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 116th 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 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.

Conference Agenda TBA

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.

 

Secretary Miguel Cardona Confirmed as Education Secretary

  • 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.
  • From Sec. Cardona: A Letter to Parents & Students
    (March 3, 2021)

Biden Administration COVID Relief Package

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 has now passed in the Senate and must still be voted on in the House, would provide a host of new resources for pandemic-related activities such as vaccinations, treatments for patients, and direct aid to struggling families.

Highlights:

  • 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). 

Weekly Federal Legislative & Agency Updates


April 16, 2021

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 (Archives)

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 (Archives)

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

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 

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

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

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

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 (Archives)

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]

NSBA Update

Public Schools Week and Digital Learning Day: 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.

 


January 29, 2021 (Archives)

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 (Archives)

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 (Archives)

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.

President-elect Biden to Nominate Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary

On December 22, President-elect Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Miguel Cardona to oversee the U.S. Department of Education (USED) as the department’s next Secretary of Education. Cardona is currently the Education Commissioner for the state of Connecticut where he has advocated for the safe reopening of K-12 schools for in-person instruction and has recently affirmed his commitment to have the state move forward with its annual statewide assessments later this year. If confirmed, Cardona will fulfill President-elect Biden’s early campaign promise to select a Secretary of Education with classroom experience—Cardona began his career as an elementary school teacher before moving on to roles in Connecticut public schools as a principal, administrator, and assistant superintendent prior to being named commissioner of education for the state in 2019. NSBA and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) issued a joint statement on the announcement of the nomination.

Federal Communications Commission Taking Initial Steps to Distribute Emergency Broadband Funding

The Federal Communications Commission invited public comment on the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund approved as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Act. The fund is designed to help connect low-income families to broadband. School boards should consider developing plans for notifying qualified families about this opportunity to connect their households to broadband, so that all students have access to digital learning during the pandemic and beyond.

Bills

 


December 4, 2020 (Archived)

Congress Returns to Looming Funding Deadline

Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week following their annual Thanksgiving recess. Upon their return, they are faced with a December 11 deadline when current funding for the federal government and related programs is set to expire. Top appropriators in both chambers are working to find agreement on a nearly $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package which would knit together all 12 regular appropriations bills into one piece of legislation. Agreement has yet to be reached and, with time running out, the likelihood that another short-term extension at the current funding levels increases as these negotiations continue. Such a move would provide lawmakers more time to reach agreement on this must-pass legislation.

Discussions regarding another tranche of emergency pandemic aid have also restarted after a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both Chambers released a new proposal to provide much-needed emergency relief. The $908 billion proposal falls nearly midway between where Democrats and Republicans have remained for months after failing to reach consensus on a new aid package most of the year. The proposal would include $82 billion for education. However, this proposed amount is below previous pandemic relief proposals from both Republicans and Democrats to date—most of which included at least $100 billion or more in targeted relief for the education sector. The legislation also provides $10 billion for broadband relief. However, NSBA is concerned that the funding for the homework gap is inadequate at only $2 billion and there is not focus enough on the short-term emergency needs for purposes such as acquiring hotspots for students.  Nonetheless, lawmakers remain optimistic regarding the prospects for both an omnibus and a pandemic relief package later this month. If agreement can be reached, both will most likely be tied together into one legislative vehicle to ensure passage before the end of the year and the conclusion of the 116th Congress.

New House Appropriations Committee Chair Elected

On Thursday December 3, House Democrats voted 148-79 to elect Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), defeating Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), to serve as the next Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. DeLauro will replace outgoing Chair Rep. Lowey (D-NY) who is set to retire at the end of this Congress. Currently, Rep. DeLauro serves as the Chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee—the panel tasked with determining annual funding levels for education programs such as the Every Student Succeeds Act. During her time as Chair of the Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee, Rep. DeLauro has been a strong advocate for education and health funding broadly and will now have an even wider appropriations portfolio as Chair of the full committee. It remains unclear who will replace Rep. DeLauro on the Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee although several committee members—including Rep. Clark (D-CA) and Rep. Allard (D-CO)—are widely speculated as potential replacements though it is possible that Rep. DeLauro maintains her seat on the subcommittee.

Defense Department Education Scorecard

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual bill that sets policy for the Defense Department, contained a provision that would have created a new scorecard for public schools. The results of that scorecard would then be considered when the military made decisions about basing troops. NSBA felt that this new accountability system, which did not have input from the education community, would be duplicative and would not fairly represent improvements schools have made under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and we advocated for the removal of this provision. The conference report for the NDAA has been released and NSBA is pleased that the education scorecard provision was not included in the final version.

