Summer Learning and Enrichment National Convening April 26 & April 27, 2021

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Summer Learning and Enrichment National Convening April 26 & April 27, 2021

On  April 26th from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT and on April 27th from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (ET), the U.S. Dept. of Education is hosting the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative National Convening. Specifically, the convening represents an opportunity from Secretary Cardona for national education leaders, state team members, and other interested partners to discuss and collaborate on the importance of evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs that address the urgent needs of students, including those students disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over two days of Collaborative conversations, participants will discuss:

  • Best practices for equity-driven approaches that meet the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic;
  • Evidence-based summer learning and enrichment strategies that address students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic development; 
  • Guidance for using American Rescue Plan funds to effectively address the summer learning and enrichment needs; and
  • Strategic opportunities to partner across states, districts, philanthropy, non-profit, and community organizations, bringing together diverse stakeholders to create and sustain successful programs together.

You can register for the convening by clicking here.

ED Releases Interim Final Rule on American Rescue Plan Funding

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ED Releases Interim Final Rule on American Rescue Plan Funding

As a requirement for receiving the remaining American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, the U.S. Department of Education will be requiring LEAs to develop and submit to SEAS a plan for the use of the ARP dollars as well as how they will ensure a safe return to school learning environment for students and staff.

The use of funds plan must include how funds will be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies that are to the extent possible consistent with CDC guidance on reopening schools. The LEA must also describe how they are using the 20% of ARP earmarked for learning recovery efforts and how they will spend the remaining ESSER funds of the ARP Act. It will also require the LEA to describe how they will respond to the social, emotional and mental health needs of all students with a specific emphasis on vulnerable subgroups. The LEA must also describe how they are meaningfully consulting with stakeholders and allowing for public input on their plan.

Of particular note are the requirements that ED is requiring for meaningful stakeholder engagement on the ARP spending plan. In addition to consulting with usual groups (students; families; school and district administrators, including special education administrators; and teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions) ED mandates that the LEA demonstrate that they have consulted with tribes, civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations) and stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students.

As a separate requirement, the LEA must have a “safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services plan” which is reviewed/revised at a minimum of every 6 months through September 2024. The LEA must seek public input into its “return to school” plan and take such input into account in determining whether to revise its plan and take into consideration the timing of significant changes to CDC guidance on reopening schools that could impact the plan. This plan must describe how how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC:

Universal and correct wearing of masks.

Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding).

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation.

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments.

Diagnostic and screening testing.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities.

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies.

This plan will also have to describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services. In addition, if at the time the LEA revises its plan the CDC has updated its guidance on reopening schools, the revised plan must address the extent to which the LEA has adopted policies, and describe any such policies, for each of the updated safety recommendations.

Finally, each LEA’s ARP ESSER plan must be in an understandable and uniform format and to the extent practicable, written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and, upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent.

 

USDA Extends School Meal flexibilities to June 2022

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USDA Extends School Meal flexibilities to June 2022

On April 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a broad set of flexibilities to promote safety and social distancing in the federal school meal programs as local education agencies continue to transition to in-person learning during the 2021-22 school year.

Specifically, USDA's announcement will extend multiple COVID-19 school nutrition nationwide flexibilities through June 30, 2022, which AASA advocated for at the beginning of the pandemic and supported school food-service operators' efforts to keep students fed while limiting exposure to COVID-19. Under the announcement, the following waivers and flexibilities are available to LEAs: 

  1. Schools nationwide can serve meals free to all students through the National School Lunch Program's Seamless Summer Option (SSO). While the waivers do not extend the option to operate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) during the regular school year, schools that opt for SSO will get the benefit of the summer reimbursement rate for each meal served. The summer rate is higher than the typical rate for each reduced-price meal or free meal served as part of NSLP.
  2. USDA will continue to offer targeted meal pattern flexibility and technical assistance as needed. This will help school districts reasonably comply with food supply disruptions while maintaining access to nutritious meals. 
  3. School districts can continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks in non-group settings at flexible meal times. Parents or guardians can also pick up meals for their children when programs are not operating normally while still complying with social distancing consistent with federal recommendations.  

AASA and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) released a joint statement supporting the proposal yesterday, April 20, 2021. AASA executive director Daniel A. Domenech said, "Throughout the last year, we have seen record levels of food insecurity across the nation. While our schools have made tremendous strides toward re-opening with in-person learning and returning to some semblance of normalcy, it is clear that our students and school food-service operations are continuing to recover from the pandemic. As we enter this new transition period, USDA's move to allow schools to operate the Seamless Summer Option and offer all meals free to students as well as provide continue targeted meal pattern flexibility and technical support to local education agencies will give superintendents the tools to tackle this issue and customize meal service designed to fit local needs..."  

You can check out the press release by clicking here

An American Imperative: A New Vision for Public Schools

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An American Imperative: A New Vision for Public Schools

On April 9, 2021, AASA released a report recommending a holistic redesign of our nation’s schools through the empowerment of districts on behalf of their learners, families and communities.

The report, An American Imperative: A New Vision of Public Schools, was created by Learning 2025: A National Commission on Student-Centered Equity-Focused Education, a cadre of thought leaders in education, business, community and philanthropy, launched earlier this year by AASA. 

What makes this report stand out is its call to action comprised of recommendations, coupled with specific action steps. Everyone associated with a school district must take bold steps to work together as systems on behalf of the well-being, self-sufficiency and success of our students. The report affirms that leaders, teachers and learners play a role in redesigning systems, reengineering instruction and co-authoring the learning journey. Further, core component areas are essential and must be present to address any school system and community. These core areas include resources; culture; and social, emotional and cognitive growth. 

Looking ahead, AASA, in partnership with other national collaborative organizations, will identify demonstration school districts that exemplify the actions expressed in the report to serve as national models. Districts will be divided into different phases—Lighthouse, Aspiring and Emerging—to indicate various levels of development or implementation, and will help guide practical application. 

 

 

ASHRAE: Guidance for Re-opening Schools

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ASHRAE: Guidance for Re-opening Schools

Our colleagues at ASHRAE – a global professional society of over 55,000 members committed to serving humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning – released two new resources this week that provide school districts with guidance on how to limit transmission of SARS-COV-2 and future pandemics through the air. Specifically, the focus of these resources is to provide school system leaders with practical information and checklists to help minimize airborne transmission of COVID-19 by offering recommendations concerning HVAC (1) inspection and maintenance, (2) ventilation, (3) filtration, (4) air cleaning, (5) energy use considerations and (6) water system precautions.
 
Check out an abridged summary of the guidance by clicking here. The full version of ASHRAE's school re-opening guidance is available here.
 
 
 

The Advocate: April 2021

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The Advocate: April 2021

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 April 2021 edition.

As AASA has highlighted in newsletters and blog posts, one of President Biden’s policy priorities this year is to move legislation that would drastically rebuild the nation’s infrastructure after decades of disinvestment in school facilities, broadband, water systems, bridges and roads. Acting in good faith on this campaign promise, yesterday, March 31, 2021, the Biden administration released the American Jobs Plan. If passed, this sweeping proposal would invest a total of $2 trillion in funding over 10-years in infrastructure improvements that would include more than $200 billion in direct grants and bonds for education and childcare infrastructure and workforce training programs. The last time public school facilities received a federal investment of this scale was following the Great Depression after FDR appropriated $1 billion to improve school buildings and make repairs; thus, making public schools one of the oldest forms of American infrastructure in addition to the second largest portion of the infrastructure sector. If history repeats itself, the American Jobs Plan will be welcomed news to superintendents, as it would provide additional federal investments that would benefit schools and families by modernizing school facilities, improving environmental factors and closing the digital divide. To keep our members abreast of what this plan could potentially mean for their communities, AASA has listed the major education-related highlights of the proposal below:

School Construction and Modernization: 

In total, the President’s plan calls on Congress to allocate $100 billion for school construction and modernization. This would be broken down into $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds. Moreover, this funding would likely be appropriated on an as-needed basis to procure equipment and make repairs that enable schools to improve indoor air quality and safely reopen with in-person learning (i.e., HVAC repairs). This funding may also be used for school district efforts around: (1) creating energy-efficient and innovative school buildings with cutting-edge technology and labs, (2) improving school kitchens, or (3) reducing or eliminating the use of paper plates and other disposable materials. 

While AASA is appreciative of any federal investment for public school facilities, it is important to note that the President’s proposed investment around school construction and modernization efforts represents a significant dip in funding from other proposals that have moved forth on Capitol Hill. For comparison, the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Bobby Scott, has championed the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RRASA). This proposal would allocate $100 billion in grants and 30 billion in capital outlay bonds. Therefore, this portion of the American Jobs Plan represents a $50B reduction in total grant funding compared to other House Democrat proposals on school infrastructure.

Digital Infrastructure:

If passed, the proposal would appropriate $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure. President Biden's priority on digital infrastructure is to build a system that is "future proof," meaning that it can withstand the impact of future crises. Specifically, this funding would be used to help America reach the 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage threshold. While the details of how this money would be allocated have not yet been released, it is certain that this investment would help close the digital divide particularly in the nation’s most rural communities.

Community Colleges and Childcare Infrastructure: 

The proposal calls on Congress to invest $12 billion in community colleges to improve facilities and technology, address higher education deserts (particularly for rural communities), grow local economies, improve energy efficiency and resilience, and narrow funding inequities in higher education. The proposal also urges Congress to appropriate $25 billion for states to upgrade and increase the supply of childcare facilities. Specifically, this funding would flow through a Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund directed at building states' supply of infant and toddler care in high-need areas. Finally, the President is calling for an expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities at places of work. Employers will receive 50 percent of the first $1 million of construction costs per facility so that employees can enjoy the peace of mind and convenience that comes with on-site childcare.

School Lead Pipes and Service Lines:

Also, of important note to AASA members, the proposal calls on Congress to provide $45 billion in federal investments to eliminate all lead. The benefit of this investment to AASA members is that it would significantly solve the schools’ burden of complying with Environmental Protection Agency requirements around the prevalence of lead in schools’ drinking water. For more background around this topic, please click here.

Workforce Training and Apprenticeships:

The proposal also calls on Congress to allocate $48 billion in federal investments to improve the capacity of existing workforce development and worker protection systems. Ultimately, the goal of this investment would be to support registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, create one to two million new registered apprenticeship-slots, and strengthen the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these types of workforce training programs.

Future Outlook of Passage:

Senate Democrats are exploring whether they could have an additional opportunity to use budget reconciliation to pass these two bills. Congress could revise the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget resolution that included the reconciliation instructions, which were used to create and pass the American Rescue Plan, and then use the new reconciliation instructions to pass this latest infrastructure proposal. This would benefit Democrats by leaving the FY 2022 budget resolution available for a third reconciliation bill, which only requires a simple majority vote in the Senate for passage. 

Speaker Pelosi has announced her intention to pass this bill before the July 4th recess, but many are skeptical given the lack of detail in this proposal how realistic that timeline actually is. AASA will certainly make a hard push to ensure school infrastructure is included in any Congressional package and funded in an appropriate, equity-centered way. Please stay tuned to see how you can advocate and for the maximum funding needed to address the longstanding crumbling and decrepit condition of some of our nation’s school buildings and grounds.

**Please note that the version of the Advocate posted here is an extended version, and is beyond what appears in our state newsletters.

 

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.

 

AASA Releases 2020-21 Superintendent Salary Study

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AASA Releases 2020-21 Superintendent Salary Study

Today, Feb. 23, 2021, AASA released its 2020-21 Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study, which serves as the ninth annual edition of the superintendent salary series. This year's report is based on more than 1,500 responses and offers readers the latest findings concerning school district leadership compensation and benefits packages. To get a sneak peek at the study, check out the findings listed below.

  • A superintendent’s median salary ranged from $140,172 to $180,500, depending on district enrollment (size).
  • More than one-half (53 percent) of the respondents, regardless of gender, indicated that their district is best described as rural, while nearly one-third (30 percent) described their district as suburban and nearly one-quarter (18 percent) described their district as urban. This is closely aligned with data from the National Center on Education Statistics.
  • In the 2019-20 school year, 32 percent of female superintendents described their districts as in declining economic condition, along with 25.1 percent of male superintendents. The findings for this year’s investigation show a trend of more superintendents, male and female, feeling less optimistic about the economic stability of their districts.
  • Most superintendents reported serving in their present position for less than five years, with just 13 percent serving more than 10 years. 
  • One-fourth (24.9 percent) of the sample consisted of females, while nearly three-fourths (73.8 percent) of respondents were male superintendents.
  • Respondents were predominantly white (89 percent), followed by African American (5.1 percent), Hispanic (2.8 percent), Native American or Native Alaska (.92 percent) and Asian (.46 percent).
  • About four out of 10 superintendent contracts specify the process, measures and indicators to be used in the formal performance evaluation.

The 2020-21 AASA Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study, was released in two versions: a full version for AASA members and an abridged version for wider circulation. You can check out both versions of the report by following the link here. The study's press release is accessible here.

AASA and 18 other National Education Groups Urge Passage of FY21 Budget Reconciliation Package

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AASA and 18 other National Education Groups Urge Passage of FY21 Budget Reconciliation Package

Earlier today, 19 national education groups sent a joint letter to Congressional leadership expressing their support for the American Rescue Plan that would appropriate $128 billion in new, flexible funds for school districts over the next two-and-a-half school years. This funding will enable school districts to sustain and enhance their support for students learning remotely as well as ensure schools open for in-person instruction have healthy, welcoming environments throughout the calendar year.

Groups supporting the letter include:

 

  •  AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American School Counselor Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino School Administrators
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium 
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

 

AASA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda is Finalized

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AASA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda is Finalized

On February 17th AASA’s Governing Board voted to approve the 2021 Legislative Agenda. You can access it here.

AASA Statement to Guidance Released by the CDC and Ed. Dept. on Reopening Schools

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AASA Statement to Guidance Released by the CDC and Ed. Dept. on Reopening Schools

Today, Feb. 12. 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance prioritizing masks and social distancing of at least six feet for teachers and students in K-12 schools as they reopen.  The U.S. Dept. of Ed also released its first volume of a handbook as a supplemental document to guide educators on masking and physical distancing.

In summary, CDC guidance reiterates that access to vaccines should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated, "These two strategies are incredibly-important in areas that have high community spread of Covid-19, which right now is the vast majority of communities in the United States.” According to Director Walkensy, "Teacher vaccinations can also serve as an additional layer of protection atop masking, distancing, hand-washing, facility cleaning, and rapid contact tracing, plus quarantines for the infected.

 Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement in response to the CDC’s new guidance on reopening schools. 

 “Since the outset of the pandemic, AASA and the public school superintendents we represent have focused on the safety and health of our staff and students—always with an eye on and priority for safely reopening schools.

 “With the new year, new Congress and new administration, we are greatly appreciative of the deliberate, coordinated and focused federal leadership on both prioritizing the physical reopening of schools and supporting schools in their work to do so. We have relied on the science and data available. However, when we found that lacking, we partnered with our fellow national organizations and outside academics to create the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, a platform that provides data critical to informing school reopening while ensuring the data was available and accessible at the most local of levels.

 “Our data initially reported what has become only clearer—that it is likely safer for schools to be more open than they currently are, so long as appropriate mitigation strategies are in place. And to the extent that today’s sets of guidance address both of those realities—that schools can open and to do so requires mitigation strategies—it represents a strong step forward in helping more students return to the classroom.

