K12 School Facilities Belong in National Infrastructure Stimulus

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K12 School Facilities Belong in National Infrastructure Stimulus

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

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

 

Letter to USED: Recommendations to Improve Rural Education Outreach

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Letter to USED: Recommendations to Improve Rural Education Outreach

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

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

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

 

 

AASA American Rescue Plan Webinars

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AASA American Rescue Plan Webinars

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

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

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

State Estimates on ARP IDEA grant funds

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State Estimates on ARP IDEA grant funds

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

AASA Leads Letter Urging Expediency in Developing Kids Vaccines

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AASA Leads Letter Urging Expediency in Developing Kids Vaccines

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

You can read the letter here.

America Rescue Plan: USED Fact Sheet and State Allocations

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America Rescue Plan: USED Fact Sheet and State Allocations

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

American Rescue Plan Summary Memo

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American Rescue Plan Summary Memo 

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

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

Letter from Deputy Assistant Secretary Samuel on School Staff Vaccination Program

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Letter from Deputy Assistant Secretary Samuel on School Staff Vaccination Program

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

 

Guest Blog: CCSSO Resources

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Guest Blog: CCSSO Resources

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

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

AASA Supports American Rescue Plan, Highlights Policy Concerns

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AASA Supports American Rescue Plan, Highlights Policy Concerns

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

March Advocate: 2021 AASA Legislative Agenda

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March Advocate: 2021 AASA Legislative Agenda


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

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

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

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