U.S. Department of Education releases FAQ: Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Full-Service Community Schools

The U.S. Department of Education recently released Frequently Asked Questions: Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Full-Service Community Schools & Related Strategies. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are intended to inform state and local efforts in effectively using American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds to support evidence-based, full-service community schools and related approaches.

“When schools are at the center of our neighborhoods and communities, children and families benefit. I hope that the resource we are releasing today will help states and school districts use American Rescue Plan funds to increase access to evidence-based community schools for more students and families across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Community schools serve as hubs for vital resources and connect students and families to services that can help them thrive. Importantly, community schools expand learning and enrichment opportunities for both students and parents alike, and promote family and community engagement in education, which ultimately can bolster students’ success. That’s why I’m proud the president’s Build Back Better agenda robustly supports community schools with an additional investment of $443 million in his budget request for education.”

The Department is releasing the FAQs to provide districts and communities with information and considerations for expanding existing full-service community schools and implementing this approach in additional schools. All of the strategies described in the FAQs can be supported by funding under the American Rescue Plan, regardless of whether a school is a full-service community school.

A full-service community school is a public elementary or secondary school that uses established partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations to provide well-rounded educational opportunities and meet the social, emotional, physical, mental health, and academic needs of students.

Full-service community school approaches can leverage community resources to bring needed support for students and families into public schools, such as after-school programs, health and social services, and other comprehensive services. Full-service community schools can be a useful strategy to help ensure that a child’s opportunities are not limited by zip code, family’s income, race/ethnicity, disability status, or other factors. Research shows that evidence-based approaches to community schools can improve student social, emotional, and academic outcomes.

In March, the Department announced the allocation that each state educational agency (SEA) will receive under the ARP ESSER Fund, totaling $122 billion in relief for K-12 schools. One of the important allowable uses of ARP ESSER funds specified in the statute is to support full-service community schools.

The Department currently offers competitive grants for full-service community schools to improve coordination, integration, accessibility, and effectiveness of services for children and families. ARP ESSER funds may be used to replicate, expand, and scale-up these efforts.

In addition, because community schools have built-in services and structures that will help students return to in-person learning, the Department is requesting a significant increase in funding for the program ($443 million) in its fiscal year 2022 budget request in alignment with President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Secretary Cardona embarked this week on a cross-country tour to visit schools and community colleges preparing for full reopening this fall, with the assistance of the American Rescue Plan. The Department will continue to provide support and resources to schools and communities as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild our education system back better than it was pre-pandemic.

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School safety webinar on youth preparedness, community resilience set for July 28

Join the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse on Wednesday, July 28, at 2 p.m. CDT for an informational webinar on increasing youth preparedness and building resilience in K-12 school communities.

Leaders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will discuss programs, tools, and resources aimed at empowering youth to learn the hazards that affect their community; understand how to stay safe in an emergency; practice critical emergency response skills; and lead preparedness-building activities in their communities. The webinar will also cover the “whole community” approach to emergency preparedness, as well as ways K-12 school communities can build capacity and capabilities to prepare for the range of disasters and emergencies they may face.

  • When: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday, July 28, 2021
  • Who: K-12 School Superintendents and Principals; School and District Administrators; Teachers and School Staff; School Resource Officers and Local Law Enforcement; Parents and Students

Additional details about the webinar will be provided upon registration. If you have any questions, please contact the School Safety team at SchoolSafety@hq.dhs.gov.

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Apply for FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund through August 13

The FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund will open for application on June 29, 2021, and close on August 13, 2021. The purpose of this program is to help schools and libraries fund devices and wireless hot spots to provide improved access to online resources and education opportunities for students and citizens who need assistance. 

Visit https://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/ECF-FactSheet.pdf to access a fact sheet that explains the program in more detail. 

Any school or library that is eligible for the federal E-Rate Telecommunications Discount Program is eligible for this program. However,  you do not need to be participating in E-rate to apply. 

Get Started 

There are a few things you can do to get ready to apply when the window opens. 