 “As we near the one-year mark since our students left the classroom, it has become abundantly clear that our nation’s greatest assets—our children—are paying some of the biggest tolls for this pandemic in their physical, mental and academic health. We reiterate our call for additional federal funding to support the work of reopening, covering costs spanning from testing and ventilation to PPE and social distancing, and so many more things in between. We applaud the CDC and the U.S. Dept. of Education for the coordinated and collaborative effort to provide clear, actionable guidance that school system leaders can incorporate into their reopening plans.

 “We remain deeply indebted to the tireless leadership of superintendents and educators in our nation’s public schools and will continue to do everything in our power to support those schools already reopened and those still working to reopen safely.”

 

OCRE Federal Rural Education Summit

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OCRE Federal Rural Education Summit

 
As part of our commitment to supporting rural education, Organizations Concerned About Rural Education is hosting its first virtual Federal Rural Education Policy Summit for Capitol Hill on Wednesday, February 24th. During this half-day virtual event, Hill Staffers and other attendees will get an overview of the most pressing issues facing rural K-12 schools, administrators, teachers, and students as our public school system continues to recover from the pandemic. 
 
The Summit will feature five separate 1-hour long policy sessions focused on the most pressing education-related issues facing our nation's rural communities and offer attendees resources and recommendations for how to solve these problems. If that wasn't enough to get your attention, then the Summit's line-up of high-profile speakers and experts from the Department of Census, Center on Budget Priorities, and Learning Policy Institute, are sure to convince you to join the conversation. 
 
This event is part of the allied coalition efforts of the summits co-hosting organizations: Association of Education Service Agencies; National Association of Federally Impacted Schools; American Federation of Teachers; Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents; Association of School Business Officials International; Bellwhether Education Partners; Committee for Children; Consortium for School Networking; Future of Privacy Forum; Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality; Mid Atlantic Equity Center; National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Directors of Special Education; National Education Association; National PTA; National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium; National Rural Education Association; National School Boards Association; Parents for Public Schools; Public Advocacy for Kids; and White Board Advisors. The Summit's hour-by-hour agenda and resources are forthcoming but will be updated in this blog post as we near the event. You can register for the event by clicking here. The summit's agenda is accessible by clicking here.
 

Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan

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Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan

On February 5, 2021, the Biden Administration released additional information on the President's latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief proposal dubbed a Detailed Explanation of the K-12 Funding Request in the American Rescue Plan. Specifically, this document serves as the Administration's justification to Congress to appropriate $145 billion in K-12 education funding to support LEA's safely reopening. As good news, the plan differed from the initial details of Biden's $130B K-12 education proposal during the campaign trail. 

As a justification for the higher request in funding from Congress, the President based his new proposal on CDC cost estimates associated with safely operating school districts during the 2020-2021 academic year, an approximation of the costs for school districts to avoid lay-offs into the next school year, and an estimate of the additional costs around the academic and social-emotional needs of students that have resulted from the pandemic. We've included an overview of a breakdown in allowable uses of K-12 funding in the chart below.

Allowable Use of Funding

Cost in Billions of $

Estimate Source

To avoid Lay-offs Closes budget holes so districts can avoid lay-offs this school year and next.

 

60

Learning Policy Institute, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Conference of State Legislatures

To provide for physical barriers and other materials CDC recommends to help keep students safe

3.5

CDC

To provide additional custodial staff members

14

CDC

To support additional Transportation Investments that   provide for social distancing on buses

14

CDC

To provide PPE for students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch

6

AFT,CDC, American Association of School Business Professionals

To support activities around promoting social distancing by reducing class size

50

AFT

To provide a nurse to the 25% of schools without one

3

American School Nurse Association

To extend learning time & support for students through tutoring or summer school

29

Learning Policy Institute

To provide the additional school counselors and psychologists

10

American School Counselor Association

Activities around the digital divide

7

Census Pulse Survey Data

To provide wrap-around services and supports to students and families through Community Schools

.1

Internal

To advance equity and evidence based polices to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

2

Internal

Total Need

199

N/A

Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133)

- 54

N/A

Net Funding `

145

N/A


 

 

AASA Advocacy Pre and Day-of NCE Events

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AASA Advocacy Pre and Day-of NCE Events

It's February: whether you're a new or old member; non-member; aspiring superintendent; or researcher, you know that this time of the year is when AASA throw's our premier event, the National Conference on Education (NCE). For this unprecedented year, AASA is not only holding its first-ever virtual NCE but also celebrating its launch with some pre-conference treats to get you psyched for your upcoming advocacy and other education policy-related activities in 2021.  To make sure you don't miss out on any of our nifty sessions, we have curated the advocacy webinars and NCE sessions in the list below.

Pre-Conference Sessions:
  • Join us for Salary and Benefits Study Contract Webinar with Hogan Lovells' Maree Sneed and AASA Researcher-in-Residence Christopher Tienken on Feb. 9, 2021 2:00 PM EST. This webinar is free to all AASA members.
  • AASA’s Advocacy Team Presents, What’s Up in Washington: Sign up for this webinar on Feb. 10, 2021 2:00 PM EST (free for AASA members) to hear from the complete AASA advocacy team for a refresh on the latest COVID package, to the latest guidance and Executive Orders from the Biden administration, to what’s possible with a 50/50 split in the Senate.

Follow us online for our Policy Sessions During NCE:

  • Check out Education and the Front Page on Thursday, February 18, 2021, from 12:30 PM – 1:15 PM EST with Eric Green Reporter with the New York Times, Andrew Ujifusa Reporter with Education week, and Laura Meckler Reporter with the Washington Post.
  • Check out The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America on Thursday, February 18, 2021 from 3:00 PM – 3:45 PM EST with Author Richard Rothstein.
  • Join us for the AASA President-Elect Candidates Forum on Thursday, February 18, 2021, from 3:50 PM – 4:35 PM EST. This session will be moderated by AASA Immediate Past President, Deborah Kerr.
  • Join us for a presentation with Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel during, Leading Through Connectivity: How FCC Policy Supports Our Learners on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM EST.
  • Check out the session Nice White Parents on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 12:40 PM – 1:25 PM EST for a conversation around the exploration of whiteness, history, and NYC public schools with Producer/Reporter Chana Joffee-Walt at This American Life and Senior Program Officer & Independent Consultant Ramapo for Children, Rachel Lissy.
  • Join us for the session, COVID-19 School Response Dashboard on Friday, February 19, 2021, from 2:20 PM – 3:05 PM EST with Brown University Professor Emily Oster, Deputy Director of Education Policy at American Enterprise Institute Nat Malkus, Principal Consultant on Education at Qualtrics Byron Adams, and Superintendent of Mason City Schools Jonathan Cooper.
 

Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

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Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

Since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, federal funding for the program has fallen woefully short of the amount initially promised by Congress under the law. In Fiscal Year 2020, the federal government provided a meager $12.7 billion to states to help offset the additional costs of providing special education and related services to an estimated 7 million students with disabilities nationwide. 
 
This Federal contribution was just 13.2% of the amount promised by Congress, also known as “full funding,” and has resulted in an approximate fiscal shortfall of $23.5 billion for special education services across the nation. As a result of this failure, the burden to cover the funding shortfall and additional cost for IDEA services has moved to states and local school districts. As the chart below indicates, after adjusting for inflation, funding provided in FY 20 is the lowest percentage of the federal share of IDEA funding since 2000. 

To make matters worse, the growth in the number of students served by IDEA in the past several years is further exacerbating state and local public school systems' budget shortfalls. Between 2011–12 and 2018–19, the number of students receiving IDEA services increased from 6.4 to 7.1 million, which in turn increased the percentage of IDEA students from 13 to 14 percent of total public school enrollment. In states like California, New York, and Florida the federal government's failure to fully fund IDEA has cost these localities $1.2 - $1.9 billion for special education services in school year 2020-21 alone. To see the full breakdown between state and federal IDEA funding gaps across the nation, check out this nifty chart below  from the National Education Association or click here


For AASA, which co-chairs the IDEA full funding coalition, these new statistics further highlight the need and importance of our allied advocacy efforts to push Congress to provide up to 40% of the costs associated with IDEA and other special education-related services. Looking ahead to the first months of the 117th session of Congress, it is likely that this issue will gain broader attention on Capitol Hill due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 operations. Thus far, Congress has already introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would fully fund Title I and IDEA. Moreover, our intel suggests that an IDEA full funding bill is in the works. As such, we implore you to keep up-to-date on all of AASA's advocacy efforts on IDEA to engage on this issue and ensure Congress provides this critical funding for our most vulnerable students.

 
 

Updated P-EBT Implementation Guidance for States

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Updated P-EBT Implementation Guidance for States

On January 29th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new Pandemic EBT guidance that will allow states to provide P-EBT benefits to children in schools and childcare settings. Specifically, this guidance provides states with new flexibilities when developing or amending P-EBT plans and increases the daily P-EBT benefit for both school children and children in childcare by approximately 15 percent to reflect the value of a free reimbursement for an afterschool snack. The guidance also allows states to retroactively apply to use the new higher benefit back to the beginning of School Year 2020-2021. 
 
Check out the full details via USDA's memo, updated state plan template, and accompanying Q&As document by following the highlighted links.

The Advocate: February 2021

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The Advocate: February 2021

February is usually a time when we look forward to seeing superintendents from across the country gathering together somewhere warm or fun (or both) and chatting about the politics of Washington, the politics of their hometowns and learning together from great leaders and inspiring thinkers. While we won’t be in sunny San Diego this year, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team is still excited to have some great professional learning opportunities planned this month, culminating in our first-ever virtual National Conference on Education.

Before we describe some of the sessions we have selected for the Policy & Advocacy strand, you should know we have intentionally decided not to offer our annual Federal Advocacy Update this year as part of NCE. We know you’re not seeing us or hearing from our team as often as you normally would, and we didn’t want to compete for your time and attention with so other many great sessions at our national conference. So, we are offering our normal, full-team, one-hour, jam-packed federal education policy update on February 10 at 2 p.m. ET for any and all AASA members. You can sign up to register here and if you can’t attend, you can still obtain a copy of our PPT and a link to watch the event afterwards.

Back to NCE: This year we wanted to offer not just sessions you know and love (like our superintendent salary and contract session with Maree Sneed), but also sessions that feature some high profile, diverse speakers who can and should push you to think differently, or at least think more deeply about your job as a federal advocate for your district.

The first of these is a session with Jessica Rosenworcel, acting FCC chairwoman and a long-time friend of AASA. Rosenworcel has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2011. Throughout her tenure at the Commission, her focus on closing the digital divide for students has been outstanding.. We are thrilled that President Biden has nominated this champion for digital equity for kids to be the new chairwoman of the FCC. This is a great opportunity to hear what she wants to do to support the E-Rate program and other programs that touch connectivity in schools in her new role.

The next two sessions we wanted to flag are complimentary in their focus on school segregation. The first features Richard Rothstein, one of the boldest and most heralded scholars on the subject. Rothstein will again share with AASA members the history of school segregation and the role that the U.S. Government played in creating and sustaining racially segregated school systems. As a compliment to this session, we are excited to introduce you to Chana Joffe Walt, a radio journalist and producer, whose podcast Nice White Parents, exploded in popularity this summer for its view that one of the most powerful forces in shaping our public schools, White parents, are at the heart of what’s wrong with our public schools. Nice White Parents was recorded over a five-year period and describes various attempts to integrate our public schools over the course of American history, including the present day, and how White parents who say they want integration and diversity often become obstacles to true racial equity.

We also have sessions that are focused on what superintendents are dealing with right now: COVID cases. We couldn’t help but do an NCE session with Emily Oster, a renowned health economist from Brown University. She has partnered with AASA in the development of a COVID-19 database for districts. Oster, along with Qualtrics, a brilliant firm that maintains the database, will describe how districts can utilize the platform, what we know so far about COVID spread in schools (based on data provided by AASA members) and what mitigation strategies appear to be the most effective based on our data.  Finally, given that the work of superintendents, particularly these days, is highly scrutinized by local, state and national media, we compiled a panel comprised of the best of the best in education policy journalism that will not only give you their take on what’s happening in federal education policy these days and their predictions for the Biden Administration and new Congress, but also provide ideas for how to engage with reporters most effectively, particularly when it comes to national issues. You won’t want to miss the conversation with reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post and Education Week.

We hope you can make it to some of these exciting sessions. Stay safe and healthy. 

USED Guidance on Collecting Average Daily Attendance

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USED Guidance on Collecting Average Daily Attendance

This week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released their plans for collecting average daily attendance (ADA) data from States for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years (SYs). For context, NCES collects ADA data annually through the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) for use, among other things, in distributing funds for several of the Department’s programs. Specifically, the Department is providing States flexibility for reporting SY 2019-2020 ADA data to ensure the data are consistent and as accurate as possible. As required by section 8101(1) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), each State will continue to report ADA based on either the Federal or the State’s definition of ADA. The options available to states are listed below:

If using the Federal ADA definition, the following options are available:
  1. States unable to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session during SY 2019-2020 until the date that school facilities closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19, and a State determined that it could no longer accurately report ADA.  
  2. States able to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session for the same school year. Under this option, States would report attendance on days each school or LEA was in session and attendance was collected, including remote learning days (including distance education, distance learning, and digital learning) completed before the date SY 2019-2020 ended. If States have a temporary inability to report attendance, they may include in ADA data reporting those days for which attendance was collected subsequent to the interruption. States have the flexibility to report under this option even if they are unable to report remote learning days from all schools or LEAs.

If using your State ADA definition, the following options are available:

  1. States unable to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report, consistent with State law or regulation, the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during SY 2019-2020 for each school or LEA and the number of days each school or LEA was in session until the date school facilities closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 and a State determined that it could no longer accurately report ADA or report under the Federal ADA definition for SY 2019-2020.  
  2. States able to accurately report ADA for remote learning days occurring as a result of COVID-19: Report ADA as defined by State law or regulation. Under this option, States would report on attendance on days each school or LEA was in session and attendance was collected, including remote learning days (including distance education, distance learning, and digital learning) completed before the date SY 2019-2020 ended.

NCES plans to continue collaborating with States to ascertain the content of ADA data that States can accurately report and provide further clarification, if appropriate, in the FY 2020 reporting instructions to collect those data for SY 2019-2020. To support this effort, NCES will also provide technical support to State Fiscal Coordinators through quarterly interactive webinars to help support consistent collection and submission of accurate ADA data for SY 2020-2021. Furthermore, NCES has convened a panel of State Fiscal Coordinators and LEA-level personnel to review potential changes in how ADA data is being reported by LEAs and States, make recommendations to clarify ADA reporting instructions, and develop best practices for reporting ADA data. Based on comments and suggestions from State Fiscal Coordinators and LEA-level personnel, additional guidance on potential remote attendance tracking options for SY 2020-2021 will be provided as necessary. You can access the full details on NCES guidance to states and LEAS by clicking here.

House Democrats Propose $466 Billion to Help Schools Crippled by Virus

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House Democrats Propose $466 Billion to Help Schools Crippled by Virus

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee unveiled three new bills aimed at upgrading school facilities, saving teachers’ jobs, and extending the school year to offset learning loss that has resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic. Altogether, the trio of bills totals $466 billion in federal education funding over the next decade. 
 
Until now, Congress provided more than $67 billion for elementary and secondary schools in separate emergency relief packages last year. However, as AASA and others have highlighted for the Hill and Biden-Harris Administration, more funding is necessary to contend with the disruptions to K-12 school since the initial COVID-19 outbreak mushroomed last year. 
 
As such, AASA was proud to see that Congress is holding its commitment to deliver additional economic relief to K-12 districts thus far in the 117th session. On the package’s outlook of passage on Capitol Hill, it is yet to be seen whether the bills will make it through the 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Still, we are cautiously optimistic that the package will move via President Biden's proposed $130B COVID-19 economic relief bill or through budget reconciliation. Therefore, to help our members stay abreast of the recent development of the bills, and what they mean for education, please check out our quick and dirty analysis on the bills below.

 

The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021

  • The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 (RRASA) invests $130 billion in bonds and grant programs – targeted at high-poverty schools – to help reopen public schools and provide students and educators a safe place to learn and work. The funding from this legislation would be appropriated on an emergency basis to facilitate school reopening and could be used to upgrade school buildings and their heating and ventilation systems. To check out a section-by-section analysis of the bill, click here.

The Save Education Jobs Act

  • More than half a million jobs in local school systems have been lost since the pandemic started, or more than during the entirety of the Great Recession. To preserve the educator workforce, the Save Education Jobs Act would create an education jobs fund that would send $261 billion to states and local school districts over the next 10-years. To check out a section-by-section analysis of the bill, click here.

The Learning Recovery Act

  • Recent studies have found academic progress slowed during the pandemic, although not as much as initially feared. Still, many of these analyses say that millions of students may not have attended classes since many school districts switched to remote learning. To contend with this emerging trend, the Learning Recovery Act would authorize $75 billion over the next two years to fund summer school, longer school days, or other academic programs. A section-by-section analysis of the bill is available by clicking here.

Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

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Biden Issues National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

On January 21, President Biden released a roadmap an actionable plan across the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including twelve initial executive actions that will be issued by President Biden during his first two days in office. To execute on the National Strategy, the White House will establish a COVID-19 Response Office responsible for coordinating the pandemic response across all federal departments and agencies

AASA applauds the clear, strong and decisive direction being demonstrated on Day One of the Biden Administration. This is a much-needed step forward in a coordinated response to the ongoing pandemic, and will help to alleviate some of the downward pressure and decision making that was placed upon local leaders to date.

Specific to the plan’s education-related elements, we are pleased to see many of the items AASA had recommended and mentioned in our communications with the transition team, including:

  • a focus on K-12 education funding;
  • restoring the FEMA reimbursement for schools;
  • a national testing strategy that supports school screening testing programs and provides clear, unified approach and TA for testing in schools;
  • updated public health guidance on containment and mitigation measures that provides metrics for schools to measure and monitor the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 as well as updated guidance on physical distancing protocols, and contact tracing in schools;
  • a national strategy for safely reopening schools, including requiring ED & HHS to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating, and to develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to share lessons learned and best practices from across the country;
  • pushing the FCC to support student connectivity in their homes.
This direct responsiveness to practitioner feedback is critical and demonstrates that the Biden Administration, serious in its priority of opening schools in its first 100 days, recognizes that the ultimate work and responsibility of opening schools lies with local school system leaders and that as such, their voice, insights and recommendations should be reflected in any nation-wide plan. We look forward to working with the Biden administration, welcome the confirmation of Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona, and stand ready to support the important work of safely opening the nation’s schools.

ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

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ED Releases New Guidance on ELP Assessments

On January 18th, the U.S. Department of Education released an addendum fact sheet titled “Providing Services to English Learners During  the COVID-19 Outbreak” to better explain SEA and LEAs’ responsibilities for assessing English learners during the pandemic. The document reiterates that while ESEA requires an annual statewide ELP assessment there are no prescribed Federal timelines for that annual assessment. Thus, an SEA may adjust its dates for administering the ELP assessment to address challenges due to the pandemic, e.g., by changing its testing window. However, the ELP assessment should be conducted as soon as safely possible in order to provide useful information for districts, teachers, and parents. Furthermore, an SEA has the discretion under the ESEA to administer the ELP assessment remotely or in person. 

 

The Department is also extending the flexibility related to the standardized entrance procedures, so that an LEA may continue to identify and provide ELs support as soon as possible. That is, an SEA may continue to implement its adjusted standardized statewide entrance procedures until its LEAs are able to administer their regular screener assessment. This does not change the obligation of districts to assess students for EL status within 30 days of enrollment in a school in the State. However, the LEA can wait until schools are physically reopen to complete the full identification procedures to promptly ensure proper identification and placement for new ELs. Like an SEA, an LEA must treat a student identified as an EL through modified entrance procedures as an EL for all purposes (e.g., by including such students in its count of ELs for purposes of Title III subgrants to LEAs, providing appropriate language instruction services to such students, and administering the annual ELP assessment to such students).

 

Lastly, the Department is also extending the flexibility regarding statewide exit procedures. The extended flexibility permits such an LEA, for the 2020-2021 school year, to base exit decisions solely on the ELP assessment. All LEAs must continue to meet the requirement that a score of proficient on the statewide ELP assessment be used in order to exit a student from EL status.  

New Guidance: USDA Meal Waivers & FRPL

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New Guidance: USDA Meal Waivers & FRPL

Due to the impact of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nationwide waivers – which support students’ access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19 through June 30, 2021 – this week, the U.S. Dept. of Education (USED) released a document that provides Local Education Agencies (LEA) and State Education Agencies (SEA) with guidance on how to carry out the data collection activities for the education programs associated with the federal school meals programs. Specifically, this guidance pertains to the National School Lunch Program data collection activities associated with Title I, Part A – Improving Basic Programs; Title II, Part A – Supporting Effective Instruction; and Title V, Part B – Rural and Low-Income School Program (RLIS) for the 2021-2022 school year.
 
For many LEAs that have chosen to participate in USDA’s federal meals program waivers, complete NSLP data collected through household applications may not be available from school year 2020-2021. As such, USED's fact sheet outlines options for SEAs and LEAs to implement their ESEA programs without complete NSLP data. The good news here is that according to the guidance, using data from the 2019-2020 school year is allowable for all circumstances, which means that ED has essentially created a hold harmless provision for school districts and states that have seen a decline in Free and Reduced-Price Lunch forms. You can check out the full document by clicking here
 

USDA NPRM: Restoration of Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Flexibilities

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USDA NPRM: Restoration of Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Flexibilities

Last week, AASA, the Association of School Business Officials International, the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium submitted a letter in support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the restoration of milk, whole-grains, and sodium flexibilities under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Act. For background, the NPRM finalizes the Department's 2012 interim rulemaking process concerning provisions in the Healthy Hunger Free-Kids Act (HHFKA) that ensure all school districts, regardless of socioeconomic status or size, can reasonably meet the nutritional requirements under the law. 

If passed, the regulation will allow schools to continue offering flavored, low-fat milk (1% fat) at lunch and breakfast and as a beverage for sale à la carte and require that unflavored milk (fat-free or low-fat) be available at each school meal service; mandate that only half of the weekly grains served in school meals be whole grain-rich; and postpone initial sodium reduction requirements until the 2023─2024 school year and eliminate final sodium target levels established in HHFKA. In layman's terms, USDA’s policy means targeted long-term regulatory flexibility for school districts, which is practical and necessary to serve appealing meals that decrease food waste and increase student participation in NSLP and SBP. 
 
AASA was proud to lead this allied effort and continue advocating for the regulatory flexibilities that are necessary for school administrators to feed students. You can access our letter by clicking here

AASA Analysis and Response: FY21 Omnibus and COVID Supplemental

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AASA Analysis and Response: FY21 Omnibus and COVID Supplemental

Earlier today Congress released the final text of its funding bill providing both annual appropriations and the fifth COVID supplemental.

Read AASA's letter to the hill.

Read AASA's memo to members.

Six National Education Groups Support Liability Protection for Schools

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Six National Education Groups Support Liability Protection for Schools

AASA joined five other national education organizations to re-up a letter to Capitol Hill calling for schools to be afforded the same liability protections offered to private employers. It mirrors a letter sent earlier in the summer, and weighs in on an issue that will be critical to helping schools be able to physically open without the unfair burden of undue litigation. Read the letter here.

Signing Groups Include:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National School Boards Association 

 

 

FY21 IDEA Full Funding Letter

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FY21 IDEA Full Funding Letter

 
On December 1st, 2020, AASA and twenty-eight other allied organizations sent a letter to the Congressional Subcommittees on education funding urging leaders to provide the maximum increase possible in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as part of a fair and proportional allocation for the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 LHHS‐Education appropriations bill.
 
The coalition – which represents over 6.8 million students with disabilities, their teachers, instructional support personnel, parents, school boards, and administrators – called on congressional leaders to provide no less than $14 billion for IDEA Part B, 684 million for Part B, $975 million for IDEA Part C, $254 million for IDEA Part D and $70 million for the Center for Special  Education Research. Thus, putting IDEA on a glide path to full funding.
 
AASA, which chairs the Coalition for IDEA full funding, was proud to lead this effort and continue advocating for a prioritized and meaningful investment in IDEA that does not negatively impact funding for other education programs. You can access the letter by clicking here.

Legislative Trend Report: Fall 2020

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Legislative Trend Report: Fall 2020

Today, December 2, 2020, AASA is proud to release the second iteration of our Legislative Trends Report as part of our continued effort to highlight the host of state legislative policies and emergency declarations made by governors and state boards of education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This quarter's Legislative Trend Report was produced by American University Master’s of Education students, Kristen Menke, Kristy Silva, and Nicole Stohmann; and focuses on the enacted and proposed teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention policies that have moved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work for this report was informed by the American University Team's literature review and includes data from bi-partisan organizations, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Moreover, the report overviews policies from states in the areas of teacher candidate clinical requirements, teacher licensure exam waivers, substitute teacher recruitment, and retention scholarships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AASA was proud to collaborate on this effort with the American University Master’s of Education program to produce a resource for school system leaders and educational advocates interested in understanding the state policy trends impacting LEAs teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention efforts during the 2020-21 school year. Please note that this report is not exhaustive, but rather, shows a snapshot of the current U.S. policy landscape. You can access the report by clicking here.

LFA Board to CDC Committee on Vaccine Priorities

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LFA Board to CDC Committee on Vaccine Priorities

As part of our work with the Learning First Alliance, this week, AASA sent a letter to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) committee on vaccine priorities requesting that school personnel – including teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, aides, food service and custodial workers, and principals – are a priority group once the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine begins. Specifically, the letter highlights the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and indicates that prioritizing school personnel for the initial distribution is critical for building public trust and reaching the vaccine target immunity goal.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Consortium for School Networking, Learning Forward, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, National PTA, National School Boards Association, and National School Public Relations Association joined AASA in this effort. If you want to check out the full letter, then click here!

States Push for 2021 Assessment Waivers

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States Push for 2021 Assessment Waivers

Are you looking to understand the arguments for and against a 2021 federal testing/assessment waiver, or learn which factors state and local policymakers believe will influence the Biden-Harris administration's stance on this issue? Then check out Education Week's Andrew Ujifusa latest article on the topic, States Push to Ditch or Downplay Standardized Tests During Virus Surge.
 
Specifically, this article offers a concise overview of what advocates say are the considerations, costs, and benefits of granting another COVID-19 federal nationwide assessment waiver. Moreover, the post highlights where state educational leaders from GA, SC, TX, and VA fall on the priority for, and feasibility of, conducting federally mandated standardized testing in the upcoming spring semester. You can read the article by clicking here

GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

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GAO Report: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19

This month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report, Distance Learning: Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19.  Specifically, this report overviews a review of relevant online learning plans, synchronous and asynchronous teaching policies (i.e., live and non-live teaching sessions), individualized education plans (IEP), and semi-structured interviews with administrators from 15 geographically diverse school districts with high proportions of English language learners (ELL) and Students with Disabilities (SWD) populations to highlight the logistical and instructional challenges of providing federally mandated services to these students in the context of the current pandemic. 
 
While these findings are not generalizable to all districts, GAO's report does provide evidence of the challenges LEAs faced in delivering services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) free appropriate public education (FAPE) provision. Additionally, the report's findings around the impacts of student lack of access to internet connectivity and its implications on ELL's academic progress also provides evidence for the need for more funding to the E-rate program. Key highlights from the report are listed below. However, if you would like to skip ahead, click here to access the full report.  

 

  • GAO found that students had fewer opportunities to practice their language skills during distance learning, as they would during a typical school day. 
  • GAO found that limited English comprehension also affected the ability of families to assist students with the distance learning curriculum.
  • GAO found that LEA's attempted to address issues with ELL instruction by increasing internet connectivity and access to devices, using creative communication Strategies (e.g., smartphone communication and teacher home visits), and adapting materials and instructional methods.
  • GAO found that school districts faced many challenges in providing distance learning to SWDs due to the range of student needs and services and parental capacity to assist.
  • GAO found that districts addressed challenges of distance learning for SWDs by modifying instruction, holding IEP meetings virtually, and encouraging parent-teacher collaboration. 
 
 
 

Guest Blog Post: Introducing District-level Dashboards to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard

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Guest Blog Post: Introducing District-level Dashboards to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard

This blog post originally appeared on the Qualtrics Blog and is reposted with permission. 

This week, AASA and Qualtrics are introducing our district dashboards in preview, the latest iteration of the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard. Earlier this fall, we partnered with Brown University Professor Emily Oster and various school superintendents and principals associations to unveil the dashboard – the first nationwide effort that systematically maps schools’ responses to the pandemic across the U.S.

The district dashboards are privately accessed, available only to the participating school district. Each district dashboard displays information similar to the types of data available on the public national dashboard, such as percentage of confirmed cases, daily case rate, and mitigation strategies. Additionally, each district’s (or school’s*) specific information is benchmarked against other districts or schools in their geographic region (at the state level), and districts or schools with characteristics similar to their district, such as student demographics or community size.

For example, a district will be able to compare their daily case rate to the community case rate in their county, and districts with similar demographics in other parts of the U.S. For example, a district that reports a student infection rate of 14 per 100,000 can see their student infection rate compared against community infection rates in their county. Additionally, districts will be able to compare the infection rates with the community rates for groups of districts with similar characteristics in other parts of the U.S. For example, a district in a rural locale can view infection rates for all other rural districts as compared to rural community rates.

 

District dashboards will enable district administrators to better understand the state of their community’s health and outcomes relative to their broader geographic community and districts with similar characteristics. Any community case data reported on the dashboard is based on publicly available data as reported by public health resources.

District dashboards are free to any participating district in the national dashboard. If you’d like to learn more about the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, participate in this initiative, or get in touch with a team member, visit covidschooldashboard.com.

Who will have access to view the district dashboards?

  • The primary point of contact reporting to the national dashboard will have access only to their district’s dashboard.

 How many districts participating in the national dashboard will have access to their own district’s dashboard?

  • Our goal is to provide all participating districts in the national dashboard have access to their own district dashboard. We have just introduced the preview of the district dashboard and will begin rolling them out to individual districts.

Can my district modify or customize data that we see on our district dashboard?

  • No, the district dashboards provide information based on self-reported data by the district and/or school, and publicly available data.

Will every district dashboard have school-specific information within their district?

  • School-level data will only be available if it was self-reported in the enrollment or biweekly surveys.
  • School-specific data is available only to districts who have reported this information.

 

18 National Organizations Call on Congress to Invest in Schools During Lame Duck

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18 National Organizations Call on Congress to Invest in Schools During Lame Duck

Today, 18 national organizations released a joint statement calling on Congress to invest in schools during the lame duck period. Read the statement here.

Supporting Groups

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Assoc. of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

Biden Administration: What Can They Accomplish via EO?

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Biden Administration: What Can They Accomplish via EO?

As the odds of Democrats winning a majority of the Senate look highly unlikely, much of the conversation in D.C. has shifted to what the Biden Administration can accomplish via Executive Orders or through their administrative powers. Over the summer, the Biden campaign published the results of a Democrat unity taskforce they led with Senator Bernie Sanders which contains policy proposals, both legislative and executive, that would unite the party. While the majority of them do require Congressional approval, there are some policies that the American Prospect has identified that the Biden Administration could execute via Executive Order that directly impact public school students and policies. Here is a brief list of actions Biden could take unilaterally to change or influence district policies and practices:

Fully implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives states the option to choose school climate as an indicator of school quality; all states must describe how they will plan to support districts in reducing the use of policies and practices that push students out of school.

Encourage states to adopt and develop a multiple measures approach to assessment, like the New York Performance Standards Consortium and the International Baccalaureate so students can showcase what they know in a variety of ways.

Provide support to districts to best meet the needs of their students during the crisis and beyond. This includes crafting recovery plans with an equity lens and determining how to responsibly use remote learning as an emergency tool when necessary and returning to face to face classrooms when conditions allow. Digitize all necessary educational materials and ensure access to hardware, software, and particularly broadband for all students and educators.

Ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding.

Appoint a federal task force to study charter schools' impact on public education and make recommendations

Initiate a series of reforms regarding parent and community participation in charter governance, accountability and transparency

Support the six recommendations from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development report, "From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope," as well as the action agenda.

Require the Secretaries of Education and HHS to develop federal standards for ensuring that all federally funded childcare settings include children with disabilities and do not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Address the shortage in special education teachers within our system with an eye towards teacher recruitment, training opportunities, and workload for special education teachers

Aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to address both programmatic and architectural barriers

Work with higher education institutions to support a career path for early childhood educators to attain early childhood certificates (CDAs), associate and bachelor's degrees, and ongoing job-embedded training and professional development and create a career path for lead teachers in preschool classrooms to have a bachelor’s degree in child development and/or early childhood education and assistant teachers to have an associate’s degree in child development.

Improve federal data collection on racial segregation in schools as part of a broader project of reinvigorating Ed's Office of Civil Rights.

Maintain the U.S. Department of Education’s current level of Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) by preserving the existing questions and disaggregation of data by student subgroups, requiring all schools and districts to collect and report the data annually and continuing to make the CRDC accessible to the public.

The Biden Administration: Civil Rights Guidance and Enforcement

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The Biden Administration: Civil Rights Guidance and Enforcement

As a lobbyist for AASA for most of the Obama Administration, I can state that one of the most frustrating aspects of working with the Obama/Duncan Administration was their penchant for issuing prescriptive guidance on a variety of issues impacting schools and students. If you peruse the Leading Edge blog from that era, you will see a re-statement of the following advice on federal guidance repeatedly mentioned in our posts: guidance is not law.

The Trump Administration also used guidance to try and dictate rather than clarify their policy views on various K-12 issues. Initially, they also expended effort to quickly undo much of the K-12 guidance that the Obama Administration issued that was particularly controversial or viewed negatively by Republicans.

It should be no surprise then that President-Elect Biden has already announced his intention to re-instate various Obama-era guidance documents. He will take the opportunity, as his predecessors have, to use guidance to try and pressure districts to move quickly in adopting practices and policies that they are not required to abide by under Congressional statute, but that they should for the sake of civil rights enforcement.

Specifically, Biden has already stated that he plans to:

Reinstate Title IX protections for transgender students that were eliminated by Trump administration

  • Reinstate the use of disparate impact theory in determining racial discrimination in school discipline,
  • Reinstate guidance on responding to sexual assault and harassment at schools
  • Reinstate guidance on voluntary school integration efforts

AASA does not have a position on the reinstitution of these guidance documents; we know some members welcome their return, while others find them to be totally unnecessary or unhelpful in light of their local policies or state laws, which may be far more comprehensive and prescriptive on these issues then the federal guidance documents. For example, in 2018 we did a deep dive into the impact of the 2014 Obama-era discipline guidance and found that the 2014 guidance had a very limited impact on changing district discipline policies and practices. Of the close to one-thousand members we surveyed only 16% said they modified their discipline policies because of the 2014 guidance.

What we also learned from that specific report and subsequent conversations with our members is that civil rights enforcement practices by the U.S. Department of Education was a much larger, more powerful lever in changing district policy and practice. The Biden Administration has also vowed to dramatically beef up OCR enforcement and we anticipate that there will be a return to the aggressive enforcement standards and processes that were in place during the Obama Administration. The enforcement practices will likely play a much larger role in pressuring districts to adopt guidance they would otherwise ignore than the guidance documents themselves.

The Biden Administration: Undoing the Title IX Regulations

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The Biden Administration: Undoing the Title IX Regulations

While the Biden Administration has said the Title IX regulations will quickly end when he’s elected—it’s not that simple. While they can tell schools that there will be no penalty from OCR or a potential loss of federal funds if they fail to comply with the 2020 Title IX regs, it’s not as though that would protect schools against lawsuits. If, for example, a student feels that their due process rights has been violated by a district’s decision to not follow the current Title IX regulations then it is likely that the respondent would be successful in Court since the law is still on the books.

Congress is not likely going to be of much help to the Administration particularly a Republican Senate. While there is still significant momentum to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, where these regulations are based, and Congress has a role in shaping the underlying law that the regulations are based on, it will take considerable renewed time and debate on Capitol Hill to jump start new legislation and get bipartisan agreement on this contentious issue.

 Regardless of what Biden does, there are still two pending lawsuits challenging the Title IX rule that could strike it down. Also unclear is what the Biden Administration’s response to the litigation would be and how that would impact the litigation.

So, in the meantime legal experts advise districts that the safest legal course will be to continue to follow the regulations until we have a definitive pause in the regulations and a course for what districts should follow instead. 

The Advocate: November 2020

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The Advocate: November 2020

November 2020 may be a month that will be defined by its election, but we run The Advocate early in the month, and this means we are writing this in late October when we don’t know who the next president will be. What we do know is that our nation’s schools continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing the very important push and priority to open schools at the exact same time the nation’s COVID-19 rates are peaking and we rapidly approach flu season. So what’s a district leader to do when they find themselves in the middle of a pandemic, lacking meaningful and reliable federal data on rates?
 
That’s where the National COVID-19 School Response dashboard comes in. This is a collaboration between AASA, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National Association of Elementary School Principals. Together we are working with Professor Emily Oster (Brown University) and Qualtrics, an experience management company (Researchers often use Qualtrics as a survey tool and combine it with SPSS to analyze survey data). The collaboration is the first nationwide database that systematically maps schools’ responses to the pandemic across the United States. Data is visualized in a single dashboard that empowers school leaders, policymakers and the general public to examine current conditions in their own communities—as well as compare against other areas—to adapt to changing environments and make data-driven teaching and learning decisions as they continue to navigate the 2020-21 school year.
 
AASA supports this work because our members, the nation’s public school superintendents—and the schools and students they serve—started the 2020-21 school year with inadequate access to broad, nationwide data reporting the realities of COVID in schools. We are proud to be a partner in this effort, to respond to a critical need, and to be able to share a robust set of locally reported data that will help district leaders and school principals answer questions critical to ensuring their staff and students are safe in school. The initial dashboard, launched in September, was just the first step in what will be an enduring effort to make this data as robust and meaningful as possible.
 
Top level takeaways of the database to date are:
  • It is likely safer for schools to be more open than they currently are, though there are two very big and important caveats: where opening is happening well, it takes a lot of mitigation strategies, and those mitigation strategies cost money.
  • School COVID rates appear to reflect/track those of their broader community (not surprising) but at an overall lower level. That is, if you are in a community that is experiencing an increase in COVID rates, your school rate is also likely increasing, though is at an overall lower level. 
Looking forward, there are big updates as of the last week in October: The dashboard now includes data from New York, collected by the state, on all their public schools. The inclusion of the New York data both increases the sample a lot, and address some of the concerns raised on selection bias (Not ALL of the concerns, the data is still not perfect!). And the research team tweaked some of the dashboard filter functions to better allow you to look at age groups, learning models and state community rates (grouped). Scroll to bottom to get the New York raw data, and some summary of what you'd get from filters.
 
Next steps are just as exciting, as well! We are working with other states to do what we did with New York (if you can help us with this, we’d welcome it!). We are in discussions to enroll more parochial and private schools, including outreach to Notre Dame, who is monitoring COVID-19 in private schools. And, the research team will be expanding its analysis on race and income.
 
Specific to districts, though, AASA is very pleased to announce: as part of the November 17 webinar How Schools Can Reopen Using Data Driven Decisions (Feat. Emily Oster, Noelle Ellerson Ng, and Byron Adams), we will be previewing the dashboards with relevant benchmarks that participating districts and schools will receive (this is a much more granular level than is currently available to individual enrollees).
 
We remain committed to this dashboard and our work to ensuring the nation’s public school leaders have access to robust, real-time and locally-reported data detailing COVID-19 in schools, information critical to ongoing efforts to open schools safely. You can direct any questions to AASA’s Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org)
 
Related Information:
 

GAO Releases 2020 Disaster Recovery Report

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GAO Releases 2020 Disaster Recovery Report

On October 14, 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their report on K-12 disaster recovery. The study, COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies Disaster Recovery Challenges for K-12 Schools, found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and compounded the challenges associated with the 206 major disasters declared since 2017. Specifically, the GAO's findings show that for many communities, the pandemic increased mental health issues, delayed recovery projects, contributed to lost instructional time, led to staff burnout, and caused financial strain. To access the major highlights, the full report, and GAO’s podcast on this topic, please click here.

Guest Blog: October 22nd AERA Brown Lecture in Education Research

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Guest Blog: October 22nd AERA Brown Lecture in Education Research

Our colleagues at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) are hosting their annual Brown Lecture virtually on October 22nd at 6:00 pm EDT. The AERA Brown Lecture was launched during the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and overviews the critical role of research in advancing the understanding of equality and equity in education. William F. Tate IV, executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of South Carolina, will present at this year’s lecture, “The Segregation Pandemic: Brown as Treatment or Placebo?”
 
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's AERA is lecture is open to all interested attendees at no-cost. You can register for the event by clicking here.
 

Guest Blog: CCSSO Restart and Recovery, Considerations for Teaching and Learning

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Guest Blog: CCSSO Restart and Recovery, Considerations for Teaching and Learning

Our colleagues at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) created a series of resources, Restart and Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning, to support state and district leaders as they continue to navigate the challenges on reopening schools and delivering education to every child this school year. These resources specifically aim to help districts make decisions about operations, instruction, and social-emotional learning while delivering on their promise to ensure an excellent, equitable education for all students. CCSSO created these resources with input from a wide body of organizations and experts, as well as state and local education leaders from more than 30 states across the country. 

These resources include many actionable plans, tools and templates and can be adaptable to meet your local needs. They cover key questions in the following areas:
  • System-level considerations: 
    • How are the needs of students and families, especially those most impacted, and the voices of teachers and school leaders being incorporated into school systems’ structures and decisions?
    • How can students attend school, whether in-person or remote, in a manageable and safe way that supports learning coherence?
    • How can students be supported by teachers so they experience strong and integrated teaching, whether in-person or remote?
  • Wellbeing, connectedness and mental health supports:
    • How are we creating a culture of care in which staff and student growth and wellbeing are prioritized, and all feel safe, connected, supported, engaged, and efficacious, both individually and collectively?
    • How are we identifying the range of mental health and wellbeing needs in our students, and provide them with or connect them to effective, culturally relevant supports?
  •  Academics: 
    • What must students learn? 
    • How will students learn this content, whether in-person or remote?
    • How prepared and how well are students learning this content?
    • How will teachers be prepared to teach this content, whether in-person or remote?

An video overview of the resources and how they can be used is available here. The full series of resources is available at www.ccsso.org/coronavirus. Also, if you're interested in having an in-depth conversation with the authors of the report, please reach out to Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org to learn how you can participate in CCSSO office hours. 

USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for 2020-21 School Year

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USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for 2020-21 School Year

On October 9, 2020, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would extend flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. Specifically, USDA's move will enable school districts to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no-cost meals to all children, through June 30, 2021. Additionally, the move will permit districts to serve meals outside of the typically required group settings and meal times; waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children through June 30, 2021. AASA has engaged in this advocacy effort since the beginning of the pandemic and was proud to secure this victory for Superintendents and other school nutrition leaders. More details on this extension are accessible by clicking here
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HHS Mask Distribution to Schools Underway- Request Your Districts Now

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HHS Mask Distribution to Schools Underway- Request Your Districts Now

As described on the blog earlier in September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be providing up to 125 million cloth masks to states for distribution to schools. The Administration intends for these masks to support students, teachers, and staff in public and private schools reopening, with an emphasis on students who are low-income or otherwise with high needs and schools providing in-person instruction.

Today we learned that school districts can immediately begin requesting masks from State Health Departments for adults. All states have received shipments of white, reusable and washable masks for adults and districts in need of additional masks can request them anytime. A few states are already in receipt of reusable, washable masks for youth/children, but the majority of these masks are still being manufactured and distributed. It is expected that many more states will have youth size masks available in the next 2 weeks and by early November all states will have both youth and adult size masks available for distribution to schools.

More information on the masks is available here: https://www.phe.gov/facecovering/Pages/cloth-face-masks-in-school.aspx

House Includes $5 billion for School Infrastructure

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House Includes $5 billion for School Infrastructure

As part of our work with The [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC), AASA released a statement thanking the U.S. House of Representatives for the inclusion of $5 billion for emergency repairs to public school facilities as part of the funding proposed for education in the Heroes Act 2.0. 
 
The inclusion of these funds is critical for the wellbeing of our families and communities. Moreover, this funding signals the House’s commitment to the health and safety of our students and educators. It also demonstrates the understanding that without public schools opening safely, our economy cannot thrive.

AASA was proud to join this effort to advocate for additional aid for school buildings emergency repairs and building modifications to support local school system leaders' efforts to provide facilities that can accommodate new procedures for social distancing, personal hygiene, surface cleaning, and high standards for fresh and filtered air. Check out the full press release here

October 1, 2020

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19 National Education Groups Send Joint Letter in Response to HEROES 2.0

Earlier today, 19 national education groups sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders in response to the revised House HEROES Act, and expressed our support for a bipartisan COVID response package.

Groups supporting the letter include:  

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education 
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Council of Great City Schools 
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

The Advocate: October 2020

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The Advocate: October 2020

October means….the start of the federal fiscal year. As hard as it may be to believe in 2020, Congress will have to divert its attention from the campaign cycle, the push to confirm a SCOTUS nominee, and the federal COVID response to focus on annual appropriations. Similarly to other years, Congress must adopt either an extension or final funding bill. Moreover, they have to do so ahead of October 1 if they want to avoid a federal shutdown.
 
As a reminder, if the federal appropriations process worked as we learned about in civics class, each chamber of Congress—House and Senate alike—would each independently adopt a budget resolution, allocate the overall dollar amount across 12 independent appropriations bills (the ‘slices’ of the funding pie), work via its respective appropriations subcommittees to determine program-specific funding levels for any and all programs within each slice of the pie, pass those 12 individual bills, reconcile differences between the House and Senate version of each of those 12 bills, and then adopt the compromise for each of those bills. That won’t be happening in 2020, and in fact, hasn’t happened in more than two decades. The last time Congress completed its funding work on time and in normal order was in the mid 1990s. 
 
When Congress can’t/won’t complete its funding work by October 1, there are two options: a federal shutdown or a continuing resolution (CR). A CR is the funding mechanism that buys Congress more time to complete its funding work. In its pure form, a CR freezes government funding at the previous year’s level, but allows government to keep running. Therefore, a CR essentially allows Congress to kick the can down the road to buy more time to finish its funding work. CRs are common place at this point, and in fact, the more common debate when it comes to annual appropriations is less ‘Will there be a shutdown or a CR?’ and more ‘How long will the CR last and will there be policy riders?’
 
