AASA Quarterly Federal Policy Update with Sasha Pudelski

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AASA Quarterly Federal Policy Update with Sasha Pudelski

We had a blast at yesterday's AASA Quarterly Federal Policy Update with Sasha Pudelski. We were pleased to be able to walk you through the latest funding and policy changes included in the FY22 omnibus, answer questions about ARP implementation and what superintendents need to understand about upcoming ESSER data collection requests from USED, and discuss legislative bills this year to reauthorize the Child Nutrition law and improve teacher shortages.

You can access an archive recording of the webinar here and the presentation here.

We are happy to share some related resources:

The next AASA Quarterly Federal Policy Update will be June 30 at 2 p.m. EDT. AASA members can register by clicking here.

AASA Releases Fourth Installment of the Learning Recovery and Redesign Guidance: Using ARP to Support Homeless Students

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AASA Releases Fourth Installment of the Learning Recovery and Redesign Guidance: Using ARP to Support Homeless Students

This week, AASA has released the fourth installment of the AASA Learning Recovery & Redesign tools.

This actionable checklist, developed in partnership with SchoolHouse Connection, is designed to help district leaders take full advantage of new and existing federal resources to meet the significant needs—greatly exacerbated by the pandemic—of students experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

The resource includes:
  • Ideas for better collaborating with your district’s homeless education liaison
  • Tips for assessing current strategies in supporting this student population
  • Planning tools to help you meet the specific needs of your students experiencing homelessness
As more states are set to distribute to school districts new federal funds targeted at supporting students experiencing homelessness (specifically, ARP-HCY part II funds), it is imperative that schools accept them. This checklist will help them make effective use of these additional dollars.

The checklist is available here. If you have already declined your district’s share of ARP-HCY funds for whatever reason, the checklist items mostly apply to other resources you can still use to support these students!

The full list of tools is available here.

New EPA Rebate Program for School Buses

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New EPA Rebate Program for School Buses

Want some new clean school buses? Here’s your chance to get them! As part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law in 2021, the EPA was granted $5 billion over 5 years to encourage the electrification of school bus fleets. The EPA is in the process of beginning to roll out the $1b that is available to districts, contractors, and tribes over the next few months and they released a quick PowerPoint presentation that details the basics of the rebate program.

First, the program funding is divided into two halves: zero-emission buses and alternative-fueled buses. Districts can apply for rebates for either program as long as they are replacing current diesel-fueled school buses. 

Second, the application process will prioritize bus rebates for districts in high needs school districts and rural and low-income areas. 

Third, they plan to open the application window in late April and districts will have 3 months to apply for rebates, but there are steps you can take now to get your application ready for the portal. Details are here: https://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/prepare-clean-school-bus-funding.

FY23 Appropriations Process: Off to A Strong Start! President Biden’s Budget Continues Support for Education Investments

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FY23 Appropriations Process: Off to A Strong Start! President Biden’s Budget Continues Support for Education Investments

The ink on the final FY22 budget is barely dry, and we are already off and running with all the FY23 budget fun. ICYMI: check out the blog with all our details on the final FY22 budget.

Federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) will run from October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023. The federal education dollars in FY23 will largely be in your K12 schools for the 23-24 school year. If Congress were to complete its appropriations process on time and in normal order, it would be completed before October 1. Congress hasn’t completed its budget on time and in normal order since the mid 1990s; when this happens, we either have a federal shutdown or—more common—Congress utilizes a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) to buy themselves more time to complete the funding work. It is widely anticipated that Congress will adopt a CR—freeing members up to be home to campaign in the midterm elections—and leaving the real question to be: will the CR be into the lame duck and the fiscal work concluded by the current Congress, or will they punt into the new year and new Congress, which could feasibly include a change in chamber leadership? Luckily, we don’t need to answer that in today’s blog post, and can instead just give a quick overview of what is in President’ Biden’s FY23 budget proposal.

First, now seems an excellent time to share one of my favorite all time quotes from President Biden, something he attributes to HIS dad: “Don’t tell me what you value.  Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” If that’s the case, we are pleased to see that President Biden continues to value and prioritize investments in education, schools, children and equity.

What do you need to know?

