July 16, 2021

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Bills on K-12 Funding and Discrimination Move Forward

Thursday was a busy day on Capitol Hill as two committees held contentious mark-ups on K-12 issues and funding. The House Education and Labor Committee voted to pass a bill that would create a competitive grant program to incentivize districts to de-segregate schools. This bill, the Strength in Diversity Act, is one that AASA supports. The second bill would give students and parents the right to bring Title VI discrimination claims based on the disparate impact of school policies, as if those policies had been written to be intentionally discriminatory. It would also require each district to have a Title VI coordinator. AASA does not support this bill. A Republican substitute amendment to the Title VI bill would have barred federal funding from supporting instruction that made assumptions, assigned characteristics, or separated students or teachers based on race, color, or national origin. This vote, focused on Critical Race Theory, is the first vote on this contentious topic on Capitol Hill and was defeated by Democrats and supported by Republicans.

The House Appropriations Committee also met to deliberate on the House Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The bill passed only with Democrats voting in favor of it and would represent a huge increase in annual federal spending on schools, as it more than doubles the size of the Title I program and provides a substantial increase to IDEA. This EdWeek story provides a good outline of the funding. House Leadership has indicated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will be on the floor of the House of Representatives in two weeks. It is critical that we have support for this unprecedented funding jump for education. Make sure to reach out to your members of Congress using the AASA Advocacy App and let them know you support this critical increase in Title I and IDEA.

U.S. Department of Education Invites States and School Districts to Apply for Additional $600 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Students Experiencing Homelessness

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U.S. Department of Education Invites States and School Districts to Apply for Additional $600 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Students Experiencing Homelessness

To help support the needs of students experiencing homelessness, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced this week that it will invite states to complete the application for their share of the second disbursement of $800 million in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY). In April, the Department released the first $200 million of the $800 million in ARP-HCY funds to states. The distribution of the additional $600 million will give states and school districts access to funding before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. 

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic highlighted and exacerbated inequities in America’s education system, students experiencing homelessness faced numerous challenges as they strove to learn and achieve in school each day. Amid COVID-19 and the transition to remote and hybrid learning, for so many students, these challenges intensified. As a nation, we must do everything we can to ensure that all students—including students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity—are able to access an excellent education that opens doors to opportunity and thriving lives,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I encourage every state to urgently use these American Rescue Plan funds to support homeless children and youth so that these students have every chance to participate in summer learning and enrichment; experience full-time, in-person instruction in their schools in the fall; and get connected to vital services and supports that can support their success.”

The needs of students experiencing homelessness remain urgent, as many schools and districts struggle to identify and serve students who experience homelessness. The ARP-HCY funds are designed to be flexible so that states and districts can address community needs. This additional ARP-HCY funding will be used by states and school districts to identify homeless children and youth, provide wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities.  

“Every child deserves to have a warm place to sleep and a roof over their head every night. But for 1.5 million children across America and over 10,000 children in my home state of West Virginia, that is not the case. The COVID-19 pandemic made this heartbreaking and dire issue much worse for many of our families and children in need. Since the pandemic kept most students at home, schools have struggled to track students experiencing homelessness,” said Sen. Joe Manchin. “This second round of funding—part of the $800 million I successfully fought to include in the American Rescue Plan—will help schools identify students experiencing homelessness and provide support for these vulnerable students. States can begin applying for the second round of funding today in order to get the funds directly to school districts before the new school year so students experiencing homelessness can receive the support they need.”

“This past year has been so difficult for every student, parent and educator across the country—but what students experiencing homelessness have gone through is unthinkable. The first thing we told people during this pandemic was to ‘stay home.’ But so many students don’t have a safe place to call home, access to internet, devices, or critical services that students have relied on to learn during this pandemic,” said Sen. Patty Murray. “We fought hard to make sure the American Rescue Plan includes dedicated funding for students experiencing homelessness, and I’m so pleased the Department of Education is acting quickly to get these resources to our communities. The crisis of youth homelessness is especially acute for LGBTQ young people and children of color, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure students experiencing homelessness not only get enrolled in school, but also get the kind of support and stability they need so they can learn and grow in the classroom.”   

Following a brief application, states will receive funds that will be awarded to school districts through formula subgrants. These funds will reach districts that may not have accessed previous federal funding designated for students experiencing homelessness. Under the final requirements that will be published in the Federal Register, states are required to distribute funds to school districts via a formula that uses the district’s allocation under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the number of identified homeless children and youth in either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 school year, whichever number is greater. With the exception of the district subgranting formula, which replaces the competitive subgrant process required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act), all requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act also apply to the ARP-HCY funds. 

The distribution of ARP-HCY funds is part of the Department’s broader efforts to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris Administration has:   

  • Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook   
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit   
  • Helped over 175 million Americans ages 12 and older get vaccinated  
  • Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students   
  • Prioritized the vaccination of educators and other school staff   
  • Launched a series of Equity Summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic  
  • Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities, including homeless youth  
  • Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.  

 

 

Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

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Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Ed. shared a letter on its most recent efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our public school communities and increase the vaccination rates amongst school staff and students. As a part of these efforts, the Department is asking the following requests listed below of superintendents.

  • First, stand up for a vaccination clinic at your school sites, and for state officials. To help in this effort, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a toolkit available here. This toolkit was developed in consultation with the White House, with recommendations on how to effectively work with your local health partners to stand up a vaccine clinic for your staff and eligible students and their families as soon as possible. To learn more about the Health Center Program, please click here
  • Second, the Department is asking superintendents to launch a campaign to encourage eligible students, parents, and staff to get vaccinated and share with them the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and why they are critical to protecting individuals from COVID-19 and lowering community transmission. Please share this information with limited English proficient parents and students by providing it in their primary languages. The Department is encouraging superintendents to use their voices and platforms to encourage students and parents to get vaccinated and to organize events in their community this summer and in the lead up to school reopening focused on vaccination and reopening. As a recommendation, USED encourages partnerships with community, faith-based organizations, labor, and others to get students and/families vaccinated. Superintendents can also collaborate with student leaders to make these efforts fun and get young people to participate.
  • As part of these efforts, The Department is also encouraging superintendents to consider implementing creative incentives and initiatives to boost excitement and vaccine participation and use these opportunities to partner with local community-based programs, including early childhood education providers. For example, Ohio has created in-state scholarship lotteries for students who get vaccinated; in Los Angeles, secondary schools that exceed a 30% vaccination rate will receive $5,000 grants, and Head Start programs have partnered with a school district and local hospital to host vaccination satellite sites; and teens in Detroit are leading virtual sessions for their classmates encouraging them to sign up for vaccines. 

The Department is also supportive of providing incentives to students and their household members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As some may recall, this activity is an allowable use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds. An FAQ on the GEER and ESSER Fund is available here. Check out this FAQ document for more information about uses funds for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to support vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for teachers, faculty, staff, and eligible students.

Finally, another important component of creating safe school environments is COVID-19 screening testing. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded funding from the American Rescue Plan to all states to support COVID-19 testing in schools. You can click here for more information on how to set up a screening testing program for a school that will ensure for safe operations in every district by the fall. 

July 1, 2021(1)

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AIR Results: National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

Earlier this spring, AASA was pleased to partner with the American Institutes for Research in the National Survey of Public Education's Response to COVID 19. Over the course of 2020, they asked school district and charter management organization leaders to respond to a nationally representative survey of school districts and charter management organizations—more than 2,500 in total—about the actions they have taken and the challenges they have encountered during the COVID-19-related school closures. The 2020 survey addressed how school districts and charter management organizations coped with issues related to school closures, including the timing of school closures due to COVID-19; distance learning approaches and challenges; supporting students with disabilities and English learners; district policies and requirements, such as grading and graduation; staffing and human resources; and health, well-being, and safety.

In 2021, they administered a survey focused on instructional approaches, student engagement and participation, supports for student learning, and priorities and challenges. They followed up with interviews with school district administrators on a variety of topics including the virtual options available for next school year, methods to alleviate staff shortages and teacher burnout, assessing the extent of and mitigating “loss in expected learning,” meeting the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners, providing social emotional support for students and teachers, and actions taken to ensure equity and social justice for families in the community.

The results of that work were released throughout the year, and the newest set of resources--an infographic and three research briefs--were released just this week. You can access them directly here:

 

  • Infographic: Schooling During 2020–21: Results from the National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19 (PDF)
  • District Approaches to Instruction in 2020-2021: Differences in Instructional Modes and Instruction Time Across Contexts (PDF)
  • Student Attendance and Enrollment Loss in 2020-2021 (PDF)
  • District Concerns About Academic Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF)

 

July 1, 2021

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The Advocate: Emergency Connectivity Fund

Sometimes naming a phenomenon is all it takes to shift a conversation, to step towards a solution. And sometimes, not.

In February 2020, 17 long months before COVID upended everything, the term homework gap existed and was used to address the very unfortunate reality--and worst kept secret in education--that as many as 12-17 million students in the U.S. lacked internet access at home. Naming the homework gap helped us to talk about it, but getting serious response to the homework gap? That took a pandemic. 

Even before the pandemic shuttered schools and shifted our students into remote/online learning, students without connectivity were at an educational disadvantage because they could not complete homework assignments that required internet access after class. This inequity was simultaneously exacerbated and shoved to center stage when COVID shut schools. 

In response to this crisis Congress passed Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ECF is a $7.17 billion program which allows schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ECF will be distributed along the lines of the E-rate program. It will be similarly managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) through the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal. Any school or library that has ever applied for funding through the E-rate program will already be familiar with the eligibility requirements and application procedure for the ECF. This funding is only for purchases made beginning July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. Ed tech purchases prior to July 1 can be reimbursed by the American Rescue Plan funding and other COVID-relief packages. 

Under the ECF program eligible equipment for reimbursement includes: laptop computers, tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers  and devices that combine modems and routers. Districts cannot be reimbursed for desktop computers and mobile phones. There are price caps in place for purchases of $400 per computer and $250 per hotspot as well as distribution limits to ensure a student or school employee receives only one fixed broadband connection (or modem) per location or one computer/tablet per person. Other eligible services for reimbursement include: home internet access delivered via a commercial provider; the activation, installation and initial configuration costs for eligible equipment and services and school construction of self-provisioned networks to connect students and staff – only where there are no commercially available service options. The ECF funding cannot be used for purchasing cybersecurity tools, learning management systems, video conferencing equipment, standalone microphones and technology protection measures required by CIPA. 

The 45-day application window opened on June 29; schools and libraries have until August 13 to apply for the funding. This is a very tight turnaround on a new tranche of funding at the exact time that schools are working to plan and invest unprecedented amounts of federal funding. It is a daunting task, but also critically necessary and possible. 

 For more information and resources, check out the ECF's website or Funds for Learning's ECF Guide. Or check out the AASA webinar we did on the ECF in coordination with ASBO,  “Using Federal Funds to Get Students Connected & Fix the Homework Gap”. 

School Infrastructure Update

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School Infrastructure Update

Yesterday, President Biden endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework introduced by a group of 21 senators led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH). At this point, the exact details of the proposal have yet to be formally released. However, the plan is expected to total $579 billion in new spending to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, improve public transit systems, expand passenger rails, upgrade ports and airports, invest in broadband infrastructure, fix water systems, modernize our power sector and improve climate resilience. Additionally, the bipartisan framework includes funding to electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes to deliver clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities. You can check out the draft framework by clicking here.

The bill does not include funding for school, child care, and community college infrastructure proposed in the American Jobs Plan. That said, there is some good news here, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House would not vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a larger set of Democratic priorities through budget reconciliation. Biden also signaled that he will not sign the bipartisan G20 proposal without the Senate first passing a larger reconciliation bill with his American Job and Family Plan priorities.

Considering this, the pressure is now on Senate Democrats to craft the text for President Biden's proposal. Again, there is still time to get the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act across the finish line. That said, we need all hands on deck to accomplish our goal. Are you looking to advocate for the inclusion of school infrastructure funding in the next reconciliation package? Then please check out this blog post, which has instructions for how to contact your Senators and get $130 billion allocated for school construction efforts. 

 

Biden Admin Shares Timeline for Upcoming Regs-Guidance

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Biden Admin Shares Timeline for Upcoming Regs-Guidance

On Tuesday, the Biden Administration released its Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which reports on the actions administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term. Of note, the Administration stated they did not anticipate a new proposed Title IX regulation until May 2022. This means that the DeVos Title IX reg will be on the books for the entire 2021-2022 school year and given how long the comment period and comment review will be likely for the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, the Administration announced it would be releasing regulations on the $800 million earmarked in ARP to support homeless students. The Education Department says its rules for the program will apply to three-quarters of the funding and will focus on the formula that state education agencies use to provide subgrants to local school districts. Another regulation will seek to clarify the definition of “education records.” The rule would also attempt to clarify “provisions regarding disclosures to comply with a judicial order or subpoena” as it pertains to FERPA. 

 

AASA and NASSP Send Critique of Title IX Rule

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AASA and NASSP Send Critique of Title IX Rule

On June 11, AASA and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) responded to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for written comments on the implementation of the 2020 Title IX regulation. 

AASA and NASSP urge to the department to immediately rescind the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulations and replace them with nonbinding guidance for K–12 schools, technical assistance, and best practices to ensure the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination.

Our comments focus on three major issues with the 2020 amendments: 

• The length of the process and the ability of administrators to adequately mitigate potential and actual sexual harassment and assault of students in a timely manner, especially when compared to other similar disciplinary infractions

• Staffing burden

• Confidentiality requirements

USAC-FCC Announce American Rescue Plan Emergency Connectivity Funds

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USAC-FCC Announce American Rescue Plan Emergency Connectivity Funds

USAC and the FCC announced a series of webinars (scheduled for this week and next!) on the Emergency Connectivity Fund. While more detail on the emergency connectivity fund will be available later this week, we know that the application window for the Emergency Connectivity fund will open at the end of this month and the application window will be open for 45 days. In preparation for supporting eligible entities to apply, the four announced USAC webinars each target a specific audience, and the webinar details and registration links are below:

  • Wednesday, June 16 at 2 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview Webinar for E-rate Participants - Register
  • Thursday, June 17 at 2 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview Webinar for New (Non E-rate Participants) - Register
  • Thursday, June 17 at 4 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview for Tribal Applicants - Register
  • Wednesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview for Potential Applicants - Register

USDA Responds to AASA's Request to Expand Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

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USDA Responds to AASA's Request to Expand Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

On June 11, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) submitted a response to AASA's allied coalition letter requesting that the department extend and expand opportunities for states to participate in the Direct Certification with Medicaid (DC-M) Demonstration Project, which currently enables 19 states to use Medicaid data to directly certify students for free or reduced-price school meals, under the authority provided in Sections 9(b)(15) and 18(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Specifically, U.S. Secretary of Vilsack stated that "USDA is actively working to identify possible options for building upon our existing DC-M demonstrations, and we look forward to offering expanded opportunities in the near future." 

You can check out AASA's initial letter here. Access the USDA's response by clicking here.

IDEA Full Funding Coalition: FY22 Approps Letter

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IDEA Full Funding Coalition: FY22 Approps Letter

The IDEA Full Funding Coalition – which AASA chairs – submitted a letter with its funding request for the FY22 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriation levels to Congress. Specifically, the 33 allied organizations of the coalition called for $15.5B to be allocated to IDEA Part B. The full letter is available here.

 

Guest Post: Two Ways for States to Support More Thoughtful School District Recovery Plans

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Guest Post: Two Ways for States to Support More Thoughtful School District Recovery Plans

This blog post is reposted with permission of EducationCounsel. AASA was pleased to partner with our Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium (facilitated by EducationCounsel) on a joint letter to USED regarding two concerns with the ARP LEA recovery plan timeline and approach to continuous improvement. You can access the original blog post here.

"In public school districts across the nation we see the familiar June images of high school seniors celebrating, teachers grading projects and final exams, and superintendents…drafting plans to spend billions of new dollars?!?

Yes, strategic planning is ramping up just as the school year is winding down. To help districts meet this critical moment, there are two small but important things state education agencies (SEAs) can do in their soon-to-be-submitted American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) plans. These opportunities arise from recent clarifications by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) about how SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs) can approach figuring out how best to use new federal resources to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the big new pot of ARP funds.

  1. USED has clarified that SEAs have the discretion to establish their own deadlines for LEAs to submit ARP plans, so long as their timeline is “reasonable.” Importantly, a reasonable timeline can be more than 90 days after LEAs’ receipt of ARP funding.
  2. USED also clarified that LEAs may periodically review and revise these plans through a SEA-designed and -managed process. 

