Action Alert – Federal COVID Relief Bill

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to reinstate the following
provisions into the final legislation for the COVID-19 recovery package that is being
negotiated. As of December 18, Congressional leaders are continuing negotiations and
reportedly omitted these provisions that are priorities for our school boards and state
associations:
• It is urgent that funding be dedicated to online learning for broadband connectivity and hardware for students and that it be administered through the E-Rate program for schools and libraries, as an estimated 16 million students are impacted by the homework gap. At least $12 billion just for short-term relief is required; but, any funding, including the $3 billion originally being proposed in the latest legislation, will help begin to narrow this issue for many students lacking adequate access to the internet;
• An extension of time for states and local governments to utilize funds from the CARES
Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that is administered by the U.S. Department of the
Treasury. This measure would allow school districts that are subrecipients of CRF funds
the additional time needed to complete services, thereby changing the date by which
funding must be utilized from December 30, 2020 to December 30, 2021; and,
• An extension of the COVID-19 employee leave provisions that were made available
through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave
and emergency family and medical leave.


It is likely that Congress will combine the recovery package with a final bill for Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. Currently, there is no final version of legislative text, or accompanying bill number, for the recovery package.
What negotiators agreed upon earlier are the provisions for education stabilization funding.


Please see the additional background information below, after the talking points.

Your representatives can be contacted here:
Talking Points
• On behalf of the ____________ [state school boards association], I
appreciate your efforts to negotiate the next COVID-19 recovery package that will impact our children, school districts, and community.
• It is my understanding that some of the provisions negotiated earlier are being omitted –specifically for online learning, an extension of time to utilize resources from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and an extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave for employees. Each of these areas is a priority for our school districts. Therefore, I am urging you to reinstate these provisions in the final legislation for this COVID-19 recovery package.
• Many students are unable to access classes online during this pandemic because they lack access to broadband and to laptops and other devices needed to receive online instruction.


COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem, known as the homework gap. Therefore, I am
urging you to reinstate the provisions for online learning, that include $3 billion for an
Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to be administered through the E-Rate
program, and $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to buy
internet-connected devices for underserved and rural communities. It is estimated that at least $12 billion is needed, but the infusion of these $3 billion in funds now will help
alleviate some of the problems.


• Some school districts are subrecipients of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)
administered by the U.S. Treasury, that has imposed the December 30, 2020 date by
which all funds must be utilized. This is not feasible for school districts, nor for the states and local governments that are also recipients, as services being provided through the CRF are not complete. Senators Murkowski and Hassan have introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 4898) to extend the date — to December 30, 2021 — by which Coronavirus ded. The inclusion of this legislation — to extend the date for
CRF expenditures to December 30, 2021 — in this recovery package is necessary, and
will allow our districts and their respective county/ municipal government(s) to carefully plan resources in a more efficient manner, to help protect lives and implement proper safeguards against COVID-19.
• An extension of the COVID-related employee leave provisions that were made available through the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave is also needed in this recovery package. Please reinstate these provisions that are beneficial to our school districts.

Collectively, school districts are the largest employer in this nation.
• While these negotiations for the next COVID-19 recovery package have not addressed all of the priorities needed by our school districts, the provisions proposed for education stabilization funding will help address a number of needs, such as targeted investments in special education and in resources for students who are English Learners, sustaining teachers and other staff, sanitizing and building safety, and social emotional supports for students. We appreciate this provision that will help continue recovery efforts for our public schoolchildren and districts.
• Again, I urge your strong support to address these outstanding provisions within this next emergency supplemental for COVID-19 recovery.


COVID-19 Recovery Package – Background Information
Additional details about how the $82 billion in education stabilization funding would be
allocated are below. This portion of the recovery package was announced earlier this week.
Education Stabilization Fund – The recovery package would provide a total of $82 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for both K-12 and higher education, to be available through September 31, 2021. Of this amount, up to one-half percent would be reserved for outlying areas and one-half percent for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, for a total of $820 million. The remaining amount allocated for K-12 would be divided as follows:
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) – $53.7 billion
for public K-12 education, with funding based on the Title I formula. Funding would not
be conditioned on whether schools provide in-person education (as earlier proposals from the Senate HEALS Act did), and could be used for the same educational services/
programs allowed under the CARES Act.
Governors Fund (GEER) – would provide $7.5 billion for the Governors Emergency
Education Relief Fund, of which $2.5 billion would be set aside for private schools,
based on the percentage of private school students in the state. The governors’ funding
could be used for school districts, colleges, childcare, or other education providers with
the greatest need.
Maintenance of Effort – States must maintain their funding for K-12 and higher
education (excluding capital projects) in FY 2021 and FY 2022 at least at the average of
the three previous fiscal years. However, states could apply for a waiver if they have
“experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources,” as allowed under ESSA.

