Protect Public Education: AASA Campaign

 Permanent link

Protect Public Education: AASA Campaign

AASA is pleased to partner with Stand for Children and AFT for the recently launched Protect Public Education campaign, a way for school system leaders to both weigh in with Congress about the very real needs facing schools in light of the COVID pandemic and to help engage community members and parents in the dialogue and advocacy.

Students everywhere are falling behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly millions of students with special needs and the twelve million students who lack home internet access. Educators are deeply committed to providing students the best possible education and support during the challenging year ahead, but, with every state slashing education spending, they need the federal government’s help. The painful truth is this: without federal funding, public schools will have to cut teachers and staff at the worst possible time.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the HEROES Act, a robust relief package with too little dedicated K-12 education funding to prevent layoffs and ensure digital learning access for all students. The U.S. Senate needs to act as quickly as possible and do more, which is why superintendent and community member involvement now is so important. With just one click, you can request that U.S. Senate leaders and your U.S. Senators pass a next COVID-19 relief package with the $200 billion in Education Stabilization funding needed to prevent layoffs and the $4 billion through the E-Rate program needed to ensure all students can learn from home.

Next school year is fast approaching. Educators need our help to do their very best for students. Please act now.

Guest Blog Post: Straight talk in financially uncertain times: How district leaders can communicate about the messy financial landscape coming their way

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Straight talk in financially uncertain times: How district leaders can communicate about the messy financial landscape coming their way

Today's guest blog post comes from our friends Laura Anderson and Marguerite Roza with Edunomics Lab, a Georgetown University research center exploring and modeling complex education finance decisions to inform education policy and practice.

The economic turmoil is unleashing problematic financial forecasts for public education. Given that state revenues are generally down but still in flux, and there is talk of another federal stimulus, many aren’t yet sure of the magnitude of shortfalls they’ll face or the implications for their communities. Those uncertainties make it challenging for district leaders to communicate about potential budget gaps and what they might mean for their staff and communities.

But that doesn’t mean that the best course of action for district leaders is to postpone the discussion of potential budget problems ahead. In fact, keeping communities in the dark could have the effect of eroding trust in district leaders just when engagement and support for tough spending choices is most needed.

In 2018, researchers at Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab worked with Edge Research to learn how district staff, principals, teachers, and parents engage with and react to information about district finances. Reinforcing findings from earlier interviews conducted by The Winston Group, we uncovered lessons for district leaders when it comes to engaging their staff and communities on the topic. Here we adapt those lessons for the current context to help leaders connect on finance in a way that cultivates transparency and trust.

DO start sharing concerns now even if forecasts are still uncertain.

In a recent informal poll of 30 district financial leaders, we found that while most anticipated needing to make budget cuts in the next few months, only 27% had shared that information with their schools or communities. One leader said she had avoided sharing the news in order to keep her community calm. But the evidence is clear that even when it comes to bad or incomplete financial news, communities want to be kept informed. 

Our research also suggests that even principals and teachers are unclear about where funds originate and the role the district plays in allocating those funds, so communication should help clarify how money flows. In the current moment, many states are forecasting revenue shortfalls, and where districts get a portion of their funding from the state, leaders can explain how such shortfalls matter for districts.   

Down the road, if and when cuts do start materializing, staff and parents will want to know that their leaders were honest with them at every step.

DO link spending decisions to students.

During financial strain, it will be important to regularly emphasize that choices are made with regard to doing the most for students, especially when so much attention is focused on other goals, like averting staff layoffs, or balancing the budget. When communities don’t hear their leaders emphasize that the driving agenda is to do the most for students, they worry that leaders have lost their focus. Even pointing out that “reducing layoffs means preserving services for students” can help communicate that continued focus even in the midst of financial cuts. 

DO engage principals, inviting them to weigh in on tradeoffs for their individual schools.

While staff and parents often distrust their district leaders on financial topics, we found that when financial messages are delivered by principals, trust was higher, in part because these school leaders are more sensitive to their own school’s needs. Given this trust, it makes sense to elevate principals’ role and voice on budget and finance communication especially during this financial turmoil.

One strategy that district leaders can employ is to host regular (weekly) calls with school leaders as a way to share updated financial projections and solicit authentic involvement in financial decisions. In turn, principals could be encouraged to institute regular communications with their school community as well, and to share back what they are hearing from teachers, staff, and parents. Such communication channels send a message that the district is transparent, has processes in place to share concerns, and is sensitive to   impacts on schools. 

Some will worry that principals don't want to be involved or are too busy to participate. Yet virtually every principal interviewed for this research expressed a desire to be more involved in finance issues. Others may worry that principals won’t stay “on message” when it comes to the district’s finances. If disconnects do happen, it may signal a moment for the district to stop and listen, then consider whether and how to engage more with principals. 

DO communicate with dollar amounts and acknowledge tradeoffs. But, avoid using business lingo.

In our research, we found that citing dollar amounts improves credibility and offering real dollar tradeoffs helps stakeholders understand the constraints on the system, including the limits on what is possible with available resources. Even where budgets are in flux, district leaders can share that they are crafting plans to cut as little as $X per pupil or as much as $XX per pupil so as to be prepared. 

Using terms like “efficiency,” “deficit-reduction,” “marginal costs,” or “fund distributions” could inadvertantly send the message that leaders are focused only on the spreadsheets and aren’t sensitive to the impacts of these decisions on students and teachers. And some who are frustrated by any mention of cuts may worry that district leaders did not consider all options. Sharing tradeoffs helps assure audiences of the work done and the dollar amounts involved.

DO offer the public and those inside the system a means to weigh in on financial decisions.

Teachers and parents trust system leaders more when they know they have a voice, can engage in discussions of tradeoffs, and can offer their perspectives. Most of all, they care about transparency and the opportunity to participate.

One easy strategy is for all district communications to include an invitation to share thoughts (even via email). Contact information shows that communication flows two ways, not just from the district to the public but from the public to the district as well.

Research suggests that if leaders’ invitation for public feedback is authentic, those leaders are perceived as more trustworthy and competent. Even if a decision has already been made, inviting feedback on how a change is playing out can go a long way toward maintaining confidence.

Yes, communication in a crisis is a challenge, as leaders face a firehose of urgent demands. But a crisis—and the uncertainty it sparks—makes timely communication more critical than ever. Leaders who communicate early, honestly, and often can build much-needed trust with their public and partners—from the teachers’ union and parents to student advocacy groups and school boards. Smart strategic communication lays the groundwork for goodwill when difficult spending tradeoffs and cuts must be made. It lets communities feel heard. And it helps ensure all parties understand how and why decisions are made, even budget cuts. 

 

Guest Blog Post: Seven Steps to Sending Elementary Kids Back to School and Parents Back to Work

 Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Seven Steps to Sending Elementary Kids Back to School and Parents Back to Work

All over the country, states, districts, and task forces of every sort are wrestling with the question of how to safely reopen schools. This scenario planning is daunting, as schools must navigate a minefield of health, safety, legal, and instructional issues, and do so blindfolded by our ever-changing yet imperfect understanding of the virus itself. The AEI “blueprint for back to school” does an excellent job spelling out the major considerations that leaders must take into account, but it stops short of providing specific advice. In a blog post that originally appeared online on May 15, AASA friend Mike Petrilli walks through the considerations and logistics to be addressed if we are to have elementary kids back to school and parents back to work this fall. Read the article in PDF here.

 

1100+ Superintendents and Educators Sign Homework Gap Letter

 Permanent link

1100+ Superintendents and Educators Sign Homework Gap Letter

AASA drafted a letter signed by more than 1,100 superintendents and educators from across the country calling on Congress to address the homework gap. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on one of the worst kept secret inequities for today’s students: the homework gap. The pandemic forced more than 55 million students into a remote learning reality, resulting in an almost immediate struggle to ensure students can access online learning. It is anticipated that 12 million students across the nation lack internet access adequate to support online learning.  AASA penned a letter that was signed by more than 1,100 superintendents and educators from 49 states and sent to Congress. In the letter, signees call on Congress to take immediate action to support all students displaced from their classrooms. The letter reiterates that Congress must ensure the next COVID-19 funding package include  at least $4 billion in direct funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly called the E-Rate program, to help connect millions of students to the internet so they can continue their education and planning for the possibility of interruptions to classroom teaching and learning during the 2020-2021 school year.  The letter remains open for additional signatures and the copy linked in this blog will be updated as needed to reflect the growing levels of support. Read the full letter here.

 

As of May 18, the letter had 1,133 signatures.

Guest Post: NAEP Reading Framework Will Need Your Feedback!

 Permanent link

Guest Post: NAEP Reading Framework Will Need Your Feedback!

The National Assessment Governing Board is currently leading updates to the Mathematics and Reading Assessment Frameworks for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The frameworks guide development of the assessments and define what knowledge and skills students need in each subject area. Final updates to the frameworks will be reflected in the administration of the 2025 Reading and Mathematics assessments.

WestEd is a key partner in these efforts and has convened panels of subject-matter experts, practitioners, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for improvement. An updated draft of the Reading Assessment Framework will be presented to the general public for additional feedback beginning in late June. We are seeking feedback from key stakeholders, especially those who have expertise in reading and reading education. To learn more about how you can provide feedback on this important framework, please visit: https://www.wested.org/project/2025-naep-assessment-frameworks-update/.

The New Title IX Regulations: What School Leaders Need to Know

 Permanent link

The New Title IX Regulations: What School Leaders Need to Know

On May 6th the U.S. Department of Education released the long-anticipated Title IX regulations. For the first time ever, the Department's Title IX regulations define sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sex discrimination. It also changes how districts can investigate Title IX claims and the adjudication process. Register for the webinar here.

Districts have to begin implementing the Title IX regulations in August and to assist district leaders and principals, AASA and NASSP have lined up a great team of K-12 legal experts from the law firm of Hogan Lovells who will explain the regulations, describe what Title IX practices and policies must change under the new regulations and what steps school leaders should take to prepare for the implementation of these regulations. In addition, attendees will hear about how these regulations impact the policy discussions on Capitol Hill as well as litigation to stop the regulations from going into effect.

 

Register for this free webinar here.

Maree Sneed, Partner, Hogan Lovells LLP

Joel Buckman, Counsel, Hogan Lovells LLP Megan Wilson, Associate, Hogan Lovells LLP Sasha Pudelski, Advocacy Director, AASA

 

For decades, Maree Sneed has provided extensive counsel to AASA and its members advising them on a wide range of state and federal legal issues, including those involving the U.S. Constitution, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She is a partner at Hogan Lovells, LLP.

Joel Buckman is Counsel at Hogan Lovells and advises and represents education institutions and associations, to public and private primary and secondary schools. Joel's practice has involved a wide range of issues, including Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Department of Justice (DOJ) civil rights investigations and faculty and staff labor and employment issues.

Megan Wilson is an Associate at Hogan Lovells LLP where she helps education clients comply with federal, state, and industry-specific requirements. She regularly monitors industry developments in order to proactively advise clients on new rules, innovations, and best practices.

USDA Extends Flexibilities and Paves the Way for Meals for Kids to Continue through Summer

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

USDA Extends Flexibilities and Paves the Way for Meals for Kids to Continue through Summer

Today, March 15, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would extend three nationwide waivers, thereby granting school districts the flexibility to continue feeding children while promoting social distancing and keeping families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, USDA's latest announcement will extend the waivers listed below through August 31, 2020.  
  1. Non-Congregate Feeding: USDA's Food Nutritional Service (FNS) is allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally-required group setting to support social distancing.  
  2. Parent Pickup: FNS is allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children.  
  3. Meal Times: FNS is waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once.  

Also noteworthy for superintendents, USDA is rapidly working to approve states for the Pandemic-EBT program, which provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-price meals at school. Thus far, FNS has approved 26 states' Pandemic EBT plans. AASA is happy to see that USDA is granting school system leaders the flexibility to continue serving food-insecure students during the pandemic, and supports the department's latest move. 

 

 

Professional Development Vouchers for Teachers and AASA's Response

 Permanent link

Professional Development Vouchers for Teachers and AASA's Response

The U.S. Department of Education is moving forward with its proposal from a year ago to create vouchers for teachers to use for professional development—despite a previous congressional rebuke to the idea. AASA sent this letter opposing the redirection of a $190m for “professional development vouchers” for teachers. 

 

May 13, 2020

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

House Intros HEROES Act in Response to COVID Pandemic

Overview: House Democrats introduced the HEROES Act, their proposal for the latest emergency supplemental in response to the COVID pandemic. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act exceeds over $3 trillion in aid. Moving forward, the bill is scheduled for a vote in the House as early as this week, and then expected to stall in the Senate. The legislation includes $1 trillion for states and local governments, in addition to $10 billion in small business grants. The bill would also send another round of direct checks to Americans, on top of the $1,200 approved in March, and extend the additional $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits that will expire at the end of July. About $175 billion would go to health care providers to reimburse them for coronavirus-related expenses and lost revenue, in addition to supporting testing efforts. The proposal allocates $100 billion for an Emergency Rental Assistance program that would allocate funding to states, territories, counties, and cities to help renters pay rent and utility bills during the pandemic. The bill does not include liability protections over pandemic-related suits, which Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said must be in any future legislation.

Education Top Line: For education overall, HEROES calls for $90 billion in grants to governors to distribute among K-12 schools and public colleges to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. $58 billion is for K12 LEAs, $27 billion is for public institutions of higher education, and $4 billion for governors to support K12, higher education and related activities. Another $10 billion is set aside to address coronavirus disruption in higher education, including $1.7 billion earmarked specifically for historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions. Separate from the state funding, the bill includes authorizing language of up to $5 billion aimed at closing the so-called digital Homework Gap by funding Wi-Fi hotspots and other connected devices, set to be administered through the FCC E-rate program, though our understanding is that appropriators are capping it at $1.5 billion (we’ve been pushing for $4 b in actual funding). 

  • Allocation: Funds would be allocated to states based on two things: 61% bases on the state’s relative share of the population aged 5-24 and 39% on the state’s share of low-income (Title I eligible) children.  Of the funds to the governor, 65% must be allocated to LEAs based on their share of Title I funding, and there is no reservation for state departments of education.
  • Use of Funding: LEAs can use funds for any purpose authorized under ESSA, IDEA, Perkins/CTE, McKinney Vento/homeless Education, and more, including activities to address the needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including learning gaps created or exacerbated due to long-term school closures; purchasing educational technology (including internet connectivity as well as assistive technology or adaptive equipment) and providing professional development related to virtual learning; offering summer learning programs, either online or in-person; and implementing activities to maintain the operation and continuity of services and to employ existing staff (to receive funds, districts must, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay employees and contractors). Money can be spent until September 30, 2022 and unused funds have to be returned to USED.
  • Requirements on States: States that receive some of the $90 billion in funding would have to commit to maintaining support for schools and colleges and the terms of collective bargaining agreements. States would also be required to provide assurances that students with disabilities are guaranteed their full rights under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. The bill would prohibit states from using the stimulus money to provide financial assistance to students to attend private K-12 schools, unless the funds are used to provide special education to children with disabilities. 
  • Technical Fixes to CARES: In making technical fixes to CARES, HEROES rescinds ability of SUED to allocate grants to states hardest hit by COVID (DeVos had indicated using funds for ‘micro-grants’, aka vouchers). HEROES also includes language intended to resolve our issue with the deeply flawed equitable services guidance developed by USED. The fix isn’t 100% accurate, but a marker for the longer conversation and a step in the right direction.
  • Related Links
    • Text of H.R. 6800, The HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act)
    • A one-pager on the legislation is here.
    • A section-by-section summary is here.
    • A resource on the state and local relief provisions is here.
     

Other Items: 

  • Equity for Recovery Rebates: The bill includes another round of direct stimulus payments and establishes that payments are equal for adults and children. This time, families with children would receive $1,200 per child (up to 3 children and limited to a total of $6000 per household) instead of just the $500 included in previous aid. The adult payment of $1200 is the same as the first round of “recovery rebates.”  The legislation also fixes some of the shortcomings in the current “economic rebate” program.  It ensures that college students, non-child dependents, and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers are eligible.
  • Expanded CTC, EITC, and CDCTC: The bill would make the Child Tax Credit (CTC) fully refundable in tax year 2020 and also would raise the amount of the credit to $3,000 per child and $3,600 per child under the age of 6. It also extends the credit to 17 year-olds. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would be expanded for childless workers by reducing the age of eligibility from 25 to 19 and would increase earned income amount to $9,720 with the phaseout starting at $11,490 for a max credit of $1,487 (instead of $538).  Also for 2020, the act would make the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) fully refundable, increase the maximum credit rate to 50% from 35%, and raise the phaseout threshold from $15,000 to $120,000.  It also would doubles the amount of expenses eligible for the credit.
  • Increased Medicaid FMAP: The bill increases Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to state Medicaid programs by 14 percentage points through June 30, 2021.
  • Expanded Housing Assistance: The bill includes an eviction moratorium for a year and requires a 30-day notice of eviction once the moratorium ends. It also provides more money for critical housing programs, such as $100 billion for an Emergency Rental Assistance Program, $10 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, and $3.5 billion for Section 8 Housing Vouchers.
  • Expanded Nutrition Assistance: The bill includes $10 billion for SNAP and increases the benefit level by 15 percent and the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 per month through September 2021. It also provides $3 billion for child nutrition programs, $1.1 billion for WIC, and extends the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program through the summer and until schools reopen.
  • Expanded Work Supports: The bill extends UI benefits established in prior relief packages, eliminated the 500+ employee exemption for small business loans, expands the purposes for the paid leave program, increases wage replacement, and clarifies that non-profits are covered.
  • Update on 501(c) Organizations: For the state executives, I want to flag that HEROES Act includes all Section 501(c) organizations in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Any nonprofit with 500 or fewer employees will be able to apply for PPP funds. Following are other notable provisions, among many, that are relevant to associations: the covered period for PPP loans would be extended to December 31, 2020; PPP funds could be stretched over 24 weeks instead of the eight weeks originally passed in the CARES Act; businesses and organizations that receive PPP loans would be allowed to defer payroll tax payments; coordination between the PPP and Employee Retention Tax Credit would be improved to “ensure borrowers can take advantage of both types of assistance;” and the legislation would direct the Federal Reserve to create a nonprofit-specific program within the Main Street Lending Program. 
  • Looking ahead, we need to continue to press for flexibility on IDEA, which was not included (but not surprising, as Democrats tend to be of the thought that it is reasonable to expect 100% compliance with 100% of IDEA). Sasha continues to lead our work on this effort and is coordinating with national groups and the hill to include language.
  • The bill is, at best, a mixed bag. It has some things we like (we appreciate that education is funded) but is baffling in both its overall size (a likely non starter in the Senate) and specific to education, how a $3 trillion bill only has $60 billion for education and has no flexibility around IDEA. It has good policy provisions related to equitable services and reigning in what DeVos can do related to privatization. We will follow this bill, but in terms of substance, the real tell will be in both what the Senate responds with and when.