Together, these clarifications allow SEAs’ plans to include a more reasonable timeline for LEA plans and to establish an expectation and process for periodic review, learning, and continuous improvement of those plans over time. Even with SEA plans due to USED on June 7, there is time to adjust LEA plan timelines. Additionally, many states will likely be submitting some or all of their plans after next week, and a state could submit a revised plan or amendment (before or after receiving USED approval).

The remainder of this post provides more details about the planning challenge facing school districts and how states can leverage the recent clarifications from USED to help their districts tackle it:

The Challenge

Given all of the challenges created by the pandemic, our public school students, staff, families, and communities need their school districts to develop recovery plans that both meet immediate needs and help make important shifts to address long standing inequities and “build back better.” But it takes significant time and effort to develop a high-quality multi-year strategic plan that advances excellence and equity for each and every student, both as a matter of best practices and according to requirements in ARP itself. Such a plan must be rooted in a particular community’s needs and assets and address the holistic needs of all students. It must be informed by what evidence shows is most likely to work for whom and under what circumstances. A wide variety of stakeholders must have multiple opportunities to provide meaningful input and inform decisions in ongoing ways.

Under the best of circumstances, this type of planning would pose a big challenge for any school district. Needless to say, these are not the best of circumstances. Districts are still managing through the widespread disruption from the global pandemic; launching unprecedented summer engagement, support, and recovery efforts; planning for another unique school year ahead; and continuing to navigate changing information and challenging realities.

The Clarifications

As noted above, under ARP, states have the authority to set reasonable timelines for district plans and to establish processes that encourage continuous improvement. (For more about why these two clarifications are so important for districts to plan well, see this joint letter by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium in response to USED’s original ARP interim final requirements (IFR).)

LEA Deadlines: USED has further clarified that SEAs have the discretion to establish their own deadlines for their LEAs to submit ESSER use of funds plans so long as the timelines are “reasonable.” Importantly, a reasonable timeline can be more than 90 days after receipt of ARP funding.

  • USED’s IFR reflects this, requiring only that SEAs require LEA ARP plans to be submitted “on a reasonable timeline determined by the SEA.” In the commentary for that rule and in USED’s SEA plan template (page 13), however, USED noted that the timeline “should be within no later than 90 days after receiving its ARP ESSER allocation.” This has raised some questions regarding state authority to set timelines that may extend beyond 90 days (or from when the 90 days would even begin).
  • Last week, however, USED twice clarified that the only rule is what is in the IFR itself – the SEA’s timeline must be reasonable. On 5/26, the Department published a FAQ (A-4 on page 14) that omitted any reference to a 90-day deadline while affirming that the timeline is “determined by the SEA.” Then, in a 5/27 “Office Hours” presentation (slide 21), USED reiterated its suggestion of a 90-day timeline, but noted that ultimately “this decision is left to each SEA.”

Accordingly, references to a 90-day timeline must be taken as a non-binding suggestion (“should”) and not a requirement (“must”). SEAs can set an earlier or a later deadline, taking into account their own contexts and their determination of what is a reasonable amount of time for their LEAs to meaningfully engage with stakeholders and develop a thoughtful, multi-year plan that makes strategic and equitable use of ARP funds to meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. (Note there is a shorter timeline required by ARP for LEAs’ to submit plans on return to in-person instruction, which is not affected by these clarifications.)

Continuous Improvement: USED also clarified that LEAs may periodically review and revise these ARP ESSER plans and that SEAs have authority to design their amendment process.

  • The IFR specifically requires periodic review and improvement for the return to in-person instruction plans, but it did not explicitly address the need for continuously improving the LEA use of funds plans.
  • Yet, in the same 5/27 “Office Hours” presentation (slide 22), USED noted: “As with ARP ESSER State Plans, the Department believes that ARP ESSER LEA use of funds plans are living documents. It is the Department’s expectation that these plans may need to be reviewed and revised periodically.”
  • Further, “SEAs have discretion to determine the amendment process for their LEAs as long as the amended plans continue to meet statutory and regulatory requirements for such plans.” States can design processes that maintain ARP’s guardrails (e.g., using evidence-based approaches to meet students’ holistic needs) while avoiding onerous procedures that might discourage continuous improvement.

Given all the challenges facing districts and the importance of developing thoughtful ARP plans, we encourage SEAS to maximize their further clarified authority and flexibility. Doing so will provide LEAs with the time they need to develop thoughtful and equitable recovery plans, as well as prepare to adjust those plans in response to new information, data, and feedback."

The Advocate June 2021: Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education

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The Advocate June 2021: Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education

Each month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters as a way to build a direct link between AASA and our affiliates as well as AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the June 2021 edition.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, the Biden administration released its Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education. We knew to expect a big increase in the overall top-line funding level for USED based on the discretionary budget released by the Administration in April. The proposal includes a record increase for USED of $29.8 billion (41%) over the FY 2022 level, and big increases for education programs in Health and Human Services (HHS). Some of our top takeaways:

  • LOTS of New Programs: Some of the biggest funding increases are for new programs. While we are pleased to see President hold true to his push for increased funding for Title I, we are following this proposal closely because detail in this budget indicates that the $20 billion increase for Title I is for a new Equity Grant, not the existing state grant program. Another new program of note? $1 billion for a School-Based Health Professionals program, an initial down payment on a 10-year campaign to double the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in schools.
  • Outside of these new programs, the remaining increases are concentrated in a handful of programs. The biggest winners in the discretionary side of the budget? Special education, with IDEA seeing a $3.1 billion increase; Pell Grants, with a $3 billion increase; Community Schools, with a $413 million increase; and career and technical education, with a $128 million increase, among others.
  • Lots of Level Funding: In spite of an unprecedented increase in total funding, funding levels for a number of discretionary USED programs—including Title IV-A and most of the Title I programs—remain frozen, with no proposed increase.
  • Of particular importance to AASA, the Administration proposes a $2.7 billion increase for IDEA. This aligns with the increased IDEA funding that was allotted in the American Rescue Plan. We support this increase as it would allow districts to not have to initially worry about IDEA maintenance of effort requirements since the funding would be level for two years.
  • The proposal is also recommending a major increase in Title III grants for ELLs with a proposed increase of $917 million from $797 million in FY21.
  • The proposal provides a $5 million increase to the Rural Education Achievement Program.
  • The proposal would continue funding the DC voucher program at the same level as the prior Administration.

In terms of annual appropriations process, the next step lies within Congress, and we wait to see the extent to which House and Senate Democrats use the Biden proposal as the starting point for their FY22 work, or instead move in a different direction. As a reminder, FY22 starts on October 1, and these federal dollars would be in schools for the 2022-23 school year. FY22 is the first year in over a decade where federal funding is not bound by spending caps in the Budget Control Act. 

 

Call-to-Action: Schools Belong in Upcoming Infrastructure Package

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Call-to-Action: Schools Belong in Upcoming Infrastructure Package

Negotiations on an infrastructure package are rapidly progressing in the Senate, as last week Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion counterproposal to the recently released $1.7 trillion scaled-back infrastructure proposal from the Biden-Harris administration. The Republican proposal does not contain funding for school construction, remediating lead in schools or electrifying school buses while the Democratic proposals do.

In light of the possibility that schools could be left out of the forthcoming infrastructure proposal, AASA needs your help to ensure that public schools receive the funding they need to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. To join us in advocating for public schools to be included in the forthcoming infrastructure package, please follow the directions below. 

Action Steps: 

  1. See if your Senators support S.96, the Rebuild and Reopen America Schools Act (RRASA). You can access a list of cosponsors by clicking here. If they are not on the list, then ask them to support public school infrastructure needs by cosponsoring the bill. If they are already a cosponsor of the legislation, then thank those who have signed on in support and urge them to tell leadership that they must include Rebuild America’s Schools Act in the nation’s infrastructure package and keep advocating for public school facilities infrastructure funding. 
  2. If you prefer to connect with your senators via phone, you can either (1) lookup their numbers located on your senators’ websites, or (2) call the Capitol Switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121, so they can directly connect you with your Senate office. We have created a brief message you can leave with your senators in this document.
  3. Alternatively, if you prefer to contact your congressional member via email, here is a template your school district or association can edit and send to advocate for public schools. 

We need all-hands-on-deck to ensure schools are not left out from the upcoming infrastructure proposal. Infrastructure is a non-partisan issue on the local level, and our students' and communities' needs should not become a partisan compromise in the upcoming negotiation. As always, we are grateful for your continued support and look forward to getting RRASA across the finish line! 

New U.S. Dept. of Ed. & FCC Resources, Plus a Webinar on Sustainable Wireless Strategies for Rural School Districts

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New U.S. Dept. of Ed. & FCC Resources, Plus a Webinar on Sustainable Wireless Strategies for Rural School Districts

Schools, districts and states have taken a variety of approaches throughout the past year to address the homework gap for students. To help superintendents in these efforts, the U.S. Dept. of Ed. has released a host of new resources and opportunities to provide district leaders with strategies and guidance addressing how to close the digital divide.

The first resource is the Department’s new guide that focuses on digital equity. Specifically, the guide highlights one new long-term solution that may be particularly helpful for rural LEA’s trying to increase access to connectivity. (Hint: It concerns deploying off-campus wireless networks.) You can access the full guide here

 

The second resource provides answers to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. Specifically, this document was designed in close coordination between the U.S. Dept. of Ed. and the FCC outlining what the EBB program is, what it covers, how long it lasts and the eligibility requirements for qualified students. Moreover, the Department has issued an Outreach Toolkit that includes a Sample Consent form and Template FRPL Verification Letter for the EBB program (additional language is coming soon, so be on the lookout for the updated resources). You can access all these resources by clicking here

 

Last but not least, we encourage you to join the U.S. Dept of Ed., June 9, from 4-5 p.m. (ET), to engage with the state and district technology leaders that are referenced in the Department's newly released guide as they share the diverse approaches taken to build off-campus wireless networks. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during the session and are invited to share their questions in advance of the webinar using #EDWirelessBrief. You can register by clicking here

Biden Budget Released Today

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Biden Budget Released Today

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education. As expected, the budget proposal for Education greatly exceeds past budget requests by past Administrations in its request for an additional $29.8 billion over the funding included in FY 2021. The almost $30 billion increase is more than three times the education increase ever requested by any President. This request would put FY 2022 about $20 billion above the level of a decade ago in real dollars, allowing for meaningful investments rather than just struggling to cover costs.

Two-thirds of the Education Department’s increase is for Title I, whose funding is more than doubled with a $20 billion increase; President Biden campaigned on a pledge to triple Title I funding, and this investment goes more than two thirds of the way toward that goal in one year. Specifically, the Administration will be using the Title I increase $ for what they are calling “Title I equity grants.” The goal of this standalone Title I funding will help address long-standing funding disparities between under-resourced school districts and their wealthier counterparts and provide critical new support to advance the President's commitments to ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, ensure equitable access to rigorous curriculum, expand access to pre-kindergarten and provide meaningful incentives to examine and address inequalities in school funding systems.” It is unclear how the Title I equity grants could be leveraged to urge states to examine and address state financing disparities of low-income schools, but clearly there’s an attempt to achieve that goal with this additional pot of funding.

 

Other things to note:

  • The Administration proposes a $2.7 billion increase for IDEA. This aligns with the increased IDEA funding that was allotted in the American Rescue Plan. We support this increase as it would allow districts to not have to initially worry about IDEA maintenance of effort requirements since the funding would be level for two years.
  • The Administration is also recommending a major increase in Title III grants for ELLs with a proposed increase of $917 million from $797 million in FY21.
  • The Administration is also recommending the creation of 2 new grant programs. The $1 billion “School-based health professionals fund” would provide formula grants to State educational agencies, which would then make competitive grants to high-need local educational agencies to support the goal of doubling the number of health professionals, including school counselors, nurses, school psychologists, and social workers, in our Nation's schools. $25 million is allocated to building climate resilient schools, which would allow States to award competitive grants to districts to renovate schools, so they are safe, eco-friendly, and climate resilient, and to support projects that address health risks such as poor air quality and ventilation and lack of access to clean water.
  • The Administration is recommending a $5 million increase to the Rural Education Achievement Program.
  • The Administration proposed to continue funding the DC voucher program at the same level as the prior Administration.

How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

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How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

The COVID-19 pandemic required us to limit in-person services to protect our customers and employees.  Among the most vulnerable populations affected, are children with disabilities and their families.  We are asking school leaders to help us spread the word to parents, guardians, and caregivers about potential financial assistance for children with disabilities.

Our Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash payments to children and teenagers with mental and/or physical disabilities whose families have little or no income and resources.  In most states, a child who receives SSI payments is automatically eligible for Medicaid.  School systems in many states participate in Medicaid to help provide services included in children’s individualized education plans like physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  You can read more about children’s benefits in our publication, Benefits for Children with Disabilities.

With the decline in SSI applications due to the pandemic, it is important that we help children and their families get the financial support they need.  School leaders can assist by:

Learning the process to certify school attendance for students using our For School Officials page.

Referring parents or caregivers to our SSI for Children page—and the SSI Child Disability Starter Kit.

Discussing Social Security’s programs during Individualized Education Program and 504 Plan meetings.

Spreading the word to other school leaders using our SSI Kids Toolkit.

Families of children with disabilities often have higher out-of-pocket costs—leading to financial instability.  Receiving monthly payments can help reduce the struggles families go through and provide the crucial financial support their children need.

We recognize the important role America’s educators play in supporting children and their families.  In this environment, your support is more important than ever.  Please share this information with the school leaders you know.  

ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

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ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

At last the U.S. Department of Education has released its FAQ on how ESSER funding in CARES, CCRSA and most importantly in ARP. Please take time to read the guidance. In particular, the procurement and school construction sections are quite nuanced and require a careful review.

A few highlights to be aware of:

  • An SEA or a State legislature may not limit an LEA’s use of ESSER formula funds
  • An SEA/State may not require that CARES Act funds need to be obligated prior to obligating CRRSA Act and ARP Act funds.
  • ESSER funding can be used for new school construction, but ED cautions districts to be careful with this major investment and to make sure that it is somehow tied to preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19.
  • Federal funds can be used to pay for student/staff vaccinations.
  • ESSER funds can be used for pre-K and early childhood education programs.
  • State and local education officials can't use federal pandemic relief money to shore up their "rainy day" accounts.

AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

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AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

Today, AASA in partnership with the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, wrote to the U.S. Department of Education in response to the ARP interim final requirements to encourage the Department to clarify two important aspects of ARP implementation: (1) the timeline for submitting local education agency (LEA) recovery plans and (2) LEAs’ flexibility to periodically review and improve those plans over time. The letter can be accessed here

 

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

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2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

Join us IN PERSON for the 2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC July 13-15. 

Sessions include: 

  • Infrastructure and School Construction: What School Leaders Need to Know
  • Feeding Children in School: A Look at Current and Future Funding and Policy Opportunities
  • ARP, Procurement and Spending Obstacles
  • The Emergency Connectivity Fund, E-Rate and the Funding Ed-Tech in Schools
  • Important Updates on Litigation, Regulations and Guidance for School Leaders 

Registration is now open. Click here to access registration, housing information, and the agenda. We cannot wait to see you again! 

AASA Priorities For CNR

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AASA Priorities For CNR

 AASA’s Advocacy Team has created two new resources for Congressional stakeholders working to reauthorize the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The first document includes an overview of AASA’s policy recommendations for this year's child nutrition reauthorization effort. The second document provides anecdotes from AASA members regarding the harm that increased federal school meal nutritional standards would have on superintendents' ability to operate NSLP and SBP.

You can access AASA CNR priorities here. Our member anecdotes are available here.

Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

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Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

Our colleagues at The Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) have released two documents that outline the upcoming due dates and use of funds requirements for state and local education agencies in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). You can access the ESSER III deadline document here and the criterion concerning the use of ARP funds here.

New Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment

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New Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment 

Today, May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released: Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment. The Q&A provides answers to common questions about schools’ responsibilities under the civil rights laws and is designed to help students, families, schools and the public support all students’ rights in educational environments, including in elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary institutions.

In AASA’s view, this Q&A Document is straightforward and doesn’t contain any unexpected guidance on reopening practices. Of note, the document does mention that OCR will be releasing a standalone guidance document on compensatory education in the near future.

School Infrastructure Letter: 17 Organizations Urge Congress to Pass the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act

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School Infrastructure Letter: 17 Organizations Urge Congress to Pass the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act

On May 12, 2021, AASA and 16 other allied organizations sent a letter to Congress urging for the inclusion of at least $100 billion in direct grants and $30 billion in bonds for K-12 public school facilities, which is consistent with the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2020. 

