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.

Legislative Priorities for the 116th Congress

For over seven decades NSBA has advocated for equity and excellence in education. NSBA will continue to work with the 116th Congress on our legislative priorities to ensure that public schools and the 50 million students that attend them get the support they deserve. Please read more to learn about NSBA’s legislative priorities for the 116th Congress.

2020 Advocacy Institute

School board members from Maryland and across the country met in Washington, DC on Feb. 2 and 3 to hear from members of congress and the administration and prepare for the "Day on the Hill". On Feb. 4 Maryland sshool board members spoke directly with our congressional delegation members and staff to lobby on the priority federal issues directly impacting our school systems and students.

Conference Agenda

Federal News & Highlights

 


National COVID-19 Resources for School Systems

The U.S. Dept. of Education is maintaining a website devoted to COVID-19 guidance.

NSBA has compiled links to national resources.

Update - USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids Through December 31, 2020

On Monday, Aug. 31, 2020  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will extend several flexibilities through as late as December 31, 2020. The flexibilities allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months. This unprecedented move will help ensure – no matter what the situation is on-the-ground – children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA has been and continues to be committed to using the Congressionally appropriated funding that has been made available.

Read more

Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Updates

MABE Advocacy Updates

Update - USED Scraps Proposed Equitable Services Rule

On September 4, a U.S. District court struck down a proposed interim final rule from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) that aimed to shift a greater share of CARES Act resources to non-public K-12 schools. On September 9th USED confirmed that, in light of this ruling, this proposed rule is no longer in effect. Earlier this summer, MABE joined with NSBA to strongly oppose this proposed interim rule and applauds the court decision and USED’s reversal on this issue.

Background on CARES Act Equitable Funding for Nonpublic Schools

On May 14, 2020, MABE wrote to Maryland's United States Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen to request their assistance in securing revised guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Education on local school system allocations of CARES Act funds to nonpublic schools.

MABE requested assistance in resolving the concerns raised by the non-regulatory guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education outlining the Department’s interpretation of the requirements regarding equitable services for students in nonpublic schools under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Public Law 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (Mar. 27, 2020).  The guidance was released on April 30, 2020 under the direction of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, entitled “Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under the Cares Act Programs (April 30, 2020).”

MABE firmly believes that the Department’s guidance does not accurately or appropriately reflect the governing statute, would require an inequitable allocation of funding to nonpublic schools, and thereby reduce the amount of funding available to for school systems to provide equitable services to public school students.

MABE also wrote to State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon requesting departmental action to clarify that CARES Act funding applications would align with the law rather then with the non-regulatory guidance.

National organization letters:

 

Education Funding Stability and Flexibility

On April 24, 2020, MABE wrote to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to thank them for the opportunity to participate on a statewide call to share insights and perspectives on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Maryland's public schools. The letter included specific requests for additional federal funding to provide overall school funding stability for Maryland's 24 school systems, special education flexibility, and funding targeted to achieve educational connectivity and equity.


Weekly Federal Legislative & Agency Updates
(see below for recent weekly updates)

 

September 11, 2020

Congressional Update

Congress Grapples with Government Funding Deadline

Lawmakers began returning to the Capitol this week after spending the past month in states and districts as part of the annual Congressional summer recess. As they return, legislators face a fast-approaching deadline at the end of the month marking the end of the current 2020 federal fiscal year and the beginning of a new one. While the House, which remains on recess until next week, has passed a majority of appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government past September 30, the Senate failed to pass comparable legislation this year. Therefore, lawmakers will need to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) which is stopgap legislation that extends current funding levels for federal programs, including education, for a still to-be-determined later date.

Congressional leaders from both Chambers, along with representatives of the Trump Administration, have signaled they plan to pass a “clean” CR—legislation that will not contain additional elements beyond simply extending current funding—in the dwindling number of legislative days left prior to the September 30 fiscal year deadline. By structuring the CR in this way, lawmakers hope to reach agreement ahead of this deadline to avoid a shutdown of government operations. Negotiations are underway and are primarily centered on the length of time the CR will cover. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said he supports passage of a CR until the end of December. Senior House and Senate Democrats, however, reportedly favor extending this temporary funding until early 2021—the start of a new Congress.

Senate Fails to Advance “Skinny” Pandemic Relief Bill

While the House remains on recess until next week, the Senate formally reconvened on Tuesday, September 8. For the past few months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been working to craft a legislative proposal to address the ongoing pandemic that could garner the support of his caucus. This week, the Majority Leader unveiled Senate Republicans’ formal pandemic proposal—a counteroffer in response to the House-passed HEROES Act in May which totals over $3 trillion in emergency aid. The Republican’s proposed relief package is considerably scaled back from previous proposals floated over the summer and aims to provide approximately $105 billion in education related aid—in addition to a slew of other relief measures totaling just over $500 billion—to address the ongoing pandemic. NSBA had concerns over this proposal due in part to its focus on diverting taxpayer funds to private education and away from public schools as well as additional concerns over funding related issues.

On Thursday, September 10, the Senate failed to advance this legislation by a 52-47 margin vote. All Senate Republicans, except for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), voted in favor of this procedural motion, while all Senate Democrats opposed the move. This failed vote is yet another setback for pandemic relief negotiations in Congress that have been stalled since the summer. Given that Congressional leaders largely appear committed to passing a “clean” CR, and with the November elections quickly approaching, the likelihood of additional pandemic relief legislation, at least in the near term, is increasingly unlikely. Nevertheless, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure that lawmakers appreciate the significant emergency related funding needs of the K-12 community, particularly as the school year gets more fully underway across the country.

Administration Update

USED Scraps Proposed Equitable Services Rule

On September 4th a U.S. District court struck down a proposed interim final rule from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) that aimed to shift a greater share of CARES Act resources to non-public K-12 schools. On September 9th USED confirmed that, in light of this ruling, this proposed rule is no longer in effect. Earlier this summer, NSBA strongly challenged this proposed interim rule and applauds the court decision and USED’s reversal on this issue.

Recent Legislation

  • R.8193 To require the Secretary of Education to ensure that local educational agencies establish full-time title IX coordinators to improve oversight, data collection on sexual harassment, student survivor support, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6]
  • R.8187 To authorize grants to establish a national education protection and advocacy program to enforce the rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
  • R.8182 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 will not provide in-person instruction in a manner consistent with school year 2019-2020, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bishop, Dan [R-NC-9]
  • R.8162 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 Sponsor: Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]

September 4, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

A Daunting September Lies Ahead for Congress

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have been on their annual August recess for the past several weeks. When they return, they will face the daunting challenge of finding consensus on how to fund the federal government past September 30—the last day of the current federal fiscal year. It seems unlikely that a budget agreement that both houses and the Administration can agree on will pass prior to that time. While the House has passed most of its funding bills, the Senate has not passed comparable legislation this year. Therefore, it is most likely lawmakers will need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels, including those for K-12 education programs, for an as yet to-be-determined period of time beyond the upcoming September 30 deadline. Congressional leaders and the White House appear to agree on the need for a CR but are still negotiating its duration.

