Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Congressional Update

Senator Markey and 44 Co-sponsors Introduce Emergency E-rate Legislation

This week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), joined by 42 Democratic and 2 Independent senators,  introduced legislation (S.3690) that proposes to provide $4 billion in emergency funding, through the E-Rate program, to help connect elementary and secondary students and library patrons who lack broadband access for learning. The bill is a companion to a House measure introduced in April by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY). The sponsors’ goal is to secure inclusion of the E-rate funding in the next COVID-19 emergency response bill considered by Congress. NSBA strongly supports the Markey/Meng proposal and is working with other national groups to build support for it.

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing About Safely Returning to School

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing titled, “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said “all roads back to work and back to school go through testing.” NIH infectious disease expert Fauci said, “we don’t know everything about this virus and we really better be pretty careful, particularly when it comes to children.” An archived video of the hearing may be accessed herefor further information. Witnesses at the hearing included: Anthony Fauci, MD (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD); Robert Redfield, MD (Director, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA); ADM Brett Giroir, MD  (Assistant Secretary for Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.); and Stephen Hahn, MD (Commissioner of Food and Drugs, United States Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD).

House Democrats Introduce New Pandemic Response Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called a House vote for Friday on a $3 trillion emergency bill to help states, communities, and individuals. As of this writing, the legislation is still being debated. Among other investments, the bill, (the HEROES Act, H.R.6800), provides the following funding:

  • $1 trillion to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.
  • $90 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants to States to support statewide and local funding for elementary and secondary schools and public postsecondary institutions. Approximately $58 billion of the total would be provided to K-12 education.
  • $1.5 billion in funding for the E-rate Program for schools and libraries to provide internet service in a technologically neutral way to students and teachers, prioritizing those without internet access at home.
  • $3 billion for school meal providers and USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Doubles the above-the-line deduction for certain unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses for elementary and secondary school teachers from $250 to $500. This amount is adjusted for inflation.

MSBA and NSBA plans to continue urging Congress to provide $200 billion in the bill to help school districts and a minimum of $4 in funding to the E-Rate program to close the homework gap. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has called for a slower process, arguing that the CARES Act should be allowed to work before Congress takes additional action.

As a result, NSBA does not expect Senate leaders to introduce new emergency legislation anytime soon, but we intend to continue talking with senators about the importance of providing additional funding for public education, including dedicated funding for student and teacher broadband connectivity. Efforts are also underway to encourage the House to increase investments in any final legislation that may be debated through a conference committee process.

 

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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