 The letter examines how years of state and local government disinvestments in K-12 facilities have caused school buildings to be underfunded by $46 billion annually. Moreover, the letter shows that even if school districts were able to use 15% of ARP funding to meet CDC mitigation guidelines and reduce some of their deferred maintenance, many school buildings would still require significant repairs and upgrades, which is especially the case for high-poverty school districts.

In light of new efforts by GOP congressional leaders to exclude schools from the upcoming American Jobs proposal, AASA was proud to join this allied effort and advocate for schools to be included in any forthcoming infrastructure package. You can access the letter by clicking here.

AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

On May 10th, 2021, AASA and 10 other allied organizations sent a letter to   U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Vilsack requesting that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) expand the Demonstration Projects to evaluate direct certification with Medicaid, as proposed in the American Families Plan. Specifically, this demonstration uses rigorously assessed data to auto-enroll children for free or reduced-price school meals.

Currently, 19 states use Medicaid data to directly certify students for free or reduced-price (FRPL) school meals, under the authority provided in Sections 9(b)(15) and 18(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The evaluations of these demonstrations provide useful information about how to strengthen the school meal programs while improving access. In school year 2017-2018, more than 1.2 million students were directly certified using Medicaid data. These students would otherwise most likely not have been certified or would have had to complete a FRPL application. 

AASA was proud to join this effort to advocate for increasing the use of data from Medicaid and other programs to directly certify a greater share of students, reduce the number of families and schools that have to complete/process FRPL application forms, and support schools operating under the Community Eligibility Provision by making it easier for schools to identify more of their low-income children. You can read the full letter here.

FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted final rules to implement the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.  This $7.17 billion program, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, will enable schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Report and Order adopted establishes the rules and policies governing the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The new rules define eligible equipment and services, service locations, eligible uses, and reasonable support amounts for funding provided.  It designates the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the program administrator with FCC oversight, and leverages the processes and structures used in the E-Rate program for the benefit of schools and libraries already familiar with the E-Rate program.  It also adopts procedures to protect the limited funding from waste, fraud, and abuse.Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 17 million children struggling without the broadband access they need for remote learning. 

The final order outlines the actual implementation of how E-rate beneficiaries can apply for homework gap funds. While the final order is not yet available, we do know that we were successful at ensuring the fund will be distributed equitably and prioritizing those unconnected students and educators with the greatest need (rural, low-income, Black, Brown, Indigenous) - a big win! Key highlights of how the emergency fund will be administered include:

  • 100% reimbursement for connectivity and devices
  • if applications exhaust the fund, then distribution of the funds will be prioritized by need (using the Category I discount matrix from the E-rate program), defined by % of students eligible for free/reduced lunch
  • the initial application window will be for prospective needs (forward looking) - meaning to be used for connecting students and educators who have not been connected
  • if not all funds are exhausted during that initial application window, there may be a second later window that would allow for applicants to apply for retrospective costs incurred (i.e. get reimbursed) back to March 2020
  • laptops and tablets (only) will be reimbursed up to $400 (though schools or libraries could choose to purchase more expensive devices and be responsible for the remaining cost)

 

 

The Advocate May 2021: Bring On the Broadband: Connectivity Post-COVID

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The Advocate May 2021: Bring On the Broadband: Connectivity Post-COVID

The homework gap is/was perhaps one of education’s worst-kept secrets, a phenomenon by which nearly 12 million students were routinely unable to complete school assignments at home because of inadequate or non-existent access to broadband. The issue was blown wide open in the wake of the COVID pandemic: as schools shuttered and moved online, millions of students were unable to even access—let alone engage in—remote learning.

As the pandemic wore on and Congress negotiated a flurry of emergency supplemental bills, a bipartisan agreement on support for the homework gap quickly emerged, but wasn’t able to get over the finish line until the 6th and most recent package, the American Relief Plan (ARP). We’ll use this month’s article to talk about that funding, and a related program in the December 2020 package (CARES II) that provides support to families, helping them afford internet in their homes.

The Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund is a $3.2 billion fund that will be administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC will use the fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, that will help low income families receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices. Details on the EBB started to roll out the first week of May, and eligible households will be able to enroll in the EBB to receive a monthly discount off the cost of broadband service provided by an approved provider. USA Today has a good write up on who qualifies, and you can visit the Get Emergency Broadband website for more information on how to get the benefit. More details here.

The big win, though, was final inclusion of the funding dedicated to school and student access, the more than $7 billion in funding to address the homework gap within the ARP. The $7 billion will go to the FCC for the creation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which can be used to be for high-speed internet and devices used off campus. The funding will be distributed through the FCC’s E-Rate program, which has helped schools and libraries access affordable internet access for more than 20 years. Schools will be able to purchase wi-fi hotspots, modems and routers for students, and to fund the internet service those devices use. The FCC has released its proposed rules on how the program will be structured, and at this point it is anticipated school districts will be able to start applying as early as late May, but more likely in June. Districts can expect to receive funds for approved applications slightly ahead of the start of the 2021-22 school year (in late August). 

In terms of what to expect in accessing the funds, the initial rule from the FCC includes many of the things AASA was supporting, including:

  • Distribute support from the ECF via an application--based program where school and library applicants submit eligible service and equipment requests to support connecting to the Internet those students and patrons that lack any or sufficient Internet access in their homes or dwelling places, a device suitable for remote learning, or both;
  • (If demand outpaces available funding) Use the existing E-Rate discount matrix to rank funding requests, with applicants possessing the highest E-Rate discount rate receiving priority; 
  • Adopt program metrics and goals focused on progress towards ensuring that all students and educators are: a) able to connect at internet speeds sufficient to engage in remote learning; 
  • Allow schools, libraries, states, and consortia of schools and libraries eligible for support under the E-Rate program to be eligible to receive funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund; it does NOT expand eligibility to other non-profit entities that serve homeless, transitory and migrant students;
  • Allow the ECF to only support: eligible services and equipment “that are needed to provide the connectivity required to enable and support remote learning for students, school staff, and library patrons,” and devices suitable for remote learning and video conferencing platforms; 
  • Provide reimbursements for eligible equipment and services back July 1, 2020; and 
  • Waive the competitive bidding process rules but not establish an alternative streamlined competitive bidding process.

AASA is closely tracking the homework gap fund and application process and will continue to provide updates.

 

How to Best Meet the Needs of Homeless Students with ARP Funds

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How to Best Meet the Needs of Homeless Students with ARP Funds

Karen Barber, Superintendent of Schools, Santa Rosa County Public Schools, FL

barberk@santarosa.k12.fl.us

Marilyn King, Deputy Superintendent Instruction, Bozeman Public Schools, MT

marilyn.king@bsd7.org

Patricia Julianelle, Senior Strategist for Program Advancement and Legal Affairs, SchoolHouse Connection

patricia@schoolhouseconnection.org

The upheaval of the pandemic has been devastating for students experiencing homelessness. Many have simply disappeared from school, while others have struggled to attend and achieve academically. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) creates a unique opportunity for school districts to reframe and refresh their services for students experiencing homelessness, from identification to attendance to success. For the first time in the history of the McKinney-Vento program, local educational agencies will have significant new funding and be able to engage in creative, big-picture thinking to support children and youth experiencing homelessness and their families. In this webinar, two superintendents will share their bold ideas for how to use ESSER funds and targeted ARP-Homeless Children and Youth funds to assess and meet both immediate and long-term needs.

Join us on May 20 at 3:00 PM EST. Click here to register for this webinar. 

Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

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Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

AASA, The Association of Education Service Agencies (AESA) and Corwin have released a new white paper, Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning. Specifically, the paper covers how in the age of post-pandemic teaching and learning, educators can leverage their expertise to accelerate student learning and achievement by meticulously deciding what ideas, content, and skills are crucial for our students to understand and practice. The brief provides dive into tips, tools, and data-driven evidence from education experts that will aid readers in the following areas:

  • Assessing where to invest funds to maximize learning recovery;
  • What action items to implement immediately to support acceleration;
  • How best to support the nurturing of teacher morale and student engagement; 
  • Understanding how the investments we make today will have a lasting impact on the future of education;

 You can download the report by clicking here.

 

Education Funding and Policy Details in American Families Plan

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Education Funding and Policy Details in American Families Plan

On Wednesday, President Biden detailed the major investments he hopes Congress will make in education in what he is calling the American Families Plan. Biden believes that “investing in education is a down payment on the future of America” and wants to “make transformational investments from early childhood to postsecondary education so that all children and young people are able to grow, learn, and gain the skills they need to succeed.”

AASA Executive Director, Dan Domenech, issued the following response to the American Families Plan. 

 

“AASA applauds this comprehensive investment on behalf of all of our nation’s young learners. Our public K-12 schools rely on and work in coordination with early education and post-secondary institutions, including preschools and community colleges.

 

“By strengthening the connections to and from our elementary and secondary schools, as well as building the pipeline for our teachers while making it easier and less expensive for schools to feed all kids, we will strengthen our schools, communities and our country’s workforce.”

 

The specific details of the plan pertinent for AASA members to know are as follows:

  • $200 billion to create a national partnership with states to offer free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-old children. The partnership will prioritize high-need areas and enable communities and families to choose the settings that work best for them. The President’s plan will also ensure that all publicly funded preschools are high-quality, with low student-to-teacher ratios, high-quality and developmentally appropriate curriculum, and supportive classroom environments that are inclusive for all students. All employees in participating pre-K programs and Head Start will earn at least $15 per hour, and those with comparable qualifications will receive compensation commensurate with that of kindergarten teachers.
  • $1.6 billion to provide educators with opportunities to obtain additional certifications in high-demand areas like special education, bilingual education, and certifications that improve teacher performance. This funding will support more than 100,000 educators, with priority for public school teachers with at least two years’ experience at schools with a significant portion of low-income students or significant teacher shortages.
  • $2 billion for teacher-leadership programs.
  • Double TEACH Act grants from $4,000 to $8,000 per year while earning their degree, strengthening the program, and expanding it to early childhood educators.
  • $2.8 billion fund in Grow Your Own programs and year-long, paid teacher residency programs.
  • $400 million for teacher preparation programs at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs.
  • $900 million to expand the pipeline of special education teachers.
  • $25 billion to expand summer EBT to all eligible children nationwide. 
  • Lower CEP threshold for elementary schools to 25% of students participating in SNAP.
  • $25 billion to expand summer EBT and make permanent.
  • $17 billion to expand free meals for children in the highest poverty districts (those with at least 40 percent of students participating in SNAP) by reimbursing a higher percentage of meals at the free reimbursement rate through CEP. Additionally, the plan will expand free meals for children in elementary schools by reimbursing an even higher percentage of meals at the free reimbursement through CEP and lowering the threshold for CEP eligibility for elementary schools to 25 percent of students participating in SNAP. 
  • $109 billion to offer two years of free community college to all Americans, including DREAMers. 
  • A $62 billion grant program to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges.
  • Provide two years of subsidized tuition and expand programs in high-demand fields at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSI.
  • $225 billion for a national paid leave program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers. 

AASA Comments on EANS Program Implementation

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AASA Comments on EANS Program Implementation

On April 23, AASA led a letter signed by 15 other national education, disability and secular organizations to the U.S. Department of Education on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program. Our comments were premised on two driving realities: First, a student in poverty is a student in poverty, whether they are enrolled in a public or non-public school. Second, to the extent federal policy appropriately supports and prioritizes federal funding for the neediest of students, the mechanisms of identifying, counting and reporting students in poverty should look the same for both public and non-public schools. You can read the comments here.

 

School Construction, Air Quality and Federal Funding: What Supts Need to Know

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School Construction, Air Quality and Federal Funding: What Supts Need to Know

Deferred maintenance and indoor air quality concerns in school buildings are not new, but the global pandemic has heightened awareness of challenges related to both. When thoughtfully implemented, strategies to mitigate risk associated with airborne pathogens can also achieve benefits such as general improvements in indoor air quality, occupant comfort, and energy efficiency. The new influx of federal funding now positions districts to address deferred maintenance, but how are federal funds best spent to do so and what construction and maintenance projects would be better addressed with future funding?

On May 12, 2021, join AASA’s Chris Rogers, Mary Filardo, Executive Director of 21st Century School Fund and Corey Metzger, Lead of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force Schools Team as they share their advice on how to use federal funds on school construction and facility maintenance and in particular share best practices on what districts can do to improve ventilation, filtration and air cleaning strategies. Register for this webinar by clicking here.

American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study Now Available

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American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study Now Available

Copies of the American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study, which examines historical and contemporary perspectives of our nation’s school system leaders, are now available through AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and Rowman & Littlefield, the organization’s co-publishing partner. The latest edition is an extension of national decennial studies of the American school superintendent that began in 1923, and can be purchased here. Check out our press release to get an overview of the Study's major findings.

AASA and PDK have also partnered in a series of podcasts to coincide with the availability of the 2020 published edition. The first episode features Starr, Gregory Hutchings, superintendent of Alexandria (Va.) Public Schools, and Jennifer Cheatham, senior lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a conversation about race and equity in K-12 public schools. The second episode features Starr, Almudena (Almi) G. Abeyta, superintendent, Chelsea (Mass.) Public Schools, Deb Kerr, retired superintendent and AASA immediate past president, and, Carol Kelley, superintendent, Oak Park Elementary (Ill.) School District 97, in a conversation about women in school leadership. 

Summer Learning and Enrichment National Convening April 26 & April 27, 2021

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Summer Learning and Enrichment National Convening April 26 & April 27, 2021

On  April 26th from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT and on April 27th from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (ET), the U.S. Dept. of Education is hosting the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative National Convening. Specifically, the convening represents an opportunity from Secretary Cardona for national education leaders, state team members, and other interested partners to discuss and collaborate on the importance of evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs that address the urgent needs of students, including those students disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over two days of Collaborative conversations, participants will discuss:

  • Best practices for equity-driven approaches that meet the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic;
  • Evidence-based summer learning and enrichment strategies that address students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic development; 
  • Guidance for using American Rescue Plan funds to effectively address the summer learning and enrichment needs; and
  • Strategic opportunities to partner across states, districts, philanthropy, non-profit, and community organizations, bringing together diverse stakeholders to create and sustain successful programs together.

You can register for the convening by clicking here.

ED Releases Interim Final Rule on American Rescue Plan Funding

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ED Releases Interim Final Rule on American Rescue Plan Funding

As a requirement for receiving the remaining American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, the U.S. Department of Education will be requiring LEAs to develop and submit to SEAS a plan for the use of the ARP dollars as well as how they will ensure a safe return to school learning environment for students and staff.

The use of funds plan must include how funds will be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies that are to the extent possible consistent with CDC guidance on reopening schools. The LEA must also describe how they are using the 20% of ARP earmarked for learning recovery efforts and how they will spend the remaining ESSER funds of the ARP Act. It will also require the LEA to describe how they will respond to the social, emotional and mental health needs of all students with a specific emphasis on vulnerable subgroups. The LEA must also describe how they are meaningfully consulting with stakeholders and allowing for public input on their plan.

Of particular note are the requirements that ED is requiring for meaningful stakeholder engagement on the ARP spending plan. In addition to consulting with usual groups (students; families; school and district administrators, including special education administrators; and teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions) ED mandates that the LEA demonstrate that they have consulted with tribes, civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations) and stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students.

As a separate requirement, the LEA must have a “safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services plan” which is reviewed/revised at a minimum of every 6 months through September 2024. The LEA must seek public input into its “return to school” plan and take such input into account in determining whether to revise its plan and take into consideration the timing of significant changes to CDC guidance on reopening schools that could impact the plan. This plan must describe how how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC:

Universal and correct wearing of masks.

Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding).

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation.

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments.

Diagnostic and screening testing.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities.

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies.

This plan will also have to describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services. In addition, if at the time the LEA revises its plan the CDC has updated its guidance on reopening schools, the revised plan must address the extent to which the LEA has adopted policies, and describe any such policies, for each of the updated safety recommendations.

Finally, each LEA’s ARP ESSER plan must be in an understandable and uniform format and to the extent practicable, written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and, upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent.

 

USDA Extends School Meal flexibilities to June 2022

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USDA Extends School Meal flexibilities to June 2022

On April 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a broad set of flexibilities to promote safety and social distancing in the federal school meal programs as local education agencies continue to transition to in-person learning during the 2021-22 school year.