Congressional leaders have stated that this is probably not the last recovery package, and that legislation for state and local aid and liability protections could be negotiated with President-elect Joe Biden’s administration next year.

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ConnectedMN offering grant opportunity to help with high-needs students’ digital learning

ConnectedMN is accepting applications for grants to bring tech devices, internet access, and digital learning support to students across the state.

The grants are especially intended for communities most in need — including students who are people of color, students from low-income families, and students residing in rural Minnesota.

The application deadline is January 26, 2021.

Visit https://www.connectedmn.us/grant-opportunities for details.

ConnectedMN is partnership to ensure students from high-need and underserved communities have the tools and support they need to participate in digital learning and digital life.

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Seventh Special Session Bill Introductions

We publish bills every day they are introduced and hope that you monitor these posts, as it keeps you updated and informed about the bills under consideration that may impact school boards and school districts across the state. Whether it is a new mandate, or more/less funding for certain programs it is important for you to know how these bills may impact your district.

Following are the bills that were introduced today during Minnesota’s 7th 2020 Special Session.

H.F. 1, A bill for an act relating to unemployment insurance; providing for special additional benefits; extending modification of shared work plan eligibility; amending Laws 2020, First Special Session chapter 10, section 1

H.F. 13, A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; transferring money for the broadband grant program.

H.F. 16, A bill for an act relating to employment; providing emergency paid sick leave to health care employees excluded from the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

H.F. 17, A bill for an act relating to workers’ compensation; providing a presumption for education employees.

H.F. 26, A bill for an act relating to education finance; authorizing the use of the prior year’s pupil count for the 2020-2021 school year to reflect COVID-19 changes in enrollment; appropriating money;

H.F. 33, A bill for an act relating to education; authorizing school boards to establish and operate a safe learning plan for the 2020-2021 school year; establishing a parent-based distance learning program for the 2020-2021 school year; modifying the school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year; prohibiting the Minnesota State High School League from limiting tournaments or activities after canceling or limiting a tournament or season; extending school district fund transfer flexibility; defining distance learning;

H.F. 39, A bill for an act relating to open meetings; requiring public comments at all open meetings of public bodies, including those conducted by electronic means.

H.F. 44, A bill for an act relating to health; providing for making COVID-19 vaccines available to certain education personnel.

S.F. 12: A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; transferring money for the broadband grant program.

S.F. 13: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the application deadline for free or reduced-price lunch for the fall 2020 count of eligible students; requiring federal funds replacement; appropriating money.

S.F. 15: A bill for an act relating to open meetings; requiring public comments at all open meetings of public bodies, including those conducted by electronic means.

S.F. 16: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the free and reduced-price lunch ap

S.F. 28: A bill for an act relating to education finance; extending the application deadline for free or reduced-price lunch for the fall 2020 count of eligible students; requiring federal funds replacement; appropriating money. plication deadline for the 2020-2021 school year.

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Action Alert!

2021 MSBA LEGISLATIVE PLATFORM

National School Boards Action Center Alert:  Tell Congress to prioritize children and schools in the pending COVID-19 relief package.   Click here: https://linkprotect.cudasvc.com/url?a=https%3a%2f%2fp2a.co%2feq8sqqV&c=E,1,mhhsVDbtre-JKqaCYENETpzmd8ZNMW9HvjDSp4i9kJGhZ7-eXJFYZFiCC8QpKQhAKGCVBTN0b4DCU01YZ8g3qLk8O42KFKTtXIuqAXjZim_izd2LICsoLktd&typo=1 to Advocate NOW!

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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff to honor Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Governor Tim Walz has proclaimed today (Monday, December 7, 2020) as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in Minnesota, in honor of the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the more than 2,400 service members and civilians who lost their lives that day.

“On the 79th anniversary, we lower our flags in honor and remembrance of the Americans killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,” said Governor Walz. “We recognize the incredible courage and perseverance of our service members and civilians who sacrificed their lives while protecting the freedoms of the American people.”