  1. You must have an FCC registration number for your school district or school. You need not have an FCC registration number for every school in the school district. Only one is needed. If you need an FCC Registration number, visit here.
  2. You must also be registered in the Systems for Awards Management (SAMS) with the federal government. You may already have a SAMS number, so check with your school business office. If you need to get registered with SAMS, go here
  3. You will need an account in the Emergency Connectivity Fund portal (ECF). If you already have an account in the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC), you will log into EPC and get access to ECF from there. If you do not have an EPC log in and password, you can create one by visiting the USAC web page and click on Sign In. Follow the screens to the log-in screen and click “create a new account.” 

The Emergency Connectivity Fund may be used toward purchases that take place between July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. Eligible purchases include: 

  • Connected Devices (laptop and tablet computers). iPads and Chromebooks are eligible. Desktop computers and smartphones are not eligible. 
  • Wi-Fi hotspots 
  • Modems 
  • Routers
  • Devices that combine a modem and router 

There are also some Internet access services that are eligible. 

More information and updates can be found at https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/

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Weekly Federal Update

Congressional Update

House Sets Funding Cap for Education Programs

On Tuesday, June 29, the House Appropriations Committee approved topline allocations for each of the 12 bills that compose the federal discretionary budget for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY 22) set to begin October 1, 2021. These allocations detail how much funding will be available, overall, for each of the departments, agencies, and programs falling under the jurisdiction of each of these funding bills. Of note, House appropriators have proposed to significantly increase funding by $40.5 billion for the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill—a 21% increase over last year’s enacted levels. The Labor-HHS-ED appropriations legislation provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the programs it administers. While the proposed increase for this portion of the federal budget does not mean that all these extra funds will go towards K-12 education, it provides a substantial opportunity for lawmakers to appropriate funds in that way should they choose to do so.

Program-level funding for this bill has not yet been released, but the House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up and ultimately pass this legislation on July 12. As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will remain engaged with Capitol Hill to ensure the K-12 community receives a robust investment for the upcoming fiscal year.

Administration Update

USED Releases ARP Funding for Students with Disabilities

The recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides an additional $3 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). On Thursday, July 1, USED released these funds to states via a prescribed formula contained in the law. Additional information regarding this disbursement of funds can be found here.

NCES Reports Drop in Public School Enrollments

Data released by USED’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released data earlier this week showing that enrollments within K-12 public schools dropped by approximately three percent during the 2020-21 school year when compared to one year earlier. The decline in enrollments was particularly pronounced among the nation’s youngest learners, with preschool and kindergarten enrollments dropping by 22 and nine percent, respectively. Eighteen states in total experienced declines of at least three percent or more. While these figures are preliminary, NCES’ acting commissioner, Peggy Carr, called the findings “concerning.” Final data on national enrollments in K-12 schools are expected to be released in the spring of 2022.

Secretary Cardona Releases Proposed Grant Priorities

On Wednesday, June 30, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona published proposed priorities and related definitions for future discretionary grant program opportunities administered by USED. After the priorities are finalized later this year, the Department will be able to select any of them to emphasize certain policies based on these high-level priorities. The newly proposed priorities include: 

  • Priority 1 – Addressing the Impact of COVID–19 on Students, Educators, and Faculty.
  • Priority 2—Promoting Equity in Student Access to Educational Resources, Opportunities, and Welcoming Environments.
  • Priority 3—Supporting a Diverse Educator Workforce and Professional Growth to Strengthen Student Learning.
  • Proposed Priority 4— Meeting Student Social, Emotional, and Academic Needs
  • Proposed Priority 5—Increasing Postsecondary Education Access, Affordability, Completion, and Post Enrollment Success
  • Priority 6—Strengthening Cross-Agency Coordination and Community Engagement to Advance Systemic Change.

Comments in response to these proposed priorities must be filed by July 30 of this year.

FCC Launches Emergency Connectivity Fund

Earlier this week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), inviting applications from eligible schools and libraries (and consortia of schools and libraries) for prospective home broadband and related device costs for the period July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. The application window closes on August 13, 2021. Authorized by the American Rescue Plan, the ECF provides $7.2 billion in funding to schools and libraries to purchase broadband plans and devices for students, school staff, and library patrons.

