Weekly Federal Update

Congressional Update

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. MSBA and 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.

Recent Legislation

  • H.R.7925 To promote equity in advanced coursework and programs at elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor: Rep. Castro, Joaquin [D-TX-20]
  • H.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]
  • S.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]
  • S.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, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Senate Sponsor:Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]. House Sponsor: Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
  • S.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]
  • H.R.7909 To facilitate access to child care services safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsor: Rep. Finkenauer, Abby [D-IA-1]
  • S.4432 A bill to allow Federal funds appropriated for kindergarten through grade 12 education to follow the student. Sponsor: Sen. Paul, Rand [R-KY]
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School Finance Working Group focuses on basic formula

schoolfinanceblogimage-7-17-2020

The Minnesota Department of Education’s School Finance Working Group met July 30 to discuss two key financial pressure points in education funding: property tax equalization and the basic formula.

The basic education formula is the primary funding source for school districts ($6,567 per pupil). One major concern, according to Tom Melcher, is that the basic formula has lost $650 per pupil to inflation since 2013. How do school districts cope? They supplement with local property taxes by passing referendums – which creates a greater disparity in education funding across the state. 

The next working group meetings are scheduled for:

  • 5 p.m. Thursday, August 13
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, August 20
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, August 27
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, September 10
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, September 17
  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, September 24

The group continues to identify their priorities as they begin formulating recommendations for reforming education funding over the next few months.

The working group’s mission is to address education-funding issues facing the state. The group reviews key funding streams, identifies options for school finance reform, and seeks consensus on recommendations for systemic change. A review of previous working group sessions is available on the School Finance Working Group webpage.

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Federal Weekly Update

Congressional Update

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 Actpassed 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. MSBA and 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. MSBA and 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 packagefor 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 legislationthis 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 Actwould 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. 

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.7848To 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.7831Toamend 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.7804To 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.7778To 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.7776To 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.7769To 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.7764To temporarily modify child nutrition programs due to COVID-19, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]
  • H.R.7763To 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.7746To 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.4360A 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.4322Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act Sponsor:Sen. Alexander, Lamar [R-TN]

 

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Senate Republicans released the HEALS Act

 Summary of Education Components in the HEALS Act

Senate Republicans unveiled a new COVID-19 pandemic response plan with a total funding level of approximately $1 trillion. It addresses public education in a variety of ways. The proposed legislation includes $105 billion for education including approximately $70 billion for K-12 education. However, two-thirds of the funding is only available to districts with approved re-opening plans that must be submitted to and approved by the Governor.  Republican leaders are referring to the comprehensive legislative section focused on appropriations as the HEALS Act (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools).

The legislation in its current form has significant opposition but it will be used as a starting point for negotiations with the Democrats. It is expected it will change significantly as it moves through the legislative process. However, we wanted to highlight the proposal’s major education components and their potential impact on local school districts. There are multiple major troublesome issues with the legislation including inadequate funding levels, no dedicated funds for the homework gap, shifts toward moving funds to private education, and requirements around school building reopening restricting many of the funds. The summary of the major legislative sections impacting public schools follows:

Education Stabilization Fund 

The total legislative package contains $105 billion for education (K-12 and higher education combined) overall. The funds are available through September 30, 2021 and allocated as follows:

  • $1 billion for outlying areas and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) (split evenly between the two)
  • $2 billion for governors for distribution for education purposes.  The funds will be distributed with 60% going by population age 5-24 and 40% based on the Title I eligible population. Allowable uses in the proposal are similar to the ones contained in the CARES Act. The funds must be spentwithin 6 months and may be used to provide emergency support through grants to local education agencies (LEAs) that the state deems to have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus. Further, funds may be used to provide emergency support to institutions of higher education.
  • $69.6 billion for K12 is allocated based on the proportion of the state’s Title I funding, with 90% sub-allocated to LEAs by Title I proportion, one-third must be passed to LEAs “not less than” 15 days after the Secretary provides the funds to the state education agency (SEA), two-thirds are awarded only after the  LEA submits a school reopening plan to the governor who then must approve the plan. LEA plans that provide “in-person instruction for at least 50 percent of its students where the students physically attend school no less than 50 percent of each school-week, as it was defined by the local educational agency prior to the coronavirus emergency, shall have its plan automatically approved.”  An LEA that provides in-person instruction to at least some students where the students physically attend school in-person but does not satisfy the 50/50 requirements  shall have its allocation reduced on a pro rata basis as determined by the Governor.” If there is no in person schooling the district will not receive a share of the two-thirds set aside. Allowable uses for the funding are much narrower than the CARES Act. Set asides for low income students at private schools are better spelled out in this proposal, which appears to repudiate Secretary DeVos’s interpretation of the CARES Act’s equitable services provision, but it does not include language reversing the Department interpretation and final interim rule of that legislation implementation.
  • $29.1 billion for higher education with 85% allocated by the Secretary to institutions of higher education (IHEs) by apportioning it by 90% to Pell eligible FTEs and 10% non-Pell FTEs; 10% allocated by the Secretary to IHEs for “additional awards”; and 5% by the Secretary to IHEs with the greatest unmet needs. Allowable uses include defraying pandemic expenses and financial aid for students.
  • Maintenance of Effort. Requires states to maintain their funding for education at least at the same proportional levels as in 2019 as a condition for receiving Education Stabilization Fund grants.
  • NAEP Funds and Administration Funds The bill separately provides IES for $65,000,000 for National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administration and $8 million to USED for administration.

Private Education Provisions

The HEALS Act includes provisions for the school choice program that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed for Education Freedom Scholarships. These provisions to redirect federal funding from public schools to private schools would authorize a one-time, emergency appropriation for scholarship-granting organizations in each state. Such organizations would provide families with “direct educational assistance, including private school tuition and home schooling expenses.” While the bill authorizes the creation of these scholarships, it does not fund them.

NSBA strongly opposes this proposed diversion of federal funds to private schools and is urging Congress and the Administration to not use COVID-19 recovery efforts to a political agenda to advance school choice and privatization. As stated in previous advocacy and policy positions, NSBA opposes vouchers, tuition tax credits, and similar programs, and charter schools not subject to oversight of the local school boards, that would effectively create a separate unaccountable system of publicly funded education which would divert public funding to private schools, private home schools, including virtual schools, regardless of whether they are owned or operated by individuals, religious institutions, not for profit entities, or corporations. In addition, NSBA opposes the proposal for Education Freedom Scholarships because it would divert public funds outside of locally elected, locally accountable, representative oversight; and, it could effectuate re-segregation of schools.

Homework Gap

The legislation does not address the homework gap leaving this critical issue students across the nation are facing unresolved in this current proposal. Addressing the digital divide in education is an allowable use under the funds but this will create a competitive environment with many other important programs and will not adequately resolve the issue.

Liability

The legislation includes schools in its liability coverage. State tort liability laws are essentially eliminated under the legislation for issues arising from COVID-19 and replaced with a federal cause of action in which the plaintiff must prove their case through a clear and convincing evidence standard which is a higher standard than the normal one. Plaintiffs will need to prove that the defendant was not making reasonable efforts to comply with applicable government standards and /or guidance and was engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct.

 

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Gov. Walz orders flags at half-staff on July 30 to honor John Lewis

Flag-At-Half-Staff

Governor Tim Walz today directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sunset Thursday, July 30, 2020, to honor U.S. Representative John Lewis.

The proclamation follows a six-day national celebration of his life.

View a copy of Governor Walz’s full proclamation.

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Weekly Federal Update

Congressional Update

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.

Executive 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]
  • 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]
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Weekly Federal Update