Governor Walz has ordered all U.S. and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings in the state of Minnesota, from sunrise until sunset today (Monday, December 7, 2020) in honor and remembrance of those who served and died during the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who sacrificed their lives for our liberty and freedom during World War II.

Access a copy of Governor Walz’s proclamation here.

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Federal Weekly Update

Congressional Update 

Congress Returns to Looming Funding Deadline

Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week following their annual Thanksgiving recess. Upon their return, they are faced with a December 11 deadline when current funding for the federal government and related programs is set to expire. Top appropriators in both chambers are working to find agreement on a nearly $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package which would knit together all 12 regular appropriations bills into one piece of legislation. Agreement has yet to be reached and, with time running out, the likelihood that another short-term extension at the current funding levels increases as these negotiations continue. Such a move would provide lawmakers more time to reach agreement on this must-pass legislation. 

Discussions regarding another tranche of emergency pandemic aid have also restarted after a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both Chambers released a new proposal to provide much-needed emergency relief. The $908 billion proposalfalls nearly midway between where Democrats and Republicans have remained for months after failing to reach consensus on a new aid package most of the year. The proposal would include $82 billion for education. However, this proposed amount is below previous pandemic relief proposals from both Republicans and Democrats to date—most of which included at least $100 billion or more in targeted relief for the education sector. The legislation also provides $10 billion for broadband relief. However, NSBA is concerned that the funding for the homework gap is inadequate at only $2 billion and there is not focus enough on the short-term emergency needs for purposes such as acquiring hotspots for students.  Nonetheless, lawmakers remain optimistic regarding the prospects for both an omnibus and a pandemic relief package later this month. If agreement can be reached, both will most likely be tied together into one legislative vehicle to ensure passage before the end of the year and the conclusion of the 116thCongress. 

New House Appropriations Committee Chair Elected

On Thursday December 3, House Democrats voted 148-79 to elect Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), defeating Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), to serve as the next Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. DeLauro will replace outgoing Chair Rep. Lowey (D-NY) who is set to retire at the end of this Congress. Currently, Rep. DeLauro serves as the Chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee—the panel tasked with determining annual funding levels for education programs such as the Every Student Succeeds Act. During her time as Chair of the Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee, Rep. DeLauro has been a strong advocate for education and health funding broadly and will now have an even wider appropriations portfolio as Chair of the full committee. It remains unclear who will replace Rep. DeLauro on the Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee although several committee members—including Rep. Clark (D-CA) and Rep. Allard (D-CO)—are widely speculated as potential replacements though it is possible that Rep. DeLauro maintains her seat on the subcommittee.  

Defense Department Education Scorecard 

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual bill that sets policy for the Defense Department, contained a provision that would have created a new scorecard for public schools. The results of that scorecard would then be considered when the military made decisions about basing troops. NSBA felt that this new accountability system, which did not have input from the education community, would be duplicative and would not fairly represent improvements schools have made under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and we advocated for the removal of this provision. The conference report for the NDAA has been released and NSBA is pleased that the education scorecard provision was not included in the final version.

Administration Update 

Nation’s Report Card Postponed  

On Wednesday, November 25, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) formally movedto cancel the upcoming National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the national assessment of core academic subjects commonly known as the nation’s report card. The assessments for fourth and eighth graders in reading and math, originally scheduled to begin January 2021, will be postponed until 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Citing school closures and other related restrictions, USED determined that administering NAEP next month would not be feasible. While USED has taken steps to cancel NAEP, Congress must still pass legislation providing the agency statutory permission to do so. Congressional education leaders in both Chambers appear supportive. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Education DeVos made clear that her department firmly believes “. . . states should implement their own assessments on schedule in spring 2021, given that they do not face the same constraints as NAEP . . .” in an effort to fully capture students’ learning loss as a result of the pandemic. 

USED Unveils CARES Act Spending Data Portal 

Recently, USED released an online portalthat shares how states are using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to ensure learning continuity for students as they continue to content with the pandemic. The resource contains profiles for each state and territory and provides high-level information on how much eligible recipients, such as school districts and institutions of higher education among others, received as part of their state’s CARES allocation. This information is based on data reported as of September 30, 2020 and USED plans to regularly update this website as states continue to report how the funds are used. The website has received some criticism for using outdated information more than two months old. In a related statement, the department has also expressed interest in streamlining this portal in the future to serve as the location for states to submit statutorily required CARES Act spending reports to USED for oversight purposes. 