  • First, this is an initial step in a very drawn-out appropriations process. We may or may not get standalone budgets from the House and Senate, and they may or may not align with the President’s budget in terms of dollar amount and/or priorities. 
  • In recent years, the President’s budget has been dead on arrival, with the Senate and House initial proposals playing a larger role in shaping what final investments looked like. That was not the case in FY22, and we will have to see if the Democrats in the House and Senate remain in closer alignment with this proposal.
  • Because of the timing of this year’s budget, the proposal was based on a final FY22 package that assumed a year-long CR (so, level funding) based on FY21 actual levels. We know that the final FY22 budget included the largest increase in education in a decade, meaning that the president’s budget—when compared to actual FY22 levels—appears to call for cuts to 34 programs. Please note that is not the intent of the President’s Budget (he does not propose to cut or consolidate any programs), and we are waiting to see how/if USED will address/reissue budgetary documents.
  • You can access the USED summary book here.
  • Funding Levels
    • The budget includes $88.327 billion in funding for the Department of Education, a $11.9 billion or 15.6% increase over FY2022.
    • The largest increases in the USED budget request are proposed for the core programs -- Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Pell Grants. Additionally, FY23 increases can be largely attributed to initiatives to address the health and well-being of students; Education, Innovation, and Research (EIR) Grants; postsecondary supports; efforts to enhance institutional capacity at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs); and student loan servicing.
    • The FY23 budget request proposes $20.5 billion in discretionary funding for Title I, which is an increase of $3 billion or 17.1% above FY22. 
      • Additionally, $16 billion in mandatory funding is requested in FY23 for Title I. The combined total level (discretionary + mandatory) requested is $36.5 billion; however, mandatory funding for Title I is unlikely to advance through the annual appropriations process. 
      • The FY23 request also proposes to reserve $100 million for direct grants to States to implement voluntary School Funding Equity Commissions and to local educational agencies (LEAs) to implement voluntary resource equity reviews.
       
    • The FY23 budget request includes $2.92 billion increase for Special Education Grants to States to a total of $16.26 billion. The budget request also includes increases for IDEA Preschool Grants ($93,071,000 above FY2022) and IDEA Grants for Infants and Families ($435,694,000 above FY2022).
     

At the end of the day, the big take away is that the President clearly wants to prioritize investments in education, and we want to remain hopeful that final FY23 numbers will align more closely to FY23 proposals than FY22 finals compared to proposed. You need not pay obsessive attention to program funding levels until we get a bit further in the process, until we start to see what the House and Senate are looking at as it relates to 302b allocations. That’s about 4 steps (and a few months) away. Hold tight, and stay tuned to AASA advocacy (on twitter, the AASA Advocacy App and on the blog).

 

DOT FMCSA Extends ‘Under the Hood’ Waiver to Help Address School Bus Driver Labor Shortage

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DOT FMCSA Extends ‘Under the Hood’ Waiver to Help Address School Bus Driver Labor Shortage

Earlier this year, USED partnered with USDOT to provide temporary relief for the ‘under the hood’ requirement to help address the school bus drive shortage. (Details on the blog!) The relief came via a 90-day waiver—set to extend at the end of the month. The plan all along was to grant two consecutive 90-day waivers, and that second waiver has now been announced. It means the flexibility will remain in place for the duration of the current school year, through June 30, 2022. AASA remains grateful to USED and USDOT for their immediate responsiveness to the November letter from more than a dozen K12 education and transportation groups.

Biden Administration Commits to Improving School Health Program Delivery

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Biden Administration Commits to Improving School Health Program Delivery

On Thursday, U.S. Secretaries Cardona and Becerra sent a letter to Governors formally describing a new effort by both agencies to work together to develop and align resources to ensure children have the physical and behavioral health services and supports that they need to build resilience and thrive. Specifically, in the coming months, the Departments plan to provide additional technical assistance, resources and support that will (1) provide guidance on the federal funding available for school-based physical and behavioral health services, including how Medicaid can support the delivery of these services; (2) help reduce federal administrative burden for states and localities, including local educational agencies, and barriers to the provision of school-based physical and behavioral health services; and (3) improve and strengthen access to physical and behavioral health services.

For several years, AASA has focused on improving coordination between HHS and ED. This letter to Governors is in direct response to much of our advocacy. In particular, the specific mention of reducing the administrative on districts in meeting Medicaid is of particular significance as this was one of our leading recommendations to the Biden Administration before they took office.

UPDATE: DOT Guidance Allows 3rd Party Administration of Knowledge Test

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UPDATE: DOT Guidance Allows 3rd Party Administration of Knowledge Test

In November, AASA partnered with 12 other organizations in penning a letter to US DOT identifying a handful of policy changes that could help address the bus driver shortage. The letter was focused on relief for the school bus driver shortage. In response to that letter, US DOT announced a flexibility in early February that would allow for third party administration of the knowledge test, one of the exact asks we had made in our November letter. While we initially thought this was a waiver flexibility, it was, in fact, a change made to the guidance, and means it will remain a baseline practice moving forward. We remain appreciative of FMCSA for their willingness to hear from and respond to the field. Read our initial response to the guidance change from February.