Complicating matters further, Congressional leaders and the White House are still tepidly negotiating a forthcoming emergency relief package as an additional response to the ongoing pandemic. The Senate will reconvene next week, and Republicans are expected to formally introduce and vote on a “skinny” legislative package containing their pandemic relief priorities. While an initial draft of the legislation was floated informally last month, the final details are still being worked out among the Senate Republican caucus. Despite this modest progress, both parties remain far apart on the size and scope of the next relief package. Given the upcoming federal fiscal year deadline, it is possible that lawmakers pair both must-pass pieces of legislation together to get agreement on both issues. As these efforts unfold NSBA’s advocacy team will be working to ensure that Congress appreciates both the ongoing and emergency funding needs of the K-12 education community.

Administration Update

USED Says Additional Accountability & Assessment Waivers Unlikely

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued waivers temporarily absolving all 50 states and territories from federal accountability and assessment requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the last school year. Since that time, several states have sought similar waivers for the current 2020-21 school year for the same purpose. On Thursday, September 3, USED sent a letter to all chief state school officers underscoring the importance of these assessment and accountability provisions in ESSA and stressing that states “. . . should not anticipate such waivers being granted again.” Instead, USED’s letter encouraged states to ‘rethink’ their existing assessment systems and left open the possibility that states could still shift how the results of their assessments are used for school accountability purposes. While the letter is not an unequivocal rejection of all state waivers of this sort in the future, it nevertheless indicates the direction USED is likely to go with regards to assessment and accountability, at least in the near future. Several civil rights and education groups applauded the sentiments contained in the letter.

USDA Extends School Nutrition Waivers

On Monday, August 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended several flexibilities for school nutrition programs through the end of the year. This decision is a reversal of sorts for the department which, as recently as August 20, contended that they lacked the authority to provide these flexibilities for schools despite the ongoing pandemic. After considerable bipartisan pressure, USDA will now allow summer meal program operators to continue to serve free meals to all school children through December 31 of this year.

FEMA Announces Restrictions on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Funding Coverage

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced  it will no longer pay for some safety measures related to COVID-19 that it previously covered — including PPE and sanitation supplies — unless they are considered an emergency protective measure as of Sept. 15. Additionally, FEMA will only provide stockpiling funding for a 60-day supply of PPE from the date of purchase. Previously, a specific date was not given. It is possible that districts that ordered PPE and were counting on FEMA reimbursement may be able to get it if they submit the relevant paperwork before the deadline. NSBA has joined other education groups in opposing this move as it shifts costs of responding to the COVID emergency onto school districts.

FCC Extends E-rate Gift Rule Waiver 

In March, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waived the E-Rate program's gift rules until September 30, 2020. On Thursday, September 3, the FCC extended this waiver through December 31, 2020. This temporary regulatory change will allow E-Rate program participants to “solicit and accept, improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning during the coronavirus outbreak.” NSBA supports this decision and is continuing to urge the FCC to use its emergency authority to help more students acquire broadband access. Throughout this year, NSBA has worked with the Homework Gap Coalition to urge Congress to provide a minimum of $4 billion in emergency funding for the E-rate program to ensure that all students have access to broadband at home.

Recent Legislation

  • R.8150 To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study with respect to safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, Debbie [D-FL-26]
  • H.R.8126 To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program to assist certain schools with respect to the implementation of wraparound services, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Lee, Susie [D-NV-3]

 


August 28, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Delays Continue for COVID-19 Relief

Efforts to provide a new round of COVID-19 relief legislation have been stalled for the past several weeks. Lawmakers have largely left Washington, D.C. for their annual August recess and are not expected to return until mid-September barring a breakthrough in pandemic negotiations. In this context, Congressional leaders from both parties, along with the White House, continue to be at odds over the size and content of a future legislative package to provide pandemic relief. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke by phone to discuss potentially restarting these negotiations more formally. According to reports, this call was not productive.

The White House, and some in Congress, favor a piecemeal approach which would prioritize smaller pieces of legislation where agreement already exists—such as on extending unemployment assistance—but House Democrats have mostly remained firm in their commitment to a comprehensive package addressing a slew of issues created by the pandemic. While additional emergency K-12 education funding is one area where agreement appears to exist, discussions are still fluid regarding the potential conditionality of this funding. As this delay continues, the 2021 federal fiscal year is fast approaching (October 1, 2020). This deadline has the potential to re-focus stalled efforts to negotiate a new COVID-19 relief package by forcing lawmakers to combine this must-pass legislation with a forthcoming relief package. If no deal is reached, it is likely a continuing resolution would be introduced to prevent the government from shutting down prior to the election.

Republican National Convention Highlights School Choice

The Republican National Committee hosted their party’s convention this week and formally re-nominated President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as their candidates for the upcoming 2020 Presidential elections this November. Throughout the four-day event, part of which was held in-person at the White House, the RNC’s program highlighted issues of school choice on several different occasions. During his acceptance speech Thursday evening, the President announced that he would prioritize the expansion of charter schools and seek to provide “school choice to every family in America.” Throughout his remarks, the President drew a contrast with his Administration’s support for these issues and the Democratic Party nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did not formally speak during the convention, but she did attend the President’s speech.

Administration Update

Courts Again Block USED’s Equitable Services Rule

Earlier this year, as the U.S. Department of Education (USED) began to implement the various education provisions in the CARES Act and distribute related funding to states, the agency proposed a new rule that would compel school districts to share a greater amount of their COVID-19 relief funding with private schools. Known as “equitable services,” the rule was initially fast-tracked by USED to go into effect more quickly, in interim form, to drive district spending plans as they related to the CARES Act. However, several state’s Attorney Generals (AG) sued the department over this proposed rule to block its implementation. Last week, a Washington state judge ruled in the state AG’s favor, but it was unclear if this injunction applied nationwide. This week, another U.S. District judge in California specifically blocked the rule from going into effect in Michigan, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and several cities such as New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and San Francisco. These rulings are a major setback for the Administration, which prevent USED from enforcing this proposed rule until a final decision, from a higher court, resolves the legal dispute sometime in the future. NSBA remains concerned over these various proposals to direct taxpayer money away from public schools and toward private education.

Recent Legislation

  • H.R.8100 To provide for emergency education freedom grants, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish tax credits to encourage individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to scholarships for students through eligible scholarship-granting organizations, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Byrne, Bradley [R-AL-1]

H.R.8077 To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to allow certain participants in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children to elect to be issued a variety of types of milk, including whole milk, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Keller, Fred [R-PA-12]

 


August 21, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Impasse on COVID-19 Relief Continues
Congressional leaders from both parties and the Trump Administration continue to be at odds over an expected next round of pandemic relief legislation. Both the House and the Senate are, for all intents and purposes, on their annual August recess, with most lawmakers in their home states and districts. More recently, concerns regarding the administration of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have refocused the attention of leaders in both Congressional chambers. On Tuesday, August 18, Senate Republicans re-introduced a narrower version (the education section begins on page 141) of their earlier pandemic relief proposal which included a modest amount of new funding for USPS and $105 billion for education, two-thirds of which would be designated for the K-12 community. The Senate, however, remains out of session and will not formally consider this legislation until they reconvene next month. In the House, leaders plan to temporarily reconvene over the weekend to vote on an emergency USPS funding package. Rank-and-file lawmakers are also pushing for new votes on additional pandemic relief measures as part of this effort. Despite this recent spate of activity, all sides remain far apart on key issues related to a forthcoming relief package.

