New Resource: AASA & ASBO FAQ

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New Resource: AASA & ASBO FAQ

Since the start of the pandemic, AASA and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International have worked to collect and respond to the variety of questions we have received about the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal response, and what it means for schools in terms of implementation and compliance. To broadly disseminate this intelligence to our members, we have created this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to cover all your COVID education policy needs. 
 
Specifically, the resource overviews COVID questions that relate to School Nutrition, ESSA, IDEA, CARES Act Funding, and school procurement, HR, and employee benefits. You can access the FAQ document by clicking here. Additionally, please continue to submit your questions through our ongoing webinars or directly to staff (Elleka Yost eyost@asbointl.org and Noelle Ellerson Ng nellerson@aasa.org).
 

AASA and ASBO Seek IDEA MOE Relief in next COVID-19 Package

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AASA and ASBO Seek IDEA MOE Relief in next COVID-19 Package

AASA and ASBO recently penned a letter urging for the inclusion of IDEA funding in the next COVID-19 package. An excerpt from the letter reads: 

"Our organizations have championed the full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for decades and we believe it is critical that the next relief package provides more resources to districts to ensure they are meeting their obligations under IDEA for each student with a disability that we educate as we transform the delivery of education in the upcoming school year.

We write to request key flexibility around a provision in IDEA that is intended to ensure districts maintain constant spending levels on special education, despite other budgetary pressures they experience." 

To read the full letter, click here

Protect Public Education: AASA Campaign

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.