Specifically, USDA's announcement will extend multiple COVID-19 school nutrition nationwide flexibilities through June 30, 2022, which AASA advocated for at the beginning of the pandemic and supported school food-service operators' efforts to keep students fed while limiting exposure to COVID-19. Under the announcement, the following waivers and flexibilities are available to LEAs: 

  1. Schools nationwide can serve meals free to all students through the National School Lunch Program's Seamless Summer Option (SSO). While the waivers do not extend the option to operate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during the regular school year, schools that opt for SSO will get the benefit of the summer reimbursement rate for each meal served. The summer rate is higher than the typical rate for each reduced-price meal or free meal served as part of NSLP.
  2. USDA will continue to offer targeted meal pattern flexibility and technical assistance as needed. This will help school districts reasonably comply with food supply disruptions while maintaining access to nutritious meals. 
  3. School districts can continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks in non-group settings at flexible meal times. Parents or guardians can also pick up meals for their children when programs are not operating normally while still complying with social distancing consistent with federal recommendations.  

AASA and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) released a joint statement supporting the proposal yesterday, April 20, 2021. AASA executive director Daniel A. Domenech said, "Throughout the last year, we have seen record levels of food insecurity across the nation. While our schools have made tremendous strides toward re-opening with in-person learning and returning to some semblance of normalcy, it is clear that our students and school food-service operations are continuing to recover from the pandemic. As we enter this new transition period, USDA's move to allow schools to operate the Seamless Summer Option and offer all meals free to students as well as provide continue targeted meal pattern flexibility and technical support to local education agencies will give superintendents the tools to tackle this issue and customize meal service designed to fit local needs..."  

You can check out the press release by clicking here

An American Imperative: A New Vision for Public Schools

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An American Imperative: A New Vision for Public Schools

On April 9, 2021, AASA released a report recommending a holistic redesign of our nation’s schools through the empowerment of districts on behalf of their learners, families and communities.

The report, An American Imperative: A New Vision of Public Schools, was created by Learning 2025: A National Commission on Student-Centered Equity-Focused Education, a cadre of thought leaders in education, business, community and philanthropy, launched earlier this year by AASA. 

What makes this report stand out is its call to action comprised of recommendations, coupled with specific action steps. Everyone associated with a school district must take bold steps to work together as systems on behalf of the well-being, self-sufficiency and success of our students. The report affirms that leaders, teachers and learners play a role in redesigning systems, reengineering instruction and co-authoring the learning journey. Further, core component areas are essential and must be present to address any school system and community. These core areas include resources; culture; and social, emotional and cognitive growth. 

Looking ahead, AASA, in partnership with other national collaborative organizations, will identify demonstration school districts that exemplify the actions expressed in the report to serve as national models. Districts will be divided into different phases—Lighthouse, Aspiring and Emerging—to indicate various levels of development or implementation, and will help guide practical application. 

 

 

ASHRAE: Guidance for Re-opening Schools

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ASHRAE: Guidance for Re-opening Schools

Our colleagues at ASHRAE – a global professional society of over 55,000 members committed to serving humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning – released two new resources this week that provide school districts with guidance on how to limit transmission of SARS-COV-2 and future pandemics through the air. Specifically, the focus of these resources is to provide school system leaders with practical information and checklists to help minimize airborne transmission of COVID-19 by offering recommendations concerning HVAC (1) inspection and maintenance, (2) ventilation, (3) filtration, (4) air cleaning, (5) energy use considerations and (6) water system precautions.
 
Check out an abridged summary of the guidance by clicking here. The full version of ASHRAE's school re-opening guidance is available here.
 
 
 

The Advocate: April 2021

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The Advocate: April 2021

Each month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters as a way to build a direct link between AASA and our affiliates as well as AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the April 2021 edition.

As AASA has highlighted in newsletters and blog posts, one of President Biden’s policy priorities this year is to move legislation that would drastically rebuild the nation’s infrastructure after decades of disinvestment in school facilities, broadband, water systems, bridges and roads. Acting in good faith on this campaign promise, yesterday, March 31, 2021, the Biden administration released the American Jobs Plan. If passed, this sweeping proposal would invest a total of $2 trillion in funding over 10-years in infrastructure improvements that would include more than $200 billion in direct grants and bonds for education and childcare infrastructure and workforce training programs. The last time public school facilities received a federal investment of this scale was following the Great Depression after FDR appropriated $1 billion to improve school buildings and make repairs; thus, making public schools one of the oldest forms of American infrastructure in addition to the second largest portion of the infrastructure sector. If history repeats itself, the American Jobs Plan will be welcomed news to superintendents, as it would provide additional federal investments that would benefit schools and families by modernizing school facilities, improving environmental factors and closing the digital divide. To keep our members abreast of what this plan could potentially mean for their communities, AASA has listed the major education-related highlights of the proposal below:

School Construction and Modernization: 

In total, the President’s plan calls on Congress to allocate $100 billion for school construction and modernization. This would be broken down into $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds. Moreover, this funding would likely be appropriated on an as-needed basis to procure equipment and make repairs that enable schools to improve indoor air quality and safely reopen with in-person learning (i.e., HVAC repairs). This funding may also be used for school district efforts around: (1) creating energy-efficient and innovative school buildings with cutting-edge technology and labs, (2) improving school kitchens, or (3) reducing or eliminating the use of paper plates and other disposable materials. 

While AASA is appreciative of any federal investment for public school facilities, it is important to note that the President’s proposed investment around school construction and modernization efforts represents a significant dip in funding from other proposals that have moved forth on Capitol Hill. For comparison, the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Bobby Scott, has championed the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RRASA). This proposal would allocate $100 billion in grants and 30 billion in capital outlay bonds. Therefore, this portion of the American Jobs Plan represents a $50B reduction in total grant funding compared to other House Democrat proposals on school infrastructure.

Digital Infrastructure:

If passed, the proposal would appropriate $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure. President Biden's priority on digital infrastructure is to build a system that is "future proof," meaning that it can withstand the impact of future crises. Specifically, this funding would be used to help America reach the 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage threshold. While the details of how this money would be allocated have not yet been released, it is certain that this investment would help close the digital divide particularly in the nation’s most rural communities.

Community Colleges and Childcare Infrastructure: 

The proposal calls on Congress to invest $12 billion in community colleges to improve facilities and technology, address higher education deserts (particularly for rural communities), grow local economies, improve energy efficiency and resilience, and narrow funding inequities in higher education. The proposal also urges Congress to appropriate $25 billion for states to upgrade and increase the supply of childcare facilities. Specifically, this funding would flow through a Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund directed at building states' supply of infant and toddler care in high-need areas. Finally, the President is calling for an expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities at places of work. Employers will receive 50 percent of the first $1 million of construction costs per facility so that employees can enjoy the peace of mind and convenience that comes with on-site childcare.

School Lead Pipes and Service Lines:

Also, of important note to AASA members, the proposal calls on Congress to provide $45 billion in federal investments to eliminate all lead. The benefit of this investment to AASA members is that it would significantly solve the schools’ burden of complying with Environmental Protection Agency requirements around the prevalence of lead in schools’ drinking water. For more background around this topic, please click here.

Workforce Training and Apprenticeships:

The proposal also calls on Congress to allocate $48 billion in federal investments to improve the capacity of existing workforce development and worker protection systems. Ultimately, the goal of this investment would be to support registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, create one to two million new registered apprenticeship-slots, and strengthen the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these types of workforce training programs.

Future Outlook of Passage:

Senate Democrats are exploring whether they could have an additional opportunity to use budget reconciliation to pass these two bills. Congress could revise the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget resolution that included the reconciliation instructions, which were used to create and pass the American Rescue Plan, and then use the new reconciliation instructions to pass this latest infrastructure proposal. This would benefit Democrats by leaving the FY 2022 budget resolution available for a third reconciliation bill, which only requires a simple majority vote in the Senate for passage. 

Speaker Pelosi has announced her intention to pass this bill before the July 4th recess, but many are skeptical given the lack of detail in this proposal how realistic that timeline actually is. AASA will certainly make a hard push to ensure school infrastructure is included in any Congressional package and funded in an appropriate, equity-centered way. Please stay tuned to see how you can advocate and for the maximum funding needed to address the longstanding crumbling and decrepit condition of some of our nation’s school buildings and grounds.

**Please note that the version of the Advocate posted here is an extended version, and is beyond what appears in our state newsletters.

 

K12 School Facilities Belong in National Infrastructure Stimulus

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K12 School Facilities Belong in National Infrastructure Stimulus

On March 29th, AASA and over 130 allied education, health, environmental, labor, and industry organizations sent a letter to House Leadership urging the inclusion of the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RRASA) as passed last Congress in any upcoming infrastructure package enacted into law. The [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC) made it clear that while the American Rescue Plan and COVID-19 Relief funds will enable districts to operate their 20th-century schools more safely, the funding will not enable high-need LEAs and schools to modernize critical infrastructure for the 21st century. Thus, further exacerbating long-standing inequities.

By allocating $100 billion in direct grants and $30 billion in bond interest subsidies, Congress can address obsolete and deteriorated conditions in high-need rural, town, suburban, and urban public school facilities. AASA was proud to join the BASIC in this effort to advocate for a comprehensive local, state, and federal partnership to modernize our nation’s public school facilities infrastructure. Click here to read the letter.

 

Letter to USED: Recommendations to Improve Rural Education Outreach

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Letter to USED: Recommendations to Improve Rural Education Outreach

On March 23, 2021, AASA and 16 other allied organizations sent a letter to Secretary Cardona requesting that the Department of Education expand its efforts to increase engagement with rural education stakeholders, promote staff understanding of the challenges facing rural local education agencies, and improve the intra-agency rural education-related policymaking efforts of and between the Department’s senior leadership, White House Domestic Policy Council, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Specifically, the letter provides the following recommendations to achieve the previously mentioned objectives: 

  1. Maintain the Office of Rural and Community Engagement within the Office of Communication and Outreach to ensure greater internal and external awareness of rural education needs and improve deliberations on policy development, communications, and technical assistance that impact rural education.
  2. Advise the Biden administration and Congress to prioritize the nomination and confirmation of a new Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for the Office of Rural and Community Engagement (ORCE).
  3. Re-institute its rural education listening sessions to understand the perspective of state and local school leaders working to access new funding from the American Rescue plan and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Mandate the DAS of ORCE to formalize the Department's inter-POC rural working group.
  5. Advise the Biden administration to reinstate the White House Rural Council to better coordinate federal programs and maximize the impact of federal investments that promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural communities.

While the pandemic has highlighted unprecedented challenges facing rural LEAs from topics ranging from educator shortages, lack of internet and broadband connectivity, and the rise of student mental health and academic needs, our nation's history of passing and implementing bold education-related proposals has  provided the Department with a playbook for how to move forward with the implementation of the procedures, guidance, and rulemaking activities concerning the American Rescue Plan without leaving out rural public school systems. As USED continues to implement new provisions of the American Rescue Plan, our coalition looks forward to working together with the Department to better prioritize rural education through the recommendations included in the letter.  

 

 

AASA American Rescue Plan Webinars

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AASA American Rescue Plan Webinars

Last week AASA hosted two webinars dealing with the American Rescue Plan.

Click here to access the recording American Rescue Plan with AASA’s own Noelle Ellerson Ng and Sasha Pudelski. In this, they discuss the American Rescue Plan and what it means for schools. PowerPoint presentations from this webinar can be found here

Click here to access the recording American Rescue Plan: Implementing for Success to get a deeper look at the issues and items to be aware of and to plan for when it comes to using American Rescue Plan funding. 

State Estimates on ARP IDEA grant funds

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State Estimates on ARP IDEA grant funds

ASAA is pleased to share two resources with approximate state allocations for the IDEA funds coming from the American Rescue Plan. The first resource is from the Congressional Research Service, and the second one comes from our friends at IDEA Moneywatch

AASA Leads Letter Urging Expediency in Developing Kids Vaccines

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AASA Leads Letter Urging Expediency in Developing Kids Vaccines

Today, AASA along with 16 other national education, labor and health organizations, wrote to the Biden Administration asking them to urgently focus resources in developing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for use in children. Schools are best equipped to educate children in person, where, beyond the academic development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in building students’ social and emotional skills, deliver reliable nutrition, provide health services, and addressing racial and social inequality. Unfortunately, until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for safe use in children, we are concerned that many students will continue to be educated in virtual settings or remain unable to participate in other important in-person academic and social opportunities that schools can provide.

You can read the letter here.

America Rescue Plan: USED Fact Sheet and State Allocations

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America Rescue Plan: USED Fact Sheet and State Allocations

This morning, the U.S. Dept. of Education sent a letter to the Chief State School Officers overviewing the state-by-state allocation tables for the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The Department also released an updated fact sheet that includes a side-by-side of Elementary Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding in the CARES I, II, and now, ESSERS in the ARP. All of these resources are available here.

American Rescue Plan Summary Memo

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American Rescue Plan Summary Memo 

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law. This nearly $2 trillion  federal emergency supplemental appropriation is the sixth emergency package in response to the enduring COVID19 pandemic.   

The bill signed into law bears a striking resemblance to President Biden’s initial proposal. The funding is far reaching, and includes supports for vaccines, schools, small businesses, and anti‐poverty programs. ARP includes almost $220 billion for education, child care, and education‐related programs, plus $362 billion for local  and state fiscal relief, much of which could ultimately support education. The total for the Department of  Education is more than twice the fiscal year 2021 regular funding total of $73 billion. You can check out our full analysis by clicking here.

Letter from Deputy Assistant Secretary Samuel on School Staff Vaccination Program

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Letter from Deputy Assistant Secretary Samuel on School Staff Vaccination Program

This week, Deputy Assistant Secretary Samuel sent a letter to education stakeholders discussing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directive that all states immediately make Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. To help in this efforts, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) also released the following resources:

 

Guest Blog: CCSSO Resources

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Guest Blog: CCSSO Resources

This week our colleagues at CCSSO released two resources that overview the funding distribution, grant management, and maintenance of effort requirements concerning the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (“ESSER II”) program. The link to specifics on the laws maintenance of effort requirement is accessible here. The link to the resource on funding disruption and grant management requirements is here

Last week, the U.S. Dept. of Education sent chief state school officers a template letter related to waiver requests of accountability, school identification, and reporting requirements for school year 2020-21. You can checkout the template by clicking here

AASA Supports American Rescue Plan, Highlights Policy Concerns

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AASA Supports American Rescue Plan, Highlights Policy Concerns

Today, in advance of Senate consideration of the American Rescue Plan (HR 1319), AASA sent a letter of support for the overall package, highlighting our strong support for the education funding and support to address the homework gap, while calling out Senate Democratic Leadership for continuing the privatization agenda of Betsy DeVos. We also express deep concern for a rushed, flawed policy proposal, well-intended to address equity but set up for failure and complication. Read the letter here.

March Advocate: 2021 AASA Legislative Agenda

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March Advocate: 2021 AASA Legislative Agenda


Each month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters as a way to build a direct link between AASA and our affiliates as well as AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the March 2021 edition.

As part of this year's National Conference on Education, members of the AASA Governing Board ratified the 2021 Legislative Agenda, as drafted by the organization's Executive Committee in January 2021. In light of the ongoing pandemic, AASA Governing Board and Executive Committee Members elected to include a COVID-19 section in the 2021 Legislative Agenda to ensure an appropriate federal response that will support local school system leadership in safely reopening schools. Specifically, these new priorities include the following: 

  • A significant fiscal investment designed to flexibly allow local education leaders to make the decisions and implement the plans necessary to safely open and operate schools for students and staff. This should be a blend of education stabilization funding as well as investment in key categorical programs, including Title I and IDEA. 
  • A high bar for states asking to waive their maintenance of effort requirement coupled with a need to ensure any maintenance of effort flexibility for states is similarly available for districts.
  • Flexibility to state and local education agencies to suspend, reduce and/or redesign assessment and accountability. 
  • An explicit investment of $12 billion to address the Homework Gap, funding administered to and through the E-Rate program to support schools in their work to connect students to the internet. 
  • Flexibility for state and local education agencies to expand, revise and modify their school/academic calendars to best address learning loss. At the local level this could include, but is not limited to, extended day, broader access to summer learning, expanded integration of online learning, and year-round school, among others. 
  • An extension of liability protections that are afforded to employers to public schools. 
  • Clarification that federal aid can be used to cover staffing absences necessary to keep students and other staff safe. 
  • Any effort to reopen schools during the pandemic is dependent upon the availability of personnel. Federal efforts to support local education agencies with their teacher and staffing needs must include: 
    • Increased annual investment in Title II of ESSA, which is critical to ongoing educator development and training needs to ensure educators have the professional knowledge to adjust their teaching to changing learning environments predicated by the pandemic. 
    • Establishing a commission to address the long-standing teacher shortage exacerbated by the pandemic. 
    • Support efforts addressing student learning loss through the deployment of support teachers and tutors.
  • A joint commission led by the U.S. Depts. of Education and Health and Human Services should be formed to detail how to locate, connect with and educate the millions of children who have not attended school since March 2020 and how to leverage resources available in both agencies for these purposes.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid should actively engage district stakeholders in updating technical assistance and guidance that will enable every district to access Medicaid reimbursement for much needed critical mental health services for children. 
  • A prioritization of vaccine access for school personnel and support for district-led vaccination distribution to students.

