Federal Update

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.

NSBA Update

Annual Conference and Upcoming Advocacy Institute: The NSBA federal advocacy and public policy team hopes you are enjoying the 2021 NSBA Annual Conference. We were pleased to provide five different sessions related to advocacy and public policy. We look forward to our next major event which is the Advocacy Institute scheduled for June 8-10. We urge you to participate in this major online event championing public schools. nsba.org/AI2021

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Bill Introductions – Week-ending April 9, 2021

Bill Introductions HF 2436-2470 and SF 2323-2389

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature April 5-9, 2021.  Every Friday, we will publish bills that have been introduced during the week.

We hope that you monitor these posts, as it keeps you updated and informed about the bills under consideration that may impact school boards and school districts across the state.  Whether it is a new mandate, or more/less funding for certain programs it is important for you to know how these bills may impact your district. http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/Bill-Intros-4-9-2021.pdf

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff in honor of Congressman Alcee Hastings

Governor Tim Walz has ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff at all state buildings in the state of Minnesota effective immediately until sunset on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, to remember, mourn, and honor the life of Congressman Alcee Hastings.

“I had the privilege of working alongside Congressman Hastings during the time we served together in the United States House of Representatives, and remember him fondly as a friend and former colleague,” said Governor Walz.

Minnesota joins states across the nation, in accordance with a proclamation issued by President Joe Biden, in lowering flags at half-staff in honor of the life of Congressman Hastings. Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags.

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff to honor victims of attack on U.S. Capitol

Governor Tim Walz has ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff at all state buildings in Minnesota effective immediately until sunset on Tuesday, April 6, to honor the victims of the attack on the United States Capitol on Friday, April 2, including William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the United States Capitol Police.

Minnesota joins states across the nation, in accordance with a proclamation issued by President Joe Biden, to remember, mourn, and honor the victims of the attack. Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags.

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Federal Weekly Update

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 theInnovation 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’sEarly 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 eight 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

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Bill Introductions – Week-ending March 26, 2021

Bill Introductions HF 2326-2435 and SF 2200-2322

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature March 22-26, 2021.  Every Friday, we will publish bills that have been introduced during the week.

We hope that you monitor these posts, as it keeps you updated and informed about the bills under consideration that may impact school boards and school districts across the state.  Whether it is a new mandate, or more/less funding for certain programs it is important for you to know how these bills may impact your district. http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/Bill-Intros-3-26-2021.pdf

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff in honor of Boulder shooting victims

Governor Tim Walz has ordered all Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state buildings effective immediately until sunset on Saturday, March 27, 2021, to honor the 10 victims of the acts of violence perpetrated in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Minnesota joins states across the nation, in accordance with a proclamation issued by President Joe Biden, to remember, mourn, and honor the lives lost. Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags.

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Federal Weekly Update

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 plansto 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 voted102-84 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 guidancestates 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) announcedthat 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 letterto 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 reiteratedthe 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 letterto 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 letterto 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 outlinedby the CDC aimed at helping schools safely reopen for in-person instruction. Earlier in the week USED released a factsheetrelated to the use of these funds and also published a tabledetailing 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.1959To 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.1928To 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.1911To provide assistance with respect to child care infrastructure, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Clark, Katherine M. [D-MA-5]
  • H.R.1903To 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.6American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 Sponsor:Rep. Roybal-Allard, Lucille [D-CA-40]
  • H.Res.241Expressing 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.1886To 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.1865To 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.1863To 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.1861To 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.1828To 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.813A 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.734A 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]
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Bill Introductions – Week-ending March 19, 2021

Bill Introductions HF 2174-2325 and SF 2034-2199

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature March 15-19, 2021.  Every Friday, we will publish bills that have been introduced during the week.

We hope that you monitor these posts, as it keeps you updated and informed about the bills under consideration that may impact school boards and school districts across the state.  Whether it is a new mandate, or more/less funding for certain programs it is important for you to know how these bills may impact your district. http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/Bill-Intros-3-19-2021.pdf

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff on March 19 and March 22

Governor Tim Walz has directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Friday, March 19, 2021, and from sunrise to sunset on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Friday, March 19, will remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.

Monday, March 22, will honor the eight victims of the acts of violence perpetrated in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

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