Administration Update

Nation’s Report Card Postponed 

On Wednesday, November 25, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) formally moved to cancel the upcoming National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the national assessment of core academic subjects commonly known as the nation’s report card. The assessments for fourth and eighth graders in reading and math, originally scheduled to begin January 2021, will be postponed until 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Citing school closures and other related restrictions, USED determined that administering NAEP next month would not be feasible. While USED has taken steps to cancel NAEP, Congress must still pass legislation providing the agency statutory permission to do so. Congressional education leaders in both Chambers appear supportive. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Education DeVos made clear that her department firmly believes “. . . states should implement their own assessments on schedule in spring 2021, given that they do not face the same constraints as NAEP . . .” in an effort to fully capture students’ learning loss as a result of the pandemic.

USED Unveils CARES Act Spending Data Portal

Recently, USED released an online portal that shares how states are using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to ensure learning continuity for students as they continue to content with the pandemic. The resource contains profiles for each state and territory and provides high-level information on how much eligible recipients, such as school districts and institutions of higher education among others, received as part of their state’s CARES allocation. This information is based on data reported as of September 30, 2020 and USED plans to regularly update this website as states continue to report how the funds are used. The website has received some criticism for using outdated information more than two months old. In a related statement, the department has also expressed interest in streamlining this portal in the future to serve as the location for states to submit statutorily required CARES Act spending reports to USED for oversight purposes.

USDA Moves to Weaken School Meal Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has, for the second time since 2017, taken steps to roll-back national school meal nutritional standards this week. Under the proposed rule, meal providers would have permanent flexibility to serve students flavored low-fat milk, it would reduce by half the amount of weekly whole grains required to be included in an eligible meal, and would provide more time for schools to meet lower sodium levels in provided meals. A largely similar proposal was put forward by USDA in 2017, but that proposed rule was struck down by a U.S. District Court due to procedural errors during the initial federal rulemaking process. Public comments on this proposal are due by December 28, 2020.

FCC Commissioner Announced Resignation in 2021

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai formally announced his resignation effective January 20, 2021. His departure, though not unexpected due to the ongoing Presidential Administration transition, will leave the Commission with an even 2-2 split between Republicans and Democrats—one member short of a full Commission. It remains unclear who will ultimately serve as the permanent Chair of the Commission. However, we expect current Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to be named Acting Chair when President-Elect Biden takes office. Commissioner Rosenworcel was a keynote speaker at this year’s NSBA Advocacy Institute in February and is a champion for public schools. She coined the term “homework gap” that refers to the digital divide in education.

Bills


November 13, 2020 (Archives)

Congressional Update

President-elect Joe Biden

On Saturday, November 7, Former Vice President Joe Biden was formally declared the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. President-elect Biden is due to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. During the Presidential campaign, Biden proposed a number of education-related policies including tripling the amount of funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), providing full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and providing universal pre-k education. These ambitious proposals will require the approval of Congress. Although Democrats are going to maintain control of the House of Representatives, there are still 15 outstanding races that have yet to be decided and Republicans have flipped a number of seats  reducing the Democrats’ majority in the lower legislative chamber. Control of the Senate will be determined by two runoff races in Georgia set to take place in early January 2021.

Congressional Leadership Races

Although there are a number of Congressional races left to be determined in the current election cycle, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate held leadership elections earlier this week for the upcoming 117th Congress—set to convene in January 2021. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were each re-elected to lead their respective caucuses. The outcomes of the Georgia runoff elections will determine which one will be the majority leader.

Congress Wrestles with Pandemic and Looming Funding Deadline

On Tuesday, October 10, the Senate Appropriations Committee released all 12 fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills—legislation necessary to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year. The House of Representatives passed all 12 of these bills over the summer on a party line vote. Although the House cleared comparable funding legislation through the entire lower chamber, the appropriations bills released by the Senate this week are not expected to be marked-up, but rather are merely being used as a starting point for wider negotiations for how to fund the federal government past December 11—when current funding is set to run out. The Senate proposes to increase funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USED) by $433 million—a 0.9% increase compared to FY 2020. Title I of ESSA, IDEA, Impact Aid, Title IV-A of ESSA, and the career and technical education programs would all receive slight increases under the proposal. The bill text can be found here; committee report here; and a summary can be found here. Negotiations are now underway between lawmakers over how best to resolve the differences between the House and Senate proposals before the December 11 deadline.