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Three new broadband grants available through NTIA

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has provided the latest news about our three new grants – the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Broadband Infrastructure Program

Now Available: Session 3 Webinar Presentation, Transcripts, and Recordings

Thank you to all who were able to join us for our recent Broadband Infrastructure Program Session 3a and 3b webinars. Were you unable to attend? Or maybe you want to go back and review the information presented? You can check out the links below for copies of the presentations, transcripts, and webinar recordings:

Session 3a – Held June 9, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 3b – Held June 10, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Register Today for Next Month’s Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Broadband Infrastructure Program Session 4 webinars on July 14 and 15. These webinars will build up on the previous month’s presentations, helping prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assisting applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 4a – July 14, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – July 15, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

New Round of FAQs

NTIA has recently published its second round of FAQs regarding the Broadband Infrastructure Program. This document offers a deeper dive into some of the most commonly asked questions we have been receiving from prospective applicants regarding eligibility, other broadband funding programs and eligible service areas, application requirements/process, and post awards requirements. Subsequent FAQ rounds will be published periodically throughout the application window. See the new round of FAQs below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 06-10-2021

ICYMI: Broadband Infrastructure Program Resources

In case you missed it, below are some helpful resources related to the Broadband Infrastructure Program:

Broadband Infrastructure Program Webpage

Official Broadband Infrastructure Program NOFO

FAQs – Round One

Grants.gov Link to Opportunity

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program

Now Available: Session 3 Webinar Presentation, Transcripts, and Recordings

Thank you to all who were able to join us for our recent Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Session 3a and 3b webinars. Were you unable to attend? Or maybe you want to go back and review the information presented? You can check out the links below for copies of the presentations, transcripts, and webinar recordings:

Session 3a – June 16, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 3b – June 17, 2021 at 2:30 pm ET

Register Today for Next Month’s Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Session 4 webinars on July 21 and 22! These webinars will build up on the previous month’s presentations, helping prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assisting applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 4a – July 21, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – July 22, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

First Round of FAQs Published

To accompany the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program NOFO, NTIA staff also released the first round of FAQs. The FAQ document will assist potential applicants with some of their preliminary questions related to the new grant program. Topics include eligibility, evaluation of applications, and grant award and reporting requirements. Subsequent FAQ rounds will be published periodically throughout the application window. See the FAQ document below:

FAQs – Round One

ICYMI: Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Resources

In case you missed it, below are some helpful resources related to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program:

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Webpage

Dear Tribal Letter (June 2021)

Official Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program NOFO

Grants.gov Link to Opportunity

Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program

Final Rule Released

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released the Final Rule for the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which will direct $268 million for expanding broadband to eligible historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Grants will be distributed to help HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise, and facilitate educational instruction. The Final Rule describes the programmatic scope and general guidelines for the program. As directed by the Act, the Final Rule also establishes a method to determine applicant eligibility and identify which eligible recipients have the greatest unmet financial needs. Requirements for grant applications and other information about the program will be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity that will be subsequently published on grants.gov later this summer.

Available Soon: Session 3 Webinar Presentation, Transcripts, and Recordings

Thank you to all who were able to join us for our recent Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Session 3a and 3b webinars. Were you unable to attend? Or maybe you want to go back and review the information presented? The presentations, transcripts, and webinar recordings will be available on these webpages by Friday, July 2:

Session 3a – June 23, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 3b – June 24, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Register Today for Next Month’s Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Session 3 webinars on June 23 and 24, as well as our Session 4 webinars on July 21 and 22! These webinars will help prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assist applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 4a – July 21, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – July 22, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Call for Reviewers

Help America Advance its National Objective of Broadband Access for All!

NTIA is soliciting experts to evaluate grant proposals for three broadband connectivity programs that will award over $1.5 billion to further national broadband goals and assist with COVID response and recovery efforts.

NTIA will conduct a merit review of applications submitted to these programs. The merit review will involve teams of technical experts that evaluate applications against established review criteria specific to each program.