Also noteworthy, this year AASA members prioritized: ensuring that federal funding is available to support school districts' ongoing efforts to respond to cybersecurity threats and breaches, including technology, training, and updates to infrastructure; support for the reauthorization of FERPA to include clear and updated language aligned with existing laws and regulations that schools are following, and support for universal school meals on the contingency that such policies do no harm to eligibility for and enrollment in existing federal funding streams serving schools, and fully cover costs associated with the program. You can check out the full Legislative Agenda by clicking here.

 

AASA Releases 2020-21 Superintendent Salary Study

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AASA Releases 2020-21 Superintendent Salary Study

Today, Feb. 23, 2021, AASA released its 2020-21 Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study, which serves as the ninth annual edition of the superintendent salary series. This year's report is based on more than 1,500 responses and offers readers the latest findings concerning school district leadership compensation and benefits packages. To get a sneak peek at the study, check out the findings listed below.

  • A superintendent’s median salary ranged from $140,172 to $180,500, depending on district enrollment (size).
  • More than one-half (53 percent) of the respondents, regardless of gender, indicated that their district is best described as rural, while nearly one-third (30 percent) described their district as suburban and nearly one-quarter (18 percent) described their district as urban. This is closely aligned with data from the National Center on Education Statistics.
  • In the 2019-20 school year, 32 percent of female superintendents described their districts as in declining economic condition, along with 25.1 percent of male superintendents. The findings for this year’s investigation show a trend of more superintendents, male and female, feeling less optimistic about the economic stability of their districts.
  • Most superintendents reported serving in their present position for less than five years, with just 13 percent serving more than 10 years. 
  • One-fourth (24.9 percent) of the sample consisted of females, while nearly three-fourths (73.8 percent) of respondents were male superintendents.
  • Respondents were predominantly white (89 percent), followed by African American (5.1 percent), Hispanic (2.8 percent), Native American or Native Alaska (.92 percent) and Asian (.46 percent).
  • About four out of 10 superintendent contracts specify the process, measures and indicators to be used in the formal performance evaluation.

The 2020-21 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study, was released in two versions: a full version for AASA members and an abridged version for wider circulation. You can check out both versions of the report by following the link here. The study's press release is accessible here.

AASA and 18 other National Education Groups Urge Passage of FY21 Budget Reconciliation Package

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AASA and 18 other National Education Groups Urge Passage of FY21 Budget Reconciliation Package

Earlier today, 19 national education groups sent a joint letter to Congressional leadership expressing their support for the American Rescue Plan that would appropriate $128 billion in new, flexible funds for school districts over the next two-and-a-half school years. This funding will enable school districts to sustain and enhance their support for students learning remotely as well as ensure schools open for in-person instruction have healthy, welcoming environments throughout the calendar year.

Groups supporting the letter include:

 

  •  AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American School Counselor Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino School Administrators
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium 
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

 

AASA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda is Finalized

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AASA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda is Finalized

On February 17th AASA’s Governing Board voted to approve the 2021 Legislative Agenda. You can access it here.

AASA Statement to Guidance Released by the CDC and Ed. Dept. on Reopening Schools

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AASA Statement to Guidance Released by the CDC and Ed. Dept. on Reopening Schools

Today, Feb. 12. 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance prioritizing masks and social distancing of at least six feet for teachers and students in K-12 schools as they reopen.  The U.S. Dept. of Ed also released its first volume of a handbook as a supplemental document to guide educators on masking and physical distancing.

In summary, CDC guidance reiterates that access to vaccines should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated, "These two strategies are incredibly-important in areas that have high community spread of Covid-19, which right now is the vast majority of communities in the United States.” According to Director Walkensy, "Teacher vaccinations can also serve as an additional layer of protection atop masking, distancing, hand-washing, facility cleaning, and rapid contact tracing, plus quarantines for the infected.

 Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement in response to the CDC’s new guidance on reopening schools. 

 “Since the outset of the pandemic, AASA and the public school superintendents we represent have focused on the safety and health of our staff and students—always with an eye on and priority for safely reopening schools.

 “With the new year, new Congress and new administration, we are greatly appreciative of the deliberate, coordinated and focused federal leadership on both prioritizing the physical reopening of schools and supporting schools in their work to do so. We have relied on the science and data available. However, when we found that lacking, we partnered with our fellow national organizations and outside academics to create the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, a platform that provides data critical to informing school reopening while ensuring the data was available and accessible at the most local of levels.

 “Our data initially reported what has become only clearer—that it is likely safer for schools to be more open than they currently are, so long as appropriate mitigation strategies are in place. And to the extent that today’s sets of guidance address both of those realities—that schools can open and to do so requires mitigation strategies—it represents a strong step forward in helping more students return to the classroom.

 “As we near the one-year mark since our students left the classroom, it has become abundantly clear that our nation’s greatest assets—our children—are paying some of the biggest tolls for this pandemic in their physical, mental and academic health. We reiterate our call for additional federal funding to support the work of reopening, covering costs spanning from testing and ventilation to PPE and social distancing, and so many more things in between. We applaud the CDC and the U.S. Dept. of Education for the coordinated and collaborative effort to provide clear, actionable guidance that school system leaders can incorporate into their reopening plans.

 “We remain deeply indebted to the tireless leadership of superintendents and educators in our nation’s public schools and will continue to do everything in our power to support those schools already reopened and those still working to reopen safely.”

 

OCRE Federal Rural Education Summit

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OCRE Federal Rural Education Summit

 
As part of our commitment to supporting rural education, Organizations Concerned About Rural Education is hosting its first virtual Federal Rural Education Policy Summit for Capitol Hill on Wednesday, February 24th. During this half-day virtual event, Hill Staffers and other attendees will get an overview of the most pressing issues facing rural K-12 schools, administrators, teachers, and students as our public school system continues to recover from the pandemic. 
 
The Summit will feature five separate 1-hour long policy sessions focused on the most pressing education-related issues facing our nation's rural communities and offer attendees resources and recommendations for how to solve these problems. If that wasn't enough to get your attention, then the Summit's line-up of high-profile speakers and experts from the Department of Census, Center on Budget Priorities, and Learning Policy Institute, are sure to convince you to join the conversation. 
 
This event is part of the allied coalition efforts of the summits co-hosting organizations: Association of Education Service Agencies; National Association of Federally Impacted Schools; American Federation of Teachers; Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents; Association of School Business Officials International; Bellwhether Education Partners; Committee for Children; Consortium for School Networking; Future of Privacy Forum; Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality; Mid Atlantic Equity Center; National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Directors of Special Education; National Education Association; National PTA; National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium; National Rural Education Association; National School Boards Association; Parents for Public Schools; Public Advocacy for Kids; and White Board Advisors. The Summit's hour-by-hour agenda and resources are forthcoming but will be updated in this blog post as we near the event. You can register for the event by clicking here. The summit's agenda is accessible by clicking here.
 

Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan

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Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan

On February 5, 2021, the Biden Administration released additional information on the President's latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief proposal dubbed a Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan. Specifically, this document serves as the Administration's justification to Congress to appropriate $145 billion in K-12 education funding to support LEA's safely reopening. As good news, the plan differed from the initial details of Biden's $130B K-12 education proposal during the campaign trail. 

As a justification for the higher request in funding from Congress, the President based his new proposal on CDC cost estimates associated with safely operating school districts during the 2020-2021 academic year, an approximation of the costs for school districts to avoid lay-offs into the next school year, and an estimate of the additional costs around the academic and social-emotional needs of students that have resulted from the pandemic. We've included an overview of a breakdown in allowable uses of K-12 funding in the chart below.

Allowable Use of Funding

Cost in Billions of $

Estimate Source

To avoid Lay-offs Closes budget holes so districts can avoid lay-offs this school year and next.

 

60

Learning Policy Institute, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Conference of State Legislatures

To provide for physical barriers and other materials CDC recommends to help keep students safe

3.5

CDC

To provide additional custodial staff members

14

CDC

To support additional Transportation Investments that   provide for social distancing on buses

14

CDC

To provide PPE for students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch

6

AFT,CDC, American Association of School Business Professionals

To support activities around promoting social distancing by reducing class size

50

AFT

To provide a nurse to the 25% of schools without one

3

American School Nurse Association

To extend learning time & support for students through tutoring or summer school

29

Learning Policy Institute

To provide the additional school counselors and psychologists

10

American School Counselor Association

Activities around the digital divide

7

Census Pulse Survey Data

To provide wrap-around services and supports to students and families through Community Schools

.1

Internal

To advance equity and evidence based polices to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

2

Internal

Total Need

199

N/A

Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133)

- 54

N/A

Net Funding `

145

N/A


 

 

AASA Advocacy Pre and Day-of NCE Events

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AASA Advocacy Pre and Day-of NCE Events

It's February: whether you're a new or old member; non-member; aspiring superintendent; or researcher, you know that this time of the year is when AASA throw's our premier event, the National Conference on Education (NCE). For this unprecedented year, AASA is not only holding its first-ever virtual NCE but also celebrating its launch with some pre-conference treats to get you psyched for your upcoming advocacy and other education policy-related activities in 2021.  To make sure you don't miss out on any of our nifty sessions, we have curated the advocacy webinars and NCE sessions in the list below.

Pre-Conference Sessions:
  • Join us for Salary and Benefits Study Contract Webinar with Hogan Lovells' Maree Sneed and AASA Researcher-in-Residence Christopher Tienken on Feb. 9, 2021 2:00 PM EST. This webinar is free to all AASA members.
  • AASA’s Advocacy Team Presents, What’s Up in Washington: Sign up for this webinar on Feb. 10, 2021 2:00 PM EST (free for AASA members) to hear from the complete AASA advocacy team for a refresh on the latest COVID package, to the latest guidance and Executive Orders from the Biden administration, to what’s possible with a 50/50 split in the Senate.

Follow us online for our Policy Sessions During NCE:

  • Check out Education and the Front Page on Thursday, February 18, 2021, from 12:30 PM – 1:15 PM EST with Eric Green Reporter with the New York Times, Andrew Ujifusa Reporter with Education week, and Laura Meckler Reporter with the Washington Post.
  • Check out The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America on Thursday, February 18, 2021 from 3:00 PM – 3:45 PM EST with Author Richard Rothstein.
  • Join us for the AASA President-Elect Candidates Forum on Thursday, February 18, 2021, from 3:50 PM – 4:35 PM EST. This session will be moderated by AASA Immediate Past President, Deborah Kerr.
  • Join us for a presentation with Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel during, Leading Through Connectivity: How FCC Policy Supports Our Learners on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM EST.
  • Check out the session Nice White Parents on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 12:40 PM – 1:25 PM EST for a conversation around the exploration of whiteness, history, and NYC public schools with Producer/Reporter Chana Joffee-Walt at This American Life and Senior Program Officer & Independent Consultant Ramapo for Children, Rachel Lissy.
  • Join us for the session, COVID-19 School Response Dashboard on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 2:20 PM – 3:05 PM EST with Brown University Professor Emily Oster, Deputy Director of Education Policy at American Enterprise Institute Nat Malkus, Principal Consultant on Education at Qualtrics Byron Adams, and Superintendent of Mason City Schools Jonathan Cooper.
 

Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

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Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

Since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, federal funding for the program has fallen woefully short of the amount initially promised by Congress under the law. In Fiscal Year 2020, the federal government provided a meager $12.7 billion to states to help offset the additional costs of providing special education and related services to an estimated 7 million students with disabilities nationwide. 
 
This Federal contribution was just 13.2% of the amount promised by Congress, also known as “full funding,” and has resulted in an approximate fiscal shortfall of $23.5 billion for special education services across the nation. As a result of this failure, the burden to cover the funding shortfall and additional cost for IDEA services has moved to states and local school districts. As the chart below indicates, after adjusting for inflation, funding provided in FY 20 is the lowest percentage of the federal share of IDEA funding since 2000. 

To make matters worse, the growth in the number of students served by IDEA in the past several years is further exacerbating state and local public school systems' budget shortfalls. Between 2011–12 and 2018–19, the number of students receiving IDEA services increased from 6.4 to 7.1 million, which in turn increased the percentage of IDEA students from 13 to 14 percent of total public school enrollment. In states like California, New York, and Florida the federal government's failure to fully fund IDEA has cost these localities $1.2 - $1.9 billion for special education services in school year 2020-21 alone. To see the full breakdown between state and federal IDEA funding gaps across the nation, check out this nifty chart below  from the National Education Association or click here


For AASA, which co-chairs the IDEA full funding coalition, these new statistics further highlight the need and importance of our allied advocacy efforts to push Congress to provide up to 40% of the costs associated with IDEA and other special education-related services. Looking ahead to the first months of the 117th session of Congress, it is likely that this issue will gain broader attention on Capitol Hill due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 operations. Thus far, Congress has already introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would fully fund Title I and IDEA. Moreover, our intel suggests that an IDEA full funding bill is in the works. As such, we implore you to keep up-to-date on all of AASA's advocacy efforts on IDEA to engage on this issue and ensure Congress provides this critical funding for our most vulnerable students.

 
 

Updated P-EBT Implementation Guidance for States

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Updated P-EBT Implementation Guidance for States

On January 29th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new Pandemic EBT guidance that will allow states to provide P-EBT benefits to children in schools and childcare settings. Specifically, this guidance provides states with new flexibilities when developing or amending P-EBT plans and increases the daily P-EBT benefit for both school children and children in childcare by approximately 15 percent to reflect the value of a free reimbursement for an afterschool snack. The guidance also allows states to retroactively apply to use the new higher benefit back to the beginning of School Year 2020-2021. 
 
Check out the full details via USDA's memo, updated state plan template, and accompanying Q&As document by following the highlighted links.

The Advocate: February 2021

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The Advocate: February 2021

February is usually a time when we look forward to seeing superintendents from across the country gathering together somewhere warm or fun (or both) and chatting about the politics of Washington, the politics of their hometowns and learning together from great leaders and inspiring thinkers. While we won’t be in sunny San Diego this year, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team is still excited to have some great professional learning opportunities planned this month, culminating in our first-ever virtual National Conference on Education.

Before we describe some of the sessions we have selected for the Policy & Advocacy strand, you should know we have intentionally decided not to offer our annual Federal Advocacy Update this year as part of NCE. We know you’re not seeing us or hearing from our team as often as you normally would, and we didn’t want to compete for your time and attention with so other many great sessions at our national conference. So, we are offering our normal, full-team, one-hour, jam-packed federal education policy update on February 10 at 2 p.m. ET for any and all AASA members. You can sign up to register here and if you can’t attend, you can still obtain a copy of our PPT and a link to watch the event afterwards.

Back to NCE: This year we wanted to offer not just sessions you know and love (like our superintendent salary and contract session with Maree Sneed), but also sessions that feature some high profile, diverse speakers who can and should push you to think differently, or at least think more deeply about your job as a federal advocate for your district.

The first of these is a session with Jessica Rosenworcel, acting FCC chairwoman and a long-time friend of AASA. Rosenworcel has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2011. Throughout her tenure at the Commission, her focus on closing the digital divide for students has been outstanding.. We are thrilled that President Biden has nominated this champion for digital equity for kids to be the new chairwoman of the FCC. This is a great opportunity to hear what she wants to do to support the E-Rate program and other programs that touch connectivity in schools in her new role.

The next two sessions we wanted to flag are complimentary in their focus on school segregation. The first features Richard Rothstein, one of the boldest and most heralded scholars on the subject. Rothstein will again share with AASA members the history of school segregation and the role that the U.S. Government played in creating and sustaining racially segregated school systems. As a compliment to this session, we are excited to introduce you to Chana Joffe Walt, a radio journalist and producer, whose podcast Nice White Parents, exploded in popularity this summer for its view that one of the most powerful forces in shaping our public schools, White parents, are at the heart of what’s wrong with our public schools. Nice White Parents was recorded over a five-year period and describes various attempts to integrate our public schools over the course of American history, including the present day, and how White parents who say they want integration and diversity often become obstacles to true racial equity.

