Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Congressional Update 

 House Aims to Pass Fiscal Year 2021 Spending Bills by August       

This week, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) notified committee members that they should plan for a busy July. In a June 4 letter, she wrote “I wanted to alert you that I intend to hold all subcommittee and full committee markups the weeks of July 6 and 13. Further, I expect spending bills could be on the floor the weeks of July 20 and 27.” This work would include committee and full House approval of the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal year 2021 budget, including funding for ESEA Title I, IDEA State Grants and all other funding that flows to school districts. While it is possible the House will meet this goal, the prospects for completing the appropriations process by the beginning of the federal fiscal year – October 1 – are much less clear in the Senate. We expect the Senate and House to take the annual August recess, so negotiations between the bodies about final spending decisions would mostly need to be completed during a short September work period or during the tumultuous weeks leading up to the election. As a result, Congress may need to extend the education budget – as well as funding for other government agencies – at current levels until after the election. MSBA and NSBA plans to continue advocating for increased local education funding under the assumption that Congress will meet its appropriations obligations on time, but the process could be extended until later in the year.

 Senate Education Committee Plans Hearing about Returning to School

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee plans to hold a hearing next Wednesday (June 10) titled, “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely.”  The hearing follows a similar discussion with postsecondary leaders this week, which featured testimony about institutions’ efforts to develop practices for housing, instruction, and other activities for the next school year that allow colleges and universities to reopen without compromising the health of students and staff.  Witnesses at the K-12 safety hearing will include:

  • Ms. Susana Cordova, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools, Denver, CO 
  • The Honorable John B. King, Jr., President and CEO, The Education Trust, Washington, DC 
  • Dr. Penny Schwinn, Commissioner of Education, Tennessee Department of Education, Nashville, TN 
  • Dr. Matthew Blomstedt, Commissioner of Education, Nebraska Department of Education, Lincoln, NE 

The hearing will be livestreamed hereat 10:00 AM (EDT) and the video and written testimony will remain archived on the committee’s website for later viewing. 

ADMINISTRATION UPDATE 

U.S. Department of Education Plans Virtual Learning Panel 

Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Frank Brogan will lead a panel discussion on Tuesday, June 9 (2:30-3:45 PM EDT) about the practical application of virtual learning. The forum aims to offer information and resources to help districts establish or develop innovative virtual learning capabilities. Interested board members can register for the event here(space is limited).

Government Accountability Office Publishes K-12 Infrastructure Report

This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “K-12 Education: School Districts Frequently Identified Multiple Building Systems Needing Updates or Replacement.” The “report examines (1) the common facility condition issues school districts identify in public schools and how they have done so and (2) school districts’ highest priorities for their school facility renovations and updates, and how districts and states fund them.” Last year, Congress directed GAO to conduct the study and report back to legislators. The results provide useful data to support NSBA’s advocacy for a massive federal investment in low income school districts’ infrastructure.  

Federal Communications Commission Encourages Broadband Program Participation

The Federal Communications Commission and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners published a letterto build public awareness of the FCC’s Lifeline program. Like the E-rate, the Lifeline initiative is part of the federal Universal Service Fund. The program provides subsidies for low income households to connect to broadband. The letter highlights resources that community leaders, including school board members and school district leaders, can use to help qualified families learn about the program. We encourage school board members to share these resources as a strategy for connecting students to the broadband services they need to participate in online learning. The program’s funding is not sufficient to connect all families in need, so we are continuing to work with other national groups to ask Congress to provide emergency funding and authority for the E-rate program to connect all students and teachers that need broadband assistance while learning and working from home. 

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Announces Competitive Grants 

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited applications for the “State Tribal Education Partnership Grants to Tribal Educational Agencies” program. The program’s purpose is to: “(1) Promote Tribal self-determination in education; (2) improve the academic achievement of Indian children and youth; and (3) promote the coordination and collaboration of tribal educational agencies (TEAs) with state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) to meet the unique education and culturally related academic needs of Indian students.” The estimated available funds for this program total $1.5-$2 million, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 31, 2020, and further information is available here.           .           

Joint Publication on School Reopening:This week, the National Labor-Management Partnership, a joint effort between NSBA, NEA, AFT, AASA, and CCSSO produced “Collaborating in a Crisis: Working Together to Safely Reopen Our School Buildings.” The document offers examples of how education leaders can work together to lead our nation’s children out of this dark period. You can access the document at: https://bit.ly/3dxTxHl

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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