NTIA is seeking qualified volunteers with expertise and experience in infrastructure, broadband use and digital inclusion, including but not limited to:

  • Broadband networks, using appropriate terrestrial or wireless technologies, and network sustainability
  • Broadband network planning and design
  • Broadband network construction and deployment costs and construction timeframes
  • Broadband network workforce development
  • Telehealth, distance learning, broadband adoption and digital inclusion programs including equipment, networks, training and outreach
  • Telework, workforce development and online entrepreneurship programs
  • Low-income discount and subsidized broadband programs
  • Planning, program design and evaluation for telehealth, distance education, workforce development and digital inclusion programs
  • Programs and activities noted above that are conducted by Minority Serving Institutions

NTIA expects to stagger the application deadlines for each program; however, we currently project that merit reviews for these programs will start in August and extend into October. We are committed to ensuring that reviewers come from diverse backgrounds and areas of the United States. Please feel free to circulate this “Call for Reviewers” to other individuals or organizations that may be sources of qualified reviewers.

To volunteer as a reviewer, please email a resume containing the information below to grantreviewer@ntia.gov:

  • Name
  • Residence (city and state)
  • Email/phone number
  • Employer(s) including states you were employed in
  • Position/Title
  • Years and types of experience and positions in fields related to broadband activities
  • In your email, please also let us know which NTIA programs interest you or align best with your expertise.

Over the coming months, NTIA will examine and approve reviewer applications on a first-come, first-served basis based on qualifications that match the needs of each program. Upon selection as a merit reviewer, you must submit signed Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality forms in accordance with Department of Commerce policies on conflicts of interest and confidentiality. Additionally, reviewers will not be compensated and will need to sign a waiver of compensation. Approved reviewers will be contacted to schedule participation in a webinar orientation session and teleconference panel reviews.

Although you will not be compensated for your time and expertise, you will be making a significant contribution to enhancing broadband services throughout the United States. We appreciate the valuable contribution you will be making to the success of the programs and look forward to working with you as a reviewer. If you have questions, please send them by email to: grantreviewer@ntia.gov.

Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

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Press release: FCC launches effort to close Homework Gap

On June 29, FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced schools and libraries can now begin to file applications for the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, the agency’s latest effort to connect Americans. Schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections to serve unmet needs for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. From June 29 to August 13, eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services for the 2021-22 school year.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic upended so much of day-to-day life, seven in ten teachers were assigning homework that required access to the internet. But data from this agency demonstrates that one in three households do not subscribe to broadband. Where those numbers overlap is the Homework Gap,” said Rosenworcel. “Of all the memories and images of the past months, the one that keeps coming back to me is a viral picture of two young girls sitting outside a Taco Bell.”

“They were sitting cross-legged on the ground with laptops on their knees, using the free Wi-Fi from the restaurant to do their schoolwork. It was heart-wrenching to see. But they were not alone. Kids elsewhere during this pandemic sat in cars outside of libraries to catch a signal to go online for class. Others cobbled together the connectivity they needed by doing everything from borrowing mobile phones to lingering outside of shuttered school and municipal buildings. We should salute the grit of each and every one of these young people who found ways to go online and keep up with school. But it shouldn’t be this hard — and going forward, thanks to the Emergency Connectivity Fund, it won’t,” said Rosenworcel.

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 established the Emergency Connectivity Fund. In May, the FCC adopted the Report and Order outlining how the program would be administered. The Universal Service Administrative Company will serve as the program’s administrator with FCC oversight. The Fund leverages the processes and structures used in the E-Rate program for the benefit of schools and libraries already familiar with the E-Rate program. You can find more information about the program at www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org or www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund and instructions on how to apply at www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org/application-process.

Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 16.9 million children struggling without the broadband access they need for remote learning. Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel is a long-time advocate for closing the Homework Gap, with many crediting her with the creation of the term.

Source: The Federal Communications Commission

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Weekly Federal Update

Congressional Update

Lawmakers Reach Tentative Infrastructure Deal, Path Forward Remains Murky

A bipartisan group of 21 Senators continued to meet this week to discuss and negotiate potential investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Late Wednesday night, June 23, this group of Senators announced with much fanfare that they had reached agreement on a $953 billion proposal focused exclusively on “traditional” physical infrastructure. Significantly, the proposed framework does not include funding for school infrastructure or other “nontraditional” infrastructure investments many Congressional Democrats had hoped to include. The next morning this group of Senators was invited to the White House to meet with President Biden to further discuss this deal. Following this meeting, President Biden appeared publicly with the group of 21 Senators to announce that they had agreed to the proposal. 