USED Letter to Educators and Parents Regarding New CDC Recommendations and Their Impact on Children with Disabilities

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USED Letter to Educators and Parents Regarding New CDC Recommendations and Their Impact on Children with Disabilities

U.S. Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter to educators and parents regarding new CDC recommendations and the recommendations’ impact on children with disabilities. This letter addresses the needs of students with disabilities as we move into a new phase in our response to the pandemic. The letter addresses the CDC’s February 2022 framework for identifying COVID-19 Community Levels and encourages schools to lead with equity and inclusion to ensure all students have access to in-person learning alongside their peers.

The letter states that to comply with their Federal non-discrimination obligations under Section 504, school districts must make reasonable modifications when necessary to ensure equal access for their students with disabilities, absent a showing that the modifications would constitute a fundamental alteration or undue administrative burden to the program. In addition, if a parent or other member of the IEP or Section 504 team believes that particular COVID-19 prevention strategies are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the student, the team must consider whether, and to what extent, such measures are necessary, based on student-specific information, which may include medical or health records, diagnostic or other evaluative data, or information documented by medical or health professionals. If the IEP or Section 504 team determines that COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction measures are necessary in order for a student with a disability to receive FAPE – where the prevention measures constitute special education, related services, supplementary aids and services under IDEA, related aids and services under Section 504, or program modifications and supports for school personnel – the team must include these in the child’s IEP or Section 504 Plan. 
 
Furthermore, the letter states that federal civil rights laws “stipulate that schools must consider the health and safety needs of their students in order to safely attend in-person. This includes expectations around masking in schools on a case-by-case basis in order to comply with schools’ obligation to make reasonable modifications for particular students with disabilities under federal law.”

In adopting practical, layered strategies to serve all students, schools must refrain from placing all students with disabilities, or all students with disabilities at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, in a segregated setting away from their peers without disabilities as the only means to deliver FAPE safely. However, schools may consider whether providing smaller cohorts of group instruction with peers without disabilities can minimize a student’s health risks while maintaining the obligation to provide FAPE in the LRE based on the individual needs of the student with a disability. Similarly, schools should be cautious about singling out or identifying students with disabilities as the cause of any perceived burden to avoid stigma and the risk of bullying and must take steps to address any bullying that does occur.

 

AASA, ASBO Respond to USDA Transitional Standards on Milk, Sodium and Whole Grains

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AASA, ASBO Respond to USDA Transitional Standards on Milk, Sodium and Whole Grains

On March 23, AASA and ASBO International responded to the USDA’s Transitional Nutritional Standards for Milk, Sodium and Whole Grains which were announced on February 4. 

The transitional standards include:

  • Allowing local operators of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) to offer flavored, low-fat milk (1 percent fat) for students in grades K through 12 and for sale as a competitive beverage.
  • Beginning in SY 2022-2023, at least 80 percent of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menus must be whole grain-rich.
  • Establishes Sodium Target 1 as the sodium limit for school lunch and breakfast in SY2022-2023. For SY2023-2024, schools must meet Sodium Target 1A which requires a 10% reduction in sodium for school lunch only.

In our comments, we express support for the milk and sodium standards as they are reasonable and achievable. However, we do not support the 80% whole-grain requirement as some whole-grain products are not as appealing to students which leads to unnecessary food waste and reduced participation in the program. Additionally, given Congress’s failure to extend the COVID-19 waivers, we conveyed our concern that districts will not be able to meet any of the nutritional standards amidst the significant challenges they are facing due to the supply chain disruption and will not receive federal reimbursement as a result. We encouraged the USDA to use the full scope of its authority to ensure that school districts are not penalized for being unable to meet these nutritional standards and are able to continue to receive federal reimbursements for the meals they serve.

Read our full comments here

AASA 2022 State Leadership Conference: April 29-30, 2022

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AASA 2022 State Leadership Conference: April 29-30, 2022

We are looking forward to this year’s State Leadership Conference. Here’s everything you need to know:

WHO: The meeting is open to AASA state affiliate executive directors and their officers/elected officials.

WHAT: Each spring, we convene the executive directors of our 49 state affiliates and their elected member officers for a meeting focused on their professional development and networking. The goal of the conference is twofold: to highlight and strengthen the mutually beneficial relationship between AASA and our state affiliates, and to provide professional development and networking for state association leaders.

