can best be understood as the first step in a wider two-step legislative process. Because Congressional Republicans would only engage on “traditional” physical infrastructure legislation like the IIJA, Congressional Democrats intend to pass a much larger infrastructure bill separately. This bill would likely include a wider array of Democratic priorities such as dedicated K-12 school infrastructure funding, additional broadband funding, and universal pre-K among a slew of other priorities. Significantly, House Democratic leaders have made clear that passage of the IIJA is dependent on Senate passage of this larger bill. Linking the two legislative proposals in this manner helps to ensure that there is enough support in both chambers and caucuses to pass both in the coming weeks and months ahead. At the same time, however, this strategy means the IIJA will not be immediately considered by the House, at least for the time being.

Following the passage of the IIJA in the Senate, Democrats in the chamber quickly pivoted to the second step of their legislative strategy with the consideration of the federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget resolution—a move that begins the legislative process known as budget reconciliation allowing certain legislation to be passed by simple majorities in both chambers (and thus circumventing a likely Republican filibuster in the chamber). The budget reconciliation process is how Congressional Democratic leadership intend to pass the remainder of the priorities contained in President Biden’s American Jobs and Families plans as part of this forthcoming larger bill.

Early Wednesday morning, August 11, the Senate passed this FY22 budget resolution along party lines. This legislation provides a set of high-level instructions to committees in both the House and the Senate to begin crafting legislation aligned to the text of this resolution. Through this resolution, lawmakers have set a September 15 deadline to draft the text of this underlying bill as part of the committee process. At the same time, Senate Democrats circulated a memo detailing the specific policies that they would like to address as part of this effort. While the Senate has now formally recessed for the rest of August, leadership in the House announced that they will return to Washington, D.C. on August 23 to formally vote on the budget resolution to keep the wider process moving forward.

As these efforts continue to unfold, NSBA was joined by other educational stakeholder groups calling on lawmakers to appropriate at least $130 billion in dedicated school infrastructure funding as part of the forthcoming reconciliation package. NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to remain engaged throughout this process to ensure lawmakers appreciate the substantial infrastructure needs of the K-12 community.

 

Administration Update

President Biden Nominates Head of OCTAE

On Tuesday, August 10, President Biden formally nominated Amy Loyd to serve as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education’s (OCTAE) next assistant secretary. Loyd was previously serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives for the office. Among other responsibilities, OCTAE is tasked with overseeing and administering the implementation of federal career and technical education (CTE) legislation. More information on the announcement can be found here.

USED Approves Six More State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to K-12 schools this past spring. Since that time, the

U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. However, the Department held back the remaining third of these funds until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, August 12, the Department approved six more of these plans, disbursing these additional funds to those states. States receiving approval this week include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Carolina. In total, 27 state ARP plans have now been approved. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.

Discretionary Grants

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “Impact Aid Discretionary Construction Grant Program” – The Impact Aid Discretionary Construction Grant Program provides funding to LEAs for repairs and modernization of school facilities. These school districts are limited in raising funds for improvements due to large areas of federal land in their area. When emergency repairs are identified, it can be difficult for these districts to respond. The estimated available funds for this program total $17,400,000. Applications are due by September 13, 2021, and further information is available here.

Bills

  • 2711 A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide rules of construction that nothing in those Acts requires the use, teaching, promotion, or recommendation of any academic discipline, program, or activity that holds that the United States is a Nation founded on white supremacy and oppression, or that these forces are at the root of American society. Sponsor: Sen. Lee, Mike [R-UT]
  • 2682 A bill to amend title III of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 to prohibit the expenditure of funds on divisive concepts under the priorities noticed in the proposed rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to Proposed Priorities-American History and Civics Education. Sponsor: Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]
  • R.4983 To prohibit elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher education that receive Federal funding from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Van Duyne, Beth [R-TX-24]

 


August 6, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Senate on the Cusp of Passing First Infrastructure Package

Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators announced that they had reached agreement on a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) after a months-long negotiation. Late Sunday night, August 1, text of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was released reflecting several changes to this agreement prior to its formal introduction in the upper chamber. If enacted, the proposal would invest roughly $550 billion in physical infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and waterways, including $65 billion for broadband connectivity and affordability and $5 billion for electric buses. Since that time, the Senate has moved forward with the legislation with uncharacteristic speed, advancing the legislation past a key procedural hurdle Monday and with senators filing hundreds of amendments this week. While it remains unclear precisely how many amendments will be formally considered and receive a vote from the full chamber, the IIJA is widely expected to pass the Senate, largely in its current form.

The IIJA, however, can best be understood as “Track One” of Congressional Democrats’ “Two track” legislative strategy regarding infrastructure. Track two of this effort revolves around the passage of the federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget resolution which is expected to be taken up by the Senate directly after the IIJA. In order to get full Democratic caucus support for the IIJA, Congressional leaders have separately agreed to move forward with a much larger infrastructure package containing Congressional Democrats’ wider proposals, as expressed in President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plans (including billions in new funding for school infrastructure among other features of these plans). Passage of an FY22 budget resolution in the Senate will kick off the budget reconciliation process—a legislative maneuver that allows certain legislation to be passed in the Senate via a simple majority. As these intertwined processes unfold in the coming weeks, NSBA’s advocacy team will remain engaged to ensure lawmakers appreciate the substantial infrastructure needs of the K-12 community.

Senate HELP Splits Over Civil Rights Nominee

On Tuesday, August 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee remained evenly divided, 11-11, over the nomination of Catherine Lhamon to lead the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Lhamon previously held this position under President Obama and oversaw a controversial overhaul of Title IX regulations, which many Senate Republicans vehemently disagreed with. Due to the Senate’s composition, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Lhamon’s nomination will still move forward for full consideration by the Senate. However, a date for a formal Senate vote on her nomination has yet to be set.

Administration Update

USED Releases Return to School Roadmap

On Monday, August 2, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released a “Return to School Roadmap” (Roadmap) to facilitate the return to safe, in-person instruction at K-12 schools for the upcoming school year. The roadmap is a collection of various resources aimed at schools, families, and communities to assist with their planning and to provide actionable suggestions for how best to make use of funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP)—a pandemic aid package passed solely by Congressional Democrats which provided $122 billion in additional funding for K-12 schools. More about this release can be found here.

U.S. Department of Education Announces Additional Resources for ESSER Implementation 

On August 6, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it is providing more resources to help states and school districts fulfill maintenance of equity (MOEquity) requirements for ESSER funding appropriated under the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

ED has updated the MOEquity guidance it published in June to address additional concerns that states and school districts are encountering as they work to obligate ESSER funding. The update addresses the specific areas detailed below.

  • Which funding sources must an SEA include when determining whether it maintained fiscal equity for high-need LEAs and highest-poverty LEAs?
  • Do the State funding sources for MOEquity differ from the funding sources for MOE?
  • Which funding sources must an LEA include when determining its per-pupil funding for the purposes of maintaining fiscal equity?
  • Are any LEAs exempt from the MOEquity requirements?
  • What enrollment data may an SEA rely on when determining its per-pupil amount of funding for high-need LEAs and highest-poverty LEAs?
  • What enrollment data may an LEA rely on when determining its per-pupil amount of funding for high poverty schools?
  • A “Certification of Exception from Local Maintenance of Equity Requirements” for school districts with student enrollments less than 1,000, those that operate a single school, those educating all students within each grade span within a single school, and those impacted by uncontrollable circumstances as determined by ED.

More information is available online at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/american-rescue-plan/american-rescue-plan-elementary-and-secondary-school-emergency-relief/maintenance-of-equity/.

USED Approves More State ARP Plans

Following the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) passage earlier this spring, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a prescribed formula. USED held back the remainder of these funds until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, August 5, the Department approved five more of these plans, releasing these additional funds to those states. States receiving approval this week include Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans already approved, can be found here.

Discretionary Grants

USED published a notice on one discretionary grant program for the Office of Postsecondary Education:

  • “Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities – National Technical Assistance and Dissemination Center Program” – The Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities – National Technical Assistance and Dissemination Center provides funding to improve postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities through technical assistance centers that can disseminate research and best practices for institutions of higher education. The estimated available funds for this program total $1,980,000. Applications are due by September 7, 2021, and further information is available here.

USED published a notice on one discretionary grant program for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:

  • “Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities and Technical Assistance on State Data Collection – National Assessment Center” – This program seeks to “promote academic achievement and to improve results for children with disabilities by providing TA, supporting model demonstration projects, disseminating useful information, and implementing activities that are supported by scientifically based research.” The State Data Collection technical assistance works to improve data collection and reporting requirements focused on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The estimated available funds for this program total $1,750,000; for IDEA Section 663 the funds total $1,000,000; and for IDEA section 616(i) the funds total $750,000. Applications are due by September 7, 2021, and further information is available here.

Bills

  • R.4923 To prohibit Federal funding for educational agencies and schools whose students do not read certain foundational texts of the United States and are not able to recite those texts or that teach that those texts are products of white supremacy or racism. Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Jason [R-MO-8]
  • R.4904 To provide for emergency operational cost reimbursements for child nutrition programs for certain additional months, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Adams, Alma S. [D-NC-12]

 


July 30, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Passes FY22 Education Funding Bill

On Thursday, July 29, the House of Representatives passed an over $600 billion spending package to fund the federal government and related programs for the coming 2022 fiscal year (FY22) set to begin October 1, 2021. The spending measure includes seven of the required 12 spending bills that together compose the federal budget, including the Labor-HHS-ED bill which provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the programs that it oversees. The so-called “minibus” spending bill was passed largely by party lines within the chamber on a margin of 219-208 and would provide $102.8 billion for USED—a 41 percent increase over current funding levels for the Department. Over 200 separate amendments were considered during the debate of the bill, but none substantially changed the funding levels approved earlier this month by the House Appropriations Committee. If enacted, the measure would significantly increase funding for critically important programs such as Title I-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and a slew of other federal education programs.

Despite this new development, the Senate has not yet advanced any of the necessary FY22 spending measures. As the FY22 deadline of October 1 approaches, the likelihood of a stopgap measure to extend current funding levels for a short period of time (known as a continuing resolution) increases. NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to engage with lawmakers in both chambers as FY22 funding continues to take shape in order to ensure a robust investment in the K-12 community.

Senators Announce Deal on Narrow Infrastructure Package

On Wednesday, July 28, a bipartisan group of Senators announced that they had reached agreement on a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF)—a legislative proposal that would invest nearly $550 billion in physical infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband connectivity. While the legislation does not include dedicated funding for school infrastructure projects it would, if enacted, invest approximately $65 billion in funding for broadband projects and $2.5 billion for the development and deployment of electric buses. The same day the agreement was unveiled, the Senate voted 67 to 32 to move forward with an affirmative procedural vote advancing the proposal for further consideration in the chamber.

Congressional Democrats, in the meantime, remain committed to a wider “two-track” legislative strategy whereby the BIF would be passed with bipartisan support while a much larger $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, containing many other Democratic priorities such as school infrastructure, childcare, and other priorities, would be passed via a separate budget reconciliation process. As these processes unfold in the coming weeks, NSBA’s advocacy team will remain engaged to ensure lawmakers appreciate the substantial infrastructure needs of the K-12 community.

House Holds Hearing on Nutrition Programs

Also on Wednesday, July 28, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services held a hearing titled “Food for Thought: Examining Federal Nutrition Programs for Young Children and Infants.” Witnesses provided a range of recommendations for how to improve federal nutrition programs including updating technology, simplifying the paperwork burden for providers and parents, removing outdated requirements, expanding the number of meals that are allowed to be provided/reimbursed, and increasing the reimbursable rate among other suggestions. A recording of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Releases Additional Funding for Students Experiencing Homelessness

On Wednesday, July 28, USED announced the disbursement of $600 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan for the Homeless Children and Youth Program (ARP-HCY). These funds follow USED’s approval of state applications for this funding in order to be used ahead of the coming school year to identify children and youth experiencing homelessness and providing support services to enable them to participate fully in schooling. In a statement, NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven praised the $600 million as “vitally important funds,” noting that many of the approximately 1.3 million homeless students disappeared from classrooms—both online and in person—during the pandemic.

CDC Releases New Guidance on Masks in Schools

On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on masks, recommending that all teachers, staff, students, and visitors wear masks inside school buildings, regardless of their vaccination status. According to the CDC, 63.4% of U.S. counties had transmission rates high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy. NSBA said that the updated guidance provided “much-needed clarity.”

Discretionary Grants

USED published one notice for a discretionary grant program within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program – Early-Phase Grants” – The EIR program is authorized under ESEA and promotes innovation to improve student achievement among high-need students. The early-phase grants are used to fund the “development, implementation, and feasibility testing” of a program, to determine if the program would be successful in improving student performance. The estimated available funds for this program total $180,000,000. The applications for the early-phase grants are due by August 27, 2021 and further information is available here.

Bills

  • R.4764 To prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Hartzler, Vicky [R-MO-4]
  • R.4751 To amend the Department of Education Organization Act and the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require publication of information relating to religious exemptions to the requirements of title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Clark, Katherine M. [D-MA-5]
  • R.4745 To establish a program to make grants to institutions of higher education to provide courses relating to critical legacy computer languages, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8]
  • R.4727 To provide for loan forgiveness for STEM teachers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Swalwell, Eric [D-CA-15]
  • R.4724 To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for a percentage of student loan forgiveness for public service employment, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Swalwell, Eric [D-CA-15]
  • R.4723 To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to expand eligibility for public service student loan forgiveness to certain contractor employees of national laboratories. Sponsor: Rep. Swalwell, Eric [D-CA-15]
  • R.4667 To provide for temporary emergency impact aid for local educational agencies. Sponsor: Rep. Rice, Kathleen M. [D-NY-4]
  • 2478 A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for a percentage of student loan forgiveness for public service employment, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT]
  • 2470 A bill to prohibit Federal funding for educational agencies and schools whose students do not read certain foundational texts of the United States and are not able to recite those texts or that teach that those texts are products of white supremacy or racism. Sponsor: Sen. Hawley, Josh [R-MO]
  • 848 Consider Teachers Act of 2021 Sponsor: Sen. Braun, Mike [R-IN]

 


July 23, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Moves Forward on Infrastructure

Since the spring, negotiations between Congress and the Biden Administration regarding potential significant new investments in the nation’s infrastructure have been ongoing and quite fluid. For the most part, Republican lawmakers have only been willing to consider legislative proposals focused on “traditional” physical infrastructure. On the other side of the aisle, most Democrats favor a much more holistic approach, inclusive of investments in “human infrastructure” such as education, childcare, and workforce development. As a result, Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate have prioritized a “two-track” approach for passing both of these priorities by the end of the year. At present, lawmakers are nearing agreement on a bipartisan bill focused narrowly on physical infrastructure, supported by a bipartisan group of over 20 Senators. At the same time, Senate Democrats have recently announced a separate $3.5 trillion proposal that would purportedly include many other Democratic priorities noted above and which would be advanced solely using Democratic votes in both chambers via a separate budget “reconciliation” legislative process.

Specific details on what would be included in this larger package are still forthcoming. While that effort continues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) moved forward on a separate track this this week by scheduling a procedural vote on the narrower, bipartisan infrastructure package yet to be introduced in the chamber. Although this vote ultimately failed, the effort helped illustrate that the sides are nearing an agreement on this narrower package. Both Democratic and Republican Senators emerged after the vote committed to finalizing and advancing this package sometime next week. As these infrastructure efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to impress upon lawmakers the significant broadband, school construction, and other needs of the K-12 community—especially within the wider package currently under consideration on a separate legislative track.

Legislation to Expand Homework Gap Funding Introduced

Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Grace Meng introduced legislation to extend funding to help close the Homework Gap. The Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act would provide $8 billion in annual funding between fiscal years 2022 and 2026 to the Emergency Connectivity Fund , a $7.17 billion program launched under the American Rescue Plan meant to help get students online. NSBA is one of several organizations supporting this legislation.

Administration Update

USED Approves More State ARP Plans

This past March, Congressional Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) which provided $122 billion in pandemic relief funding for the K-12 community. After the ARP’s passage, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a prescribed formula. The Department held back the remainder of these new resources until states and territories submitted plans detailing how these funds would be spent to help learners cope with and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Once a state plan is approved by USED, the remainder of that state’s funding is released for use. On Thursday, July 22, USED announced that it had approved a new group of five state plans that meet the requirements of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). These states included Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and New Mexico taking the number of approved state plans for this funding to 17 in total. More information regarding these plans, including those that are still pending review, can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Advances Some Nominees, Not Others

On Wednesday, July 21, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to vote on the nominations of several recent appointments made by President Biden, including several positions at USED. These nominees included Catherine Lhamon to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Elizabeth Brown to be General Counsel, and Roberto Rodriguez to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the Department. At the hearing, lawmakers advanced Brown and Rodriguez’s nominations out of the committee by voice vote—a key next step before the full Senate must vote on their nominations before they are formally approved.