Administration Update

Trump Administration Moves to Categorize Teachers as Essential Workers
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an advisory memo that updates the federal government’s list of “essential workers” who are encouraged to work, in-person, to contribute to the maintenance of critical national infrastructure. This updated list now includes “workers who support the education of pre-school, K-12, college, university, career and technical education, and adult education students, including professors, teachers, teacher aides, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, para-educators, apprenticeship supervisors, and specialists” among other occupational fields. While the memo is not legally binding, the change comes amid the Trump Administration’s wider efforts to encourage states and school districts to resume in-person instruction for the upcoming school year.

USDA Extends School Nutrition Waivers
On Thursday, August 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a series of short-term school nutrition waivers for summer food service programs. These existing waivers were set to expire on August 31 and have been temporarily extended through September 30. In a recent response letter to the Senate, USDA has said they lack the legal authority to extend these waivers past this date without additional legislation from Congress. The authority to provide these waivers stems from the second COVID-19 relief bill—the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—enacted earlier this year.

USED Announces New CTE Space Initiative
This week, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a “Space Mission Challenge for High School Students”. Dubbed “CTE Mission: CubeSat”, the national challenge is aimed at encouraging high school students to build satellite prototypes that support research efforts in space. An informational webinar will be held on September 1 for interested applicants and full proposals are due October 16.


August 14, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

COVID-19 Relief Legislation Stalled

For the past few weeks, Congressional leaders and White House officials have worked to reach agreement on additional legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These discussions have largely been unsuccessful to date, with House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Trump Administration at odds over the size and content of the anticipated aid package. As these talks stalled last week, President Trump signed several Executive Orders in the hopes of pressuring Congressional Democrats on several key issues at the center of the negotiations (issues mostly unrelated to K-12 education). These actions did not have the desired effect and most lawmakers in both chambers have now, , returned back to their states and districts as part of a previously planned August recess. Lawmakers are on notice, however, and could return to the Capitol within 24 hours should a deal be reached by Congressional leaders and the White House in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the 2020 federal fiscal year deadline is fast approaching. This deadline could potentially force lawmakers to combine both issues into an even larger agreement later this fall ahead of the November elections. As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will be working with lawmakers to ensure they appreciate the significant funding needs of the K-12 education community.

Kamala Harris Selected as Democratic VP Nominee

On Wednesday, August 12, current Democratic Presidential Candidate, and former Vice President Joe Biden formally announced that he was selecting Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate for the 2020 Presidential election. During Senator Harris’s time as Attorney General for the state of California, she won a multi-million-dollar settlement with a for-profit charter school operator related to alleged deceptive practices. This Congress, she sponsored several pieces of education legislation including bills that seek to provide funding for federally impacted school districts and additional federal funding for childcare. As a former Democratic Primary candidate, Senator Harris strongly advocated for a significant expansion of ESEA Title I funding—a priority shared with Vice President Biden—and a large increase in pay for K-12 teachers among other education priorities. The debate between Senator Harris and Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to take place on October 7.

Administration Update

New Title IX Regulations for Schools Take Effect Today

The U.S. Department of Education’s new Title IX regulations take effect today after a last-ditch effort seeking intervention by the courts failed. The new rule directs how schools respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Every school district must have new policies and procedures in place, paired with required staff training, to ensure compliance with the changed regulations.

White House Releases School Reopening Guidance

Earlier this week, the White House released a high-level set of recommendations and guidance for K-12 schools to physically reopen for learning this year. Titled “Schools Should Reopen Safely,” the guidance is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to encourage schools to mitigate, rather than avoid, risk associated with physically reopening for schooling during the pandemic. The guidance comes after the American Pediatrics Association released data this week showing that at least 97,000 children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July.

Recent Legislation

H.R.8004 To amend the Head Start Act to extend the duration of grants under such Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Fudge, Marcia L. [D-OH-11]


August 7, 2020 (Archived)

Weekly Federal Updates on Congressional and Agency Actions

Additional Information on the House Passed FY 2021 Education Funding Package

The House of Representatives recently passed a package of six appropriations bills for the upcoming 2021 federal fiscal year (FY). This “minibus” spending package included $73.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and related programs—a $716 million increase over current FY 2020 levels. Several education related amendments were considered and adopted prior to passage. Of particular note were two amendments, offered by Rep. Jaypal (D-WA) and Rep. Trahan (D-MA), that seek to block USED Secretary Betsy DeVos’s recently announced interim final rule on providing equitable services to private schools under the CARES Act. The passage of this legislation wraps up regular FY 2021 education appropriations activity in the House. The Senate has not yet begun to consider comparable appropriations legislation in the chamber. With the next federal fiscal year set to begin October 1, NSBA’s advocacy team is working to ensure that lawmakers appreciate the importance of completing this legislative work on-time to provide funding certainty for the K-12 education community moving forward.

House Oversight Committee Examines School Reopening

On Thursday, August 6, the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s recently established Subcommittee focused on coronavirus issues held a hearing titled “The Challenges to Safely Reopening K-12 Schools.” Witnesses included former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Robert W. Runice, the Superintendent of Broward County (FL) Public Schools; Angela Skillings, teacher at Hayden Winkelman Unified School District; and Caitlin Rivers, a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The hearing focused on the need for additional federal resources for states and school districts to effectively respond to the pandemic. More information on the hearing, including a recording, can be found here.

Congressional Pandemic Relief Negotiations Stalled

Congressional leaders and high-level Trump Administration representatives continue to meet and discuss the contours of the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation. However, both sides remain far apart on key issues needed to get final agreement. Negotiators are still working to reconcile respective topline costs for their priorities. Senate Republicans favor $1 trillion in new spending while House Democrats have proposed well over $3 trillion in new funding as a response to the pandemic. Complicating matters further are continued disagreements within the Republican caucus over what issues the party would like to prioritize in the next iteration of pandemic relief funding. While both sides seem to agree on the need for emergency funding for K-12 education, they have thus far been unable to get agreement on how that funding should be operationalized. Underscoring these remaining differences, rank and file members in the House and Senate have largely left the Capitol, part of a tentative recess, as Party Leaders and representatives of the White House remain in D.C. to continue negotiations. NSBA is continuing aggressive advocacy on the priority issues for public schools including fighting for additional funding, addressing the homework gap to improve student Internet connectivity, and opposing privatization and voucher efforts among other issues.

