Status of Budget Reconciliation and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

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Status of Budget Reconciliation and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

The mantra these days for Democrats is “divided, we stall” as progressives and moderates in the House continue to disagree on the order of which to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package that has already passed the Senate and a larger reconciliation bill containing “human” infrastructure investments – including hundreds of billions for education and related programs.

After facing pressure from moderates, House leadership committed to bringing the infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote by Monday, September 27. However, progressives say they won’t vote for that bill unless they can also vote for the reconciliation bill, which will not be ready by Monday. In fact, a vote on the reconciliation bill is likely weeks away, as Democrats negotiate behind the scenes to possibly pare back the size of the House committee proposals to garner support from all the Senate Democrats, some of whom have balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag.

House Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Government Through December 3 – Stalemate Awaits in Senate

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House Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Government Through December 3 – Stalemate Awaits in Senate

Fiscal year (FY) 2021 ends in 7 days and Congress is having trouble agreeing on how to extend government funding while it continues to work on full-year FY 2022 appropriations bills. On Tuesday, Sept. 21, on a party-line vote, Democrats in the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels until December 3. The bill also includes emergency funding for disaster relief and resettlement assistance for displaced Afghans and, most notably, suspends the debt ceiling until December 2022. 

As a reminder, if Congress does not increase or suspend the debt ceiling in the next month, the U.S. will no longer be able to borrow and will begin to default on its obligations, with catastrophic economic repercussions.

In the Senate, the House CR requires 60 votes to pass and Republicans have vowed not to support an increase in or suspension of the debt ceiling, making the bill unlikely to gain approval. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans released their own CR, which does not address the debt ceiling and contains foreign aid funding that progressive Democrats oppose. How this faceoff will end is uncertain, but no one wants a government shutdown on October 1. 

AASA Urges Secretary Cardona to Fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

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AASA Urges Secretary Cardona to Fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

On September 22, AASA joined an allied coalition letter asking Secretary Cardona and the Department of Education (ED) to take administrative action to ensure that all public service workers who have completed a decade of service receive the debt relief they were promised through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

Since the first public service workers became eligible for debt cancellation in 2017, 98 percent of those who applied have been rejected. Despite reassurances from ED that these were just initial missteps and that rates of debt cancellation granted under this program would improve over time, year after year there are widespread denials without explanation.

Recent data obtained by the Student Borrower Protection Center showed that ED rejected more than 4,500 school employees as they sought to certify that their employment counts for the program. In some cases, educators were rejected for seemingly minor bureaucratic mix-ups, such as checking the wrong box or missing a date next to a signature. Others were wrongfully rejected on the basis that the school did not qualify as a public service employer.

It is time for ED to address the underlying problems causing these systematic failures. In the letter, the coalition emphasized the importance of retroactive relief, prospective changes for future participants and highlighted three principles for ED to follow when delivering debt relief:

  • Eliminate all student debt owed by those who have served for a decade or more.
  • Grant one year of credit for each year of service for all public service workers who owe any type of federal student loan. 
  • Ensure relief to public service workers is automatic.

Public service workers have been the backbone of our communities throughout the ongoing pandemic and beyond. It is crucial that ED fix the PSLF Program to ensure these groups receive the debt relief they’ve earned. 

USDA Announces Waiver Amidst Supply Chain Disruption

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USDA Announces Waiver Amidst Supply Chain Disruption

On September 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a waiver on fiscal action requirements in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) where there is a supply chain disruption due to COVID–19.

Until June 30, 2022, providers will not be penalized for missing food components, missing production records or repeated violations involving milk type and vegetable subgroups. When determining whether this waiver is applicable during an administrative review, state agencies will consider all of the information school food authorities have available that illustrates that a COVID-19 supply chain disruption occurred. 

The authority of the USDA to grant nationwide child nutrition waivers, like this one, is set to expire on September 30, 2021. This authority provides the critical flexibility needed to respond to the ongoing pandemic and ensure that the federal child nutrition programs continue to operate and provide healthy snacks and meals to the students who need them. On September 20, AASA signed on to an allied coalition letter urging Congress to extend this authority to September 30, 2022.

Discover an Award for Innovative Young People!

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Discover an Award for Innovative Young People!

This opportunity comes from our friends at NASSP:

Your students want to build a better world. We want to celebrate them through a new awards program.                

As an educator, you give students every opportunity to succeed. And now you can help them even more, as they take aim at some of society's most urgent issues.

Discover Prudential Emerging Visionaries — the exciting national recognition program that awards young people who have innovative solutions to a financial or societal challenge. It's a program you can use to motivate students to think deeper about financial and societal matters and inspire innovation.

