Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

October 18, 2019

Congressional Update

House Committee Holds Hearings on Free School Meals, Plans Hearing on Apprenticeships

The House Education and Labor subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services held a hearing this week titled, “Examining the USDA’s Proposed Cuts to Free School Meals”.  The USDA posted an analysis earlier this week showing that that nearly 982,000 children would no longer be automatically eligible for free school meals based on their family’s participation in the SNAP program should the proposed rule be put into place.  In its analysis, USDA said about 45 percent of the 982,000 children who could lose automatic eligibility, or 445,000, would still be eligible for free meals, and 51 percent, or 497,000, would still be eligible for reduced price meals.  In both cases, households would likely need to fill out additional paperwork. Just 4 percent of school children, or 40,000, who would lose automatic eligibility would no longer qualify for free or reduced price meals, according to the department’s analysis.  Democrats on the subcommittee were not pleased with the responses to their questions given by the hearing’s sole witness, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps about why it took the department so long to provide this information and the potential effects to students.  Testimony and an archives video of the hearing can be found here.  MSBA and NSBA is reviewing this information and is considering the appropriate response.

The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment is planning to hold a hearing on Thursday, October 24 titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Labor Department’s Apprenticeship Program”.  Witnesses have not yet been announced. Watch the livestream here.

 House Democrats Release Bill Aimed at Updating The Higher Education Act

House Democrats released a new bill titled the “College Affordability Act” that aims to update the Higher Education Act.  Key components of the bill include increasing the size of the Pell grant, eliminating the ban on incarcerated student access to Pell grants, enacting federal-state partnerships to make community colleges free, streamlining student loan repayments, and codifying Obama-era college accountability rules.  The bill also proposes to restore the gainful-employment rule as well as the borrower-defense regulations.  The bill text and fact sheet can be found here.  We are still reviewing the bill, but the proposal appears to include a number of provisions related to HEA Title II educator recruitment, preparation, and retention that have been fought for by MSBA and NSBA.

Administration Update

 USED Announces Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award Opportunity

The Department of Education announced the opening of the nomination period for the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award.  The award is given to educators in the field of cybersecurity to honor their contribution to the education of our nation’s students.  It is presented annually to two educators—one at the elementary level and one at the secondary level—who demonstrate superior achievement in instilling skills, knowledge, and passion with respect to cybersecurity and cybersecurity-related subjects.  The nomination period closes on January 31, 2020.  Learn more about how to apply here.

Bills of Interest

  • H.R.4706To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize competency-based education demonstration projects. Sponsor:Rep. Neguse, Joe [D-CO-2]
  • H.R.4684To amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to make breakfasts and lunches free for all children, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
  • H.R.4680To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to simplify the financial aid application process, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Doggett, Lloyd [D-TX-35]
  • H.R.4677To direct the Secretary of Education to carry out a program to recognize high schools and local educational agencies for expanding high-quality dual credit programs. Sponsor:Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3]
  • H.R.4674To amend and strengthen the Higher Education Act of 1965 to lower the cost of college for students and families, to hold colleges accountable for students’ success, and to give a new generation of students the opportunity to graduate on-time and transition to a successful career. Sponsor:Rep. Scott, Robert C. “Bobby” [D-VA-3]
  • H.R.4673To amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to direct the Secretary to provide additional funds to States to establish and make disbursements from high cost funds. Sponsor:Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2]
  • H.R.4670To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish an income-based repayment for new loans on and after July 1, 2021, and for borrowers who enter income-based repayment after June 30, 2021, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]
  • H.R.4662To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require that institutions of higher education maintain certain adjusted cohort default rates to participate in programs under title IV of such Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Porter, Katie [D-CA-45]
  • H.R.4643To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve accessibility to, and completion of, postsecondary education for students, including students with disabilities, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
  • H.R.4639Pell Grant Sustainability Act Sponsor:Rep. Casten, Sean [D-IL-6]
  • H.R.4637Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act Sponsor:Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]
  • S.2608A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize competency-based education demonstration projects. Sponsor:Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH]
  • H.R.2528STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 Sponsor:Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30]
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gov. Walz orders flags at half-staff in honor of Rep. Cummings


In honor and remembrance of U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings and in accordance with an order issued by President Donald Trump, Gov. Tim Walz has ordered all United States and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings in Minnesota beginning immediately until sunset on Friday, October 18, 2019.

Rep. Cummings passed away early Thursday morning from longstanding health complications. Rep. Cummings represented the people of Baltimore in Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District since 1996.

Access a copy of Gov. Walz’s complete proclamation.

Source: Office of Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan

Posted in Flags at Half-Staff | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update


Congressional Update

Congress Adjourned this Week, but will Return to Washington on Monday

When Congress reconvenes on October 14, only 40 legislative days will remain on the 2019 calendar and impeachment proceedings may begin to temporarily crowd-out legislative work in the House.  MSBA and NSBA expects the appropriations process to emerge as the central focus of Congress’s work between now and Thanksgiving, when current temporary funding authority for federal agencies is scheduled to expire. Given this context, our advocacy efforts will be focused on encouraging Senators to adopt the House’s higher fiscal year 2021 allocations for education programs, especially for the major formula programs, such as ESSA Title I and II and IDEA Part B.

Administration Update

EPA Publishes Proposed Changes to Drinking Water Regulations

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency published proposed new regulations to better protect the public from lead and copper in drinking water. Among other changes, the agency’s proposed rules would require local utilities to conduct lead and copper testing in schools and childcare facilities.