Yet as news of the deal began to circulate, additional complications arose. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while supportive of the proposal, announced that she would not allow the bipartisan deal to be considered unless the Senate passed a separate proposal inclusive of many Democratic priorities, including funding for K-12 school infrastructure. At the same time, Senators Moran (R-KS) and Graham (R-SC), both part of the group of 21 Senators who negotiated the framework, announced that they would oppose the deal that they had just helped strike if Democrats moved forward with plans to pass additional infrastructure investments, not included in this framework, via the reconciliation process. As opposition from both parties grew, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced late Thursday night that “. . . we need to keep talking here”—an indication that there may not be enough support in Congress to pass this framework.

It remains unclear what will eventually happen with this most recent proposal. As these negotiations unfold, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to ensure that lawmakers in both parties fully appreciate the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community as part of any investment in the nation’s infrastructure. 

Secretary Cardona Testifies in the House

On Thursday, June 24, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on the priorities of his department for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). A great deal of committee members’ questions during the hearing focused on the issue of “Critical Race Theory” and the appropriate role the U.S. Department of Education (USED) should play as this issue gains more attention. Cardona was also questioned extensively regarding USED’s recent notice of interpretation on Title IX, clarifying that transgender students are protected under this law. The hearing also explored a host of other, less controversial issues, including Career and Technical Education (CTE), state efforts to implement pandemic aid dollars for education, and other priorities contained in USED’s FY22 budget. A link to a recording of the hearing, including testimony from Secretary Cardona, can be found here

Bipartisan Legislation to Address Teacher Shortages Reintroduced 

This week U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Susan Collins, who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and to increase teacher diversity. NSBA and other national education groups have supported this legislation, urging that it be included in the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which includes provisions for teacher preparation programs. The PREP Act would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas of special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and career and technical education (CTE), in order to give schools access to additional support. It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. The bill would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. Further, it would require states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts. 

Administration Update

USED Hosts Equity Summit

On Tuesday, June 22, the USED hosted the first installment of its Equity Summit Series. Dubbed “Building Equitable Learning Environments in Our Schools,” the event featured First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten. The convening explored strategies for advancing equity as part of school reopening efforts and how the Biden Administration’s proposed FY22 budget and previous investments made via the American Rescue Plan can help promote this work.

Discretionary Grants

  • “Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) – Grants for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities” – This program seeks to provide grant opportunities for entities, focused on acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities through innovative methods. The estimated available funds for this discretionary grant program total $43,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 23, 2021, and further information is available here.
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Bill Introductions – June 22-23, 2021

HF 51-57 and SF 59-61

The following bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature Special Session #1 – June 22-23, 2021. 

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/SpecialSessionBillIntros-6-22-23-2021.pdf

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K-12 Education Budget Agreement Information

Earlier today were made aware of an unofficial budget agreement reached by the Governor, Senate and the House.  Normally, we would share the agreement once there was an official notice from their offices; however, an unofficial document has been circulating throughout social media and by others throughout the day. We will be sharing the official agreement and spreadsheet once it is made public, which may be later tonight or tomorrow. Reliable sources have confirmed a 2.54 percent increase on the formula for FY22 and a 2 percent increase for FY23 for the total cost of $463 million for the biennium as well and the extension for VPK for two years.  Watch the Weekly Advocate for the official details.  The great news is we are making progress.

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Weekly Federal Update

Congressional Update

House Budget Committee Kicks-off FY22 Funding Cycle

After delays throughout the year, budget and appropriations activity started in earnest in the House this week. On Monday, June 14, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) filed a “deeming resolution” to establish a topline figure for funding the federal government, along with related programs, for the upcoming 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). This measure was later approved by the chamber and allows appropriators in the chamber to begin to craft the 12 individual spending bills that compose the discretionary side of the federal budget. The topline figure—about $1.5 trillion— is slightly below President Biden’s budget request due to technical adjustments related to changes in mandatory federal spending.  