Emerging Visionaries is the evolution of Prudential's long-running Spirit of Community Awards program, which for 26 years has honored over 150,000 outstanding youth volunteers. This revitalized program refines that focus, by asking young people to create solutions specifically geared to financial and societal challenges. 

Help Students Apply for Prudential Emerging Visionaries 

Now through November 4, 2021, applications are being accepted from young leaders, age 14-18, who bring powerful vision and real change to financial and societal challenges. 

Those selected may qualify for up to $15,000 in awards, an all-expenses paid trip with their parent or guardian to Prudential headquarters — as well as coaching and skills development to help take their innovation to the next level. Prudential Emerging Visionaries is a collaboration between Prudential Financial and Ashoka, a leading social impact organization. Financial health advisory support is provided by the Financial Health Network

To learn more about Prudential Emerging Visionaries, student eligibility and more, please visit www.prudential.com/emergingvisionaries

For Questions, contact emergingvisionaries@ashoka.org.

Details re Biden Vaccine Plan and Education Implications

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Details re Biden Vaccine Plan and Education Implications

Here’s what Biden’s Vaccine Plan says and what we know (so far). We will update the blog and app with more details as we learn them over the next 48 hours.

The Biden Administration plan does the following:

  • Requires staff of Head Start programs, DOD schools, Bureau of Indian Educations schools to be vaccinated
  • Calls on all states to adopt vaccine mandates for all school employees
  • Creates a new grant program, Project SAFE (Supporting America’s Families and Educators), to restore funding withheld by state leaders who oppose efforts like mask requirements, virtual learning, etc. The funding can also be used to backfill salaries for district leaders who are implementing masking, etc.
  • Providing new resources so students and school staff can be tested regularly and beefing up vaccine testing processes/systems.
  • Providing every resource to the FDA to support review of applications for vaccines for <12

Here’s what we know so far about how it impacts states/districts directly. While the president’s vaccine mandate does not apply broadly to all schools, the Biden administration will issue a rule through the Department of Labor that will apply to the 26 states with OSHA plans (including TN, SC, AZ, KY and VA). Teachers in these states will have to be vaccinated OR submit to weekly testing. To check on your state’s OSHA plan, please refer to this map: https://www.osha.gov/stateplans

Check out the Congressional Research Service (CRS)  report, OSHA Jurisdiction Over Public Schools and Other State and Local Government Entities: COVID-19 Issues.  

There is no authority to mandate vaccines for children at the federal level, so the administration is strongly encouraging states/districts to adopt COVID vaccine mandates for students 12 and over. 

BUDGET RECONCILIATION: K-12 FUNDING DETAILS

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BUDGET RECONCILIATION: K-12 FUNDING DETAILS

This week the House Committee on Education and Labor will mark up its portion of the Build Back Better Act, a portion of the $3.5 trillion bill that Democrats are pushing using a mechanism known as budget reconciliation that only requires the support of 50 Senators.

There is much to like in the House proposal, and we are hopeful to see the Senate move quickly to support these provisions as they move forward next week in determining determine whether the House bill numbers will work for the Senate. 

Here’s what superintendents should know:

  • $82 billion in direct aid to states/district to rebuild America’s schools. There is a 10% match requirement for States. If a State applies for the funding, the Title I formula is used to distribute the funds. Every state that participates must collect a “local facilities master plan” from each LEA as well as data to support implementation of the State school facilities database. States will prioritize funding to districts that serve the highest numbers or percentages of Title I students or the most limited capacity to raise funds for the long-term improvement of public-school facilities.
  • $35 billion for school nutrition programs. The bill would make more schools eligible for CEP by lowering the Identified Student Percentage eligibility threshold from 40 to 25 percent and make it more financially viable by increasing the multiplier that determines the amount of federal reimbursement a school receives from 1.6 to 2.5. It would also give states the option to implement the Community Eligibility Provision statewide, allowing all students in the state to receive school breakfast and lunch at no charge. It would allow Children who participate in Medicaid to be certified for free or reduced-price school meals based on their household income. It would also Extend Summer EBT nationwide for students who receive free or reduced-price school meals.
  • $5 billion for youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • $400 million for districts to partner with higher education institutions to implement grow-your-own programs and teacher residencies to address teacher shortages.
  • "Such sums as necessary" for expanding universal pre-K programs. States would apply for grants and target subgrants toward interested LEAs, ESAs and other child care providers located in high-poverty communities or in areas with limited early learning programs to provide children with pre-K opportunities. LEAs would not be mandated to provide pre-K programs but could partner with other child care and private partners to compete for grants to start or expand pre-K programs.  

Now, none of these numbers are final. It will take effort on everyone’s part (including yours!) to make sure that these funding levels are accepted by the Senate. It’s especially imperative to participate in our call-to-action next week on school infrastructure funding. Stay tuned for more details!

