Congress Holds Hearings Discussing Child Care, WIOA, and Community College Investments
Earlier this week, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing titled “Strengthening America’s Child Care Sector,” which included discussion regarding the need for significant investment in child care to ensure stable, high quality facilities while providing providers with the wages they deserve. The hearing discussed reaching the child care “deserts” which refers to a lack of child care supply throughout the country, as well as ensuring affordability and choice for parents.
The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing titled “Building Back Better: Investing in Improving Schools, Creating Jobs, and Strengthening Families” which highlighted the need for investment in the child care sector, WIOA, and community colleges as part of the overall recovery from the pandemic for all Americans. This hearing largely focused on the key elements of President Biden’s American Families Plan. Members and witnesses discussed the challenges parents face regarding entering and staying in the workforce without reliable, high-quality, and affordable care for their children. They also discussed the need for wrap around services like food, housing allowances, transportation, and child care for those attending community colleges as well as four year colleges to ensure they complete their degree and can succeed in finding and maintaining a job.
President Biden Addresses Congress, Introduces $1.8 Trillion Spending Package
On Wednesday, April 28, President Biden addressed, for the first time, a joint session of Congress. His speech provided a look at the administration’s “American Families Plan” which in combination with his infrastructure based “American Jobs Plan” would invest almost $4 trillion over the next 10 years. The American Families Plan touts two years of free community college for all as well as free universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-old children. Of particular interest to NSBA, the plan also proposes a $9 billion investment in teacher training, to increase retention rates and broaden the pipeline to the teaching profession. This is an important NSBA advocacy priority. It includes an increase in scholarships for teachers to $8,000 per year while they earn a degree (a $4,000 increase), paid teacher residency programs, $900 million for the development of special education teachers, $1.6 billion investment in teachers to earn additional certifications, and $2 billion to support high-quality mentorship programs. The proposal also includes $45 billion to address child nutrition and expand free meals for children in high poverty districts. The next steps regarding how both of these proposals might become law is unclear as garnering support from Republicans is unlikely because the cost of the packages is too high, but there are Democrats who don’t think the American Jobs Plan or the American Families Plan provide enough funding. However, Senate Majority Leader Schumer has indicated that Democrats are willing to move forward with a budget resolution with solely Democratic votes if that becomes necessary.
U.S. Treasury Department Announces New Office of Recovery Programs
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the establishment of the Office of Recovery Programs. Among other initiatives, the new office will oversee implementation of the new $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund to carry out broadband and other projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring. Every state will receive at least $100 million through the program with additional funding provided by formula connected to the state’s population.
Department of Education Launches Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative
Earlier this week, the Department of Education held a two-day virtual launch of the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative, which will provide support to much of the nation including 46 states and D.C., and will help to “support as many students as possible through enriching and educational summer programming.” The Collaborative (a partnership between the Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and other national partners) will bring together state and local leaders and key stakeholders to design evidence-based summer programs to address the lost instructional, social, and extracurricular time students have experienced because of the pandemic, especially underserved students and those disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Secretary Cardona was joined by governors from Illinois and Arkansas, the Illinois State Superintendent of Education and Arkansas Secretary of Education, along with leaders from Education Trust and the National Summer Learning Association, among others. The Department plans to host planning and regional meetings between May and July with additional technical assistance to states and districts upon request. They also plan to hold a second national convening to discuss implementation success and challenges at the end of summer.