Which brings us to 2020. In a presidential election year, especially one as partisan and political as this one, with a pandemic and economic downturn to boot, a CR was all but a forgone conclusion. So where do we stand with funding? 
 
In mid-September, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacked the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well as exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of that bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. 
 
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. While the exclusion of those items initially derailed an intended vote, the bill was revised to include those provisions and the House passed the CR, leaving it up to the Senate to vote to keep the federal government funded to and through December 11. Critical to an AASA priority, the CR does include nearly $8 billion for two nutrition provisions that are essential to feeding kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the bill expands Pandemic EBT and extends it through the end of the current school year, and gives the USDA the authority and funding to extend waivers that give schools and community organizations much-needed flexibility for how they serve meals during the pandemic. This legislation removes the last roadblock to USDA extending these waivers through the end of the current school year.
 
The Senate is expected to pass the bill on September 30 (this update was written ahead of September 30), setting us up for a post-election, lame duck Congressional To Do list that includes another round of FY21 negotiations. 

FAQ K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment

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FAQ K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment

Today, September 28, 2020, The U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’s) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new COVID-19-related technical assistance for elementary and secondary schools. The technical assistance document, Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment, overviews frequently asked inquiries received by the Department and provides important information related to districts’ obligations under Section 504/Title II, Title VI, and Title IX as schools continue to make decisions regarding the provision of educational services for all children.

2020 National Student Parent Mock Elections!

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2020 National Student Parent Mock Elections!

AASA is proud to be partnering in an effort to promote the 2020 National Student Parent Mock Election. The National Student Parent Mock Election has a long and rich history of bringing civic education to millions of K-12 students. The free event was founded in 1980 and quickly grew into the largest one-day education civics event in the country. In 1984 over 2 million students participated, and by 1992 over 5 million students were learning about how our democracy works, engaging in civics activities, and casting their vote in a mock election.
 
This year's mock election runs through October 5-20, 2020, and we need your help to get as many districts registered for the event. Teachers can sign up from now until 4pm local time on the final day of October 20th. The good news is that educator sign-up is quick and easy (5min), and that students can register for the event even faster (1min). Therefore, to help continue this important work, please check out and share this document with important dates, online and paper ballot registration details, and directions for how your k-12 teachers can register their school districts to participate in this historic event. 

AASA and 1400 organization Request USDA for Summer School Nutrition Waiver Extension

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AASA and 1400 organization Request USDA for Summer School Nutrition Waiver Extension

On September 21, 2020, AASA and 1,400 national, state, and local organizations sent a letter requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue additional child nutrition waivers allowing for the continued operation of the Summer Food Service and Seamless Summer Option programs through September 30, 2021. If implemented, the move will support school nutrition program operations and efforts to feed insecure students until the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The letter, which is available here, went out right before a bi-partisan move from the U.S. House of Representatives to include a provision in the upcoming continuing resolution (CR), which would extend USDA's budget authority so that the department may continue issuing waivers associated with the federal school meals programs. As such, it is seemingly more likely that the department will move to implement a full-year extension shortly after the CR is passed. Therefore, be on the lookout for any developments on this issue in the next few weeks.
 

FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

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FY21 Annual Appropriations Update

Outside of COVID negotiations, there is next to nothing being discussed on Capitol Hill, with the exception of annual appropriations (the process by which the federal government funds itself). Federal fiscal year 2021 (FY21) starts on October 1, meaning Congress has 9 days left to reach agreement on a funding mechanism to avoid a federal shutdown. Neither the House nor the Senate made any real headway on funding bills (there are 12 separate funding bills that collectively fund the full government), meaning Congress is NOT on track to complete its funding work on time or in normal order. While part of this is due to the COVID pandemic, this is not a new phenomenon: Congress hasn’t completed the annual appropriations process on time and in normal order since the mid 1990s, and instead has relied on a ‘continuing resolution’, a policy that ‘kicks the can down the road’: it avoids a federal shutdown and keeps the federal government by continuing funding at the same/current level. Yes, sometimes there are anomalies or a small set of exceptions or additional funding, but in broad terms, a CR is straight level funding that just buys Congress more time to complete its (very basic) funding work.
 
2020 is proving no exception, with a CR all but certain. A week ago I would have said ‘the question is not if they’ll pass a CR but for how long: into the lame duck session or into the new calendar year’. While I still believe there is little appetite for a shutdown this year, especially so close to an election, this is 2020 and this is Congress, so don’t rule anything out. I think Congress will get their act together to adopt a funding bill, even just a short-term CR, if only to reduce the political fall out of a federal shutdown on top of the already partisan and contentious 2020 elections. So where do we stand?
 
Yesterday, House Democrats released a CR proposal that would level fund the federal government through December 11. The bill lacks the support of both Republicans and the administration, as well exemptions requested by the White House. This attachment provides a section-by-section description of the bill, which makes no changes to the FY20 education funding levels. The bill could go to the House floor as early as today or Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi had agreed to a ‘clean CR’, absent any contentious policy decisions. The exclusion of the White House exemptions and the Senate Republican-requested farm subsidies was explained by House Democrats as sticking to the idea of a clean CR and balanced by the exclusion of the Democrat priority of additional funding/authorization for school lunches at closed schools. The relatively straight-forward path the CR had last Thursday was completely rerouted after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we’ll continue to monitor the federal funding situation. 
 

AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

AASA and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids co-host an important webinar on “What Superintendents Need to Know about Ending the Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic and Reducing Youth Tobacco Use”

E-cigarettes are hooking a new generation of kids, thanks to thousands of kid-friendly flavors, slick marketing, and massive doses of nicotine. This dangerous epidemic is putting millions of kids at risk and threatens decades of hard-fought progress in reducing youth tobacco use. And it’s getting worse each day.

As schools re-open this fall for in-person instruction, superintendents must again turn their attention towards mitigating the e-cigarette addiction experienced by far too many students. While the data suggests the use of e-cigarette products has decreased this year the health ricks of vaping in schools has increased dramatically in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disciplining our way out of this problems is not possible given the prevalence and the intense addiction that many students are experiencing. We need federal, state and local efforts to keep these products out of the hands of students, deter predatory marketing practices, and make these products less appealing for kids.

In this webinar, participants will hear from the Caroline Goncalves Jones, Director of Advocacy and Outreach, for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids about current youth tobacco use, the efforts underway to address it and how superintendents can get involved.  Participants will also hear from Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Superintendent of the Niskayuna Central School District, NY about the action his district has taken to address youth tobacco use and the partnerships that have made a difference to this work.

Register for this free webinar here

AASA Supports Historic School Desegregation Vote in House

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AASA Supports Historic School Desegregation Vote in House

This week the House will vote on the Strength In Diversity Act, the first federal legislation focused on desegregation in schools to receive a vote in 30 years. As we walk-the-talk on AASA’s commitment to equity, this legislation is a promising first step that will incentivize and resource district leaders to create more equitable school systems.

The Strength in Diversity Act would provide federal funding ($120m/per year) to support voluntary local efforts to increase diversity in schools.

  • Grants could fund a range of proposals, including (but not limited to):
    • Studying segregation, evaluating current policies, and developing evidence-based plans to address socioeconomic and racial isolation.
    • Establishing public school choice zones, revising school boundaries, or expanding equitable access to transportation for students.
    • Creating or expanding innovative school programs that can attract students from outside the local area.
    • Recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers to support specialized school

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said this about the bill: “The pandemic has highlighted the impact of the economically and racially segregated school systems that exist across the country today more clearly than ever before. Legislation that will fund districts to come up with locally driven, ambitious, and achievable plans to increase diversity will enable school leaders to create and lead more equitable school districts.”

September 10, 2020

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Flawed Equitable Services Rule Withdrawn

This blog post is an update on the hot button issue of equitable services as it relates to the CARES Act. In a nutshell, the flawed DeVos guidance (and interim rule) have been gutted by multiple court decisions, and USED itself has announced that the interim final rule is no longer in effect

Background: Through the spring and early summer, AASA was engaged in an effort to oppose a flawed interpretation of the equitable services provision within the CARES Act. As a reminder, on July 1 Sec. DeVos doubled down on her flawed interpretation of the equitable services guidance from April and released a final interim rule that would codify the guidance with the strength of law. DeVos used the long-standing equitable services mechanism as a money grab to bolster private school coffers, when historically, the equitable services provisions have been focused on ensuring Title I eligible students in private schools are served. 

Update: In late summer, a trio of combo punch of court decisions out of Washington, California and Washington D.C.  took significant momentum out of the flawed rule: A federal judge in Washington state blocked the DeVos rule, a move that prevents it from being implemented in schools in Washington state. Three days later, a judge in California issued a similar injunction, preventing DeVos from implementing or enforcing her rule in at least eight states and some of the nation’s largest public school districts. The California decision prevents DeVos from carrying out her policy in Michigan, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia as well as for public school districts in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco. The Washington DC decision resulted in an opinion and order that vacated the interim final rule; consequently, the rule is no longer in effect. 

Collectively, these decisions are a win for equity and for common sense policy and implementation of a statute as intended. Moving forward, state and local education agencies are free to implement equitable services as they always have, and as Congress intended in the CARES Act. The Trump administration may consider an appeal, but that is irrelevant for now, and schools can and should move forward with the implementation of CARES as written in law. 

Forest Counties and Schools - Secure Rural Schools September Update

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Forest Counties and Schools - Secure Rural Schools September Update

Joint Forest Counties and Schools Coalition and NACo PILT, Secure Rural Schools September 10th Day of Action.

The Forest Counties and Schools Coalition hopes all are healthy and safe as we all work to re-open schools and counties while dealing with COVID-19 and added impact of wildfires in many of our communities.

September: Congress will return to Washington D.C. after Labor Day. The House will be back for votes the week of September 14th. Congressional leaders and the Administration are still deadlocked on negotiations on a needed COVID-19 aid bill. The negotiations are centered on the House passed HEROES bill to assist states, cities, counties, hospitals, local schools and many more needed provisions. An unconsidered Senate COVID-19 bill is being rewritten. Secure Rural Schools is not covered in these bills.

Fiscal Year Funding Deadlines, Continuing Resolution: Congress is facing a September 31 deadline for FY 2021 appropriations bills to fund all federal agencies for the next fiscal year beginning October 1. If the COVID-19 aid package negotiations get back on track in mid or late September, it is possible that a compromise COVID-19 package could be combined with a FY 2021 Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund federal agencies probably through December.

Secure Rural Schools: As Congress and the Administration negotiate a COVID-19 economic stimulus package the Forest Counties and Schools Coalition is continuing our efforts with the Administration and the Senate and House to add SRS or a least the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved S. 430 SRS amendments to end the SRS 5% mandatory cuts; Titles l, ll flexibility; and RAC appointment improvements to any bill that Congress will pass in September.

PILT-SRS Day of ActionSeptember 10: The National Forests Counties and Schools Coalition is joining NACo in a PILT-SRS Day of Action (Sept. 10) where we are asking county and school officials to call their members of Congress to urge their support for SRS and PILT funding.

Please join the SRS-PILT effort by calling your Senators and House Members on September 10 to ask that they support funding for SRS and PILT and that they ask their leaders to include SRS and PILT funding in any September COVID-19 and or CR package.

Legislative Trend Report: Summer 2020

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Legislative Trend Report: Summer 2020

In response to the National Emergency Declaration to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic issued by President Trump on March 13, 2020, and the plethora of legislative and other policy movements implemented by states and governors, AASA has endeavored to reinstitute the quarterly edition of the Legislative Trend Report to provide superintendents and other school system leaders with a high-level overview of the COVID-19 policy changes and proposals impacting the U.S. public school system. Specifically, the following text focuses on the proposed and enacted state legislative and administrative policies affecting Local Education Agencies (LEA) to provide a national picture of the states’ educational response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The data in this paper is from bi-partisan organizations, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and overviews policies from 48-states in the areas of assessment and accountability, online learning, instructional time, grade promotion and graduation requirements, and civil liability protections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. AASA intends for this document to serve as a resource for school system leaders and educational advocates interested in understanding the state policy trends impacting LEAs during the 2020-21 school year (SY). Please note that this report is not exhaustive, but rather, shows a snapshot of the current U.S. policy landscape. You can access the report by clicking here.
 

Masks and Tests Update

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Masks and Tests Update

Earlier this week we sent a letter to the FEMA asking that they continue to allow PPE and sanitation to be reimbursable expenses for districts. The same day our letter was sent, FEMA announced that they would be suspending the policy from March that made districts eligible for FEMA reimbursement for PPE and sanitation-related requests. This policy is not retroactive meaning that if districts did purchase PPE or sanitation and are expecting reimbursement they will receive it as long as those purchases were made prior to September 15th.

Also this week, HHS announced that it would be distributing 125 million masks, half adult size and half child size, to schools based on the share of low-income students. A list of the # of masks States will be receiving is available here. The masks will be distributed in two shipments beginning in early September. We have no other details on how the masks will be delivered to districts, whether districts must request them, what responsibility for distributing them to private school students districts have and many other basic logistical details.

There is also a plan to distribute 150 million Abbott tests for schools. What is less clear is whether the feds will also be distributing machines to run the test or any funding to locally distribute and store the tests. There is no clarity around how schools will request/receive the tests, how parent refusal to test their child will be handled, HIPPA/FERPA concerns and other logistical and administrative issues around testing students and staff in schools.

AASA Urges FEMA to Keep PPE as Reimbursable Cost for Districts

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AASA Urges FEMA to Keep PPE as Reimbursable Cost for Districts

This week, AASA led a letter to FEMA signed by 20+ other education groups in response to an announcement that FEMA may eliminate PPE and disinfectants as eligible reimbursable expenses under Public Assistance for COVID-19. We also understand that FEMA may seek to tie eligibility to an arbitrary distinction between “response” and “reopening.” This proposed change to PPE coverage continues a troubling pattern of shifting costs and responsibilities onto state and local governments, including state and local education agencies, when they can least afford it. The letter urges FEMA to waive the state cost share for COVID-19 assistance, to maintain the current guidance on emergency protective measures, and encourage the Administration to provide clear guidance on eligibility of funding streams from across the federal government.

AASA Files Amicus in D.C. Equitable Services Case

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AASA Files Amicus in D.C. Equitable Services Case

Last week, AASA signed onto an amicus drafted by NEA in the equitable services lawsuit against Secretary DeVos filed by the NAACP. We are hopeful that like the two cases out of the 9th circuit earlier this month that this ruling will also be favorable. You can read our brief here.

 

USDA Temporarily Extends Summer Meal Flexibilities

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USDA Temporarily Extends Summer Meal Flexibilities

Today, August 31, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has elected to extend several flexibilities associated with the Summer School Food Service Program (SFSP). Specifically, the move will enable SFSP and Seamless Summer Option meals to be served in all areas and at no cost, permit meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and mealtimes, waive meal pattern requirements as necessary and allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. 
 
As such, these extensions should allow school districts to continue serving free meals to children for the first semester of the school year, thereby ensuring that all students have continued access to well-balanced meals as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Looking ahead, USDA has stated that they will require additional budget authorities to extend the SFSP flexibilities throughout the entire 20-21 school year. AASA will continue to pressure the Hill for the funds necessary to ensure that all students have access to the federal school meals programs. However, this is still a significant victory in the fight to provide school system leaders with the maximum flexibilities necessary to serve students. You can check out the full details on USDA's extensions by clicking here.