Llhamon’s nomination along with one other, however, was not considered by the committee Wednesday, ostensibly due to scheduling conflicts. Llhamon previously led USED’s Office of Civil Rights under former President Obama, where she oversaw the development and implementation of a controversial regulatory update to Title IX—an effort that many Republicans on the HELP Committee, including Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) opposed. Inaction on Llhamon’s nomination this week is widely speculated to be related to this opposition as, without Republican support, her nomination will not be able to move forward. As for Rodriguez and Brown, their nominations will be considered by the full Senate sometime in the future although a formal vote has not yet been scheduled.

USED Releases Updated Title IX Guidance

On Tuesday, July 20, USED published a new Questions and Answers document providing additional guidance regarding the implementation of Title IX requirements meant to prevent discrimination on the basis of one’s gender. The guidance document clarifies key concepts and terminology to aid schools and institution’s as they implement current Title IX policies. These clarifications were seen as necessary as the Department undertakes a wider review of these policies, developed under the former Administration, which significantly changed the underlying regulatory framework updated by President Obama’s Administration.

USED Guidance on Improving Ventilation in Schools, Colleges, and Universities to Prevent COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has compiled information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to outline ways that schools can use ESSER funds to improve ventilation/ air quality.  This guidance addresses the use of portable carbon dioxide monitors, ways to improve airflow in school buildings, use of exhaust fans, and more.

Discretionary Grants

USED published notices on two discretionary grant programs for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “American History and Civics Education National Activities Program” – The American History and Civics Education National Activities Program is authorized under ESEA and promotes evidence-based strategies to “encourage innovative American history, civics and government, and geography instruction, learning strategies, and professional development activities and programs” - focusing specifically on programs or activities students from low-income backgrounds and underserved populations. The estimated available funds for this program total $2,150,000. Applications are due by August 18, 2021, and further information is available here.
  • “American History and Civics Education – Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics” – The Academies created under this program provide workshops for educators focused on American history, civics, and government education and Academies for high school students, to enrich their understanding of these particular subjects. The estimated available funds for this program total $1,700,000. Applications are due by August 18, 2021, and further information is available here.

Bills

  • H.R.4533 To amend the General Education Provisions Act to allow the release of education records to facilitate the award of a recognized postsecondary credential. Sponsor: Rep. Neguse, Joe [D-CO-2]
  • S.2410 A bill to address and take action to prevent bullying and harassment of students. Sponsor: Sen. Casey, Bob [D-PA]
  • S.2399 A bill to provide Federal student loan relief for teachers who work in a military impacted community. Sponsor: Sen. Peters, Gary [D-MI]
  • S.2379 A bill to amend the General Education Provisions Act to allow the release of education records to facilitate the award of a recognized postsecondary credential. Sponsor: Sen. Warner, Mark [D-VA]
  • S.2447 A bill to amend the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide additional funding for E-rate support for emergency educational connections and devices, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Markey, Edward [D-MA] 
  • H.R.4663 To amend the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide additional funding for E-rate support for emergency educational connections and devices, and for other purposes.  Sponsor: Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6]

 


July 16, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Appropriations Committee Advances FY22 Education Spending Bill
On Monday, July 12, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) unveiled appropriations legislation to fund the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and other related agencies for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). That same day, the panel marked up and approved the proposal by voice vote without adopting any amendments. On Thursday, July 15, the full House Appropriations Committee considered the legislation and approved the measure along party lines by a margin of 33-25. During the markup, no education-related amendments were adopted prior to passage. If enacted, the legislation would provide an historic 41 percent increase in funding for USED and the programs it oversees. This would include nearly doubling the size of Title I state grants as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and significantly increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) among many other programs that would potentially see a boost in investment from this bill. An archived webcast of the markup, including the committee’s report, can be found here.

With the Appropriations Committee’s work now complete in the House, the measure moves on to the full House to be further considered and voted on. It is widely expected that this bill will be voted on sometime during the week of July 26 as part of a “minibus” legislative package stitching together other discretionary spending bills already advanced by the House Appropriations Committee. However, comparable appropriations activity has not yet started in the Senate. With a limited number of legislative days left on Congress’ calendar, the likelihood of a temporary stop-gap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, continues to increase should the House and Senate fail to come to an agreement regarding FY22 spending prior to October 1, 2021.

Congressional Democrats Announce Infrastructure Deal

The Biden Administration and Congress have been negotiating over a potential bipartisan infrastructure deal focused narrowly on “traditional” physical infrastructure. While these talks have continued without a clear resolution, Congressional Democrats have been busy working on a separate proposal that would include many more of the party’s priorities such as funding for schools and childcare. Earlier this week, Democratic Leadership in the Senate announced that they had reached agreement on a topline figure of $3.5 trillion for this proposal. Setting this budget number unlocks additional legislative powers in the Senate, known as reconciliation, that would empower Senate Democrats to pass certain legislation with simple majorities and allowing them to avoid a likely Republican filibuster. Additional details regarding what will be included in this package have not yet been released and Senate leadership has indicated that a procedural vote is scheduled for next week—the next step in this effort.

Administration Update

USED Approves Five More State ARP Plans

Earlier this year, USED distributed two-thirds of the over $122 billion Congressional Democrats appropriated for the K-12 community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remainder of these funds was held back until states and territories submitted and received federal approval detailing how these new resources would be spent to safely reopen for in-person instruction and meet the wider needs of students. On Thursday, July 15, USED announced that it had approved a new group of five state plans to meet the requirements of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). These states included Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia taking the total number of approved state plans for this funding to 12. More information regarding these plans, including those that are still pending review, can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Considers Biden USED Nominees

On Tuesday, July 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to consider the nominations of several recent appointments made by President Biden for key posts at USED. These nominees included Catherine Lhamon to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Elizabeth Brown to be General Counsel, and Roberto Rodriguez to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the Department. A video recording of the hearing, including testimony from the nominees, can be found here. Next week the HELP committee is expected to formally vote on these and other nominations.

Discretionary Grants

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “American Rescue Plan – American Indian Resilience in Education (ARP-AIRE)” – The American Rescue Plan – American Indian Resilience in Education program provides funds to support services for Indian children and youth. These projects must include an activity that is authorized under section 6121(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The estimated available funds for three years total $19,800,000 – the average size of awards is $400,000 for each 12-month budget period. Applications are due by September 13, 2021, and further information is available here.

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Offices of Elementary and Secondary Education and Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:

  • “National Comprehensive Center on Improving Literacy for Students with Disabilities” – The National Comprehensive Center on Improving Literacy for Students with Disabilities grant program will focus on developing “evidence-based literacy assessment tools and professional development activities” and identifying “evidence-based instruction, strategies, and accommodations for students at risk of not attaining full literacy skills due to a disability.” The estimated available funds for this program total $1,475,000 in year one and $1,500,000 in years two through five. Applications are due by September 1, 2021, and further information is available here.

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program” – Grant funds for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program are used to support programs that are created to improve literacy skills for students in high-need LEAs and schools, with a particular focus on low-income communities and students of all ages, from birth through grade 12. Funds for this program must also be used for school library programs, which includes funds for professional development for school librarians and ensuring up-to-date materials are in high-need schools. The estimated available funds for this program total $25,000,000. Applications are due by August 11, 2021, and further information is available here.

Bills

  • H.R.4409 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve diversity in accelerated student learning programs. Sponsor: Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9]
  • H.R.4403 To provide subsidized summer and year-round employment for youth who face systemic barriers to employment and viable career options and to assist local community partnerships in improving high school graduation and youth employment rates, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]
  • H.R.4402 To address and take action to prevent bullying and harassment of students. Sponsor: Rep. Sanchez, Linda T. [D-CA-38]
  • H.R.4389 To increase cybersecurity education and job growth, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33]
  • H.R.4379 To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require the Secretary of Agriculture to make loan guarantees and grants to finance certain improvements to school lunch facilities, to train school food service personnel, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]

 


July 9, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Returns Next Week to a Busy Schedule

Both the House and the Senate remained on a short July 4 recess this week, with both chambers scheduled to return to the Capitol over the next two weeks. When lawmakers return, they will have roughly 30 legislative days to determine how to pass legislation to fund the entire federal budget, including the U.S. Department of Education and the programs it administers, past September 30—when the next federal fiscal year (FY22) is set to begin and when current funding is set to expire. The House is scheduled to take the next step in this process next Monday, July 12, when the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will hold its markup of a bill providing funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and other related federal agencies and programs. Text of the bill, including detailed program funding levels, is expected to be released Sunday, July 11, and the markup can be livestreamed here.

Additionally, Congress and the Biden Administration have continued tenuous negotiations over a potential investment in the nation’s aging infrastructure. These talks have yet to produce formal legislation and are expected to be a main priority for Congress as they return next week.

Aside from funding, lawmakers in the Senate will be considering a slate of several U.S. Department of Education nominees next week including Catherine Lhamon who, if confirmed, would serve as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Roberto Rodriguez who would serve as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, and Elizabeth Brown to be General Counsel. This hearing will be livestreamed here and is set to take place July 13. USED has also recently announced several new appointments made at the agency, which can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Announces New Funding Opportunity for Homeless Students

The recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP), Congressional Democrats’ pandemic aid package which provided over $122 billion in additional funding for the K-12 education community, provides an additional $800 million for homeless students. Known as the Homeless Children and Youth Fund, USED distributed $200 million of this funding earlier this year to help states and local communities meet the unique and challenging needs of students experiencing homelessness. The remaining $600 million was made available on Tuesday, July 6, to states and local school districts in anticipation of the upcoming 2021-22 school year. More information on this announcement, including how to apply, can be found here.

USED Approves Several State ARP Plans

On Wednesday, July 7, USED announced that it had approved the first seven state plans to meet the requirements of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Earlier this year, USED distributed two-thirds of the over $122 billion Congressional Democrats appropriated for the K-12 community, with the remainder of funds held back until states and territories submitted and received federal approval detailing how these funds would be spent to safely reopen for in-person instruction and meet the wider needs of students. USED has formally approved state plans for Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah. Forty state plans remain for review and potential approval by USED to access the remainder of their individually allocated funding under the ARP. More information on this process can be found here.

CDC Releases Updated Guidance for K-12 Schools

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Kindergarten (K)-12 Schools. The updated guidance focuses on helping administrators in K-12 schools, along with state and local health officials, safely support in-person learning as well as sports and other extracurricular activities. The updates are based on the latest science and emphasize the COVID-19 prevention strategies most important for K-12 schools to support in-person learning.

 


June 25, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Lawmakers Reach Tentative Infrastructure Deal, Path Forward Remains Murky

A bipartisan group of 21 Senators continued to meet this week to discuss and negotiate potential investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Late Wednesday night, June 23, this group of Senators announced with much fanfare that they had reached agreement on a $953 billion proposal focused exclusively on “traditional” physical infrastructure. Significantly, the proposed framework does not include funding for school infrastructure or other “nontraditional” infrastructure investments many Congressional Democrats had hoped to include. The next morning this group of Senators was invited to the White House to meet with President Biden to further discuss this deal. Following this meeting, President Biden appeared publicly with the group of 21 Senators to announce that they had agreed to the proposal.

Yet as news of the deal began to circulate, additional complications arose. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while supportive of the proposal, announced that she would not allow the bipartisan deal to be considered unless the Senate passed a separate proposal inclusive of many Democratic priorities, including funding for K-12 school infrastructure. At the same time, Senators Moran (R-KS) and Graham (R-SC), both part of the group of 21 Senators who negotiated the framework, announced that they would oppose the deal that they had just helped strike if Democrats moved forward with plans to pass additional infrastructure investments, not included in this framework, via the reconciliation process. As opposition from both parties grew, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced late Thursday night that “. . . we need to keep talking here”—an indication that there may not be enough support in Congress to pass this framework.

It remains unclear what will eventually happen with this most recent proposal. As these negotiations unfold, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to ensure that lawmakers in both parties fully appreciate the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community as part of any investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Secretary Cardona Testifies in the House

On Thursday, June 24, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on the priorities of his department for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). A great deal of committee members’ questions during the hearing focused on the issue of “Critical Race Theory” and the appropriate role the U.S. Department of Education (USED) should play as this issue gains more attention. Cardona was also questioned extensively regarding USED’s recent notice of interpretation on Title IX, clarifying that transgender students are protected under this law. The hearing also explored a host of other, less controversial issues, including Career and Technical Education (CTE), state efforts to implement pandemic aid dollars for education, and other priorities contained in USED’s FY22 budget. A link to a recording of the hearing, including testimony from Secretary Cardona, can be found here.

Bipartisan Legislation to Address Teacher Shortages Reintroduced

This week U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Susan Collins, who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and to increase teacher diversity. NSBA and other national education groups have supported this legislation, urging that it be included in the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which includes provisions for teacher preparation programs. The PREP Act would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas of special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and career and technical education (CTE), in order to give schools access to additional support. It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. The bill would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. Further, it would require states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.

Administration Update

USED Hosts Equity Summit

On Tuesday, June 22, the USED hosted the first installment of its Equity Summit Series. Dubbed “Building Equitable Learning Environments in Our Schools,” the event featured First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten. The convening explored strategies for advancing equity as part of school reopening efforts and how the Biden Administration’s proposed FY22 budget and previous investments made via the American Rescue Plan can help promote this work.

Discretionary Grants

  • “Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) – Grants for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities” – This program seeks to provide grant opportunities for entities, focused on acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities through innovative methods. The estimated available funds for this discretionary grant program total $43,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 23, 2021, and further information is available here.

Bills

  • H.R.4108 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) 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: Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]
  • H.R.4097 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) 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: Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-6]
  • H.R.4076 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to give the Department of Education the authority to award competitive grants to eligible entities to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs to assist at-risk students in middle school and high school in developing cognitive and social-emotional skills to prepare them for success in high school, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Sponsor: Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
  • H.R.4053 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To provide Federal student loan relief for teachers who work in a military impacted community. Sponsor: Rep. Jackson, Ronny [R-TX-13]
  • H.R.4011 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To divert Federal funding away from supporting the presence of police in schools and toward evidence-based and trauma informed services that address the needs of marginalized students and improve academic outcomes, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7]
  • H.R.4005 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To direct the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to establish a School Cybersecurity Improvement Program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-6]
  • S.2198 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to give the Department of Education the authority to award competitive grants to eligible entities to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs to assist at-risk students in middle school and high school in developing cognitive and social-emotional skills to prepare them for success in high school, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Sponsor: Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]
  • S.2186 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill 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: Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]
  • S.2136 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the implementation of curricula for training students, teachers, parents, and school and youth development personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking and exploitation in children and youth, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Murkowski, Lisa [R-AK]
  • S.2125 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to divert Federal funding away from supporting the presence of police in schools and toward evidence-based and trauma informed services that address the needs of marginalized students and improve academic outcomes, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Murphy, Christopher [D-CT]

 


June 18, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Budget Committee Kicks-off FY22 Funding Cycle

After delays throughout the year, budget and appropriations activity started in earnest in the House this week. On Monday, June 14, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) filed a “deeming resolution” to establish a topline figure for funding the federal government, along with related programs, for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). This measure was later approved by the chamber and allows appropriators in the chamber to begin to craft the 12 individual spending bills that compose the discretionary side of the federal budget. The topline figure—about $1.5 trillion— is slightly below President Biden’s budget request due to technical adjustments related to changes in mandatory federal spending.

More recently, House Democrats have unveiled an ambitious markup schedule for the coming month, aiming to prepare all 12 bills for consideration by the full House by mid-July. At present, the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill—legislation that provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the programs it oversees—is scheduled for July 7. Progress on appropriations has been far slower in the Senate and it remains unclear when the upper legislative chamber will commence work on comparable legislation to fund federal operations for the upcoming fiscal year, set to begin October 1, 2021.

Infrastructure Talks Drag on Without a Clear Path Forward

Lawmakers from both parties and both legislative chambers continue to debate potential investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Most recently, a bipartisan group of 21 Senators, led by Senators Sinema (D-AZ) and Portman (R-OH), has begun to coalesce around a high-level “framework” for a potential infrastructure deal. The group, composed of nearly equal amounts of Democrats and Republicans, is currently attempting to develop a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure package—a topline figure slightly above a proposal offered by another group of Senators earlier this month. However, the framework lacks detail. A list of 11 mechanisms to finance the legislation, including repurposing previously appropriated pandemic aid dollars and simply expanding the eligible uses of existing pandemic aid funding, has been floated, but many of these proposals have already been rejected by the Biden Administration and many Congressional Democrats.

