August 19, 2019(1)

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August Advocacy: Forest Counties!

The strategy with forest counties remains two fold: In addition to our almost annual push to secure funding for the program, we are now also engaged in a long-term strategy, one that would overhaul the program and structure it as a trust, removing it from the rough annual cycle of securing federal appropriations. You'll recall that we had the long-term proposal introduced at the end of the 115th Congress, and the same legislation was introduced in a bipartisan manner earlier this month. Ask your senators and representative to support S.1643 as part of your advocacy outreach on forest counties. Specific to the annual appropriations effort, forest counties were not funded in FY19. Meanwhile, FY20 negotiations to date also fail to fund the program. It is imperative Congress includes funding for forest counties in the final FY20 appropriations package and that it includes retroactive funding for FY19 as well.

Check out our handy one pager, thanks to the Forest Counties coalition. 

August 19, 2019

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

PEP Talk Episode 13: Donors Choose (Crowd Funding in Education)

In the latest episode of PEP Talk, Noelle Ellerson Ng talks with Katie Bisbee and Anna Edwards of Donors Choose

All episodes of PEP Talk can be found here

In addition to talking crowd funding, check out the resources and information specific to rural schools: 

As more schools tap into crowdfunding to provide innovative resources and learning opportunities for their students, administrators in rural districts might feel left out. Since traditional crowdfunding usually only generates donations from a teacher’s personal network or the local community, it may seem impossible for rural schools with a smaller footprint to have the same funding success as schools in large metropolitan areas. But not all crowdfunding is made equal, and thanks to charities like DonorsChoose.org that help schools secure funding from donors across the nation, rural districts stand to benefit just as much as their urban peers. Read more about how you can help your district.  

August 15, 2019(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Call to Action: Support Categorical Eligibility

Earlier this summer, USDA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would limit states’ability to implement Broad-based Categorical Eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which provides eligible low-income households with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that can be used at authorized grocery stores. Under current law, families may become SNAP-eligible by either (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements, or (2) being deemed automatic or “categorically" eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant (TANF).

Originally, TANF was designed as a broad-purposed block grant to finance a wide range of social welfare activities, including government-subsidized employment, childcare, and cash. By automatically enrolling TANF eligible households in SNAP, the Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) program enabled states to support families on the cusp of the federal poverty line through short-term financial crises by ensuring their continued access to food security. Cat El also benefited schools by making TANF students automatically eligible for Free and Reduced Priced Lunch. 

The proposed rule by USDA is slated to have the following effects: 

  1. It will require TANF recipients to receive aid for 6-months or more before determining whether a household is eligible to receive SNAP benefits; 
  2. The rule will limit types of non-cash TANF benefits conferring categorical eligibility to those that focus on subsidized employment; and 
  3. The change will require state agencies to inform the Food Nutritional Service of all non-cash TANF benefits that confer categorical eligibility.  

If passed, the Cat El rule will hurt students by taking away food security from thousands of TANF households and creating a more onerous application process for families trying to receive SNAP benefits. For schools, the consequences of the rule will be felt immediately, as more than 500,000 students will no longer qualify for free school meals. Moreover, approximately 3.1 million families will lose their SNAP benefits. 

Remember, in 2019 we're asking all our members to take their advocacy up to the next level. Here is your chance to let USDA know that this is unacceptable. Comments must be filed on or before September 23rd. To help broadcast the importance of Cat El for students and schools you can file comments by copying and pasting this letter to the following link! If you're looking for something shorter, feel free to copy and paste an abridged template for filing comments here.

 

August 15, 2019

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New Public Charge Regulation Will Impact School District Finances

Last December, AASA and many individual superintendents weighed in on a Department of Homeland Security regulation that would change the definition of who is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes. We argued that the proposed regulation put the health and well-being of millions of immigrant children at risk and could place new burdens on school districts to provide health and nutrition related services for children who qualify for these benefits through federal programs.

Despite AASA’s objections, today the final regulation was finalized and it will be effective on October 15th. As children head back to school it is important that school leaders anticipate that some of the budgeting they have done for this school year could be impacted by the regulation. To be clear: this regulation only impacts families who are here legally. To put a pin on this, nearly 19 million, or 25% of children, had an immigrant parent as of 2017, and the large majority of these children were citizens. About 10 million, or 13%, were citizen children with a noncitizen parent. This is going to impact a lot of kids.

Specifically, for districts with large numbers of immigrant families, it may be considerably more difficult to get consent for the district to bill Medicaid as a result of the regulation. Here’s why: the regulation says that if a parent accesses Medicaid more than two times than their pathway to citizenship may be denied. The regulation specifically says that a child who accesses Medicaid via school-based services (whether IDEA eligible or not) would not have that access held against them, but since districts must obtain consent from parents to bill Medicaid there is a deep concern that parents will not give consent either because they are skeptical that it will not impact their family negatively or because they juts don’t want to wish entangling anyone in their family in the Medicaid system. The financial repercussions for districts are obvious: money district leaders are expecting to be reimbursed via Medicaid will not be there and you’ll have to dip into local dollars to pay for professionals and services that Medicaid should totally cover or just stop offering some of the non-IDEA healthcare services you provide to children if those are optional.

On the nutrition side, the regulation directly targets kids. If a child accesses SNAP (as well as their parent) their access to this federal benefit would hinder their ability to become citizens. This is absolutely crazy. A child cannot support themselves financially and if they need access to food it should not be held against them if they wish to become a U.S. citizen. This aspect of the regulation that impacts children and adults alike is intentionally directed to reduce access to food supports for legally present immigrant families. It will lead to intensive food insecurity for children and schools will have more kids coming to school with unmet nutritional needs who are not ready to learn. Districts can, of course, try and pick up the pieces by sending food home to families and operating their own food banks, but this costs money that many districts don’t have to spare. Start thinking about how you’re going to handle this issue locally.

On the housing side district leaders should anticipate an uptick in the number of children qualifying for McKinney Vento services and needing transportation. The regulation states that reliance on Section 8 Housing Vouchers will be held against an adult who wants to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. Of course children benefit by having access to stable housing and when families forego this housing benefit then children lose their access to a stable home, so this will directly harm children. However, district leaders need to be anticipate that transportation costs they previously budgeted for may be insufficient as a result of the uptick in children who are moving away from housing developments and are in shelters or in other housing situations that are less stable. District leaders are responsible for the educational stability of these children as families seek other affordable housing options and must respond accordingly if more students qualify for McKinney Vento services.  

All in all, this regulation can be summarized a deeply flawed policy that will exacerbate the needs of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable. This rule, as released today, will have a devastating impact on the children that we educate and the school district budgets we manage.