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

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

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

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

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

AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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

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

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

FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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

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

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

 

 
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