Below is the weekly federal advocacy update. Activity is picking up as Congress begins preparation for the next supplemental appropriations. The coming week will see considerable focus on that issue and on continued discussions on closing the homework gap.
Senator Markey Plans to Introduce Emergency E-rate Legislation
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) is poised to introduce legislation next week that would provide $4 billion in emergency funding, through the E-Rate program, to help connect elementary and secondary students who lack broadband access for learning. The bill, which is expected to have at least 41 Democratic cosponsors, is a companion to a House measure introduced last month 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. MSBA and NSBA strongly supports the Markey/Meng proposal and is working with other national groups to build support for it and a minimum of at least $4 billion in funding to help close the homework gap.
Senate HELP Committee Plans Hearing About Safely Returning to School
On Tuesday, May 12, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing titled, “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School”. Witnesses at the hearing will include: 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). A live video of the hearing may be accessed here.
Additional Emergency Spending Discussions to Start on House Side
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has initiated discussions in the House about the next federal response to the COVID-19 emergency. The speaker has been urging committee leaders to develop plans for the next bill with the goal of introducing another far-reaching spending bill within the next two weeks. MSBA and NSBA is urging House members to include a minimum of $200 billion in the bill to help school districts in addition to the $4 billion call homework gap funds through the E-Rate program. 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, we do 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, IDEA, and Title I.
Department of Education Releases Final Title IX Regulations
The Department of Education published the final Title IX regulations, which will take effect on August 14, 2020. Among the many changes adopted by the agency, the rule defines sexual harassment to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex; and it requires elementary and secondary schools to respond promptly when any school employee has notice of sexual harassment. That would represent a change from a rescinded Obama-era guidance that made K-12 schools responsible for incidents they “reasonably should” have known about. Under the new rule, elementary and secondary schools are not required to hold hearings in response to complaints that they receive from students.
Department of Education Announces New Grant Opportunities
The Department of Education published the following new competitive grant opportunities.
- “Education Research and Special Education Research Grant Programs”– The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will award grants to support “national leadership in expanding knowledge and understanding of: (1) developmental and school readiness outcomes for infants and toddlers with or at risk for a disability; (2) education outcomes for all learners from early childhood education through postsecondary and adult education; and (3) employment and wage outcomes when relevant (such as for those engaged in career and technical, postsecondary, or adult education).” The announcement covers eight research competitions through two of the IES centers:
- IES National Center for Education Research: Four competitions focus on education research, education research training, education research and development centers, and systematic replication in education.
- IES National Center for Special Education Research: Four competitions focus on special education research, special education research training, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) process data, and systematic replication in special education.
The estimated range of awards varies according to the specific competition. Applications for all competitions are due August 20, 2020, and further information is available here.
- “Competitive Grants for State Assessments Program”– The Competitive Grants for State Assessments program focuses on enhancing the quality of assessment instruments and systems used to measure the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students. Two of the priorities for this competitive grant program build on the flexibility in ESSA establishing the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA). A third priority is for states who are neither planning to apply for nor implementing the IADA. The estimated available funds for this program total $12,327,000. Applications are due by June 30, 2020, and further information is available here.
Notable New K-12 Bills
New CPE Blog: The NSBA Center for Public Education (CPE) recently released a blog entitled “Achievement Gap & Technology-enhanced Learning at Home” and can be accessed at the following link. The blog notes that the NAEP results provide additional evidence concerning the importance of technology-enhanced student learning at home and why closing the homework gap is vital for future education success.