And for your regular advocacy updates, please know that we have rounded up the five specific areas of possible member engagement into one blog post, and you can engage on our top priorities (IDEA flexibility, ERate funding for homework gap, equitable services, securing a larger investment for K12, and our COVID impact survey to inform policy on Capitol Hill in terms of response and reopening.)

 

 

AASA COVID Priorities and YOU: Engage on IDEA, E-Rate, Equitable Services and More

(IDEA, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA COVID Priorities and YOU: Engage on IDEA, E-Rate, Equitable Services and More

As Congress continues to negotiate the details of the next COVID package—one that could include significant funding to support state and local governments, including school districts—it is important we keep the pressure on Congress to act and to help them understand what the needs are and the specific type of policy relief—funding and flexibility—that would be most helpful. In an effort to streamline your work on this, we have aggregated five areas of action into this one blog post. Collectively, they represent an opportunity for you to weigh in on our biggest COVID response priorities, including funding, support for E-Rate and remote learning, equitable services, IDEA flexibility and details related to reopening. Each of the five are bulleted below, and we welcome anything you can do to engage on as many as possible: one is as quick as signing your name to a group letter, another is a brief survey to inform our work on the hill, one is a fast cut-and-paste/fill-in-the-blank communication with the hill, and two are template letters that you can personalize.

Thank you in advance for your continued advocacy on these important issues, for the time and communication you have already completed, and for anything you may do from the list below. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, including contact information for your representatives and senators on the hill.

 

  • IDEA Flexibility: Congress Must Grant Narrow, Temporary IDEA Flexibility NOW
    • In light of the hardship districts are experiencing in trying to educate all students during a pandemic, we call on Congress to provide practical, narrow flexibility in how districts meet some of the requirements under IDEA. If your district is struggling to meet IDEA mandates, we urge you to take a moment to email the education staff on Capitol Hill and ask them to ensure the next COVID-19 relief package contains sensible flexibility for IDEA. Please send an action alert to your full Congressional delegation today using AASA’s Action Alert System. You simply input your address and they will direct you to the appropriate Rep/Senators for you to email and supply a template email for you to use. Or you can download a list of all the education staffers for your Congressional delegation and email them individually here. We urge you to make your advocacy more impactful by personalizing this email and adding a paragraph describing the issues your district is specifically facing in complying with IDEA. 
  • E-Rate and Homework Gap Letter
    • AASA has drafted a letter, to be sent to all members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action to support all students displaced from their classrooms, and we are aiming to collect as many signatures as possible from all 50 states. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on one of the worst kept secret inequities for today’s students: the homework gap. The pandemic forced more than 55 million students into a remote learning reality, resulting in an almost immediate struggle to ensure students can access online learning. It is anticipated that 12 million students across the nation lack internet access adequate to support online learning.  Congress must ensure the next COVID-19 funding package include $4 billion in direct funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly called the E-Rate program, to help connect millions of students to the internet so they can continue their education and planning for the possibility of interruptions to classroom teaching and learning during the 2020-2021 school year.  Please review the letter and sign your name to the list, making sure to submit your state and district name. You can read the full letter and sign your name here.
  • Equitable Services
    • AASA is deeply concerned with USED’s flawed interpretation of the CARES Act’s equitable services requirements. We are calling on our members to weigh in with Congress to highlight how USED’s guidance undermines Congress’s goal of targeting CARES Act funds to high-poverty communities. Briefly, USED’s guidance advises local educational agencies to calculate the proportionate share for CARES Act equitable services based on overall enrollment rather than poverty rates. This significantly expands the share of funding available to private schools beyond what they would have gotten under the CARES Act’s plain language. A fuller summary of the current issue is available on the blog. We have created a quick and concise template you can use to let your members of Congress see how the flawed interpretation’s failure to calculate the private school share based on poverty results in a significant increase in private school allocation. All you need to complete the template email is your name, district name, and the percentage of your district’s FY19 (2019-20 school year) Title I and Title II set asides for equitable services. To submit your comments to Congress, please reach out to either your state association or Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org. 
  • AASA COVID Impact Survey
    • As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts specific to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AASA has released the second iteration of our nationwide survey, which will provide data that better illustrates the impact of COVID-19 in schools in terms of the effect of the pandemic itself and the resulting economic downturn. The data from this survey will be used to track how districts are responding to federal and state pressures to re-open schools and deliver equity-based services during the crisis. Moreover, the survey will help detail the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on our nation's public schools. Because of wide members engagement, AASA's last COVID-19 survey received more than 1,600 responses from 48 states and produced valuable data that has been integral in our advocacy efforts on IDEA, the homework gap, and the federal Coronavirus emergency relief legislative packages. You can access the survey here.
  • COVID Federal Funding Priorities Letter
    • You’ll recall that last month we coordinated a sign on letter for the seven local education groups (NEA AFT NSBA NASSP NAESP and the Great City Schools) outlining our funding priorities for the next COVID package. Given the level of engagement individual districts are demonstrating, and requests we have received to support superintendents, we have a draft template letter related to funding priorities for the next COVID-19 package for your use. You can use it for your district, or reach out to other districts in your state/region to get a group sign on, and send the letter to your Congressional delegation. As is always the case, the document is in word format and you can edit/personalize as you see fit for your work and association. 

 

Guest Post: What Will It Take to Stabilize Schools in the Time of COVID-19?

 Permanent link

Guest Post: What Will It Take to Stabilize Schools in the Time of COVID-19?

On Thursday, May 7 LPI posted a blog outlining what it will take to have schools stabilized - with the potential for reopening - during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the key findings outlined in the blog include:

  • At least $230 billion is urgently needed to stabilize state education budgets. This is based on a conservative estimate of a 5% decrease in state funding for education in FY20 and a 20% decrease in FY21 (totaling $188.5 billion) combined with the effects of a select group of increased costs (totaling $41.2 billion).
  • The CARES Act funding – an average of only $286 per student – is nowhere near sufficient to stabilize the k-12 public school system over the next 18 months.
  • While this model does not examine how state cuts will impact individual districts, wealthy districts with high levels of local property tax revenue will be less impacted by the downturn as these revenues are more stable in the short run than income and sales taxes. Low wealth districts that have a greater reliance on state revenue will be hit particularly hard by this recession, as they were in the last recession. These low-wealth districts are the most likely to see the loss of a large number of their programs and teaching positions.
  • At a 20% decrease in state funding alone, we project a loss of more than 450,000 school positions, or 12.2% of the nation’s education workforce, a far larger number than were lost in the last recession.

To read the full blog, click here

 

Equitable Services Call to Action

 Permanent link

Equitable Services Call to Action

AASA is deeply concerned with USED’s flawed interpretation of the CARES Act’s equitable services requirements. We are calling on our members to weigh in with Congress to highlight how USED’s guidance undermines Congress’s goal of targeting CARES Act funds to high-poverty communities.

Briefly, USED’s guidance advises local educational agencies to calculate the proportionate share for CARES Act equitable services based on overall enrollment rather than poverty rates. This significantly expands the share of funding available to private schools beyond what they would have gotten under the CARES Act’s plain language. A fuller summary of the current issue is viewable in the text below.

We have created a quick and concise template you can use to let your members of Congress see how the flawed interpretation’s failure to calculate the private school share based on poverty results in a significant increase in private school allocation. All you need to complete the template email is your name, district name, and the percentage of your district’s FY19 (2019-20 school year) Title I and Title II set asides for equitable services. To submit your comments to Congress, please reach out to either your state association or Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org

BACKGROUND: Equitable Services (ES)

  • Provision is as old as ESEA itself and is the mechanism by which private schools receive services by reserving a share of Title I dollars. It is premised on a simple idea: Title I eligible students are to receive Title I funded support whether they are in private or public schools.
  • Under Title I, the equitable services share is based on poverty (the number of low-income children who live in Title I school attendance areas but attend private schools).
  • The Secretary’s guidance for equitable services as it applies to CARES Act dismantles this focus on targeting supports to areas with concentrated poverty and annihilates the concept of equity
  • How the bulk of CARES Act funding flows under the ESSER fund:
    • From the federal to the state level based on the share each state received of overall Title I funding in FY19 (i.e., you will receive the same share of CARES funding that you did of Title I money in FY19 based on low-income and other Title I formula children).
    • From the state to the local level based on the share each district received of overall Title I funding in FY19 (i.e., you will receive the same share of CARES funding that you did of Title I money in FY19 based on low-income and other Title I formula children). 
    • At the district level, for calculating the equitable services set-aside, count all the kids (public and private) and calculate the CARES funding based on those ratios.
      • This means private schools count all students, not just low-income students, in determining the share of CARES Act funding for equitable services.
  • In talking with USED, we highlight the following:
    • ES is an original provision of Title I of ESEA and has been continually reauthorized in a manner focused on equity and serving students in need
    • CARES Act language is very clear in its intent, stating that ES shall be applied in the same manner as section 1117 of ESSA. (Meaning, driving resources based on poverty.)
    • CARES Act funding is allocated to the state and district level based on Title I allocations, which are driven by poverty rates. Allowing private schools to use a broader, all-encompassing enrollment count without regard to poverty is not only unfair and inconsistent with the way states and locals receive their funding, it is inequitable because high poverty students in public school, are in essence, generating funds for wealthy students in private schools, which is not consistent with 1117 which determines the proportional share for equitable services based on poverty. 
    • We are opposed to this interpretation. We have submitted a letter to USED asking for a revision and are deeply engaged on the hill. Dan issued a joint public statement with Randi Weingarten of AFT on this issue. We are busy collecting numbers to highlight for Capitol Hill what the shift in funding looks like.
    • What does this mean for you? A few things:
    • Technically, this is non-binding guidance. It doesn’t carry the weight of law and you can ignore it. You, as a district, can determine that you want to adhere to section 1117’s method of determining the equitable services share and calculate share based on low-income children that live in Title I attendance areas. (Related, you could have a state that determines they disagree with ED’s guidance and does the run for you in a manner that reflects Title I.) If you pursue this route, there is a chance your state, or USED could decide that they stand by the guidance interpretation and they could issue a monitoring finding or start an audit, which comes with its own set of costs and headaches.
    • Slow roll the process to determine the equitable services share. Given the immense pressure we hope to generate, we are optimistic we can get a revision. Once the equitable service share is determined, it might be difficult to adjust that set-aside level down. If you can buy some time to see how this shakes out, you can avoid this headache. Generally, equitable services must be delivered timely, so that balance should be taken into account.
    • In terms of advocacy: look at your equitable services share percentage for your district and the state overall for both Title I and Title II in FY19 (the current school year). The percentage of the Title II grant set-aside for equitable services is a rough estimation of what the percentage private schools would receive under the CARES Act (but could be even higher).  Title II’s equitable services share is based on overall enrollment, while Title I’s equitable services share is based on poverty.  The difference in the percentage between Title II and Title I is the shift toward private schools under the CARES Act. 
      • Note: The important analysis here is the percentage of the overall grant that was set-aside for Title I vs. Title II equitable services.  Title I is funded at a much higher level than Title II in terms of overall dollars, so the dollar amount will be higher for Title I – but the overall percentage for Title I equitable services is considerable smaller because it is poverty based. Therefore, it is not the dollar amount to report but the percentage of the overall grant (that is, what percentage of the district’s funding was set aside for equitable services in Title I and Title II. THAT is the difference to highlight.)
  • This is a rapidly evolving policy priority. Stay tuned!

 

 

AASA Analysis of Title IX Regulation

 Permanent link

AASA Analysis of Title IX Regulation

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released its long-awaited regulations on Title IX. Unless litigation against the U.S. Department of Education by States is successful in stopping the regulations from going into effect, these regulations must be implemented by districts beginning in August. It’s also important to note that districts can do more than these regulations require—this is the floor, not the ceiling and State laws may supersede federal Title IX requirements in the regs.

Background: AASA opposed the proposed Title IX regulation in 2019 because we believed Title IX compliance in districts was working relatively well, that the Title IX guidance that was the basis for district policies and practices was generally well-understood and executed and that these proposed regulations were unnecessary, costly, and could actually undermine the health and safety of students and their ability to report and seek redress for Title IX violations.

The final regulations have some important changes from the proposed regulations. Specifically:

  • Unlike the proposed regulations, the final regulations allow students in elementary and secondary school can report a Title IX claim to any employee at their school. A district must respond whenever any employee has notice of sexual harassment or allegations of sexual harassment, so there is no need to distinguish among employees who have “authority to redress the harassment,” have the “duty to report” misconduct to appropriate school officials, or employees who “a student could reasonably believe” have that authority or duty.”
  • Schools will be required to ignore all reports of in-school sexual harassment where the student has not yet been "effectively denied" equal access to a school program or activity.
  • The Department has reconsidered the position that a district’s Title IX obligations are triggered whenever employees “should have known” due to the “pervasiveness” of sexual harassment. In the K12 context, the final regulations charge a recipient with actual knowledge whenever any employee has notice. Thus, if sexual harassment is “so pervasive” that some employee “should have known” about it (e.g., sexualized graffiti scrawled across lockers that meets the definition of sexual harassment), it is highly likely that at least one employee did know about it and the school is charged with actual knowledge. There is no reason to retain a separate “should have known” standard to cover situations that are “so pervasive” in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Under the final regs, the district can now investigate Title IX incidents that occur off-campus as long as “the school exercises substantial control over both the respondent and the context in which the sexual harassment occurs.” While it is possible for districts to address sexual misconduct that occurs outside their education programs or activities, they are not required to do so and in some circumstances would be prohibited from investigating these claims. There are also restrictions that would prohibit a district from investigating online sexual harassment.
  • Schools will be required to start an investigation with the presumption that no sexual harassment occurs, so in essence, a student who reports sexual harassment is essentially lying. 
  • The district must notify all students, parents or legal guardians of elementary and secondary school students and employees, the name or title, office address, electronic mail address, and telephone number of the employee or employees designated as the Title IX Coordinator
  • The originally proposed “live hearing” process is not mandatory, but still is an option that a district could choose to utilize as part of it’s Title IX investigative process. With or without a hearing, after the school has sent the investigative report to the parties and before reaching a determination regarding responsibility, the district must afford each party the opportunity to submit written, relevant questions that a party wants asked of any party or witness, provide each party with the answers, and allow for additional, limited follow-up questions from each party.
  • A district can still use the preponderance standard, but may be forced to use the clear and convincing evidence standard, apply the same standard of evidence for formal complaints against students as for formal complaints against employees, including faculty. This is a new and higher standard than what districts used previously.
  • A district must offer both parties the right to appeal the decision.
  • A district may not require the parties to participate in informal resolution and may not offer informal resolution unless a formal complaint is filed. At any time prior to agreeing to a resolution, any party has the right to withdraw from informal resolution and resume the grievance process with respect to the formal complaint.  Schools must not offer or facilitate an informal resolution process to resolve allegations that an employee sexually harassed a student.

On the whole, there are a few positive changes that do make it easier for students to report and districts to have flexibility in managing a Title IX complaint when compared to the proposed regulations. However, we remain convinced that the Title IX regulations would greatly alter some district policies and practices from the 2001 Title IX guidance that district personnel have implemented for almost two decades. The new regulations will require significant new training of districts, create new processes and requirements for managing Title IX complaints, bind the hands of education officials in addressing sexual assault that occurs off-school grounds or online, and increase the likelihood that students will instead pursue formal litigation against districts because their claims are not taken seriously or because they do not meet the standard required to have their complaint investigated by the district. 

Seven National Education Organizations Urge DeVos to Revise Equitable Services Guidance

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Seven National Education Organizations Urge DeVos to Revise Equitable Services Guidance

AASA joined six other national education organizations, representing school district leaders and educators, in a letter to Secretary DeVos urging her to revise the recently released equitable services guidance for the CARES Act.

AASA is concerned that the equitable services guidance is inequitable and generates dollars for wealthy students in private schools at the direct expense of Title I-eligible students in public schools, is in conflict with the historical pillars of equitable services, and is inconsistent with the underlying language of both the CARES Act and ESSA 1117. Read the letter.

Groups signing the letter: 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Education Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National School Boards Association

AASA Spotlight: Member Advocacy

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Spotlight: Member Advocacy

While the AASA advocacy team is working daily with Congress, the administration, and superintendents across the nation to advance our federal policy priorities in response to the COVID pandemic, we would be remiss if we didn’t share some of the great work going on at the local level by school system leaders, all the more impressive when we consider everything going on in terms of keeping schools and remote learning up and running.
 
Today’s highlight comes from the Wauwatosa School District, which serves more than 7,000 students and is located in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Recently, Wauwatosa sent a district resolution to President Trump and Members of Congress urging them to immediately allocate significant and sufficient emergency stabilization aid so that state governments across America can fund their K-12 public schools and prevent furloughs or cuts to K-12 programs. You can check out the resolution by clicking here.

Second AASA COVID-19 Survey

 Permanent link

Second AASA COVID-19 Survey

As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts specific to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AASA has released the second iteration of our nationwide survey, which will provide data that better illustrates the impact of COVID-19 in schools in terms of the effect of the pandemic itself and the resulting economic downturn.
 
The data from this survey will be used to track how districts are responding to federal and state pressures to re-open schools and deliver equity-based services during the crisis. Moreover, the survey will help detail the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on our nation's public schools.
 
AASA's last COVID-19 survey received more than 1,600 responses from 48 states and produced valuable data that has been integral in our advocacy efforts on IDEA, the homework gap, and the federal Coronavirus emergency relief legislative packages. However, we could not have achieved these results without your help. To help us continue elevating the voice of superintendents on Capitol Hill, please take a few moments to complete the survey by clicking here.


 Thank you in advance, and if you have questions, then please email Chris Rogers (crogers@aasa.org).

Guest Post: Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under CARES Act Programs

 Permanent link

Guest Post: Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under CARES Act Programs

The U.S. Department of Education released Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under CARES Act Programs.  

The purpose of this document is to provide information about equitable services for students and teachers in non-public schools under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Public Law 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (March 27, 2020).

Two programs in the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund require a local educational agency (LEA) that receives funds to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools: 

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund) totaling $2,953,230,000 (Section 18002 of the CARES Act). 

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) totaling $13,229,265,000 (Section 18003 of the CARES Act). 

Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under CARES Act Programs Frequently Asked Questions can be found here on the GEER Fund website and here on the ESSER Fund website.  Please note they are the same FAQs for both programs.

The Department will provide additional or updated information as necessary on the Department’s COVID-19 webpage.