The EPA said, “Under the proposal, a community water system would be required to take new actions, including, but not limited to:

  • Identifying the most impacted areas by requiring water systems to prepare and update a publicly-available inventory of lead service lines and requiring water systems to “find-and-fix” sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 parts per billion (ppb).
  • Strengthening drinking water treatment by requiring corrosion control treatment based on tap sampling results and establishing a new trigger level of 10 ppb (e.g. trigger level outlined below).
  • Replacing lead service lines by requiring water systems to replace the water system-owned portion of a lead service line (LSL) when a customer chooses to replace their portion of the line. Additionally, depending on their level above the trigger level, systems would be required to take LSL replacement actions, as described below.
  • Increasing drinking water sampling reliability by requiring water systems to follow new, improved sampling procedures and adjust sampling sites to better target locations with higher lead levels.
  • Improving risk communication to customers by requiring water systems to notify customers within 24 hours if a sample collected in their home is above 15 ppb. Water systems will also be required to conduct regular outreach to the homeowners with LSLs.
  • Better protecting children in schools and childcare facilities by requiring water systems to take drinking water samples from the schools and childcare facilities served by the system.”

The public will have 60 days after the proposed regulations’ publication in the Federal Register to file comments in the proceeding. When the rules are published in the Federal Register, MSBA will share the link.

Department of Education Publishes Updated Title I Equitable Service Guidance

This week, the Department of Education published updated guidance regarding the use of ESEA, Title I-A funding to deliver equitable educational services to eligible private school students. Publication of the guidance represents the culmination of the process launched by the Department earlier this year to update the material consistent with statutory changes made by the Every Student Succeeds Act, recent court decisions, and other policy changes. Among the changes are two major topics:

  • The permissibility of inter-district pooling of Title I funds to provide equitable services
  • The permissibility of religious organizations serving as third-party contractors to provide equitable services

Regarding these two areas, the Department of Education said,”[p]ooling of Title I funds across districts does not change the total amount of funds generated for Title I equitable services, and it can only occur when agreed upon by private school officials and LEAs. Clarifying the flexibility to allow such a practice helps ensure that the lowest-achieving students in a group of schools receive Title I services, reduces burden on LEAs and private school officials, and promotes efficiency through the use of shared services. The updates also clarify the permissibility of religious organizations serving as third-party contractors to provide equitable services. This is consistent with the Secretary’s March 11, 2019, letter to Congress in which she stated that the Department would no longer enforce a ban on LEAs from contracting with religious organizations to provide equitable services in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.”

Last April, NSBA sent a letter to the Department of Education arguing against the Department’s decision to stop enforcing the ESEA ban on LEAs from contracting with religious organizations. The letter expressed concern that the Trinity decision did not extend to the specific application of Title I-A funding but did not dissuade the department from following through on this guidance change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

State broadband task force members announced


Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced their appointments to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband on Wednesday, October 9.

The task force will put forward policies to help ensure every Minnesotan has access to high-speed broadband.

Visit https://mn.gov/governor/news/#/detail/appId/1/id/406088 for the complete list of appointees.

Among the appointees is Marc Johnson — the executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC).

Johnson has been a longtime advocate for technology in schools. He contributed to the May-June 2015 edition of the MSBA Journal magazine with his article, “The Broadband Gap: High-Speed Internet Inequity Impacting Minnesota Schools.” View his article online on Pages 8-11.

Visit https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/task-force to learn more about the Task Force on Broadband.

Source: Office of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan

Posted in Broadband | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grant funding available for alternative landscaping and snow removal equipment


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is offering approximately $150,000 in grant funding to replace two-cycle gasoline-powered landscaping and snow removal equipment with electric-powered equipment.

The application deadline is 4 p.m. November 8, 2019.

Visit www.pca.state.mn.us/regulations/grants-alternative-landscaping-equipment for details.

Posted in grants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Schools Supplemental Aid payment going out to districts on October 30


All school districts and charter schools with adjusted average daily membership (ADM) for fiscal year (FY) 2018 will receive 2020 Safe Schools Supplemental Aid with their October 30, 2019, Integrated Department of Education Aids System (IDEAS) payment, equal to approximately $34.72 per FY18 adjusted ADM.

Visit www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/FY-2020-SafeSchoolsSupplementalAid.pdf for the Fiscal Year 2020 Safe Schools Supplemental Aid sheet to view your school district’s amount.

The FY20 Safe Schools Supplemental Aid should be recorded using either fund 01 general fund or fund 06 building construction fund. Record the revenue to finance code 342, safe schools levy, and source code 300, state aids received from the Minnesota Department of Education, for which a finance code is specified. The expenditures should be recorded using either fund 01 general fund or fund 06 building construction fund, finance code 342 safe schools levy and appropriate object codes. The revenue and expenditures should close to balance sheet code 449 restricted/reserved for safe schools levy.

The law requires the safe schools supplemental aid to be used as follows:

(b) For a school district, safe schools supplemental aid must be reserved and used only for costs associated with safe schools activities authorized under Minnesota Statutes, section 126C.44.

(c) For a charter school, safe schools supplemental aid must be reserved and used only for costs associated with safe schools activities authorized under Minnesota Statutes, section 126C.44, or building lease expenses not funded by charter school building lease aid that are attributable to facility security enhancements made by the landlord after March 1, 2019.

Direct questions to Deb Meier at 651-582-8656.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education

Posted in school safety | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gov. Walz orders Flags half-staff in honor of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service


In honor of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, Gov. Tim Walz has directed all flags at state buildings in Minnesota be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

Visit https://bit.ly/355tt2d to view Gov. Walz’s proclamation.

Source: Office of Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan

Posted in Flags at Half-Staff, Gov. Tim Walz | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment