Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

January 17, 2020

Congressional Update

House Education Committee Invites Sec. DeVos to Provide Budget Testimony

With the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process now in Congress’s “rear view mirror”, legislators are beginning to prepare for the fiscal year 2021 budget debate. The White House recently announced that the president plans to send his annual budget request to Congress on February 10. Following submission of the President’s proposed budget, cabinet members and agency leaders testify in the Senate and House about their budget needs and respond to questions posed by legislators.

House Leaders Planning Floor Debate about Infrastructure

House Democratic leaders are planning to release sweeping infrastructure legislation following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess.  Although infrastructure legislation could pass the House, cutting a deal with the Senate and White House may be very difficult, particularly during this contentious election year. NSBA will closely monitor the process and provide additional information to members when the legislation is published.

 Administration Update

Department of Education Publishes School Prayer Guidance

This week, the Department of Education announced updated guidance titled “Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”.  In addition, the law requires that, as a condition of receiving ESEA funds, school districts must certify in writing to its state education agency that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools as detailed in this updated guidance. The official guidance will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, but readers can already access it on the Department of Education’s website.

 NCES Publishes High School Dropout and Completion Report       

The National Center for Education Statistics released a report titled “Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2019”. The report “provides the most recent year of data available for each dropout and completion rate, summarizes long-term trends, and examines the characteristics of high school dropouts and completers. Five rates are presented to provide a broad perspective on high school dropouts and completers in the United States: the event dropout rate, the status dropout rate, the status completion rate, the adjusted cohort graduation rate, and the averaged freshman graduation rate. The report also provides information about individuals who completed an alternative high school credential.”

New K-12 Bills

  • H.R.5620To provide for a Federal partnership to ensure educational equity and quality. Sponsor:Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]
  • H.R.5611To promote State requirements for local educational agencies and public elementary and secondary schools relating to the prevention and treatment of concussions suffered by students. Sponsor:Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
  • H.R.5607To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out a grant program to make grants to eligible local educational agencies to carry out food waste reduction programs, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1]


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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update


January 10, 2020

Congressional Update

 Congress Preparing for Busy Work Period

On Monday, Congress returned to Washington for the first full week of the second session of the 116thCongress. The Senate and House education committees did not hold any hearings this week, but we expect the House committee to turn attention to policy discussions about homeless youth, apprenticeship initiatives, and other issues during the remainder of January. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee has not yet announced plans for the first part of the session. The fiscal year 2021 education appropriations process will also be underway soon.

Administration Update

OCR and OSERs Host Seclusion and Restraint Webinar for School Districts

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and  Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) hosted a webinar, “Students with Disabilities and the Use of Restraint and Seclusion in K-12 Public Schools, as technical assistance to support children with disabilities and those within school systems serving students. The webinar is a component of an initiative announced by Secretary DeVos in January 2019 to explore the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

 U.S. Department of Education Invites Public Comment on State Assessment Grants

The U.S. Department of Education invited public comment on proposed priorities for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. The department said the proposed priorities are designed to encourage state education agencies to consider new approaches to the State assessment systems. The priorities build on the flexibility in ESEA Sec. 1204, which establishes the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA). The priorities would allow states to use CGSA funds to “improve alignment with and support related work through the IADA.” Public comments are due by February 7, 2020, and interested district leaders can access further information about the priorities here.

U.S. Department of Education Announces Preschool Development Grant State Winners

The Department of Education awarded planning grants to six states and territories (Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico) and renewal grants to 20 states  (California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington) through the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program. The Department of Education also noted that the additional $25 million appropriated for the program in FY20 will allow for three more states to receive funding once funds are made available to the Department.




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Grant available for schools for suicide prevention


The Minnesota Department of Education has a competitive grant available to support suicide prevention through schoolwide social emotional learning, which supports meaningful relationships, coping skills, and safe and supportive communities.

The application deadline is Friday, February 14.

Visit https://education.mn.gov/MDE/DSE/MDE089449 for details.

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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

January 3, 2020

Congressional Update

 Senate and House Set to Begin Second Session of the 116thCongress

The Senate officially opened the second session of the 116thCongress today and the House is scheduled to reconvene next week. The opening days of the new session follow a flurry of productive work in December that yielded additional education funding for fiscal year 2020 and incremental, but important, changes to the Higher Education Act that will simplify the financial aid process and continue support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Senate and House education committees have not yet announced any hearings for January, but we expect the House committee to continue work that was started late last year to update the Education Sciences Reform Act and the National Apprenticeship Act. We expect to learn more about the Senate committee’s schedule next week, but uncertainty about the timeline for the Senate’s impeachment trial may delay announcements from committee leaders about their plans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) invited the President to deliver the State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 4, which coincides with NSBA’s Advocacy Institute. Given that Congress was able to complete the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process last month, we expect the White House will send President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request to Congress in early to mid-February.

Administration Update

Administration Publishes Updated Student Data Privacy Guidance 

The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services released joint guidanceon the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to student health records. The guidance represents an update to a document first published in 2008.  The document aims to help school district leaders understand how the two laws apply to student data, including when schools may release covered data without parent or eligible student consent, including during health or public safety emergencies. NSBA encourages school board members to familiarize themselves with the guidance and work with their administrators to update their student privacy policies and emergency plans accordingly.