 

Best,

The Nat’l Engagement TeamU.S. Department of Education (ED)

Guest Blog Post: The Impact of the COVID-19 Recession on Teaching Positions

 Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: The Impact of the COVID-19 Recession on Teaching Positions

On Thursday, April 30 LPI blog posted today with projections of the likely impact of COVID on the elimination of teaching positions. The blog includes state-level information and different projections based on the percentage of funding cuts. We know these cuts will fall hardest on low-wealth school districts and students of color. Cuts to “teaching positions” also encompasses other positions such as social workers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors which are even more critical at this time. The blog calls for additional significant federal investments to prevent this loss over the next 1-2 years. 

Click the link above to read the full post. 

AASA Leads Letter to CMS Asking for Medicaid Reimbursement Flexibility

 Permanent link

AASA Leads Letter to CMS Asking for Medicaid Reimbursement Flexibility

 Today, AASA along with 18 other national health and education organizations, sent a letter to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare asking  that CMS issue further guidance to States that would enable greater flexibility and efficiency in the delivery of healthcare services, particularly mental health services, to children during this crisis. The letter can be found here.

 

We believe that the ability of providers and districts to respond to the current health crisis and provide essential services would be greatly enhanced by allowing and encouraging States to utilize a cost-based rather than an encounter-based approach to claiming and reimbursement. When schools do re-open, students will enter classrooms with more serious health conditions and multiple, unaddressed health needs that will impede learning. Providers, in turn, will face even larger caseloads and have less time to spend on administrative paperwork.

 

In particular, this flexibility would enable districts of all sizes to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis while ensuring they have the resources needed to provide these critical health services to students.

Department Issues Guidance That Will Redirect Districts CARES Funding to Private Schools and Students

 Permanent link

Department Issues Guidance That Will Redirect Districts CARES Funding to Private Schools and Students

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the provision of equitable services by LEAs that would be required under the $13.5 billion that will be distributed under the CARES Act.  Unfortunately, their interpretation of how districts must support private schools and private school students with CARES funding is totally erroneous and will lead to substantial LEA resources being redirected to private school students and schools.Specifically, the Administration is choosing to dramatically expand the number of private students and schools that qualify for federal dollars based on a very inequitable and inappropriate reading of the law and what is required.

In determining the allocation for LEAs under the CARES Act, the State must look at the # of students in the district and the # of students in poverty. However, the dollars that districts receive can be spent on any population of students in the public school system and for virtually any expense the public school incurred before March 13th.

Under this new guidance, ED has decided that since CARES LEA funding is not limited to Title I students or school-wide activities and can be used on any population of public school students then any private school student and school should be eligible regardless of poverty. What this means is that private schools who have never before sought equitable services and students in private schools who have never before qualified for equitable services resources now are entitled to a proportion of CARES funding.

Like with equitable services, districts will be required to reach out to any and all private schools within their boundaries and say “hey, would you like some of this money? It’s yours. We will give you a slice of dollars based on the total # of kids you educate—don’t worry if none of them are poor.”

The net effect of this guidance is to funnel more resources to private schools regardless of need and to undercut the dollars going to public schools through CARES. We are working with the Department and the Hill to seek changes to the guidance.

If you have questions reach out to Sasha Pudelski at spudelski@aasa.org or Noelle Ellerson Ng at nellerson@aasa.org.

AASA Joins Letter to Congress Requesting $2.6B in Funding for the School Nutrition Programs

 Permanent link

AASA Joins Letter to Congress Requesting $2.6B in Funding for the School Nutrition Programs

This week, AASA joined 30 other organizations in urging Congress to provide $2.6 billion to mitigate the estimated financial loss that school nutrition programs have and will continue to experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Last year, between March and June, school nutrition programs served more than 2.5 billion meals and snacks, receiving over $5 billion in reimbursement. Now according to early reports, programs are serving only a fraction of those meals. This unanticipated loss of revenue has forced programs to tap into fund balances and draw upon lines of credit to sustain their operations.
 
Consequently, as we begin looking at recovery, it is imperative to support these programs through additional reimbursement to district food operations. AASA will continue to push for these funding priorities in the next COVID-19 legislative packages. You can check out the full letter by clicking here.

Rural Community Resource Hub: Addressing COVID in Rural Communities

 Permanent link

Rural Community Resource Hub: Addressing COVID in Rural Communities

AASA is excited to share the Rural Community Resource Hub, a collaboration informed by input from rural school leaders in US. This free resource was developed by Prof. Mara Tieken  at Bates College. The Rural Community Resource Hub is an open, up-to-date resource designed to help & empower rural community leaders addressing #COVID19. It curates resources for families, students & educators and offers internet-based & also no-internet learning activities for kids. 

 Use this hyperlink, please: https://bit.ly/2YeQzCz

 

Funding Available to Districts: FEMA Category B

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Funding Available to Districts: FEMA Category B

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a National Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This action automatically triggered the Public Assistance, Category “B” Emergency Protective Fund, which provides districts with emergency aid for costs associated with managing and responding to the pandemic.
 
Specifically, this fund can only be used to pay for a limited amount of district services, such as emergency operation center costs, training specific to the declared event, and disinfectants. We understand districts are currently trying to budget for sanitation and cleaning costs associated with opening up next year, and we think this money could be particularly helpful for this purpose. Moreover, considering the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provided $400 million in additional FEMA to respond to coronavirus, this emergency aid could theoretically fill a local funding gap for many districts seeking reimbursements for COVID-19 related services.
 
If you're looking to learn more about applying for Category B funding, we recommend that you reach out to your state's emergency operations division or see this FAQ. 

Guest Blog Post: COVID-19 and School Funding: What to Expect and What You Can Do

 Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: COVID-19 and School Funding: What to Expect and What You Can Do

This post was originally published by the Learning Policy Institute.

 

The numbers are staggering. In the past 5 weeks alone, since states began to issue shelter-in-place orders, virtually all 50 states have significantly reduced economic activity in this country, and almost 22 million Americans—more than one in ten working adults—have applied for unemployment insurance. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that this will be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This downturn will impact state tax revenue and thus result in reduced state P-12 education spending. The questions are, how badly will our public education system be affected, and what can we do about it? Read the full post here

AASA Call to Action: Sign Nation Wide Letter Calling on Congress to Address Homework Gap

 Permanent link

AASA Call to Action: Sign Nation Wide Letter Calling on Congress to Address Homework Gap

AASA has drafted a letter, to be sent to all members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action to support all students displaced from their classrooms, and we are aiming to collect as many signatures as possible from all 50 states. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on one of the worst kept secret inequities for today’s students: the homework gap. The pandemic forced more than 55 million students into a remote learning reality, resulting in an almost immediate struggle to ensure students can access online learning. It is anticipated that 12 million students across the nation lack internet access adequate to support online learning. 

Congress must ensure the next COVID-19 funding package include $4 billion in direct funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly called the E-Rate program, to help connect millions of students to the internet so they can continue their education and planning for the possibility of interruptions to classroom teaching and learning during the 2020-2021 school year.  Please review the letter and sign your name to the list, making sure to submit your state and district name.

You can read the full letter and sign your name here

AASA Policy Priorities for Next COVID-19 Package

 Permanent link

AASA Policy Priorities for Next COVID-19 Package

 In a letter to Congress, AASA addresses the next COVID-19 package and specific funding issues within it. The letter address implementation of IDEA, CARES Act funding, Secure Rural Schools’ drawdown reduction and more as AASA pushes for policy flexibility. Read the full letter here

 

Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

 Permanent link

Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

Earlier this week, USED’s Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) released its annual notice to state and local education agencies detailing their obligations related to FERPA and PPRA. The notice also included links to SPPO FERPA-related information in the context of COVID-19. The communication was direct to state chiefs of education via letter, the text of which is below. 

 

 

Dear Chief State School Officers and Superintendents:

I write to you on behalf of the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO), formerly called the Family Policy Compliance Office, of the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to provide the notification required by Section 1061(c)(5)(C) of the No Child Left Behind Act (which amended Section 445 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232h(c)(5)(C)). This notification is required to inform State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs), as recipients of funds under programs administered by the Department, of their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98). FERPA protects the privacy interests and access rights of parents and students in education records maintained by educational agencies and institutions or by persons acting for such agencies or institutions. PPRA affords parents and students with rights concerning specified marketing activities, the administration or distribution of certain surveys to students, the administration of certain physical examinations or screenings to students, and parental access to certain instructional materials including ones used as part of a student’s educational curriculum. This letter serves as the cover letter to the Department’s annual notification, which has not substantively changed since it was last issued and may be accessed at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/annual-notices.

I also write to share the following SPPO resources regarding FERPA during this time of social distancing due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as educational agencies and institutions have transitioned to remote learning to educate their students:  

Finally, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions and PPRA-covered LEAs may wish to review and, if appropriate, revise their policies and procedures, and their notifications under FERPA and PPRA to provide parents and students with information about any revisions necessitated by changes to their operations during this period.  

Specifically, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions should review and, if appropriate, revise: (1) the criteria specified in their annual notification of FERPA rights (in accordance with 34 CFR § 99.7(a)(3)(iii)) as to who constitutes a school official and what constitutes a legitimate educational interest in order to permit the non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records to school officials who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests under the school official exception (i.e., 34 CFR § 99.31(a)(1)); and, (2) their directory information policies under FERPA (i.e., 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.37(a)). Both the directory information and school official exceptions to the general requirement of consent under FERPA are particularly important during this time of remote learning. LEAs most commonly use the school official exception to permit disclosures under FERPA for the use of video or other technology applications and tools. Provided certain conditions are met, the directory information exception permits disclosure of information contained in a student’s education records that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed, such as the student’s name, address, phone number, photo image, and email address, including in connection with remote learning.

 

SPPO encourages LEAs to post on their websites their FERPA and PPRA notifications and policies to improve the transparency of information on student privacy. See https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/lea-website-privacy-review. If your educational institutions are conducting remote learning for your students, we also encourage you to work with your attorneys and information security specialists to review prospective technology applications and tools against FERPA requirements.

 

We are available to assist you with your student privacy questions about FERPA and PPRA. You may contact us by submitting your questions to our student privacy help desk at FERPA@ed.gov.

 

 

Sincerely,  

Kala Surprenant

Acting Director 

Student Privacy Policy Office

AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

 Permanent link

AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

In an effort to close the “homework gap” more than 50 education and related national associations are lining up behind new legislation calling for an additional $2 billion in emergency funding to help students without high speed internet access continue learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Legislation, proposed by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) would use the funds through the FCC’s E-rate Program for parents to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers, and other internet connected devices.

Schools in every state are closed with several of them announcing they will not reopen this year at all. “Time is of the essence to provide remote and distance learning support,” they wrote. “An estimated 9 to 12 million students and some of their teachers currently lack home internet access and are unable to participate in their classes that have been moved online.” This legislation would do just that.

Click here to read the letter sent to House Leadership regarding connectivity issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

AASA's Daniel Domenech Responds to Guidance to 'Reopen America'

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

AASA's Daniel Domenech Responds to Guidance to 'Reopen America'

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement in response to the latest guidance from administration relating to reopening America:

“The CDC and FEMA are to be commended for their work to achieve a balanced approach in their guidance to reopening America, with the important and appropriate deference to state and local leaders, who are working day in and day out to guide their states through the pandemic and toward a post-COVID reality.

“With a goal of reopening the economy, this guidance focuses on businesses and is premised on the idea that states have the capacity to both readily test people for the highly contagious COVID and trace their contacts to monitor spread, a premise that does not match reality.

“Specific to what this guidance means for schools, it is an unfortunate continuation of information that appears to be clear and concise but when applied to the context of schools, is inconsistent and incongruous, at best. While we appreciate the deference to state and local leadership, when it comes to decisions about whether to open or close schools, state and local education leaders rely on the information and experience they have in running school districts day to day, and make any operational decisions beyond that perspective—like those necessary in the context of an unprecedented pandemic—by relying on experts.

“In this case, state and local education leaders are looking to the federal government for guidance that is clear, concise and applicable, not guidance that leaves them scratching their heads and wondering, ‘But what does that really mean for schools?’. An excellent example is the continued reliance on the recommendation to avoid social settings with more than 50 people and that large venues can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols. The average American public school will far exceed 50 people—including staff and students—every single day.

“In the same breath that the guidance highlights a path forward in opening schools, it establishes a scenario where every single school would be in direct conflict with another recommendation. We are not asking the federal government for a prescriptive mandate or script on how and when to open schools, but we are asking them to use the expertise inherent to their policy experts to ensure the guidance they draft is informative and actionable, empowering state and local leaders to implement it with minimal confusion and with confidence in the science behind it.  

“It is clear that we are all working toward the same goal, a safe return to economic and academic normalcy as soon as possible, and we call on the administration to continue to improve its guidance to be clear, concise and actionable at every level.”   

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (4 of 4)

 Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (4 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)

COVID RESOURCESblogs and webinars

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (3 of 4)

 Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (3 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  

 COVID RESOURCES info

  • AASA’s COVID Resources  HERE
  • CDC Landing page for guidance for schools/child care programs  HERE
  • US Education Department
    • COVID landing page HERE
    • FactSheet on Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs HERE
    • Guidance Documents Related to Perkins CTE: Two different Q&A documents related to Perkins CTE, here and here.
    • CARES Act information
  • Tracking COVID Waivers
  • State Level Runs of CARES Funding: The Congressional Research Service shared a report detailing approximate allocations for each state as it relates to the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund.
  • Student Privacy During the COVID-19 Pandemic PDF
  • Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic: A Resource for School Superintendents WORD
  • Considerations for Special Education Administrators LINK
  • Mapping Resource Equity, Segregation, and COVID-19 Incidence Rates: EdBuild has updated its Dividing Lines dataset and mapping tool to place county-level coronavirus incidence rates in context of data on student poverty, racial demographics, and per pupil school district revenue.
  • COVID-19 State Legislative Responses: The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking all education-related legislation introduced in statehouses nationwide. This tool allows you to sort by state to see what state legislators have introduced to respond to the current crisis. The majority of state bills, to this point, deal with state education appropriations
State and Local Responses to COVID: Sharing a great resource for helping track and compare what governments are doing at the city, county, and state level to combat the coronavirus and COVID-19.

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (2 of 4)

 Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (2 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  

Congressional Action to Date (3 bills completed, one currently under negotiation)

  • HR 6074, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (March 6, 2020)
    • $8.3B emergency package
    • 3x request from White House.
    • Includes $2.2B to help federal, state, and local health agencies prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
  • HR 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (March 18, 2020)
    • Nutrition Provisions
      • $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to provide nutrition assistance for children and their mothers who have lost their jobs as a result of the outbreak.
      • $400 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to help local food banks meet increased need for low-income Americans.
      • $100 million for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. 
      • A provision that allows the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans to provide emergency Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price school meals in the event that their school is closed (The MEAL Act).
      • Gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to approve state waivers addressing nutrition assistance with school closures even if it increases cost to the federal government.
      • Provisions to allow child and adult care centers to serve food to go, allow the Secretary of Agriculture to waive meal pattern requirements in child nutrition programs if there is a disruption in food supply, and allow the Secretary of Agriculture to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the emergency.
      • Allows participants to be certified for WIC without being physically present at a WIC clinic.
      • Suspends work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the emergency.
      • Allows states to request waivers for emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing SNAP households up to the maximum monthly allotment.
    • Health Provisions
      • Provides free COVID-19 testing to all Americans, regardless of insurance.
      • Medicaid and CHIP, which cover over 45 million children between the two programs, will cover diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider visit to receive testing, with no cost to the patient.
      • Increases states' federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for public health programs like Medicaid and CHIP for the duration of the emergency. 
      • Increases Medicaid allotments for U.S. Territories.
      • The bill ensures that American Indians and Alaskan Natives do not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing.
    • Paid Sick Leave, Unemployment Insurance, and Family and Medical Leave Provisions
      • Provides employees of employers with under 500 employees the right to two weeks of fully-paid leave when they are sick, or two weeks of paid leave at 2/3 of their normal rate to care for a family member.
      • Provides employees of employers with under 500 employees the right to take up to 12-weeks of job-protected leave.
      • Provides $1 billion in 2020 emergency grants to states to meet the increased need for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.
      • Provides several tax breaks for employers who give their employees mandatory paid leave during the emergency.
  • S 3548 CARES Act (March 25)
    • Funding for Schools and Children (Details)
      • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program;
      • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to ensure students receive meals when school is not in session;
      • $3.5 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide child-care subsidies to low-income families and can be used to augment state and local systems;
      • $750 million for Head Start early-education programs;
      • $100 million in Project SERV grants to help clean and disinfect schools, and provide support for mental health services and distance learning;
      • $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education; and
      • $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and day-care facilities.
      • The $13.5 billion in stabilization fund money could be used to provide K-12 students internet connectivity and internet-connected devices, and a separate item in the bill for rural development provides $25 million to support "distance learning."
    • Using CARES Act Funding
      • Under the CARES Act, States and districts are set to receive $13.2 billion for K-12 in the CARES Act. The money must be spent by September 2021 although it’s not clear whether the funding can be directed at costs already incurred related to the pandemic (but that is our hope). There is an urgent push by Governors to expedite the process for moving these funds to districts which AASA supports, but it still could be at least two months before they show up in districts’ coffers. Once the funds are out here is how you can use them:
        • Any activity authorized in ESSA, IDEA and Perkins CTE
        • To coordinate with public health departments to prevent, prepare and respond to COVID-19
        • To address the unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English-learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless and foster care youth
        • PD for staff on sanitation and minimizing spread of pandemic and purchasing supplies to clean and sanitize buildings
        • Planning for and coordinating long-term closures including how to do meal services, how to provide tech/online learning, how to carry out IDEA, etc.
        • Providing mental health services/supports
        • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months, and addressing the needs of vulnerable children
        • Any other activity necessary to maintain the operation and continuity to employ existing staff 
    • Waiver Authority Under CARES
      • DeVos’ waiver authority as provided in CARES is addition to the expedited waiver process DeVos announced for assessments earlier in March. This package includes waiver flexibility for states to get waivers on accountability (related to publicly reporting various indicators under their accountability systems, as well as waivers from reporting on progress toward their long-term achievement goals, and interim goals under ESSA and waivers to freeze in place their schools identified for improvement. No schools would be added to the list, and no schools would be removed from the list for the 2020-21 school year, under this expedited waiver process. There is no additional language related to IDEA flexibility; that remains the huge, bruising conversation we are having with the hill. There are also a handful of waivers available at the state and local level re flexibility from sections of ESSA related to funding mandates. SEAs/LEAs can seek a waiver:
      • from ESSA's requirement for states to essentially maintain their education spending in order to tap federal funds. 
      • to make it easier to run schoolwide Title I programs regardless of the share of low-income students in districts and schools. 
      • from requirements governing Title IV Part A, which funds programs aimed at student well-being and well-rounded achievements. Caps on spending for different priority areas would be lifted, and schools would no longer be barred from spending more than 15 percent of their Title IV money on digital devices. 
      • to carry over as much Title I money as they want from this academic year to the next one; normally there's a 15 percent limit. 
      • from adhering to ESSA's definition of professional development. 
    • Accessing CARES Funding
      • As of April 13: The U.S. Department of the Treasury launched a web portal to allow eligible State, local, and tribal governments to receive payments to help offset the costs of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Once registered through this portal, States, territories, and the District of Columbia will receive promptly half of the funds allocated to them pursuant to the CARES Act. This will fast-track the availability of $71 billion to meet immediate cash flow needs. The remaining balance of the payment amounts due to States, eligible local governments, and tribal governments will be paid no later than April 24, 2020. Read full press release here.
  • Currently being negotiated: CARES 2.0 / COVID 4
    • Top Priorities: moving forward, we are prioritizing a significant infusion of funding for schools (check out the joint letter with our priorities, signed by a dozen national organizations) as well as a call for narrow, time-limited flexibility for IDEA (Details/call to action below).
    • IDEA Call to Action: Congress Must Grant Narrow, Temporary IDEA Flexibility NOW
      • In light of the hardship districts are experiencing in trying to educate all students during a pandemic, we call on Congress to provide practical, narrow flexibility in how districts meet some of the requirements under IDEA. If your district is struggling to meet IDEA mandates, we urge you to take a moment to email the education staff on Capitol Hill and ask them to ensure the next COVID-19 relief package contains sensible flexibility for IDEA.
      • Please send an action alert to your full Congressional delegation today using AASA’s Action Alert System. You simply input your address and they will direct you to the appropriate Rep/Senators for you to email and supply a template email for you to use. Or you can download a list of all the education staffers for your Congressional delegation and email them individually here. We urge you to make your advocacy more impactful by personalizing this email and adding a paragraph describing the issues your district is specifically facing in complying with IDEA. 