We also have sessions that are focused on what superintendents are dealing with right now: COVID cases. We couldn’t help but do an NCE session with Emily Oster, a renowned health economist from Brown University. She has partnered with AASA in the development of a COVID-19 database for districts. Oster, along with Qualtrics, a brilliant firm that maintains the database, will describe how districts can utilize the platform, what we know so far about COVID spread in schools (based on data provided by AASA members) and what mitigation strategies appear to be the most effective based on our data.  Finally, given that the work of superintendents, particularly these days, is highly scrutinized by local, state and national media, we compiled a panel comprised of the best of the best in education policy journalism that will not only give you their take on what’s happening in federal education policy these days and their predictions for the Biden Administration and new Congress, but also provide ideas for how to engage with reporters most effectively, particularly when it comes to national issues. You won’t want to miss the conversation with reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post and Education Week.

We hope you can make it to some of these exciting sessions. Stay safe and healthy. 

USED Guidance on Collecting Average Daily Attendance

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USED Guidance on Collecting Average Daily Attendance

This week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released their plans for collecting average daily attendance (ADA) data from States for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years (SYs). For context, NCES collects ADA data annually through the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) for use, among other things, in distributing funds for several of the Department’s programs. Specifically, the Department is providing States flexibility for reporting SY 2019-2020 ADA data to ensure the data are consistent and as accurate as possible. As required by section 8101(1) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), each State will continue to report ADA based on either the Federal or the State’s definition of ADA. The options available to states are listed below:

If using the Federal ADA definition, the following options are available:
  1. States unable to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session during SY 2019-2020 until the date that school facilities closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19, and a State determined that it could no longer accurately report ADA.  
  2. States able to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session for the same school year. Under this option, States would report attendance on days each school or LEA was in session and attendance was collected, including remote learning days (including distance education, distance learning, and digital learning) completed before the date SY 2019-2020 ended. If States have a temporary inability to report attendance, they may include in ADA data reporting those days for which attendance was collected subsequent to the interruption. States have the flexibility to report under this option even if they are unable to report remote learning days from all schools or LEAs.

If using your State ADA definition, the following options are available:

  1. States unable to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report, consistent with State law or regulation, the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session until the date school facilities closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 and a State determined that it could no longer accurately report ADA or report under the Federal ADA definition for SY 2019-2020.  
  2. States able to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report ADA as defined by State law or regulation. Under this option, States would report on attendance on days each school or LEA was in session and attendance was collected, including remote learning days (including distance education, distance learning, and digital learning) completed before the date SY 2019-2020 ended.

NCES plans to continue collaborating with States to ascertain the content of ADA data that States can accurately report and provide further clarification, if appropriate, in the FY 2020 reporting instructions to collect those data for SY 2019-2020. To support this effort, NCES will also provide technical support to State Fiscal Coordinators through quarterly interactive webinars to help support consistent collection and submission of accurate ADA data for SY 2020-2021. Furthermore, NCES has convened a panel of State Fiscal Coordinators and LEA-level personnel to review potential changes in how ADA data is being reported by LEAs and States, make recommendations to clarify ADA reporting instructions, and develop best practices for reporting ADA data. Based on comments and suggestions from State Fiscal Coordinators and LEA-level personnel, additional guidance on potential remote attendance tracking options for SY 2020-2021 will be provided as necessary. You can access the full details on NCES guidance to states and LEAS by clicking here.

House Democrats Propose $466 Billion to Help Schools Crippled by Virus

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House Democrats Propose $466 Billion to Help Schools Crippled by Virus

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee unveiled three new bills aimed at upgrading school facilities, saving teachers’ jobs, and extending the school year to offset learning loss that has resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic. Altogether, the trio of bills totals $466 billion in federal education funding over the next decade. 
 
Until now, Congress provided more than $67 billion for elementary and secondary schools in separate emergency relief packages last year. However, as AASA and others have highlighted for the Hill and Biden-Harris Administration, more funding is necessary to contend with the disruptions to K-12 school since the initial COVID-19 outbreak mushroomed last year. 
 
As such, AASA was proud to see that Congress is holding its commitment to deliver additional economic relief to K-12 districts thus far in the 117th session. On the package’s outlook of passage on Capitol Hill, it is yet to be seen whether the bills will make it through the 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Still, we are cautiously optimistic that the package will move via President Biden's proposed $130B COVID-19 economic relief bill or through budget reconciliation. Therefore, to help our members stay abreast of the recent development of the bills, and what they mean for education, please check out our quick and dirty analysis on the bills below.

 

The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021

  • The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 (RRASA) invests $130 billion in bonds and grant programs – targeted at high-poverty schools – to help reopen public schools and provide students and educators a safe place to learn and work. The funding from this legislation would be appropriated on an emergency basis to facilitate school reopening and could be used to upgrade school buildings and their heating and ventilation systems. To check out a section-by-section analysis of the bill, click here.

The Save Education Jobs Act

  • More than half a million jobs in local school systems have been lost since the pandemic started, or more than during the entirety of the Great Recession. To preserve the educator workforce, the Save Education Jobs Act would create an education jobs fund that would send $261 billion to states and local school districts over the next 10-years. To check out a section-by-section analysis of the bill, click here.

The Learning Recovery Act

  • Recent studies have found academic progress slowed during the pandemic, although not as much as initially feared. Still, many of these analyses say that millions of students may not have attended classes since many school districts switched to remote learning. To contend with this emerging trend, the Learning Recovery Act would authorize $75 billion over the next two years to fund summer school, longer school days, or other academic programs. A section-by-section analysis of the bill is available by clicking here.

Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

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Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

On January 21, President Biden released a roadmap an actionable plan across the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including twelve initial executive actions that will be issued by President Biden during his first two days in office. To execute on the National Strategy, the White House will establish a COVID-19 Response Office responsible for coordinating the pandemic response across all federal departments and agencies

AASA applauds the clear, strong and decisive direction being demonstrated on Day One of the Biden Administration. This is a much-needed step forward in a coordinated response to the ongoing pandemic, and will help to alleviate some of the downward pressure and decision making that was placed upon local leaders to date.

Specific to the plan’s education-related elements, we are pleased to see many of the items AASA had recommended and mentioned in our communications with the transition team, including:

  • a focus on K-12 education funding;
  • restoring the FEMA reimbursement for schools;
  • a national testing strategy that supports school screening testing programs and provides clear, unified approach and TA for testing in schools;
  • updated public health guidance on containment and mitigation measures that provides metrics for schools to measure and monitor the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 as well as updated guidance on physical distancing protocols, and contact tracing in schools;
  • a national strategy for safely reopening schools, including requiring ED & HHS to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating, and to develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to share lessons learned and best practices from across the country;
  • pushing the FCC to support student connectivity in their homes.
This direct responsiveness to practitioner feedback is critical and demonstrates that the Biden Administration, serious in its priority of opening schools in its first 100 days, recognizes that the ultimate work and responsibility of opening schools lies with local school system leaders and that as such, their voice, insights and recommendations should be reflected in any nation-wide plan. We look forward to working with the Biden administration, welcome the confirmation of Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona, and stand ready to support the important work of safely opening the nation’s schools.

ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

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ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

On January 18th, the U.S. Department of Education released an addendum fact sheet titled “Providing Services to English Learners During  the COVID-19 Outbreak” to better explain SEA and LEAs’ responsibilities for assessing English learners during the pandemic. The document reiterates that while ESEA requires an annual statewide ELP assessment there are no prescribed Federal timelines for that annual assessment. Thus, an SEA may adjust its dates for administering the ELP assessment to address challenges due to the pandemic, e.g., by changing its testing window. However, the ELP assessment should be conducted as soon as safely possible in order to provide useful information for districts, teachers, and parents. Furthermore, an SEA has the discretion under the ESEA to administer the ELP assessment remotely or in person. 

 

The Department is also extending the flexibility related to the standardized entrance procedures, so that an LEA may continue to identify and provide ELs support as soon as possible. That is, an SEA may continue to implement its adjusted standardized statewide entrance procedures until its LEAs are able to administer their regular screener assessment. This does not change the obligation of districts to assess students for EL status within 30 days of enrollment in a school in the State. However, the LEA can wait until schools are physically reopen to complete the full identification procedures to promptly ensure proper identification and placement for new ELs. Like an SEA, an LEA must treat a student identified as an EL through modified entrance procedures as an EL for all purposes (e.g., by including such students in its count of ELs for purposes of Title III subgrants to LEAs, providing appropriate language instruction services to such students, and administering the annual ELP assessment to such students).

 

Lastly, the Department is also extending the flexibility regarding statewide exit procedures. The extended flexibility permits such an LEA, for the 2020-2021 school year, to base exit decisions solely on the ELP assessment. All LEAs must continue to meet the requirement that a score of proficient on the statewide ELP assessment be used in order to exit a student from EL status.  

New Guidance: USDA Meal Waivers & FRPL

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New Guidance: USDA Meal Waivers & FRPL

Due to the impact of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nationwide waivers – which support students’ access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19 through June 30, 2021 – this week, the U.S. Dept. of Education (USED) released a document that provides Local Education Agencies (LEA) and State Education Agencies (SEA) with guidance on how to carry out the data collection activities for the education programs associated with the federal school meals programs. Specifically, this guidance pertains to the National School Lunch Program data collection activities associated with Title I, Part A – Improving Basic Programs; Title II, Part A – Supporting Effective Instruction; and Title V, Part B – Rural and Low-Income School Program (RLIS) for the 2021-2022 school year.
 
For many LEAs that have chosen to participate in USDA’s federal meals program waivers, complete NSLP data collected through household applications may not be available from school year 2020-2021. As such, USED's fact sheet outlines options for SEAs and LEAs to implement their ESEA programs without complete NSLP data. The good news here is that according to the guidance, using data from the 2019-2020 school year is allowable for all circumstances, which means that ED has essentially created a hold harmless provision for school districts and states that have seen a decline in Free and Reduced-Price Lunch forms. You can check out the full document by clicking here
 

USDA NPRM: Restoration of Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Flexibilities

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USDA NPRM: Restoration of Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Flexibilities

Last week, AASA, the Association of School Business Officials International, the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium submitted a letter in support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the restoration of milk, whole-grains, and sodium flexibilities under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Act. For background, the NPRM finalizes the Department's 2012 interim rulemaking process concerning provisions in the Healthy Hunger Free-Kids Act (HHFKA) that ensure all school districts, regardless of socioeconomic status or size, can reasonably meet the nutritional requirements under the law. 

If passed, the regulation will allow schools to continue offering flavored, low-fat milk (1% fat) at lunch and breakfast and as a beverage for sale à la carte and require that unflavored milk (fat-free or low-fat) be available at each school meal service; mandate that only half of the weekly grains served in school meals be whole grain-rich; and postpone initial sodium reduction requirements until the 2023─2024 school year and eliminate final sodium target levels established in HHFKA. In layman's terms, USDA’s policy means targeted long-term regulatory flexibility for school districts, which is practical and necessary to serve appealing meals that decrease food waste and increase student participation in NSLP and SBP. 
 
AASA was proud to lead this allied effort and continue advocating for the regulatory flexibilities that are necessary for school administrators to feed students. You can access our letter by clicking here

AASA Analysis and Response: FY21 Omnibus and COVID Supplemental

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AASA Analysis and Response: FY21 Omnibus and COVID Supplemental

Earlier today Congress released the final text of its funding bill providing both annual appropriations and the fifth COVID supplemental.

Read AASA's letter to the hill.

Read AASA's memo to members.

Six National Education Groups Support Liability Protection for Schools

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Six National Education Groups Support Liability Protection for Schools

AASA joined five other national education organizations to re-up a letter to Capitol Hill calling for schools to be afforded the same liability protections offered to private employers. It mirrors a letter sent earlier in the summer, and weighs in on an issue that will be critical to helping schools be able to physically open without the unfair burden of undue litigation. Read the letter here.

Signing Groups Include:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National School Boards Association 

 

 

FY21 IDEA Full Funding Letter

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FY21 IDEA Full Funding Letter

 
On December 1st, 2020, AASA and twenty-eight other allied organizations sent a letter to the Congressional Subcommittees on education funding urging leaders to provide the maximum increase possible in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as part of a fair and proportional allocation for the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 LHHS‐Education appropriations bill.
 
The coalition – which represents over 6.8 million students with disabilities, their teachers, instructional support personnel, parents, school boards, and administrators – called on congressional leaders to provide no less than $14 billion for IDEA Part B, 684 million for Part B, $975 million for IDEA Part C, $254 million for IDEA Part D and $70 million for the Center for Special  Education Research. Thus, putting IDEA on a glide path to full funding.
 
AASA, which chairs the Coalition for IDEA full funding, was proud to lead this effort and continue advocating for a prioritized and meaningful investment in IDEA that does not negatively impact funding for other education programs. You can access the letter by clicking here.

Legislative Trend Report: Fall 2020

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Legislative Trend Report: Fall 2020

Today, December 2, 2020, AASA is proud to release the second iteration of our Legislative Trends Report as part of our continued effort to highlight the host of state legislative policies and emergency declarations made by governors and state boards of education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This quarter's Legislative Trend Report was produced by American University Master’s of Education students, Kristen Menke, Kristy Silva, and Nicole Stohmann; and focuses on the enacted and proposed teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention policies that have moved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work for this report was informed by the American University Team's literature review and includes data from bi-partisan organizations, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Moreover, the report overviews policies from states in the areas of teacher candidate clinical requirements, teacher licensure exam waivers, substitute teacher recruitment, and retention scholarships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AASA was proud to collaborate on this effort with the American University Master’s of Education program to produce a resource for school system leaders and educational advocates interested in understanding the state policy trends impacting LEAs teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention efforts during the 2020-21 school year. Please note that this report is not exhaustive, but rather, shows a snapshot of the current U.S. policy landscape. You can access the report by clicking here.

LFA Board to CDC Committee on Vaccine Priorities

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LFA Board to CDC Committee on Vaccine Priorities

As part of our work with the Learning First Alliance, this week, AASA sent a letter to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) committee on vaccine priorities requesting that school personnel – including teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, aides, food service and custodial workers, and principals – are a priority group once the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine begins. Specifically, the letter highlights the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and indicates that prioritizing school personnel for the initial distribution is critical for building public trust and reaching the vaccine target immunity goal.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Consortium for School Networking, Learning Forward, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, National PTA, National School Boards Association, and National School Public Relations Association joined AASA in this effort. If you want to check out the full letter, then click here!

States Push for 2021 Assessment Waivers

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States Push for 2021 Assessment Waivers

Are you looking to understand the arguments for and against a 2021 federal testing/assessment waiver, or learn which factors state and local policymakers believe will influence the Biden-Harris administration's stance on this issue? Then check out Education Week's Andrew Ujifusa latest article on the topic, States Push to Ditch or Downplay Standardized Tests During Virus Surge.
 
Specifically, this article offers a concise overview of what advocates say are the considerations, costs, and benefits of granting another COVID-19 federal nationwide assessment waiver. Moreover, the post highlights where state educational leaders from GA, SC, TX, and VA fall on the priority for, and feasibility of, conducting federally mandated standardized testing in the upcoming spring semester. You can read the article by clicking here

GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

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GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

This month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report, Distance Learning: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19.  Specifically, this report overviews a review of relevant online learning plans, synchronous and asynchronous teaching policies (i.e., live and non-live teaching sessions), individualized education plans (IEP), and semi-structured interviews with administrators from 15 geographically diverse school districts with high proportions of English language learners (ELL) and Students with Disabilities (SWD) populations to highlight the logistical and instructional challenges of providing federally mandated services to these students in the context of the current pandemic. 
 
While these findings are not generalizable to all districts, GAO's report does provide evidence of the challenges LEAs faced in delivering services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) free appropriate public education (FAPE) provision. Additionally, the report's findings around the impacts of student lack of access to internet connectivity and its implications on ELL's academic progress also provides evidence for the need for more funding to the E-rate program. Key highlights from the report are listed below. However, if you would like to skip ahead, click here to access the full report.  

 

  • GAO found that students had fewer opportunities to practice their language skills during distance learning, as they would during a typical school day. 
  • GAO found that limited English comprehension also affected the ability of families to assist students with the distance learning curriculum.
  • GAO found that LEA's attempted to address issues with ELL instruction by increasing internet connectivity and access to devices, using creative communication Strategies (e.g., smartphone communication and teacher home visits), and adapting materials and instructional methods.
  • GAO found that school districts faced many challenges in providing distance learning to SWDs due to the range of student needs and services and parental capacity to assist.
  • GAO found that districts addressed challenges of distance learning for SWDs by modifying instruction, holding IEP meetings virtually, and encouraging parent-teacher collaboration. 
 
 
 

Guest Blog Post: Introducing District-level Dashboards to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard

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Guest Blog Post: Introducing District-level Dashboards to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard

This blog post originally appeared on the Qualtrics Blog and is reposted with permission. 