As these talks continue, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a memo to the White House outlining the immense infrastructure needs of K-12 schools across the nation after visiting many since his confirmation. Although a resolution on infrastructure remains unclear at this time, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to impress upon lawmakers in both parties the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community as part of any investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Senate Examines Biden Administration’s FY22 Budget

On Wednesday, June 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) held a hearing examining President Biden’s FY22 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary Cardona testified before the committee arguing that the administration’s proposed budget is a bold effort to address chronic underinvestment in K-12 education and would address significant inequities facing far too many of the nation’s learners. Much of the day’s discussion focused on the administration’s proposed “Title I Equity Grants” which, if enacted, would direct $20 billion in new funding to local education agencies based on a new formula different from the one used in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In addition, several other issues were explored at length, including the ongoing implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s K-12 funds and efforts to reopen schools. Cardona’s full testimony can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Releases Tranche of ESSER Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed earlier this year, provided nearly $122 billion in additional aid to K-12 schools via the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. These funds were intended to help schools weather the effects of the pandemic and facilitate the safe reopening of K-12 facilities for in-person instruction. About two-thirds of this funding ($81 billion) was sent to states this past April, with the remainder to be delivered after states submitted plans for how the funds would be used.

On Monday, June 14, USED released plans for 28 states, including the District of Columbia, as the Department reviews and later approves them. Although the statutory deadline for these plans was June 7, USED has extended limited flexibilities to the remaining states that have yet to submit an ESSER plan. The Department anticipates that the remaining plans will be submitted for consideration on a rolling basis in the weeks ahead. Once approved, a related letter along with the remaining funding will be released to states for further use. More information regarding the plans can be found here.

 

FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Goes Live at the End of June

On Tuesday, June 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that eligible schools and libraries may begin to apply for a slice of the $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) on June 29. Authorized by the American Rescue Plan, the ECF provides funding to schools and libraries to purchase broadband plans and devices for students, school staff, and library patrons. The initial application period will last 45 days, ending August 13, and may be used for “reasonable costs associated with eligible equipment and services” purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. More information on the announcement, including how to apply for funding, can be found here. In related news, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a new publicly available map displaying key indicators of broadband need throughout the nation.

USED Clarifies Title IX Interpretation

On Wednesday, June 16, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a notice of interpretation clarifying that it intends to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to include protections from discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. OCR’s announcement is based on a recent Supreme Court ruling, Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently discriminatory against a person based on sex.

Biden Administration Continues to Staff Key Education Roles

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced a series of new appointees to fill key roles within the Department. Around the same time, President Biden announced his intention to nominate Sandra Bruce to be the next Inspector General for USED. In addition, Gwen Graham, who President Biden recently nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at USED, was advanced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday for full consideration by the chamber at a later date. While a full vote has not yet been scheduled on her nomination, she is expected to be confirmed in the near future.

Bills

  • H.R.3943 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To establish a commission to make recommendations for modernizing Federal financing of early care and education programs. Sponsor: Rep. Owens, Burgess [R-UT-4]
  • H.R.3871 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To authorize the Secretary of Education to provide grants for education programs on the history of the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II. Sponsor: Rep. Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19]
  • H.R.3870 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include teacher preparation for computer science in elementary and secondary education. Sponsor: Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6]
  • H.R.3855 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program to promote career awareness in accounting as part of a well-rounded STEM educational experience. Sponsor: Rep. Stevens, Haley M. [D-MI-11]

 


June 11, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Education Committee Explores Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Yesterday, June 10, the House Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services held a hearing titled, “Ending Child Hunger: Priorities for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.” Lawmakers on the panel explored several issues related to the School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs among other nutrition programs aimed at children and students. This hearing was especially timely considering the pandemic, which necessitated significant, if temporary, changes to these programs in order for them to continue to meet the needs of students. Witnesses included representatives from Chicago Public Schools, a nonprofit focused on childhood hunger, a childhood nutrition advocate, and a celebrity chef. An archived webcast of the event, including witness testimony, can be viewed here.

Infrastructure Talks Continue

As previously shared the past few weeks, lawmakers in Congress and the Biden Administration continue to negotiate on a potential investment in the nation’s infrastructure. Last week, President Biden ended talks with Senator Capito (R-WV) after both sides failed to find common ground on a proposal. More recently, a bipartisan group of ten Senators announced that they have reached agreement on a different infrastructure package. However, details regarding this proposal have been scarce and the topline figure—just shy of $1 trillion—remains short of President Biden’s goal of at least that amount in “new spending” rather than repurposing existing federal resources. This has been a recurrent issue throughout the infrastructure debate, with Democrats favoring a larger investment and Republicans favoring a narrower approach.

With time running out before the long summer recess in August, it remains unclear how or when these talks will be resolved.

Administration Update

USED Publishes “Maintenance of Equity” Guidance

On Wednesday, June 9, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published new guidance providing important details for states and local school districts regarding the implementation of so-called “Maintenance of Equity” (MOEq) provisions contained in the recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP). This provision is intended to prevent states and school districts from disproportionally reducing funding to the highest poverty school districts and schools. The guidance, in the form of an FAQ, explains how districts and states should go about implementing various aspects of the MOEq provision, including how to appropriately calculate poverty levels and ensure wider compliance with both the spirit and intent of the law. In addition, USED also published a new report exploring the disparate impacts of the pandemic on students and also announced an upcoming summit, open to the public, focused on related equity issues.

Bills

  • H.R.3797 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend section 2202 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to authorize States to expand the uses of the child care stabilization funds to include support to improve and increase the availability of safe child care facilities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Spartz, Victoria [R-IN-5]
  • H.R.3789 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to eligible schools to assist such schools to discontinue use of a derogatory or discriminatory name or depiction as a team name, mascot, or nickname, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr. [D-NJ-6]
  • H.R.3767 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To establish an Educational Equity Challenge Grant program administered by the Department of Education. Sponsor: Rep. Hayes, Jahana [D-CT-5]

NSBA Update

NSBAC Releases National Public Opinion Poll on Education: On Tuesday, at the first session of the Advocacy Institute, NSBAC released the results to the national poll it conducted on public schools. You can access the poll by going directly to the NSBAC website at https://nsbac.org The findings are from a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely 2022 voters with oversamples of 100 African American, 100 Latinx, 100 AAPI, 100 Native American, and 100 parents of school-age children who are likely 2022 voters. The poll results are available to the public. The bipartisan poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting.

Some highlights include:

  • Voters continue to value the job public schools are doing in their community with 55 percent rating them positively.
  • Learning loss among students due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a key priority, with 88 percent saying it is a problem, including 65 percent who say it is a “very big” problem.
  • 89 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of independents view easier access to technology and broadband as important. The largest obstacle for public school districts, named by 66 percent of voters as challenging, was having quality broadband and internet access at home to attend school online.
  • 59 percent of voters think funding for public schools should be increased. Of those who believe it should be increased, 86 percent would support an increase in funding even if it meant they would pay more in taxes.
  • 61 percent of voters say it is better to allocate funds to improving public education and schools, compared to only 18 percent who support vouchers to pay for students to attend private or religiously affiliated schools.
  • 74 percent say a lack of personalized learning focused on individual needs is a problem.

 


June 4, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Infrastructure Negotiations Continue with No Clear Resolution

Since the release of President Biden’s full fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request last week, attention has returned back to the most hotly debated issue over the past few months—investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Earlier in the year, President Biden released two interrelated infrastructure proposals, totaling nearly $4 trillion, and known respectively as the American Jobs and Families Plans. These proposals outline the President’s ambitious vision for infrastructure investments, including $100 billion for the construction and upgrading of K-12 school facilities.

Following the release of these proposals, President Biden and Democratic Congressional leaders have sought to garner Congressional Republicans’ support for this priority. Negotiations over a potential infrastructure package have largely been spearheaded by President Biden who has engaged a revolving cast of Senators whose support will be needed to pass this proposal via the regular legislative process. However, both sides continue to remain far apart on key issues including the appropriate size of the investment, what should (or should not) be included within an infrastructure package, and how to pay for these proposals.

These differences, however, have yet to be overcome. Both sides remain about $750 billion apart in their respective visions for an infrastructure package and, equally as important, remain bitterly divided over how to pay for the proposal. As these talks continue without resolution, the likelihood that Congressional Democrats make use of budget reconciliation—a legislative mechanism that would allow lawmakers to pass legislation by a simple majority in the Senate—increases substantially. Using budget reconciliation would allow Congressional Democrats to advance a version of President Biden’s infrastructure proposals without Republican support. However, all 50 members of the Democratic majority in the Senate would need to agree on such an approach. This week, President Biden continued one-on-one negotiations with Senator Capito (R-WV) who has been representing Senate Republicans in some of these negotiations. These talks have, at least so far, have not resolved any of these key differences between the two parties.

As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to impress upon lawmakers the substantial infrastructure needs of the K-12 community.

Next Week: House Education Subcommittee to hold Child Nutrition Hearing

Next Thursday, June 10, the House Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services will hold a hearing titled, “Ending Child Hunger: Priorities for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.” Lawmakers are expected to explore issues related to childhood nutrition programs as they consider making updates to these programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Witnesses have not yet been announced. The hearing will be livestreamed here.

Administration Update

USED Publishes Report on Student Home Connectivity

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Education Technology published a new report titled, “Keeping Students Connected and Learning: Strategies for Deploying School District Wireless Networks as a Sustainable Solution to Connect Students at Home.” The report examines strategies school districts can consider when deploying off-campus wireless networks to ensure more students have access to the internet. The brief explores six district’s experiences in undertaking this work and provides several best practice recommendations for school districts to consider. A related webinar exploring the findings of this brief will be held next week. Registration information for the event can be found here.

USED Seeks Information on School Discipline

Earlier today, June 4, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a request for information, seeking written input from the public on the administration of school discipline in K-12 schools. This information is intended to inform OCR’s future efforts to provide policy guidance and technical assistance to help schools improve school climate and safety while ensuring equitable access to education programs and activities. This request comes in the context of earlier OCR data collections showing persistent disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline among students of color. More information on the request can be found here.

Bills

  • H.R.3661 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to require silent alarms in elementary schools and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Gottheimer, Josh [D-NJ-5]
  • H.R.3636 To amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to clarify that the term "child with a disability" includes a child who needs special education and related services due to a health impairment resulting from Lyme disease or another tick-borne disease. Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4]
  • H.R.3615 To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to monitor compliance with the requirements of the American Rescue Plan relating to the uses of funds for child care. Sponsor: Rep. Miller-Meeks, Mariannette [R-IA-2]
  • H.R.3602 To authorize the Secretary of Education to carry out a program to increase access to prekindergarten through grade 12 computer science education. Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
  • H.R.3572 To increase the recruitment and retention of school-based mental health services providers by low-income local educational agencies. Sponsor: Rep. Chu, Judy [D-CA-27]

 


May 28, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

President Biden Releases Full FY22 Budget Request

Earlier today, May 27, President Biden released his widely anticipated budget request to Congress. In an unusual move, the request included both the President’s desired budget for federal fiscal year (FY) 2022 as well as details regarding the administration’s previously announced American Families and Jobs Plans—proposals that outline the administration’s infrastructure priorities beyond the proposed federal government’s FY22 budget. The budget request provided significant new details regarding the Biden administration’s spending priorities, particularly regarding K-12 education.

Specifically, President Biden’s FY22 budget proposes $102.8 billion for the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) discretionary budget. This requested amount is a 41 percent increase over current funding levels or $29.8 billion total. President Biden’s budget request also includes $20 billion in new funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) via the creation of a new “Title I Equity” grant program—above and beyond current funding levels proposed for the remainder of Title I. In addition to this specific proposal, the administration’s budget request also includes a proposed $50 billion in additional mandatory spending investment in the nation’s K-12 infrastructure over five years. Outside of the K-12 education space, the administration is also proposing a new $100 billion investment intended to increase broadband access over ten years.

The release of this more detailed version of the Biden Administration’s FY22 budget, further increases pressure on Congress to begin the formal budget and appropriations process. As this effort continues to take shape, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure adequate investments are made in the nation’s K-12 education systems and schools.

Administration Update

USED Updates Guidance for K-12 ARP Funding

On Wednesday, May 26, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) released an updated FAQ providing guidance to states, school districts, and schools for how they may make use of funding provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The guidance sheds new light on a wide array of issues including explicitly outlining the roles and responsibilities for each eligible recipient of this funding. Additional guidance documents and resources from USED and OESE can be found here.

President Biden Nominates General Counsel for Education Department

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Lisa Brown to be the next General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Brown was most recently the Vice President and General Counsel for Georgetown University and has also served in various roles for the Obama Administration. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement following the announcement, expressing his support for Brown. The Senate must still consider and approve Brown’s nomination sometime in the future, although a date has not yet been set.

Bills

  • H.R.3549 To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a pilot grant program to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive mental health services programs in elementary schools and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]
  • H.R.3545 To amend section 2202 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to authorize States to expand the uses of the child care stabilization funds to include support for the creation or enhancement of family child care networks designed to increase, or to improve the quality of, child care provided by family child care providers; and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Stefanik, Elise M. [R-NY-21]
  • H.R.3519 To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish a permanent, nationwide electronic benefits transfer program for children during school closures, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Levin, Mike [D-CA-49]
  • H.R.3483 To establish a grant program in the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to fund the establishment of centers of excellence to support research, development and planning, implementation, and evaluation of effective programs in financial literacy education for young people and families ages 8 through 24 years old, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]
  • S.1858 A bill to prohibit and prevent seclusion, mechanical restraint, chemical restraint, and dangerous restraints that restrict breathing, and to prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Murphy, Christopher [D-CT]
  • S.1841 A bill 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: Sen. Smith, Tina [D-MN]
  • S.1839 A bill to coordinate Federal research and development efforts focused on modernizing mathematics in STEM education through mathematical and statistical modeling, including data-driven and computational thinking, problem, project, and performance-based learning and assessment, interdisciplinary exploration, and career connections, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH]
  • 1811 A bill to increase the recruitment and retention of school-based mental health services providers by low-income local educational agencies. Sponsor: Sen. Tester, Jon [D-MT]
  • 1780 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: Sen. Booker, Cory A. [D-NJ]

May 21, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Continues to Mull Potential Infrastructure Investments

Congressional lawmakers spent much of the week considering the prospect of making significant new investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Infrastructure proposals from President Biden earlier this year— the American Families and Jobs plans—outlined an ambitious set of investments in a number of critical areas, including $100 billion for modernizing and expanding K-12 school facility infrastructure. While Democratic lawmakers in Congress have largely been supportive of these proposals, Republicans prefer a much narrower set of investments in the nation’s infrastructure. More recently, House Republican leaders announced plans to introduce a $400 billion infrastructure proposal focused exclusively on the nation’s transportation sectors. However, this proposal has yet to materialize. Lacking formal movement on this critical priority, Congressional Democrats have become increasingly frustrated regarding the lack of forward progress on infrastructure.

As both parties struggle to find consensus, the likelihood of Democrats moving forward without Republican support increases—a pathway made possible by a legislative mechanism known as reconciliation allowing them to move certain legislation through the Senate via a simple majority.

In an attempt to negotiate, late Friday afternoon the White House responded to Senator Shelly Moore Capito’s Senate Republican alternative on infrastructure with some changes to the President’s proposal to try and reach consensus. The new proposal would reduce the overall size of the Jobs Plan proposal for negotiation purposes by about $550 billion going from roughly $2.25 trillion in additional investment down to about $1.7 trillion. There was no mention of schools in the proposal, but they reduced broadband to $65 billion which is what Senator Capito suggested. If consensus is not reached and they decide to use budget reconciliation to pass a proposal, President Biden may go back to his original plan and numbers. As these discussions continue, NSBA will remain active advocates for robust investments in the nation’s K-12 schools and related infrastructure needs.

Senate Committee Examines Children’s Online Privacy

On Tuesday, May 18, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security held a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Internet Privacy and Manipulative Marketing.” The hearing explored issues related to children’s online safety and privacy, especially considering the widespread transition to remote learning due to the pandemic. Lawmakers also explored potential areas of improvement related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a key piece of legislation governing how operators of online services and websites collect and make use of personal information on children under the age of 13. Ahead of the hearing, Senators Markey (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA) introduced legislation (S.1628) that would expand COPPA to cover children ages 12-15. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.

House Education Committee Holds Hearing on Students Experiencing Homelessness

On Wednesday, May 19, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing exploring issues impacting students who are experiencing homelessness or are in foster care. Titled “Picking up the Pieces: Strengthening Connections with Students Experiencing Homelessness and Children in Foster Care,” the hearing focused on issues impacting the nearly 1.3 million students experiencing homelessness in the most recent school year. In particular, lawmakers focused on how recently passed pandemic aid packages could better serve this population of learners. More information, included an archived webcast and witness testimony, can be found here. NSBA supported a successful proposal that added $800 billion in funding in the American Rescue Plan targeted to assist homeless students during the pandemic.

Administration Update

House Republicans Call on USED to Change Grant Priorities

A group of Republican lawmakers on the House Education and Labor Committee, led by Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona calling on his Department to reverse course on proposed priorities for American History and Civics programs authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). At issue are proposals related to the teaching of systemic racism and culturally responsive teaching and learning. This group of Republican lawmakers oppose these proposals, arguing that they “. . . violate prohibitions against the federal government’s involvement in local schools’ curriculum, advance racist and divisive ideologies, and advocate for false history and misinformation.” Comments on these proposed priorities were due Wednesday, May 19, and the Department is currently reviewing feedback from the public.

