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]

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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