President Signs the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020

President Trump signed S. 4209, the Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020, on August 3, 2020. The new law streamlines the process for reimbursable employer relief under the CARES Act. It will ensure that nonprofits, states, and local governments, as well as federally recognized tribes that operate as reimbursing employers under state unemployment insurance systems can receive unemployment relief through the CARES Act, without bearing the cash flow burdens that threaten liquidity. The Department of Labor in an April guidance document indicated that reimbursing employers “must pay their bill in full” before they can receive the 50% reimbursement – the requirement to pay 100% of the bill before getting relief can be very difficult during this pandemic. The new law, however, allows states to reimburse local governments and nonprofits without requiring the 100% pay up front.

Congress provided the following example: If employees file unemployment claims collectively amounting to $50,000, the state workforce agency will first use a federal transfer to the state unemployment trust fund to reduce the bill to $25,000 – then the nonprofit or local government will only be responsible for the remaining $25,000. The law is now P.L. 116-151. You can find the legislation text here.

Administration Update

USED Proposes New IES Study on the CARES Act

On Thursday, August 6, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published a notice in the Federal Register seeking approval, through its Institute for Education Sciences (IES), to collect new data on how the pandemic has been affecting the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and to examine how states and districts have used their federal pandemic relief funds. This announcement comes one week after USED published a similar invitation for public comment on planned data collections related to the CARES Act. Both data collections will likely provide the first comprehensive window into how states and districts have used federal funding to respond to the pandemic. Comments for the most recent notice are due by October 5 and more information can be found here.

Recent Legislation

  • R.7925 To promote equity in advanced coursework and programs at elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor: Rep. Castro, Joaquin [D-TX-20]
  • R.7887 To reimburse school food authorities at the free rate for meals served during school year 2020-2021 under the school breakfast program and the school lunch program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Scott, Robert C. "Bobby" [D-VA-3]
  • 4417 A bill to provide temporary impact aid construction grants to eligible local educational agencies, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]
  • 4407 & H.R. 7943 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, post-secondary education, and the workforce. Senate Sponsor: Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]. House Sponsor: Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
  • 4391 A bill to authorize a public service announcement campaign on the efficacy of cloth face coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19, to authorize a program to provide cloth face coverings to any individual in the United States who requests one free of charge, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Schatz, Brian [D-HI]
  • R.7909 To facilitate access to child care services safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsor: Rep. Finkenauer, Abby [D-IA-1]
  • 4432 A bill to allow Federal funds appropriated for kindergarten through grade 12 education to follow the student. Sponsor: Sen. Paul, Rand [R-KY]

 

 


July 31, 2020

Congressional Republicans Release Pandemic Relief Marker Bill

Late Monday evening, July 27, Senate Republicans released a series of legislative proposals that encompass their policy priorities with regards to the next round of pandemic relief legislation. Dubbed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, the $1 trillion legislative assortment is best understood as Congressional Republicans’ counteroffer to the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats this past May. The Republican proposal includes $70 billion specifically for K-12 education. The availability of two-thirds of this funding would be contingent on school districts developing a reopening plan that would need to be subsequently approved by state governors. Plans that have more than half of their students returning for in-person instruction would be automatically approved. Plans with a smaller percentage of their students returning for in-person instruction would receive funding on a proportionate basis. Although much of this funding is structured similarly to the existing CARES Act, the Republican proposal somewhat narrows the potential uses of funds and includes provisions that would ensure non-public schools would receive a greater share than under current law. The legislation also proposes significant liability protections for K-12 schools, among other employers, which would last for the duration of the pandemic. NSBA is very concerned over the legislation in its current form and joined fifteen other major national education groups expressing grave issues with it. The necessary COVID-19 response recommended by NSBA includes a minimum of $200 billion in funding for public schools with an additional minimum of $4 billion to address the homework gap that would run through the E-Rate program under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission. NSBA is opposed to efforts to divert any funding away from public schools to go to private education.

Lawmakers Debate Next COVID-19 Relief Legislation

The release of the HEALS Act formally kicked-off negotiations between House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the White House on the next iteration of COVID-19 relief legislation—a package widely expected sometime in August. The introduction of the Republican marker bill was delayed for weeks as Republican lawmakers struggled to develop consensus within their caucus regarding their priorities for the next round of pandemic relief legislation. Despite the release, these divisions have persisted, and a significant number of Congressional Republicans have remained unsupportive of various provisions contained in their own party’s proposal. This lack of consensus has complicated and stalled negotiations between Congressional leaders and the White House as they seek to find common ground. Given the challenge ahead, Congressional Republicans and the White House have floated the idea of a short-term extension of several components of the CARES Act set to expire on July 31. Democratic leaders, however, are not receptive to this idea and remain committed to developing a more compressive proposal, similar in size and scope to the CARES Act, in response to the ongoing pandemic and related economic crisis.

House Passes FY 2021 Education Funding

This afternoon the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.3 trillion “minibus” spending package for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. The legislation passed in a 217-197 vote. This bill combines six different spending measures, including $73.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (USED), into a single legislative vehicle. Earlier in the week, lawmakers dropped a contentious component of this legislation that would have funded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Comparable progress on FY 2021 education spending has not yet begun in the Senate.

Chairman Scott Introduces Child Nutrition Bill

House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced legislation this week that would make all students eligible for free school meals during the 2020-21 school year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pandemic Child Hunger Act would expand student eligibility under the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program and build upon flexibilities first provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to allow for uninterrupted access to these meals for students. Democrats on the House Education and Labor committee hope to use the introduction of this legislation to prioritize these issues in the wider context of the ongoing debate regarding the next phase of pandemic relief legislation.

 

Administration Update

USED Announces $180 Million in Grants to “Rethink” K-12 Education 

On July 29, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced more than $180 million in new grant funding for 11 states to “rethink” K-12 education to serve students more effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant” is a discretionary component of the CARES Act and is intended to support state efforts to create new, innovative approaches to K-12 education that emphasized: establishing ‘microgrant’ programs aimed directly at students and families; creating statewide virtual learning systems; or developing new ‘field-initiated’ models for remote learning. States that will receive awards are Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. The awards range from $6 million to $20 million. More information on these grants can be found here.

USED Requests Comment on CARES Act Data Collection

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced a request for public comment on planned data collections required, in part, by the CARES Act. As part of the Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) Fund authorized by the CARES Act, USED is required to collect information from states and school districts related to how they distributed these funds and how the funding was used. This data would be published on an annual basis beginning on January 29, 2021. The Department is seeking comment on the feasibility of some elements of this data collection and other areas for potential improvement. Comments are due back to the Department by September 28, 2020. More information on this request can be found here.

Personnel Development and Education Innovation and Research Discretionary Grant Notices

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education: “Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program – Early-Phase Grants” – The EIR program was established under the ESEA and provides funding to “create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students; and rigorously evaluate such innovations.” For fiscal year 2020, the Department will be awarding two types of grants: “early-phase” and “mid-phase” grants. The goal of early-phase grants is to determine in what ways new practices can improve student achievement and attainment for high need students. The estimated available funds for both the early-phase and mid-phase grants total $178,600,000. Applications are due by September 10, 2020, and further information is available here.

USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: “State Personnel Development Grants” – The State Personnel Development Grants assist SEAs in improving personnel preparation and professional development in early intervention, educational, and transition services to improve results for children with disabilities. The estimated available funds for this grant program total $11,727,418. Applications are due by September 10, 2020, and further information is available here.

Recent Legislation

  • H.R.7848 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.7831 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 and unprocessed foods, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Delgado, Antonio [D-NY-19]
  • H.R.7804 To provide for grants to support the provision of child care by reopening and maintaining the operation of child care programs. Sponsor: Rep. Reed, Tom [R-NY-23]
  • H.R.7778 To provide for grants to support access to child care through the establishment and operation of child care programs by businesses. Sponsor: Rep. Johnson, Dusty [R-SD-At Large]
  • H.R.7776 To permit child care providers that receive payment for services provided under the of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 to use a portion of such payment to purchase mental health supports necessary to protect the health of participating children and child care workers. Sponsor: Rep. Horn, Kendra S. [D-OK-5]
  • H.R.7769 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.7764 To temporarily modify child nutrition programs due to COVID-19, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]
  • H.R.7763 To direct the Secretary of Education to develop and disseminate an evidence-based curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 on substance use disorders. Sponsor: Rep. Vela, Filemon [D-TX-34]
  • H.R.7746 To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a formula grant program to provide funds to assist educational agencies with expenses related to resuming educational activities during the 2020-2021 school year arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Hill, J. French [R-AR-2]
  • S.4360 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]
  • S.4322 Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act Sponsor: Sen. Alexander, Lamar [R-TN]
  • S. 4292 - A bill to prohibit Federal funds from being made available to teach the 1619 Project curriculum in elementary schools and secondary schools, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Cotton, Tom [R-AR]

 July 24, 2020

House Appropriations Committee Advances Education Spending Package 

On July 20, the House Appropriations Committee released a “minibus” spending package for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. This measure combines seven different appropriations bills that the committee previously marked-up and approved over the past few weeks and includes $73.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and related programs. Totaling $1.4 trillion, the full House will consider the legislation next week. It is expected to pass the chamber. A smaller FY 2021 minibus, containing four other spending bills, is slated to be passed by the House this week as Democratic leaders in the chamber seek to approve all 12 federal funding bills for the upcoming fiscal year prior to Congress’ annual August recess. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet made similar progress. It remains unclear if lawmakers in that chamber will pass their own appropriations legislation prior to the beginning of the next federal fiscal year (beginning October 1) or if lawmakers will pursue alternative stop-gap legislation to extend current funding for a shorter period of time.

Congressional Republican’s COVID-19 Marker Bill Delayed

Congressional Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), hoped to introduce a legislative proposal this week that would have outlined their priorities for the next iteration of a COVID-19 aid package as they prepare for formal negotiations with Democrats. However, continued disagreements between the Trump Administration and Congressional Republican leadership on how to structure additional unemployment benefits have delayed the unveiling of this proposal and it is now expected to be released sometime during the week of July 27. The forthcoming Republican proposal will likely include $70 billion exclusively for K-12 education with $10 billion of this money set-aside for private schools. $30 billion of this funding would go directly to states and school districts, much like with the CARES Act, on a formula basis. Another $30 billion would be made available to schools as a condition for physically reopening facilities and providing a district-level reopening plan. An additional $5 billion will likely be set-aside specifically for Governors to supplement both K-12 and post-secondary needs in their state.

The legislation reportedly contains liability protection for schools that follow local health department guidelines and protocols. This includes an exclusive federal cause of action that applies to litigation against any business, non-profit, school, medical provider, or medical professions arising from COVID-19; allows cases to brought in state or federal court, but this cause of action is the only standard of liability that applies either way; and allows defendants to have the right to remove any case filed in state court to the federal district court in that area. To prevail in litigation, plaintiffs must show that the defendant was grossly negligence or engaged in willful misconduct and violated relevant state and/or local public health guidelines in place at the time the incident occurred. Simple negligence is not enough to prevail. Additionally, there is a cap on damage awards. The legislation reportedly provides no money for broadband expansion or for funds directly addressing the homework gap through the E-Rate program.

Additionally, earlier this week, Senate HELP Committee Chair Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Scott (R-SC) announced the "School Choice Now Act" which we anticipate will end up in the COVID relief bill.  The School Choice Now Act would provide scholarships to students to return to the private school they attended before the pandemic. It would also allow other students to attend private school by:

  • Providing one-time, emergency funding for “scholarship-granting organizations” (these are non-profits that help students attend private schools in each state).
  • Providing permanent dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits for contributions to scholarship granting organizations.

As Congressional discussions on the next phase of this pandemic aid package take shape, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure that lawmakers appreciate the urgent funding needs of the K-12 community.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Safely Reopening Schools 

On Thursday, July 23, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, & Secondary Education held a hearing exploring issues related to the reopening of K-12 schools. The hearing emphasized the need for additional federal funding to support locally designed and driven strategies for school re-openings later this fall. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Sablan (D-N.M.I.) shared his frustration with the Trump administration’s recent threat to withhold funding from schools that do not physically reopen for the upcoming school year. Subcommittee Ranking Member Allen (R-GA) focused his remarks on the costs associated with additional federal funding that will be needed to safely reopen schools, arguing that such support is unsustainable in the long-term. Witnesses, however, voiced strong support for additional funding for K-12 schools to support safe re-openings this fall and also called on Congress to provide additional support for broadband connectivity for students who may still be attending school virtually later this year.

Administration Update

Executive Order Concerning the U.S. Census

NSBA’s federal advocacy, legal, and communications teams began work to analyze the Administration’s executive order announced this week regarding the Census count, and its potential impact on public school districts and educational equity. The executive order calls for excluding unauthorized immigrants from Census numbers from the apportionment base used for Congressional redistricting. This issue complicates an already difficult process to conduct an accurate Census during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on consultation with the Count All Kids Campaign, efforts are in progress to secure at least a four-month extension from Congress to allow the Census Bureau to continue efforts for a complete count. The national self-response rate was less than 63 percent as of July 23, 2020.

While the executive order does not directly address federal funding for K-12 education and related services, its effort to exclude individuals with non-citizenship status from the official Census count could reduce federal appropriations for education in underserved communities, and also impact state and local resources for education, should Congress and state and local governments decide to use an amended Census count from the Administration. Public schools must educate students who are enrolled regardless of citizenship, according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe, holding that states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education because of their immigration status. Additionally, any amended Count could impact congressional redistricting, thereby disenfranchising federal representation for underserved communities and their public schools and students.

CCSSO Releases Statement on Assessments for Next School Year

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a statement on July 20 regarding the use of assessments in the upcoming school year. The statement emphasized the importance of high-quality assessments and acknowledged that the “. . . context across states today is vastly different than it was before the pandemic.” The organization remained agnostic on whether the U.S. Department of Education (USED) should grant further assessment and accountability waivers for the coming school year and instead emphasized that high-quality assessments, in many shapes and forms, are an important tool for states, districts, and educators as they support students in their learning.  USED has granted all 50 states and territories waivers from accountability and assessment requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act for the 2019-20 school year, but has not committed to additional waivers for the year ahead.