As these efforts get underway, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is escalating dramatically across the country, creating new pressure on lawmakers to pass a relief package in response. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed openness to an additional round of relief legislation last week, he has maintained his previous position that any legislation be capped at $500 billion. Congressional Democrats on the other hand have been proposing a package costing at least $2 trillion in order to effectively respond to the emergency needs brought on by the virus. While both sides favor significant aid for K-12 schools, there remain a number of areas of disagreement (other than the overall price tag) including support for state and local governments—an issue that also has enormous implications for school budgets in every community. With control of the Senate still uncertain, negotiations remain stalled. Nevertheless, lawmakers remain publicly hopeful that they can couple regular appropriations and pandemic aid in a larger deal later this year.

Administration Update

Biden Administration Begins Transition

The incoming Biden administration has formally started Presidential Administration transition efforts even though the current President has yet to formally concede the election. On Tuesday, November 10, the incoming Biden administration released a slate of agency review teams who will be responsible for ensuring a smooth transfer of power and preparing the President-elect and his cabinet for the responsibilities of managing the federal government. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and President of the California State Board of Education, is leading the incoming administration’s education transition efforts. Dr. Darling-Hammond was the opening guest speaker during the recent NSBA Public School Transformation Now! webinar. Another speaker from the webinar, Roberto Rodriguez, CEO of Teach Plus and a former senior education advisor to President Obama, has also been named to the education transition team.

Bills

NSBA Update

Post-Election 2020 Webinar: Last night NSBA hosted a webinar in partnership with The Hunt Institute, AASA, NAESP, NASBE, and NASSP on what the election results may mean for education. Former U.S. Secretaries of Education Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho discussed a wide range of topics, including the current state of education, how state leaders can support districts, supporting students where they are, where investments should be made, and characteristics the next Secretary of Education needs to have to succeed in this challenging environment. We encourage you to watch the webinar and share it with your members. You can find  the full recording here.

 


 

October 30, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Lawmakers Aim for Lame Duck Pandemic Relief

Negotiations and wider discussions on a much-needed pandemic relief package have continued this week between Congress and the Trump Administration. Despite the on-again-off-again nature of these talks, both sides have remained optimistic for months about the potential for a deal. This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made a final attempt at finding agreement but were unsuccessful. Speaker Pelosi sent a letter to Mnuchin on Thursday, October 29, outlining the remaining areas of disagreement. In her letter, the Speaker noted that K-12 school funding, along with support for state and local government broadly, are among the outstanding issues for which they have not received a response from the Trump Administration. With the election less than a week away, the balance of power and control of the White House could shift dramatically. As a consequence, some lawmakers, including the Speaker herself, remain hopeful that agreement on a new pandemic relief package can be reached with the White House and Congressional Republicans when lawmakers reconvene after the November elections during the final “lame duck” session of the 116th Congress.

Congressional Democrats Unveil Education Jobs Bill

In light of stalled negotiations over another round of coronavirus assistance, House Education and Labor Committee member Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-CA), and Rep. Sablan (D-NMI) introduced the Save Education Jobs Act (H.R. 8691) to, among other objectives, protect an estimated four million education-related jobs currently at risk due to the ongoing pandemic. The legislation would create an Education Jobs Fund—similar to one passed during the Great Recession in 2010—to provide significant amounts of emergency financial assistance to states and local communities to avoid layoffs of teachers and other school-related jobs. A press release on the legislation can be viewed here; section-by-section summary here; and a factsheet on the proposal here.

Administration Update

Reading Scores Decline on Nation’s Report Card

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the nation’s report card, released the most recent results for assessments conducted in the subjects of reading and math. The nationwide assessment of grade 12 students took place from January to March 2019 and found that while students’ scores stayed the same in math, scores for reading dropped for all students. For lower-performing students, scores declined in both subjects—a troubling disparity. Although the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) did not advance a specific reason for these results, the office called for more research into the issue “. . . which [NCES] has now observed in multiple reading assessments. . . “ On Wednesday, October 28, NSBA issued a statement on these scores, strongly emphasizing that these findings underscore an urgent need to invest more resources in public schools to more effectively serve all students. NCES’ press release on the results can be found here.

GAO Lead Study Released

In recognition of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shared a number of recent resources related to protecting children and students from lead exposure in child care facilities and schools. A recent GAO report from last month found that lead testing protocols are largely inadequate at many Head Start centers. In 2018, the agency came to a similar conclusion when it found that 41 percent of surveyed school districts had not tested their water systems for lead.

