Federal Update: Extension of USDA Nutrition Waivers

Administration Update

Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the extension of three USDA nutrition waivers until August 31, 2020.

According to the press release the waivers include:

• Non-Congregate Feeding: FNS is allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally required group setting to support social distancing.
• Parent Pickup: FNS is allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children.
• Meal Times: FNS is waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once.

You can access the press release by following www.fns.usda.gov/news-item/usda-026220

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House and Senate Education Bill Introductions

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Following are the bills that were introduced in the MN Legislature in the last weeks of the 2020 session. This will be the final post for Bill Introductions this year. As the 2020 Legislative Session comes to a close, please be sure to stay up to date with news from the capitol by reading the Weekly Advocate and the Final Legislative Update of 2020.

House and Senate Education Bill Introductions

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Summer learning and child care: Governor issues executive order, MDE issues guidance


On May 14, Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-57, which authorizes and directs Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker to “allow for a safe and effective summer learning environment for Minnesota’s students.”

Two key highlights from Executive Order 20-57:

  • MDE has determined that school districts and charter schools may safely open their buildings for a hybrid model of in-school learning and distance learning this summer for students eligible for summer learning or extended learning year services. This “summer learning period” begins when the 2019-2020 calendar ends.
  • The Executive Order addresses summer child care and meal questions.

In coordination with Executive Order 20-57, MDE issued guidance:

These guidance documents are available on the MDE COVID-19 Updates webpage, the MSBA website homepage and the MSBA COVID-19 webpage.

MSBA members are encouraged to direct questions to MSBA staff.

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Gov. Walz orders flags at half-staff for Peace Officers Memorial Day


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 Friday, May 15, 2020, in honor of peace officers who have been killed or injured in the line of duty.

“On May 15 we honor the peace officers who gave their lives to protect ours, and thank the 11,000 law enforcement officers who serve our state for their dedication to protecting Minnesota communities,” Governor Walz said.

President John F. Kennedy declared the first Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15, 1962, as a tribute to peace officers and in honor of the officers who, through their courageous deeds, lost their lives or became disabled in the line of duty. This day has been observed in our country annually ever since.

Access Governor Walz’s full proclamation.

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USDOE Posts Frequently Asked Questions About ESSER Fund

The U.S. Department of Education has posted the guidance for state education agencies and school districts, titled “Frequently Asked Questions about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).”

According to the Department, this “document seeks to answer questions that are not easily understood from a plain reading of Section 18003 and other parts of the CARES Act or the ESSER Fund Certification and Agreement (C&A). It was developed in direct response to questions that the Department has received from SEA and LEA grant administrators implementing the ESSER Fund program.”

This FAQ guidance is posted here: oese.ed.gov/files/2020/05/….

Please note that the guidance includes a technical appendix (beginning on page 7) that outlines how subgrants to school districts /charter schools are to be calculated. The areas addressed by this guidance include supplement not supplant (question 20), eligibility of local education agencies (question 12), and flexibility for school districts regarding the use of ESSER funds (question 15). Relevant to question 20, this guidance states that the “program does contain a Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement [to be explained in a separate set of Frequently Asked Questions], which is designed to keep States from substantially reducing their support for K-12 education.” The guidance does not include any new information about equitable services to students who are enrolled in private schools.



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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Update

Congressional Update

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

Other Updates

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.

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School violence prevention grant, mental health resources available


The 2020 Bureau of Justice Assistance Preventing School Violence grant is open until June 9. Click here to access grant information.

Eligible applicants may apply under one or more of the following areas:

  1. Train school personnel and educate students on preventing student violence against others and themselves to include anti-bullying training. This can also include specialized training for school officials to respond to mental health crises.
  2. Develop and implement threat assessment and/or intervention teams and/or operate technology solutions such as anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence, including mobile telephone applications, hotlines, and websites. Threat assessment and/or intervention teams must coordinate with law enforcement agencies and school personnel.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has numerous resources available for school communities at https://nami.org/Support-Education/NAMI-HelpLine/COVID-19-Information-and-Resources.

Other resources:

  • Communities Caring for Children will host a 30-minute family friendly practice of resiliency Monday-Wednesday each week at 12:30 p.m. on Zoom. Visit https://www.pcamn.org/practicing-resilience-in-community for details.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “MN” to 741741
  • Minnesota Mobile Mental Health Crisis Line: Call **CRISIS (**274747)
  • WarmLine Peer Support Connection: Call or text 844-739-6369 (5 p.m. to 9 a.m.)
  • Find Your Happy Place: Tips to Reduce COVID-19 Stress (Minnesota Department of Health): http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/FindYourHappyPlace.pdf
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