CDC Releases New Guidelines Emphasizing School Reopening

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines on July 23 strongly encouraging students to physically return to school this fall. The guidance argues that K-12 students are “less likely” to contract COVID-19 than adults and stresses that attending school, in-person, is important for students’ social and emotional learning. The document noted that schools offer other important resources for students and families such as nutritional programs, counseling, special education services, and after-school programs that often benefit low-income and other disadvantaged student populations the most. Ultimately the document contends that the risks from the pandemic are lower than the associated health and academic risks facing students if they were to continue to stay home from school. The updates to this guidance come amid calls from the Trump Administration and some Congressional Republicans to condition further pandemic aid for the K-12 community on the physical reopening of schools later this fall.

Discretionary Grant Updates

USED published a notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education: “Indian Education Discretionary Grant Programs – Demonstration Grants for Indian Children and Youth Program” – This grant program seeks to improve education opportunities and achievement of Indian children and youth. The one priority under this grant competition requires applicants to propose a project to expand educational choice by allowing a Tribe to select a project focus that best meets the needs of their students. The education options that parents and students may choose include advanced, remedial, or elective courses; apprenticeships or training programs; concurrent or dual enrollment options; native language, history, or culture courses; supplemental counseling services; tuition; summer or afterschool education programs, and student transportation that may be needed; among others. The estimated available funds for this program total $15,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by August 31, 2020, and further information is available here.

Recent Legislation

  • H.R.7726 permit child care providers that receive payment for services provided under the of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 to use a portion of such payment to purchase personal protective equipment, and other equipment, necessary to protect the health of participating children and child care workers. Sponsor: Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, Debbie [D-FL-26]
  • H.R.7720 To permit child care providers that receive payment for services provided under the of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 to use a portion of such payment to pay the cost of sanitization and other costs associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency, necessary to protect the health of participating children and child care workers. Sponsor: Rep. Cisneros, Gilbert Ray, Jr. [D-CA-39]
  • H.R.7704 To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to establish the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Pilot Program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Horn, Kendra S. [D-OK-5]
  • H.R.7693 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.7692 To provide a grant program for elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher education to help offset costs associated with complying with guidelines, recommendations, and other public health communications issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a State, Indian Tribe, Tribal organization, or locality related to mitigating the hazards presented by COVID-19. Sponsor: Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]
  • H.R.7635 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.Res.1052 Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that all young children and families should have access to high-quality child care that is affordable for families. Sponsor: Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]
  • S.4285 A bill to establish a pilot program through which the Institute of Museum and Library Services shall allocate funds to States for the provision of Internet-connected devices to libraries. Sponsor: Sen. Manchin, Joe, III [D-WV]
  • S.4261 A bill to establish a grant program to assist elementary and secondary schools with reopening after closures related to COVID-19, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Perdue, David [R-GA]
  • S.4221 A bill to provide for grants to support the provision of child care by reopening and maintaining the operation of child care programs. Sponsor: Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA]

 

July 10, 2020

Congressional Update

NSBA Seeks Targeted Liability Coverage for the Pandemic
On July 8, NSBA, along with the school superintendents association (AASA) and Association for Educational Service Agencies (AESA), sent a letter to Congressional leaders requesting that they include temporary and targeted liability relief for school districts within the next round of COVID-19 aid legislation. Congressional lawmakers have been considering whether to include liability protections for employers and post-secondary institutions. As the issue of reopening schools takes further prominence in these debates, similar liability protections will be crucial for public school districts-one of the nation's largest employers-to ensure state, school, and district leaders can reopen safely later this year and implement necessary protocols to protect students and staff.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Advances FY21 Education Spending Bill
On July 7, the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding passed their Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Labor-HHS-ED legislation. The bill was passed along party lines (9-6) and no amendments were offered during the markup. The legislation proposes an additional $716 million above FY 2020 enacted levels for the U.S. Department of Education and related programs (approximately a 1% annual increase). Subcommittee Chair DeLauro (D-CT) highlighted proposed funding increases for several education programs in her remarks at the markup. Despite opposing the bill, Ranking Member Cole (R-OK) expressed the need for an additional COVID-19 relief package to address the emergency funding needs more fully of the K-12 community. Full committee markup of the bill is now scheduled for Monday, July 13 at 1:00pm ET where additional amendments are expected to be considered. The committee report on this legislation-detailing specific spending levels for education programs of interest to NSBA- is expected to be released sometime over the weekend ahead of Monday's markup. NSBA's advocacy team is working to obtain and share a copy of this report ahead of further committee action on July 13. House Democratic leaders are currently aiming to hold floor votes on most FY 2021 spending bills by the end of July.

Pandemic Relief Package Discussions Continue
Although the Senate is recessed for another week, discussions in Congress regarding the shape and size of the next COVID-19 relief package have continued. Congressional leaders in both parties, along with the White House, remain publicly committed to passing a fifth aid package in response to the pandemic by the end of the month- just before the start of the annual August recess in Congress. However, disagreements over the total size of the aid package have emerged. The White House, along with some Congressional Republicans, hope to cap the package at $1 trillion while Congressional Democrats strongly favor significantly more funding in the future legislation. NSBA's advocacy team is working to ensure lawmakers appreciate the emergency funding needs for the K-12 education community, particularly as the new school year approaches.

Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce Recommendations
In May, shortly after Former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, both the Bernie Sanders and Biden campaigns announced several "Unity Taskforces" to provide policy recommendations regarding a host of issues including education. The taskforce report report summarizing this work was released on July 8. The wide-ranging report proposes fully funding IDEA, expanding broadband access, tripling the Title I funding under ESEA, and calls for significantly more federal aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic among many other education-related policy recommendations.

Administration Update

White House Summit on Safely Reopening America's Schools
The White House convened a number of education stakeholders from the state and local levels, along with senior members of the Trump Administration, to discuss the reopening of K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions for the 2020-21 academic school year set to begin this fall. The afternoon culminated in a roundtable discussion later in the day with President Trump. The central purpose for the half-day summit was to encourage states, school districts, and institutions to reopen later this year, share best practices for how to achieve that, and elevate efforts to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic once reopened. President Trump's remarks kicking-off the roundtable discussion were brief and focused on what his administration has done to date regarding emergency education relief funding, related waivers, and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. He strongly emphasized that he plans to, ". . . put pressure on states and governors to open schools this fall."

Head of USED'S Civil Rights Division to Depart
Kenneth Marcus, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, has announced he is stepping down from his position overseeing the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the end of July. During his two-year tenure at OCR, Marcus helped develop new regulations for the Administration's Title IX rule and greatly increased the speed at which his office processed civil rights complaints. Kimberly Richey, currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, will become acting head of OCR following Marcus' departure.