Bills

  • H.R.3342 To establish a competitive grant program to support out-of-school-time youth workforce readiness programs, providing employability skills development, career exploration, employment readiness training, mentoring, work-based learning, and workforce opportunities for eligible youth. Sponsor: Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10]
  • H.R.1635 STOP II: Classrooms Over Conference Rooms Act Sponsor: Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8]
  • H.R.3246 To award funds to States and local areas for subsidized employment programs for youth. Sponsor: Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. "Chuy" [D-IL-4]
  • H.R.3230 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: Rep. Welch, Peter [D-VT-At Large]
  • S.1696 A bill to establish a competitive grant program to support out-of-school-time youth workforce readiness programs, providing employability skills development, career exploration, employment readiness training, mentoring, work-based learning, and workforce opportunities for eligible youth. Sponsor: Sen. Smith, Tina [D-MN]
  • S.1668 A bill to establish a competitive grant program to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of successful educator and school leader professional development programs on family engagement that will increase the capacity of educators and school leaders to work with families to develop and support the social-emotional learning of children. Sponsor: Sen. King, Angus [I-ME]

 


May 14, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Forthcoming Infrastructure Package Continues to Take Shape

Since the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2), legislation that provided nearly $122 billion in additional funding for the K-12 community, President Biden has pivoted his administration to its next legislative priority— significant new investments in the nation’s infrastructure. President Biden’s infrastructure priorities, outlined in the American Families and Jobs plans and totaling nearly $4 trillion, must now be considered by Congress to advance further and be enacted into law. However, unlike the American Rescue Plan which was quickly considered and passed by Congress earlier this year, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress and from both parties have not approached the American Jobs and Families plans with a similar sense of urgency.

Working to nudge lawmakers closer towards consensus, President Biden hosted Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders for a series of discussions this week at the White House regarding a potential pathway forward. At issue are fundamental disagreements over what should be included in an infrastructure package—Republicans want to narrowly focus on “traditional” infrastructure investments such as roads and bridges, while Democrats favor an approach inclusive of a much wider array of potential investments in areas such as cybersecurity and human capital. Both Democrats and Republicans also disagree on the appropriate size of such investments and how to pay for them.

President Biden’s meetings this week, which also included discussions with key lawmakers like Sen. Manchin (D-WV) and the top leaders from both parties, are intended to make clear whether a bipartisan pathway forward is possible or if Democrats in Congress will need to pass these proposals on their own, likely making use again of the legislative process known as reconciliation. As these discussions take shape, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to ensure lawmakers appreciate the need for investments in the nation’s K-12 schools and related infrastructure needs.

House Education Committee Explores Youth Employment Issues

On Thursday, May 13, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a hearing examining how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) can be improved to create employment opportunities for more of the nation’s youth. As the committee considers making updates to WIOA this year, the hearing was framed as an important way for lawmakers to explore various issues impacting youth programs and activities authorized by WIOA. Witnesses included the heads of National Job Corps Association and the Philadelphia Youth Network, a Senior Advisor for the National Youth Employment Coalition, and a Human Resources Manager of a firm in North Carolina.

Witnesses, as well as some lawmakers, expressed a willingness to re-examine current out-of-school youth requirements as part of current law and emphasized the importance of streamlining the eligibility process for identifying eligible learners to better meet their needs. In addition, witnesses emphasized the need to expand WIOA’s conception of work-based learning to better align workforce development and education systems to provide additional employment opportunities for eligible youth. A link to the hearing, including witness and committee testimony, can be found here.

Senate Confirms Number Two at U.S. Education Department

On Tuesday, May 11, the Senate voted 54-44 to confirm Cindy Marten to be Deputy Secretary of Education—the second highest ranking position at the Department. Marten is only the second USED nominee to be fully confirmed by the Senate, with James Kvaal’s nomination to be Undersecretary of Education still awaiting a full vote by the Senate. In addition, President Biden announced on Thursday, May 13, that he intends to nominate Catherine Lhamon to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights—a position she formerly held under President Obama.

Administration Update

Emergency Connectivity Fund Goes Live

The recently passed American Rescue Plan included $7.171 billion for an “Emergency Connectivity Fund” (ECF) intended to allow eligible schools and libraries to use these funds to purchase connectivity equipment and devices on behalf of students and educators. Since that time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been crafting new rules and related guidance to implement the ECF. On Tuesday, May 11, the FCC released its final Report and Order for these funds which outlines new rules governing the ECF, such as how these funds may be accessed and used. As structured, the ECF was created to help close the digital divide and homework gap. A 45-day application period is expected to open this summer.

FCC and USED Launch Outreach Campaign

On Wednesday, May 12, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the FCC jointly announced an outreac h campaign to raise awareness about another connectivity program—the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA) that passed last December—among eligible families and individuals. The EBB provides subsidies for eligible families and households to pay monthly bills for broadband. More information from the FCC about this effort can be found here. Additional information for how to apply for this funding can be accessed here. Eligible consumers can also locate participating service providers in their area using a new “Companies Near Me” tool.

USED Announces Presidential Scholars

On Thursday, May 13, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the 57th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. This year’s class included 161 students who were recognized for their achievements in academics, the arts, and career and technical education (CTE). The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars annually selects students within these categories based on a holistic review of students’ achievements both in and outside of the classroom. Created in 1964, the program has recognized and honored over 7,600 top-performing students from across the country. A full list of this year’s scholars can be found here.

CDC/USED Mask Guidance for Schools Remains in Effect for Now

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance Thursday, May 13 on the use of masks and face coverings for individuals who are fully vaccinated, the existing CDC and U.S. Department of Education (USED) guidance for schools remains in place. When, and if new guidance is issued, NSBA will inform the state associations. Until new guidance is announced, USED advises that students, teachers, and staff should follow the existing guidance.

Bills

  • S.1602 A bill 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: Sen. Tester, Jon [D-MT]
  • S.1565 A bill to provide for hands-on learning opportunities in STEM education. Sponsor: Sen. Shaheen, Jeanne [D-NH]
  • S.1562 A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide funding, on a competitive basis, for summer and year-round employment opportunities for youth ages 14 through 24. Sponsor: Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]
  • S.1543 A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide best practices on student suicide awareness and prevention training and condition State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and tribal educational agencies receiving funds under section 520A of such Act to establish and implement a school-based student suicide awareness and prevention training policy. Sponsor: Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH]
  • H.R.3166 To make demo nstration 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: Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]
  • H.R.3163 To prohibit the award of Federal funds to schools that promote certain race-based theories to students, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Roy, Chip [R-TX-21]
  • H.R.3157 To amend section 8526A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to prohibit Federal mandates, direction, or control with respect to American history and civics education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Murphy, Gregory [R-NC-3]
  • H.R.3137 To amend title III of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 to prohibit the expenditure of funds on the priorities noticed in the proposed rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to Proposed Priorities-American History and Civics Education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cawthorn, Madison [R-NC-11]
  • H.R.3115 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: Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
  • H.R.3106 To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide funding, on a competitive basis, for summer and year-round employment opportunities for youth ages 14 through 24. Sponsor: Rep. Kelly, Robin L. [D-IL-2]
  • H.R.3100 To amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to expand the eligibility of students to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program, establish college student food insecurity demonstration programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Hayes, Jahana [D-CT-5]

 


May 7, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Examines ED Budget Proposal

Last month, President Biden released an initial “skinny” budget request to Congress containing high-level information regarding the administration’s funding priorities for the coming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). While a more detailed budget request is expected later this month, the release of this skinny budget formally began the wider Congressional budget and appropriations process. This process typically includes opportunities for members of the President’s cabinet to speak to the budget request in more detail before Congressional committees as they consider appropriations legislation for the coming year.

This Wednesday, May 5, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Appropriations Committee about President Biden’s vision for the U.S. Department of Education (USED)—a component of the President’s budget request that is proposing a 40 percent increase for the Department and related education programs over current funding levels. Democrats on the committee, led by Chairwoman DeLauro (D-CT), spoke largely in favor of the proposed budget, and applauded the administration for its prioritization of education issues. Committee Republicans, led by Ranking Member Cole (R-OK), primarily argued that President Biden’s proposed $29.8 billion increase for USED was unnecessary and wasteful, particularly on the heels of several large-scale pandemic relief packages which provided billions in additional support for education above and beyond the Department’s regular budget.

Throughout the hearing, lawmakers raised issues ranging from school building reopening’s, to civics education, and career and technical education (CTE). Secretary Cardona’s written testimony can be viewed here and a webcast of the full hearing can be viewed here. Secretary Cardona is expected to similarly testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks, although a date has not yet been set. More recently this week, House Chairwoman DeLauro has said that she expects subcommittee and full committee markups of Congress’ FY22 appropriations bills for USED to occur in June with full bill passage sometime in July.

House Subcommittee Explores Pandemic’s Impact on Students with Disabilities

On Thursday, May 6, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing focused on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students with disabilities. Witnesses included disabilities rights advocates and special education practitioners alike who provided first-hand accounts of how students with disabilities have handled the pandemic, with several noting the importance of additional funding that must be used to continue to serve this vulnerable student population. Throughout the hearing lawmakers raised the need to return to in-person instruction to better support more students with disabilities and explored strategies to better serve these groups of students. A recording of the hearing, including written testimony, can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Launches School Reopening Clearinghouse

Late last Friday, April 30, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched the “Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices” clearinghouse, a web portal that contains a slew of examples of how schools, colleges, and universities are safely reopening campuses. The clearinghouse is part of an earlier Executive Order issued by President Biden directing USED to facilitate the sharing of best practices among the education community as the nation collectively works to overcome the pandemic. The clearinghouse is organized around three topical areas—Safe and Healthy Environments, Supports for Students, and Teacher, Faculty and Staff Well-Being—and contains over 180 unique resources to browse. The Department intends to update the clearinghouse as other best practices emerge. To be added to the clearinghouse, submissions can be sent to this link.

Emergency Connectivity Fund Takes Shape

Since the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been working to establish rules implementing a $7.171 billion “Emergency Connectivity Fund” (ECF). The ECF would allow eligible schools and libraries to use these funds to purchase connectivity equipment and devices on behalf of students and educators. As structured, the ECF is intended to help more students and staff gain access to internet-capable devices and reduce the homework gap exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. These efforts are timely especially considering recent research from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) finding that access to such devices is a crucial ingredient to student success.

The FCC had been soliciting public feedback and input for the past several weeks on the ECF. NSBA filed comments in the proceeding and has been working with our national partners to help ensure the agency crafted the rules to defer key decisions about how to best use the funds to school district leaders. Following that comment period, the agency released a draft Report and Order providing a short additional period for stakeholders to weigh-in on the FCC’s proposed approach. The draft Report and Order emphasizes that the FCC is committed to a simplified application process, is seeking to promote price transparency, is willing to forgo competitive bidding, includes Wi-Fi on busses, and is deferential to schools and libraries as to what counts as “off campus” locations for the purposes of the ECF. The FCC is expected to release the final version of this order May 10.

Bills

 


April 30, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Holds Hearings Discussing Child Care, WIOA, and Community College Investments

Earlier this week, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing titled “Strengthening America’s Child Care Sector,” which included discussion regarding the need for significant investment in child care to ensure stable, high quality facilities while providing providers with the wages they deserve. The hearing discussed reaching the child care “deserts” which refers to a lack of child care supply throughout the country, as well as ensuring affordability and choice for parents.

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing titled “Building Back Better: Investing in Improving Schools, Creating Jobs, and Strengthening Families” which highlighted the need for investment in the child care sector, WIOA, and community colleges as part of the overall recovery from the pandemic for all Americans. This hearing largely focused on the key elements of President Biden’s American Families Plan. Members and witnesses discussed the challenges parents face regarding entering and staying in the workforce without reliable, high-quality, and affordable care for their children. They also discussed the need for wrap around services like food, housing allowances, transportation, and child care for those attending community colleges as well as four year colleges to ensure they complete their degree and can succeed in finding and maintaining a job.

Administration Update

President Biden Addresses Congress, Introduces $1.8 Trillion Spending Package

On Wednesday, April 28, President Biden addressed, for the first time, a joint session of Congress. His speech provided a look at the administration’s “American Families Plan” which in combination with his infrastructure based “American Jobs Plan” would invest almost $4 trillion over the next 10 years. The American Families Plan touts two years of free community college for all as well as free universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-old children. Of particular interest to NSBA, the plan also proposes a $9 billion investment in teacher training, to increase retention rates and broaden the pipeline to the teaching profession. This is an important NSBA advocacy priority. It includes an increase in scholarships for teachers to $8,000 per year while they earn a degree (a $4,000 increase), paid teacher residency programs, $900 million for the development of special education teachers, $1.6 billion investment in teachers to earn additional certifications, and $2 billion to support high-quality mentorship programs. The proposal also includes $45 billion to address child nutrition and expand free meals for children in high poverty districts. The next steps regarding how both of these proposals might become law is unclear as garnering support from Republicans is unlikely because the cost of the packages is too high, but there are Democrats who don’t think the American Jobs Plan or the American Families Plan provide enough funding. However, Senate Majority Leader Schumer has indicated that Democrats are willing to move forward with a budget resolution with solely Democratic votes if that becomes necessary.

U.S. Treasury Department Announces New Office of Recovery Programs

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the establishment of the Office of Recovery Programs. Among other initiatives, the new office will oversee implementation of the new $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund to carry out broadband and other projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring. Every state will receive at least $100 million through the program with additional funding provided by formula connected to the state’s population.

Department of Education Launches Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

Earlier this week, the Department of Education held a two-day virtual launch of the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative, which will provide support to much of the nation including 46 states and D.C., and will help to “support as many students as possible through enriching and educational summer programming.” The Collaborative (a partnership between the Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and other national partners) will bring together state and local leaders and key stakeholders to design evidence-based summer programs to address the lost instructional, social, and extracurricular time students have experienced because of the pandemic, especially underserved students and those disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Secretary Cardona was joined by governors from Illinois and Arkansas, the Illinois State Superintendent of Education and Arkansas Secretary of Education, along with leaders from Education Trust and the National Summer Learning Association, among others. The Department plans to host planning and regional meetings between May and July with additional technical assistance to states and districts upon request. They also plan to hold a second national convening to discuss implementation success and challenges at the end of summer.

Bills


April 23, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Senate Republicans Release Infrastructure Counteroffer

Late last month, President Biden unveiled a long anticipated legislative framework to invest roughly $2.3 trillion in infrastructure projects. This proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, would include over $100 billion in funding specifically dedicated to modernizing and building new K-12 school facilities. It would also heavily invest in the nation’s digital infrastructure, proposing $100 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. Congressional Republicans, however, have largely been opposed to President Biden’s vision investments in the nation’s infrastructure, primarily arguing that the proposal is too costly and would raise taxes.

On Thursday, April 22, a group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Capito (R-WV) released a $568 billion high-level framework outlining the caucus’ counter proposal to President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. Unlike the Biden administration’s plan, Senate Republicans do not intend to invest in the nation’s K-12 schools as part of an infrastructure package. Additionally, the counter proposal envisions $35 billion less for the nation’s digital infrastructure. Unlike the American Jobs Plan, which proposes significant tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to pay for President Biden’s proposed infrastructure investments, the Senate Republican proposal merely provides principles for financing methods (also known as “Pay-fors”). As Congressional discussions continue regarding infrastructure investments, NSBA will continue to advocate for a robust investment in K-12 schools and facilities throughout the country.

Senate Education Committee Advances Nominees

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an executive session on Wednesday, April 21, to finalize its consideration of a pair of U.S. Department of Education (USED) nominees. The committee voted 14-8 to approve and advance Cindy Marten’s nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Education—the number two slot at the Department. The HELP Committee also advanced James Kvaal’s nomination by a vote of 19-3 to serve as the next Under Secretary of Education, a posting that will oversee postsecondary policy for the Department. Both nominations will now advance to the full Senate chamber for further consideration and a final vote. In addition, President Biden announced his intent to nominate former Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-FL) to lead USED’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs. Graham’s nomination is still forthcoming and must be considered and approved by the Senate HELP Committee and the full chamber sometime in the future.

Administration Update

USED Unveils New MOE Guidance

On Monday, April 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released new guidance pertaining to maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions contained in several pandemic relief funding measures, including the recently passed American Rescue Plan (P.L. 117-7). These MOE provisions require states to maintain levels of fiscal support for K-12 and higher education comparable to funding levels from previous years. In this way, Congress can ensure federal pandemic relief dollars are being used to provide additional support for schools, institutions, and students, rather than being used as a temporary replacement for state funding. This guidance provides an in-depth look at how states should implement the various MOE requirements contained in all three major pandemic relief packages to date. The guidance document also lays out the process for which states can apply to USED to waive this requirement, including a related request form that states must use to formally request a waiver of these provisions from the Department.