State of Our Schools 2021

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State of Our Schools 2021

School facilities have a direct impact on student learning, student and staff health and school finances. However, many students attend school facilities that fall short of providing quality learning environments because essential maintenance and capital improvements are underfunded.

The 2021 State of Our Schools Report compiles and analyzes the best available school district data regarding U.S. PK–12 public school facilities funding. In addition to drawing attention to the disparity across the U.S. in funding levels, it finds that the U.S. is underinvesting in school buildings and grounds by $85 billion each year. These findings bring to light the proper financial support required for all children, in every district, to attend healthy and safe schools that provide the best learning environments and most resilient facilities. 

Download the report.

Read the full press release, including a quote from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech. 

Check out the comprehensive state files detailing how underfunded your state's school facilities are. 

USED Releases ARP Fact Sheet on Pre-Award Costs

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USED Releases ARP Fact Sheet on Pre-Award Costs

USED released a fact sheet describing strategies for how LEAs may utilize pre-award costs if they have not yet received an ARP ESSER award from their state.

Background: The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund provides nearly $122 billion to help schools reopen safely, sustain safe operations, and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of the Nation’s students. Because these needs are so urgent, the ARP Act requires that States allocate at least 90 percent of all funds to their local educational agencies (LEAs) in an “expedited and timely manner.” Although states legally have until March 24, 2022, to make available the LEA share of the first 2/3 of ARP ESSER funding, the ARP Act emphasizes that States should have acted within 60 days of receiving the funds to the extent practicable—and the Department has made clear that every State should do so if they have not already. 1 While the large majority of States have moved expeditiously to make these vital resources available to LEAs, a few States have not yet started awarding ARP ESSER funds that they received in March. In response to questions the Department has received from LEAs, it is important to emphasize that such delay by a State does not restrict an LEA’s ability to incur allowable costs that an LEA determines are appropriate and necessary. Hence, today's fact sheet.

FCC Announces Second ECF Application Window

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FCC Announces Second ECF Application Window

From the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

The FCC announced  that requests for $5.137 billion in funding to support 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections were received during the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program's initial filing window.  The window, which closed August 13, 2021, attracted applicants from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities seeking funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.  Additional information about the demand at the state level can be found here.

 

 

In view of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding from the roughly $2 billion in program funds remaining for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.  The second window will open on September 28 and run until October 13.  Eligible schools and libraries will be able to apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs.

The Advocate September 2021: District ARP Spending: A Snapshot

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The Advocate September 2021: District ARP Spending: A Snapshot

On September 1, AASA released the results of a survey of superintendents about how they plan to use ARP funding this school year and during the next three years. The rationale for conducting this survey is that federal policymakers have expressed concern that district leaders are either taking too long to spend or are unsure of how to spend federal COVID-19 relief funding to address specific pandemic-related educational issues.

Our hope is that this survey of AASA members reassures them that the planning is well underway and sheds light on the trends in allocating federal resources quickly to address both short-term and long-term issues for students and districts. While the survey data is a snapshot of the earliest days of ESSER spending, AASA intends to monitor the continued investment and impact of these dollars on students, particularly vulnerable students, in future surveys of our membership.

What does the data tell us?

One big takeaway is that ARP money is being used to add support staff, particularly mental health support staff, to schools, which is exactly what Congress intended.

  • Two-thirds (66%) of respondents plan to use ARP funding this year to add specialized instructional support staff and other specialists (e.g., counselor/social worker/reading specialists) to support specific student needs.
  • More than three-quarters (83%) of respondents expressed their desire to use this investment during  the next three years to meet the needs of their students’ physical, social-emotional and behavioral development.
  • Slightly more than half (52%) of respondents said they would use ARP funding to implement or advance social-emotional learning practices and systems in their districts and/or on trauma-informed training for their educators.

Professional development, curriculum upgrades and purchasing of devices was another major expenditure for this school year.

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) are using ARP funds to purchase technology/devices and/or provide students with internet connectivity during the school year.
  • More than half (61%) said they were going to invest in professional development for their educators.
  • More than half (60%) of respondents will be using ARP to procure high-quality instructional materials and curriculum for students.

When asked about major expenditures for the next three years, there was a concerted effort by district leaders to invest in re-engaging students, enhancing special education offerings and providing more dual-enrollment and CTE offerings.

  • More than half (58%) of respondents indicated their district would be able to improve educational outcomes by investing in re-engaging high school students who have fallen off-track to graduate and who need additional support to navigate the transition to college and career.
  • Nearly half (46%) said they planned to enhance special education services and programming for students with disabilities.
  • More than one third (35%) said they planned to expand dual enrollment programming, apprenticeships and high-quality CTE offerings for students.