GAO Report at Odds with USED Decision to Scrap School Discipline Guidance
In late 2018 Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded school discipline guidance, promulgated originally by USED under the Obama Administration, arguing that it robbed K-12 teachers of classroom autonomy regarding disciplinary decisions and could potentially lead to additional school shootings. Following this decision House Democratic leaders requested a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study these claims. The new study from GAO from GAO found no empirical evidence linking school discipline and school shootings among several other key findings.

U.S. Department of Education Discretionary Grant Updates
USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: "Technical Assistance on State Data Collection – IDEA Data Management Center". This grant program seeks to assist states in meeting IDEA data collection and reporting requirements. The purpose of the priority for this grant would establish a technical assistance center to help states improve capacity to collect, report, analyze, and use high-quality IDEA Part B data. The estimated available funds total $2,700,000, and are contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of new applications. Applications are due by August 24, 2020, and further information is available here.

NSBA Update

Equitable Services Grassroots Efforts and Official Comments: NSBA is finalizing talking points that can be used for drafting purposes by state associations that decide to issue official comments on the proposed interim final rule concerning equitable guidance. We expect the talking points to be delivered in the next few days. NSBA is also going to be offering its own comments on the proposal. The comments are due on July 31, 2020.

Continued Privatization Efforts by the Administration: Recent remarks by the President and Secretary of Education are fueling concerns over potential efforts to force school buildings to fully reopen in the fall through funding threats. The opening and closing of schools are decisions made at the state and local level. NSBA opposes any efforts to punish public schools that do not open their buildings fully due to concerns over COVID-19. While we believe the opportunity to tie funding to the opening of school buildings is low, the Secretary is also increasing her calls for funding to "follow students" in the fall so they could attend a private school. NSBA is also strongly opposed to any such effort. We remain committed to fighting for more federal funds and resources needed to assist states and local school districts since they bear most of the financial liability to keep their students safe and offer them a high-quality education.

National Homework Gap Day of Action Planned for July 21, 2020: NSBA is helping lead a national effort on July 21 calling attention to the digital divide in education. Details will be coming to all of you next week as preparations begin. Please mark that day on your calendars as a target date for grassroots engagement with Congress and on social media.

 


June 26, 2020 

House Appropriations Committee Announces Mark-Up Schedule
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Lowey (D-NY) announced this week that the committee will mark-up the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills during the week of July 6. The committee will permit both in-person and remote participation by committee members. This schedule will enable the full House to vote on the bills, including the U.S. Department of Education's budget, during the last two weeks in July. The committee may also be leading work in July on the next COVID-19 emergency spending bill, which could include additional emergency funding for K-12 education. NSBA's advocacy team is working to ensure that Congress understands the additional costs that school districts face in reopening this fall, so that education is properly represented in both the regular annual appropriations bills and any additional emergency funding provided by federal leaders.

HELP Committee Chairman Expresses Support for Additional School Funding
Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) expressed support this week for allocating additional federal funds to help schools and higher education institutions reopen. He previously had been hesitant to allocate additional COVID-19 funding before an analysis of how the first round of funding filled in the gaps. Chairman Alexander received a letter this week from the Council of Chief State School Officers providing a projection of the cost to open school systems this year and what amount of funding will be needed over the next two years. The letter was a response to the Chairman's request for this data at last week's HELP Committee hearing about state and local planning for the next school year.

House Education and Labor Committee Holds COVID-19 Racial Inequities Hearing
The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing earlier this week titled "Inequities Exposed: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequities in Education, Health, and the Workforce." Chairman Scott (D-VA) opened the hearing saying that Congress must take steps to address racial disparities in education focusing on K-12 school funding, noting that students of color have been more affected by chronic underfunding and school closures due to COVID-19. He highlighted that the HEROES Act would take steps to solve some of these issues, including assistance to both K-12 schools and higher education institutions as well as funding for the OSHA emergency protection standard to keep those most at risk safe from COVID-19 in the workplace. Ranking Member Foxx (R-NC) focused on the devastating job losses caused by the pandemic. She highlighted that the U.S. economy was strong prior to COVID-19 and that reopening the economy responsibly is a priority.

Witnesses included:
• Camara P. Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Senior Fellow and Adjunct Associate Professor, Morehouse School of Medicine, Past President, American Public Health Association, Atlanta, GA
• Valerie Rawlston Wilson, Ph.D., Director, Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, Economic Policy Institute, Silver Spring, MD
• Avik Roy, Co-Founder and President, The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, Austin, TX
• John B. King, Jr., President and CEO, The Education Trust, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Roy highlighted how school closures disproportionately affected low income and students of color because wealthy families are better equipped to support their children's learning. He said it is possible to safely reopen school and that other countries can provide models for the U.S. when considering how to best reopen. Mr. King urged Congress to act boldly to support K-12 education (allocating at least $500 billion for state and local government, including strong Maintenance of Effort provisions and a Maintenance of Equity provision to ensure the most vulnerable students receive the most support). He prioritized the need for broadband, extended learning time, and resources to address both nutritional and social-emotional needs. He encouraged the Administration to refrain from approving key civil rights waivers and to promote diverse schools. He asked Congress to consider equitable reforms including extending the federal student loan rates through next year (the relief enacted through the CARES Act), doubling the Pell Grant, and simplifying the FAFSA process. He also urged an expansion of Pell grant access to incarcerated and undocumented students. He encouraged support from Congress in education prep programs that focus on and support diversity, noting that Education Trust is ready to assist.

An archived video of the virtual hearing and the witnesses' full written testimony is available here.

Senate HELP Committee Plans COVID-19 Hearing
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee plans to hold a hearing on Tuesday, June 30 titled "COVID-19: Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School."

Witnesses for the hearing include:
o Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
o Robert Redfield, MD, Director, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
o ADM Brett Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
o Stephen Hahn, MD, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, United States Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD

The hearing will be live-streamed here.

Administration Update

Department of Education Announces Controversial Equitable Services Regulations
The Department of Education released an interim final rule regarding use of CARES Act K-12 emergency relief funds to provide services to private school students under the law's equitable services provision. The rule will take immediate effect when published in the Federal Register next week and the Department invited the public to file comment and said the "CARES Act is a special pandemic related appropriation and is meant to benefit all American students and families." The rule provides districts with two options for implementing the CARES Act's equitable services requirement. If a district chooses to use CARES Act emergency funding only for Title I eligible students, then it may elect to only set aside funding for equitable services for Title I eligible students that attend private schools. If a district wishes to use CARES Act funding for all students, then the district must set aside funding to provide equitable services to all students that attend private schools in their region. NSBA strongly opposes the Secretary's interpretation of this CARES Act provision and has urged Congress to stop the Department from implementing this requirement.

Department of Education Approves Additional State Perkins Plans
The Department of Education approved six Perkins State Plans including: Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, New York, South Carolina, and Utah. Additional information can be found on the Department's Perkins Website.