Department of Education Invites Nominations for Cybersecurity Award

The Department of Education invitednominations for the Inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award. “Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award will be presented each year to two educators, one elementary and one secondary, who instill in their students the skills, knowledge and passion for cybersecurity and related subjects. Award recipients will embody the expertise and dedication of educators who are critical to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. Awardees will be acknowledged by the President and Secretary of Education as cybersecurity leaders.” Nominations must be submitted no later than January 31, 2020.

Department of Education Announces Education Programs Study

This week, the Department of Education announced plans to examine five major federal education programs: Part A of Titles I, II, III, and IV of ESEA – which will include school improvement grants provided under Section 1003 of Title I, Part A – as well as Title I, Part B of the IDEA. The Department hopes to learn how schools are using these programs and how they can be improved. The study will use a representative sample of 400 school districts and will examine budgets, plans, expenditure data, and personnel and payroll data. The study will also collect data on district and school allocations, and it will include the use of surveys and interviews to obtain more in-depth data. The Department will begin to collect preliminary information in May 2020 and the district- and school-level data collection will begin in September 2020. Comments will be accepted until February 24, 2020. Further information is available through the Federal Register notice, which may be accessed here.

 Chief Justice Roberts Highlights Importance on Civics Education

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court addressed the importance of civics education in the 2019 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. Justice Roberts said, “[e]ach generation has an obligation to pass on to the next, not only a fully functioning government responsive to the needs of the people, but the tools to understand and improve it.” The report highlights the federal court systems’ efforts to support civics education and Justice Roberts called on his “judicial colleagues to continue their efforts to promote public confidence in the judiciary, both through their rulings and through civic outreach.”



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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

December 20, 2019

Congressional Update

Congress Approves Final U.S. Department of Education Budget for Fiscal Year 2020

With only days remaining on the 2019 legislative calendar, congressional leaders and the White House finalized work on a massive omnibus spending bill that will fund the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies through the end of the fiscal year. The bill provides a $1.3 billion increase for education, including a $450 million increase for ESSA Title I and a $410 million increase for the IDEA State Grants program. This welcome development will enable federal leaders to begin the fiscal year 2021 appropriations process on time, assuming the White House submits the president’s annual spending request to Congress in February, as required by the Budget Act. MSBA and NSBA is pleased by Congress’s decision to increase the overall education budget and especially welcomes the additional funding provided for IDEA Part B and C but we will continue to advocate for more resources and necessary assistance. Early in 2020, we plan to ask Congress to build on these funding increases for the next fiscal year.

Congress and the White House Approve FAFSA Simplification Law

Congress and President Trump completed work this week on a new law designed to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that 20 million families complete each year to qualify for federal student aid. Under the law, the IRS will securely send tax information to the Department of Education, eliminating the need for families to resubmit tax information they have already provided to the federal government for the purpose of completing the FAFSA. This change should make it easier for high school students and their families to access financial aid for college. The new law also permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. 

Notable K12 Bills

  • R.5483To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to clarify that ASL students are English learners.Sponsor:Rep. Larsen, Rick [D-WA-2]
  • R.5463To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require a study of the time and duration of school lunch periods, and for other purposes.Sponsor:Rep. Schrier, Kim [D-WA-8]
  • 3096A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Director of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention to develop a program to prevent the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems among students in middle and high schools, to award grants to State and local health agencies to implement such program, and for other purposes.Sponsor:Sen. Durbin, Richard J. [D-IL]


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Gov. Walz orders flags at half-staff in honor of Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles Paul Nord


In honor and remembrance of Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles Paul Nord, Gov. Tim Walz has ordered all United States and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings from sunrise until sunset on Monday, December 16, 2019.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles Nord died tragically in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash December 5, 2019. He will be remembered in a funeral service at Perham High School on Monday, December 16, 2019.

View a copy of Gov. Walz’s proclamation.

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School Finance Working Group Update

The Austin Public Schools and Richfield Public Schools teams provided case studies of how English Learners (EL) funding works in their school district to the School Finance Working Group Thursday, December 12, at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

Austin Public Schools has seen an increasing enrollment over the last few years. Austin went from 10 EL teachers in 2009-10 to 26 teachers in 2019-20. There are 47 home languages in Austin Public Schools. Members of the administrative team for Austin shared some ideas for improvements or changes including differentiated funding based upon level of need and the expansion or adjustment of the expiration cap on funding and expanding licensed EL teachers by working with local universities.

The Richfield Public School district encompasses seven square miles just outside the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. Their school district has employs 19.7 FTE and has 25 percent EL students. There are 35 languages spoken in student’s homes, 40 percent of which are Spanish. Richfield is experiencing great success with their programs and are proud of their dual immersion programs and high graduation rates.

According to data from MDE, the average cross-subsidy per EL student has tripled in the last 10 years. Both districts agree that EL needs are growing in districts and funding needs are increasing, sometimes causing them to divert funds from other areas. They also agree finding and hiring licensed EL staff is difficult.

The January agenda will present case studies on two issues — the achievement gap and enrollment options.

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