It is increasingly likely that the Democrats’ reconciliation bill that will be released later this month will contain paltry funding for new school construction. This means that the only opportunity most districts will have to invest in upgrading school facilities is through ARP spending. School facilities experts suggest that at least 15% of ARP funding should be dedicated to school construction. 

Our survey found:

  • More than half (57%) of superintendents said they would be able to renovate and build school facilities.
  • Nearly half (45%) of districts indicated they would spend between 1-10% of ARP funding on school facilities improvements.
  • Few (13%) districts indicated they would spend between 11-15% of ARP funding on school facilities improvements.
  • Few (17%) districts indicated they would spend between 16-25% of ARP funding on school facilities improvements.

One quarter of respondents indicated that the 2024 deadline to spend funding was an obstacle in using ARP funding for infrastructure updates and construction. Nearly half of urban districts and two-thirds of suburban districts indicated they would spend less than 10% of ARP funding on construction or other infrastructure improvements. Rural districts were much more likely than suburban and urban districts to spend more than 25% of their ARP funding on facility enhancements.

USDA Announces School Meals SY 21-22 Flexibilities, Waivers and Supply Chain Resources

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USDA Announces School Meals SY 21-22 Flexibilities, Waivers and Supply Chain Resources

USDA recently detailed the School Year 2021-2-22 and Supply Chain Challenges technical assistance resources available to State agencies, school districts and stakeholders: 

A suite of technical assistance resources entitled Planning for a Dynamic School Environment, including:

 

On August 13, FNS hosted a webinar entitled “Procurement Strategies for School Year 2021-2022.” The webinar takes a deep dive into some of the supply chain strategies mentioned on this webinar and the recording is now available on the Team Nutrition website. The link is below:

 

 

In partnership with USDA, the Institute of Child Nutrition is hosting a special Back to School series focused on Tools and Strategies to Address Supply Chain Challenges. This two-part series scheduled for September 1st and 2nd from 3:00 – 4:00pm EST will feature eight State agency representatives and child nutrition directors from across the country as they discuss the supply chain issues they have been facing as schools return to school as well as resources and best practices to mitigate those challenges. Visit theicn.org for more details on that series and to register.

USED IDEA Resource Round-Up

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USED IDEA Resource Round-Up

This week, the U.S. Department of Education released a new guidance document reiterating the importance of complying with child find requirements during the pandemic. They also stated they would be releasing a series of other policy guidance on meeting IDEA in the coming weeks. 

In addition, many districts are reporting that they are beginning to see the ARP funding increase for IDEA hit their bank accounts. You'll recall that Democrats sought a $3.5 billion plus-up to IDEA in the American Rescue Plan. This funding, like all increases to IDEA done through the appropriation process, is subject to the same stringent local maintenance of effort requirements. While House Democrats have proposed level-funding IDEA from the ARP baseline for FY22 it is not guaranteed. We are cautiously optimistic that we will see a sustained investment over two years at the same level for IDEA, but it's important for districts to monitor their compliance with MOE and review this document that ED shared on ARP and IDEA MoE compliance.  

America Counts Releases State Data Profiles

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America Counts Releases State Data Profiles

The U.S. Census Bureau today released 52 individual data profiles on America Counts highlighting the recent 2020 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File release.

These sharable data-rich state profiles are available for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and feature data visualizations that include population, housing, race, ethnicity, diversity and age data. Each profile provides key demographic characteristics of each state and county on one page.

Check out the state profiles!

FCC Releases Back-to-School Emergency Broadband Benefit Outreach Toolkit

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FCC Releases Back-to-School Emergency Broadband Benefit Outreach Toolkit

Students are returning to school for a new year and whether classes are remote, in-person, or a hybrid this fall everyone needs internet access to succeed.

  

To help promote the Emergency Broadband Benefit as a tool for the coming school year, the FCC has added new back-to-school themed materials to the EBB Outreach Toolkit.  New materials include school posters, bookmarks, handouts and Pell Grant and school lunch and breakfast program specific flyers. Additional social media posts and images have also been added. 

 

The FCC hopes that universities and K-12 schools will use these items to notify their communities about this important program designed to help eligible households get, or stay, connected. 

 

The new materials are available in English and in Spanish. They also include Tribal specific flyers to promote the increased monthly benefit available to eligible households on qualifying Tribal lands. If you have questions about any of the materials please contact broadbandbenefit@fcc.gov. 


The Emergency Broadband Benefit program allows eligible households to enroll through an approved provider or by visiting GetEmergencyBroadband.org. To learn more about the program or to become a partner visit www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit. 