WHERE: San Antonio River Marriott Center, 101 Bowie Street, San Antonio TX

WHEN: April 29-30, 2022

WHY/HOW: 

  • The Schedule (all times are in Central):
    • FRIDAY April 29
      • 8 a.m. BREAKFAST
      • 8:50 a.m. Opening/Welcome
      • 9 a.m. SCOTUS, Regulations and Schools (Maree Sneed)
      • 10 a.m. ASE Business Meeting
      • 10 a.m. State Leaders and AASA
      • 11:30 a.m. BREAK
      • 11:40 a.m. Learning 2025 Commission (Bill Daggett)
      • 12:30 p.m. LUNCH
      • 1:15 p.m. Word from Sponsor
      • 1:20 p.m. Education and Midterm Election Polling (Celinda Lake)
      • 2:20 p.m. Telehealth, Mental Health and Schools (Gina Nicola, MindBeacon)
      • 3:20 p.m. BREAK
      • 3:30 p.m. State Policy, Censorship and Schools (Jonathan Friedman)
       
    • SATURDAY April 30
      • 8 a.m. Breakfast
      • 8:50 a.m. Opening/Welcome
      • 9 a.m. Teacher and Personnel Retention (Dr. Keppler)
      • 10 a.m. AASA Supt of the Year Presentation (Curtis Cain)
      • 10:45 a.m. BREAK
      • 11 a.m. National Superintendent Database (Rachel White)
     
  • Other Detail: AASA will cover ½ of the transportation costs for a maximum of three (3) people per association. This includes ½ of airfare, the cost of getting to/from the airport (including personal car mileage), airport parking, and the cost from the airport to the conference hotel (and back). This does NOT include rental cars, parking for rental cars, or taxi use to go to dinner or out on the town while in San Antonio. Attendees flying out can safely book flights at 1:30 p.m. or later.

 

 

The Biden Administration Announces the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge

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The Biden Administration Announces the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge

Last week, the Biden administration, in conjunction with the EPA, released a call to action titled the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, which highlights a range of recommendations and resources available for improving ventilation and indoor air quality, which can help to better protect the health of building occupants and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. The call to action included guidance principles and best practices to assist building owners and school administrators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors.

Key actions outlined in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge include:

  • Create a clean indoor air action plan,
  • Optimize fresh air ventilation,
  • Enhance air filtration and cleaning, and
  • Conduct community engagement, communication and education.

While the recommended actions cannot completely eliminate risks, they will reduce them. Infectious diseases like COVID-19 can spread through the inhalation of airborne particles and aerosols. In addition to other layered prevention strategies, like vaccination, wearing masks and physical distancing to reduce the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, actions to improve ventilation, filtration and other proven air cleaning strategies can reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and other contaminants, and improve indoor air quality and the health of building occupants.

Under each of these recommendation areas, EPA’s best practices guide lays out clear-cut actions building owners and school administrators can implement. The best practices guide is designed to serve as a menu of improvements to choose from. The guide includes quick steps that all organizations can take right away as a starting place, as well as resources to help plan for longer-term investments and improvements. 

You can check out the White House fact sheet here. The EPA press release can be found here. The EPA guidelines are here.

 

AASA Joins Statement Call for Congress to Extend Child Nutrition Waivers

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AASA Joins Statement Call for Congress to Extend Child Nutrition Waivers

On March 9, AASA joined 26 education, anti-hunger, public health and industry organizations in a statement expressing our disappointment that Congress failed to include an extension of the child nutrition waivers in the omnibus package. Without these extensions, millions of children will face a hunger cliff when they lose access to school, summer, afterschool, and child care meals on July 1, with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations and children in rural communities being hit the hardest. Read the full statement here.

Guest Post: Burnt Out! Teachers Identify Need for More Flexible and On-Demand Professional Learning

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Guest Post: Burnt Out! Teachers Identify Need for More Flexible and On-Demand Professional Learning

This guest blog post comes from our friends at D2L, a global learning innovation company.

Many U.S. school districts are facing a crisis: How do we balance teacher burnout with the ongoing need to build teacher capacity for learning recovery and beyond? New research helps answer that question.

As AASA has identified, education leaders face an imperative of student-centered redesign toward equity, and this must include enabling teachers in every classroom. The good news is that the emergency pivot to virtual schooling in many districts opened educators to new methods, and this provides a unique opportunity to redesign professional learning to be more timely and flexible and (re)build teacher capacity.