AASA Leads Coalition Letter to Congress Opposing Funding for Private Schools In Next COVID Package

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AASA Leads Coalition Letter to Congress Opposing Funding for Private Schools In Next COVID Package

AASA, which co-chairs the National Coalition for Public Education, organized a coalition letter to Congress urging House and Senate leaders to reject the GOP COVID-5 proposal that would funnel billions of dollars to private schools. Congress has already provided private schools with billions of dollars in relief funds, including for wealthy schools with high tuition, large endowments, and affluent students. Congress has already created a situation where private K-12 schools have received a disproportionately large share of federal resources when compared to public schools. Accordingly, the letter states that the next coronavirus relief legislation should support our public schools, rather than siphoning funding away from the public schools to fund private schools through direct grants or voucher programs.

The letter can be accessed here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582f7c15f7e0ab3a3c7fb141/t/5f45472d895f7d30710f3f2c/1598375726723/2020-08-25+NCPE+HEALS+Act+Letter.pdf

USDA Temporarily Extends COVID-19 Summer Nutrition Waivers

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USDA Temporarily Extends COVID-19 Summer Nutrition Waivers

On Thursday, August 20, 2020, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) issued the following nationwide waiver extensions.
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION 3
  2. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION 6
  3. Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers – EXTENSION
  4. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children – EXTENSION 3
Specifically, these extensions will enable districts that have not begun the 20-21 school year to continue their summer food service operations through September 30, 2020, or for the duration of summer operations, whichever is earlier. While USDA did extend the nationwide non-congregate, meal service time, meal pattern flexibility, and parent pick-up waivers for the duration of the 2020-21 school year, these waivers did not apply to districts that will begin their calendar year in early to late September, and as such, are able to run the Summer Food Service and Seamless Summer Option Programs until that time.
 
The good news here is USDA's measure will provide school districts that haven't begun the calendar year with an additional month to operate their current summer programs, which because of Area Eligibility will enable schools to feed all students presenting at sites in need. The bad news is that these extensions provide no relief to districts running hybrid or remote online learning models. 
 
Looking ahead, AASA will continue pressing the Department and the Hill for a permanent fix to this issue. It's clear we're facing an uphill battle on extending the waivers, so stay tuned to see how you can get involved. 
 
 

AASA, NGA, AFT, and Others Urge Congress to Extend USDA's School Meals Waivers

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AASA, NGA, AFT, and Others Urge Congress to Extend USDA's School Meals Waivers

On August 19, 2020, AASA, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Governors Association, and 30 other organizations sent a letter to Congress requesting that language, which would extend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) School nutrition waivers until June 30, 2021, be included as part of the next COVID-19 Economic relief package.
 
As we have highlighted before, the Area Eligibility, non-congregate Sumer Food Service Program, and Seamless Summer Option Waivers will expire on August 31, 2020. For districts that are still establishing what “school” will look like next year or choosing to conduct remote learning, the expiration of these waivers will force superintendents and community partners to certify students for free, reduced-price, or full-price meals. For superintendents, school nutrition directors, and other operators of the federal school meals programs, the consequences of this policy decision will force some foodservice operators to turn away hungry students and create a logistical nightmare for our leaders by further stretching strained school foodservice staffing capacities.
 
AASA was proud to join this allied effort and work to get a common-sense fix to this issue. You can check out the full letter by clicking here. Looking ahead, AASA will continue to elevate the voices of superintendents on our COVID-19 school nutrition-related priorities for the Dept. of Agriculture and on Capitol Hill.
 

AASA and 900 Community Organizations Urge Congress to Extend U.S. Census Collection Efforts

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AASA and 900 Community Organizations Urge Congress to Extend U.S. Census Collection Efforts

Last week, AASA and a group of community organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting language that mandates the U.S. Census Bureau to extend the reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months, be included, as part of the next COVID-19 Relief Package. At issue here is the White House's recent decision to require the Bureau to complete critical operations – like Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) in which census officials visit more than 30 percent of households that have not responded on their own to collect information in person – by the statutorily required deadline of  December 31, 2020.

 Earlier this year, the pandemic forced the U.S. Census Bureau to delay operations that ensure an accurate count. Currently, only approximately 63 percent of households have responded to the survey, the Census Bureau reports. Moreover, significant portions of the nation are behind their 2010 response rates, according to data from the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York.

 As we have previously highlighted on the Blog, AASA firmly maintains that ensuring an accurate count on the 2020 Census is imperative for accurately allocating billions of dollars for critical federal school funding programs like Title I, IDEA, and the school nutrition programs. As such, we were proud to join this allied effort and hold Congress accountable for ensuring that the decennial enumeration of the U.S. Census is conducted responsibly and delivers reliable data about our nation’s changing socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. You can check out more details about this issue clicking this article by our friends at Education Week.

USED Issues Guidance on Participation of Religious Organizations in Federal Education Grants

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USED Issues Guidance on Participation of Religious Organizations in Federal Education Grants

On August 7, Secretary DeVos released new guidance suggesting state and local governments must consider religious and nonreligious organizations equally when reviewing applications for subgrants of federal education funding programs. The guidance also creates a federal process for individuals and organizations to file discrimination complaints if they feel they have missed out on education benefits because of religious affiliation. This move by USED is one of the first to cite the recent Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue as basis for potentially extending public education benefits to religious schools. (The guidance document is here; a Department press release is here; read EdWeek coverage here.)

 

Understanding District Costs in a Remote-Learning School Year

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Understanding District Costs in a Remote-Learning School Year

Leaders on Capitol Hill, as well as leaders in every state capital, are trying to determine what additional funding districts need for the school year. One of the major questions continues to be why districts need additional resources if school buildings are not physically re-opening and so much of the original funding that was requested was for PPE/face shields, cleaning supplies and equipment, extra custodial workers, signage, plexiglass barriers and other expenses related to offering in-person instruction to students. 
 
Utilizing our membership on the COVID Reopening Task Force as well as our Governing and Executive Committee members, AASA sought to share examples of how districts are still expecting dramatic increases in spending even as they plan to temporarily close school buildings to students and staff in the fall. 
 
We found the two most costly expenses of educating students in a virtual environment are related to technology and staffing. We hope that the examples below illustrate the critical need for immediate school district funding at the federal and state level.
 
Technology Costs:
 
Districts are spending a substantial amount of money on technology to adequately prepare for remote learning. Many are hiring additional tech specialist who can assist teachers and other educators as well as students during the school day with remote learning. In addition to increasing school districts’ technology staff and personnel, AASA members anticipate having to perform more maintenance on computers and technology to upgrade and update software, platforms and other devices for both students and staff.
 
Districts are also spending more on professional development and training for staff like paraeducators, who previously did not need devices or professional development on device use. 
 
Some districts are training parents who need assistance in supporting their children at home during periods of remote learning. 
 
Finally, every district is subsidizing hot spots or paying for internet at a student’s home if they cannot afford it. 
 
Staffing Costs:
 
Some AASA members are hiring the same number of teachers regardless of the number of students who are attending virtually or in-person. In addition, districts are investing in virtual curriculum that students and educators can use for the upcoming school year. These districts are also paying for costs associated with the need to train our educators on how to use the new technology and online platforms. 
 
Others are hiring additional teachers to ensure that when schools physically re-open they do not have educators delivering simultaneous instruction to in-person and virtual students. Others are also hiring teacher-facilitators to assist with hybrid learning, so students can receive help outside the virtual school-day including evenings. 
 
Due to teacher shortages, few AASA members have a substantial number of teachers who are going to be paid overtime due to teaching multiple classes online and in-person.
 
Many school leaders indicated that they cannot furlough any staff due to contracts or shortages. For example, bus drivers must be kept on payroll because there is already a shortage of these professionals and when districts resume on-site instruction there would not be enough time to advertise, interview, select, train and certify drivers. There are also classified employee contracts that  are year-long and already in place, which means we still have to pay bus drivers, bus monitors, bus managers, bus technicians as well as food service staff, custodial staff, secretaries, instructional aides, across the district even when our schools are physically closed. 
 
If you are an AASA member and have additional thoughts and feedback on the expenses you are incurring as a result of providing virtual instruction please email Sasha Pudelski at spudelski@aasa.org so we can include your feedback in this post. 
 
 
 

August Advocate: USDA COVID-19 School Nutrition Waivers

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August Advocate: USDA COVID-19 School Nutrition Waivers

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 August 2020 edition.

As we’ve previously highlighted on the Leading Edge Blog, school leaders, nutrition directors, and advocates are beginning to sound the alarm on impending threats to districts’ ability to operate the federal school meals programs this fall. The current concerns are with the decision, by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s, Sonny Perdue not to extend or establish any new Family First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) waivers/flexibilities for the 2020-21 school year (SY).  

Background: The passage of the FFCRA enabled the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to pass flexibilities and waivers associated with the federal school meals programs. Most notably for school districts, this work resulted in USDA’s (1) Unexpected School Closures, (2) Nationwide Meal Times, (3) Non-congregate Feeding, (4) Meal Pattern, (5) Parent/Guardian Meal Pick-Up, (6) Afterschool Activity, (7) Area Eligibility, (8) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) Parent Pick Up, (9) FFVP Alternate Sites, (10) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data, and (11) 60-Day Reporting waivers. Additionally, the passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act granted USDA the authority to create the Pandemic EBT program. A comprehensive chart of all of USDA‘s COVID-19 waivers is available here. Please note this figure includes a description and expiration date for each of the department’s previously mentioned waiver or program.

Although Sec. Perdue has elected to extend the non-congregate, meal service time, meal pattern flexibility, and parent pick-up waivers until August 31, 2021, at this stage in the game, it is clear that more extensions and flexibilities will be necessary for school districts to sustain their nutritional services next year. Specifically, this is the case because many students will not be in the building five days a week or have access to school breakfast and lunch each day, and districts are still in the process of establishing what “school” will look like next year. Therefore, to preserve the feasibility of school districts operating the federal meals programs, AASA is requesting the following policy changes from USDA. 

  1. Allow the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to be used to feed children during the upcoming school year, so that students may receive meals in the event of unexpected closures. 
  2. Expand the non-congregate waiver to include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), so that schools that choose remote learning may still serve students through the federal school meals programs.  
  3. Extend the Area Eligibility waiver for SFSP and SSO through the school year to enable districts to operate food services in communities that did not meet the 50% free and reduced-price lunch area eligibility threshold. 
  4. Waive the activity requirement for the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs so districts can serve additional meals through the Child Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and NSLP.
  5. Enable districts providing meals through the SFSP or SSO to utilize the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs.
  6. Extend the FFVP flexibilities and waivers through the school year, so districts can use innovative methods to serve fresh produce (e.g., multi-day servings and fresh-produce packs) and rollover unspent FY 19-20 dollars to the 2020-21 SY.

Considering the amount of time left on the calendar before federal legislators return home for the August recess, it is likely that the nutrition-related aid in COVID-5 will not be allocated in time for the start of the school year. As such, it is imperative that USDA grant the previously mentioned policy changes for the upcoming school year. We are facing an uphill battle on this issue because U.S. Sec. Perdue has insisted that he will not pass any additional flexibilities associated with the federal meals programs – in an apparent attempt to align with the Trump administration’s push to re-open schools. Although there are legislative school nutrition champions in the House - like Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY-7) who recently introduced legislation to extend the FFCRA waivers - it is anyone’s best guess to whether these provisions will be included in the final COVID-5 bill or when/if the next package will be signed into law. Accordingly, we urge you to stay tuned to see how it plays out and learn how to get involved. Regardless, AASA will continue advocating for these critical waivers and flexibilities.

Hat Trick of Equitable Service Comments

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Hat Trick of Equitable Service Comments

This blog post links to three different letters, all in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s July 1, 2020, interim final rule (IFR) regarding the equitable services requirements applicable to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and opposing the Secretary’s flawed interpretation.

  • Joint Letter from 50 State Superintendent Associations: This letter, signed by the executive directors of the 50 state superintendent associations, delivers a clear message of opposition and represents a nation-wide appeal from school leaders to implement the law as intended.
  • Education Group Letter: 32 national education organizations sent a joint letter in response to the flawed policy, urging USED to rescind its interim final rule.
  • AASA Response: AASA sent a detailed response to USED. Will be updated once letter is submitted.

 

Important reminder: You still have time to file! Comments can be submitted until 11:59 pm ET on Friday, July 31. Everything you need to get started is available on the blog, including a template. 

School Nutrition Round-up

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School Nutrition Round-up

This post is longer than our usual blog content, as we are doubling down on the important issue of school nutrition and the ability of LEAs to continue to serve students during the pandemic.
 
As administrators, parents, and students gear up for one of the most memorable starts to the school year in recent times, school nutrition advocates are also beginning to sound the alarm on the impending threats to districts' ability to operate the federal school meals programs this fall. Although AASA has highlighted some of the issues and recent work around the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's (USDA) COVID-19 related waivers and flexibilities, considering the recent and drastic changes to the school nutrition policy landscape, we felt that it was critical to provide an updated overview of the lay of the land and reiterate our priorities on the federal meals programs in one streamlined blog post. It is our hope that this school nutrition round-up, helps our members with their nutrition related advocacy efforts and to better engage in this space. Checkout the text below for background on the emerging issues as well as AASA’s nutrition related advocacy work at USDA and on Capitol Hill.
 
Background: The passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) enabled the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to pass flexibilities and waivers associated with the federal school meals programs. Most notably for school districts, this work resulted in USDA’s (1) Unexpected School Closures, (2) Nationwide Meal Times, (3) Non-congregate Feeding, (4) Meal Pattern, (5) Parent/Guardian Meal Pick-Up, (6) Afterschool Activity, (7) Area Eligibility, (8) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) Parent Pick Up, (9) FFVP Alternate Sites, (10) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data, and (11) 60-Day Reporting waivers. Additionally, the passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act granted USDA the authority to create the Pandemic EBT program. A comprehensive chart of all of USDA‘s COVID-19 waivers is available here, note this figure includes a description and expiration date for each of the department’s previously mentioned waiver or program.
 
At this point, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has elected to extend the non-congregate, meal service time, meal pattern flexibility, and parent pick-up waivers until August 31, 2021. While these waiver extensions are a critical first step in supporting stakeholders' efforts to provide meals through the federal nutrition programs when school starts in the fall, additional flexibilities will be needed to ensure the continued operation of school nutrition programs. 
 
Districts are still establishing what “school” will look like next year, but many students will not be in the building five days a week or have access to school breakfast and lunch each day. Instead, schools across the country are making plans to implement staggered schedules, remote learning, or some combination of the two. Unfortunately, this means that communities will need the flexibility to provide meals to children at school, to send meals home with children when they are not at school, and to provide meals at community sites closer to students' homes. As such, we ask that USDA use its waiver authority to make the following policy changes for the upcoming school year.