USDA Extends Meal Flexibilities Through 2022

On Tuesday, April 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the extension of current flexibilities for school meal programs through June 30, 2022. These flexibilities, aimed at providing maximum access to meals for students struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic, were previously set to expire September 30, 2021. With this action, schools across the country will continue to be able to serve free meals to all students regardless of their family income status.

USED Releases State Plan Template and Additional ARP Guidance

On Thursday, April 22, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released an interim final rule detailing new requirements states and school districts must meet in order to receive the remainder of their American Rescue Plan funding. Late last month, USED released over two-thirds of the total $122 billion authorized by the ARP for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to states and school districts. At the time, USED indicated that the remainder of this funding would be contingent on the submission of plans to safely reopen K-12 schools for in-person instruction. The Department is currently soliciting feedback on this rule and comments can be submitted here.

Bills

  • H.R.2733 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to States to establish a comprehensive school career counseling framework. Sponsor: Rep. Langevin, James R. [D-RI-2]
  • H.R.2722 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require local educational agencies to implement a policy on allergy bullying in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8]
  • H.R.2717 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) 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: Rep. Williams, Roger [R-TX-25]
  • H.R.2693 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require that only a school food authority that had a negative balance in the nonprofit school food service account on June 30th of the year preceding the previous school year shall be required to establish a price for paid lunches. Sponsor: Rep. Hartzler, Vicky [R-MO-4]

NSBA Update

Reminder of Upcoming Advocacy Institute June 8-10, 2021: The NSBA federal advocacy and public policy team is excited to be focused on organizing this year’s Advocacy Institute which will take place June 8-10, 2021. We urge you and your members to participate in this major online event championing public schools. nsba.org/AI2021


April 16, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Congress Returns from Spring Recess

After spending the last two weeks on spring recess, both the House and the Senate returned to Capitol Hill this past Monday. Upon Congress’ return to Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally invited President Biden to address a joint session of Congress on April 28, setting the stage later this month for an event similar to the annual State of the Union address.

While they were away, lawmakers were confronted with two major developments during the break—President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal and the release of his administration’s initial “skinny” budget request formally kicking off the Congressional budget and appropriations process. As Congress considers President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request, administration officials, likely including Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, are expected to testify in the coming months regarding the significant new education investments envisioned by the new administration in this budget (a date to examine the U.S. Department of Education budget request has not yet been set).

In addition, lawmakers from both parties continue to digest the latest infrastructure proposal from the President. While Democratic leaders in both chambers were largely supportive of the plan, many Republicans remain opposed to the proposal. Instead, Republicans are reportedly expected to develop and release a much narrower counteroffer, with a price tag substantially smaller than President Biden’s initial proposal. As these discussions evolve, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to remind lawmakers of the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community to ensure more students are able to access a high-quality education in world-class facilities across the nation.

Administration Update

USED Continues to Staff Up

This week Secretary Cardona continued his school reopening tour across the country—dubbed by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) as the “Help is Here” Tour—highlighting state and local work to safely reopen schools and emphasizing the impact the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is having on these efforts. As Secretary Cardona’s tour continues, USED has been busy re-staffing the agency and building out its leadership team. Late last Friday, April 9, the Department announced several new appointees for various posts through the agency. In addition, the Senate education committee began formal consideration of James Kvaal’s nomination to be Undersecretary of Education—a posting that will oversee postsecondary education policy efforts for USED. Next week the committee will hold an executive session to further consider both Kvaal’s nomination as well as Cynthia Marten, who was recently nominated to the number two posting at the Department.

Bills

Discretionary Grants

  • “Activities for Traditionally Underserved Populations” – This grant program awards funding to minority entities and Indian Tribes to improve the quality, access, and delivery of services under the Rehabilitation Act. Through this notice, the Department is awarding funding for one cooperative agreement that would provide $905,240 in the first year, and $910,490 in years two, three, four, and five. Applications are due by June 14, 2021, and further information is available here.
  • “Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities Interdisciplinary Preparation in Special education, Early Intervention, and Related Services for Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities Who Have High-Intensity Needs” – This discretionary grant program seeks to “(1) help address State-identified needs for personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children, including infants, toddlers, and youth with disabilities; and (2) ensure that those personnel have the necessary skills and knowledge, derived from practices that have been determined through scientifically-based research, to be successful in serving those children.” The estimated available funds for this program total $8,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applicants. Applications are due by June 22, 2021, and further information is available here.

 


April 9, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

President Biden Releases “Skinny” Budget Request

Earlier today, April 9, President Biden released a long-anticipated budget request to Congress, outlining his administration’s desired spending priorities for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY 22). During most Presidents’ first year in office, administrations typically release a “skinny” version of this request to provide more time to develop more comprehensive spending plans later in the year. President Biden has carried on this tradition and this skinny budget provides only high-level information regarding the administration’s discretionary spending priorities for the coming year. A more in-depth proposal, providing additional details about these priorities and intended spending levels for key education programs, is expected to be released later this spring.

Of particular note for the K-12 community, this request proposes $102.8 billion for the U.S. Department of Education—a 41% increase over current funding levels. President Biden’s skinny budget also envisions most of these new investments to be devoted to significantly increasing funding levels for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, the budget proposes $36.5 billion for this purpose which would amount to a 121% increase over currently enacted levels. The release of President Biden’s skinny budget formally begins the Congressional budget and appropriations cycle for FY22. The next federal government budget is set to start on October 1, 2021.

In response to today’s announcement, Anna Maria Chávez, Executive Director and CEO of NSBA, released a statement in support of the $20 billion increase in Title I grants for disadvantaged students, a $2.6 billion increase for special education, and a $1 billion increase to grow the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in schools. You can view the statement here.

Administration Update

CDC and USED Release New School Reopening Guidance

This past February, the U.S. Department of Education (USED), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released “Volume 1” of its two-part guidance series aimed at supporting safe school reopening efforts. This first volume focused on providing education stakeholders with actionable recommendations regarding the specific health and safety measures leaders should consider when reopening schools. Earlier today, April 9, USED released “Volume 2” of this guidance series, focused on evidence- and research-based strategies to mitigate the social, emotional, mental-health, and academic impacts of the pandemic on students, educators, and staff.

USED Responds to More State Waiver Requests

On Tuesday, April 6, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) provided formal responses to several states that have sought waivers from the Department that would, if granted, absolve them of assessment and accountability requirements from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As the department expressed previously, every state that has so far sought to temporarily waive ESSA’s accountability and school identification requirements has been granted one.

On the issue of administering assessments this spring, however, states have variously sought different flexibilities or waivers from these federal testing requirements. USED has been far less receptive to these requests by comparison. For instance, only Washington, D.C., was granted a full waiver from ESSA’s testing requirements for this school year. Oregon, on the other hand received a narrower approval of their testing flexibility request, conditioned on the completion of a public comment period in the state. Three other states, New York, Michigan, and Montana, had similar assessment waiver requests rejected. For several other states, USED provided feedback on these proposals without providing a formal decision as these states work to further refine these requests.

Of significant note, USED provided a formal response to California’s planned course of action on testing this spring. The state plans to move forward with the administration of its statewide summative assessment this school year, shorten the length of assessments, and extend potential testing windows further into the year. Where the state determines that it is not “viable” for a school district to administer the statewide assessment, these districts will not be required to administer the statewide test (in California’s case the Smarter Balance Assessment or SBAC). USED’s letter makes clear that they hope the state encourages the use of local assessments where the administration of the statewide test is determined by the state not to be viable, but also emphasizes that this approach cannot be in lieu of a statewide test. It also remains unclear what criteria or what process the state must consider or undertake to make a determination regarding the viability of a district to administer the state’s test.

USED’s Office of Civil Rights Reviews Title IX

Earlier this year, President Biden issued an executive order directing U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to review and potentially replace current Title IX regulations updated by the U.S. Department of Education last May. On Tuesday, April 6, Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Suzanne B. Goldberg, sent a letter to students, educators, and other stakeholders outlining the department’s plans to follow through on President Biden’s directive to review and potentially overhaul these rules. In addition to announcing these efforts, OCR also indicated that the Department plans to provide new guidance for K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions in the coming months to provide further clarity on current Title IX regulations already in effect and stakeholders’ responsibilities under this current regulatory framework. “Today's action is the first step in making sure that the Title IX regulations are effective and are fostering safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes” Cardona said in a press statement released at the same time.

 

 


March 29, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Releases Community Project Funding Guidance

On Tuesday, March 23, the House Appropriations Committee formally published guidance regarding the process for Members of Congress to request “Community Project Funding”—the committee’s new term for appropriations earmarks. As previously shared, House appropriations leaders have sought to ensure the new process for requesting earmarks ensures transparency and accountability as reflected in this new guidance. Of note for the K-12 community the “Innovation and Improvement” account for elementary and secondary education, composed of programs most recently funded at $1.1 billion, is eligible for requests from Members of Congress for the upcoming FY 2022 appropriations cycle—a process that must be completed by October 1, 2021 before current funding is set to expire.

Senate HELP Committee Considers Deputy Secretary of Education Nomination

On Wednesday, March 24, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to consider President Biden’s nomination of Cindy Marten to be the next U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Since 2013, Marten has been the Superintendent of San Diego’s Unified School District in California. During the hearing, Marten promoted summer learning programs as an effective strategy for districts to consider when determining how best to combat student learning loss due to the ongoing pandemic. In addition, she highlighted her own experiences as superintendent when addressing the issue of school reopening’s. Marten also voiced support for the U.S. Department of Education’s recent decision to require states to move forward with federally mandated standardized assessments. The committee is expected to formally vote on Marten’s nomination in the coming weeks and she is widely expected to be confirmed by the full Senate shortly thereafter.

House Hearing Explores Educational Equity Post-Pandemic

On Thursday, March 25, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing titled, “Lessons Learned: Charting the Path to Educational Equity Post-COVID-19.” Witnesses included:

· Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

· Jennifer Dale, Parent, Lake Oswego, OR

· Selene A. Almazan, Legal Director, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.

· Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

The hearing focused on a slew of K-12 education topics and issues brought to the forefront due to the ongoing pandemic. Much of the discussion centered on schools returning to in-person instruction, along with an exploration of how states and school districts plan to make use of federal pandemic aid made available through the recently passed American Rescue Plan. The topic of standardized assessment was

also brought up a number of times—by both witnesses and subcommittee members—with some arguing that testing should be suspended during the pandemic, while others defended testing as a key way to ensure an equitable educational recovery for all students. An archived video of the hearing, along with written statements, is available here.

Administration Update

USED Hosts School Reopening Summit
On Wednesday, March 24, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) hosted a “National Safe School Reopening Summit” which brought together education stakeholders from across the country to discuss and share best practices related to school reopening’s. The summit was comprised of three separate sessions focused on implementing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) K-12 operational strategy regarding school reopening’s (recently updated by the CDC on March 19), lessons learned during these efforts, and how schools and districts can best address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs throughout the pandemic.

In addition to these discussions, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona also announced that his department was making nearly two-thirds of the approximately $122 billion in K-12 funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) available to states and school districts ($81 billion total). In a related press release, the department noted that “The remainder of ARP [K-12] funds will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using ARP. . .” funding to safely reopen schools.

Following the summit, the department also announced plans to launch a school reopening listening tour and “Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative” which will seek to share best practices for summer learning. This announcement came after 11 Senators, led by Sen. Murphy (D-CT) wrote to Cardona urging his department to provide further information and guidance regarding how states and school districts can best provide summer enrichment activities.

USED Releases New School Survey Data

Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden signed an executive order supporting the reopening of K-12 schools. As part of this order the President directed USED’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to survey K-12 schools and districts regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including collecting data on the status of in-person instruction at schools. On Tuesday, IES released the first in what will be a series of findings from an ongoing survey of public schools throughout the country. This newly released survey showed that more than three-quarters of all fourth and eighth grade public school students attended schools that provided hybrid or in-person instruction during the past few months. The survey and related data collection will continue monthly through June of this year with additional results published periodically. The full survey results from this most recent release can be accessed here.

Bills ·

S.883
A bill to modify the Federal TRIO programs.
Sponsor: Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME] ·

S.879
A bill authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to support educational programs in civics and history, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE] ·

H.R.2147
To prohibit States and local educational agencies that ban books from receiving funds under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program. Sponsor: Rep. Joyce, John [R-PA-13]·

H.R.2106
To provide for the elimination of the Department of Education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Rouzer, David [R-NC-7]


March 19, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Earmarks Poised to Make a Comeback

Since 2011, both the House and the Senate have observed a moratorium on so-called “earmarks”—spending for specific projects or priorities made at the direction of individual Members of Congress. Earlier this month, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) unveiled plans to revive the practice, rebranding them as “Community Project Funding,” and proposing much stricter rules regarding their use. On Wednesday, March 17, the entire Republican conference in the House voted 102-84 to follow suit, proposing a similarly stringent approach to bring back the controversial spending practice. Appropriations Committee Chairman Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Shelby (R-AL) have both made public statements this week hinting that the Senate is likely to bring back earmarks this Congress as well. However, Congressional leaders in the Senate have yet to formally release comparable plans to revive the practice in the upper chamber.

House Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Educational Equity

Earlier this week the House Education and Labor’s subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education announced plans to hold a hearing titled, “Lessons Learned: Charting the Path to Educational Equity Post-COVID-19.” The hearing will be held on March 25. Further details, including a list of witnesses and link to a live webcast, will be made available here.

Administration Update

CDC Announces New Guidance for Schools

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a change in their mitigation guidance for schools. The new guidance states that when there is proper use of masking, three feet of spacing is acceptable under certain conditions. The U.S. Department of Education Department (ED) will be updating their own guidance soon with the new information. Prior to that updating, they are going to place a disclaimer on their current document.

FCC Seeks Comment on Connectivity Fund

On Tuesday, March 16, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is seeking input from the public on how best to structure rules regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund—$7.171 billion in funding authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) allowing schools and libraries to use these funds to purchase eligible connectivity equipment and devices. These funds are intended to help more students afford internet-capable devices and reduce the homework gap exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Comments are due by April 5 with reply comments due April 23.

CDC Announces $10 billion for K-12 School COVID-19 Screenings

On Wednesday, March 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the agency will provide $10 billion in additional funding for states, authorized by the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2), to support COVID-19 testing for K-12 school students and staff. The move aligns with the Biden Administration’s national pandemic response and recovery plan, which called for robust screening and testing in schools to mitigate the spread of the virus and help schools reopen for in-person instruction safely. Funding is expected to reach states by early April. More on the announcement, including state-by-state funding allocations, can be viewed here.

Secretary Cardona Reiterates Position on Assessments

Last month, before Secretary Cardona was formally confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Education (USED), the department issued a guidance letter to Chief State School Officers regarding potential state waivers of the assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements contained in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter indicated that while USED would waive accountability provisions for the current school year (for states that applied for this flexibility), states should plan to move forward with federally mandated statewide assessments this spring. On Wednesday, March 17, Secretary Cardona reiterated the department’s position on this issue saying, in part, that this letter “is the guidance that we’re going with moving forward on assessments.” The statement comes a few days after the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) sent a letter to Secretary Cardona calling on USED to issue blanket waivers from ESSA assessment requirements this spring.

USED Announces Next Round of K-12 Funding

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) authorizes over $122 billion in additional funding specifically for K-12 schools. On Wednesday, March 17, Secretary Cardona sent a letter to Chief State School Officers notifying them of the availability of these funds. In this letter, Cardona encourages states and local school districts to use these funds, to the greatest extent possible, to pursue strategies outlined by the CDC aimed at helping schools safely reopen for in-person instruction. Earlier in the week USED released a factsheet related to the use of these funds and also published a table detailing state-by-state allocations. More information related to this announcement can be found in the accompanying press release.