Department of Education Announces Discretionary Grants
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited applications for the "Out-of-School Time Career Pathway Program". The program makes grants to SEAs, working in partnership with eligible entities, to provide students with more options for participating in career pathways that lead to a recognized postsecondary credential – these programs occur outside of regular schools hours or as part of an expanded learning program. The estimated available funds total $1,500,000 each year for five years. Applications are due by September 21, 2020, and further information is available here.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the "Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program – Stepping-Up Technology Implementation." The program seeks to "(1) improve results for children with disabilities by promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology; (2) support educational activities designed to be of educational value in the classroom for children with disabilities; (3) provide support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom; and (4) provide accessible educational materials to children with disabilities in a timely manner." This discretionary grant competition will focus on 2 absolute priorities: (1) Providing Technology-Based Professional Development to Trainers of Special Education Teachers to Support Children with Disabilities, and (2) Improving Social Skill Development for Students with Disabilities Through the Use of Socially Assistive Robotics (SAR). The estimated available funds for this program total $2,500,000 contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by August 14, 2020, and further information is available here.

Recent Legislation
H.R. 7319 To improve quality and accountability for educator preparation programs. Sponsor: Rep. Shalala, Donna E. [D-FL-27]
H.R. 7306 To improve the safety of school buses, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Crist, Charlie [D-FL-13] 


June 19, 2020

Congressional Update

Supreme Court Upholds DACA, Next Steps are Unclear

The Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that the procedure used by the Trump Administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was “arbitrary and capricious.” Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the Court to rule that the process by which the Trump Administration moved to terminate the program was illegal. The decision allows the protections enacted by the previous administration to stay intact for the near term, protecting many K-12 students, college students, as well as faculty and staff for the immediate future. However, while the Court ruled that the process used by the Trump Administration to end the program was wrong, they did not rule on the legality of the program. As a result, the Trump Administration may pursue other options to terminate the program, though those options are likely to be much more time consuming. NSBA will continue to advocate for a long-term legislative solution for qualified undocumented students.

Congressional Appropriations Process Inches Forward

The House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the budget for the Department of Education, plans to mark up the budget on July 7 beginning at 5pm.  In the Senate, last week’s ambition about an accelerated timeline for considering their own bills has already hit a snag; a dispute between Senate Democrats and Republicans over whether Senate Democrats will have the ability to offer amendments to address some of their priorities around police reform and COVID-19. NSBA’s advocacy team is working to ensure the fiscal year 2021 budget includes significant funding for education priorities.

House Education Committee Holds Hearing to Examine the Pandemic’s Impact

This week, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing about the "Budget Cuts and Lost Learning: Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 on Public Education."  Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) highlighted the work of the House in passing the HEROES Act last month that would provide nearly $1 trillion to address budget shortfalls and avert cuts in education with $60 billion in direct K-12 funding.  He said that “this is a pivotal moment in our fight for equity in education”, and “we cannot put the safety of our students, teachers, and staff at risk.  We must provide the resources they need.”  Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said that since some schools have not yet spent the relief funding provided through the CARES Act, it would be premature to provide additional funding before Congress has had an opportunity to evaluate the use of funds already disbursed.  She went on to remind the committee that more spending does not guarantee better outcomes.

Witness Testimony Highlights:

  • Michael Leachman, Ph.D., Vice President for State Fiscal Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, D.C. noted that the funding provided to schools through the CARES Act was far too little. He added that the HEROES Act is a step in the right direction, but alone will not be enough support for schools. He offered support for significant increases in direct aid in the final package negotiated by Congress.
  • Rebecca Pringle, Vice President, National Education Association (NEA), Washington, D.C. highlighted the deepened disparities that COVID-19 has caused in schools, noting that the expected budget cuts will have a devastating impact on students. She added that students will need more socio-emotional supports as they return to school in addition to the supports that will be needed to combat the learning loss of this spring’s school closures.
  • Mark Johnson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Raleigh, NC discussed North Carolina’s approach to virtual learning, the need for students to have personalized learning upon return this call, and the need for flexibility for schools to innovate.
  • Eric Gordon, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland, OH discussed the lack of reliable internet access to many households in his districts and the difficulty in reaching those students this spring when schools were closed. He described the efforts of his district to invest in hotspots and devices quickly to the inequities lower income and vulnerable students experience can be minimized.  He also raised concern about the devastating proposed budget cuts, noting that more federal funding is needed for schools to return students to the classroom safely.  He urged Congress to keep the nation’s school districts intact by providing additional funding. He advised Congress to also include additional resources in the years ahead to ensure adequate funding including for ESSA Title I, IDEA, ESSA Title III, and the McKinney-Vento Act.

An archived video of the virtual hearing and the witnesses’ full written testimony is available here.

Looking ahead, the House Education Committee has scheduled an additional hearing next week focused on widening racial inequities due to COVID-19 emergency, titled “Inequities Exposed: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequities in Education, Health, and the Workforce“.  Witnesses have not been announced. The livestream will occur on Monday, June 22 at noon ET and the livestream can be found here.

Administration Update

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Releases Analysis of Challenges

The Administration’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee published a report titled "Top Challenges Facing Federal Agencies: COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Response Efforts." The analysis was reported by the Offices of Inspector Generals (OIGs) from 37 agencies across the government.  The purpose of the report is to provide “insight into the top management challenges facing federal agencies that received pandemic-related funding.”  Common themes reflected across agencies included financial management of CARES Act and other funds, grant management, information technology security and management, and protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations.  Additional challenges named by OIGs included the “large amount of funds appropriated under the CARES Act and related legislation, the need to distribute aid rapidly under emergency conditions, and the need to maintain agency operations as factors that impact these challenges.”

Department of Education Approves Additional State Perkins Plans

The Department of Education approved an additional 10 states for Perkins State Plans including: Arizona, D.C., Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. Additional information can be found on the Department’s Perkins Website.

Department of Education Publishes Discretionary Grant Opportunity to Improve IDEA 

Parts B and C Data

The Department of Education published a discretionary grant program notice for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: “Technical Assistance on State Data Collection – National Technical Assistance Center to Improve State Capacity to College, Report, Analyze, and Use Accurate IDEA Part B and Part C Fiscal Data” – The Technical Assistance on State Data Collection seeks to improve the capacity of states to meet IDEA data collection and reporting requirements, authorized under IDEA. This priority will establish a Fiscal Data Center, which will provide states with technical assistance to help meet fiscal data collection and reporting obligations under IDEA. The estimated available funds for this program total $3,975,000 in years 1 and 2, $4,425,000 in years 3 and 4, and $4,200,000 in year 5. Applications are due by July 31, 2020, and further information is available here.

Recent Legislation

  • Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced a bill (H.R.7201) titled the “Child Care is Infrastructure Act.”  The child care package would invest $10 billion over five years in child care infrastructure and $35 million for early childhood education and workforce development. It would also include two national needs assessment of early child care and learning facilities to be conducted by HHS to understand the impact of the pandemic and ongoing needs of child care facilities.  It would also ask a study to be completed regarding tax credits for employer-provided child care through the GAO.

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 jweisman@mabe.org.