To better understand these educator experiences and interests, AASA partner D2L recently commissioned a national survey of some 1,000 district administrators and teachers. 

The recently released research identified growing teacher interest in professional learning that is ongoing, on-demand, online and targeted. However, teachers reported that they currently have limited access to frequent and personalized learning at their districts, which likely helps explain why only 20% of teachers identified strong satisfaction with their district-provided professional learning opportunities.

Other key findings include the following professional learning views:

  • Frequent, Ongoing. While 94% of surveyed educators agree that ongoing professional learning is important to a teacher’s effectiveness, only 36% expect their district to provide such timely professional learning. 82% were satisfied if they expected that professional learning will be made available to them more frequently than once a month — “on a more regular, ongoing basis,” but that satisfaction drops to 43% for those who expected availability only “once or twice each semester.” 
  • Online, On-Demand.71% identified interest in professional learning that is online, on-demand with 55% indicating their interest increased from pre-pandemic. In contrast, only 18% indicated strong current interest in online live professional learning.
  • Personalized. While 91% identified interest in personalized professional learning, there remains a gap as only 20% of respondents reported increased availability for targeted professional learning and 24% reported decreased or no availability since before the pandemic.
  • Time Flexible. 82% of district administrators cited “teacher time as a barrier to online professional learning,” compared to only 48% of teachers identifying time challenges, suggesting that teachers may be more willing to commit their time to flexible learning options than administrators expect.

What does this mean for school districts? Changes in practice during the pandemic have provided an opportunity to grow innovative professional learning methods and formats. These emerging practices are of increasing teacher interest and often better aligned to effective research-based practice including coherence, embedding in instruction, sustained duration, professional learning community, and feedback and reflection. 

These findings can also inform changes to our policies, programs, and partnerships needed to modernize teacher professional learning at this critical time in our K-12 public schools. 

For additional survey findings, research alignment and district recommendations, review the full research report “How the Pandemic Has (Re)Shaped K-12 Teacher Professional Learning” or contact D2L Senior Director Mark Schneiderman. D2L is a learning technology partner supporting our collective mission to reach every learner, including through D2L’s Brightspace learning management system as a hub to personalize both student and educator learning. 

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) Expands Distance Learning Program to Underserved Rural Communities

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Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) Expands Distance Learning Program to Underserved Rural Communities

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is expanding its distance learning program to support cross-disciplinary teaching of American art, culture and history to underserved rural communities across the United States. Through their new three-year initiative (Rural Engagement in Art, Culture and History or REACH), they will be holding various programs while continually assessing the needs of rural constituents to determine how SAAM could help meet those needs.

REACH is kicking off with a Summer Institute for Teachers consisting of 3 virtual workshops and 2 on-site (July 25 - 26) workshops in SAAM’s main building in Washington, DC. Attendees will receive $1,500 scholarships to support their learning. Priority will be given to educators from rural and underserved areas of the country.

Through interactive sessions with museum professionals, educators will gain skills and comfort in using American art to make interdisciplinary connections, foster critical thinking skills and develop visual literacy. They will walk away with a tool kit of practical strategies for integrating art into curriculum, as well as lesson ideas developed by the cohort that they can immediately put to use in the classroom.

The deadline for applying is April 1. Check out more information and apply here.

AASA Summary and Response to FY22 Omnibus

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AASA Summary and Response to FY22 Omnibus

Earlier today Congress released its final FY22 appropriations omnibus package. Read our memo for a full overview and analysis.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech issued the following statement in response to today’s bill: “The FY22 omnibus bill as it relates to education is, at best, a mixed bag. We commend Democratic leaders for going to bat for the increases that were realized; it is clear they heard the message from the field and pushed for prioritizing education funding. At the same time, the bill misses the mark on what could have been, especially in the context of what had been proposed across the administration, House, and Senate. 

We are deeply troubled by the lack of an extension for the school nutrition waivers, a seeming failure to acknowledge that student hunger needs will continue into the 2022-23 school year, and a willingness to undo all the good that has been done--all the meals that have been fed--under this initially bipartisan proposal. Complicating the meals piece even further, the end of these commonsense flexibilities comes at the exact time that schools are seeing increased prices and supply chain issues. 

Specific to the IDEA funding level, this is a cut in comparison to current ARP levels. This omnibus was the first time in my career at AASA that Congress had a true opportunity to redirect itself forward on the IDEA glidepath. We applaud them for the small increases included in today’s bill, while also holding them accountable for once again leaving IDEA severely underfunded.  The proposed level puts schools on an IDEA funding cliff and all but ensures that ARP IDEA dollars will go to one time expenditures instead of sustainable quality investments. We did this once under ARRA, and we had reasonable hope that Congress would prioritize this ARP funding level, given both the chronic underfunding of IDEA and the lessons learned from ARRA. 