Bills

  • H.R.8691 To authorize the establishment of an Education Jobs Fund to retain and create education jobs in communities most impacted by COVID-19, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Hayes, Jahana [D-CT-5]
  • H.R.8664 To provide funds to local educational agencies for personal protective equipment for educators  and other staff, and students. Sponsor: Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. "Chuy" [D-IL-4]
  • S.4868 A bill to allow eligible entities under part B of title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to use subgrant funds for activities authorized under such part, regardless of whether such activities are conducted during nonschool hours or periods when school is not in session, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Murkowski, Lisa [R-AK]
  • S.4865 A bill to improve the full-service community school program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Brown, Sherrod [D-OH]
  • S.4831 A bill to provide resources for States, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, educators, school leaders, and others to measure and address instructional loss in students in kindergarten through grade 12. Sponsor: Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]

NSBA Update

Public School Transformation Now! Thanks to all who helped with the launch of NSBA’s Public School Transformation Now! Initiative launch. You can view the webinar and find additional materials at the initiative website. We encourage you to learn more on this new focus area.


 

October 23, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Coronavirus Relief Negotiations Continue

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have continued to discuss and negotiate a potential new round of emergency relief funding and related measures in response to the ongoing pandemic. Both Congressional Democrats and the Trump Administration have expressed in recent weeks their mutual desire to reach a deal on a legislative package that would provide significant aid for those impacted by the coronavirus, including the K-12 education community. Both sides have come closer together on costs, which would likely total about $2 trillion and include at least $100 billion in emergency relief funding for the wider education community. Yet Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin remain at odds over liability protections for businesses that would shield them from potential lawsuits related to COVID-19 outbreaks—a key priority for Republicans—and additional aid for state and local governments, a central priority for Democrats.

Although both the White House and Congressional Democrats appear to be inching closer to a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not supportive of a pandemic measure of this size or scope. He has repeatedly argued this week that the proposals currently under consideration lack sufficient support to clear the Senate should they materialize. Despite modest progress this week, no deal has yet been struck between the two sides. With less than two weeks until the November elections, much-needed pandemic relief will likely not be addressed until after November 3.

Administration Update

USED Announces School Leadership Honors

On Monday, October 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced 10 principals as the recipients of the 2020 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. This award is intended to honor principals overseeing National Blue Ribbon Schools who are nominated by their communities for outstanding school leadership. Several national organizations representing school principals, in conjunction with USED, help make this award selection each year. More information about the awardees can be found here.

Biden Campaign Noncommittal on Testing Waivers

On Thursday, October 22, the Education Writers Association (EWA) hosted a virtual event interviewing Stef Feldman, the Policy Director for Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. During the event, Feldman was asked whether a new Biden Administration would provide standardized testing waivers to states absolving them of related assessment and accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a response to the ongoing pandemic. Feldman replied, in part, that “. . . the answer to this question depends on how much progress we can make in supporting our schools and getting them up and running.” Although the Trump Administration provided waivers earlier this year, USED has most recently told states that they will not extend these flexibilities moving forward. The full EWA interview can be found here.

Bills

  • H.R.8634 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To improve United States cybersecurity through STEM scholarships, prize competitions, and other STEM activities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Horn, Kendra S. [D-OK-5]
  • H.R.8612 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To direct the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to establish a School Cybersecurity Clearinghouse, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Matsui, Doris O. [D-CA-6]
  • S.4831 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) A bill to provide resources for States, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, educators, school leaders, and others to measure and address instructional loss in students in kindergarten through grade 12. Sponsor: Sen. Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI]

 

October 15, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Pandemic Relief Remains Out of Reach

Discussions regarding a much-needed next round of pandemic relief have been ongoing the past week, but despite a few promising developments lawmakers and the White House do not appear much closer to agreement. There are several outstanding areas of disagreement, including the total cost of pandemic relief. Congressional Democrats favor a package totaling around $2.2 trillion while Congressional Republicans support a proposal closer to $500 billion. Complicating matters further, the White House has shifted their position a few times in recent weeks and has most recently offered $1.8 trillion. Importantly, each of these proposals would include significant emergency funding for the K-12 community—an important priority for NSBA’s advocacy team. NSBA will continue to advocate for funds and resources for public schools and will carefully monitor each proposal to make sure that funds that should go to public schools are not diverted elsewhere.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has emphasized that he does not support the White House’s newest position and plans to hold an additional vote on Senate Republicans’ $500 billion offer sometime next week. This vote is intended to apply pressure on Democrats who have, so far, held firm to their existing negotiation position of at least $2 trillion. With the November elections a few short weeks away and the Senate consumed by a contentious Supreme Court confirmation, the likelihood of a pandemic relief package before the elections is unlikely.