USDA Moves to Weaken School Meal Standards 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has, for the second time since 2017, taken steps to roll-back national school meal nutritional standards this week. Under the proposed rule, meal providers would have permanent flexibility to serve students flavored low-fat milk, it would reduce by half the amount of weekly whole grains required to be included in an eligible meal, and would provide more time for schools to meet lower sodium levels in provided meals. A largely similar proposal was put forward by USDA in 2017, but that proposed rule was struck down by a U.S. District Court due to procedural errors during the initial federal rulemaking process. Public commentson this proposal are due by December 28, 2020. 

FCC Commissioner Announced Resignation in 2021

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai formally announced his resignation effective January 20, 2021. His departure, though not unexpected due to the ongoing Presidential Administration transition, will leave the Commission with an even 2-2 split between Republicans and Democrats—one member short of a full Commission. It remains unclear who will ultimately serve as the permanent Chair of the Commission. However, we expect current Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to be named Acting Chair when President-Elect Biden takes office. Commissioner Rosenworcel was a keynote speaker at this year’s NSBA Advocacy Institute in February and is a champion for public schools. She coined the term “homework gap” that refers to the digital divide in education. 

Bills

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Proposed COVID Relief Bills

A group of centrist Senators circulated a version of COVID relief.  The group that unveiled the plan Tuesday includes Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Angus King (I-Maine) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). Some House members of the Problem Solvers Caucus also said they backed the deal.  This plan would include $82 billion for education (but it is not clear how that would be divided between K-12 and higher education).

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell circulated his version that includes $105 for education(we don’t have the breakdown between higher ed and K-12).  It also contains provisions to authorize funding for scholarship granting organizations for students to use toward private school and home school expenses.  It would also provide tax credits, previously included in the Senate HEALS Act, and allow use of 529 savings plans for private school and home school expenses. [see summary of education section below]

 (McConnell bill) TITLE VI – EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT AND CHILDCARE

· Educational Support: Authorizes one-time, emergency appropriations funding for scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) in each state. States subgrant funds to SGOs that administer scholarships for students to use toward qualified educational expenses (as determined by the state), such as private school tuition and home-schooling expenses.

 · The provision provides two years of tax credits for contributions to scholarship-granting organizations based on legislation introduced by Senators Scott, Alexander, and Cruz (School Choice Now Act/S. 4284)

 · 529 Account Enhancements – The provision would allow parents of K-12 student at public, private, or religious schools to use 529 plan funds for expenses like books, online materials, licensed tutoring, that students may need to deal with the current circumstances and that are not provided by the school. It would also allow parents who home school to use 529 plan funds for educational expenses. The provision mirrors the Student Empower Act (S. 157), except it expires after two years.

 · Childcare: Authorizes short-term assistance to help child care providers reopen and stay open so that parents have a safe place to send their children when they return to work.

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Federal Weekly Update

Congressional Update 

Congress Goes on Recess as Funding Deadline Looms

Current funding for the federal government, including funding for K-12 education programs, is set to expire on December 11. Although the House under Democrat majority leadership has passed the necessary legislation to fund governmental operations beyond this date, the Senate under Republican majority leadership has so far failed to pass comparable legislation this year. Despite this impending deadline, Senators have recessed until November 30 and the House is expected to follow suit soon. When they return, lawmakers will have eight legislative days to find agreement on this critical issue to avoid a government shutdown. Both Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) have publicly committed to a full-year spending agreement, as opposed to another temporary stopgap measure, but are still working to find consensus on top-line spending levels ahead of December 11. Once agreement on an overall amount is reached, Congress must then negotiate program-level details. This will ultimately determine how much funding various federal programs, such as those for K-12 education, will receive for the current 2021 federal fiscal year which began on October 1 of this year. 

As these efforts continue, the United States has reached a grim milestone—more than a quarter of a million Americans have now died from the coronavirus pandemic. With daily cases spiking in nearly every state, pressure is mounting yet again on Congress to respond and pass additional relief measures for those effected. This week, NSBA was joined by other national organizations calling on Congress to actand provide much needed emergency funding relief for the K-12 community. Although both sides have so far been unwilling and unable to compromise on the total amount for a pandemic relief package—Democrats favor one totaling around $2 trillion while Republicans support about $500 billion—Congressional leaders are at least acknowledging the urgency of this issue once again and have reportedly restarted negotiationson a pandemic relief package in hopes of finding agreement. 