Safe School Reopening Summit

The ED announced details for the virtual National Safe School Reopening Summit. The summit will take place on Wednesday, March 24, at noon (ET) and will include welcoming remarks from First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary Miguel Cardona, and Director of the CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky. It will also host three panels that will include health experts, educators and education leaders, and students. Sessions include:

  • Lessons from the Field: Implementing CDC’s K-12 Operational Strategy to Keep Students, Educators, and Staff Safe
  • Technical Assistance from CDC and ED: Implementing CDC’s Guidance to Keep Students, Educators, and Staff Safe
  • Supporting All Students: Addressing the Academic, Social, and Emotional Needs of Students with a Focus on Equity

Bills

  • H.R.1959 To promote and ensure delivery of high-quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing or deaf-blind through instructional methodologies meeting their unique learning needs, to enhance accountability for the provision of such services, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8]
  • H.R.1928 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to protect students from sexual abuse, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33]
  • H.R.1911 To provide assistance with respect to child care infrastructure, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Clark, Katherine M. [D-MA-5]
  • H.R.1903 To amend title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965 with respect to partnership grants for the establishment of rural teaching residency programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bost, Mike [R-IL-12]
  • H.R.6 American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40]
  • H.Res.241 Expressing the sense of Congress that reopening schools for in-person instruction should be a critical priority for local, State, and Federal policymakers, and that funding for K-12 schools under the American Rescue Plan and State vaccination guidelines should be used to help get children back in the classroom. Sponsor: Rep. Sherrill, Mikie [D-NJ-11]
  • H.R.1886 To provide temporary impact aid construction grants to eligible local educational agencies, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. O'Halleran, Tom [D-AZ-1]
  • H.R.1865 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: Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]
  • H.R.1863 To establish a grant program to fund the installation of green roof systems on public school buildings, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]
  • H.R.1861 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: Rep. Thompson, Glenn [R-PA-15]
  • H.R.1828 To provide grants to States to ensure that all students in the middle grades are taught an academically rigorous curriculum with effective supports so that students complete the middle grades prepared for success in secondary school and postsecondary endeavors, to improve State and local educational agency policies and programs relating to the academic achievement of students in the middle grades, to develop and implement effective middle grades models for struggling students, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]
  • S.813 A bill to promote and ensure delivery of high-quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing or deaf-blind through instructional methodologies meeting their unique learning needs, to enhance accountability for the provision of such services, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Markey, Edward J. [D-MA]
  • S.734 A bill 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: Sen. Cornyn, John [R-TX]

March 12, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

American Rescue Plan Enacted

Since coming to office, President Biden has sought to prioritize his administration’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Chief among these efforts was a $1.9 trillion proposal released on the day of his inauguration, dubbed “The American Rescue Plan.” Since that time, Congress has set about crafting legislation based on this proposal via Congressional budget reconciliation—a process that allows certain legislation to pass by simple majorities in both legislative chambers, allowing Democratic lawmakers to circumvent a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate. Last week, the Senate began formal consideration of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) and passed this legislation on Saturday, March 6, by a narrow 50-49 margin. Shortly after its passage in the upper chamber the House took up the legislation, as amended by the Senate, and passed the ARP by a margin of 220-211.

The following day, March 11, President Biden signed the ARP into law and gave a national address later that evening outlining his administration’s further plans to combat the pandemic. In his remarks, the President highlighted the bill’s funding to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, pledged to make all adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1, and recommitted to reopening the majority of K-8 schools within his first 100 days in office.

The ARP provides approximately $1.9 trillion in funding intended to provide relief to those most affected by the pandemic and aid in the nation’s wider efforts to recover from its impact. Prior to its enactment on Thursday, the legislation was amended during the Senate’s multiday consideration of the legislation in several key ways. Of particular note, the ARP provides $122.78 billion in additional aid for the K-12 community via the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Relief (ESSER) Fund—approximately $6 billion less than proposed by the House. The final version of the ARP redirects some of these funds towards other education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which will now receive an additional $3.03 billion in aid from this measure. The final enacted version of the legislation requires that 90% of ESSER funds be distributed to local school districts and that 20% of these funds be used to address learning loss. States may reserve the remainder of these funds not distributed to districts for statewide activities but must use at least 5% of it to address learning loss and reserve at least one percent of this funding for evidence-based summer school and afterschool programs respectively.

The final bill also includes a number of other investments that will benefit the K-12 education community in other important ways. For instance, the ARP includes $7.172 billion in additional funding for the E-Rate program to allow eligible schools and libraries to use these funds to purchase qualifying technology. The Federal Communications Commission will develop new rules within the next 60 days to help implement this effort aimed at closing the digital divide and related homework gap. The ARP also includes nearly $40 billon for childcare and early childhood learning. Yet, one of the largest investments made by the new law will be in state and local governments, with the measure providing $360.05 billion in aid to help states, cities, and local governments recover from the pandemic. This investment is likely to have a beneficial indirect impact on K-12 schools which derive a majority of funding from these entities.

With passage of the ARP complete, the Biden Administration is now turning its attention to the law’s implementation and is planning to embark on a nationwide campaign to increase the public’s awareness of this legislation and the impact it is likely to have in the coming months.

Democratic Lawmakers Urge USED to Issue Blanket Assessment Waivers

On Tuesday, March 9, a group of Democratic lawmakers in the House and the Senate, led by Rep. Bowman (D-NY), wrote a letter to newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, urging him to issue blanket waivers to absolve states of all federal assessment requirements from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for an additional year. The letter comes following guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) on February 22 which outlined the process states must undertake to apply for flexibilities from ESSA for the remainder of the current school year. In this guidance, USED made clear that it does not plan to issue blanket waivers from ESSA’s assessment requirements and instead highlighted several other flexibilities—such as shortening exams, using remote administration, or extending testing windows—that states should consider rather than applying for a waiver from all assessment requirements for a second consecutive year.

Republicans Demand Investigation into Pandemic’s Impact on Students with Disabilities

On March 8, Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Foxx (R-NC), along with Minority Whip Scalise (R-LA) and Reps. Comer (R-KY) and McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) wrote a letter requesting Democratic leaders in the House open an “. . . investigation into the effects school closures are having on our Nation’s [sic] children with disabilities, and state and local compliance with federal special education requirements.” The group of Republican lawmakers argued that they have heard from parents that students with disabilities have not received adequate support during the pandemic and that “States and localities are not meeting even the minimal requirements” of the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Administration Update

USDA Extends School Meal Flexibilities

On Tuesday, March 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will extend several waivers intended to provide free meals to school children through September 30, 2021. These flexibilities, aimed at providing maximum access to meals for students struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic, were previously set to expire June 30, 2021. The waiver extension ensures that federal summer meal programs be made available in all areas at no costs; allows meals to be served outside of normally required group settings and times; and allows parents or guardians to pick-up meals on behalf of their children.

Biden Issues Title IX Executive Order

President Biden issued an executive order on Tuesday, March 8, directing U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to review and potentially rescind regulations related to Title IX—a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs that receive federal funding. Among other aspects of Title IX, these rules standardize how postsecondary institutions and K-12 schools must respond to and report allegations of sexual misconduct. These rules were last updated by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos which aimed to significantly strengthen due process rights for students accused of misconduct.

Bills

  • S.680 A bill 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. Sponsor: Sen. Schatz, Brian [D-HI]
  • H.R.1731 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. Sponsor: Rep. Brownley, Julia [D-CA-26]
  • S.665 A bill to allow Federal funds appropriated for kindergarten through grade 12 education to follow the student. Sponsor: Sen. Paul, Rand [R-KY]
  • H.R.1770 To allow Federal funds appropriated for kindergarten through grade 12 education to follow the student. Sponsor: Rep. Roy, Chip [R-TX-21]
  • H.R.1768 To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to reauthorize the farm to school program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Del. Plaskett, Stacey E. [D-VI-At Large]
  • H.R.1732 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: Rep. Bustos, Cheri [D-IL-17]
  • H.R.1635 To increase authorization of the grant program for school security in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. Sponsor: Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8]
  • H.R.447 National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]

 


March 6, 2021 (Archive)

Senate Passes American Rescue Plan

(Update following Senate passage of the Rescue Plan - the House is expected to vote on Tuesday, March 9th)

Earlier today, the United States Senate passed its substitute version of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021. The measure passed 50-49 along party lines with one Senator absent from the proceedings. The $1.9 trillion total relief plan package includes a little more than $126 billion for public schools which is a slight reduction from what was in the original House legislation. The legislation requires that at least 20 percent of the funding will be used for learning loss. The Senate bill differs from the original legislation in the House by carving out $2.75 billion for governors to use for private schools.

Importantly, the legislation includes more than $7.1 billion that will provide direct funding for the homework gap, the term that commonly refers to the digital divide in education that impacts many students who lack access to devices and/or high-speed broadband when they are out of school. The funding will follow the provisions proposed in the Emergency Educational Connections Act which NSBA strongly supported by having the funding flow though the E-rate program under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While this funding will not solve the long-term homework gap problem, it is a significant win for students impacted by this issue during the pandemic.


March 5, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Senate Considers American Rescue Plan

On Saturday, February 27, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), mostly along party lines, by a margin of 219-212. If enacted, ARP would provide nearly $1.9 trillion in assorted relief funding to help respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the bill’s passage in the House, ARP was sent to the Senate where the upper chamber has spent most of this week determining what components of the legislation are allowable under the budget reconciliation process—a legislative mechanism allowing Congress to pass legislation, like ARP, with simple majorities in both chambers. On Thursday, March 4, the Senate Budget Committee released a substitute amendment, making several changes to the House-passed version of the ARP, as the full chamber prepares for formal consideration of the legislation over the next few days.

Of particular note, the Senate’s version of the ARP proposes $125 billion in additional aid for the K-12 community via the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Relief (ESSER) Fund—roughly $3 billion less than proposed by the House. In addition, the Senate’s vision for ARP requires that 87.5% of funds be distributed to local school districts (as opposed to 90% in the House-passed ARP). With a higher state-level funding set-aside allowance, the Senate version of the ARP would require state education agencies to reserve at least one percent of this funding for evidence-based summer school and afterschool programs respectively. Another change made by the Senate is a new requirement that 2.5% of this funding be used for purchasing educational technology. Both bills maintain a requirement that at least five percent of this state-level funding be used to address learning loss.

The Senate’s proposed bill also makes several technical changes to the legislation’s “maintenance of equity” provision and slightly modifies the existing local allowable uses of ESSER funds to ensure funding can be used to implement school reopening guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among other changes.

Unlike the House version of the ARP, the Senate version of ARP proposes $2.75 billion in dedicated funding for nonpublic schools to support private schools. While the House-passed bill authorizes equitable services for private schools consistent with the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) statute, the Senate version would establish a precedent to expand vouchers beyond ESEA equitable services and thus create another federal funding stream for private schools, rather than a limited form of assistance within existing law. NSBA believes public tax dollars should only support public schools and opposes any efforts to subsidize tuition or expenses at elementary or secondary private schools, religious schools, or private home/correspondence schools with public tax dollars. Specifically, NSBA opposes vouchers, tax credits, and tax subsidies for use at non-public K-12 schools. NSBA encourages outreach to Congress concerning this issue.

Finally, the Senate’s version of ARP proposes $7.172 billion in additional funding for the E-rate program to support student remote learning to help with the homework gap, the term used to describe the digital divide for students when they are out of school buildings. The number is approximately $500 million less than the amount proposed by the House. While the overall numbers in both versions of the legislation is below the $12 billion that NSBA believes is ultimately needed for short-term relief in narrowing the homework gap, it is a good step forward in helping the millions of students who lack adequate access during the pandemic.

After releasing the text of the bill in the Senate, members voted along party lines to proceed to debate on this updated version of ARP Thursday afternoon. The Senate’s formal consideration of this bill is expected to be protracted and will likely last through much of the weekend. However, this legislation is widely expected to pass narrowly along party lines—a sequence of events that would send the bill back to the House for final consideration and likely passage sometime next week. Lawmakers hope to pass this legislation prior to March 14 when currently expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire.

Earmarks Mount a Comeback in Congress

In 2011, Congress banned the use of “earmarks”—funding requested by individual members of Congress for specific projects or purposes. On Monday, March 1, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced plans to resurrect the practice, rebranding them as “Community Project Funding,” and proposing much stricter rules regarding their use. Earmarks have fervent proponents who argue that the practice facilitates more efficient legislating in Congress, while detractors argue it leads to waste and has the potential for abuse. Chairwoman DeLauro’s counterpart in the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Leahy (D-VT), is reportedly working on a forthcoming agreement with the House to fully reinstitute the practice for the current 117th Congress and the related appropriations process.

Administration Update

Cardona Confirmed to Lead USED

On Monday, March 1, the Senate officially confirmed Miguel Cardona as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. The Senate voted 64-33 in favor of Cardona’s nomination and Vice President Kamala Harris formally swore him in the following day. In an op-ed published on Tuesday, Secretary Cardona announced that he plans to host a national summit on reopening school buildings and outlined several related areas that he plans to prioritize in the near-term. On Wednesday, Secretary Cardona, along with First Lady Jill Biden, visited K-12 schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania highlighting efforts to safely reopen school buildings for in-person instruction. The visit comes amid President Biden’s call earlier in the week to prioritize teacher vaccinations as part of wider efforts to expedite reopening of school buildings in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Bills

  • H.R.1581 To support library infrastructure. Sponsor: Rep. Levin, Andy [D-MI-9]
  • H.R.1566 To amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require that equitable distribution of assistance include equitable distribution to Indian tribes and tribal organizations and to increase amounts reserved for allotment to Indian tribes and tribal organizations under certain circumstances, and to provide for a Government Accountability Office report on child abuse and neglect in American Indian tribal communities. Sponsor: Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]
  • H.R.1547 To improve the financial literacy of secondary school students. Sponsor: Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-8]
  • H.R.1498 To require that local educational agencies disclose negotiations with teacher unions as a condition for eligibility to receive funds under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund of the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021. Sponsor: Rep. Good, Bob [R-VA-5]
  • H.R.1433 To reauthorize the Helen Keller National Center for Youths and Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind. Sponsor: Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]
  • H.R.1418 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to local educational agencies to establish "Family Friendly School" policies at 500 elementary schools that align the school day with the work day to better support working families and to disseminate the learnings from these model schools so that other local educational agencies may adopt these practices, and to establish a supplemental 21st century community learning centers grant program to support programs and activities during summer recess when school is not in session. Sponsor: Rep. Morelle, Joseph D. [D-NY-25]

Discretionary Grants

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “Indian Education Discretionary Grants Programs – Professional Development Grants Program” – The Indian Education Professional Development Grant programs seeks to increase the number of qualified Indian individuals in professions that serve Indians, as well as to provide training to qualified Indian individuals to become teachers and administrators. The estimated available funds for this program total $7,809,000, with no award exceeding $400,000 for the first, second, or third 12-month budget period. Applications are due by May 3, 2021, and further information is available here.

NSBA Update

NSBA 2021 Advocacy Institute Online: The registration link for the 2021 Advocacy Institute Online, a virtual event, scheduled for June 8, 9, and 10 is now open for registration. NSBA is excited to provide this special online experience focused on the issues and priorities for the nation’s local school board members. Scores of nationally known speakers, members of Congress, and officials from the Biden administration will be announced in the coming weeks and a national poll on public schools will be released during the opening session that is being commissioned by the National School Boards Action Center. Issues highlighted in the poll will include the homework gap, the importance of teachers, public school funding, the pandemic, private school vouchers, and other issues impacting education. The results from the poll will help drive messaging and communications as NSBA moves its advocacy agenda for public schools forward.


February 26, 2021 (Archive)

House Moves Forward with Pandemic Relief

On Monday, February 22, the House Budget Committee passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021—legislation modeled off of President Biden’s recent $1.9 trillion proposal to respond to the ongoing pandemic. The committee advanced the bill along party lines (19-14) as part of the “budget reconciliation” process which allows lawmakers to pass legislation with simple majorities in both legislative chambers. If passed, the American Rescue Plan Act would provide nearly $130 billion in additional pandemic relief for the K-12 community via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, $7.6 billion in funding to connect students to home broadband and devices, and nearly $350 billion in aid for State, Local, and Tribal governments.

Having cleared the House Budget Committee, the bill will now be considered by the full House Chamber today where it is expected to pass – late tonight or on Saturday - along party lines. Concurrent to this effort in the House, the Senate parliamentarian is currently examining various provisions contained in the legislation to ensure they meet the requirements of the budget reconciliation process in that chamber. While the K-12, broadband, and state and local governmental funding noted above is expected to be included in final legislation considered by the Senate sometime next week, provisions such as a proposed federal minimum wage increase contained in the bill will likely be stripped out of the final legislative package based on a ruling by the parliamentarian prior to Senators voting on the American Rescue Plan Act. This action would likely lower the overall cost of the plan.

House Republicans Request Information from CCSSO

On Thursday, February 25, the Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), along with Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), sent a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) requesting several pieces of information related to the reopening of K-12 schools. The letter encourages the organization to convene education chiefs to further collaborate and identify common challenges as states seek to re-open schools. As part of this effort, the letter requests information about school re-openings to date, how states have been working to reopen schools and communicating these plans, and how states are monitoring the use of pandemic relief funds as part of these efforts.

FCC Approves Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules for implementing the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). Congress created the EBBP in December. The initiative will offer eligible low-income households with discounts of up to $50 per month for broadband service and up to $75 per month if the household is on Tribal lands. The program also includes a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households. Although the funding does not flow through school districts, district leaders may want to consider notifying families and their students that they may be eligible for these discounts.

Administration Update

USED Issues New ESSA Guidance

On Monday, February 22, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) sent a letter to Chief State School Officers regarding assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter indicates that the department will waive several ESSA accountability requirements for the current 2020-21 school year. At the same time, USED’s letter emphasizes that the department will not grant “blanket waivers” of ESSA’s assessment requirements. Instead, USED encourages states to explore and apply for additional flexibilities regarding the upcoming spring administration of ESSA-mandated assessments. Specifically, the letter suggests states consider offering shorter exams, using remote administration, or extending testing windows to the greatest extent possible to ensure a statewide assessment administration takes place this spring. USED will make a waiver application template available shortly which will provide states with a clear path forward for how to apply for these (and potentially additional) flexibilities in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Cardona Inches Closer to Confirmation

On Thursday, February 25, the Senate agreed to limit further debate about Miguel Cardona’s nomination as Education Secretary, clearing a path for his likely confirmation. Senators voted 66-32 in favor of moving Cardona’s nomination forward with sixteen Republican Senators supporting this important procedural step. Cardona is expected to win final approval in the Senate by similar margins early next week.

