Federal Weekly Update

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 advocatingfor 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 statementin 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 guidancefor state and local entities administering the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) in relation to a recent Executive Orderissued 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 reportfor 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. 

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Bill Introductions – Week-ending January 15, 2021

Bill Introductions – Week-ending January 15, 2021

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature January 11-15, 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-1-15-2021.docx (Note: Some users may need to right-click on this link to begin the download process.)

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff in honor of paramedic Toby Lee Rowan

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 Thursday, January 14, 2021, in honor of Paramedic Toby Lee Rowan, who died on January 7, 2021, while in the course of providing life-saving treatment to a member of the community.

The state of Minnesota recognizes Paramedic Rowan for his dedicated service to, and sacrifice for, his fellow citizens.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags in honor of Paramedic Rowan and first responders who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty in the State of Minnesota.

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Governor Walz joins states across U.S. in ordering flags at half-staff to honor Capitol Police Officers

In accordance with a proclamation issued by the President, Governor Tim Walz today directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff, effective immediately, until sunset on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, to honor the service and sacrifice of United States Capitol Police Officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood.

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Week Ending January 8, 2020 Bill Introductions

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature on January 7-8, 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.

Bill introductions for Week Ending January 8, 2021 (Note: Some users may need to right-click on this link to begin the download process.)

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Federal Weekly Update

Congressional Update 

Congress Passes Massive Year-End Spending Package

After months of delays and stalled discussions, Congress finally completed work on a spending packagejust 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 notedlast week by NSBA’s leadership. As the fallout from the ongoing public health crisis continues, MSBA and 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 117thCongress

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 statementon the announcement of the nomination. 

Federal Communications Commission Taking Initial Steps to Distribute Emergency Broadband Funding

The Federal Communications Commission invited public commenton 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

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Update from NSBA in Washington on Federal Relief Bill

Good evening,
I wanted to give you a brief update before the holiday on what we know right now about the current state of play between the President and Congress. For background, H.R. 133 “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 [Including Coronavirus Stimulus & Relief],” passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, December 21, 2020 in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 358 to 53 with 230 Democrats and 128 Republicans voting for it and 17 members who did not vote. The U.S. Senate then approved the bill 92 to 6. While that vote was also bipartisan, the six Senators who voted against it were all Republicans.
As I am sure you have been hearing through the news, the overall $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations and $900 billion COVID-19 emergency relief legislation is now in question after the President’s video remarks last night calling on Congress to amend it to provide $2000 in stimulus checks for qualified individuals and $4000 for couples. The current legislation has a $600 stimulus amount. This number was highly debated as Congressional leaders negotiated the measure and came to this compromise amount in the final legislation. The legislation contains the budget for the 2021 Department of Education and $54 billion for pubic schools related to the pandemic.
The President also expressed concern over several other items in the legislation, including foreign aid, that are unrelated to the pandemic. It should be noted that those items are in the legislation since they are part of a broader package that consolidates twelve appropriations for the 2021 budget, such as foreign aid, which is typically contained in the omnibus each year, along with with the pandemic relief funding. Reportedly, the White House agreed several weeks ago to include both pieces of legislation in one bill so it should not have been unexpected foreign aid was in the final legislation upon passage.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, all indications by the White House and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin were that the President would sign the legislation when it arrived at his desk. However, his latest statements have thrown doubt on whether that will happen. It should be noted the President did not indicate he would veto the bill, but he did veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) earlier this afternoon which also passed by an overwhelming margin. Upon release of the video, both House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have stated they support increasing stimulus checks. The House is planning to take up that specific issue this week concerning the $2000 stimulus and seek to pass it through unanimous consent. Under that rule, when brought up and no one objects the measure would pass the House, but if only one member objects on the House floor, the measure would have to go through normal procedures. It is unclear if the measure did clear the House whether it would pass the Senate, even if it were brought up for passage by Senate leadership which is also questionable. There was considerable resistance to individual stimulus payments in the Senate which is what led to the compromise figure.
If the President vetoes the legislation and the numbers voting to overturn it hold up in the same manner as final passage, the veto would easily be overturned in both houses and made federal law. However, if the President puts pressure on Republicans in Congress there could be enough defections to prevent the required 2/3 votes necessary to overturn a veto.
The President has until December 28 at midnight, when the current Continuing Resolution expires, to sign the legislation to keep the government open. We will continue to monitor this situation and report any major developments. If you have any individual questions, please let me know. If the legislation becomes law, we will also have additional updates on specific items in it relevant to education and the state associations.