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (1 of 4)

 Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (1 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports) 
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  
  • 12/1 through 1/11: First case and death reported in Wuhan, China.
  • 1/12 through 1/31:  Cases spread across Asia ahead of/during the Lunar New Year.; US and South Korea confirm first cases; World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 an international public health emergency
  • 2/1 through 2/19: Virus spreads across Asia and Europe; US cases begin to grow.
  • 2/21 through 2/29:  Italy confirms first few cases and infection count surges to 655 within a week; US reports first death; WHO raises threat of COVID-19 global outbreak to ‘Very High’
  • 3/1 through 3/6: US cases continue to grow; Congress passes 1st emergency COVID supplemental  
  • 3/7 through 3/14: WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic; Trump declares a national emergency; Congress passes 2nd emergency COVID supplemental
  • 3/15 through 3/27: Wuhan, China reports no new cases (hits peak) as virus makes its way across Africa. Countries begin announcing widespread closure of businesses, schools, etc. and cancelling/postponing large events.  Congress passes 3rd emergency COVID supplemental (CARES Act)
  • April 16: CDC and FEMA Issue Guidance on Reopening Schools: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are creating guidance for state and local governments on how to begin reopening institutions such as schools, parks, and restaurants once the pandemic settles down. The draft document also calls for an increase in the manufacturing of testing kits and personal protective equipment, and notes that hand-washing and wearing face masks will still be essential to implement phased reopenings. According to officials, Trump wants a final plan ready in the next few days so some states can reopen May 1st. “The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized,” Trump said at a White House briefing. UPDATE: That guidance is available here. Read related EdWeek analysis

WEBINAR OPPORTUNITIES: Managing Resources Effectively in a Time of COVID-19

 Permanent link

WEBINAR OPPORTUNITIES: Managing Resources Effectively in a Time of COVID-19

AASA’s advocacy team is pleased to share this webinar series, focusing on how districts can manage resources in response to the COVID pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. These webinar opportunities are offered by our friends at WestEd.

 

Every day there is a new bundle of headlines about the devastating impact of the coronavirus on some aspect of American life. In recent weeks, more and more of those headlines foreshadow the economic and financial implications for the country, including public schools. And, there is truth in the growing and potentially severe consequences that this public health crisis will have on school district budgets. Precipitated by historical unemployment claims, rapidly declining consumer spending, the vast majority of the country’s economy slowed to a halt. The forecasts for state revenue availability in the upcoming fiscal year are increasingly grim with each passing day.

 

Join finance experts from WestEd for a Spring 2020 webinar series that will unpack more deeply the implications of these headlines on school district/charter budgets in the upcoming fiscal year. The series will explore the unique features of this potential economic recession, how it may impact the state and local education response, and how other funding sources such as the federal CARES Act can help. Experts will also offer concrete, practical advice for practitioners to navigate some of the vital decision-making that will be necessary to ensure that school systems are able to remain focused on supporting students and still balance their budgets.

 

Managing Resources Effectively in Response to COVID-19

Date/Time: Tuesday, April 21, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

The webinar will provide an overview of the economic and fiscal impact of COVID-19 on education budgets and of the allowable uses of CARES Act funding and highlight key fiscal considerations for education resources, including ensuring continuity of service and directing funds to those students with the greatest need. Register

 

Resource Planning for Students with Disabilities through the COVID-19 Pandemic: Balancing Legal Obligations and Available Resources to Maintain Student Progress

Date/Time: Tuesday, April 28, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

 

Maintaining the provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) through the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures has challenged many school systems. In addition, districts are faced with complex fiscal requirements attached to federal and state funding for special education including maintenance of effort and excess cost requirements. This webinar will: provide guidance on how to manage resource identification and allocation to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are appropriately addressed while balancing the need to meet legal requirements and highlight opportunities to maximize resources to improve outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities. Register

Blending and Braiding Funds to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 on the Most Vulnerable Students
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 5, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

 

The students most likely to experience academic slide due to COVID-19 school closures are students who are eligible for services under multiple programs including federal Title and IDEA funds, and state funds set aside for vulnerable populations. Blending and braiding these and other funding streams is a strategy to more effectively leverage multiple funding streams toward a common goal to supporting students with the greatest need. The webinar will: define and provide parameters for allowable uses of blending and braiding strategies for multiple federal, state, and local funding streams to support programs or initiatives aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and highlight key opportunities for blending and braiding recovery funding provided under the CARES Act to optimize the use of these funds to support students and close gaps created by COVID-19 school closures. Register

 

 

Please join us!  There will be opportunities for further follow-up offered, such as PLCs with WestEd finance consultation regarding response planning, facilitated peer-to-peer sharing of information and strategies.

AASA Joins 11 Groups in Joint Letter for Funding Priorities in Next COVID Supplemental

 Permanent link

AASA Joins 11 Groups in Joint Letter for Funding Priorities in Next COVID Supplemental

Earlier this month, AASA joined 11 other national education organizations in a letter to Congress outlining our funding priorities for COVID-4. The asks exceed more than $200 billion and call for investments in the education stabilization fund, Title I, IDEA, E-Rate, and infrastructure. Read the letter here

 

New Maps Detail District-Level Budgets for State and Federal Share

 Permanent link

New Maps Detail District-Level Budgets for State and Federal Share

When it comes to school district budgets, the funding that helps support the nation’s public schools comes from a combination of federal, state and local dollars. Just as no two school districts are the same, neither are their budgets, whether in terms of their funding priorities or—relevant to this blog post—the proportion of the budget covered by federal and state dollars. That is, some districts are more reliant on federal dollars than others, while still more are disproportionately reliant on local dollars. Local dollars are largely driven by property taxes, meaning that affluent communities have more local dollars, making them less reliant on state dollars. Related, because many state funding dollars are targeted to areas of need to help level the playing field, poorer areas receive a larger share of state dollars.

 

Why is this relevant now? As the COVID pandemic sweeps the nations, shuttering school districts across the nation, it is also bringing the broader economy—and the revenue it generates at the state, local and federal level—to a grinding halt. With most state revenues coming from income and sales taxes—both in rapid decline with people being laid off and people spending less—states are bracing for significant reductions in state funding levels. Including those for education.

 

States have tough decisions to make in light of these budget pressures, and there are two specific to education we want to highlight: they have to decide how much to cut from education in general (HINT: education should not be cut disproportionately; that is, when the cuts are in place, education should still represent at least the same share of the overall budget that it did before the cuts) and they have to decide which education programs to cut (that is, the age-old question of whether they should cut equity-centric programs or start with streams that are primarily in place to help level the playing field). How states answer these questions will 100% impact schools, and the intricacies were part of an article in Chalkbeat last week:

  • The major cause of the looming school budget crisis: state tax revenue is cratering.
  • Since high-poverty districts are more reliant on state funds, they’re at risk of deeper budget cuts.
  • Because state dollars are more at risk, the economic downturn could hit low-income students and their schools the hardest.

 

The decisions made by policymakers will have real impacts on communities, a reality that is true for both federal and state policy. Specific to funding, it is both the overall amount of what is cut as well as the specifics of which program are cut that will ultimately reveal the full impact to individual communities.

 

In 2013, as the federal government acted to implement the blunt budget cuts of sequestration, AASA shared a map detailing the hugely inequitable impact of a cut that prioritized so-called ‘fairness’ by virtue of being ‘equal’ by being one flat rate for all programs. The reality of the ‘across the board’ cuts was that some states and districts felt the cuts much more acutely than others. Sure, the idea of ‘everyone take a 5% cut’ seems fair, but the reality is far different: a 5% cut to federal funding when federal dollars are just 10% of your budget is very different than a 5% cut to federal funding when federal dollars are 50% of your budget. As I wrote in 2013: “…it must be noted that the so‐called ‘across‐the‐board’ nature of sequestration is anything but in schools. Each district has its own operating budget which includes a share of federal education dollars. Through a combination of factors including poverty, local/state budget capacity, and state/local investment in education, the federal dollars represent a varying ‘share’ of the overall budget1 such that some districts will feel to allegedly ‘flat’ cut of 5.2 percent much more aggressively than other districts. That is, relatively robust districts—where federal dollars represent less than 8 percent of the overall budget—will be applying the sequester cuts to a smaller portion of the overall budget than their higher‐ poverty districts, where federal dollars can represent upwards of 50, 60 or 70 percent of the operating budget. Five percent of 8 percent, while damaging, is much less harmful than 5 percent of 60 percent. Low‐ wealth (higher‐poverty) districts generally have a larger share of their funding coming from the federal level. The sequester cuts will disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable students in the most vulnerable districts, anything but ‘across‐the‐board.” Check out the map in that report; it shows, at the district level, the share of each district’s budget that came from federal dollars; it is a clear illustration of how cuts will disproportionately impact different communities.

 

Which brings us to today’s post: We’ve updated the maps to reflect each school district’s budget in terms of its reliance on state dollars, as well as on federal dollars. Why? Well, we’ve already seen a significant investment in schools via the CARES Act and can reasonably expect additional investment via subsequent emergency funding packages. While the statutes are very clear that large portions of the education funds are intended for the local level—and we know that states will pass those dollars through to the local level—we are very concerned that ultimately, states will make cuts to state education funding, rendering the federal emergency dollars as back-stops to state cuts, leaving school districts to feel no discernable difference from the federal dollars. This shell game is not a case of crying wolf; it was a well-documented reality under ARRA that state cuts to budgets in response to the economic downturn resulted in local school districts feeling little to no relief from the federal dollars intended to provide help.

 

Any federal emergency funding for school districts must both include and enforce policy related to state maintenance of effort and state ‘supplement, not supplant’. This is NOT to say that states should be prohibited from making budget cuts. To the contrary: unlike the federal government, state and local budgets are often required to ‘balance’, meaning that in light of precipitously declining revenues, they need to reduce expenditures (ie, make cuts). What MUST happen, though, is that states must ensure that they do not cut education disproportionately. That is, after the cuts are in place, education funding must represent at least the same overall share of the state budget that it did before the cuts were in place. The idea that states should ‘get a pass’ on investing in education because of significant funding pressures is naïve, and a slap in the face to local schools: the same fiscal pressures slowing state economies will also slow local economies. Giving states cart blanche when it comes to education cuts leaves local school districts holding the purse: states use the federal dollars to keep their budgets closer to ‘whole’ while locals are left grappling with both state and local cuts.  In addition to including and enforcing maintenance of effort and supplement/supplant provisions, there are other considerations the federal government could include (Scroll to the last section).

 

These maps highlight—and allow us to predict with some accuracy—which districts will be most impacted by state cuts, especially if Congress fails to protect its COVID emergency response dollars for education by holding states accountable for not disproportionately cutting education within their budgets. Landing Page: School District Revenue & Expenditure Patterns, FY 2017

 

About the map maker: Warren Glimpse/ProximityOne (wglimpse@proximityone.com) has developed several national scope map views showing patterns of school district FY 2017 (latest available on a national scale) revenues by source (federal, state, local). These maps show the percent of state and federal revenue for FY 2017 by school district.  The Web page http://proximityone.com/sdfa17.htm features the map views with more detail.  That page also includes an interactive table where sources and uses of funds may be viewed/analyzed by individual district, groups of districts or all districts.  Data are based on an annual survey of public elementary and secondary education systems, mostly school districts, conducted by the Census Bureau under sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Education. The survey covers all U.S. school districts. These data are reported by school districts. They are not estimates subject to estimation error. However, financial data reporting and categorization differs from state to state. As a result, some data cells show as zero while in fact the data for that cell is included in another category, such as "Other." Data shown in these table were developed by merging the Census-sourced "F-33" data with the Census-sourced 2017-18 school year school district geographic reference/boundary file using the Federal school district code. There is not a 1-to-1 match between these codes. Where total revenue shows as 0 (228 districts) the F-33 financial data are not available.

New Tool: USDA Summer Food Service Rural Designation Map

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

New Tool: USDA Summer Food Service Rural Designation Map

As more districts continue to face challenges in delivering school meals because of COVID-19, USDA has launched a new tool to help state agencies, local program operators,  and sponsors to determine if a proposed site may be designated as rural to receive additional funding under the Summer Food Service Program. You can access the tool by clicking here.  
 
To use the map, enter the address of the proposed site in the “Find Address or Place” box located on the right side of the screen. By pressing enter, the map will zoom to the location specified, where a location colored purple indicates a non-rural area and a location unshaded, meaning not colored purple, indicates it is rural.

AASA Responds to OMB Proposal on Poverty Measure

 Permanent link

AASA Responds to OMB Proposal on Poverty Measure

AASA submitted formal comments in opposition to the Administration’s recent proposal to change the poverty measure by submitting comments against the proposal. Any changes to how we define poverty have particularly significant implications for children, who disproportionately experience poverty in our society. Changes to the poverty measure will inform and impact policy and budget choices, including standards to determine eligibility for benefits that are critical to children’s healthy development, such food assistance, housing vouchers, health benefits, and more. You can read AASA’s comments here

ED Releases New Factsheet On Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs

 Permanent link

ED Releases New Factsheet On Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs

The Department will be releasing a series of factsheets related to how federal expenditures will be addressed during COVID-19. This factsheet focuses on how to pay for employees whose positions are funded by federal funding as well as how travel and events that are non-refundable and paid for with federal funding should be addressed.

 

Unpacking the CARES Act Funding

 Permanent link

Unpacking the CARES Act Funding

Under the CARES Act, States and districts are set to receive $13.2 billion for K-12 in the CARES Act. The money must be spent by September 2021 although it’s not clear whether the funding can be directed at costs already incurred related to the pandemic (but that is our hope). There is an urgent push by Governors to expedite the process for moving these funds to districts which AASA supports, but it still could be at least two months before they show up in districts’ coffers.

Once the funds are out here is how you can use them:

  1. Any activity authorized in ESSA, IDEA and Perkins CTE
  2. To coordinate with public health departments to prevent, prepare and respond to COVID-19
  3. To address the unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English-learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless and foster care youth
  4. PD for staff on sanitation and minimizing spread of pandemic and purchasing supplies to clean and sanitize buildings
  5. Planning for and coordinating long-term closures including how to do meal services, how to provide tech/online learning, how to carry out IDEA, etc.
  6. Providing mental health services/supports
  7. Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months, and addressing the needs of vulnerable children
  8. Any other activity necessary to maintain the operation and continuity to employ existing staff 

ED has developed a streamline waiver that provides even more flexibility to States to waive how they spend their existing money, which could allow schools to spend more of the federal dollars on technology for distance learning. That said, we would prefer the funding for ed-tech to come from the E-Rate program and are requesting $2 billion in additional E-Rate funding in the next stimulus package to ensure districts can attempt to close the homework gap. 

Two AASA and ASBO Webinars: FRAC (April 7) and USDA (April 16)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Two AASA/ASBO Webinars: FRAC (April 7) and USDA (April 16)

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on district food service operations, AASA and the Association of School Business Officials, are holding two webinars that will help Educational leaders impacted by COVID-19 provide students with access to healthy and nutritious meals.
  • The first webinar on April 7 – Feeding Students During COVID-19 – will focus on best practices, tools, and resources school districts are currently leveraging to feed children, and feature presentations from nutritional experts from the Food Research Action Committee. You can register by clicking here.
  • The second webinar on April 16 – USDA COVID-19 School Waivers – featured a presentation from USDA Food Nutritional Service Child Nutrition Branch Chief for School Meals, Tina Namian, and focused on the Department’s latest round of federal school meal waivers available to districts closed because of COVID-19. Check out a recording of the conversation by clicking here. Also, you can view the slide deck for the webinar by clicking here.
 

AASA COVID-19 School Response Study

 Permanent link

AASA COVID-19 School Response Study

Today, April 6, 2020, AASA, published its full COVID-19 School Response Study. While the report was not experimental and didn't employ random sampling, the survey garnered a total of 1,608 responses from a sample of AASA members from 48 states, which consisted of superintendents, associate superintendents, aspiring superintendents, and other school system leaders.  
 
Specifically, the studies' data show preliminary findings from the 32-question survey instrument and categorizes responses by (1) district and respondent characteristics (i.e. state, size, geographic location, etc.), (2) school districts’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and (3) the fiscal impact of COVID-19. We hope this resource will serve as a data source that informs our members, state and federal policymakers, and others looking to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s schools and communities. Click here to read the full report. 
 

CMS Guidance for Billing Medicaid During COVID-19

(WELL-BEING, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

CMS Guidance for Billing Medicaid During COVID-19

We just received an official bulletin from CMS that contains some very important information for districts that are billing Medicaid during the pandemic. Specifically, the bulletin answers questions about RMTS, which I have excerpted below.