This week, AASA and Qualtrics are introducing our district dashboards in preview, the latest iteration of the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard. Earlier this fall, we partnered with Brown University Professor Emily Oster and various school superintendents and principals associations to unveil the dashboard – the first nationwide effort that systematically maps schools’ responses to the pandemic across the U.S.

The district dashboards are privately accessed, available only to the participating school district. Each district dashboard displays information similar to the types of data available on the public national dashboard, such as percentage of confirmed cases, daily case rate, and mitigation strategies. Additionally, each district’s (or school’s*) specific information is benchmarked against other districts or schools in their geographic region (at the state level), and districts or schools with characteristics similar to their district, such as student demographics or community size.

For example, a district will be able to compare their daily case rate to the community case rate in their county, and districts with similar demographics in other parts of the U.S. For example, a district that reports a student infection rate of 14 per 100,000 can see their student infection rate compared against community infection rates in their county. Additionally, districts will be able to compare the infection rates with the community rates for groups of districts with similar characteristics in other parts of the U.S. For example, a district in a rural locale can view infection rates for all other rural districts as compared to rural community rates.

 

District dashboards will enable district administrators to better understand the state of their community’s health and outcomes relative to their broader geographic community and districts with similar characteristics. Any community case data reported on the dashboard is based on publicly available data as reported by public health resources.

District dashboards are free to any participating district in the national dashboard. If you’d like to learn more about the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, participate in this initiative, or get in touch with a team member, visit covidschooldashboard.com.

Who will have access to view the district dashboards?

  • The primary point of contact reporting to the national dashboard will have access only to their district’s dashboard.

 How many districts participating in the national dashboard will have access to their own district’s dashboard?

  • Our goal is to provide all participating districts in the national dashboard have access to their own district dashboard. We have just introduced the preview of the district dashboard and will begin rolling them out to individual districts.

Can my district modify or customize data that we see on our district dashboard?

  • No, the district dashboards provide information based on self-reported data by the district and/or school, and publicly available data.

Will every district dashboard have school-specific information within their district?

  • School-level data will only be available if it was self-reported in the enrollment or biweekly surveys.
  • School-specific data is available only to districts who have reported this information.

 

18 National Organizations Call on Congress to Invest in Schools During Lame Duck

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18 National Organizations Call on Congress to Invest in Schools During Lame Duck

Today, 18 national organizations released a joint statement calling on Congress to invest in schools during the lame duck period. Read the statement here.

Supporting Groups

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Assoc. of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

Biden Administration: What Can They Accomplish via EO?

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Biden Administration: What Can They Accomplish via EO?

As the odds of Democrats winning a majority of the Senate look highly unlikely, much of the conversation in D.C. has shifted to what the Biden Administration can accomplish via Executive Orders or through their administrative powers. Over the summer, the Biden campaign published the results of a Democrat unity taskforce they led with Senator Bernie Sanders which contains policy proposals, both legislative and executive, that would unite the party. While the majority of them do require Congressional approval, there are some policies that the American Prospect has identified that the Biden Administration could execute via Executive Order that directly impact public school students and policies. Here is a brief list of actions Biden could take unilaterally to change or influence district policies and practices:

Fully implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives states the option to choose school climate as an indicator of school quality; all states must describe how they will plan to support districts in reducing the use of policies and practices that push students out of school.

Encourage states to adopt and develop a multiple measures approach to assessment, like the New York Performance Standards Consortium and the International Baccalaureate so students can showcase what they know in a variety of ways.

Provide support to districts to best meet the needs of their students during the crisis and beyond. This includes crafting recovery plans with an equity lens and determining how to responsibly use remote learning as an emergency tool when necessary and returning to face to face classrooms when conditions allow. Digitize all necessary educational materials and ensure access to hardware, software, and particularly broadband for all students and educators.

Ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding.

Appoint a federal task force to study charter schools' impact on public education and make recommendations

Initiate a series of reforms regarding parent and community participation in charter governance, accountability and transparency

Support the six recommendations from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development report, "From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope," as well as the action agenda.

Require the Secretaries of Education and HHS to develop federal standards for ensuring that all federally funded childcare settings include children with disabilities and do not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Address the shortage in special education teachers within our system with an eye towards teacher recruitment, training opportunities, and workload for special education teachers

Aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to address both programmatic and architectural barriers

Work with higher education institutions to support a career path for early childhood educators to attain early childhood certificates (CDAs), associate and bachelor's degrees, and ongoing job-embedded training and professional development and create a career path for lead teachers in preschool classrooms to have a bachelor’s degree in child development and/or early childhood education and assistant teachers to have an associate’s degree in child development.

Improve federal data collection on racial segregation in schools as part of a broader project of reinvigorating Ed's Office of Civil Rights.

Maintain the U.S. Department of Education’s current level of Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) by preserving the existing questions and disaggregation of data by student subgroups, requiring all schools and districts to collect and report the data annually and continuing to make the CRDC accessible to the public.

The Biden Administration: Civil Rights Guidance and Enforcement

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The Biden Administration: Civil Rights Guidance and Enforcement

As a lobbyist for AASA for most of the Obama Administration, I can state that one of the most frustrating aspects of working with the Obama/Duncan Administration was their penchant for issuing prescriptive guidance on a variety of issues impacting schools and students. If you peruse the Leading Edge blog from that era, you will see a re-statement of the following advice on federal guidance repeatedly mentioned in our posts: guidance is not law.

The Trump Administration also used guidance to try and dictate rather than clarify their policy views on various K-12 issues. Initially, they also expended effort to quickly undo much of the K-12 guidance that the Obama Administration issued that was particularly controversial or viewed negatively by Republicans.

It should be no surprise then that President-Elect Biden has already announced his intention to re-instate various Obama-era guidance documents. He will take the opportunity, as his predecessors have, to use guidance to try and pressure districts to move quickly in adopting practices and policies that they are not required to abide by under Congressional statute, but that they should for the sake of civil rights enforcement.

Specifically, Biden has already stated that he plans to:

Reinstate Title IX protections for transgender students that were eliminated by Trump administration

  • Reinstate the use of disparate impact theory in determining racial discrimination in school discipline,
  • Reinstate guidance on responding to sexual assault and harassment at schools
  • Reinstate guidance on voluntary school integration efforts

AASA does not have a position on the reinstitution of these guidance documents; we know some members welcome their return, while others find them to be totally unnecessary or unhelpful in light of their local policies or state laws, which may be far more comprehensive and prescriptive on these issues then the federal guidance documents. For example, in 2018 we did a deep dive into the impact of the 2014 Obama-era discipline guidance and found that the 2014 guidance had a very limited impact on changing district discipline policies and practices. Of the close to one-thousand members we surveyed only 16% said they modified their discipline policies because of the 2014 guidance.

What we also learned from that specific report and subsequent conversations with our members is that civil rights enforcement practices by the U.S. Department of Education was a much larger, more powerful lever in changing district policy and practice. The Biden Administration has also vowed to dramatically beef up OCR enforcement and we anticipate that there will be a return to the aggressive enforcement standards and processes that were in place during the Obama Administration. The enforcement practices will likely play a much larger role in pressuring districts to adopt guidance they would otherwise ignore than the guidance documents themselves.

The Biden Administration: Undoing the Title IX Regulations

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The Biden Administration: Undoing the Title IX Regulations

While the Biden Administration has said the Title IX regulations will quickly end when he’s elected—it’s not that simple. While they can tell schools that there will be no penalty from OCR or a potential loss of federal funds if they fail to comply with the 2020 Title IX regs, it’s not as though that would protect schools against lawsuits. If, for example, a student feels that their due process rights has been violated by a district’s decision to not follow the current Title IX regulations then it is likely that the respondent would be successful in Court since the law is still on the books.

Congress is not likely going to be of much help to the Administration particularly a Republican Senate. While there is still significant momentum to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, where these regulations are based, and Congress has a role in shaping the underlying law that the regulations are based on, it will take considerable renewed time and debate on Capitol Hill to jump start new legislation and get bipartisan agreement on this contentious issue.

 Regardless of what Biden does, there are still two pending lawsuits challenging the Title IX rule that could strike it down. Also unclear is what the Biden Administration’s response to the litigation would be and how that would impact the litigation.

So, in the meantime legal experts advise districts that the safest legal course will be to continue to follow the regulations until we have a definitive pause in the regulations and a course for what districts should follow instead. 

The Advocate: November 2020

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The Advocate: November 2020

November 2020 may be a month that will be defined by its election, but we run The Advocate early in the month, and this means we are writing this in late October when we don’t know who the next president will be. What we do know is that our nation’s schools continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing the very important push and priority to open schools at the exact same time the nation’s COVID-19 rates are peaking and we rapidly approach flu season. So what’s a district leader to do when they find themselves in the middle of a pandemic, lacking meaningful and reliable federal data on rates?
 
That’s where the National COVID-19 School Response dashboard comes in. This is a collaboration between AASA, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National Association of Elementary School Principals. Together we are working with Professor Emily Oster (Brown University) and Qualtrics, an experience management company (Researchers often use Qualtrics as a survey tool and combine it with SPSS to analyze survey data). The collaboration is the first nationwide database that systematically maps schools’ responses to the pandemic across the United States. Data is visualized in a single dashboard that empowers school leaders, policymakers and the general public to examine current conditions in their own communities—as well as compare against other areas—to adapt to changing environments and make data-driven teaching and learning decisions as they continue to navigate the 2020-21 school year.
 
AASA supports this work because our members, the nation’s public school superintendents—and the schools and students they serve—started the 2020-21 school year with inadequate access to broad, nationwide data reporting the realities of COVID in schools. We are proud to be a partner in this effort, to respond to a critical need, and to be able to share a robust set of locally reported data that will help district leaders and school principals answer questions critical to ensuring their staff and students are safe in school. The initial dashboard, launched in September, was just the first step in what will be an enduring effort to make this data as robust and meaningful as possible.
 
Top level takeaways of the database to date are:
  • It is likely safer for schools to be more open than they currently are, though there are two very big and important caveats: where opening is happening well, it takes a lot of mitigation strategies, and those mitigation strategies cost money.
  • School COVID rates appear to reflect/track those of their broader community (not surprising) but at an overall lower level. That is, if you are in a community that is experiencing an increase in COVID rates, your school rate is also likely increasing, though is at an overall lower level. 
Looking forward, there are big updates as of the last week in October: The dashboard now includes data from New York, collected by the state, on all their public schools. The inclusion of the New York data both increases the sample a lot, and address some of the concerns raised on selection bias (Not ALL of the concerns, the data is still not perfect!). And the research team tweaked some of the dashboard filter functions to better allow you to look at age groups, learning models and state community rates (grouped). Scroll to bottom to get the New York raw data, and some summary of what you'd get from filters.
 
Next steps are just as exciting, as well! We are working with other states to do what we did with New York (if you can help us with this, we’d welcome it!). We are in discussions to enroll more parochial and private schools, including outreach to Notre Dame, who is monitoring COVID-19 in private schools. And, the research team will be expanding its analysis on race and income.
 
Specific to districts, though, AASA is very pleased to announce: as part of the November 17 webinar How Schools Can Reopen Using Data Driven Decisions (Feat. Emily Oster, Noelle Ellerson Ng, and Byron Adams), we will be previewing the dashboards with relevant benchmarks that participating districts and schools will receive (this is a much more granular level than is currently available to individual enrollees).
 
We remain committed to this dashboard and our work to ensuring the nation’s public school leaders have access to robust, real-time and locally-reported data detailing COVID-19 in schools, information critical to ongoing efforts to open schools safely. You can direct any questions to AASA’s Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org)
 
Related Information:
 

GAO Releases 2020 Disaster Recovery Report

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GAO Releases 2020 Disaster Recovery Report

On October 14, 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report on K-12 disaster recovery. The study, COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies Disaster Recovery Challenges for K-12 Schools, found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and compounded the challenges associated with the 206 major disasters declared since 2017. Specifically, the GAO's findings show that for many communities, the pandemic increased mental health issues, delayed recovery projects, contributed to lost instructional time, led to staff burnout, and caused financial strain. To access the major highlights, the full report, and GAO’s podcast on this topic, please click here.

Guest Blog: October 22nd AERA Brown Lecture in Education Research

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Guest Blog: October 22nd AERA Brown Lecture in Education Research

Our colleagues at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) are hosting their annual Brown Lecture virtually on October 22nd at 6:00 pm EDT. The AERA Brown Lecture was launched during the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and overviews the critical role of research in advancing the understanding of equality and equity in education. William F. Tate IV, executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of South Carolina, will present at this year’s lecture, “The Segregation Pandemic: Brown as Treatment or Placebo?”
 
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's AERA is lecture is open to all interested attendees at no-cost. You can register for the event by clicking here.
 

Guest Blog: CCSSO Restart and Recovery, Considerations for Teaching and Learning

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Guest Blog: CCSSO Restart and Recovery, Considerations for Teaching and Learning

Our colleagues at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) created a series of resources, Restart and Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning, to support state and district leaders as they continue to navigate the challenges on reopening schools and delivering education to every child this school year. These resources specifically aim to help districts make decisions about operations, instruction, and social-emotional learning while delivering on their promise to ensure an excellent, equitable education for all students. CCSSO created these resources with input from a wide body of organizations and experts, as well as state and local education leaders from more than 30 states across the country. 

These resources include many actionable plans, tools and templates and can be adaptable to meet your local needs. They cover key questions in the following areas:
  • System-level considerations: 
    • How are the needs of students and families, especially those most impacted, and the voices of teachers and school leaders being incorporated into school systems’ structures and decisions?
    • How can students attend school, whether in-person or remote, in a manageable and safe way that supports learning coherence?
    • How can students be supported by teachers so they experience strong and integrated teaching, whether in-person or remote?
  • Wellbeing, connectedness and mental health supports:
    • How are we creating a culture of care in which staff and student growth and wellbeing are prioritized, and all feel safe, connected, supported, engaged, and efficacious, both individually and collectively?
    • How are we identifying the range of mental health and wellbeing needs in our students, and provide them with or connect them to effective, culturally relevant supports?
  •  Academics: 
    • What must students learn? 
    • How will students learn this content, whether in-person or remote?
    • How prepared and how well are students learning this content?
    • How will teachers be prepared to teach this content, whether in-person or remote?

An video overview of the resources and how they can be used is available here. The full series of resources is available at www.ccsso.org/coronavirus. Also, if you're interested in having an in-depth conversation with the authors of the report, please reach out to Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org to learn how you can participate in CCSSO office hours. 

USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for 2020-21 School Year

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USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for 2020-21 School Year

On October 9, 2020, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would extend flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. Specifically, USDA's move will enable school districts to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no-cost meals to all children, through June 30, 2021. Additionally, the move will permit districts to serve meals outside of the typically required group settings and meal times; waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children through June 30, 2021. AASA has engaged in this advocacy effort since the beginning of the pandemic and was proud to secure this victory for Superintendents and other school nutrition leaders. More details on this extension are accessible by clicking here
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HHS Mask Distribution to Schools Underway- Request Your Districts Now

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HHS Mask Distribution to Schools Underway- Request Your Districts Now

As described on the blog earlier in September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be providing up to 125 million cloth masks to states for distribution to schools. The Administration intends for these masks to support students, teachers, and staff in public and private schools reopening, with an emphasis on students who are low-income or otherwise with high needs and schools providing in-person instruction.

Today we learned that school districts can immediately begin requesting masks from State Health Departments for adults. All states have received shipments of white, reusable and washable masks for adults and districts in need of additional masks can request them anytime. A few states are already in receipt of reusable, washable masks for youth/children, but the majority of these masks are still being manufactured and distributed. It is expected that many more states will have youth size masks available in the next 2 weeks and by early November all states will have both youth and adult size masks available for distribution to schools.

More information on the masks is available here: https://www.phe.gov/facecovering/Pages/cloth-face-masks-in-school.aspx

House Includes $5 billion for School Infrastructure

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House Includes $5 billion for School Infrastructure

As part of our work with The [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC), AASA released a statement thanking the U.S. House of Representatives for the inclusion of $5 billion for emergency repairs to public school facilities as part of the funding proposed for education in the Heroes Act 2.0. 
 
The inclusion of these funds is critical for the wellbeing of our families and communities. Moreover, this funding signals the House’s commitment to the health and safety of our students and educators. It also demonstrates the understanding that without public schools opening safely, our economy cannot thrive.

AASA was proud to join this effort to advocate for additional aid for school buildings emergency repairs and building modifications to support local school system leaders' efforts to provide facilities that can accommodate new procedures for social distancing, personal hygiene, surface cleaning, and high standards for fresh and filtered air. Check out the full press release here

October 1, 2020

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19 National Education Groups Send Joint Letter in Response to HEROES 2.0

Earlier today, 19 national education groups sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders in response to the revised House HEROES Act, and expressed our support for a bipartisan COVID response package.