USED Guidance Reaffirms Importance of Full Implementation of IDEA

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USED Guidance Reaffirms Importance of Full Implementation of IDEA

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) sent a letter to its state and local partners reiterating its commitment to ensuring children with disabilities and their families have successful early intervention and educational experiences in the 2021-2022 school year.  

This letter outlines a series of question and answers (Q&As) as children and students return to in-person learning. The Q&As focus on topics to help ensure that—regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic or the mode of instruction, children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and that infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services.   

“Serving all children and students with disabilities in our public schools isn’t just written into law – it’s a moral obligation and strong equitable practice. When we recognize and celebrate these differences as strengths, and when we help all children make progress toward challenging educational goals, everyone benefits,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I’m proud that the Department is releasing these tools as part of the federal government’s important and necessary obligation to IDEA.” 

The Q&As document on Child Find Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act released with the letter is the first Q&A in the series and reaffirms the importance of appropriate implementation of IDEA’s child find obligations, which requires the identification, location and evaluation, of all children with disabilities in the states. An effective child find system is an ongoing part of each state’s responsibility to ensure that FAPE is made available to all eligible children with disabilities.    

Other topic areas under IDEA include: 

  • meeting timelines;
  • ensuring implementation of initial evaluation and reevaluation procedures;
  • determining eligibility for special education and related services;
  • providing the full array of special education and related services, that may include compensatory services, for students with disabilities to ensure they receive a FAPE, and
  • delayed evaluations and early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families served under IDEA Part C.  

 

New research finds schools remain more likely to suspend Black students and students with disabilities, despite overall reductions

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New research finds schools remain more likely to suspend Black students and students with disabilities, despite overall reductions

 While schools have continued to lower their reliance on out-of-school suspension to manage student behavior, large disparities still exist by race and disability status, according to a new analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection from Child Trends. The analysis found that, in the 2017-18 school year: 

  • The average K-12 school suspended 4.5% of their students and the average secondary school suspended 7.4% of their students, compared to 5.6% and 9.6% in the 2011-12 school year.
  • K-12 schools suspend their Black students at rates twice as high (7.8% of Black students in the 2017–18 school year) as their White (3.8%) and Hispanic (3.6%) counterparts.
  • Schools also suspend their students with disabilities at rates twice as high as their peers without disabilities (8.5% versus 4.0%, respectively, at the average K-12 school).
  • Disparities also exist within individual schools. 1 in 5 public K-12 schools (22.5%) disproportionately suspend their Black students at higher rates than their White students, and 2 in 5 (39.9%) disproportionately suspend their students with disabilities relative to students without disabilities.

As students return to in-person instruction, they’ll face new behavioral expectations as schools work to safeguard communities from COVID-19 transmission. Schools may need a renewed commitment to positive behavioral approaches, tailored to support both new social and emotional needs and expectations, to maintain the current trend towards reduced disciplinary exclusion.   

USED Revises Maintenance of Equity Guidance

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USED Revises Maintenance of Equity Guidance

On Friday, USED released a revised set of guidance forMaintenance of Equity in which they provide a flexibility such that the provision will only apply to LEAs experiencing a net decrease in state and local funding for the 21-22 school year. You’ll recall that in June, USED released its initial guidance on Maintenance of Equity (MoEq) and included an interpretation that the provision would apply to all schools enrolling more than 1,000 students, which ran counter to the  intention of the underlying statute, the general impression in the field and among policy experts, and something that would prove problematic to the field.  

This revised guidance clarifies that, among other things, for the 21-22 school year, the more narrow application will apply.

What do you need to know?

  • Letter from Sec Cardona to state chiefs and school superintendents is here.
  • The updated guidance itself is available here. The critical update is that with this new guidance, “an LEA…may demonstrate that it is excepted from the maintenance of equity requirements for FY 2022 by certifying to the Department that it did not and will not implement an aggregate reduction in combined State and local per-pupil funding in FY 2022 (i.e., is not facing overall budget reductions).” In layman’s terms, this means the MoEquity provision only applies to LEAs experiencing a net decrease in state/local dollars. Any LEA that can certify they will not have a new reduction in combined state and local funding for 2021-22 school year will be excepted from this provision. LEAs seeking the exception will need to submit a certification affirming they will not have a net decrease; that form is available in Appendix B (page 24) of the August 6 revised guidance.
  • Webinar opportunity: AASA will host a technical webinar on the provision, the new guidance and what it means for schools THIS FRIDAY Aug 13 at 12 noon ET. The webinar is free and open to all superintendents and interested people. Sign up today

CDC Updates on COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 School

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CDC Updates on COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 School

This content originates from an email from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools to align with CDC’s existing guidance for fully vaccinated people and assist K-12 schools in opening for in-person instruction and remaining open. Additionally, the Considerations for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) has been updated to align with new CDC guidance.  

CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools includes recommendations for

  • Promoting vaccination among teachers, staff, families, and eligible students. 
  • Universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. 
  • Implementation of layered prevention strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including maintaining at least 3 feet of distance between students within classrooms in combination with universal masking; screening testing to promptly identify cases, clusters, and outbreaks; handwashing and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and disinfection; and contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine.  

CDC’s Considerations for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) highlights 

  • How case investigation and contact tracing--in combination with testing, isolation, and quarantine--are effective strategies to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 in K–12 schools. 
  • How collaboration between schools and STLT health departments on reporting COVID-19 cases can facilitate timely case investigation and contact tracing in school settings. 
  • Recommendations for students, staff, and educators, regardless of vaccination status, who have come into close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. 

CDC has also updated the exception to the close contact definition for students in K-12 indoor classroom settings. If using the 3-foot distancing in indoor classroom settings, it is important that schools implement layered prevention strategies to ensure a safe environment and prevent transmission of COVID-19. However, implementation of these strategies will no longer be considered in the determination of close contact.   

Given the importance of key services schools offer and the benefits of in-person learning for students, it is critical for K-12 schools to open for in-person instruction, and stay open. Working together, school leaders, local health departments and community members can take actions to keep schools open for in-person learning by protecting students, teachers, and school staff where they live, work, learn, and play. 

Using ESSER to Advance Student Health Equity

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Using ESSER to Advance Student Health Equity

We are really excited to share a new guide, Advancing Student and Staff Health with COVID-19 Relief Funding, which highlights how districts should consider using ESSER funds to support student and staff health. In addition to sharing information on how school districts can use COVID-19 relief money for capacity building and infrastructure, the guidance details how these federal funds can be used to access additional funding streams, such as Medicaid, to ensure the efforts initiated with COVID relief aid are sustained. For more information, check out the guidance here.

Developed by the AASA, FutureEd, Healthy Schools Campaign and Kaiser Permanente, the guide provides an essential roadmap for strategic and sustainable investment that can help advance student and staff health for years to come

USED Releases Return to School Roadmap

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USED Releases "Return to School Roadmap"

As published in a press release, USED released the “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. The Roadmap provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. Over the course of the next several weeks as schools reopen nationwide, the Roadmap will lay out actionable strategies to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance for K-12 schools, so that schools can minimize transmission and sustain in-person learning all school-year long.

The Roadmap includes three “Landmark” priorities that schools, districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are set up for success in the 2021-2022 school year. These include: (1) prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and educators, (2) building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health, and (3) accelerating academic achievement. As part of the Roadmap, the Department will release resources for practitioners and parents on each of these priorities, and will highlight schools and districts that are using innovative practices to address these priorities. The Department will also lift up ways that the American Rescue Plan and other federal funds can be used to address these priorities in schools and communities across the country, as well as outline additional investments from President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda that are needed to ensure our schools and communities can rebuild from the pandemic even stronger than they were before and address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for students in underserved communities. 

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released: 

  • A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways. 
  • A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.  
  • checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.  

 

 

 

FNS and Direct Certification Pilot Projects

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FNS and Direct Certification Pilot Projects

As part of the Russell School Nutrition Program, currently known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) conducts additional demonstration projects to expand the evaluation of direct certification with Medicaid for both free and reduced price punch meal eligibility under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Programs. Direct certification of Medicaid is the use of Medicaid data files to ID children eligible to receive meals through NSLP and SBP at free and reduced price without need of application (yay for reduced paper pushing!).

As you know, 19 state agencies are already directly certifying income-eligible children receiving Medicaid benefits to receive free/reduced price school meals. The Biden administration announced its plan to expand these efforts and is inviting additional state agencies to initiate similar direct certification with Medicaid demonstration projects for school years 2022-23 and 2023-24. To that end, FNS released a request for applications last week, which you can access here and share with your respective state agency contacts. 

AASA August Advocacy Updates

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AASA August Advocacy Updates

It is officially recess for Congress, but the work continues. Three items/updates we want to relay to you:

  • FY22 Appropriations: Last week, the House completed its voting on amendments to the FY2022 LHHS-Education appropriations bill. That bill is part of a 7-bill FY22 omnibus package that was ultimately passed by the house. Education did receive an increase, and brings the House tally to having passed 9 of the 12 appropriations bills. USED saw an overall increase of $29.3 billion, compared to the CDC/s increase of $2.7 billion. The House LHHS includes a $20 billion increase for Title I, following the lead of the Biden administration, funds which would move through a new Equity Grant Program. The bill also includes a $5 million increase for REAP, an $85 million increase for Title IV-A, and a $2.6 billion increase for IDEA Grants to states. We will watch to see how the Senate drafts their approps bills, and monitor FY22 funding conversations as they continue to evolve.
  • Infrastructure: Late on Sunday, the Senate introduced the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It is loosely based on the broad outline negotiated by a bipartisan group of Senators and the White House earlier this summer. The bill totals nearly $1 trillion in infrastructure funding, but is glaringly devoid of meaningful supports for public schools. The school-related provision totals $500 million over FY2022-26. While it is good and historic that public schools are included in the national infrastructure bill, the funding level for schools is embarrassingly low: in terms of scale, in relation to other infrastructure—even though school district capital outlay is the second largest sector for capital outlay—nearly the same as for highways, nationally—this bill dedicates only .04% --not four percent, but four hundredths of a percent toward public school infrastructure—it falls incredibly short on what the needs are and the importance of this sector is. AASA continues to support the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, and believes that should be the starting point for conversations about schools within the broader package. We will continue to monitor this legislation.
  • Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties: The pending infrastructure bill includes a provision that would extend the Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties program for three years. More specifically, it includes an extension for FY21-22-23 without a 5% reduction, and provides that for FY21 and each fiscal year thereafter the amount is equal to the amount of FY2017. Big thanks to Senator Wyden, who is the champion of this provision, along with Sens. Manchin, Crapo, Murkowski, Tester, Risch, Merkley and Barrasso.

ICYMI: USED Released New Title IX Guidance on 2020 Regulations

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ICYMI: USED Released New Title IX Guidance on 2020 Regulations

On July 20, OCR released a Questions and Answers resource explaining how OCR interprets schools’ obligations under the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulation.

The 2020 amendments remain in effect while OCR’s comprehensive review of Title IX actions is ongoing, and the Q&A aims to assist schools, students, and others by highlighting areas in which schools may have discretion in their procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment.

The Q&A includes an appendix that responds to schools’ requests for examples of Title IX procedures that may be adaptable to their own circumstances and helpful in implementing the 2020 amendments. In addition, the guidance clarifies the steps that districts can take to address and remediate harassment that does not meet the new “severe, pervasive and objective” standard.

Buses and Federal Rules: What You Need to Know

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Buses and Federal Rules: What You Need to Know

Many superintendents have expressed confusion about different federal orders requiring masks on school buses and we are writing to provide some clarity for you and your administrative teams on this issue.

But, first some context: In June, CDC reiterated its order from January that school bus masking is required. At the same time, several states acted in the spring and summer to prohibit local school districts from requiring masks for students generally.

Superintendents have wondered what the consequence of following state law (no mask mandates) and flaunting federal CDC orders would be and the answer is as follows: CDC has no way of enforcing its school bus mask mandate. While they have the power to issue orders, their enforcement capacity is essentially non-existent. Superintendents should weigh the consequences of what would occur if they do not follow the state mandate on masks and following the CDC order and vice versa.

In addition to masking, there are multiple effective mitigation strategies for districts to employ to reduce the risks associated with student transportation as demonstrated in this document published by the U.S. Department of Education. Regardless of what practices your district employs, the U.S. Department of Education has reiterated that social distancing practices on school buses should not deter districts from offering full-time, in-person instruction.

With regards to the TSA order for buses that have associated fines for noncompliance, please know that school buses are not part of the order. There is no financial penalty associated with noncompliance with the TSA or CDC orders.

We hope this blogpost provides you with the clarity necessary to make safe and healthy choices for your students this school year. 

This blog was originally posted to AASA Advocacy app. Sign up for the app today to get this information direct to your phone.

The Clock is Ticking – Apply Now for Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Support!

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The Clock is Ticking – Apply Now for Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Support!

From the Federal Communications Commission:

The new school year is just around the corner, will students in your community have the broadband access and devices they need to succeed?  

The Federal Communications Commission has a new program to help with unmet needs. The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program covers 100% of the reasonable costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.  

Eligible schools and libraries must apply by August 13

During the current application filing window, eligible schools and libraries, in addition to consortia of schools and libraries, can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. 

Interested schools and libraries can find more information and apply for support at emergencyconnectivityfund.org.  The FCC will hold a webinar on August 3 at 2 p.m. ET to highlight frequently asked questions and answer questions submitted by potential applicants.  Newly updated resources include an application process overview and the attached program flyer.  You may also review additional Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program here or contact the Customer Support Center hosted by the Universal Service Administrative Company, the program administrator, at (800) 234-9781, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. 

 

Congress authorized the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC will award $7.17 billion to help schools and libraries purchase connected devices and broadband internet connections to facilitate off-campus remote learning.  The initial application window will close on August 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

The FCC shared a great flyer with everything you need to know. APPLY TODAY!