Administration Update

USDA Formally Extends School Nutrition Waivers

Late last Friday, October 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) formally extended waiver flexibilities to allow schools and other local program operators to continue to provide no-cost meals to children through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through June 20, 2021. This development was made possible by the most recent stopgap government funding bill, passed by Congress last month, which provided and encouraged USDA to extend these flexibilities past the end of 2020. More information regarding this announcement can be found here.

CDC Updates School Coronavirus Testing Guidance

On Tuesday, October 13, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published updated guidance regarding COVID-19 testing strategies for K-12 schools. This updated guidance comes as many states and school districts have sought to reopen schools for in-person instruction with some communities requiring that all students take a test for COVID-19 prior to coming back to the classroom. The CDC’s guidance is supportive of voluntary testing regimes in schools, but strenuously argues against mandatory testing saying, in part, “It is unethical and illegal to test someone who does not want to be tested, including students whose parents or guardians do not want them to be tested.” The CDC also recommends against retesting individuals who have already tested positive but are no longer showing symptoms after three months. Importantly, the guidance emphasizes that these recommendations are not legally binding and are not meant to legally supplant other federal, state, or local community policies regarding how to test for the COVID-19 virus.

USED Releases Civil Rights Data

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) released the biennial Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) on Thursday, October 15—a dataset that includes information from 17,604 public school districts and 97,632 public schools and educational programs. The universal collection of data covers a broad range of topics from student enrollment to offered educational programs among many other data elements and disaggregates this information by student subpopulation. The data collection and subsequent release had been delayed earlier this year due to the ongoing pandemic. The release announcement can be found here and the CRDC dataset can be accessed here.

 

 


October 9, 2020

Pandemic Relief Uncertain After President Trump Ends Talks 

Congressional lawmakers and the White House have been negotiating sporadically, for the past several months, regarding a much-needed additional round of pandemic relief aid. More recently these talks had shown signs of progress, with House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin meeting regularly last week attempting to find agreement. House Democrats successfully passed a pared back version of their relief proposal totaling $2.2 trillion last week and the White House reportedly floated a $1.62 counteroffer to try and reach a deal. Both proposals included significant amounts of emergency relief aid for the K-12 education community to contend with the ongoing pandemic, yet both sides still remained in disagreement on other key issues related to the scope and content of the aid package. On Friday, the Administration offered a $1.8 trillion package that has already been rejected by Speaker Pelosi. Later in the day, the President made a statement he was now supportive of more funding than the $2.2 trillion proposal passed by House Democrats. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has indicated he does not think it likely a deal passes before the election.

The drama over the negotiation began earlier in the week. On Tuesday afternoon, September 6, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the negotiations, arguing that he would seek to prioritize pandemic relief sometime after the upcoming November elections. Although the President formally discontinued these negotiations, members of his own administration have remained hopeful that Congress could pass standalone legislation to provide targeted relief for sectors of the economy where bipartisan agreement has already been reached. On Wednesday, September 7, Assistant U.S. Education Secretary Jim Blew indicated that the administration was still open to and seeking negotiations on smaller aid packages targeted at issues such as K-12 and higher education. Despite this openness, House Democrats have largely rejected this approach and have remained committed to passing a comprehensive pandemic relief package. Moreover, in ending the talks on an aid package, President Trump encouraged the Senate to prioritize the confirmation of an additional U.S. Supreme Court Justice—further reducing the likelihood that lawmakers will revisit this issue prior to the November elections.

Administration Update

Private School Proposal Struck Down in South Carolina

On Monday, September 5, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), along with Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to express concerns regarding South Carolina’s use of some of its CARES Act funding. At issue is South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s $32 million Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) grant program which is funded through the state’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funding—a flexible component of the CARES Act providing discretionary funding for Governors to address educational needs during the pandemic. Specifically, the SAFE grant program would provide these funds to families to offset the costs of private or parochial school tuition. On Wednesday, September 7, the South Carolina Supreme Court declared this program unconstitutional and has prevented the Governor from moving forward with the program’s implementation NSBA filed a brief in the case on Sept. 3 explaining that CARES Act funds were intended to support public schools and students in poverty, and noting the harm caused by voucher programs. During oral argument Justice Kaye Hearn identified NSBA as having drawn the Court’s attention to recent federal court rulings rejecting the U.S. Department of Education’s misinterpretation of the CARES Act’s intent in its filing on the case.   NSBA’s statement on the decision reflected this significant victory.