Bills

  • S.396 A bill to promote registered apprenticeships, including registered apprenticeships within in-demand industry sectors, through the support of workforce intermediaries, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE]
  • S.385 A bill to improve the full-service community school program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Brown, Sherrod [D-OH]
  • S.383 A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 regarding proprietary institutions of higher education in order to protect students and taxpayers. Sponsor: Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]
  • S.342 A bill to advance STEM education, provide for improved worker training, retention, and advancement, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Cortez Masto, Catherine [D-NV]
  • H.R.1213 To require elementary schools and secondary schools to provide an option for safe, in-person attendance during school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Sponsor: Rep. Allen, Rick W. [R-GA-12]
  • H.R.1139 To reimburse meals and supplements provided to individuals who have not attained the age of 25 under certain meal programs authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]

February 19, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

House Moves Forward with Pandemic Relief/NSBA Sends Letter to Budget Committee

Late last week, several House committees finalized their respective pieces of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package modeled on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. These efforts are part of a wider “budget reconciliation” process that allows lawmakers to advance legislation with simple majorities in both legislative chambers. As part of this effort and in addition to the $130 billion in proposed emergency aid for the K-12 community finalized last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a measure that would provide $7.6 billion in funding to the E-rate program. The bill also would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop rules allowing schools and libraries to use a portion of these funds to purchase connectivity equipment. Late Friday, February 12, the House Oversight Committee approved their component of the forthcoming reconciliation package which aims to provide nearly $350 billion in aid for State, Local, and Tribal governments—a proposal that, if passed, would likely positively impact state K-12 education budgets as well.

In total, House committees of jurisdiction have now cleared nine separate legislative components that constitute President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Having now assembled them into a single package, the House Budget Committee will hold a virtual markup on Monday, February 22, to formally consider this legislation. The measure is expected to pass and advance for consideration on the House floor following this markup and related vote next week. The House Education and Labor Committee released a preliminary estimate of a state-by-state breakdown of the education funding in the proposed bill.

Today, in anticipation of the markup of the legislation on Monday, NSBA sent a letter to the U.S. House Budget Committee in support of several measures that will help students, schools, and their communities in the COVID-19 recovery package. Specifically, NSBA noted the legislation would provide targeted assistance for secure, healthy learning environments, including resources to help mitigate loss of learning, services for social and emotional needs, and broadband connectivity for students impacted by the digital divide as well as provide supports for school districts and other public sector employers for COVID-related emergency employee leave and additional supports for our most vulnerable students to address equity in education.

Senate Appropriations Roster Announced

On Friday, February 12, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Leahy (D-VT) and Vice Chair Shelby (R-AL) announced the rosters, including the respective chairs and ranking members, for each of the subcommittees that oversee various components of the federal budget, including education. Of note, Senator Murray (D-WA) will serve as Chairwoman, once again, for the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee—the panel overseeing all education spending in the Senate. Senator Blunt (R-MO) will serve as Ranking Member. More information can be found here.

Administration Update

CDC and USED Issue Updated School Reopening Guidance

As referenced in last week’s update, on Friday, February 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance to help states, districts, and schools reopen safely for in-person instruction. Dubbed an “operational strategy,” the CDC argues that “Evidence suggests that many K-12 schools that have strictly implemented mitigation strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open.” The new guidelines provide a series of recommendations organized around several “essential elements” including:

  • Consistent implementation of layered mitigation strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools
  • Indicators of community transmission to reflect level of community risk
  • Phased mitigation and learning modes based on levels of community transmission
  • Testing to identify individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to limit transmission and outbreaks
  • Vaccination for teachers and school staff, and in communities, as soon as supply allows

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) also released a handbook detailing strategies for safely reopening K-12 schools. The document emphasizes safe practices for in-person learning and considerations for extracurricular activities and transportation, among other elements, in determining how best to reopen a school. While both guidance documents underscore the need to prioritize vaccinations for K-12 school professionals and staff, the administration has stopped short of calling for widespread vaccinations prior to reopening schools—a position echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci this week.

FCC Comment Deadline Approaching

Final input from the public is due February 23 in response to a recent public notice from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the E-rate program. The notice is seeking input on potential changes to the E-rate program that would broaden the allowable uses of E-rate funding to better support remote learning during the pandemic. At present, E-rate funds cannot be used to support activities aimed at increasing broadband access unless they are directly on a school or library campus. Earlier this month, NSBA and several other organizations filed a petition calling on the agency to allow E-rate funds to be used “off campus” to more effectively support remote learning during the ongoing pandemic. This petition led to the current request by the FCC for public comments. If granted, this temporary rule change could help an estimated 16 million students who lack internet connectivity at home connect to the internet and close the homework gap.

Bills

  • H.R.1054 To require the Secretary of Education to provide assistance to the immediate family of elementary or secondary school staff members killed in an act of violence while performing school duties. Sponsor: Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20]

 

February 12, 2021 (Archives)

House Committees Advance Key Pandemic Funding Measures for K-12 Schools and to Help Close the Homework Gap

This week, lawmakers in the House took the first steps to pass major components of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan—a $1.9 trillion proposal that seeks to comprehensively respond to the ongoing pandemic. While nearly all Democratic lawmakers support the proposal, many of their Republican counterparts are not supportive. Although Democrats control both Chambers of Congress, their majority in the Senate is extremely narrow. As a result, the Democratic Congressional majority is making use of a legislative process, known as “budget reconciliation,” to pass this proposal with simple majorities in both chambers—a move that would circumvent a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate (it was last used by Republicans in 2017 to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act). Last week, both the House and the Senate took the first steps in this process by passing separate budget resolutions. These resolutions provided instructions to the committees of jurisdiction to develop legislation that aligns with President Biden’s pandemic relief plan.

This week, several House Committees moved forward with these efforts. On Tuesday, February 9, the House Education and Labor Committee marked up legislation that would provide nearly $130 billion in additional emergency aid for the K-12 community. These funds would be distributed via the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding stream. All the existing allowable uses of funds and related requirements for the ESSER fund would apply except that:

  • States would be required to set-aside at least five percent of their ESSER allocation to support evidence-based interventions that address learning loss and
  • School districts receiving funds would be required to use at least 20 percent of their local allocation for similar activities to address student learning loss.

In addition to these changes, the bill would also explicitly tie the treatment of these funds to existing requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) delineating how to share resources with nonpublic schools (a provision known as equitable services). Significantly, the bill would also require states and local school districts to adhere to both a Maintenance of Equity and a Maintenance of Effort provision—requirements that would compel states and districts to maintain previous spending levels and prevent additional reductions of funding to fall on districts serving students most in need in exchange for this funding. The committee considered over 30 amendments on Tuesday during a 13-hour markup hearing which did not significantly change the underlying bill. The legislation was passed along party lines, 27-21, and was sent back to the House Budget committee to be included in a single legislative package at a later date.

Concurrent to this effort, both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform have also been marking up their own legislative proposals. Late Friday evening, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed COVID-19 relief budget reconciliation legislation that will provide 7.6 billion to expand internet connectivity for students and teachers without internet access. This is a tremendous victory towards helping close the digital divide in education, commonly called the homework gap, at least short-term during the pandemic. There still needs to be a long-term focus on the problem but this is an important victory for millions of public school students.

Senate Education Committee Moves Cardona Nomination Forward

On Thursday, February 11, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 17-5 to approve Miguel Cardona’s nomination to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Cardona earned supportive remarks from both Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) who noted during the vote that he possessed the “background, qualifications, [and] temperament to serve” as the next head of the U.S. Department of Education. Senators Paul (R-KY), Braun (R-IN), Marshall (R-KS), Scott (R-SC), and Tuberville (R-AL) voted against the nominee. Cardona’s nomination now advances to the Senate floor for a full vote. While his nomination is expected to be approved, it remains unclear when it will be considered due to the ongoing second impeachment trial of former President Trump.

Administration Update

CDC/U.S. Department of Education Release Guidance on Reopening Schools

Today, the Biden administration released two documents offering suggested guidance on reopening schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its science-based recommendations on reopening schools. This update is a data-driven effort to expand on old recommendations and advise school leaders on how to "layer" the most effective safety precautions: masking, physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, ventilation and building cleaning, and contact tracing. The U.S. Department of Education released its ED COVID-19 Handbook to support the education community with implementation guidance, strategies, and considerations to help reopen schools safely.

NSBA Executive Director & CEO Anna Maria Chávez released a statement recognizing the guidance and recommendations for acknowledging every community is different and that schools have already demonstrated flexibility this year. Read the full statement.

Education Groups Submit E-Rate Petition FCC on Cybersecurity

On Monday, February 8, several education groups submitted a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling on them to expand the allowable uses of E-rate funding to include the costs associated with hardening digital security protections for K-12 schools and districts. The petitioners argue that the FCC must make these changes because, “Cyberattacks [on K-12 schools] have become so pronounced that they represent a material threat to the educational broadband access that Congress intended to facilitate through the E-rate program.” In addition, the petition includes an E-rate cybersecurity cost estimator that proposes three tiers of cybersecurity protections, alongside their respective costs, that would be needed to fully protect school districts.

Bills

  • S.284 A bill to support the provision of library services and technology to meet the needs stemming from the coronavirus. Sponsor: Sen. Reed, Jack [D-RI]
  • S.251 A bill to provide that for purposes of determining compliance with title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in athletics, sex shall be recognized based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth. Sponsor: Sen. Lee, Mike [R-UT]

NSBA Update

Public Schools Week and Digital Learning Day: This is a reminder that two major national advocacy events are occurring later in February. Public Schools Week runs from Monday, February 22 through Friday, February 26, 2021. NSBA is a proud partner in supporting this five-day long campaign helping administrators, teachers, specialists, parents, and school board members to host events for their communities and reach out to lawmakers, businesses, and other community members to discuss the importance of public education. During that same week, on Thursday, February 25, 2021, Digital Learning Day (#DLDay) will take place. #DLDay is an opportunity for educators to share great ideas, amazing stories, and promising practices through social media and within their own schools and communities. The goal of #DLDay is to show that every day in schools should be a digital learning day using technology and digital content to help teachers and students learn in new environments and instruction models such as personalized learning. NSBA will be actively participating in both celebrations and encourages state associations and local school board members to promote public schools and the students they serve.


February 5, 2021 (Archive)

Senate HELP Committee Considers Cardona Nomination

Last month, President Biden formally nominated Miguel Cardona—the former Education Commissioner for the state of Connecticut—to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. On Wednesday, February 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to formally consider Cardona’s nomination. Senators from both parties largely gave Cardona a warm reception throughout the hearing which focused on a wide array of issues. In his testimony, Cardona highlighted the importance of investing in public schools to “change lives and save lives” in the midst of the ongoing pandemic—a recurrent theme throughout the hearing which Cardona stressed “has exacerbated inequities in our educational system.” Topics spanned the gamut of education policy from those related to the pandemic, such as reopening school buildings, vaccination prioritization efforts, and the appropriate role of assessments, to various other issues such as student disability policy, rural educational challenges, career and technical education, and STEM. Lawmakers, on a seemingly bipartisan basis, appeared to be largely supportive of Dr. Cardona throughout the more than two-hour hearing.

A recording of the hearing can be found here. More recently, Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) announced the HELP Committee will hold a formal vote on Cardona’s nomination on Thursday, February 11.

Senate Adopts Organizing Resolution, Firms Up Committee Assignments

After a full month of disagreement, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced, on Wednesday February 3, that they have come to agreement on an organizing resolution. This agreement determines the rules that will govern the evenly split 50-50 Senate during the 117th Congress, including how many and which Senators will serve on various committees. Of significant note, the new agreement will usher in changes to the Senate HELP Committee. Senator Warren (D-MA) is set to leave the committee for Finance and will be replaced by Senators Luján (D-NM) and Hickenlooper (D-CO). Republican Senators Marshall (R-KS), Tuberville (R-AL), and Moran (R-KS) have also been added to the HELP Committee which, as constituted, will be evenly split. Senator Burr (R-NC) has been named Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, while Senator Murray (D-WA) will once again take the gavel as Chair of the committee.

Congress Takes Steps Towards Reconciliation

On the day President Biden was inaugurated, his administration released a $1.9 trillion proposal to respond to the ongoing pandemic. Dubbed the American Rescue Plan, the proposal aims to provide $130 billion in targeted aid for the K-12 education community to support efforts to reopen schools throughout the nation. While Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, the current filibuster rules in the Senate require most legislative proposals to garner the support of at least 60 Senators to pass the chamber. To circumvent this requirement, lawmakers can make use of an arcane legislative process, known as budget reconciliation, to pass certain legislation with a simple majority in the Senate. The first step in this process is for both chambers to consider and pass budget resolutions which move this process forward. On Wednesday, February 3, the House passed a budget resolution which seeks to implement President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Action on this proposal centered on the Senate most of Thursday, February 4, where lawmakers had a marathon session of votes before passing their own version of the budget resolution 50-51 (with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote).

Controversial Lawmaker Removed from House Education Committee

Recently, inflammatory remarks and public statements made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have emerged. In response to these and other actions, the House of Representatives voted 230-199 to remove Greene from her committee assignments which included the Education and Labor committee. It remains unclear currently if House Republican leadership plan to fill this newly created vacancy.

Administration Update

FCC Seeks Comment on E-Rate Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking public input as it explores the feasibility of making changes to the E-rate program to “allow the use of E-rate funds to support remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.” At a time when most students have transitioned to remote or distance education, E-rate funds cannot be used to support activities increasing broadband access unless they are on a school or library campus. A recent petition to the FCC, supported by NSBA and several other organizations, is calling on the agency to allow these funds to be used “off campus” to support remote learning during the pandemic. If granted, this temporary rule change could help an estimated 16 million students who lack internet connectivity at home connect to the internet and close the homework gap. Initial comments are due by February 16 and reply comments are due by February 23. NSBA provided background information and suggested talking points to the state associations this week and encourages states to consider filing their own supporting comments.

Bills

  • H.R.783 To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve the efficiency of summer meals. Sponsor: Rep. Young, Don [R-AK-At Large]
  • H.R.779 To provide for a Federal partnership to ensure educational equity and quality. Sponsor: Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]
  • H.R.764 To require full funding of part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Susie [D-NV-3]
  • H.R.750 To establish the Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety Best Practices, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Diaz-Balart, Mario [R-FL-25]
  • H.R.731 To direct the Secretary of Labor to make grants to eligible applicants to provide stipends to individuals enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Adam [D-WA-9]
  • H.R.729 To establish the Strength in Diversity Program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]
  • H.R.703 To ensure access to apprenticeships for underrepresented groups, eliminate barriers and ensure completion of apprenticeships, and invest in successful apprenticeship intermediaries. Sponsor: Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]
  • H.R.702 To direct the Secretary of Labor to award grants to develop, administer, and evaluate early childhood education apprenticeships, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Guthrie, Brett [R-KY-2]
  • H.R.691 To expand opportunities for pre-apprenticeships programs. Sponsor: Rep. Cardenas, Tony [D-CA-29]
  • H.R.683 To promote diversity in the national apprenticeship system. Sponsor: Rep. Adams, Alma S. [D-NC-12]
  • H.R.682 To encourage local educational agencies to resume in-person instruction at elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Hinson, Ashley [R-IA-1]
  • H.R.676 To establish a learning recovery grant program and fund the Institute of Education Sciences for certain purposes, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]
  • H.R.645 To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to strengthen school security. Sponsor: Rep. Carter, John R. [R-TX-31]
  • H.R.636 To promote registered apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs for small and medium-sized businesses within in-demand industry sectors, through the establishment and support of industry or sector partnerships. Sponsor: Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]
  • S.213 A bill to provide for a Federal partnership to ensure educational equity and quality. Sponsor: Sen. Cardin, Benjamin L. [D-MD]
  • S.211 A bill to prohibit the Secretary of Education from providing Federal elementary and secondary education funds for fiscal year 2021 or COVID-19 relief funds to an elementary school or secondary school that does not offer in-person instruction. Sponsor: Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]
  • S.210 A bill to prohibit States from suspending, revoking, or denying State-issued professional licenses or issuing penalties due to student default. Sponsor: Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]
  • S.200 A bill to provide State and local workforce and career and technical education systems the support to respond to the COVID-19 national emergency. Sponsor: Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]
  • S.186 A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor to award grants to develop, administer, and evaluate early childhood education apprenticeships, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Young, Todd [R-IN]

 


January 29, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

Senate HELP Committee to Hold Cardona Confirmation Hearing Wednesday

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the nomination of Dr. Miguel Cardona to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education for Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 10 a.m. eastern. The hearing can be viewed by going to the HELP Committee website. NSBA will have further details about how the hearing went in next week’s update.