If successful, pandemic aid could potentially be included in a larger year-end agreement resolving these funding impasses. However, much remains unclear about the path forward as President Trump has refused to concede the Presidential election and his administration has been largely absent from these recent discussions. 

In related news, NSBA also signed two important coalition letters this week. NSBA joined more than 40 other organizations in sending a letterto reiterate the call for Congress to provide $12 billion for funding for the E-Rate program to help close the Homework Gap in any COVID relief bill that is considered.  That letter has received national press attention. Additionally, NSBA also joined several national education organizations in signing a letter to Congressional appropriatorsto fund Title II-A (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program) at $2.1 billion when considering funding bills for FY2021.  This important measure would assist teachers and other educators. 

House Leadership Races

Last week, the Senate re-elected current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to lead their respective caucuses in the upcoming 117thCongress. On Wednesday, November 18, House Democrats and Republicans largely followed suit re-electing or renominating most of their current leadership teams. Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) was reelected by the House Republican caucus to continue on in the role, while Minority Whip Scalise (R-LA) and Conference Chair Cheney (R-WY) were both reelected to carry on in their current roles for the House Republican caucus. 

On the other side of the aisle, House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) and House Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC) will remain in the number two and three leadership slots respectively. Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) was renominated to be Speaker once again pending a full vote by the House early next year. This vote will be crucial as Democrats’ majority has been reduced as a result of the most recent November elections. House Democrats are expected to have a 222-223 majority in the next Congress, meaning that they will only have a four-to-five seat majority beginning next year. 

Sen. Booker Introduces Education Jobs Bill

On Wednesday, November 18, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would provide $260 billion to help students and school professionals grapple with the ongoing pandemic. Modeled off of similar legislation introduced during the last Great Recession, the bill would create an “educator jobs fund” to provide financial support to states and school districts to help keep teachers, school leaders, and other school-based professionals as the pandemic continues and budgets are potentially cut in response. The bill, titled “The Educator Jobs Fund Act of 2020” also proposes significant funding to help schools defray the cost of purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) among other efforts. Additional information on the bill can be found hereand the text of the proposal will be available heresoon. 

Bills

  • H.R.8776To direct the Secretary of Labor to make grants to eligible applicants to provide stipends to individuals enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Smith, Adam [D-WA-9]
  • H.R.8294National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 Sponsor:Rep. Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53]
  • S.4917A bill to amend the CARES Act to support States and local educational agencies in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic so that all students, especially historically underserved students, are provided with a safe, healthy, equitable, and excellent education. Sponsor:Sen. Booker, Cory A. [D-NJ]
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Governor Walz orders flags at half-staff on November 19 in honor of lives lost to COVID-19

Governor Tim Walz has directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Thursday, November 19, 2020.

Governor Walz has directed flags to fly at half staff on the 19th of every month through 2020 to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.

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Federal Update

The President is expected to sign legislation soon to help mitigate loss of federal funds to school districts that participate in the Impact Aid and Migrant Education programs. 

The bipartisan Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act will allow districts to utilize the student enrollment for Impact Aid certified from the 2019-2020 school year, thereby ensuring that schools do not need to recount federally connected students during the uncertainty created by COVID-19. This legislation also directs the U.S. Department of Education to utilize either school year 2018–2019 data or school year 2019–2020 data – whichever data are greater – to determine funding allocations to states for the Migrant Education Program.

Both the House and Senate passed the Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act by unanimous consent. Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) sponsored the legislation in the House with Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA). Senators John Thune (R-SD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and James Inhofe (R-OK) sponsored this legislation in the Senate.

Impact Aid funding is provided to school districts that educate large populations of federally connected students, including those who reside on federal properties, tribal trust lands, and whose parents/ guardians are enlisted in the Armed Forces. The Impact Aid Program reimburses these school districts with non-taxable federal properties within their jurisdictions. More than 1,100 school districts participate in the Impact Aid program, that benefits approximately nine million students. Additional details are available here from the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. 

Migrant Education State Grants provide formula-based assistance to help meet the educational needs of children of migratory agricultural workers and fishers, including overcoming educational disruption and other challenges resulting from repeated moves.

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