Federal Advocacy and Weekly Policy Update

Department of Education Grants ESSA Waivers Related to Pandemic

According to the Department of Education, 45 states have applied for the accountability and assessment waiver the department authorized due to pandemic emergency.  All of these states have been granted initial approval. This waiver allows states to “bypass standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year.” A waiver may be granted to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency – this allows states to cancel statewide assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.

Agriculture Department Issues New Nutrition Program Waivers

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced additional nutrition program flexibilities to help communities navigate the pandemic emergency.  Secretary Perdue said, “USDA is committed to maximizing our services and flexibilities to ensure children and others who need food can get it during this coronavirus epidemic,” said Perdue. The USDA’s new waivers provide states the option to allow parents or guardians to take meals home to their children. USDA’s press release also notes that states can waive meal pattern requirements to let local operators prepare foods with the supplies they have available. It also delays administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provision to relax burdens on schools closed by the pandemic.

Department of Education Invites Data Grant Applications

The Department of Education invited applications for the Statistical and Research Methodology in Education and Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking Grant Program. The program seeks to “support the development of a wide range of methodological and statistical tools to better enable applied education scientists to conduct rigorous education research.” The program will be used to expand the research use of State Longitudinal Data Systems to provide further evidence for State education policymaking. Congress has not yet enacted an appropriation for fiscal 2021, however they are seeking applications now so that applicants have adequate time to prepare. Applications are due July 30, 2020, and further information is available here.



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Reminder: School districts must post their distance learning plans on their website by March 27


Friday, March 27, is the deadline for public school districts to post distance learning plans to their website.

From the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE): The expectation is that school districts and charter schools will post their distance learning plans to their website by Friday, March 27, which is the last weekday before March 30, 2020. The purpose is to allow families time to review before beginning on March 30, and sufficient time must be allowed. However, you are encouraged to keep your communities informed as you go about any relevant or timely information.

Please visit the MSBA COVID-19 webpage or the MDE COVID-19 webpage to access the MDE’s current Minnesota Distance Teaching and Learning Implementation Guidance, a Distance Learning Plan Template and other valuable resources.

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House and Senate Education Bill Introductions

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Following are the bills that were introduced in the MN Legislature today. 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.

House and Senate Education Finance and Policy Bill Introductions

For Weekly Legislative Updates See the Weekly Advocate

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MSBA updates School Board Meeting Guide, MDE releases Distance Learning Guide


On March 25, 2020, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-19, which authorizes and directs the Minnesota Commissioner of Education to implement a distance learning period for public schools from March 30, 2020, through May 4, 2020. (Distance learning for students is scheduled to conclude on April 30. May 1 and May 4 are scheduled for staff preparation days in the event students would return on May 5.)

MSBA strongly encourages school boards to meet by telephone conference call or other electronic means. Please consult MSBA’s updated School Board Member Guide for guidance. MSBA members can direct questions to the MSBA staff.

The School Board Member Guide and other resources — like MSBA’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and School Employees document — are available on the MSBA website homepage and MSBA’s COVID-19 webpage.

Also, the Minnesota Department of Education has issued its Distance Learning and Teaching Implementation Guidance. This document and other MDE-related resources are also available at the MSBA COVID-19 webpage and the MDE COVID-19 webpage.

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Minnesota Department of Education, MSBA update COVID-19 school guidance documents


The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) recently updated its “School Closure Guidance for Public School Districts and Charter Schools” document.

Click here to access the new School Closure Guidance document.

This document is also available on MDE’s COVID-19 page, which includes other resources, including:

  • Q-and-A on School Closure (Updated March 20, 2020)
  • Distance Learning Plan Template (Updated March 19, 2020)
  • School-Age Care for Children of Emergency Workers: Priority Categories of Workers (Updated March 18, 2020)

Also, MSBA recently added or updated resources on its website homepage and COVID-19 webpage.

Please visit the MSBA website for additional information and resources.

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Watch MSBA’s Legislative Update Webinar


MSBA Director of Government Relations Denise Dittrich discusses key education issues and the latest legislative action concerning the COVID-19 pandemic during MSBA’s Legislative Update Webinar (recorded March 22, 2020).

Click here to access the Legislative Update Webinar recording now.

Also, be sure to visit the MSBA COVID-19 webpage for resources from MSBA, the Minnesota Department of Education, the U.S Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other key state and federal agencies.

Among the recently posted resources is MSBA’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and School Employees update. On March 18, the federal government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This bill includes the (1) Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Click here to access this document.

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New Guidance on Distance Learning & IDEA

Here is new information that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has released concerning distance learning and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


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