 

 USDA Policy Recommendations:

  1. Allow the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to be used to feed children during the upcoming school year. The School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs are designed to provide meals to children during the school day at the school they attend. When schools reduce the number of days that students are physically in school in response to the health concerns created by the pandemic, it limits students' access to school meals. To prevent this, USDA should allow schools to provide meals through the child nutrition program that makes the most sense given the unprecedented circumstances.
  2. Expand the non-congregate waiver to include the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through the National School Lunch Program. Schools that utilize a remote or hybrid learning model this year also will be negatively impacted by the exclusion of SFSP and SSO. Within the current scope of the waivers, schools will need to implement a system for getting meals to families when children are not physically present in school buildings, which could include requiring families to pick-up meals or schools delivering meals directly to households. For families that have children attending different schools, this could mean picking up meals from multiple schools that are miles from home and miles from each other.
  3. Extend the Area Eligibility waiver for SFSP and SSO through the school year. This provision enabled school food services to provide meals in communities that did not meet the 50% area eligibility threshold. Moreover, this flexibility was essential to reaching children who may have become newly eligible for free and reduced-price lunch when the school year was disrupted during the spring and summer months. Considering the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19, this flexibility will be critical for continued school nutrition program operations. This is particularly true for low-income and rural localities that have been disproportionately affected by prolonged closures of industry and small businesses. 
  4. Waive the Afterschool Activity Requirement for the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs available through CACFP and NSLP. While the non-congregate waiver extension includes the afterschool meal and snack programs, it does not waive the activity requirement for providing afterschool meals and snacks. When schools closed in the spring, a waiver of the afterschool enrichment activity was quickly issued. This ensured that schools were able to easily implement meal service even as they remained shuttered or at limited capacity. 
  5. Allow districts providing meals through the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option to also utilize Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs. This approach has been allowed through the unanticipated school closure waiver, and the approach was further clarified through Q&A guidance issued by USDA, and it has been critical to keeping hunger at bay by ensuring that children receive three meals a day. If schools were operating under normal schedules, children are eligible for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks through the child nutrition programs. This access should be maintained at a time of unprecedented food insecurity. 
  6. Extend the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program flexibilities and waivers through the school year. Flexibilities and waivers issued by USDA allowed schools to continue to operate this program during COVID closures by waiving previous requirements including the snack needing to be served in a congregate setting, during the school day, with a child present, and only a single serving. As a result, schools were able to provide innovative ways to serve fresh produce, including multi-day servings and fresh produce packs. USDA guidance issued in April 2020 indicated that unspent 2019-2020 dollars could be rolled over to the 2020-2021 school year. However, as many schools will still be offering alternative meal distribution in the new school year, these dollars will be unable to be spent without waiver extension. 
Capitol Hill: 
 
Considering the amount of time left on the calendar before federal legislators return home for the August recess, it is unlikely that the nutrition related aid in COVID-5 will not be allocated in time for the start of the school year. That said, AASA has been signaling our nutrition related request to federal policymakers since the start of the pandemic. Specifically, we have requested or support the following:
  1.  AASA supports the inclusion include language that extends all the waivers issued by the U.S. Dept. of Ag through the duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Specifically, this includes (1) Nationwide Mealtimes, (2) Nationwide Non-congregate Feeding Waiver, (3) Nationwide Afterschool Activity Waiver, (4) Nationwide Meal Pattern Waiver, (5) Nationwide Parent/Guardian Meal Pick-Up Waiver (6) FFVP Parent Pick Up  and Alternative Waiver, (7) Nationwide Waivers of Child Nutrition Monitoring, (8)  Nationwide Waiver of Food Management Company Contract Duration Requirements, (9) Nationwide Waiver of Local School Wellness Assessments, and (10) SFSP/SSO Area Eligibility waivers. 
  2. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the corresponding rise in the unemployment rate and amount of families who now qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),  AASA supports the inclusion of language in the next COVID-19 package that would grant districts the flexibility to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision based upon student free and reduced-price lunch data from the past three years. By including this provision in the next COVID-19 relief package, Congress will be able to ensure greater participation in the program by LEAs. 
  3. AASA supports granting additional authority to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that LEAs can be reimbursed under the Public Assistance Category “B” Program for costs associated with serving meals to needy students and premium pay for school critical foodservice staff (e.g., bus drivers, lunch/breakfast employees, and school custodians). 
  4. Based on early reports, we are expecting up to 80% in reduced reimbursements from NSLP and SBP due to a severe decline in the number of meals served nationally. As such, AASA urges Congress provide $2.6 billion to mitigate a portion of the estimated financial loss that school nutrition programs have and will continue to experience. Allocating these funds will be a critical step in making school nutrition programs financially solvent and to maintain the integrity of essential food security programs as the recovery process begins.
  5. AASA opposes any language that would weaken the integrity of the Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) program in the upcoming agriculture appropriations package. Specifically, the Cat El program affords states’ the flexibility to directly certify Temporary Assistance Needy Families (TANF) students for free and reduced-price meals through their participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If language is passed that would limit districts’ ability to use direct certification, the negative impact on school district nutritional programs will be immense. This is evident by the Food Nutritional Services’ data, which approximated 982,000 children would lose their eligibility to free and reduced-price meals through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when a similar provision was proposed via regulation in the fall of 2019. 4 Cat El policies have been in place for more than two decades, and Congress has consistently and overwhelmingly rejected efforts to make Cat El more restrictive, including during its consideration of the 2005 Budget Reconciliation and the 2018 Farm Bill.
 

FY21 Appropriations Work: Funding Those Schools!

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FY21 Appropriations Work: Funding Those Schools!

It’s not all COVID all the time. This week, the House is considering its annual FY21 appropriations bills. AASA submitted a letter with amendment priorities as part of the overall package. Read our letter here

 

Velazquez Nutrition Flexibilities

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AASA Endorses Legislation to Extend FFCRA Waivers

Today, July 30, 2020, AASA endorsed a recently H.R.7764. Specifically, the legislation builds on the work of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) by offering school districts greater flexibility in enacting emergency measures to provide students with nutritious food. Moreover, the measure directs the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to extend FFCRA school nurtition waivers to schools that are open and practicing social distancing this fall. You can access the press release and list of supporting organizations by clicking here.

AASA Endorses The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act

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AASA Endorses The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act

Today, July 30, 2020, House Education and Labor Chairman, Bobby Scott, introduced The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act. If passed, the measure will help support district foodservice operations by temporarily making all students eligible for free meals and requiring the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to reimburse all meals served during the 2020-21 school year reimbursable at the free rate.  
 
As families face levels of food insecurity unseen since the Great Depression and the unemployment rate continues to rise as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, school nutrition programs are facing an existential financial crisis next school year. Without congressional action and additional aid, many schools will have to consider tapping into lines of credit or laying off staff and discontinuing their participation in the federal school meal programs, leaving our most vulnerable students with no nutrition support at school. As such, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is proud to support this piece of legislation to reimburse all federal meals at the free rate and dramatically expand participation in the federal meals programs during the 2020-21 school year,” stated Executive Director, Daniel A. Domenech.
 
For more details on the bill, check out the House Ed and Labor press release here. The bill text is also accessible here. Looking ahead, AASA will continue advocating for the policies and resources necessary for districts to sustain the continued operation of the federal school meals programs. 
 
 

Restart & Recovery: Considerations for Teaching & Learning

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Restart & Recovery: Considerations for Teaching & Learning

State, school system, and school leaders are facing a tremendous and urgent need to plan, launch, and sustain a strong school year—setting up every student for success in the wake of COVID-19 related closures, while prioritizing health, safety, and equity. To support states and school systems as they plan to restart schools and recover student learning loss, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) developed “ Restart and Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning,” a fully-customizable series of vetted resources addressing system-level conditions, academics, and student wellbeing. These resources were created at the request of state leaders and with the input of a wide body of organizations and experts, including educators from nearly 30 states. Education leaders, as well as professional learning providers, can customize and adapt this guidance as they develop their local plans to meet the needs of the educators and students they support. We urge you to check it out. 

 

Senate HEALS Act Analysis

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Senate HEALS Act Analysis

Late yesterday afternoon, Senate Republicans released their marker bill for the fifth COVID response. Here is a quick summary of what we know to be in the bill. You can also access a side-by-side analysis of the House Democrat, Senate Democrat and Senate Republican bill with our key priorities (kudos to Sasha).
 
Top Takeaway: This is a message bill and it includes a lot of non-starters from our perspective (as well as for Senate Democrats, not to mention getting a bill like this to a place that could pass the House). There are a lot of pressures at play outside of content. The August recess starts soon and Congress will want to get home to campaign; at the same time, they do not want to go home for August recess without having at least made significant inroads on another round of federal support and unemployment insurance is a key driver in negotiating something quickly.
 
As always, we will work with the Senate to make this a strong, bipartisan bill. The GOP proposal is not a bill we would endorse at this point and we expect that is true of education stakeholders ranging from Governors down to classroom teachers. We will be keeping a keen eye on protecting the liability provisions (this will cause a divide in the education community, with state/district leaders calling for the protection and teachers/unions opposing the provisions), as well as increasing overall funding level, opposing any privatization and/or incentive/mandate to physically open, pushing for IDEA flexibility, supporting dedicated funding for E-Rate, and extending school nutrition flexibilities, among other priorities.
 
Overview
  • Funding: The overall bill does not include any additional budget aid for state and local governments, which will likely be a top consideration in how much officials at that level cut their education budgets in response to the economic slow down (see related Maintenance of Effort item in policy section). Topline level for education is $105 billion. 
    • $1 b for Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas; $ 5 billion for GEERF (Governor’s Fund); $70 b to ESSERF (K12); $29 b for higher ed
    • USED Secretary would have to disseminate money to states within 15 days of the bill becoming law. 
    • For K12 Funding
      • Allocation: Would move to states based on overall population (60%) and on Title I share (40%)
      • Private schools would be eligible for all the same funding that public schools are eligible for as long as they meet the same re-opening criteria.
      • Allowable uses
        • For the 1/3 of funds automatically available, allowable uses appear to be broad and flexible, pretty similar to the CARES act, covering things like sanitation, purchasing ed tech, responding to the pandemic, etc….
        • For the conditional 2/3, includes additional flexibilities, like purchasing PPE, using flexible schedules to keep kids in isolated groups, buying boxed lunches, buying physical barriers, providing transportation, repurposing existing school rooms/space (including improving ventilation systems)  
      • Of the funding allocated to LEAs/private schools:
        • 1/3 would be available to all schools immediately; the remaining 2/3 would be available for reopening costs, with funding awarded based on certain minimum opening requirements (and other criteria established by the states)
        • For the conditional 2/3: If an LEA provides in-person instruction for at least ½ the students for at least ½ the days, their funding would be automatically approved. For LEAs with no in-person instruction, there would be no money. For LEAs that provide SOME in-person, $$ would be reduced/awarded on a pro-rata basis
        • An LEA’s plan must include a detailed timeline of when in-person instruction will occur, description of how many in-person instruction days/week are being offered, and an assurance the LEA will offer students as much in-person instruction as is safe and practicable
      • Funding for private schools: SEAs must reserve a portion of the funds equal to the percentage of students enrolled in non public K12 schools in the state prior to COVID (a la equitable services). In order to receive these funds, a private school must meet in-person requirements, though theirs differ from those of public schools
      • Any private school offering in-person instruction for at least half of their students for half of the days would be eligible to receive the full share. Private schools offering no in-person instruction would only be eligible for 1/3 of the amount of assistance per student; LEAs that provide some in-person would receive their share on a pro-rata basis
  • Policy
    • Maintenance of Effort: States have to spend the same percentage of overall FY20/21 budgets on education as they did in FY19. Put another way, cuts to education are OK, so long as schools are cut at the same rate as other state programs. LEAs can pursue an MOE waiver. This is an improvement over CARES.
    • Liability: Provides a federal cause of action for COVID exposure claims against employers, including schools. The cause of action is the exclusive remedy for all claims against a defendant for personal injury caused by actual, alleged, feared or potential exposure to COVID. The bill covers coronavirus-related exposure injuries that occur between Dec. 1, 2019 and Oct. 1, 2024, and impacted parties would have to show LEAs were grossly negligent or demonstrated willful misconduct, and that they violated relevant state and local public health guidelines. 
    • Private Schools: In addition to the private school carve out in ESSERF, the bill authorizes (but does not fund) a brand new voucher program, the Education Freedom Scholarships. This is NOT a federal tax credit, it is a one-time appropriation and can be used on any educational expense (private school, homeschool, etc) and States would be required to set up tax credit entities to receive this funding. 
    • Equitable Services: Language in how the new funds would be allocated is tighter than that of CARES. Does NOT include retroactive fix of CARES problem for CARES funding. 
    • Homework Gap: No funding for homework gap is included in the bill. Yes, it is an allowable use of the broader ESSERF fund, but that is nowhere near as flexible as CARES was and is already grossly oversubscribed.
    • IDEA Flexibility: Provides ZERO flexibility for IDEA.
     

Guest Blog: TCF launches first-of-its-kind study on K-12 funding inequities, cost estimates for 13k+ districts

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Guest Blog: TCF launches first-of-its-kind study on K-12 funding inequities, cost estimates for 13k+ districts

This guest blog post is provided by--and expresses the view point of--The Century Foundation. AASA welcomed the opportunity to share this information with you for your own reference.

The Century Foundation just launched one of our biggest projects to date examining inequities in school funding, Closing America’s Education Funding Gaps. The first-of-its-kind study estimates the investments needed to provide every child in the country with a fair shot at succeeding in school. It features comprehensive new data at the national, state, and district level, including two interactive maps allowing users to identify what funding gaps, if any, exist for every school district in the country (more than 13,000 in total). 

The Century Foundation is aware that the issue of adequate and equitable school funding is critical, especially during the pandemic and as the recession constricts state and local budgets. It's The Century Foundation's intent that this new data can help advance the case for policymakers to avoid harmful cuts to public education that disproportionately harm Black and Latinx students

 

AASA and 64 Organizations Urge USDA for Extension to COVID-19 Flexibilities

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AASA and 64 Organizations Urge USDA for Extension to COVID-19 Flexibilities

As school districts across the U.S. gear up to re-open in some form this fall, AASA, and 65 other organizations, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting that the agency extend critical foodservice operation flexibilities through the duration of the 2020-21 school year.
 
In summation, the letter urges USDA to (1) allow districts to use the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option to feed children during the upcoming school year, (2) expand the non-congregate waiver to include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)  and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), (3) extend the Area Eligibility waiver for SFSP and SSO through the school year, (4) waive the activity requirement for the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs, and (5) allow districts utilizing SFSP or SSO to also participate in the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs. You can access the full details of the letter by clicking here.
 
This push comes as a significant portion of districts have raised concerns about their ability to serve students meals through NSLP and SBP if Coronavirus cases continue to spike, and schools are forced to re-close this upcoming school year. According to our latest intel, U.S. Sec. of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, is currently set on opposing any additional flexibilities for school districts' nutrition Coronavirus related efforts, consequently meaning that we are facing an uphill battle over this issue for the next few months. That said, AASA will continue to push for the regulatory reliefs necessary for our members to deliver critical food services to food-insecure students. Stay tuned

AASA Advocacy Action Alert

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AASA Advocacy Action Alert

Three quick and critical opportunities for superintendents to engages in federal education policy:

  • COVID Package: This week, Senate Republicans are set to unveil the details of their proposal for the latest COVID federal response, and education is widely expected to feature prominently. Based on the information we have gathered you can see a spreadsheet that contains a side-by-sidecomparison of the House/Senate Democrat and Senate Republican draft bills. Please note that the yellow portions of the spreadsheet have not been confirmed by multiple sources, so we will update it when we have more final details.

    We will include quick talking points and follow up you can use to engage your members of contrast. As a reminder, AASA’s top priorities for the next COVID package include: $200 billion in funding for K12 education stabilization, $4 billion in funding to and through the E-Rate program to support internet access and address the homework gap, liability protection for schools; narrow, time limited flexibility within IDEA; a fix to equitable services; extension of school meal flexibilities; and opposition to any vouchers or privatization efforts, including incentives/mandates to reopen. At this point, it is estimated the Senate Republican proposal provides at least $63 billion in funding to K12 but also $7 billion for the DeVos tax credit voucher proposal.  We are fairly confident the package has $4 billion for E-Rate and includes the necessary fix for equitable services but does NOT provide any flexibility for IDEA (or protection against related litigation). 