Overall, we understand that States are getting considerable flexibility from CMS with regards to the delivery and reimbursement for school-based Medicaid services. For example, States are getting permission to use RMTS data averaged over two quarters for this quarter or are being allowed to use last quarter’s RMTS data for this quarter. Some are still requiring time studies, but doing so on a much more limited basis.

Beyond waivers, several states have passed emergency rules that clarify that the provision of Medicaid reimbursable special education services can be done via any modality for reimbursement except text or email. This is also very helpful and allows districts to continue maximizing their reimbursement.

On the whole, it appears CMS is granting whatever flexibility States are asking for, so if districts in your state require additional flexibility for Medicaid reimbursement they should be talking with their SEAs and State Medicaid offices and asking for it.

 

Third Party Questions and CMS Responses

If school is in session but being conducted remotely, for the purposes of the Random Moment Time Study (RMTS) used in allocating Medicaid administrative cost, please confirm that eligible RMTS school staff may continue to respond to their sampled RMTS moment indicating their activity for their sampled date and time (even if they were working remotely).

Yes, even though the participant is working remotely, he or she may respond to the sampled RMTS moment.

For those individuals sampled for the RMTS who are not working, please confirm that the state or school district can report the time as paid or unpaid time not working.

For those individuals who are sampled, but are not working, the sample moment should be coded to paid time not working if they are salaried, or unpaid time if they are furloughed without pay or in some other unpaid status at the time of the sample moment.  The moments that are coded to paid time not working should be reallocated across the other activity codes and a portion of the costs recognized.

The current Medicaid Administrative Claiming (MAC) Plan provides guidance for a situation when 85% percent RMTS compliance isn’t reached, by allowing moments to be coded as non-Medicaid until compliance is reached.  However, the plan also requires individual districts to reach 85 percent RMTS participation or potentially incur penalties and/or non-participation in claiming. Would CMS be willing to NOT impose individual district penalties while the school districts are working remotely during the pandemic?

We recognize that RMTS overall staff participation may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the timeframe of the declared Public Health Emergency, CMS would not ask states to impose any individual district penalties for districts that do not reach 85 percent RMTS participation.  States could modify the MAC Plan to temporarily suspend this requirement during the public health emergency.

Important Resources on Student Data Privacy during COVID-19

 Permanent link

Important Resources on Student Data Privacy during COVID-19

Our friends at the Future of Privacy Forum wanted us to flag the following resources for school leaders on student data privacy that may be helpful to be aware of right now.

 

FPF published a wiki of COVID-19 privacy resources that includes official guidance from government agencies around the world, best practices, and emerging solutions (including links with tips on employees working remotely).

The Department of Education released several excellent resources:

FERPA and Virtual Learning (1-page list of resources)

FERPA and Virtual Learning webinar slides and recording

FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019

CoSN released this resource on cybersecurity in the COVID-19 era for their members.  

MS Global webinar this Friday: Considerations when Using Virtual Meetings for K-12 Remote Learning

AASA Partners with National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) for COVID Webinar

 Permanent link

AASA Partners with National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) for COVID Webinar

Join us and our friends at NAPT for an advocacy update on what the latest COVID emergency supplemental means for education. Many are saying the $2+ Trillion stimulus package the president signed into law last Friday is a game-changer for a national economy decimated by the novel coronavirus.  But, how does it affect education?  Join us on Wednesday (4/1/20) at 12Noon ET for a special one-hour webinar and learn what the CARES Act includes for education, how these provisions and their related appropriations will impact school systems across the country, and when you can expect to see and feel the impact at the local level. To participate, visit https://zoom.us/j/812217675 Meeting ID: 812 217 675

Report of Initial Findings: COVID Impact on Public Schools

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Report of Initial Findings: COVID Impact on Public Schools

Earlier this month, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the nation and forcing the shutdown and response of school districts nation-wide, AASA launched a nation-wide survey of superintendents to gather real time data on how schools are responding, the information and resources they are relying on and still need, and to begin to understand what the long-term policy implications for state and federal policy makers will be as they consider how to best support school districts.  As an indication of the relevancy of this report, our survey garnered more than 1,600 responses from 48 states during the week of March 13 to March 25. The initial findings are summarized here.

USDA Offers Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents & Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

USDA Offers Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents & Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

Today, March 26, 2020, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a nationwide waiver that will enable districts - in a state with an approved waiver for non-congregate meal distribution - to serve meals to a parent/guardian without a child being present. 
 
This announcement comes as a welcome relief for school system leaders, as many districts have reported that current regulations are hampering efforts to feed all students. While this is a win for students, families, and public schools, AASA will continue advocating for additional flexibilities under the federal school meals programs. Check out the full details by clicking here. 

AASA Urges USDA to Issue Broad Waivers to Provide Administrative Flexibilities Under the School Meals Programs

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Urges USDA to Issue Broad Waivers to Provide Administrative Flexibilities Under the School Meals Programs

Yesterday, March 25, 2020, AASA joined 51 organizations in sending a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture, requesting that the agency issue additional nationwide waivers to ensure access to meals during the COVID-19 pandemic and ease the administrative burden on school districts and state child nutrition agencies.
 
This move comes in response to USDA's failure to use newly authorized authority to waive the area eligibility requirement, reimburse all meals at the free rate, ensure parents can pick up meals without a child being present, extend the community eligibility provision deadlines, and issue-specific guidance on how school nutritional professionals can stay safe while feeding students. You can check out the letter by clicking here
 
Moving forward, AASA will continue to advocate for additional administrative flexibilities to ensure school system leaders can continue serving students nutritious meals. Stay tuned to get the latest updates on this continuously evolving issue.
 

Senate Passes $2T Stimulus Package

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Senate Passes $2T Stimulus Package

Today, on March 26, 2020, the Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. AASA will have a full analysis of the CARES Act once it passes the House (vote expected Friday). In the meantime, here is a preliminary rundown of what to expect, in terms of education, from the massive deal.The $13.5 billion earmarked for K-12 schools is included in the bill's Education Stabilization Fund, which also contains $14.25 billion for higher education and $3 billion for governors to use at their discretion to assist K-12 and higher education as they deal with the fallout from the virus. The legislation also states that any state or school district getting money from the stabilization fund "shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus." Beyond the SFSF funds, the CARES Act includes:

  • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program;
  • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to help ensure students receive meals when school is not in session;
  • $3.5 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide child-care subsidies to low-income families and can be used to augment state and local systems;
  • $750 million for Head Start early-education programs;
  • $100 million in Project SERV grants to help clean and disinfect schools, and provide support for mental health services and distance learning;
  • $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education; and
  • $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and day-care facilities. 

Other Items to Note:

  • State Funding Shell Game: Brace yourselves. The bill, as currently drafted, includes language that would allow states to apply for a waiver for their maintenance of effort compliance. Meaning that while the federal funds would roll to the local level, they wouldn’t feel like relief because the state would be able to make cuts in state funding. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is; this shell game was widely documented in the 2009 ARRA package. The broad MOE waiver flexibility was not in the original senate bill and we are concerned and disappointed. This continues to double down on the fiscal burden schools face as states can pursue flexibility and LEAs are left on the hook to cover the shortfall.
  • Funding for Internet Access: The proposal misses the mark. It makes teleconnectivity and allowable use of the broader fund, and failed to instead direct funding directly through the already existing ERate program. We will look to ameliorate this in COVID 4 (already being debated). This is a nice gesture, but is not a win for students caught in the homework gap. The competing needs of those funds are so great that there is no way to ensure these students needs will be met. And, a new program will have to be created by Dept. of Ed and will DELAY any potential help. In addition, going this route, the guardrails are off and will be so broad (software, hardware, etc.) that the vendors, companies will be out in full force (a concern we always have and deal with re E-rate allowable use/tech eligibility). It is not lost on us that ALL the major national education organizations in the country have been calling for a dedicated fund via the E-rate for a while now because it is an existing program that can be adjusted quickly, our schools know it, we can ensure that schools are able to get students what they need (and not more than they need), and the E-rate program works.
  • Waiver Authority :DeVos’ waiver authority is reigned in from the sweeping language in the original proposal. This is in addition to the expedited waiver process DeVos announced for assessments in the last week. This package includes waiver flexibility for states to get waivers on accountability (related to publicly reporting various indicators under their accountability systems, as well as waivers from reporting on progress toward their long-term achievement goals, and interim goals under ESSA and waivers to freeze in place their schools identified for improvement. No schools would be added to the list, and no schools would be removed from the list for the 2020-21 school year, under this expedited waiver process. There is no additional language related to IDEA flexibility; that remains the huge, bruising conversation we are having with the hill. There are also a handful of waivers available at the state and local level re flexibility from sections of ESSA related to funding mandates. SEAs/LEAs can seek a waiver:
    • from ESSA's requirement for states to essentially maintain their education spending in order to tap federal funds. 
    • to make it easier to run schoolwide Title I programs regardless of the share of low-income students in districts and schools. 
    • from requirements governing Title IV Part A, which funds programs aimed at student well-being and well-rounded achievements. Caps on spending for different priority areas would be lifted, and schools would no longer be barred from spending more than 15 percent of their Title IV money on digital devices. 
    • to carry over as much Title I money as they want from this academic year to the next one; normally there's a 15 percent limit. 
    • from adhering to ESSA's definition of professional development. 

AASA also sent a letter of support for the legislation. To see what we said please click here.

AASA Signs Letter Urging a Halt to Title IX Changes

 Permanent link

AASA Signs Letter Urging a Halt to Title IX Changes

AASA joins more than 200 education, victims rights, and civil rights groups in a letter imploring the Trump administration to stop the proposed changes to Title IX. 

This letter, spearheaded by the National Women's Law Center, requests that the administration stop the changes to the law and any other non-emergency rules as over K-12 schools, colleges and universities have or will be closing or moving to an online learning platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

“Moving forward now with a new Title IX rule would only exacerbate these challenges by diverting schools’ already sharply limited resources toward creating complex new policies and training employees on implementation, at a time when schools are already working to radically shift their programs and meet student needs, even while staff operate remotely,” the groups wrote.

With the confusion of closures and shifts to online learning, many are arguing that this rule would cause to much confusion in an already tumultuous time. 

Click here to read the full letter. Click here to read the full article. (Must have access to Politico)

AASA Advocacy in Action: COVID Update

 Permanent link

AASA Advocacy in Action: COVID Update

The advocacy team has been working with our peers in other education associations on multiple fronts related to COVID and Congressional emergency response. Here’s a quick recap:

  • We responded with six other national organizations to a Senate proposal that included no dedicated funding for K12. That deal is still being negotiated. Read our initial and follow up letter
  • We urged the Senate to ensure their support for remote learning was channeled through E-Rate. Read our statement with EdLiNC  and our statement with the local education organizations.
  • All 49 of our state affiliates (We don’t have one in Hawaii!) signed a joint letter to Congress urging flexibility on assessment and accountability. 

7 National Organizations Urge Senate to Provide Remote Learning Support via E-Rate

 Permanent link

7 National Organizations Urge Senate to Provide Remote Learning Support via E-Rate

 Seven national education organizations issued a joint statement as Congress works to finalize its latest COVID emergency supplemental:

“At a time when our nation’s school leaders and educators are doing unparalleled work to bridge the learning gap while schools are closed in response to COVID, we urge Congress to ensure that any emergency funding provided to support remote and distance learning include direct funding through E-Rate program for hotspots, connection devices and mobile wireless service. As the long-standing and very effective connectivity program for schools and libraries, E-Rate is the most effective way to ensure these critical connectivity dollars reach students across the nation while utilizing and already existing infrastructure.  States and schools are familiar with how to apply for and use E-Rate funding, and as our school leaders respond to a crisis, the importance of this type of process efficiency cannot be understated. The current proposal misses this mark and instead relies on including connectivity and devices as allowable uses within a broader fund. We strongly support the Senate in passing the distance learning provisions as included in the House version of the bill.”

 

AASA, The School Superintendents Association

American Federation of Teachers

Council of Great City Schools

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Education Association

National School Boards Association

ED Issues Guidance on FAPE During COVID-19

 Permanent link

ED Issues Guidance on FAPE During COVID-19

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Education issued important guidance on how to comply with IDEA during COVID-19.  This guidance was in response to legitimate concerns voiced by AASA members that they have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that it would be impossible to do so remotely for some students with disabilities. In the guidance, ED said that “schools should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.”

They write that USED “understands” that schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided…and it may be unfeasible or unsafe…to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language educational services.” That said, it’s one thing for ED to understand this but another for Courts to understand this is the case. The law is still the law, and ED’s suggestion that districts are responsible for “still meet[ing] their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students” will be an insurmountable challenge for some districts.

While the Departments lacks the authority to waive certain timelines, like those associated with IEPs, initial eligibility determinations and due process hearings, they highlight that there is current flexibility available with regard to these timelines. For example, IEPs can be reviewed through video-conferences and the parents/districts can jointly waive to hold an IEP meeting. Similarly, reevaluations can occur without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent through reviewing existing evaluation data.

 

We recommend you see this memo from the law firm of Thompson & Horton which further analyzes the steps districts can take to comply with IDEA during this national emergency in addition to this article from esteemed special education legal expert Perry Zirkel which analyzes the past guidance from ED and offers advice to practitioners. 

AASA Partners with Future Privacy Forum on COVID FERPA FAQ

 Permanent link

AASA Partners with Future Privacy Forum on COVID FERPA FAQ

AASA was pleased to collaborate with our friends at Future Privacy Forum on a new white paper that offers guidance to help K-12 and higher education administrators and educators protect student privacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no question that schools and institutions are struggling to manage this unprecedented situation and need as much support and information as possible to do their jobs,” said Amelia Vance, FPF’s Senior Counsel and Director of Youth and Education Privacy. “The Future of Privacy Forum is tracking the situation closely in an effort to anticipate and help address the challenges that schools may encounter as they work to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect to release additional resources in the days ahead.”

“As our nation’s public school superintendents navigate through the extraordinary set of circumstance they face in light of COVID-19, AASA remains committed to gathering, creating, and disseminating as many resources as possible to answer, to the best of our ability, the myriad questions they raise,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy & Governance. “Through our work with FPF, we are happy to provide this collection of frequently asked questions in the context of student data and privacy and FERPA. Protecting student data and privacy is just one of the many factors they need to consider, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to share this resource today.”

The white paper offers insight into how the health or safety emergency exception under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools to share students’ personally identifiable information (PII) with the community and relevant officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

According to FPF and AASA, under the FERPA health or safety emergency exception, “if a school determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals and that someone needs PII from education records to protect the student’s or other individuals’ health or safety, it may disclose that information to the people who need to know it without first gaining the student’s or parent’s consent.” Read more.

 

The white paper addresses a number of frequently asked questions, including:

  • If a student has COVID-19, what information from education records can the school share with the community?
  • If the school suspects that a student has COVID-19, what information can the school share with its community?
  • If a school suspects that a student may have COVID-19, can school officials contact the student’s primary care physician?
  • If a student has COVID-19 and the school’s health records are covered by HIPAA rather than FERPA, what information may the school disclose to its community?
  • What if the school receives a voluntary request from a local, state, or federal agency for student records to assist the agency in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What should a school do if it receives a request under a mandatory reporting law to share student health records with a public health agency?
  • Do interagency agreements with other state or local agencies allow schools to disclose education records without obtaining consent?

 

To read the white paper, click here. To learn more about the Future of Privacy Forum’s student privacy work, click here.

Joint Letter to USDA Requesting Broad Waivers to Support the Provision of Meals

 Permanent link

Joint Letter to USDA Requesting Broad Waivers to Support the Provision of Meals

On March 19, 2020, AASA and 20 other allied organizations sent a letter to USDA urging the administration to swiftly use new authorities granted to them by the passage of "the Family First Coronavirus Repose Act" to broadly issue waivers that support the provision of federal school meals throughout the country.
 
Specifically, we urged USDA to do the following:
  • Issue nationwide waivers for the requests that USDA has already received from states to ease the administrative burden for stakeholders who have been on the frontline responding to the crisis.
  • Waive the Area Eligibility Requirement that currently acts as an administrative obstacle and requires schools to identify children who have been already certified for free or reduced-price school meals. This is particularly exacerbated for students in rural areas that do not have the same concentration of poverty as other areas.
  • Waive the requirement that children be present for parents to pick up meals.
  • Push back the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Deadlines so that schools have time to meet the monitoring and reporting requirements associated with the program.
  • In coordination with CDC and other federal agencies issue specific guidance for school nutrition professionals, summer food sponsors, and volunteers’ safety during school closure meal service. 
AASA was proud to join this effort lead by FRAC. Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for administrative flexibilities and additional federal resources so districts can sustain school meal programs in the face of prolonged nationwide school closures.
 

Second Coronavirus Package Will Be Signed by Trump

 Permanent link

Second Coronavirus Package Will Be Signed by Trump

Today, the Senate passed House legislation known as the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” which contains provisions that will make it easier for students to access food and school employees to get paid sick leave. Unlike the first package which was directed at healthcare related costs, this second package of funding is aimed at providing relief to states and districts related to COVID-19. We are really paying attention to the next and third package as that will be the one that contains billions of dollars for schools to pay for costs associated with closures and containment of the virus. Thus far, Democrats have proposed roughly $600 million in funding for K12, but that number could increase. There will also be some major amendments to current federal programs as well. There are, however, several provisions in this second package that we want to flag for superintendents.

  • One provision waives a requirement that prevents USDA from granting waivers to states from the Child Nutrition Act if those waivers would increase costs to the federal government.
  • Another provision allows school districts to serve meals in a variety of settings through a new national waiver authority granted to USDA
  • Related, another provision would allow States to qualify students for SNAP benefits if their schools close for at least five days as long as these students qualified for FRPL already.

There are also two provisions that relate to school employees:

  • Public school employees would be entitled to an initial 10 days of unpaid sick leave if they are impacted by the coronavirus. This would be followed by paid leave equal to at least two-thirds of their normal pay. There are caps on the paid leave of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate

In addition, if a public school employee is caring for a child at home because their school or childcare provider is closed or because they are under quarantine then they are entitled to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave or, in the case of part-time workers they would receive paid leave equal to the average number of hours they work over a two-week period. There are also caps on these benefits of up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate for full-time employees and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate for part-time employees. 