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Action Alert – Federal COVID Relief Bill

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to reinstate the following
provisions into the final legislation for the COVID-19 recovery package that is being
negotiated. As of December 18, Congressional leaders are continuing negotiations and
reportedly omitted these provisions that are priorities for our school boards and state
associations:
• It is urgent that funding be dedicated to online learning for broadband connectivity and hardware for students and that it be administered through the E-Rate program for schools and libraries, as an estimated 16 million students are impacted by the homework gap. At least $12 billion just for short-term relief is required; but, any funding, including the $3 billion originally being proposed in the latest legislation, will help begin to narrow this issue for many students lacking adequate access to the internet;
• An extension of time for states and local governments to utilize funds from the CARES
Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that is administered by the U.S. Department of the
Treasury. This measure would allow school districts that are subrecipients of CRF funds
the additional time needed to complete services, thereby changing the date by which
funding must be utilized from December 30, 2020 to December 30, 2021; and,
• An extension of the COVID-19 employee leave provisions that were made available
through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave
and emergency family and medical leave.


It is likely that Congress will combine the recovery package with a final bill for Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. Currently, there is no final version of legislative text, or accompanying bill number, for the recovery package.
What negotiators agreed upon earlier are the provisions for education stabilization funding.


Please see the additional background information below, after the talking points.

Your representatives can be contacted here:
Talking Points
• On behalf of the ____________ [state school boards association], I
appreciate your efforts to negotiate the next COVID-19 recovery package that will impact our children, school districts, and community.
• It is my understanding that some of the provisions negotiated earlier are being omitted –specifically for online learning, an extension of time to utilize resources from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and an extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave for employees. Each of these areas is a priority for our school districts. Therefore, I am urging you to reinstate these provisions in the final legislation for this COVID-19 recovery package.
• Many students are unable to access classes online during this pandemic because they lack access to broadband and to laptops and other devices needed to receive online instruction.


COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem, known as the homework gap. Therefore, I am
urging you to reinstate the provisions for online learning, that include $3 billion for an
Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to be administered through the E-Rate
program, and $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to buy
internet-connected devices for underserved and rural communities. It is estimated that at least $12 billion is needed, but the infusion of these $3 billion in funds now will help
alleviate some of the problems.


• Some school districts are subrecipients of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)
administered by the U.S. Treasury, that has imposed the December 30, 2020 date by
which all funds must be utilized. This is not feasible for school districts, nor for the states and local governments that are also recipients, as services being provided through the CRF are not complete. Senators Murkowski and Hassan have introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 4898) to extend the date — to December 30, 2021 — by which Coronavirus ded. The inclusion of this legislation — to extend the date for
CRF expenditures to December 30, 2021 — in this recovery package is necessary, and
will allow our districts and their respective county/ municipal government(s) to carefully plan resources in a more efficient manner, to help protect lives and implement proper safeguards against COVID-19.
• An extension of the COVID-related employee leave provisions that were made available through the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave is also needed in this recovery package. Please reinstate these provisions that are beneficial to our school districts.

Collectively, school districts are the largest employer in this nation.
• While these negotiations for the next COVID-19 recovery package have not addressed all of the priorities needed by our school districts, the provisions proposed for education stabilization funding will help address a number of needs, such as targeted investments in special education and in resources for students who are English Learners, sustaining teachers and other staff, sanitizing and building safety, and social emotional supports for students. We appreciate this provision that will help continue recovery efforts for our public schoolchildren and districts.
• Again, I urge your strong support to address these outstanding provisions within this next emergency supplemental for COVID-19 recovery.