This significant shift away from proposed funding levels for K12 education is the second time in less than a year that the nation’s public schools were cut as part of broader negotiations. Last fall, K12 schools saw the proposed infrastructure funding for schools pushed out of the Build Back Better negotiations. Today’s bill shows, once again, the disconnect between education funding proposals and education funding realities. What we fund is what we value, and AASA urges Congress to do better when it comes to truly and meaningfully funding education. Our nation's public school system leaders expected better, and our nation's schools and students deserved more. At the end of the day, though, our nation's public school system can and will make this work, ensuring that school doors remain open and ready to educate all who walk through.”

 

IDEA Funding Coalition Co-Chairs Respond to FY22 Omnibus

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IDEA Funding Coalition Co-Chairs Respond to FY22 Omnibus

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition with the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Council for Exceptional Children.

The following statement was released by the co-chairs of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a group of national and state organizations committed to full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

“The final FY22 omnibus is a missed opportunity for Congress to self-correct on its chronic underfunding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As co-chairs of the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, we are disappointed to see that, once again, supporting infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and honoring this statutory commitment remains outside the scope of Congressional priorities.” 

Lindsay Kubatzky, National Center for Learning Disabilities; Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA, The School Superintendents Association; Kuna Tavalin, Council for Exceptional Children

Advocacy Win on Synthetic Nicotine e-Cigarettes

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Advocacy Win on Synthetic Nicotine e-Cigarettes

The use of synthetic nicotine in various products including e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches is becoming more popular among children and youth. Public health groups have been warning that disposable, synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes such as Puff Bar have grown in popularity among teens while skirting FDA oversight since the FDA does not have explicit authority to regulate lab-made nicotine. The need for FDA to step in and regular synthetic nicotine is urgent; CDC data shows more than a quarter of middle and high school e-cigarette users reported using Puff Bar as their usual brand.

AASA joined our partners at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in urging Congress to include language in the omnibus spending package that would give the FDA the authority to regulate products that contain nicotine but aren’t derived from tobacco, such as synthetic nicotine.

And happily, we were successful! The FY22 omnibus now contains this important regulatory authority for FDA. We are hopeful that this action will mean fewer synthetic products targeted at children enter the market and that Puff Bar and other nicotine products that target children and youth, will be prohibited from doing so in the future. 

You can find the letter here.

Spread The Word: Child Tax Credit Outreach Resources

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Spread The Word: Child Tax Credit Outreach Resources

We are happy to share the resources and information below in coordination with our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs:

Schools can help families claim thousands of dollars this tax season. Join AASA and partner organizations for a Child Tax Credit school outreach push in the final weeks before the tax filing deadline on April 18! Check this link for ideas of easy actions - like sending mass messages to families or sending home flyers - your district can take to help families claim the CTC, for which 90 percent of American kids are eligible. At this link, you'll find the ready-to-use resources you need to take action now! You'll also find background information and registrations for 30-minute upcoming info sessions if you'd like to learn more.

If the above hyperlink does not work, click here: https://bit.ly/ctcschools

 

Biden Administration Releases National COVID Preparedness Plan

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Biden Administration Releases National COVID Preparedness Plan

Today, the Biden administration released a new National COVID Preparedness Plan to keep America moving forward safely and back to normal routines. The plan focuses on three key goals: 

  • Protection against COVID-19,
  • Preparing for new variants, and
  • Preventing economic and educational shutdowns

First, on protection. Unlike at the start of the pandemic, there are multiple tools to protect against COVID, including vaccines, treatments, tests and masks. 

  • Vaccines: The US now has over 215 million people fully vaccinated. This plan lays out a system to get kids under 5 vaccinated as soon as it’s authorized. 
  • Treatments: The existence of anti-viral pills to treat COVID has cut the chances of an infected person going to the hospital by 90%. This plan announces a “Test to Treat” initiative where people can get tested at a pharmacy clinic – and if they’re positive – receive treatment pills on the spot.
  • Tests: The administration has sent nearly 70 million households free tests. Under this plan, starting next week Americans can order additional free at-home tests on COVIDtests.gov

Second, the administration is preparing for new variants. 