AASA Affiliates Send Letter to Congress

(WELL-BEING, SCHOOL HEALTH) Permanent link

AASA Affiliates Send Letter to Congress

Today, all forty-nine of AASA’s state affiliates sent a letter to Capitol Hill calling on Congress to ensure the U.S. Department of Education is granted the authority to issue ESSA waivers to states related to assessment and accountability in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than three-quarters of states issuing statewide school closures—closures that are increasingly likely to last the remainder of the school year—it is clear there will be an impact on our ability to comply with assessment and accountability requirements. It is imperative the U.S. Dept. of Education is able to address this emergent need by issuing a blanket, statewide, narrow-in-scope waiver to expedite the process by which states can pursue and receive the necessary relief related to uncertainty over how assessments and accountability will play out and how/if flexibility will be granted. 

AASA Joins National Organizations to Ensure Fair Treatment of Public Schools in COVID Supplemental Letter

(WELL-BEING, SCHOOL HEALTH, SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

AASA Joins National Organizations to Ensure Fair Treatment of Public Schools in COVID Supplemental Letter

AASA joined seven other national education organizations in a joint letter to Congress urging them to strike language that would provide preferential treatment to private schools and employers as it relates to a tax provision within the broader COVID-19 supplemental bill. You can read the letter here.

New Resource: Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

New Resource: Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic

On March 18, AASA and the Food Research Action Committee released a resource that is how-to-guide for superintendents looking to provide breakfast and lunch to students as districts deal with school closures.

Specifically, the one-pager provides an overview of the federal options open to school districts, (1) The Summer Food Service Program, and (2) the Seamless Summer Option. Additionally, the guide offers resources from USDA about applying for each program, and best practices of non-congregate feeding options for districts.

To check out the resource, please click here.

IMPORTANT: TAKE AASA COVID-19 RESPONSE SURVEY

 Permanent link

IMPORTANT: TAKE AASA COVID-19 RESPONSE SURVEY

As AASA continues to monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, today on March 13, 2020, we released a nationwide survey as part of our effort to detail and capture what this evolving crisis means to schools and communities.

The data from this survey will be used to track how school districts are responding to COVID-19, describe how ed-technology is helping or impeding districts' ability to deliver curriculum and instruction, to detail the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on nation’s our public school system, and use this information with superintendents and on Capitol Hill.

Please take a few moments to complete the survey, helping us to illustrate COVID-19’s impact on public schools. We will make the results of the survey available to all members, information you may find useful, will use the data to power and inform our work on Capitol Hill—as it relates to emergency fiscal and policy relief—and share it with our state affiliates who can use it in state policy discussions. We hope to get responses from our members in 49 states, and appreciate the time you can take to submit your response.

You can access the survey by contacting Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org or Noelle Ellerson Ng at  nellerson@aasa.org.

USDA Offers 25 States and DC Waivers to Serve Federal Meals while Schools are Closed

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

USDA Offers 25 States and DC Waivers to Serve Federal Meals While Schools are Closed

Today, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) eased rules so that 25 states and the District of Columbia can provide meals as part of the school lunch and breakfast programs to students outside of group settings. Consequently, marking a decision by the agency that will make it easier for schools to feed low-income children even while some districts are closed.

Specifically, USDA's decision will allow states to request waivers so that schools can switch to summer feeding models and offer meals to students in various locations. For our members, this action will enable school system leaders to implement innovative programs like "grab-and-go" breakfast and lunch programs to better enable districts to comply with social distancing recommendations from public health officials. 

To see the details on what your state should do to request a waiver, click here.

CDC Offers Recommendations on School Closures

 Permanent link

CDC Offers Recommendations on School Closures

As schools continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on school system operations, this week the CDC offered recommendations on school closure procedures for districts.

To check out the CDC’s recommendations click here. 

As you comb through the document, please look to see what this research says is the impact of closing schools, for short or long periods of time, on containing the spread of COVID-19.  

 

 

School Meals Assistance Proposals to be Included in Broader House Corona Legislative Package

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

School Meals Assistance Proposals to be included in Broader House Corona Legislative Package

As the House votes as early as today on another funding and policy package related to COVID-19, we wanted to flag that the package of legislation to provide relief to states and localities will contain two bills aimed at offering school districts increased flexibilities in administering the federal school meal programs

The first bill is a bipartisan proposal led by Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and James Komer (R-KY ) - dubbed the COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act - and would enable the Department of Ed to offer school officials waivers to distribute food in any number of settings across all nutrition programs, and allow for flexibilities around the nutritional provisions of the national school lunch and breakfast programs. The second piece of legislation led by Ilhan Omar (D-MN) - titled the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act - would wave existing requirement that prevents the Department of Agriculture from approving state waiver requests that result in increased costs to the federal government. Check out the full details here.

AASA will keep you abreast of this evolving issue and continue advocating for additional federal support to schools as they're impacted by the Coronavirus.

 

Higher Education Reauthorization

 Permanent link

Higher Education Reauthorization

From our discussions with congressional staff, we've once again heard rumors that Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray are working towards writing a bi-partisan comprehensive Higher Education Act. The impetus for this decision comes from (1) the simple fact that the law is 7-years overdue for an update, and (2) Alexander is chasing one last win before leaving Capitol Hill for good. 

Theoretically, the path toward reauthorizing HEA should be more straightforward than last year since Alexander was able to pass the Future Act, which reduced the FASFA form by 20 plus questions, extended pell grants to short-term programs and incarcerated individuals, and increased the transparency of the costs associated with post-secondary programs.

That said, we've heard this story before, and given (1) the fact that it’s an election year; as well as (2)  the outstanding disagreements between Senate Republicans and Democrats over Titles IV and II of HEA, it's unlikely Congress will be able to update HEA before the end of this year's legislative session. Regardless, AASA will keep you updated on any developments, and continue advocating for additional resources to address the ongoing teacher shortage issue.

NEW STOP Funding Webinar (updated March 9, 2020)

 Permanent link

NEW STOP Funding Webinar

On Wednesday, March 25th at 1 pm AASA is proud to partner with Sandy Hook Promise, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to offer an important webinar on the STOP School Violence Act grant program.


After the tragedy at Parkland, Congress acted quickly to create a new funding stream to support state and local efforts to deter school violence. The passage of the STOP School Violence Act authorizes $100 million in funding for schools to improve school safety in 2019. This webinar will explain how to apply for the funding and how the dollars can further school safety efforts and mental health programs in your district.

Hear from Merv Daugherty, superintendent, Chesterfield County Schools, Va., who received a STOP grant in 2019, as he shares his experience applying for the grant and how his district will be using this funding to improve the mental health of his students. 

Hear from Terri Bennett of Sandy Hook Promise who is an expert on federal grantwriting and provides considerable technical assistance to STOP grantees. 

This webinar is free to AASA members. 


New survey opportunity for the Gates Foundation (updated March 6, 2020)

 Permanent link

Survey Opportunity

Background: AASA is pleased to share an opportunity for you to provide feedback to the Gates Foundation on the important issue of daily practice. It is a brief 3-5 minute survey, and the intent is to identify the top animating questions teachers, principals, and district leaders/staff  wish they could answer to improve their daily practice. This perspective is critical to the Foundation in understanding the lived experience in the classroom and at the district, particularly as they support researchers on answering the most relevant questions for practitioners.

The Survey: No one knows your school community like you do, superintendents – and our friends at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation want to learn from you! You and your fellow educators have shared that encouraging and inspiring all of your students matters so much to you. To shape their work supporting educators like you, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to know about the challenges that school leaders face as they work to support every student, every day. Take just a moment to share your insights in this quick survey: Click here to share your thoughts! (Or copy and paste the link below into your browser: https://rc1user6wywr4khjm3t5.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9N6vqD7NqRGB6kt?partner=AASA) This survey should only take a few minutes to complete. Thank you for your generosity with your time and expertise – and for all the care you bring to the powerful work you do, every day.

To sweeten the deal, there are $15 Amazon cards available to the first 1500 district respondents. 

Public Schools Week 2020 A Resounding Success (updated March 3, 2020)

 Permanent link

Public Schools Week 2020 A Resounding Success

In case you missed it, Public Schools Week was held February 24-28th and we had a great time on and off Capitol Hill celebrating the great things happening in our public schools.

Our bipartisan House Resolution received 120 cosponsors and our bipartisan Senate resolution received 45 co-sponsors. 

In addition, the following states issued resolutions during Public Schools Week modeled after the federal one: Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

I hope you joined your superintendent colleagues on social media who shared why they are #PublicSchoolProud. There were some great videos and posts from superintendents, school board members, state and federal lawmakers, state chiefs, and even Governors.

 

 

March Advocate: Rural Education Achievement Program Funding Cut (updated March 3, 2020)

 Permanent link

March Advocate: Rural Education Achievement Program Funding Cut

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 2020 edition.

A Big Win for Rural School Districts

In the late 1990s, AASA along with the National Education Association and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition worked together to ensure that No Child Left Behind contained a new funding stream dedicated to small and poor rural school districts. Realizing that rural districts struggled to leverage the formula funding in Title I, Title II, IDEA and other federal programs, we created a formula funding stream, known as the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) that was intended to help offset low federal funding and the diseconomies of scale these districts experience.  

Since 2002, rural districts across the nation have relied on REAP funds to purchase supplies and make technology upgrades; expand curricular offerings; provide distance learning opportunities; fund transportation; and, support professional development activities. Given the bipartisan support for rural districts, the REAP program was incorporated into ESSA in 2015.  

REAP is divided into two sub-programs, the Small and Rural Schools Program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program. The Department has chosen to target the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program (RLIS) Program. 

Issue: In early February, the Department quietly sent letters out to states notifying them that they are no longer able to deem certain districts as “high poverty” if they do not meet the 20 percent Census Bureau definition of poverty. Since 2002, the Department permitted states to qualify districts for RLIS based on an alternative poverty calculation such as a high rate of free-and-reduced priced lunch. States opted for this flexibility because census poverty data is often a poor metric for measuring poverty in large, rural areas and felt these districts should be eligible for RLIS funding. 

After sending notices to States that they were cutting funding to hundreds of rural districts, the Department faced considerable political backlash, which AASA helped to organize. Consequently, the Department announced States would be allowed to distribute funding to districts in using FRLP data for FY20, avoiding an immediate and arbitrary funding cut to rural districts. The Department’s reversal came about as a result of a New York Times story on February 28 that highlighted the issue as well as a letter on March 3 sent by 21 Senators, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging Secretary DeVos to reverse course and allow the funding to go out as planned in FY20. In addition, President Trump tweeted his concern from the fall-out of cuts to rural districts. 

Next Steps: This victory for rural districts was a result of behind-the-scenes advocacy by our team and we plan to proactively work with Congress to address any outstanding policy issues with RLIS funding. As a result of Congressional and political scrutiny, the Department revised the list of districts that would have lost funding if the Secretary did not rescind her initial decision. The list is available here. We will continue to fight to ensure these rural districts receive the funding they need in 2021 and beyond.  

                                                                                        

Comment on Changes to The Federal School Meals Programs! (updated February, 26 2020)

 Permanent link

Comment on Changes to The Federal School Meals Programs!

As was previously highlighted, in January, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced newly proposed regulations to the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP). 

The good news is that USDA's proposal is aimed at providing school districts with more administrative and nutritional flexibilities around the federal school meals programs, and if passed, will increase local school systems' control of their SBP and NSLP. Specifically, USDA intends to accomplish this through a three-pronged strategy that would offer schools more time to comply with the programs' compliance requirements, relax the programs' nutritional provisions regarding fruits and vegetables, and modify the Smart Snack in Schools Rule, so that districts' can sell revenue-raising competitive foods for longer periods of time.

At a time when school districts are being asked to do more to improve their school meal delivery systems with fewer resources, this regulation takes the correct approach in moving the needle by improving local systems operation of the federal school meals programs. However, to get this regulation across the finish line, we'll need our membership to weigh-in and let USDA know that the proposed regulation has broad support from superintendents and other school system leaders. We urge you all to let your voices be heard by following the directions below to comment on the regulation.

  1. Copy this template and fill in the highlighted fields with the requested information.
  2. Click here, and then select "Upload files," 
  3. Fill out "First Name", "Last Name", and under category select "School district"
  4. Click "Continue"
  5. On the next page, please mark the box stating, "I read and understand the statement above."
  6. Click "Submit Comment"

Comments are due on or before March 23, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET. If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. To do this, please reach out to Chris Rogers directly at crogers@aasa.org

February 28, 2020

 Permanent link

AASA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda is Finalized

On February 12th AASA’s Governing Board voted to approve the 2020 Legislative Agenda. You can access it here.

February 26, 2020

(RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Comments on the Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds

The Department of Education is conducting a comprehensive study on how districts use Title and IDEA funding and AASA has submitted comments on their proposed Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds.

How are states spending their funding? With regards to resources, specific groups of students, underperformance, and salaries.

How are the dollars being broken down and allocated under Title IV and how are the three funding options – increased accessed to a well-rounded curriculum, safe and healthy students, and increased effectivity of technology within schools – being addressed in this study.

Of particular and pressing interest, how will spending related to the REAP program be allocated? As this program is already facing major cutbacks and changes, it is important to know how this data takes this into account.

Click  here to read AASA’s full letter. 

February, 26 2020

 Permanent link

AASA Releases 2019-20 Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study

As the nation celebrates Public Schools Week, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to release its eighth annual superintendent salary study.

 

This year's report - the 2019-20 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study - is based on more than 1,300 responses and gauges the compensation, benefits, and critical demands of urban, suburban and rural school system leaders across the nation.

 

To make this year's study a resource not only superintendents but for those aspiring to reach the superintendency, the report will be released in two versions: a full version for AASA members and an abridged version for wider circulation. We hope that this increases access to this valuable data on the working conditions of the nation's superintendency.

 

Click here to access a copy of the 2019-20 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study. AASA members can access the full member-only version through My.AASA.org. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact AASA's policy analyst Chris Rogers (crogers@aasa.org). 

February 18, 2020

(SCHOOL SAFETY) Permanent link

New School Safety Website Launched

Created partially in response to the March 2018 Parkland School shooting, the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website SchoolSafety.gov was launched last week by the Trump Administration. The site will serve as a resource center for teachers, parents, and law enforcement and allow them to “identify, prepare for, and mitigate threats” according to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. To help prepare schools, the site will also have a Safety Readiness Tool that will assess school safety and assist in creating action plans to suit individual school needs. Though developed primarily for K-12 administrators, SchoolSafety.gov is available to the American public where they can review guidelines and best practices - among many other resources - that will help make and keep schools safe. “Every child should feel safe at school, and every parent should feel their child is safe each day…” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and SchoolSafety.gov aims to make this sentiment a reality.

To read the full release, click here

February 14, 2020

 Permanent link

PowerPoints of Policy and Advocacy Sessions at NCE

We are thrilled to have such a great turnout at our policy and advocacy sessions at NCE and know many folks who visited with us (as well as supts who couldn't stop by) are eager for copies of our PowerPoint presentations, so here they are:

Federal Advocacy Update 

Education in the Election 

Vouchers: Everything You Never Wanted to Know and More 

Counting Young Children In the Census

Why Rural Matters Report

2020 State of the Superintendency

February 12, 2020(1)

 Permanent link

AASA Responds to President’s FY21 Budget Proposal

Earlier this week, the president released his budget proposal for federal fiscal year 20201 (FY21 runs from Oct 1 2020 through September 30, 2021; FY21 dollars will be in school for the 21-22 school year). The budget continues his trend of introducing federal budget proposals that fall short of the simple willingness and ability to prioritize support for strengthening and supporting our nation’s public schools and the students they serve.  AASA remains concerned about his chronic lack of support and funding for programs that are fundamental to supporting students and children. The FY21 budget proposal continues to prioritize privatization, at the direct expense of the nation’s public schools and the 50 million students they serve every day. The proposal’s FY21 education details would fund USED at $66.6 billion (A cut of $5.6 billion, or 7.8%). Quick summary:

  • One of the pillars of the FY21 proposal would consolidate 29 programs within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into one large, single block grant, funded at $19.4 billion (a cut of $4.7 billion from the current funding levels of the programs to be consolidated).
  • The budget increases funding for IDEA state grants by $100 million (0.8%). This brings the federal commitment to fully fund IDEA (by funding 40% of the additional costs of educating students with special needs) to just 13%, less than half of their authorized amount.
  • The budget increases funding for Career and Technical Education by $763 million.
  • The budget includes $5 billion for annual federal tax credits to support education privatization, such as vouchers.
  • The budget for the US Department of Agriculture includes a proposal to restrict participating in the Community Eligibility Programs. CEP currently allows schools and districts with high enrolments of students who quality for free/reduced priced meals to provide free meals to all students. The budget proposal would restrict participation by only allowing individual schools where at least 40% of students qualify for the meal programs. 

Read our full analysis here, as well as the statement from AASA executive director Dan Domenech. 

February 12, 2020

 Permanent link

AASA Leads Allied Organization Letter on EPA's proposed LCR

On February 12, 2020, AASA submitted an allied organization letter - with 14 other groups - on the EPA's proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule. You can view this letter here.

As we've highlighted in our previous blog posts, the proposed reg, would for the first time, require water utility companies to test for the prevalence of lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities.

The comment period on the proposed rule is set to close tonight at midnight ET. AASA was proud to lead this effort and elevate the voice of school system leaders on this topic. That said, we need all hands on deck to let the EPA know that if the federal government is mandating these tests, then they also need to create federal funding streams for districts to remediate lead once it's found. As such, we urge you to let your voice be heard on this issue before the comment period ends tonight. You can find directions on how to submit comments on this proposal – as well as a filling template – by clicking here.

February 6, 2020

 Permanent link

Schools Should Be Included in House Dems Infrastructure Package

During the last few weeks, House Democrats have signaled a renewed interest in moving a major infrastructure package to the floor. In late January, Democrat leaders unveiled a new $760 billion infrastructure framework that focused on rebuilding roadways, airport terminals, incomplete broadband networks and rail and water systems. Missing from the package was critical school infrastructure legislation championed by House Education Committee Chairman Bobby Scott which AASA and many other education groups have heartily endorsed. 
The Rebuild America's School Act, which was advanced out of the House Education Committee a year ago, would create a 10-year $70 billion grant program and a $30 billion tax credit bond program to build schools in high poverty areas. 

We plan to continue to push Democrat lawmakers to incorporate this legislation into their infrastructure package as it moves through the House and encourage Republicans to support the package as well. 

February 5, 2020

 Permanent link

NCE is 1 Week Away- Check Out the Policy Sessions

If you're joining us in sunny San Diego next week we have a great line up of federal policy sessions for you to sink your teeth into. 

Looking for the perfect strategy for maximizing your intake of policy issues? Try starting your day off at 9 am with AASA's federal education update where attendees will get updated on all of the latest policy issues, and a look into what's coming down the pipeline in 2020. At noon, political enthusiasts can attend the Federal Relations luncheon to devour the latest data on federal elections and public opinion polling focused on hotbed educational issues like class size, parental involvement, and teacher pay. Finally, attendees can top off the day at 3 pm with a discussion on vouchers lead by me. 

