Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Weekly Update

Administration Update

Department of Education Sends Notices Regarding Newly Formed Disaster Recovery Unit

The Department of Education sent notices to Chief State School Officers this week detailing the creation of a Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) which will be a five person team responsible for “coordinating the Department’s disaster recovery programs and partnering with federal stakeholders to best assist states affected by natural disasters”.  The DRU will oversee and implement the following K-12 disaster recovery grant programs: Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations; Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students; Assistance for Homeless Children and Youth; and School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) as related to natural disasters.

 Department of Education Proposes new Discretionary Grant Priority and Announces Grant Opportunities

Secretary DeVos proposed an additional priority for discretionary grant programs to align the department’s future competitive grants with the Administration’s Opportunity Zones initiative. The purpose of the initiatives is to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. This priority would expand the opportunities available to individuals in Qualified Opportunity Zones by “(1) encouraging applicants to plan projects in Qualified Opportunity Zones; (2) soliciting applications from eligible entities who are located in Qualified Opportunity Zones; or (3) soliciting applications from eligible entities that have received investments, including accessing real estate that has received investment from Qualified Opportunity Funds for a purpose directly related to their proposed projects.” Comments are due by August 28, 2019 and further information is available here.

The Department also published the following grant announcements:

  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services“Applications for New Awards: Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities – National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning” – The purposes of this program are to: “(1) improve results for children with disabilities by promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology; (2) support educational activities designed to be of educational value in the classroom for children with disabilities; (3) provide support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom; and (4) provide accessible educational materials to children with disabilities in a timely manner.” The purpose of the priority in this award notice is to fund a cooperative agreement to establish and operate a National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning. The estimated available funds for this cooperative agreement total $1,200,000. Applications are due by September 3, 2019 and further information is available here.
  • Office of Elementary and Secondary Education“Applications for New Awards: Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP) – Grants to Charter School Developers for the Opening of New Charter Schools and for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools” – The notice inviting applications for new awards for this grant program was published on July 3, 2019 in the Federal Register. This notice corrects a footnote to add “Massachusetts” to the list of States that have approved amendment requests that authorize SEAs to make subgrants for replication and expansion, so developers in that state are ineligible to apply for this competition. Further information is available here.
  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services“Applications for New Awards: Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Planning Grants for Increasing Instructional Time and Reducing Administrative Burdens” – The notice inviting applications for new awards for this grant program was published on July 15, 2019 in the Federal Register. This notice corrects the application period – the application period should be 45 days instead of 30. The award size is adjusted to a range of $150,000 to $250,000, and this notice updates the estimated number of awards from 10 to a range of 6-10. Further information is available here.

 

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Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Weekly Update

Congressional Update

Congress and the White House Cut Two-Year Budget Deal

This week, the Senate cleared (67-28) a two-year $2.7 trillion budget agreement (H.R. 3877).  The measure increases aggregate spending by $320 billion over the next two years and lifts the debt ceiling until 2021.  As reported last week, the deal provides an aggregate $57 billion increase for non-defense programs, including education. The package is expected to be signed by the president.  With the new budget deal in place, we expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to begin making significant progress on the fiscal year 2020 during September and October and NSBA intends to fight hard in the Senate to encourage appropriators to follow the House’s lead in approving significant new education investments.

Department of Homeland Security Hosts Roundtable Discussion on School Security

The Department of Homeland Security held an initial roundtable discussion this week about the development of a federal clearinghouse to share best practices regarding school security.  The clearinghouse was a recommendation from the school safety commission to “assess, identify, and share best practices related to school security measures, technologies, and innovations”.  These topics were recently the focus of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing. With states like Florida implementing new data systems designed to prevent school violence, NSBA urges members to be actively involved in state and local discussions about this topic, so that decisionmakers fully understand the education, privacy, and safety issues that must be considered in this context. NSBA will continue to closely monitor these discussions at the federal level to ensure that school board members stay abreast of any federal developments in this area.

House Education Committee Chairman Expresses Concern about SNAP Changes

House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent aletterto Agriculture Secretary Perdue this week asking the USDA to publicly release the data regarding the estimate that more than 500,000 low-income students that could potentially lose automatic eligibility for free meals at school through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The proposed rule’s changes include: (1) To define “benefits” for categorical eligibility to mean ongoing and substantial benefits; and (2) to limit the types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment, work supports and childcare.” The proposed rule would also require State agencies to inform FNS of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.  The proposed rule is open for comment until September 23, 2019.