Recent Legislation

  • H.R.8535 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to direct the Secretary of Education to award grants for new agricultural education programs in secondary schools. Sponsor: Rep. Finkenauer, Abby [D-IA-1]
  • H.R.8534 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow direct certification of children in households of active duty members of the Armed Forces for certain Federal school meal programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53]
  • H.R.8519 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants to eligible entities to carry out educational programs that include the history of peoples of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the settling and founding of America, the social, economic, and political environments that led to the development of discriminatory laws targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders and their relation to current events, and the impact and contributions of Asian Americans to the development and enhancement of American life, United States history, literature, the economy, politics, body of laws, and culture, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6]
  • H.R.8486 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To establish a competitive grant program to increase financial literacy instruction in elementary schools and secondary schools. Sponsor: Rep. Gallagher, Mike [R-WI-8]
  • S.4782 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to award grants to improve indoor air quality in elementary schools and secondary schools in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency using proven technologies. Sponsor: Sen. Heinrich, Martin [D-NM]

 


October 5, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Short-term Spending Measure Averts Government Shutdown

Late Wednesday night, September 30, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (84-10) a spending measure that extends current federal funding for all government operations and programs, including education, through December 11, 2020. This spending measure was passed by the House last week and was signed into law by President Trump shortly after the bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday night. The legislation puts federal spending on autopilot until lawmakers determine a path forward for longer-term funding beyond December 11. As these efforts get underway, NSBA’s advocacy team will be working to ensure lawmakers appreciate the importance of passing adequate, full-year funding to meet the needs of the K-12 education community.

Congress and the White House Try Again on Pandemic Relief

Congressional lawmakers, along with the White House, have remained at loggerheads over a new pandemic relief package. This stalemate has lasted for several months, but more recently both the White House and House Democrats have softened their original negotiation positions in hopes of getting a deal prior to the November elections. At the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, House Democrats crafted a pared-back pandemic relief package totaling $2.2 trillion in anticipation of a vote this week. The bill reduces the cost of the previously passed HEROES Act by $1.2 trillion but more than doubles the proposed amount of funding for education purposes. Specifically, the proposal would provide $208.1 billion for education and specifically dedicate $175 billion for the K-12 community.

Around this same time, the White House reportedly floated a $1.62 trillion counteroffer which likely would include $150 billion in dedicated emergency funding for education. Both sides have been seeking to negotiate this week using these new proposals but have not yet reached a deal. To exert additional pressure on the White House and Congressional Republicans, the House voted on and passed their new $2.2 trillion proposal late Thursday night (October 1). It remains unclear whether this latest move will push the sides closer to a deal as discussions between Congressional Democrats and the White House continue. In an effort to jumpstart negotiations, on October 1 NSBA joined 18 other national education groups in sending a letter to Congress responding to the revised HEROES Act.

FCC Revises Rural Telecommunications Regulations to Boost Student Broadband Access

The Federal Communications Commission, this week, revised tariffs (the rates, terms, and conditions) for rural telecommunications providers to help the companies extend affordable broadband access to students. The tariff revisions took effect on September 30, and the related promotional offerings will be effective through the end of June 2021. While helpful, this change is not sufficient to close the Homework Gap. NSBA is continuing to urge Congress to provide emergency funding to the FCC to ensure that all students—rural, suburban, and urban—that lack access to broadband are connected to online learning.

Administration Update

USED Announces Grant Funding for Teacher & Principal Programs

On Wednesday, September 30, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced $100 million in grants for three programs aimed broadly at improving teacher and principal effectiveness. The announcement included $63.7 million for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSL) Program; $23.8 million for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program; and $7.3 million for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program. Notably, all of the grant awards for the TSL and TQP programs went to applicants located in Opportunity Zones—economically distressed communities where private investments can qualify for tax incentives. A significant amount of SEED grant program awards are also located in these zones, which has been a key priority for the Trump Administration.

Secretary DeVos Backs Further Away from Equitable Services Proposal 

In early September, a U.S. District Court struck down a proposed interim final rule from USED that was aimed to shift a greater proportion of CARES Act funding to non-public K-12 schools. At the time, USED confirmed that the rule was no longer in effect but appeared to indicate that it might further appeal the district court ruling. Late last Friday, September 25, Secretary DeVos sent a letter to Chief State School Officers saying that she would not appeal this ruling but did emphasize the Department’s continued disagreement over the issue. Moving forward, schools will be required to share pandemic relief funding with private school students using the same federal formula used in ESSA, which is based on the number of low-income students being served. NSBA applauds this latest development which aligns with previous advocacy work done on this issue.