  • Early Warnings: The US has better monitoring systems for hotspots and variants of concern, with an ability to catch them earlier, faster, and with greater precision.
  • Faster Approvals: If needed, the administration has processes in place to produce, authorize and start delivery of new vaccines within 100 days.
  • New Stockpiles: With support from Congress, the US has new stockpiles of tests, masks, treatment pills and PPE ready to deploy when needed  

Third, preventing economic and educational shutdowns.

  • The administration will work to give schools and businesses the tools they need to prevent economic and educational shutdowns, such as paid leave for those who have to miss work due to COVID-19.
  • Ventilation: The administration will release a set of clear recommendations and actions all buildings can take to improve indoor ventilation and air filtration to keep students and staff safe.

Throughout this plan, the administration will ensure they are protecting the most vulnerable populations, including the immuno-compromised and those with disabilities. The immuno-compromised have access to a fourth booster and priority access to new treatments.

The administration is also launching a comprehensive response to prevent, treat, and better understand Long-COVID and to address mental health issues.

Executing this plan will require additional congressional funding. Soon, the administration will send Congress a request for additional funding, which is expected to pass quickly.

 

U.S. Innovation and Competition Act & the America Competes Act

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U.S. Innovation and Competition Act & the America Competes Act

If you tuned into the State of the Union on Tuesday night, you probably heard the President speak about the “Innovation Act.” He was referring to the Senate’s bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) which was approved last June. On February 2, the House passed The America COMPETES Act, which is their response to USICA. The House and Senate will now begin to reconcile the two different bills with the goal to move a final legislative package soon.

Most notably for K-12 education, both proposals include two grant programs:

Improving access to elementary and secondary computer science education grants—A competitive grant program for school districts to increase equitable access to computer science education and computational thinking skills. State education agencies (SEAs) will apply for the grants then subgrant them to school districts. Priority will be given to districts with high percentages of students from low-income families and who partner with HBCUs or minority-serving institutions.  Funds can be used to:

 1) develop and implement a data-driven plan to provide equitable access to computer science education and the development of computational thinking skills, particularly for students from groups that are underrepresented in computer science fields;

2) support and diversify the computer science educator workforce;

3) implement evidence-based instructional practices; and

4) expose students to computer science career pathways through the development of extracurricular opportunities, career exploration and advising opportunities, and high-quality work-based learning opportunities

Postsecondary STEM Pathway Grants for SEAs, two or more school districts and the state’s public higher education system to support the development and implementation of postsecondary STEM pathways. These pathways would consist of a sequence of high school courses focused on STEM education that provide at least 12 credit hours—or the equivalent coursework—toward a recognized postsecondary credential, and may include advanced coursework, a dual or concurrent enrollment program, or an early college high school program. The public higher education system is included in the grant to ensure that the pathways created provide credits that fully transfer to all institutions in the system.

Both proposals also include investments in research on preK-12 STEM education and workforce development in rural areas and engaging rural educators to enhance STEM knowledge.

Two additional provisions that were included in the House’s version that AASA was pleased to see: 1) the creation of short-term Pell Grants for qualified job-training programs and 2) the College Transparency Act—which establishes a secure, privacy-protected system to provide prospective students with customizable information such as how likely they are to graduate from a particular school or program and how much their future earnings potential will be. This information is disaggregated by race, ethnicity and gender to identify inequities in students’ success, and allows prospective students and families to shop for programs that meet their needs. Unfortunately, these programs are not included in the Senate version, so it is unclear whether they will be included in the final package.  

The Advocate March 2022: The Legislative Agenda

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The Advocate March 2022: The Legislative Agenda

At the start of each year, the governing bodies representing AASA, The School Superintendents Association, gather to determine federal policy positions for the organization.

In January 2022, AASA’s Executive Committee had the unique opportunity to meet with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Roberto Rodríguez, and Acting Assistant Secretary Katherine Neas, who oversees the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).  Both sides engaged in a robust conversation about alleviating the teacher shortage and the need to streamline federal data collection. 

These annual conversations with key federal education officials as well as legislators and staff on Capitol Hill help ensure that AASA’s Legislative Agenda continues to reflect the most important federal education policy and funding issues each year. It is also an opportunity for informal conversations with AASA’s Advocacy Team, so they can gain clarity on our positions on a host of policy issues that are likely to arise. 

This year’s conversation focused on what AASA’s position should be pertaining to the extension of universal school meals policies as well as what policy levers exist for reducing bus driver shortages. At the end of the three-day meeting, the Executive Committee voted to approve the Legislative Agenda. 

In February, prior to the annual National Conference on Education, the AASA Governing Board meets to review the Legislative Agenda and debate potential edits, add clarifying language and eventually adopt the agenda. These conversations among Governing Board members reveal the diversity of AASA’s membership and serve as an important function of why the finally adopted agenda is so extensive, specific and nuanced. 