NSBA and Governors Join with Other Organizations Calling for Immediate Education Relief
Today in a unified effort, NSBA, representing local elected school board members, and the National Governors Association (NGA), representing the chief executives of the 50 states and five territories, joined with eight other national leadership organizations in sending a letter to Congressional leadership calling on Congress to immediately provide emergency funding for K-12 and higher education to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter calls for “Dedicated funding for public K-12 education to ensure that school districts have the resources they need to address revenue shortfalls and new expenses related to starting the next school year in a manner that prioritizes learning and safety of students and staff.” The letter was noteworthy in signaling the seriousness of the issues since NGA does not typically sign nor send many coalition letters. Other groups joining NSBA and NGA included the American Federation of Teachers, Association of Community College Trustees, Council of Administrators of Special Education. Council of State Governments, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Republican Marker Bill on COVID-19 Relief Expected Next Week
Senate Republicans are widely expected to introduce a marker bill in the coming days, likely in the early part of next week. The forthcoming legislation will provide a window into Congressional Republican priorities with regards to the next COVID-19 relief package. Leaders from both parties and in both chambers are engaging in discussions regarding the size, scope, and shape of the next pandemic aid package. The expected Republican proposal will likely include roughly $1 trillion in further financial pandemic assistance and provide additional funding for K-12 education. The legislation is also expected to include liability protections for employers, postsecondary institutions, and potentially K-12 school districts-a key Republican priority in the upcoming negotiations-to encourage reopening efforts strongly supported by the Trump Administration. Our advocacy team is working to ensure that the emergency funding needs of the K-12 community are reflected in this legislation, especially as discussions on the next pandemic aid package continue.

CDC Expected to Provide Additional Reopening Guidance
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) plans to release supplementary guidance regarding the reopening of K-12 schools later this month. Following a weeks-long public push by the Trump Administration to urge schools to physically reopen this fall, CDC Director Redfield recently committed to providing “additional” guidance for K-12 communities to reopen schools in-person for the upcoming school year. This announcement comes after President Trump made several public statements recently calling into question the feasibility of the existing K-12 reopening guidance provided by the CDC. We will circulate the new guidance documents as soon as they become available.

National Homework Gap Day of Action on July 21, 2020: NSBA is helping lead a national effort on July 21 calling attention to the digital divide in education. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a long-documented and persistent inequity affecting students that lack adequate broadband access. We encourage all school board members to show their support for closing the homework gap and the FCC’s E-Rate program.  More details will be provided on Monday in the Advocate.

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Gov. Walz joins states across U.S. in ordering flags at half-staff to honor John Lewis

Flag-HalfStaff

Governor Tim Walz today directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff, effective immediately, until sunset today, July 18, 2020, to honor Representative John Lewis, who passed away on Friday.

Lewis was a stalwart of the Civil Rights movement — one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, and a member of Congress representing the people of Georgia for 33 years.

View Governor Walz’s full proclamation.

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Gov. Walz orders flags at half-staff on July 19 for Minnesotans who died from COVID-19

Flag-HalfStaff

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 Sunday, July 19, 2020. He has directed flags to fly at half staff on the 19th of every month through 2020 to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.

“Minnesota will never forget those we’ve lost due to COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “In lowering our flags we honor and remember their lives and commit to doing all we can to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations are also encouraged to join in lowering their flags to honor Minnesotans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families.

View Governor Walz’s full proclamation.

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School Finance Working Group discusses inequities, funding streams

Highlights from the School Finance Working Group meeting held Thursday, July 16, included a message from Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, a look at funding streams that vary across school districts, an update on draft options for recommendations compiled by the group’s subcommittees, and a roadmap as to what is next for the working group.

Commissioner Ricker thanked the members of the working group and reaffirmed that their work is needed now more than ever.

The working group examined research from the University of Minnesota that exposes another type of inequity in the general education formula – geographic cost differences. This inequity affects 76 school districts in metro area due to their higher labor costs based on their location.

In the group’s review of some funding streams that are not equally available to all school districts, they looked at recommendations in the areas of Q Comp, Full-Service Community Schools, and Early Education.

Commissioner Ricker announced the working group will continue to look at all the areas of education funding pressure points brought forward by working group members and subcommittees during July. In August, the working group will refine solutions and identify those items that rise to the top and will take other items off the table. In September, the group will form a proposal.

The next working group meetings are scheduled for:

  • 4 p.m. Thursday, July 30
  • 5 p.m. Thursday, August 13
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, August 20
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, August 27
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, September 10
  • 4 p.m. Thursday, September 17
  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, September 24

The July 30 agenda includes items concerning the basic education formula and property tax equalization.

The working group’s mission is to address education-funding issues facing the state. The group reviews key funding streams, identifies options for school finance reform, and seeks consensus on recommendations for systemic change. A review of previous working group sessions is available on the School Finance Working Group webpage.

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