USED Publishes Q&A on IDEA 

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services published a Question and Answer document “in response to inquiries concerning implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B provision of services in the current COVID-19 environment.” The Q&A is part of a wider Departmental effort to clarify existing legal obligations under IDEA during the pandemic.

Recent Legislation

 

 


September 25, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

House Passes Continuing Resolution

On Tuesday, September 22, the House voted on an overwhelming bipartisan basis (359-57) to extend current federal funding levels through December 11, 2020. Known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), this legislation is intended to put further consideration of longer-term funding for federal programs, including funding for K-12 education, off until after the November elections. Of note, the CR extends waiver flexibilities for several child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, through the end of September 2021. NSBA has been advocating for these waiver flexibilities throughout the pandemic. These flexibilities are currently set to expire at the end of 2020. The Senate has formally begun its consideration of this legislation and is expected to vote on the legislation early next week—just before current federal funding is set to expire on September 30. Given the bipartisan support for the bill, the CR and nutrition waivers are widely expected to pass before this deadline.

Pandemic Relief Negotiations Remain Stalled

Members of Congress, along with the White House, remain in a state of disagreement on the size and scope of a much-needed pandemic relief package. Last week, President Trump voiced support for a $1.5 trillion aid package—a figure much closer to the House-passed HEROES Act totaling over $3 trillion. In a further sign that the parties may be nearing a smaller-scale deal, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday directed her committee chairs to develop a pared-back pandemic relief package likely to total over $2 trillion. This latest development indicates that Congressional Democrats are now softening their earlier negotiation position to attempt to reach agreement. Reports indicate that the chamber could vote on this new proposal as soon as next week. While text of this latest legislative effort is not yet available, most of the pandemic relief proposals to date have included significant K-12 education emergency funding to help schools and districts deal with the ongoing pandemic.

House Education & Labor Committee Passes Apprenticeship Bill

Late last week, Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) and Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020—a bill that would reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 and modernize the nation’s apprenticeship system. On Thursday, September 24, the House Education and Labor Committee marked-up and passed this legislation on a party-line vote. The comprehensive proposal would, among other changes, create quality standards for pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs and increase the alignment of these efforts with education systems to provide clearer pathways for students and learners to access these opportunities. The bill is expected to be considered by the full chamber sometime before the end of the year, but there is no specific date for consideration at this time. More information about the proposal can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Announces New K-12 Education Grants

Under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the U.S. Department of Education (USED) is permitted to set-aside two percent of this funding for technical assistance and capacity building. As part of these efforts, USED’s Secretary DeVos announced new funding for two grant programs aimed at helping more students access a broader range of courses (well-rounded courses) and to provide additional resources for schools to deliver USED’s interpretation of personalized learning (student-centered learning) as being interpreted for this measure. For this year, USED plans to provide $9.6 million to several SEAs and LEAs to expand and enhance the delivery of these opportunities, particularly for educationally disadvantaged students. The press release states “The Well-Rounded Education Through Student-Centered Funding Demonstration Grants Program allows funding to follow individual students so that school districts can allocate resources in a way that provides a customized approach to education that considers individual needs in order to improve academic achievement.”

NSBA notes that funding following students to private schools is not included as part of most definitions for true personalized learning.  This includes the definition used by the USED Office of Educational Technology which states that “Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) all may vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.” The interpretation being used by USED for this announcement is not consistent with how most experts on the subject view the practice. It should also be noted some public schools are already engaged in personalized learning by offering a portfolio of different learning options and models allowing for better understanding of the needs of each individual child.  NSBA expects personalized earning, as recognized by most credible education experts, to be a growing trend for public schools in the future and the transformation of public schools.

USED Seeks Input on Perkins CTE Innovation Grants

On Thursday, September 24, USED published notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment and input on the proposed requirements, priorities, and selection criteria for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins V) Innovation and Modernization Grant program for fiscal year 2020. This grant program is broadly aimed at supporting evidenced-based projects that will improve and modernize career and technical education programs. Comments are due by October 26.

Recent Legislation

Equitable Guidance Update: NSBA recently learned that Secretary DeVos has written to the chief state school officers stating they will follow the judicial rulings and will not appeal the decisions that went against them on this issue. The letter also stated “The Department will not take any action against States or local districts that followed the guidance and/or the IFR prior to notice of the court’s decision. Going forward, districts must calculate the minimal proportional share for CARES Act equitable services according to the formula provided in Section 1117(a)(4)(A) of the ESEA of 1965. Section 1117 requires robust consultation with private schools, among other things, and we will use our enforcement authority aggressively to ensure districts comply with this and other relevant equitable services requirements.”

New Judicial Ruling for Continuing Census: A federal district court has ruled this week that efforts to complete the 2020 Census count are to continue through the end of October, rather than conclude on September 30. With the U.S. Census Bureau’s field operations being impacted by COVID-19, the Bureau initially extended its date for a complete count to October 30. This date was then shortened to September 30, because of an executive order from the White House pertaining to the 2020 Census count and apportionment for congressional representation of districts in the U.S. House of Representatives. With the Census count being extended to October 30, field operations to ensure a more complete count can continue, especially in hard-to-count areas and in underserved communities. The extended date of October 30th is helpful to the ongoing priority of equity in education, as a lower Census count could have a negative and disproportionate impact on students and schools in many communities.


 

September 18, 2020 (Archived)

Congressional Update

Lawmakers are Close to Government Funding Deal

With the House reconvening earlier this week, both chambers of Congress are now in session with just 12 days to go before current funding for the federal government expires on October 1. Lawmakers must pass legislation, before this date, to avoid a lapse in funding and a shutdown of federal government operations. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have largely agreed, at least informally, to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid this scenario. A CR would temporarily extend current funding levels for the federal government, including funding for federal education programs, for a yet to-be-determined date. Negotiations on this forthcoming legislation are taking place behind closed doors and primarily hinge on the length of the CR—Republicans favor a CR lasting through December 18 while Democrats would like it to run through February 26 of next year. Text of an agreement has not yet been released but is widely expected to emerge in the coming days to allow enough time for votes beginning as early as next week. As of Friday evening, some media reports were suggesting House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative deal through Dec. 11. NSBA will release additional details once negotiations are finalized.

COVID-19 Relief Talks Still in Motion

Another round of pandemic relief legislation, one that would likely contain significant additional emergency funding for the K-12 community, has been stalled since the summer. Congressional Democrats largely favor a $3 trillion legislative package while Congressional Republicans favor a package falling somewhere between $500 billion and $1 trillion. Earlier this week, President Trump voiced support for pandemic relief totaling about $1.5 trillion—a key signal that the White House is softening its position to get a deal. The President’s remarks were largely in response to a new bipartisan proposal that was floated this week in the House that proposes $1.5 trillion in new funding to respond to the ongoing pandemic. Despite the President’s support, Republicans in both the House and Senate have not given this proposal a welcoming response and have reiterated their support for a bill closer to one with a $500 billion price tag. As these negotiations continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to work to ensure that lawmakers understand the emergency funding challenges of the K-12 community and pass legislation that meets these significant needs.

Administration Update

FCC Announces New Opportunity for E-Rate Funding

The FCC's Wireline Bureau announced a second E-Rate application window for funding year 2020. Schools will be able to purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address higher than expected digital learning demand associated with instructional changes caused by the pandemic. Applicants may only seek support for on-campus category one Internet access and/or data transmission services. The second filing window will begin when the FCC publishes the Order in the Federal Register and will end on October 16. Interested schools should, therefore, act quickly to take advantage of this opportunity.

USED Unveils Per-Pupil Expenditure Data Explorer

On Wednesday, September 16, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched a new website that publishes how much money each school spends per student. Known as a Per Pupil Expenditure (PPE), these data are a reporting requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but there is not currently a centralized place where this information is available. USED’s new website seeks to address this issue and increase transparency of PPE data moving forward. The related data explorer on this website provides a breakdown of federal, state, and local funds that compose PPE for each school and district beginning in the 2018-19 school year. The tool only has data from 20 states currently but USED anticipates more being added as additional data is made available for this purpose in the future. NSBA is exploring this site and doing an analysis of how the data is being compiled to insure its giving an accurate picture of PPE data.

USED Plans to Provide ESSA Title IV-A Waivers

On Thursday, September 17, USED published a notice indicating that it plans to provide SEAs waivers for various requirements of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (Title IV-A of ESSA). As part of USED’s response to the ongoing pandemic, these waivers would cover the current 2020-21 school year and would allow SEAs to provide comparable flexibility for school districts related to the Title IV-A needs assessment, content-area spending requirements for the grant program, and allow for a greater share of these funds to be used for technology infrastructure. More information on these waivers can be found here.

Recent Legislation

 


September 11, 2020 (Archived)

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.