On Friday, February 14 attendees can kick off their day at 8 am to learn the importance of counting all children in the Census and the impact a successful count (or an unsuccessful one) could have on district finances for the next ten years. Then check out the Why Rural Matters 2019 session at 12:45 to see the latest state-by-state data regarding rural education issues. Attendees can then close out the day with a session on the AASA 2020 State of the Superintendency Report at 3:45 pm, where Chris will be doing a deep dive into the results of the 2020 Decennial Survey and discussing the educational trends that are most affecting superintendents.

Looking to burn off some energy this conference? Noelle will lead you through the second “Officially Unofficial Fun Run” at 6:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, open to all fitness levels and paces. Find details here!

And if you want all the session details in our place check out this nifty flyer

February 4, 2020

 Permanent link

New Federal Grants Available for SROs and Safety Hardware

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 gave the COPS Office authority to provide awards to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs. Applications for SVPP can be submitted by a state, unit of local government or public school system.  

Recipients of SVPP funding must use funding for the benefit of K-12, primary and secondary schools and students. SVPP funding will provide up to 75% funding for the following school safety measures in and around K-12 schools and school grounds.

There is up to $50 million in funding is available for FY 2020 SVPP. The deadline to apply is April 8, 2020.

Grants can be used for:

Coordination with law enforcement

Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self

Metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures

Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency

Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security

 Click here for the Quick Start Application user guide for SVPP.

January 31, 2020

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The February Advocate

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 February 2020 edition.

This January, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced newly proposed regulations to the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP) aimed at providing school districts with more flexibilities around the federal school meals’ administrative and nutritional requirements. The impetus for this decision comes from long-standing complaints that the NSLP and SBP are riddled with duplicative monitoring/reporting requirements, as well as burdensome nutritional provisions that contribute to excess food waste and hamper schools' operational capacity to provide students with access to healthy well-balanced meals.

Specifically, the proposed regulations fall under three main categories, (1) proposals to simplify monitoring, (2) strategies to simplify meal service, and (3) modifications to the Smart Snack in Schools Rule. Listed below is AASA's section-by-section analysis of the regulation, which will overview the major provisions of the proposal and its implications on school system leaders.

Proposals to Simplify Monitoring

With regards to the first element of the proposed regulations, USDA is suggesting offering states the option to return to a 5-year Administrative Review Cycle (ARC). For context, the original transition away from a 5-year ARC came as a result of the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFK), which mandated that USDA switch to the more comprehensive 3-year ARC – which included increased oversight responsibilities, such as the review of procurement practices and procedures – during the 2013-2014 school year. As an unintended consequence of this shift, some districts have reportedly struggled to complete reviews and corresponding oversight activities. Moreover, USDA also received feedback that the shorter ARC reduced the available time for technical assistance and training to districts, and consequently, unduly emphasized compliance over program improvement.

Additionally, under this section of the regulation, USDA would now require State Agencies to review districts– with histories of erroneous meal pattern and nutritional violations – to undergo targeted follow-up reviews to ensure high-risk SFAs comply with the administrative and nutritional requirements of the federal school meal programs.

Overall, AASA was pleased to see that USDA is proposing to move back to the 5-year ARC and to conduct targeted follow up with high-risk districts. Since the initial implementation of HHFK, school system leaders have consistently reported that the shorter 3-year administrative review cycle unnecessarily causes LEAs and SFAs to inefficiently allocate resources toward burdensome compliance-related activities, as well as limits USDA’s ability to build local and state institutions' capacities to properly administer the program. Effectively, this proposal balances the administrative flexibilities of the federal school meal programs with USDA's desire to improve program integrity, and consequently, will represent a victory for our members. Due to this, AASA will advocate for this section of the regulation to be implemented as written.

Strategies to Simplify Meal Service

Primarily, this section of the proposal relates to the nutritional standards that schools must offer children over the week. For example, current rules dictate the type and quantity of vegetables, and minimum and maximum calory counts, that districts' breakfast and lunch meals are required to contain under current law. Upon a comprehensive review of USDA's proposal to this part of the regulation, it is again clear that many of the agency's changes are intended to improve school systems' operation of NSLP and SBP by simplifying menu planning and providing more flexibilities around meal delivery across different grade spans.

Specifically, the agency is proposing to simplify meal planning by making some minor technical changes to LEAs ability to administer the federal school meal programs. For example, current nutritional provisions require that school districts serve at least 1/2 a cup of each of the vegetable subgroups listed in the American Dietary Guidelines over a school week and offer larger quantities of red/orange vegetables to students of all grades. USDA’s proposal would change this by allowing schools to serve the same weekly minimum amount (e.g., 1/2 cup) of vegetables regardless of subgroup designation. The proposed regulation would also enable school districts who use legumes – a consistently under-served and under-consumed vegetable with high protein – as a meat alternate to also count towards HHFK's weekly legume vegetable requirement.

Additionally, the proposal would enable schools with unique grade configurations to use the same meal pattern for a broader group of students; authorize SBP operators to offer students meats, meat alternates, and/or grains interchangeably; and reduce the amount of fruit required for reimbursable breakfasts served outside the cafeteria.

While policies like permitting schools to serve the same quantities of all vegetables and granting LEAs more flexibility in how they credit legumes toward meal pattern requirements may not seem like needle-moving changes, AASA was pleased to see USDA take appropriate steps to reduce operational complexity, support programmatic efficiency, and decrease food waste in schools. For our members, these proposals will ultimately lead to better strategies for serving students.

Modifications to the Smart Snack in Schools Rule

Under this proposal, USDA is also recommending to provide school districts with increased flexibilities around the Smart Snacks in Schools Rule, which establishes the nutritional standards for competitive foods sold to students outside of the school meal programs, on the school campus during the school day, and for entrées sold à la carte. If this proposal is implemented as written, then the agency will extend the entrée exemption timeframe – which applies to items sold as à la carte foods – for two days after that entrée is offered as part of a meal on the SBP or NSLP menu. In layman's terms, this would, for example, enable districts to sell pizza as a standalone item on the day the pizza is also served as part of the unitized school lunch and the following two days afterward. Moreover, this latest update of the rule proposes to permit LEAs to sell calorie-free naturally flavored waters, with or without carbonation, to students in all grade groups. 

For school system leaders, these changes represent long-overdue steps in the right direction that will simplify food procurement systems that will ultimately lead to reductions in food waste. For instance, as a result of this rule, many districts will no longer have to find multiple suppliers for identical food items that will be sold a la carte. This will enable districts to have increased discretion over how to use leftovers throughout weekly meal patterns.

AASA applauds USDA for adapting these tactics to improve local delivery of the NSLP and SBP.

Next Steps: Moving forward, AASA plans to support USDA’s proposed regulations by submitting public comments on the rule that will highlight the positive effects of the agency’s policy change on school system leaders. As part of this effort, we will be mobilizing our membership to show USDA that the regulation has broad support amongst school administrators. As of now, the public comment period for the rule is set to close on March 23, 2020. We'll need all hands on deck to get these regulations through the finish line, so stay tuned for details on how to make your voice heard in the coming weeks.

January 27, 2020

 Permanent link

IDEA funding is up, but federal share is down

Although Congress increased funding for special education grants to state (IDEA Part B) by $400 million for fiscal year (FY) 2020, the federal share of the “excess” cost of educating students with disabilities actually fell from 14.3 percent in FY 2019 to an estimated 13 percent in FY 2020.  (The FY 2019 estimate comes from the Congressional Research Service, and the FY 2020 estimate was provided to us by the Department of Education.)  This happens when the number of students needing services increases and/or as the intensity of needed services increases.  

When Congress enacted the first special education law in 1975, it pledged to provide up to 40 percent of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities but has never come close to this “full funding” percentage. Federal law mandates that school systems provide a free appropriate public education to all students, regardless of the federal contribution.  As a result, when the federal share of the costs declines schools need to use more of their state and local funding for special education.  If the federal government increased its share of the costs then more state and local education funding would be available to cover other education needs.  For FY 2020, Congress would have had to triple the $12.8 billion it provided to reach the full funding. Fully funding IDEA remains AASA's top advocacy priority. 

January 23, 2020(1)

 Permanent link

AASA Joins Letter of Support for Increased Investments to School Facilities

AASA was pleased to sign on to a recent letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer supporting investing in our national infrastructure including local school facilities. AASA is a member of the Rebuild America’s Schools Coalition, which coordinated the letter. The letter comes in advance of an infrastructure finance hearing scheduled for January 29. We urge the committee to include schools in any infrastructure package, and urge our members to contact their Representatives and Senators to support the inclusion of school infrastructure including proven cost effective tax credit bonds to help finance building and repairing public school facilities which will generate local jobs.

 

 

January 23, 2020

 Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Heads Up Administrators! Time to Help Count Kids

This guest blog post comes from our friends at Partnership for America’s Children.

The Census Bureau just sent its Statistics in Schools materials to every administrator, public and private, in the country. The mailout will contain three colorful large wall maps and a booklet containing information on the program including a take home letter for students to share with their family. They should arrive between January 21 and 31.

Now it’s your turn. Please ask all your teachers to use these materials and to send home the take home flyer. You can also check them out at census.gov/schools/get involved.

When schools use these materials in the classroom, it helps bring in more funding for the schools and money for programs that get kids ready for schools. How? Well, Title I funds for low income schools are allocated based on the number of k-12 children you have in your community, and special education funds are allocated based on the number of 3-21 year olds you have. Funding allocations for programs that help get kids ready to learn, like WIC, child care, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and many others, are also based on the census data in your community and your state. (Teachers and administrators are used to thinking about attendance data affecting funding, but that data is used to allocate money among schools in the district; counting kids brings more money to the district.) So making sure every child is counted helps get kids ready to learn, and helps schools have the resources they need to teach.

The Statistics in Schools materials teach children about the value of census surveys, which helps get young kids counted in three ways; many school children have younger siblings at home, some teens in school have babies, and children who are the only English speakers in their families will translate the information and help fill out the census.

The Statistics in Schools materials include a flyer kids can take home to their parents to teach them about the census and why they should count their kids. We know that in 2010, one of three households with children in school saw and remembered these materials.

You can also start planning for Statistics in Schools Week in your school; that will be the first week in March.

The first mailings for the census go out March 12, in less than two months. Now is the time to teach children about the census, so they and their families know it matters to count their kids when the census arrives.

 

January 17, 2020

 Permanent link

Lead and Copper Rule Extended Until February 12

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the agency would extend the Lead and Copper Rule comment period until February 12, 2020, in response to a request by a group an allied group of water utility companies. Consequently, this gives us approximately one more month to let the EPA know loud and clear that this rule doesn't go far enough to ensure the safety of our schools drinking water, and should be accompanied by increased federal funding for districts to pursue lead remediation.

As part of this effort, AASA encourages you to comment on the rule. If you're looking for directions on how to make your voice heard, check out our call-to-action here, which provides a template and step-by-step guide on how to publically comment.

January 16, 2020

 Permanent link

AASA and Allied Organizations Offer Letter in Support to US ED NPRM on the TEACH Grant program.

On January 10, 2020, AASA and 17 other allied organizations submitted a letter in support of the Department of Education's proposed regulatory changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program in an effort led by the Learning Policy institute.

 

For context, The TEACH Grant is a federal service scholarship program targeted at addressing teaching shortages in high-need fields and communities. The TEACH Grant Program provides scholarships of $4,000 per year (for up to 4 years) to undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing for a career in teaching, and who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for at least 4 years within 8 years of completing a degree. This grant is converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan (with interest accrued from the date each grant was awarded) if a teacher is determined not to have fulfilled his or her commitment. However, most importantly for school districts, the TEACH grant is an effective method for attracting and keeping teachers in education.

 

Specifically, the Department's proposed changes fall under three categories, which are qualifying positions and schools, the grant-to-loan conversion process, and program information for grantees. Each of these has come under heavy criticism over the past year for their bureaucratic red tape (e.g., outdated lists, erroneous grant-to-loan conversions, and lack of access to programmatic information). To address these concerns, the proposed regulation would do the following:

  1. Require a teaching candidates' high-need field to be enumerated in the Nationwide List for the state in which the grant recipient teaches at the time the recipient signed the agreement to receive the TEACH Grant, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state before the grant recipient begins teaching in that field; or (2) at the time the grant recipient begins teaching in that field, even if that field subsequently loses its high-need designation for that state;
  2. Simplify the regulations specifying the conditions under which TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans so that, for all grant recipients, loan conversion will occur only if the recipient asks the Secretary to convert his or her TEACH Grants to loans, or if the recipient fails to begin or maintain qualifying teaching service within a timeframe that would allow the recipient to satisfy the service obligation within the 8-year service period; and
  3. Expand the information that is provided to TEACH Grant recipients during initial, subsequent, and exit counseling, and add a new conversion counseling requirement for grant recipients whose TEACH Grants are converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
 

AASA was proud to support these proposed regulatory changes, as they represent an opportunity for the Department to significantly improve the effectiveness of the TEACH Grant Program and are an important piece of the work toward ensuring that every student has access to a well-prepared and diverse teacher workforce. At this point, we are waiting for the final rule from Ed. That said, we will keep you up abreast of any developments.

January 14, 2020

(RURAL EDUCATION) Permanent link

New Application Process for Small Rural School Achievement Program

Last week, the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education announced a new application process for school districts applying for the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) Program. The impetus for this change stems from a review of the SRSA application, which determined that the applicant burden could be significantly reduced while maintaining appropriate accountability guardrails for the grantmaking process. As a result of these actions, a much simpler application will be open to districts on February 3, 2020.

Listed below are some noticeable highlights from the new 2020 SRSA application:

·   The new quick and easy process relies on a single platform – OMB Max Survey – to gather school district information. The previous process required school districts to navigate three sites and took three hours to complete an application. The new application process is estimated to take no more than 30 minutes to complete.

·   Eligible school districts will access the application through a unique link that the Department will send via email invitation to school district contacts, which will be provided to the Department by state educational agencies. The Department will also provide the approximately 2,500 school districts that are eligible for both the SRSA and Rural Low-Income School (RLIS) program enhanced guidance on how to choose between SRSA and RLIS, including award estimates for both RLIS and SRSA in the email invitation. This will help ensure that school districts are more informed when they choose between SRSA and RLIS

·   In order to complete the SRSA application, the school district contact will need to confirm or provide the following:

1.       School district name and contact information;

2.       Authorized representative contact information;

3.       Secondary contact information;

4.       Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number;

5.       General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) statement information; and

6.       Assurances.

·   After an application has been submitted, each school district will receive a confirmation email that includes the PR/award number and a summary of the school district’s SRSA application responses to keep for its records. Additionally, the school district contact will be directed to the System for Award Management (SAM) at SAM.gov to update its DUNS status.

·   The Department will conduct webinars for school district staff on February 4, March 19, and April 2, 2020 to determine the new quick and easy process for submitting the SRSA application (webinar invitations are forthcoming). The application process will also be demonstrated at the National ESEA Conference on February 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia (for additional details click here)

 

January 13, 2020

 Permanent link

AASA Leads Group Letter to Congress on Vaping Legislation

Today AASA along with our partners at the National Association of Secondary School Principals led a letter to the House of Representatives urging support for HR 2339, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act. 

We felt it was important to unite the education community formally around this major legislative proposal that would assist schools in addressing the vaping epidemic that is impacting one out of four high school students we educate. 

Specifically, this legislation would prohibit the use of all flavored tobacco product and extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes to other tobacco products including e-cigarettes. 

You can read the letter here

January 5, 2019

 Permanent link

January Advocate: Federal Education Funding Set for 20-21 School Year

 Before the holiday break, the President signed H.R. 1865, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY20 into law. The bill and its provisions fund the federal government for F720 which runs from Oct 1, 2019 thru September 30, 2020. FY20 dollars will be in schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Congress has relied on a series of short-term continuing resolutions to keep government funded and running since September 30, 2019. The final continuing resolution was set to expire at midnight on December 21st meaning the timing of the bill forced an expedited floor vote schedule in both the House and the Senate. The President agreed to sign the funding bill as it provides some funding, $1.4 billion, for the border wall. He is expected to try and shift cash from other funding streams to bolster funding for the wall.

H.R. 1865 provides $1.4 trillion for FY20. The more than 2,000-page bill will appropriate $738 billion in FY20 funding for the defense discretionary spending and $632 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. Specific to education, the bill provides $40.1 billion for K-12 education programs which is an increase of $1.2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $5.9 billion above the President’s budget request. This is the third largest increase for ED since FY11 (the year that ED funding started being cut or frozen). The bill rejects the draconian cuts to critical programs proposed by the Trump Administration as well as their continued efforts to further advance their flawed privatization agenda.  

Program Specific Details:

  • K12 Programs
    • ESSA Title I: $450m increase to $16.3b
    • ESSA Title II: $76m increase to 2.1b (first increase in 6 years)
    • ESSA Title III: $50m increase to $787 (first increase in 5 years)
    • ESSA Title IV: $40 m increase to $1.2b
    • IDEA State Grants (Part B): $417m increase to $13.9b (3% increase)
    • Impact Aid: $40m increase, to $1.4b
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $28 m increase, to $1.2b
    • REAP: $5m increase to $186m
    • Career and Technical Education State Grants: $20m increase to $1.28b
    • Homeless Youth/Children: $8m increase to $105m
    • School Safety National Activities: $10m increase to $105m
  • Early Education
    • Head Start: $550m increase to $10.6b
    • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $550m increase to $5.8b
  • Funding and Policy Beyond The Labor-Health-Education Bill
    • STOP School Violence Act Grants: $25m increase to $125m
    • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: The bill reauthorizes and provides two years of funding for the SRS program for FY19 and FY20
    • DC Voucher: Reauthorizes the program for 4 additional years
    • Raises the age for purchasing tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 from 18.
    • Provides $12.5m in funding for researching gun violence prevention
    • Adequately funds the Census to ensure it can be properly administered
    • Contains policy language instructing CMS and ED to work together to reduce administrative barriers for providing health services in and in coordination with schools and provide technical assistance to assist with billing and payment administration for Medicaid services in schools.
    • Repeals the Cadillac Tax from the Affordable Care Act

AASA is pleased to see that Congress prioritized increased funding for our key formula programs like IDEA and Title I. However, this funding is still short of what districts were receiving in FY11 when adjusting for inflation. Furthermore, while it’s true that IDEA received a 3.2% boost in this bill, which represents a slightly higher percentage increase than what the other key K12 programs received, this increase is only a little better than inflation, which is projected to be 2% in 2020. Effectively, this means that IDEA is only receiving a real increase of 1.2% while the number of children with disabilities districts are educating continues to increase. As we look ahead to FY21 AASA will continue to push Congressional leadership and appropriators to make greater investments in IDEA until it is fully funded.