The guiding principle of AASA’s 2022 Legislative Agenda stems from the important role the federal government stands to play in creating equitable learning opportunities for all students. This starts with equitable policy and resources, both of which should remain available to all students, schools and states. It also includes the protection and preservation of federal education funding when compared with other federal investments. 

Of note, this year’s agenda calls out a specific need for federal policy and funding to support districts’ efforts to provide mental health services for students, staff and families. It also delves into the critical supports for equitable federal funding mechanisms, including key federal programs such as Title I and IDEA, as well as a robust conversation to revise and strengthen the efficacy of poverty indicators within federal education programs. In addition, it highlights the importance of having federal education policy address the educator shortage and the acknowledgement that schools need a pipeline of high-quality educators to operate, function and provide equitable education to students including support for existing and innovative instructional models. 

We encourage you to review the 2022 Legislative Agenda and to contact us if you have specific questions or concerns. 

Unlike other education associations, we provide our advocacy positions as being completely driven by our members. While it’s not always easy or popular to relay the complexity of some positions, we are respected by all federal policy entities we engage with for truly representing the views of the field we are proud to represent.

Conversation with Secretary Cardona and CDC about New Guidance

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Conversation with Secretary Cardona and CDC about New Guidance

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated framework for how we understand and respond to the risks and impacts of COVID-19 in our communities. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and representatives from the CDC and the White House will be having a call on Thursday, March 3 at 11 a.m. ET to hear the latest data and CDC recommendations. 

If you are a chief, superintendent, or their designate and are interested in joining the call, please contact Kat Sturdevant (ksturdevant@aasa.org). After you register, you will receive a Zoom link to join the meeting and you can submit any questions you would like to have answered during the conversation.

Thank you for all you continue to do on behalf of students and staff, and we hope to see you Thursday!

New LPI Blog on The Federal Role in Tackling Teacher Shortages

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New LPI Blog on The Federal Role in Tackling Teacher Shortages

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) has released a great new blog: “The Federal Role in Tackling Teacher Shortages”. The piece discusses existing federal tools – created in a bipartisan manner – to support the teacher workforce, such as comprehensive educator preparation programs and service-related grant and loan programs, could be deployed to help tackle teacher shortages. 

The blog concludes with a discussion of how pending federal funding and social safety net bills could mark the start of deeper federal investment in the teacher pipeline. It is the final piece of a three-part series “Solving Teacher Shortages”. Most notably for superintendents, part one focused on What Can State and Districts Do

ICYMI: AASA Advocacy Federal Policy Update at NCE (Recap)

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ICYMI: AASA Advocacy Federal Policy Update at NCE (Recap)

We had a blast at NCE 2022 and appreciate everyone who came by our Advocacy and Governance sessions.

In case you missed our Federal Policy Update, check out our presentation here.

To check our our Legislative Priorities for this year, you can read our 2022 Legislative Agenda.

As always, for the best news, stories and events in the Education Policy sphere, you can download our AASA Advocacy App, FREE on the App Store and Google Play.

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NAPT and AASA to hold K12 School Transportation Cybersecurity Training and Exercise Program

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NAPT and AASA to hold K12 School Transportation Cybersecurity Training and Exercise Program

 

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), in conjunction with AASA, the School Superintendents Association, are pleased to invite you to save the date for the K12 School Transportation Cybersecurity Training and Exercise Program on Monday, April 4, 2022 on the WebEx platform.

This event is intended to bring together K-12 security stakeholders to discuss and improve Prevention, Protection, and Response/Recovery activities related to Cybersecurity issues impacting schools and the pupil transportation industry. The workshop will discuss the following topics:

Prevention (Intelligence and Information Sharing)

1. Review plans and capabilities that support the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence about cybersecurity threats to the school transportation infrastructure.

Protection (Cyber Protective Measures)

2. Develop guidance for how school transportation infrastructure stakeholders, school system officials, and security stakeholders implement cyber protective measures.

Response and Recovery (Operational Coordination)

3. Review how school transportation infrastructure stakeholders, first responders, and other school system officials coordinate and communicate following a cyber-related attack.

We will have federal and industry representatives participating from all parts of the United States. The networking and valuable security discussions offer a great opportunity for all involved to help achieve our mission to prevent and protect against terrorist activities as it relates to Cybersecurity and schools.

Key Details

  • Date: Monday, April 4, 2022
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Location: WebEx platform
  • Register: Here!