More recently, House Democrats have unveiled an ambitious markup schedule for the coming month, aiming to prepare all 12 bills for consideration by the full House by mid-July. At present, the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill—legislation that provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the programs it oversees—is scheduled for July 7. Progress on appropriations has been far slower in the Senate and it remains unclear when the upper legislative chamber will commence work on comparable legislation to fund federal operations for the upcoming fiscal year, set to begin October 1, 2021.

Infrastructure Talks Drag on Without a Clear Path Forward

Lawmakers from both parties and both legislative chambers continue to debate potential investments in the nation’s infrastructure. Most recently, a bipartisan group of 21 Senators, led by Senators Sinema (D-AZ) and Portman (R-OH), has begun to coalesce around a high-level “framework” for a potential infrastructure deal. The group, composed of nearly equal amounts of Democrats and Republicans, is currently attempting to develop a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure package—a topline figure slightly above a proposal offered by another group of Senators earlier this month. However, the framework lacks detail. A list of 11 mechanisms to finance the legislation, including repurposing previously appropriated pandemic aid dollars and simply expanding the eligible uses of existing pandemic aid funding, has been floated, but many of these proposals have already been rejected by the Biden Administration and many Congressional Democrats.

As these talks continue, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a memo to the White House outlining the immense infrastructure needs of K-12 schools across the nation after visiting many since his confirmation. Although a resolution on infrastructure remains unclear at this time, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to impress upon lawmakers in both parties the significant infrastructure needs of the K-12 community as part of any investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Senate Examines Biden Administration’s FY22 Budget

On Wednesday, June 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) held a hearing examining President Biden’s FY22 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary Cardona testified before the committee arguing that the administration’s proposed budget is a bold effort to address chronic underinvestment in K-12 education and would address significant inequities facing far too many of the nation’s learners. Much of the day’s discussion focused on the administration’s proposed “Title I Equity Grants” which, if enacted, would direct $20 billion in new funding to local education agencies based on a new formula different from the one used in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In addition, several other issues were explored at length, including the ongoing implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s K-12 funds and efforts to reopen schools. Cardona’s full testimony can be found here.

Administration Update

USED Releases Tranche of ESSER Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed earlier this year, provided nearly $122 billion in additional aid to K-12 schools via the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. These funds were intended to help schools weather the effects of the pandemic and facilitate the safe reopening of K-12 facilities for in-person instruction. About two-thirds of this funding ($81 billion) was sent to states this past April, with the remainder to be delivered after states submitted plans for how the funds would be used.

On Monday, June 14, USED released plans for 28 states, including the District of Columbia,  as the Department reviews and later approves them. Although the statutory deadline for these plans was June 7, USED has extended limited flexibilities to the remaining states that have yet to submit an ESSER plan. The Department anticipates that the remaining plans will be submitted for consideration on a rolling basis in the weeks ahead. Once approved, a related letter along with the remaining funding will be released to states for further use. More information regarding the plans can be found here.

FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Goes Live at the End of June

On Tuesday, June 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that eligible schools and libraries may begin to apply for a slice of the $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) on June 29. Authorized by the American Rescue Plan, the ECF provides funding to schools and libraries to purchase broadband plans and devices for students, school staff, and library patrons. The initial application period will last 45 days, ending August 13, and may be used for “reasonable costs associated with eligible equipment and services” purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. More information on the announcement, including how to apply for funding, can be found here. In related news, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a new publicly available map displaying key indicators of broadband need throughout the nation.

USED Clarifies Title IX Interpretation

On Wednesday, June 16, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a notice of interpretation clarifying that it intends to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to include protections from discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. OCR’s announcement is based on a recent Supreme Court ruling, Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently discriminatory against a person based on sex.

Biden Administration Continues to Staff Key Education Roles

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced a series of new appointees to fill key roles within the Department. Around the same time, President Biden announced his intention to nominate Sandra Bruce to be the next Inspector General for USED. In addition, Gwen Graham, who President Biden recently nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at USED, was advanced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday for full consideration by the chamber at a later date. While a full vote has not yet been scheduled on her nomination, she is expected to be confirmed in the near future.

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