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Tier 1 and Tier 2 licenses limited to sponsoring district

pelsb

The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) is reminding teachers, school districts, and charter school administrators that Tier 1 and Tier 2 licenses are limited to only the district or charter school that originally requested the license.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers who wish to move to a position in a new district or charter school must submit another license application to PELSB with the support of the new district or charter school.

Districts and charter schools completing Tier 1 and Tier 2 applications should read all instructions and complete applications carefully to avoid processing delays.

All tiered license applications are available on the PELSB website at https://mn.gov/pelsb/aspiring-educators/apply.

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Minnesota Maintains AAA Ratings

ST. PAUL, MN – Top financial analysts Standard & Poor’s and Fitch announced that they are affirming Minnesota’s AAA, the highest rating awarded by the analysts.

The following is a statement from Governor Tim Walz:

“AAA ratings from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s is a testament to Minnesota’s strong economy and fiscal management. We are proud of the work we did this legislative session to help secure this rating. Now we need to work to pass a robust bonding bill to invest in the future and ensure our economy works for all Minnesotans.”

The following is a statement from Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans:

“Minnesota’s financial health is in good order. The affirmation of AAA credit rating from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s reflects sound budgeting principles and allows us to continue making smart capital investments in Minnesota’s future by reducing our cost of borrowing.”

Fitch and Standard & Poor’s note that credit factors such as Minnesota’s diverse economy, strong financial results and healthy reserves, and moderate debt levels have positioned the state well to navigate future fluctuations in the economy. Standard & Poor’s added that the passage of the pension reform bill in 2018 and continuation of strong reserve levels influenced their rating decision.

Today’s news comes as Minnesota prepares for the sale of general obligation bonds next month.

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Federal Advocacy – Congressional Update

Notable New K-12 Legislation 

  • S.2240A bill to promote digital citizenship and media literacy. Sponsor: Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]
  • H.R.3926To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 in order to improve the service obligation verification process for TEACH Grant recipients, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Visclosky, Peter J. [D-IN-1]
  • H.R.3913To authorize the Secretary of Education to provide grants for education programs on the history of the treatment of Italian Americans during World War II. Sponsor: Rep. Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19]
  • H.R.3893To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program that awards grants to State coalitions that build or expand career pathways programs in schools within the State, and to direct the Secretary of Education to establish a program that awards grants to eligible agencies to carry out career pathways programs. Sponsor: Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10]
  • H.R.3892To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to award competitive grants for the purpose of developing, offering, improving, and providing educational or career pathway programs for workers, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Harder, Josh [D-CA-10]
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Federal Advocacy – Congressional Update

Senate Committee Examines School Safety Practices

On July 25, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing titled “Examining State and Federal Recommendations for Enhancing School Safety Against Targeted Violence”.  Among other topics, the committee examined emerging state and local efforts to use student data to promote school safety. The hearing was prompted, in part, by the plans enacted in Florida following the Parkland tragedy, including implementation of a statewide school safety database. In 2018, Florida lawmakers approved a new law placing notable new requirements on school districts, including an obligation to share a vast array of sensitive, personally identifiable student data with law enforcement and state agencies. Responding to an inquiry by Education Week, the Florida Department of Education (FDE) said that covered data could include students’ course schedules, participating in scholarship and dropout-prevention programs, past homeless status, immunization status, and even the Individualized Education Plans of students in special education. The new law requires FDE to coordinate with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create “a centralized integrated [student] data repository” and data analytics resource. The student data repository’s purpose is to help leaders make decisions about students that may pose a public safety threat. By law, the database must include – but is not limited to – “timely, complete, and accurate information” about students from social media, the Florida Department of Children and Families, FDE, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and local law enforcement. More information about the hearing, including access to the archived webcast of the proceeding, is available here.

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Federal Advocacy – Congressional Update

Congress and the White House Cut Two-Year Budget Deal

As Congress prepared to leave Washington for the long August recess, Senate and House Leaders reached a long-sought agreement with the White House on a two-year budget plan. The House approved the deal on Thursday, which provides an aggregate $57 billion increase for non-defense programs, including education, for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The Senate is expected to approve the deal next week. The spending agreement is good news for public education. Absent a deal to increase the spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, federal education spending was expected to decline for the next fiscal year. Instead, appropriators will have at least some additional overall funding to allocate for education programs, including school board priorities such as ESSA Title I, IDEA Part B and other significant formula accounts. Following months of delays, we expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to begin making significant progress on the fiscal year 2020 during September and October.

 

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