  • Equitable Services: Sec. DeVos released her interim final rule on equitable services within the CARES Act. We have 30 days to mobilize and weigh in, expressing our concern with and opposition to her interpretation, and our support for the clear-language read of the underlying statute. We have a blog post with everything you need, including back ground, a template response for you to personalize, and step-by-step directions on how to file (or, if you submit to AASA staff early, we can submit for you). Comments are due July 31.
  • AASA Advocacy Conference Follow Up: Thank you to everyone for participating in this month’s virtual advocacy conference. We are still collecting conference feedback, which is especially critical after our first virtual meeting. So far we have just 30 responses and would welcome additional responses. If you have yet to share about your experience, please do so here!

New Report on K-12 Schools and Medicaid

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New Report on K-12 Schools and Medicaid

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families explains the hit K-12 funding would take if Medicaid resources are cut. Some of the key findings include:

COVID-19 has caused concern over the anticipated budget cuts to K-12 education nationwide. Cuts to Medicaid are also imminent but are expected to be less severe than if the Republicans and the current administration had repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

State funding is at risk should Medicaid be cut as funds will be drawn from other parts of the K-12 education budget.

Read the full report here

AASA-NSBA-AESA release New Report on IDEA Litigation

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AASA-NSBA-AESA release New Report on IDEA Litigation

Today, the National School Boards Association, AASA, School Superintendents Association, and the Association of Educational Service Agencies released a report “School Leader Voices, Concerns and Challenges toProviding Meaningful IDEA-related Services During COVID-19” which sheds light on how potential and actual special education litigation can impact schools’ budgets and operations. Using data gathered by the three organizations demonstrates the need for Congress to provide flexibility to districts and educational service agencies in complying with IDEA in the upcoming school year. Specifically, the legal understanding of FAPE during a pandemic cannot be the same thing as FAPE under normal educational circumstances

 America’s special education system is woefully underfunded and as the pandemic reduces state and local revenue, there are even fewer dollars to cover the services districts must provide students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).  Special education is the most active area of litigation for school districts, with the average cost of one litigation estimated at the amount that could be used to hire one experienced teacher.

As schools prepare to reopen in the fall, there is a growing concern that school districts and educational service agencies will face unparalleled rates of litigation for their inability to meet IDEA requirements during the pandemic. It is critical that the next COVID-19 package Congress passes contains liability protection for districts and educational service agencies to protect them from incredibly high levels of special education litigation that will result from their inability to meet every requirement in IDEA.

AASA Calls for $2.6B in Funding for NSLP and SBP

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AASA Calls for $2.6B in Funding for NSLP and SBP

This week, AASA and a group of allied organizations sent a letter urging Congress to appropriate $2.6B to the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs and oppose the inclusion of any provisions that would weaken Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility in the next appropriations package. You can access this letter by clicking here
 

AASA Call to Action: Respond to Equitable Services Rule

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AASA Call to Action: Respond to Equitable Services Rule

Top Line: Sec. DeVos released her interim final rule on equitable services within the CARES Act. We have 30 days to mobilize and weigh in, expressing our concern with and opposition to her interpretation, and our support for the clear-language read of the underlying statute. We have included background (below) and linked to a template response for you to personalize, and included step-by-step directions on how to file (or, if you submit to AASA staff early, we can submit for you). 
 
Background: Earlier this month, Sec DeVos published an interim rule on CARES Act Funding/Equitable Services in the federal register, starting a 30 day window where the public can file comments. AASA remains deeply opposed to the interim rule and its flawed policy premise, which could potentially transfer an additional $1.3 billion in funding to private schools beyond what Congress authorized. In the proposed rule, Sec. DeVos doubled down on her flawed interpretation of the equitable services provision, and released a draft interim rule that would codify the practice with the strength of law. In her rule, DeVos continues to conflate allocation of resources with use of resources, in an effort to distract from the fact that her proposal shifts $1.3 billion from public schools to private schools and it inherently inequitable. She frames the CARES Act equitable services resources as a subsidy for private schools to keep them from going out of business/closing, a far cry from the reality of CARES Act funding, which is about getting emergency funding to kids. CARES Act did provide a pathway by which private schools could get support against closures, via the Paycheck Protection Program. DeVos uses the long-standing equitable services mechanism as a money grab to bolster private school coffers, when historically, the program has been about ensuring Title I eligible students are served. The rule gives LEAs choices in how to distribute their K12 CARES Act funding: (From EdWeek)
  • A district can decide to distribute the CARES money only to schools that received Title I for the 2019-20 school year —essentially, those schools with a minimum share of students from low-income backgrounds.
  • If districts choose to distribute aid only to Title I schools, they can use two options to calculate how much money they set aside for equitable services: They can use the same amount for equitable services they set aside for the 2019-20 school year; or they can conduct a count of low-income students in local private schools to determine the proportional share. 
  • If a district distributes aid only to Title I schools, it can't use the CARES money to backfill cuts at the state and local level by moving other funding out of those schools into other schools. That could create a very big incentive for districts not to spend CARES money only on Title I schools, given the huge budget cuts many districts are facing.
  • But if a district distributes CARES aid to schools that didn't receive Title I in 2019-20, then it must calculate the amount it must set aside for equitable services using a count of all local students enrolled in private schools in the district.

Giving the allusion of choice as a cover for a flawed policy proposal is unacceptable. This interim rule reaches into how schools USE their CARES funding—something Congress was crystal clear to make very flexible—so as to force public schools to allocate money from Title I students to private schools. The proposal is anything but choice: if you want to implement equitable services as it has historically been done—and as Congress intended—you can only use your CARES funding in Title I schools. This is a logistical and operational hurdle that unnecessarily complicates the work of safely reopening schools in the fall. And for states where the budget process has moved forward and your state cut their state education funding by the amount of CARES dollars your state received, this all but forces LEAs to set aside the higher proportion to private schools, or to be in non-compliance with supplement, not supplant, as DeVos grossly expanded her authority to apply this provision in the context of CARES. You can read more about her initial non-binding guidance, and check out our talking points on the issue from our recent advocacy conference. 

Call to Action: Using our template response, follow the prompts in the italic, red font. Make sure to include specific numbers to highlight what the dollar difference would mean in your district, and help to bring to life what that cut means: how many teacher salaries is that? How much PPE would you be able to provide for students in school? If you are going hybrid or virtual, how many hotspots or devices would you be able to provide? We want to really bring to light how much this will impact the work schools need to do to open schools safely. Also consider inserting language about how the policy complicates roll out; it adds confusion to the field. Uncertain of how much money a district will have, can you really move forward with implementation? Comments must be filed by July 31, 2020.

Filing Your Comments

  1. Open the template, personalize, and save. Make sure to include district letter head and that all font in the letter is black (remove red italicized prompts).
  2. Clink on the Federal Register/Equitable Services page (HERE)
  3. In the box labeled comment, type “I submit this comment to express my strong opposition to CARES Act Programs; Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools 34 CFR Part 76 [Docket ID ED–2020–OESE–0091] RIN 1810–AB59”
  4. Click on the green box that says ‘upload file’ and navigate through to attach your district’s comment.
  5. Fill out the remaining boxes through email address; you can leave everything else blank.
  6. Click/check ‘I read and understand the statement above.’
  7. Click on ‘Submit Comment’.
  8. If possible, please take the time to submit your comment with your Congressional delegation, as well. Our advocacy team would be happy to get you the email addresses for the education staffers for your representative and senators. Contact jasmine Byrd (jbyrd at aasa dot org). 
  9. If you would like AASA staff to file for you, you need to send us your completed comment no later than Wednesday, July 29 5 pm ET.
  10. Questions? Contact Noelle Ellerson Ng (nellerson@aasa.org). 

 

 

AASA and IDEA Full Funding: Coalition Activity

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AASA and IDEA Full Funding: Coalition Activity

 AASA co chairs the federal IDEA Full Funding Coalition, representing education and disabilities groups committed to having Congress honor its commitment to provide 40 percent of the additional cost associated with educating students with disabilities (“full funding”). This month, the coalition has submitted a letter outlining its FY21 funding priorities and a letter supporting recent legislation related to funding IDEA in the context of COVID. 

 

2020 Legislative Advocacy Conference Resources

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2020 Legislative Advocacy Conference Resources

It is our sincere hope that you enjoyed your time at AASA’s 2020 Virtual Advocacy Conference. As promised, here are the recordings, slides, and resources we owe you.

Additionally, this post contains a link to a two-minute Google survey which allows you to share what happened during your Capitol Hill visits (topics discussed, responses received from staff/members and any follow-up for offices we should respond to) as well as your general impressions of the conference this year and how we can improve it next year. We would appreciate it if you could please take a moment to complete this survey by clicking here.

Day 1 Recording: 

Day 2 Recording:

AASA Joins NSBA and AESA in Letter Calling for Liability Protections

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AASA Joins NSBA and AESA in Letter Calling for Liability Protections

Earlier today, AASA joined National School Boards Association and Association of Educational Service Agencies in a joint letter to Congress asking for temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read our letter here.

July Advocate

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July Advocate

 On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it was no longer prohibited for a state to bar private religious schools from participating in its voucher programs. “A state need not subsidize private education,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for a five-judge majority in the case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

AASA submitted an amicus brief to the Court arguing that it was improper to require a state to fund private religious education and that voucher programs undermine public schools and the obligation of states to fund public schools. The 5-4 decision did not surprise us or many legal experts because by hearing the case at all, which many felt was weak, the Court seemingly tipped its hand that they were unhappy with the decision by the Montana Supreme Court and wished to overturn it.

State “no-aid” provisions which bar funding of religious education exist in 38 states, but 18 of these states already have voucher programs. Thus, while pointing out how the creation of voucher program conflicts with a state’s constitution or no-aid clause has been a helpful argument for public school advocates opposed to these programs, it has not stopped states from disregarding their no-aid provisions and enacting voucher programs.

What are the immediate effects of the SCOTUS decision then? Two states, Vermont and Maine, will have their “town-tuitioning programs” dating back from 1869 to 1873 respectively, (long before vouchers were invented) open to private religious schools. These programs have allowed students in rural parts of the state who did not have access to any public school to attend any other public or private secular school inside or outside the state. Unlike voucher programs that started in the 1950s in response to segregation, these programs are small and specific to very rural communities in those states. They are not “true” voucher programs in the mind of many school leaders, but voucher proponents are already pouncing on the opportunity to claim them as such and ensure parents in these states can opt to send their children to private religious schools on the state dime.

What else is next? According to the Institute for Justice, which represented Espinoza, they are looking to use this decision to push vouchers in Texas, Missouri, South Dakota and Idaho. They say these are the next big “battlegrounds” for vouchers and legislatures and should no longer feel bound by “no-aid” causes. However, a look at how these voucher fights have played out recently reveals that the winning arguments for public education have centered on opposition by rural Republicans that diverting state funding away from public schools will hurt rural students as well as concerns about academic achievement and accountability in voucher programs.

This decision raises the possibility that voucher proponents could start insisting that it would be religious discrimination if religious schools are not treated the same as other educational entities when it comes to state aid; They could try to argue that when new grant programs are created private religious schools should be eligible for the funding. Meanwhile, they will also want to be granted exemptions, so they don’t have to meet the same academic/curriculum, reporting and discrimination provisions as secular private schools or public schools.

Like other major education decisions, in recent years the Court has issued it can take time to understand the policy ramifications of a case. AASA and the coalition we lead, the National Coalition for Public Education, will remain vigilant in fighting voucher schemes at the federal level and provide our affiliates with the best arguments and research for successfully opposing these programs at the state level.

 

 

AASA Urges FEMA to Offer Additional Flexibilities Under the Public Assistance Program

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AASA Urges FEMA to Offer Additional Flexibilities Under the Public Assistance Program

On June 30, 2020, AASA, ASBO International, and others submitted a letter to FEMA urging the agency to offer additional flexibilities under the Public Assistance Category B program so that districts can be eligible to receive reimbursements for activities related to delivering meals, sanitizing school facilities, and providing premium pay for essential school staff.
 
For background, FEMA's Category B Protective Measures provision allows districts to be reimbursed for services taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, Category “B” funds are eligible to cover costs associated with the management, control, and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety including for, but not limited to, emergency operation center costs; training specific to the declared event; disinfection of eligible public facilities; technical assistance; and control of immediate threats to public health and safety. The problem here is that the agency's current regulations prohibit FEMA from reimbursing school districts if expenses are associated with increased operating costs related to the pandemic. 
 
Due to this, AASA was happy to join this allied advocacy effort to expand the funding available to school districts for contending with the pandemic and re-opening facilities. You can access the letter by clicking here.
 

AASA Submits Amicus Brief to Halt District Title IX Regulation Implementation

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AASA Submits Amicus Brief to Halt District Title IX Regulation Implementation

Given the enormous burden the Title IX regulation poses for districts trying to re-open schools in the middle of the pandemic, AASA took the unusual step an amicus brief in two key State attorney generals cases that are requesting a preliminary injunction to stop the regulation from going into effect on August 14th.
 
The AASA amicus brief was drafted by John Borkowski of the law firm HuschBlackwell. Borkowski, a partner at HuschBlackwell and an attorney who has focused on assisting district leaders for over 30 years, did a superb job of highlighting the most egregious aspects of implementing this regulation from the K-12 perspective. You can read the brief here.

National Coalition for Public Education Denounces Ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue Case

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

National Coalition for Public Education Denounces Ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue Case

AASA, which co-chairs the National Coalition for Public Education, released this statement in response to the 5-4 decision issued by the Supreme Court in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. 
 
National Coalition for Public Education Denounces Ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue Case 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue guts provisions that exist in the three-quarters of state constitutions that protect taxpayers from being forced to pay for private, religious education.
 
This damaging decision delivers a serious blow to public education. During the Trump Administration private school voucher advocates like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have been unable to push an unpopular federal voucher program through Congress, even when there were Republican majorities in both chambers. But now the Supreme Court has opened the door for voucher proponents in states to aggressively pursue the diversion of taxpayer dollars to private schools—schools that can pick and choose who they educate and are not accountable to taxpayers. Now more than ever, as our country tries to rectify our history of racial injustice, we need to invest in our public schools that welcome all children and unite our communities, not in private schools that further divide us.
 
Public schools are a cornerstone of our communities, and bring together all students regardless of economic status, disability, religion, or any other factor. Our nation cannot afford to waste taxpayer money on a privately run education system, particularly one that fails to improve academic achievement, when we are underfunding the public school system that educates 90% of American children. Public money should fund public schools.
 
This ruling should galvanize families, educators, taxpayers – everyone who values the fundamental role public schools play in our society – to push back against the privatization of the public education system.
 
Founded in 1978, the National Coalition for Public Education supports public schools and opposes the funneling of public money to private and religious schools through vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and portability. 

GUEST BLOG: COVID-19 and Students with Food Allergies

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GUEST BLOG: COVID-19 and Students with Food Allergies

 This guest blog post is provided by--and expresses the view point of--the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection team. AASA welcomed the opportunity to share this information with you for your own reference.
 
COVID-19 AND STUDENTS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES
Amelia G. Smith, J.D.
General Counsel and Vice President of Civil Rights Advocacy

 

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team

The COVID-19 Pandemic has effected every aspect of our lives, including the rights of individuals with food allergies.  The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team’s (FAACT) Civil Rights Advocacy Division has been and is still actively monitoring and researching the impact of COVID-19, related directives and guidelines, school closures, and the impact of the CARES Act on the rights of individuals with food allergies.   One area of great concern that has arisen is the CDC’s “Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs,” released March 25, 2020, May 2020 CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President's Plan for Opening America Up Again, and “Considerations for Schools” released May 19, 2020.  These guidance documents recommend avoiding mixing students in