House Education Chair Introduces Three Major Education Bills as New Committee Membership Takes Shape

On Thursday, January 28, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) on the House Education and Labor committee introduced three education-related proposals. The bills, known respectively as the “Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act,” the “Save Education Jobs Act” and the “Learning Recovery Act of 2021” would provide an additional $466 billion for the K-12 community. These funds would be targeted specifically to help support state and local efforts to improve school infrastructure, address learning loss, and avert additional layoffs in the education sector. More information, including factsheets and section-by-section summaries of these bills can be found here.

In addition to these new developments, the committee also reconsidered and passed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021—a legislative proposal largely the same as one passed by the entire House last Congress. The full chamber is expected to consider this measure the week of February 1.

Senators Chart Path Forward in 117th Congress

Earlier this month, both Democratic candidates in Georgia won their respective elections giving Democrats control of an evenly split 50-50 Senate chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote. Yet, for the better part of January, leadership in the Senate has failed to come to an agreement for how to formalize this power sharing structure. This disagreement appeared to have centered on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) insistence that Democrats commit to retaining the legislative component of the Senate’s filibuster. After several weeks of disagreement, McConnell backed away from this demand following public statements from two Democratic Senators who expressed their opposition to eliminating the filibuster. Since that time, both sides have reportedly coalesced around a 2001 version of a power sharing agreement.

The Senate is now working to formally pass an organizing resolution based on aspects of this power sharing agreement. This resolution will determine the rules that govern Senate operations in the 117th Congress, such as how many members each party will have on committees and it is expected to be passed by the chamber imminently.

Appropriations Committee Announces Leadership Assignments

The new House Appropriations Committee Chair, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), announced new leaders for each of the 12 subcommittees under her jurisdiction. Of significant note to the K-12 education community, DeLauro plans to serve as Chair for the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, overseeing all education-related spending, as well as leader of the full appropriations committee. All of the currently serving Democratic members of the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee are expected to return this Congress and there will be at several new Republican members, however these assignments have not yet been made public.

Administration Update

NSBA Calls on FCC to Use Existing E-Rate Funds to Help Close the Homework Gap

NSBA joined with the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition and several other organizations to submit formal comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for a declaratory ruling allowing the use of E-rate funds for remote learning services off campus. The declaratory ruling would allow schools and libraries to extend E-rate-funded broadband networks and services outside of a school or library location during Funding Years 2020 and 2021, without losing E-rate funds they are otherwise eligible to receive. Importantly, this requested action would not require the collection of any additional Universal Service funds. You can read NSBA’s media statement and find the filing here.

USED Extends Deadline for State ESSA Plan Amendments

On Tuesday, January 26, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to all chief state school officers notifying them that the department is extending a February 1 deadline to submit requests for waivers from certain requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and related plan amendments. The letter references a recent FAQ distributed by USED on January 19 which outlines the process states must undertake to make a change to their ESSA plan or to request a waiver from certain provisions in the law. The letter indicates that this move is part of the Biden Administration’s overall review of all existing USED policies.

CDC Researchers Support School Buildings Reopening (With Some Caveats)

As the pandemic continues, school leaders and policymakers across the country are grappling with whether and how to reopen safely for in-person student learning. On Tuesday, January 26, three researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article stating, in part, that “accumulating data now suggest a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery.” The article provides an extensive analysis and review of existing research on this topic. Among several findings, the article argues that, “. . . there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” Instead, the authors argue that schools and policymakers should consider limiting close-contact activities, such as sports, mandate face masks, reduce classroom size, increase air ventilation, use hybrid attendance models, and base school reopening decisions on the context of a school’s wider community.

IES Study on Distance Learning

USED’s Institute of Education Science’s “What Works Clearinghouse” (WWC) initiative released a report this week reviewing 36 studies relating to distance learning programs. The authors found that 15 of these studies met the minimum design parameters for WWC. Of these 15 studies, the WWC found that only four met Tier I requirements outlined in the ESSA—a provision in the law that is intended to help states and local school districts identify the most effective programs, practices, and policies supported by research. All distance learning studies examined as part of this effort can be viewed here.

Bills


January 22, 2021 (Archives)

Congressional Update

President Joe Biden Sworn in as 46th President of the United States

On Wednesday, January 20, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was formally sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. The inauguration also included an historic milestone with Kamala Harris becoming the first female, South Asian, and African American person to hold the office of Vice President. The newly inaugurated President struck a somber tone in his first formal address to the country, calling for a renewed national commitment to unity in the face of unprecedented crises and related challenges, most particularly the ongoing pandemic. These themes were evident throughout the week in the specific actions and steps President Biden has taken since assuming office. On his first day in office, Biden issued a slew of executive orders including the termination of the previous administration’s so-called “Patriotic Education” panel (also known as the 1776 commission); strengthening workplace discrimination protections; and orders to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

On his second day in office, President Biden signed additional executive orders focused primarily on combatting the ongoing pandemic. As part of this effort, the Biden administration released a national strategy to safely reopen schools and businesses—a key priority for President Biden who has pledged to reopen all K-8 schools in his first 100 days in office. As part of this work, he has proposed sending $170 billion in additional relief funding to the education sector to support this effort. In the near term, Biden’s executive actions taken on Thursday, Jan 21, serve as a foundation for this work moving forward. Among several other orders, Biden has instituted a new data collection approach for school reopening’s, as well as closures, to be managed by the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). In addition, the newly sworn in President signed an executive order intended to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide full reimbursements for the purchase of personal protective equipment such as masks.

Administration Update

Additional USED Appointments Announced

Earlier this month, President Biden announced his intent to formally nominate Miguel Cardona— currently Education Commissioner for the state of Connecticut—as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. While the formal nomination of Cardona is forthcoming, President Biden has also announced his intention to nominate Cindy Marten as the next Deputy Secretary for USED. Marten is currently the superintendent for San Diego public schools and has a comparably long, and extensive, history in progressively senior roles within the district over the last few decades. In addition to this announcement, USED also announced several new senior-level staff appointments which can be viewed here. Until Cardona and his full team are confirmed by the Senate, the Biden Administration has named Phil Rosenfelt, current Deputy General Counsel for Program Services at USED, to be the acting head of the department.

Biden Names New Acting Head for FCC

President Biden announced that current FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel will serve as Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Rosenworcel has worked at the FCC since 2003 and was nominated to serve as commissioner in 2011 by President Obama. She has vocally supported policies to help close the “homework gap”—the term she coined to describe the digital divide between students with and without access to broadband internet that has been made worse by the ongoing pandemic. “It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age,” she said in a widely reported statement. Rosenworcel will serve in an acting capacity until a formal nomination is made by President Biden sometime in the future. Commissioner Rosenworcel was a keynote speaker at the 2020 NSBA Advocacy Institute where she spoke on important education issues such as the homework gap. Anna Maria Chávez, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), applauded the news in the following statement.

Bills

Discretionary Grants

USED published notice on three discretionary grant programs for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • “Promise Neighborhoods Program” – The Promise Neighborhood Program, as authorized under ESEA, was established to “significantly improve the academic and developmental outcomes of children living in the most distressed communities of the United States”, which includes communities with high concentrations of low-income individuals; multiple signs of distress, including high rates of poverty, childhood obesity, and academic failure; and schools implementing comprehensive support and improvement activities or targeted support and improvement activities under the Elementary and Secondary and Education Act (ESEA). The estimated available funds for this program total $36,993,970. Applications are due by March 5, 2021, and further information is available here.
  • “Assistance for Arts Education Program” – The Assistance for Arts Education program, authorized under ESEA, promotes arts education for students, including disadvantaged students and children with disabilities. This grant program combines three programs into one – including the Arts in Education Development and Dissemination, Professional Development for Arts Educators, and the Arts in Education National Program. The estimated available funds for this program total $16,500,000. Applications are due by March 16, 2021, and further information is available here.
  • “Full-Service Community Schools Program” – ESEA authorizes the Full-Service Community Schools Program to support planning, implementation, and operation of full-service community schools, to improve support and services for children and families, particularly students attending high-poverty schools. The estimated available funds for this program total $13,700,000, and individual awards will not exceed $2,500,000 for the entire project period. Applications are due by March 1, 2021, and further information is available here.

ESEA Updates

USED published notice on inviting applications for new authorities, through the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

“Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority” – The Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) is authorized under ESEA and allows state educational agencies to establish and operate innovative assessment systems within public schools. The Department has previously awarded five states the authority and plans to award two additional states through this competition. Applications are due by March 16, 2021, and further information is available here

 


January 15, 2021 (Archive)

Congressional Update

President-elect Biden Unveils Massive Pandemic Relief Plan

On Thursday, January 14, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled details of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package dubbed the “American Rescue Plan.” The proposal, which must still be considered and approved by Congress, would provide a host of new resources for pandemic-related activities such as vaccinations, treatments for patients, and direct aid to struggling families. Of note, the plan proposes $170 billion in additional emergency relief specifically for education. To help realize President-elect Biden’s pledge to reopen the majority of K-8 schools in his first 100 days in office, $130 billion of this funding would be directed to the K-12 education community to support these efforts. This funding could be used for a wide variety of related activities to support students, teachers, schools, and districts return safely to in-person instruction and overcome the challenges created by the current pandemic. The plan also includes a $5 billion proposal to supplement Governors’ ongoing efforts to help education systems in their states while the remaining $35 billion in education funding would be directed towards the higher education community. The plan emphasizes that all these funds should be directed towards entities that have been the most impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to these education specific proposals, the American Rescue Plan envisions $350 billion in state and local fiscal relief—a key priority NSBA has been advocating for since last year given that nearly half of all of these dollars are spent in support of education. Upon the plan’s release, NSBA leadership issued a statement in support of this proposal and will work with lawmakers in the coming weeks ahead to ensure these bold and much needed steps can be enacted into law.

House Impeaches President Trump

After inciting a violent mob to attack the capitol building last week, the House of Representatives has moved forward this week with the impeachment of President Trump. On Wednesday, January 13, Trump became the only President in United States history to be impeached twice after lawmakers in the lower legislative chamber voted 232-197 in favor of impeachment. Ten Republicans supported the effort making it the most bipartisan impeachment effort in American history. The article of impeachment—for inciting insurrection against the United States government—now moves over to the Senate which must consider whether to convict the President of this crime. However, until the results of the Georgia Senate elections are certified, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still controls the upper legislative chamber and has resisted calls to convene Senators from their ongoing recess before January 19. It therefore remains unclear when the Senate will conduct an impeachment trial of the outgoing President which now is likely to occur after he has left office on January 20.

Administration Update

HHS Issues Guidance on School Vouchers Executive Order

On Monday, January 11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance for state and local entities administering the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) in relation to a recent Executive Order issued by President Trump on December 28, 2020. The order seeks to allow the nearly $700 billion in federal funds from the CSBG program, administered by HHS, to be used to pay for “private school tuition, home schooling, micro schooling, learning-pod expenses, special education services, or tutoring.” The guidance from HHS stipulates that while a grantee may use CSBG funds for this purpose, it must be justified via a statutorily-required community needs assessment which must take place at least once every three years. NSBA is opposed to this use of CSBG funding and will advocating for it to be rescinded by the Biden administration.

USED Civil Rights Office Annual Report

On Wednesday, January 13, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released its annual report for the most recent 2020 fiscal year. The report provides an overview of OCR’s civil rights enforcement activities for the past year and highlights specific achievements for the office. In particular, the report highlights the recent creation of the Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-Discrimination (OPEN) Center to help OCR proactively investigate civil rights complaints. For the most recent 2020 fiscal year, 45 percent of complaints received by OCR were Section 504/Title II related while 23 percent were related to Title IX. The report also touts the reduction in time it has taken officials to investigate and close investigations.

Bills

  • H.Con.Res.4 Supporting the goals and ideals of No Name-Calling Week in bringing attention to name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an ongoing dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling, bullying, and harassment in their communities. Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
  • H.Res.33 Recognizing January 2021 as "National Mentoring Month", and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scanlon, Mary Gay [D-PA-5]

 


January 8, 2021 (Archive)

Congress Passes Massive Year-End Spending Package & Supplemental Coronavirus Response and Relief Act

Read the NSBA Summary of the Response & Relief Act

After months of delays and stalled discussions, Congress finally completed work on a spending package just before the holidays to fund the federal government, along with related programs including those for K-12 education, for the remainder of the current 2021 fiscal year ending on September 30, 2021. In total, the bill provides over $2.3 trillion in new spending for both regular governmental functions and to help respond to the ongoing pandemic. The first and largest component of the spending deal, totaling $1.4 trillion, provides a modest increase in funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) of roughly one percent when compared to the last fiscal year. Of particular note, Congress provided an additional $227 million for the Title I-A grant program under the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)—a 1.4% increase over last year’s levels. Funding for Title IV-A of ESSA, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program, will receive an additional $10 million (an 0.8% increase) while funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) grew by approximately 1.4% (a $173 million increase). Lawmakers also prioritized Career and Technical Education (CTE) state grants—the largest federal investment in the nation’s high schools—within the omnibus by increasing the total funding for this program by 4.1% or $52 million in additional funding.

In addition to this annual funding package, Congress was also able to muster enough support for an additional $900 billion in additional pandemic emergency aid. Dubbed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), this component of the spending package provides roughly $82 billion for education, with $54.3 billion specifically targeted towards the K-12 community. Using the same funding structure created by the CARES Act, CRRSAA will send these additional funds to states and local school districts based on each state’s proportional share of Title I-A funding. The new spending package retains all the same uses of funds for these dollars as under CARES and slightly expands the scope of some allowable uses, most particularly those focused on the upkeep, maintenance, and retrofitting of existing school buildings to deal with the pandemic more effectively. In addition, the bill will provide $22.7 billion in targeted relief for higher education institutions and an additional $4.1 billion for Governors to use on either K-12 or postsecondary education-related issues at their discretion.

Although this new funding is a significant and positive step in the right direction, the package notably leaves out additional funding for state and local municipalities as well as additional funds for the e-rate program to expand student access to broadband. Given that a significant portion of state and local funding supports K-12 education, and that broadband access is critical to overcoming the homework gap made more acute because of the pandemic, Congress must still work to meet these critical needs as noted last week by NSBA’s leadership. As the fallout from the ongoing public health crisis continues, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure lawmakers appreciate the ongoing funding needs of the K-12 community as we head into 2021 and the 117th Congress.

Tumultuous Beginning to the 117th Congress

On Sunday, January 3, members of the House of Representatives were sworn in, formally beginning the 117th Congress. As part of this biennial constitutional tradition, the House also held an election to determine who would lead the chamber as Speaker. As widely anticipated, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was reelected as Speaker while Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was similarly reappointed as Minority Leader. This will be Speaker Pelosi’s fourth term as Speaker where she will preside over an extremely slim House majority—Democrats hold 222 seats while Republicans hold 211 with two current vacancies. This slim majority was on display during the vote where Speaker Pelosi received only 216 votes to secure this leadership post.

Later in the week, the final Senate races in Georgia were concluded. Both Democratic candidates—Senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff—won their respective races this week which means the Senate will be split 50-50 in the upcoming Congress. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote in the upper legislative chamber, returning control of the Senate to the Democratic Party, albeit with a razor thin margin. In total, Democrats will now move forward in the coming year with control of the House, Senate, and White House.

As these events unfolded, lawmakers convened a constitutionally-mandated joint session of Congress to formally certify the election results from the November Presidential election on January 6 and to officially declare President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the electoral college. During these deliberations, President Trump held a nearby rally calling into question the veracity of the election results that Congress was in the midst of certifying. Following his remarks, a group of his supporters marched to the Capitol building, violently overtook Capitol security, and ransacked the Capitol building for several hours in attempt to prevent Congress from fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of certifying these election results. During the chaos over 60 police officers were injured, Vice President Pence had to be evacuated from the Capitol complex, and legislators had to be rushed to safety. Capitol police regained control of the building and wider grounds after several hours. To demonstrate their collective resolve, Congressional leaders reconvened that night and formally certified that Joe Biden will become the next President of the United States on January 20.

Administration Update

Education Secretary DeVos Resigns

Late Thursday evening, January 7, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos abruptly resigned from office citing President Trump’s actions the day before in relation to the attempted insurrection that took place at the Capitol building. In her resignation letter, former Secretary DeVos stated, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me." DeVos is the second cabinet official to resign this week—Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced her resignation earlier in the day—following the violent riot that took place on Wednesday. Devos’ resignation is effective Friday, January 8. While her letter does not indicate who will replace her, a spokesperson for the department has recently indicated that Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais will replace DeVos and serve as acting secretary of education for the remainder of President Trump’s term.

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.

All Board Service Academies and committee meetings are virtual during this time.

If you have any questions, please email jbeltz@mabe.org.