Groups supporting the letter include:  

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education 
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Council of Great City Schools 
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

The Advocate: October 2020

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The Advocate: October 2020

October means….the start of the federal fiscal year. As hard as it may be to believe in 2020, Congress will have to divert its attention from the campaign cycle, the push to confirm a SCOTUS nominee, and the federal COVID response to focus on annual appropriations. Similarly to other years, Congress must adopt either an extension or final funding bill. Moreover, they have to do so ahead of October 1 if they want to avoid a federal shutdown.
 
As a reminder, if the federal appropriations process worked as we learned about in civics class, each chamber of Congress—House and Senate alike—would each independently adopt a budget resolution, allocate the overall dollar amount across 12 independent appropriations bills (the ‘slices’ of the funding pie), work via its respective appropriations subcommittees to determine program-specific funding levels for any and all programs within each slice of the pie, pass those 12 individual bills, reconcile differences between the House and Senate version of each of those 12 bills, and then adopt the compromise for each of those bills. That won’t be happening in 2020, and in fact, hasn’t happened in more than two decades. The last time Congress completed its funding work on time and in normal order was in the mid 1990s. 
 
When Congress can’t/won’t complete its funding work by October 1, there are two options: a federal shutdown or a continuing resolution (CR). A CR is the funding mechanism that buys Congress more time to complete its funding work. In its pure form, a CR freezes government funding at the previous year’s level, but allows government to keep running. Therefore, a CR essentially allows Congress to kick the can down the road to buy more time to finish its funding work. CRs are common place at this point, and in fact, the more common debate when it comes to annual appropriations is less ‘Will there be a shutdown or a CR?’ and more ‘How long will the CR last and will there be policy riders?’
 
Which brings us to 2020. In a presidential election year, especially one as partisan and political as this one, with a pandemic and economic downturn to boot, a CR was all but a forgone conclusion. So where do we stand with funding? 
 
In mid-September, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacked the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well as exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of that bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. 
 
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. While the exclusion of those items initially derailed an intended vote, the bill was revised to include those provisions and the House passed the CR, leaving it up to the Senate to vote to keep the federal government funded to and through December 11. Critical to an AASA priority, the CR does include nearly $8 billion for two nutrition provisions that are essential to feeding kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the bill expands Pandemic EBT and extends it through the end of the current school year, and gives the USDA the authority and funding to extend waivers that give schools and community organizations much-needed flexibility for how they serve meals during the pandemic. This legislation removes the last roadblock to USDA extending these waivers through the end of the current school year.
 
The Senate is expected to pass the bill on September 30 (this update was written ahead of September 30), setting us up for a post-election, lame duck Congressional To Do list that includes another round of FY21 negotiations. 

FAQ K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment

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FAQ K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment

Today, September 28, 2020, The U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’s) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new COVID-19-related technical assistance for elementary and secondary schools. The technical assistance document, Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment, overviews frequently asked inquiries received by the Department and provides important information related to districts’ obligations under Section 504/Title II, Title VI, and Title IX as schools continue to make decisions regarding the provision of educational services for all children.

2020 National Student Parent Mock Elections!

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2020 National Student Parent Mock Elections!

AASA is proud to be partnering in an effort to promote the 2020 National Student Parent Mock Election. The National Student Parent Mock Election has a long and rich history of bringing civic education to millions of K-12 students. The free event was founded in 1980 and quickly grew into the largest one-day education civics event in the country. In 1984 over 2 million students participated, and by 1992 over 5 million students were learning about how our democracy works, engaging in civics activities, and casting their vote in a mock election.
 
This year's mock election runs through October 5-20, 2020, and we need your help to get as many districts registered for the event. Teachers can sign up from now until 4pm local time on the final day of October 20th. The good news is that educator sign-up is quick and easy (5min), and that students can register for the event even faster (1min). Therefore, to help continue this important work, please check out and share this document with important dates, online and paper ballot registration details, and directions for how your k-12 teachers can register their school districts to participate in this historic event. 

AASA and 1400 organization Request USDA for Summer School Nutrition Waiver Extension

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AASA and 1400 organization Request USDA for Summer School Nutrition Waiver Extension

On September 21, 2020, AASA and 1,400 national, state, and local organizations sent a letter requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue additional child nutrition waivers allowing for the continued operation of the Summer Food Service and Seamless Summer Option programs through September 30, 2021. If implemented, the move will support school nutrition program operations and efforts to feed insecure students until the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The letter, which is available here, went out right before a bi-partisan move from the U.S. House of Representatives to include a provision in the upcoming continuing resolution (CR), which would extend USDA's budget authority so that the department may continue issuing waivers associated with the federal school meals programs. As such, it is seemingly more likely that the department will move to implement a full-year extension shortly after the CR is passed. Therefore, be on the lookout for any developments on this issue in the next few weeks.
 

FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

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FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

Outside of COVID negotiations, there is next to nothing being discussed on Capitol Hill, with the exception of annual appropriations (the process by which the federal government funds itself). Federal fiscal year 2021 (FY21) starts on October 1, meaning Congress has 9 days left to reach agreement on a funding mechanism to avoid a federal shutdown. Neither the House nor the Senate made any real headway on funding bills (there are 12 separate funding bills that collectively fund the full government), meaning Congress is NOT on track to complete its funding work on time or in normal order. While part of this is due to the COVID pandemic, this is not a new phenomenon: Congress hasn’t completed the annual appropriations process on time and in normal order since the mid 1990s, and instead has relied on a ‘continuing resolution’, a policy that ‘kicks the can down the road’: it avoids a federal shutdown and keeps the federal government by continuing funding at the same/current level. Yes, sometimes there are anomalies or a small set of exceptions or additional funding, but in broad terms, a CR is straight level funding that just buys Congress more time to complete its (very basic) funding work.
 
2020 is proving no exception, with a CR all but certain. A week ago I would have said ‘the question is not if they’ll pass a CR but for how long: into the lame duck session or into the new calendar year’. While I still believe there is little appetite for a shutdown this year, especially so close to an election, this is 2020 and this is Congress, so don’t rule anything out. I think Congress will get their act together to adopt a funding bill, even just a short-term CR, if only to reduce the political fall out of a federal shutdown on top of the already partisan and contentious 2020 elections. So where do we stand?
 
Yesterday, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacks the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of the bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. The bill could go to the House floor as early as today or Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. The relatively straight-forward path the CR had last Thursday was completely rerouted after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we’ll continue to monitor the federal funding situation. 
 

AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids co-host an important webinar on “What Superintendents Need to Know about Ending the Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic and Reducing Youth Tobacco Use”

E-cigarettes are hooking a new generation of kids, thanks to thousands of kid-friendly flavors, slick marketing, and massive doses of nicotine. This dangerous epidemic is putting millions of kids at risk and threatens decades of hard-fought progress in reducing youth tobacco use. And it’s getting worse each day.

As schools re-open this fall for in-person instruction, superintendents must again turn their attention towards mitigating the e-cigarette addiction experienced by far too many students. While the data suggests the use of e-cigarette products has decreased this year the health ricks of vaping in schools has increased dramatically in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disciplining our way out of this problems is not possible given the prevalence and the intense addiction that many students are experiencing. We need federal, state and local efforts to keep these products out of the hands of students, deter predatory marketing practices, and make these products less appealing for kids.

In this webinar, participants will hear from the Caroline Goncalves Jones, Director of Advocacy and Outreach, for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids about current youth tobacco use, the efforts underway to address it and how superintendents can get involved.  Participants will also hear from Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Superintendent of the Niskayuna Central School District, NY about the action his district has taken to address youth tobacco use and the partnerships that have made a difference to this work.

Register for this free webinar here

AASA Supports Historic School Desegregation Vote in House

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AASA Supports Historic School Desegregation Vote in House

This week the House will vote on the Strength In Diversity Act, the first federal legislation focused on desegregation in schools to receive a vote in 30 years. As we walk-the-talk on AASA’s commitment to equity, this legislation is a promising first step that will incentivize and resource district leaders to create more equitable school systems.

The Strength in Diversity Act would provide federal funding ($120m/per year) to support voluntary local efforts to increase diversity in schools.

  • Grants could fund a range of proposals, including (but not limited to):
    • Studying segregation, evaluating current policies, and developing evidence-based plans to address socioeconomic and racial isolation.
    • Establishing public school choice zones, revising school boundaries, or expanding equitable access to transportation for students.
    • Creating or expanding innovative school programs that can attract students from outside the local area.
    • Recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers to support specialized school

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said this about the bill: “The pandemic has highlighted the impact of the economically and racially segregated school systems that exist across the country today more clearly than ever before. Legislation that will fund districts to come up with locally driven, ambitious, and achievable plans to increase diversity will enable school leaders to create and lead more equitable school districts.”

September 10, 2020

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Flawed Equitable Services Rule Withdrawn

This blog post is an update on the hot button issue of equitable services as it relates to the CARES Act. In a nutshell, the flawed DeVos guidance (and interim rule) have been gutted by multiple court decisions, and USED itself has announced that the interim final rule is no longer in effect

Background: Through the spring and early summer, AASA was engaged in an effort to oppose a flawed interpretation of the equitable services provision within the CARES Act. As a reminder, on July 1 Sec. DeVos doubled down on her flawed interpretation of the equitable services guidance from April and released a final interim rule that would codify the guidance with the strength of law. DeVos used the long-standing equitable services mechanism as a money grab to bolster private school coffers, when historically, the equitable services provisions have been focused on ensuring Title I eligible students in private schools are served. 

Update: In late summer, a trio of combo punch of court decisions out of Washington, California and Washington D.C.  took significant momentum out of the flawed rule: A federal judge in Washington state blocked the DeVos rule, a move that prevents it from being implemented in schools in Washington state. Three days later, a judge in California issued a similar injunction, preventing DeVos from implementing or enforcing her rule in at least eight states and some of the nation’s largest public school districts. The California decision prevents DeVos from carrying out her policy in Michigan, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia as well as for public school districts in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco. The Washington DC decision resulted in an opinion and order that vacated the interim final rule; consequently, the rule is no longer in effect. 

Collectively, these decisions are a win for equity and for common sense policy and implementation of a statute as intended. Moving forward, state and local education agencies are free to implement equitable services as they always have, and as Congress intended in the CARES Act. The Trump administration may consider an appeal, but that is irrelevant for now, and schools can and should move forward with the implementation of CARES as written in law. 

Forest Counties and Schools - Secure Rural Schools September Update

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Forest Counties and Schools - Secure Rural Schools September Update

Joint Forest Counties and Schools Coalition and NACo PILT, Secure Rural Schools September 10th Day of Action.

The Forest Counties and Schools Coalition hopes all are healthy and safe as we all work to re-open schools and counties while dealing with COVID-19 and added impact of wildfires in many of our communities.

September: Congress will return to Washington D.C. after Labor Day. The House will be back for votes the week of September 14th. Congressional leaders and the Administration are still deadlocked on negotiations on a needed COVID-19 aid bill. The negotiations are centered on the House passed HEROES bill to assist states, cities, counties, hospitals, local schools and many more needed provisions. An unconsidered Senate COVID-19 bill is being rewritten. Secure Rural Schools is not covered in these bills.

Fiscal Year Funding Deadlines, Continuing Resolution: Congress is facing a September 31 deadline for FY 2021 appropriations bills to fund all federal agencies for the next fiscal year beginning October 1. If the COVID-19 aid package negotiations get back on track in mid or late September, it is possible that a compromise COVID-19 package could be combined with a FY 2021 Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund federal agencies probably through December.

Secure Rural Schools: As Congress and the Administration negotiate a COVID-19 economic stimulus package the Forest Counties and Schools Coalition is continuing our efforts with the Administration and the Senate and House to add SRS or a least the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved S. 430 SRS amendments to end the SRS 5% mandatory cuts; Titles l, ll flexibility; and RAC appointment improvements to any bill that Congress will pass in September.

PILT-SRS Day of ActionSeptember 10: The National Forests Counties and Schools Coalition is joining NACo in a PILT-SRS Day of Action (Sept. 10) where we are asking county and school officials to call their members of Congress to urge their support for SRS and PILT funding.

Please join the SRS-PILT effort by calling your Senators and House Members on September 10 to ask that they support funding for SRS and PILT and that they ask their leaders to include SRS and PILT funding in any September COVID-19 and or CR package.

Legislative Trend Report: Summer 2020

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Legislative Trend Report: Summer 2020

In response to the National Emergency Declaration to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic issued by President Trump on March 13, 2020, and the plethora of legislative and other policy movements implemented by states and governors, AASA has endeavored to reinstitute the quarterly edition of the Legislative Trend Report to provide superintendents and other school system leaders with a high-level overview of the COVID-19 policy changes and proposals impacting the U.S. public school system. Specifically, the following text focuses on the proposed and enacted state legislative and administrative policies affecting Local Education Agencies (LEA) to provide a national picture of the states’ educational response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The data in this paper is from bi-partisan organizations, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and overviews policies from 48-states in the areas of assessment and accountability, online learning, instructional time, grade promotion and graduation requirements, and civil liability protections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. AASA intends for this document to serve as a resource for school system leaders and educational advocates interested in understanding the state policy trends impacting LEAs during the 2020-21 school year (SY). Please note that this report is not exhaustive, but rather, shows a snapshot of the current U.S. policy landscape. You can access the report by clicking here.
 

Masks and Tests Update

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Masks and Tests Update

Earlier this week we sent a letter to the FEMA asking that they continue to allow PPE and sanitation to be reimbursable expenses for districts. The same day our letter was sent, FEMA announced that they would be suspending the policy from March that made districts eligible for FEMA reimbursement for PPE and sanitation-related requests. This policy is not retroactive meaning that if districts did purchase PPE or sanitation and are expecting reimbursement they will receive it as long as those purchases were made prior to September 15th.

Also this week, HHS announced that it would be distributing 125 million masks, half adult size and half child size, to schools based on the share of low-income students. A list of the # of masks States will be receiving is available here. The masks will be distributed in two shipments beginning in early September. We have no other details on how the masks will be delivered to districts, whether districts must request them, what responsibility for distributing them to private school students districts have and many other basic logistical details.

There is also a plan to distribute 150 million Abbott tests for schools. What is less clear is whether the feds will also be distributing machines to run the test or any funding to locally distribute and store the tests. There is no clarity around how schools will request/receive the tests, how parent refusal to test their child will be handled, HIPPA/FERPA concerns and other logistical and administrative issues around testing students and staff in schools.

AASA Urges FEMA to Keep PPE as Reimbursable Cost for Districts

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AASA Urges FEMA to Keep PPE as Reimbursable Cost for Districts

This week, AASA led a letter to FEMA signed by 20+ other education groups in response to an announcement that FEMA may eliminate PPE and disinfectants as eligible reimbursable expenses under Public Assistance for COVID-19. We also understand that FEMA may seek to tie eligibility to an arbitrary distinction between “response” and “reopening.” This proposed change to PPE coverage continues a troubling pattern of shifting costs and responsibilities onto state and local governments, including state and local education agencies, when they can least afford it. The letter urges FEMA to waive the state cost share for COVID-19 assistance, to maintain the current guidance on emergency protective measures, and encourage the Administration to provide clear guidance on eligibility of funding streams from across the federal government.

AASA Files Amicus in D.C. Equitable Services Case

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AASA Files Amicus in D.C. Equitable Services Case

Last week, AASA signed onto an amicus drafted by NEA in the equitable services lawsuit against Secretary DeVos filed by the NAACP. We are hopeful that like the two cases out of the 9th circuit earlier this month that this ruling will also be favorable. You can read our brief here.

 

USDA Temporarily Extends Summer Meal Flexibilities

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USDA Temporarily Extends Summer Meal Flexibilities

Today, August 31, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has elected to extend several flexibilities associated with the Summer School Food Service Program (SFSP). Specifically, the move will enable SFSP and Seamless Summer Option meals to be served in all areas and at no cost, permit meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and mealtimes, waive meal pattern requirements as necessary and allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. 
 
As such, these extensions should allow school districts to continue serving free meals to children for the first semester of the school year, thereby ensuring that all students have continued access to well-balanced meals as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Looking ahead, USDA has stated that they will require additional budget authorities to extend the SFSP flexibilities throughout the entire 20-21 school year. AASA will continue to pressure the Hill for the funds necessary to ensure that all students have access to the federal school meals programs. However, this is still a significant victory in the fight to provide school system leaders with the maximum flexibilities necessary to serve students. You can check out the full details on USDA's extensions by clicking here.