COVID-19 Recovery Package – Background Information
Additional details about how the $82 billion in education stabilization funding would be
allocated are below. This portion of the recovery package was announced earlier this week.
Education Stabilization Fund – The recovery package would provide a total of $82 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for both K-12 and higher education, to be available through September 31, 2021. Of this amount, up to one-half percent would be reserved for outlying areas and one-half percent for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, for a total of $820 million. The remaining amount allocated for K-12 would be divided as follows:
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) – $53.7 billion
for public K-12 education, with funding based on the Title I formula. Funding would not
be conditioned on whether schools provide in-person education (as earlier proposals from the Senate HEALS Act did), and could be used for the same educational services/
programs allowed under the CARES Act.
Governors Fund (GEER) – would provide $7.5 billion for the Governors Emergency
Education Relief Fund, of which $2.5 billion would be set aside for private schools,
based on the percentage of private school students in the state. The governors’ funding
could be used for school districts, colleges, childcare, or other education providers with
the greatest need.
Maintenance of Effort – States must maintain their funding for K-12 and higher
education (excluding capital projects) in FY 2021 and FY 2022 at least at the average of
the three previous fiscal years. However, states could apply for a waiver if they have
“experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources,” as allowed under ESSA.

Congressional leaders have stated that this is probably not the last recovery package, and that legislation for state and local aid and liability protections could be negotiated with President-elect Joe Biden’s administration next year.

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ConnectedMN offering grant opportunity to help with high-needs students’ digital learning

ConnectedMN is accepting applications for grants to bring tech devices, internet access, and digital learning support to students across the state.

The grants are especially intended for communities most in need — including students who are people of color, students from low-income families, and students residing in rural Minnesota.

The application deadline is January 26, 2021.

Visit https://www.connectedmn.us/grant-opportunities for details.

ConnectedMN is partnership to ensure students from high-need and underserved communities have the tools and support they need to participate in digital learning and digital life.

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Seventh Special Session Bill Introductions

We publish bills every day they are introduced and 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.

Following are the bills that were introduced today during Minnesota’s 7th 2020 Special Session.

H.F. 1, A bill for an act relating to unemployment insurance; providing for special additional benefits; extending modification of shared work plan eligibility; amending Laws 2020, First Special Session chapter 10, section 1

H.F. 13, A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; transferring money for the broadband grant program.

H.F. 16, A bill for an act relating to employment; providing emergency paid sick leave to health care employees excluded from the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

H.F. 17, A bill for an act relating to workers’ compensation; providing a presumption for education employees.

H.F. 26, A bill for an act relating to education finance; authorizing the use of the prior year’s pupil count for the 2020-2021 school year to reflect COVID-19 changes in enrollment; appropriating money;

H.F. 33, A bill for an act relating to education; authorizing school boards to establish and operate a safe learning plan for the 2020-2021 school year; establishing a parent-based distance learning program for the 2020-2021 school year; modifying the school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year; prohibiting the Minnesota State High School League from limiting tournaments or activities after canceling or limiting a tournament or season; extending school district fund transfer flexibility; defining distance learning;

H.F. 39, A bill for an act relating to open meetings; requiring public comments at all open meetings of public bodies, including those conducted by electronic means.

H.F. 44, A bill for an act relating to health; providing for making COVID-19 vaccines available to certain education personnel.

S.F. 12: A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; transferring money for the broadband grant program.

S.F. 13: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the application deadline for free or reduced-price lunch for the fall 2020 count of eligible students; requiring federal funds replacement; appropriating money.

S.F. 15: A bill for an act relating to open meetings; requiring public comments at all open meetings of public bodies, including those conducted by electronic means.

S.F. 16: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the free and reduced-price lunch ap

S.F. 28: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the application deadline for free or reduced-price lunch for the fall 2020 count of eligible students; requiring federal funds replacement; appropriating money. plication deadline for the 2020-2021 school year.

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