 

December 17, 2019

 Permanent link

FY20 Funding Bill Is Finalized

On December 16, Congress released H.R. 1865, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY20. The bill and its provisions fund the federal government for F720 which runs from Oct 1, 2019 thru September 30, 2020. FY20 dollars will be in schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Congress has relied on a series of short-term continuing resolutions to keep government funded and running since September 30, 2019. The final continuing resolution was set to expire at midnight on December 21st meaning the timing of the bill forced an expedited floor vote schedule in both the House and the Senate.The House plans to pass the fiscal 2020 spending bills in two packages on Tuesday, likely followed by Senate passage before federal funding runs out at midnight on Friday. The President has indicated he will sign the funding bill as it provides some funding, $1.4 billion, for the border wall and he is expected to try and shift cash from other funding streams to bolster funding for the border wall.

Overview: H.R. 1865 provides $1.4 trillion for FY20. The more than 2,000-page bill will appropriate $738 billion in fiscal 2020 funding for the defense discretionary spending and $632 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. Specific to education the bill provides $40.1 billion for K-12 education programs which is an increase of $1.2 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $5.9 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill rejects the draconian cuts to critical programs proposed by the Trump Administration as well as their continued efforts to further advance their flawed privatization agenda.  

Program Specific Details:

K12 Programs

  • ESSA Title I: $450m increase to $16.3 b
  •  ESSA Title II: $76m increase to 2.1b (first increases in 6 years
  • ESSA Title III: $50m increase to $787 (first increase in 5 years)
  •  ESSA Title IV: $40 m increase to $1.2b
  •  IDEA State Grants (Part B): $417m increase to $13.9b (3% increase
  • Impact Aid: $40m increase, to $1.4b 
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $28 m increase, to $1.2b 
  • REAP: $5m increase to $186m
  •  Career and Technical Education State Grants: $20m increase to $1.28b
  • Homeless Youth/Children: $8 m increase to 105m
  • School Safety National Activities: $10m increase to $105m
  • A new Social-Emotional Learning initiative would get $123 to support SEL and "whole child" approaches to education. 

Early Education

  •  Head Start: $550m increase to $10.6b
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $550m increase to $5.8b

Funding and Policy Beyond The Labor-Health-Education Bill

  • STOP School Violence Act Grants: $25m increase to $125m
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: The bill reauthorizes and provides two years of funding for the SRS program for FY19 and FY20
  • DC Voucher: Reauthorizes the program for 4 additional years
  • Raises the age for purchasing tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 from 18.
  • Provides $12.5m in funding for researching gun violence prevention
  • Adequately funds the Census to ensure it can be properly administered
  • Contains policy language instructing CMS and ED to work together to reduce administrative barriers for providing health services in and in coordination with schools and provide technical assistance to assist with billing and payment administration for Medicaid services in schools.
  • Repeal of the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Care Act.

 

December 16, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Urges House To Support SALT-D Bill

Today AASA sent a letter to the House of Representatives in advance of their vote to reinstate the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap for 2020 and 2021. You can read our letter below:  

Dear Representative:

On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents, representing more than 13,000 public school system leaders across the nation, I write to offer our strong support for the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377).

We believe Congress should act quickly to adjust the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap to minimize harm to taxpayers and local school districts. The Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act lifts the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction in 2020 and 2021, which is an important first step towards the full reinstatement of this critical deduction. As one of the six original deductions allowed under the original tax code, SALT-D has a long history and is a critical support for investments in infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and, specific to our work, our nation’s public schools. Reinstating this deduction would decrease tax rates for certain taxpayers, increase disposable income, and increase the likelihood of support for local tax levies for education.

The ripple effects from the new SALT cap deduction of $10,000 is already having significant deleterious impacts on some state budgets budget, and those of local school districts. Moreover, the Tax Cuts and Jos Act has created significant uncertainty for state and local budgets as it is not entirely certain how taxpayers may alter their behavior to decrease their overall tax liability. Without the enactment of H.R. 5377 schools will be under tremendous pressure to reduce and constrain tax levies, even with ongoing inadequate state aid, to provide relief to taxpayers impacted by the SALT cap. Ultimately, these pressures pressures will have a deleterious impact on the educational opportunities and outcomes for our students and undermine our country’s ability to produce students who are college and career ready.

AASA urges the swift passage of this important legislation and encourages the Senate to take up this bill as soon as possible.

December 12, 2019

 Permanent link

FASFA Simplification Bill Moves Forward

One of AASA's priorities for the Higher Education Act reauthorization is simplifying the Free Application for  Student Financial Assistance (FASFA). Superintendents believe that students, particularly our low-income students, struggled with obtaining tax information required for the application and generally found the length and depth of the application to be complex and overwhelming to complete. We are pleased that Congress is taking action to address this issue by passing legislation that would eliminate 22 questions currently on the FASFA, allow for direct data sharing between IRS and ED as well as streamline enrollment in and renewal of income-driven repayment  plans for borrowers by removing the need for students to self-certify their income to prove eligibility for federal plans. The bill also takes meaningful steps to reduce verification burden, a process that disproportionately affects low-income students, and is burdensome for students and families.  

The reason this legislation is moving forward now is that the Senate has given up on trying to pass a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this Congress. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is retiring and simplifying the FASFA was one of his key priorities for the higher-ed rewrite. Since the legislation is not moving forward legislators in both chambers agreed to work together to pass this major priority for Alexander. 

House Democrats may still try and move their partisan re-write of the Higher Education Act (which passed out of Committee on a party-line vote) to the floor in January, but it's unclear if they have the votes within their own party to move it forward. 

 

December 11, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

AASA Advocates For Federal Policies to Curb Youth Vaping

As early as next week legislation may be sent to President Trump that would raise the age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. This important policy change is hopefully the first and not the only step Congress will take to address the youth vaping crisis via legislation. There was agreement among both public health advocates and tobacco companies that raising the age to 21 made sense, which is why it was so easily passed. While this is certainly policy movement in the right direction AASA believes there is much more that can and should be done to help schools mitigate the e-cigarette epidemic.

Specifically, we support three bills that would address vaping. The first, the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019,  would ban e-cigarette use in educational and childcare facilities that receive federal funding.

The second, the SAFE Kids Act, would ban the use of all flavored e-cigarette products unless it can be proven that it does not increase youth initiation of nicotine or tobacco products.

The third, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, would ban the use of all flavored tobacco products (including e-cigarettes), prohibit online sales of tobacco products and extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes to e-cigarettes to prevent marketing that targets youth.

AASA plans to engage more aggressively in 2020 in pushing these bills forward in both chambers. 

December 11, 2019

 Permanent link

FCC Order on E-Rate Category 2 Funds Published

Last week, the FCC released its long awaited order on the E-Rate category 2 formula. It was an expected decision, but not one that we wanted. The Commission agreed to make permanent the formula-based funding distribution method for category 2, which provides support for Wi-Fi and internal connections, but with a few significant tweaks. One major change to category 2 that the Commission will implement is increasing the floor funding level from $9,200 to $25,000 in order to persuade more small schools and libraries to apply. The Commission agreed to leave the school formula of $150 per pupil unchanged but also decided to establish a single formula for libraries rather than have different formulas for urban libraries. The Commission’s order will also allow for school district-wide and library-system wide budgeting which will allow them to allocate category 2 funding as they see fit. The order also clarified that the category 2 formula’s five year cycle will be fixed and not rolling, and that the next five year cycle will begin for all applicants in 2021. 2020 will be a transition year, with all schools and libraries eligible for pro-rated funding. Comments received by the Commission in this rule making did request that it make cyber security and wi-fi on school buses eligible for support but the final order did not agree to those changes. 

We are still awaiting the final order on the E-Rate cap. 

December 10, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

Call-To-Action: Comment on the EPA's Lead and Copper Pipe Rule

As was highlighted in our latest edition of the December Advocate, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new provisions to the Lead and Copper Pipe Rule (LCR), which, for the first time, dictates how Community Water Systems (CWS) test for the prevalence of lead in schools’ and childcare centers’ drinking water. While this is a step in the right direction, the rule doesn't go far enough to ensure the safety of our students’ drinking water. Moreover, AASA is concerned about the lack of federal funding available to districts to remediate the prevalence of lead in schools; and with how this proposal could result in the dissemination of erroneous information about the safety of a school’s drinking water to district leaders, school personnel, students and parents.

The tragedy in Flint Michigan reminded us all of the dangers that lead poses to our students' well-being, so we know that schools can't be complacent on this issue. Due to this, AASA is mobilizing its membership to weigh in on their concern for protecting the nation's drinking water. We'll need all-hands-on-deck to let the EPA know loud and clear that this is not enough for our districts. As such, we implore our members to join us in this critical effort. To comment on the proposal, please follow the directions below.

  1. Copy this template and fill in the highlighted fields with the requested information. 
  2. Go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0300 and click "Comment Now," on the
    National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions
  3. In the ‘Comment” box, type something similar to this: “As the superintendent of xxx, I submit the following comments on the proposed regulation titled "National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions." 
  4. Below the comment box:
    • Upload your completed template 
    • Click continue 
  5. On the next page mark the box stating "I read and understand the statement above."
  6. Click "submit comments"
Comments are due on or before January 13, 2020. Also, If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, AASA staff can submit them on your behalf. To do this, please reach out to Chris Rogers directly at crogers@aasa.org.   

 

December 10, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Urges Senate Committee To Support SRS

On Thursday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be voting on S.430 To Extend Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. We sent this letter urging everyone on the Committee to support the bill and urging for its inclusion in the FY20 final spending package.

December 6, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Endorses The Diversify Act

This week, AASA is proud to announce its endorsement of the Diversifying by Investing in Educators and Students to Improve Outcomes For Youth Act (DIVERSIFY Act), in alignment with our higher Ed priority to support the preservation and expansion of resources in Title II of the Higher Education Act for future and current teachers to address the national teacher shortage. For context, the TEACH grants are a service scholarship program that provides $4,000 per year in funding to undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need subject at a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for 4 years upon graduation. Unfortunately, since 2007 the grant award has not increased to keep up with the rising cost of college. Consequently, limiting the program's potential and disincentivizing low-income and diverse teacher candidates from entering the educator workforce.

To fix this, the Diversify Act would (1) increase the maximum TEACH Grant award to $8,000 per year to align with the full cost of college – which exceeds $20,000 a year; and (2) protect the TEACH Grant award from being cut by the Budget Control Act which this year alone resulted in a decrease to the maximum award amount by nearly $250. At a time when one of the major barriers to a well-prepared and diverse teacher workforce is the high cost of college and student loan debt, these reforms will save districts the expense of replacing educators who quickly leave the field, and ensure that the students furthest away from opportunity will have access to diverse teachers who have completed high-quality pathways into the profession.

December 5, 2019

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

The December Advocate

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 December 2019 edition.

This November, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new provisions to the Lead and Copper Pipe Rule (LCR), which, for the first time, dictates how Community Water Systems (CWS) test for the prevalence of lead in schools’ and childcare centers’ drinking water.

The EPA proposal would require Community Water Systems to collect samples from five drinking water outlets at each school and two drinking water outlets at each childcare facility served by the CWS. This rule will signify the first federal regulation dictating how schools must test for lead since the passage of the LCR in 1981.

This regulation has the potential to be helpful to districts. Seventeen states have no laws requiring that all schools test for lead in drinking water and this will be a positive step in the right direction for school leaders in those states. However, the revised rule doesn’t go far enough to ensure that school leaders are given an accurate picture of the safety of their students’ drinking water.

The regulation fails to outline effective lead testing procedures for CWS’s that serve public schools and childcare facilities, which could lead to confusion and false negatives for superintendents who are trying to interpret, inform and remediate lead testing results for their students and communities.

Specifically, the rule would require CWS’s that serve a public school or childcare facility to alert school system leaders to any testing results that score above the EPA’s 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water (15 ppb) action level. While this does signify an improvement from the status quo, we’re concerned that this criterion could mislead school system leaders into believing their water systems are safe for consumption.

The reason for this goes back to the establishment of the action level in 1991. During that time, the EPA created the action level under the rationale that it was a realistic metric of compliance for CWS’s. At the time, the EPA also acknowledged that there was no established safe level of lead exposure, and since then, has put forth research indicating that even low lead blood levels in children highly correlate to physical and neurological disabilities.

Considering this research and the expanded scope of the LCR to test schools and childcare facilities, it is incomprehensible that the EPA has not adopted a more stringent action threshold in the 28 years since its implementation.

Moreover, the EPA’s action level is practically useless because the testing results do not show superintendents whether their schools’ drinking water is safe. Instead, the test indicates whether a CWS is complying with the 15ppb action level. This is a borderline negligent misstep by the EPA, as it could cause superintendents, who are looking to be transparent with lead testing results, to unknowingly misrepresent the safety of their drinking water.   

In response, AASA is advocating for the EPA to fix this flaw by urging the agency to adopt a 1 ppb standard for lead in schools’ drinking water and share guidance to any district that undergoes lead testing. Additionally, we are imploring the EPA to continue working with the U.S. Dept. of Education to develop strategies that help LEAs properly communicate lead testing results to their stakeholders.

Similarly to the EPA’s action level, there are also flaws with the proposed regulation’s lead testing procedures for CWS’s. While the multiple testing requirements are a step in the right direction, it is not enough since the corrosion and breaking off of lead particles from pipes can be highly variable.

According to Environment America's 2019 report, “Get the Lead Out,” multiple water tests from one tap can result in highly variable lead levels between samples. For example, in a lead sampling study conducted in 2013, researchers concluded that a single sample from a water tap could not accurately reflect the levels of lead flowing through the fixture. Consequently, this means that depending on multiple variables (e.g., weather, time of day, or location of an outlet), LEAs may receive inaccurate results from federal lead testing. To address the variability of lead testing, AASA is pushing the EPA to amend the rule so that CWS’s must test all water drinking outlets in a district to ensure our members have access to the most accurate information.

Finally, AASA is concerned about the lack of federal funding that is available to implement these new testing provisions for LEAs that act as their own CWS. According to the EPA, approximately 7,000 schools control their water supply (such as a well) and are regulated under the LCR. For these entities, the new provisions of the LCR could create financial hardships for LEAs with limited resources.

In addition, for districts that discover that there is lead in their water, there is no funding for remediation at the federal level that they can access. They would have to dip into local education funding to acquire filters, replace faucets and fountains and take other steps to get the lead out. At a minimum the EPA should include a list of federal and state funding resources for LEAs that independently conduct their lead testing and that may have to remove lead from water systems when it is found.

However, we also believe it’s imperative that EPA and the Administration propose new funding to help schools fix the problem - i.e., install filters, replace lead-bearing fixtures, etc.

Overall, AASA believes this regulation is a long overdue step in the right direction, but feels the rule falls short of ensuring children and school personnel are not exposed to lead in schools. However, by amending the action level to 1ppb, increasing LEAs’ access to lead testing guidance, improving testing procedures for CWS’s, and making funding materials more available to districts, this proposal has the potential to ensure greater steps are taken to improve the safety of drinking water at public schools and childcare facilities.

AASA will comment on the NPRM before the closing date on January 13, 2020. We will provide a template on the Leading Edge Blog for you to comment as well. We hope you take a moment to weigh in on this important regulation.

 

December 3, 2019

 Permanent link

Call 1-800 Line And Request More IDEA Funding

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition and increasing IDEA funding is our organization's top federal priority. As negotiations on appropriations come to a close this week we are excited that a few of our coalition partners have created a 1-800 line that superintendents can use to call their Reps/Senators and urgently request greater funding for IDEA. 

On Thursday we are targeting the House and on Friday we are targeting the Senate. Details are below. 

Call your Representative in the House starting on Thursday at 877-682-6145 and once you provide your zip code you will be automatically directed to your Reps office. Here's the script you can use for the call:

Hi, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent and the superintendent of xx   ____________.  I am calling to urge my Representative to increase funding for IDEA which provides resources for special education in the bill funding the Department of Education that Congress is working on now. Our district desperately needs Congress to adequately address rising special education costs which encroach on our operating budgets and we urge Congress to direct any increased funding for education toward this key formula grant program. (Feel free to mention other funding streams like Title I and Title IV that you also support). 

Call your Senator on Friday at 877-582-2913. Once you provide your zip code you will be automatically connected to one of your two Senators. Here's the script you can use for the call: 

Hi, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent and the superintendent of xx   ____________.  I am calling to urge my Senator to increase funding for IDEA which provides resources for special education in the bill funding the Department of Education that Congress is working on now. Our district desperately needs Congress to adequately address rising special education costs which encroach on our operating budgets and we urge Congress to direct any increased funding for education toward this key formula grant program. (Feel free to mention other funding streams like Title I and Title IV that you also support). 

November 27, 2019

 Permanent link

AASA Organizes Letter Advocating for More IDEA Funding

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition, a coalition of education and disability groups that advocate for the full funding of IDEA. Yesterday, AASA sent a letter on behalf of the coalition to Senate appropriators urging them to work together with their counterparts in the House to increase investments in the federal education programs that serve students with disabilities. The letter was signed by 24 national organizations. 

 

November 26, 2019(1)

 Permanent link

Congress Makes Progress on Appropriations But Concerns Remain

On Saturday, Appropriations leaders reached agreement on totals for each of the 12 FY 2020 funding bills, paving the way for Congress to pass as many of those bills as possible in the next four weeks.  The 12 bill allocations, known as the “302(b)” levels, have not been made public but we expect that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will get a boost above the effective 1% increase that the Senate Appropriations Committee had originally approved this fall but well below the 6.6% ($11.8 billion) increase in the House bill passed this spring. 

However, there is concern with how the bills will move forward before December 20th. There could be a “minibus’ where a few bills are packaged together and voted on as a group. Last year, the Defense and the Labor-HHS-Education bills were packaged together and enacted before the start of FY 2019, which meant those programs were not directly affected when much of the rest of the government shut down when their funding bills were not enacted or extended.  That scenario could happen again, although some Members of Congress may worry that passing the two biggest bills leaves less urgency to pass the remaining 10 bills.

Another option is that some bills are passed, but agreement on others is stymied; this has happened when Congress couldn’t agree on funding for key programs but didn’t want to hold up the rest of the bills. Another scenario is that not all bills are finalized by December 20, requiring another CR. The impeachment inquiry brings up a number of obstacles to the appropriations process, including the time it takes and the rancor it causes.  If the House is voting on articles of impeachment at about the same time it is scheduled to vote on appropriations bills, the process could stall for many reasons.