Impasse on COVID-19 Relief Continues
Congressional leaders from both parties and the Trump Administration continue to be at odds over an expected next round of pandemic relief legislation. Both the House and the Senate are, for all intents and purposes, on their annual August recess, with most lawmakers in their home states and districts. More recently, concerns regarding the administration of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have refocused the attention of leaders in both Congressional chambers. On Tuesday, August 18,Senate Republicans re-introduced a narrower version(the education section begins on page 141) of their earlier pandemic relief proposal which included a modest amount of new funding for USPS and $105 billion for education, two-thirds of which would be designated for the K-12 community. The Senate, however, remains out of session and will not formally consider this legislation until they reconvene next month. In the House, leaders plan to temporarily reconvene over the weekend to vote on an emergency USPS funding package. Rank-and-file lawmakers are also pushing for new votes on additional pandemic relief measures as part of this effort. Despite this recent spate of activity, all sides remain far apart on key issues related to a forthcoming relief package.
Trump Administration Moves to Categorize Teachers as Essential Workers
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an advisory memothat updates the federal government’s list of “essential workers” who are encouraged to work, in-person, to contribute to the maintenance of critical national infrastructure. This updated list now includes “workers who support the education of pre-school, K-12, college, university, career and technical education, and adult education students, including professors, teachers, teacher aides, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, para-educators, apprenticeship supervisors, and specialists” among other occupational fields. While the memo is not legally binding, the change comes amid the Trump Administration’s wider efforts to encourage states and school districts to resume in-person instruction for the upcoming school year.
On Thursday, August 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a series of short-term school nutrition waiversfor summer food service programs. These existing waivers were set to expire on August 31 and have been temporarily extended through September 30. In a recent response letter to the Senate, USDA has said they lack the legal authority to extend these waivers past this date without additional legislation from Congress. The authority to provide these waivers stems from the second COVID-19 relief bill—the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—enacted earlier this year.
This week, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a “Space Mission Challenge for High School Students”. Dubbed “CTE Mission: CubeSat”, the national challenge is aimed at encouraging high school students to build satellite prototypes that support research efforts in space. An informational webinar will be held on September 1for interested applicants and full proposals are due October 16.