Bills on K-12 Funding and Discrimination Move Forward

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Bills on K-12 Funding and Discrimination Move Forward

Thursday was a busy day on Capitol Hill as two committees held contentious mark-ups on K-12 issues and funding. The House Education and Labor Committee voted to pass a bill that would create a competitive grant program to incentivize districts to de-segregate schools. This bill, the Strength in Diversity Act, is one that AASA supports. The second bill would give students and parents the right to bring Title VI discrimination claims based on the disparate impact of school policies, as if those policies had been written to be intentionally discriminatory. It would also require each district to have a Title VI coordinator. AASA does not support this bill. A Republican substitute amendment to the Title VI bill would have barred federal funding from supporting instruction that made assumptions, assigned characteristics, or separated students or teachers based on race, color, or national origin. This vote, focused on Critical Race Theory, is the first vote on this contentious topic on Capitol Hill and was defeated by Democrats and supported by Republicans.

The House Appropriations Committee also met to deliberate on the House Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The bill passed only with Democrats voting in favor of it and would represent a huge increase in annual federal spending on schools, as it more than doubles the size of the Title I program and provides a substantial increase to IDEA. This EdWeek story provides a good outline of the funding. House Leadership has indicated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will be on the floor of the House of Representatives in two weeks. It is critical that we have support for this unprecedented funding jump for education. Make sure to reach out to your members of Congress using the AASA Advocacy App and let them know you support this critical increase in Title I and IDEA.

U.S. Department of Education Invites States and School Districts to Apply for Additional $600 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Students Experiencing Homelessness

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U.S. Department of Education Invites States and School Districts to Apply for Additional $600 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Students Experiencing Homelessness

To help support the needs of students experiencing homelessness, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced this week that it will invite states to complete the application for their share of the second disbursement of $800 million in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY). In April, the Department released the first $200 million of the $800 million in ARP-HCY funds to states. The distribution of the additional $600 million will give states and school districts access to funding before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. 

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic highlighted and exacerbated inequities in America’s education system, students experiencing homelessness faced numerous challenges as they strove to learn and achieve in school each day. Amid COVID-19 and the transition to remote and hybrid learning, for so many students, these challenges intensified. As a nation, we must do everything we can to ensure that all students—including students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity—are able to access an excellent education that opens doors to opportunity and thriving lives,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I encourage every state to urgently use these American Rescue Plan funds to support homeless children and youth so that these students have every chance to participate in summer learning and enrichment; experience full-time, in-person instruction in their schools in the fall; and get connected to vital services and supports that can support their success.”

The needs of students experiencing homelessness remain urgent, as many schools and districts struggle to identify and serve students who experience homelessness. The ARP-HCY funds are designed to be flexible so that states and districts can address community needs. This additional ARP-HCY funding will be used by states and school districts to identify homeless children and youth, provide wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities.  

“Every child deserves to have a warm place to sleep and a roof over their head every night. But for 1.5 million children across America and over 10,000 children in my home state of West Virginia, that is not the case. The COVID-19 pandemic made this heartbreaking and dire issue much worse for many of our families and children in need. Since the pandemic kept most students at home, schools have struggled to track students experiencing homelessness,” said Sen. Joe Manchin. “This second round of funding—part of the $800 million I successfully fought to include in the American Rescue Plan—will help schools identify students experiencing homelessness and provide support for these vulnerable students. States can begin applying for the second round of funding today in order to get the funds directly to school districts before the new school year so students experiencing homelessness can receive the support they need.”

“This past year has been so difficult for every student, parent and educator across the country—but what students experiencing homelessness have gone through is unthinkable. The first thing we told people during this pandemic was to ‘stay home.’ But so many students don’t have a safe place to call home, access to internet, devices, or critical services that students have relied on to learn during this pandemic,” said Sen. Patty Murray. “We fought hard to make sure the American Rescue Plan includes dedicated funding for students experiencing homelessness, and I’m so pleased the Department of Education is acting quickly to get these resources to our communities. The crisis of youth homelessness is especially acute for LGBTQ young people and children of color, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure students experiencing homelessness not only get enrolled in school, but also get the kind of support and stability they need so they can learn and grow in the classroom.”   

Following a brief application, states will receive funds that will be awarded to school districts through formula subgrants. These funds will reach districts that may not have accessed previous federal funding designated for students experiencing homelessness. Under the final requirements that will be published in the Federal Register, states are required to distribute funds to school districts via a formula that uses the district’s allocation under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the number of identified homeless children and youth in either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 school year, whichever number is greater. With the exception of the district subgranting formula, which replaces the competitive subgrant process required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act), all requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act also apply to the ARP-HCY funds. 

The distribution of ARP-HCY funds is part of the Department’s broader efforts to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris Administration has:   

  • Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook   
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit   
  • Helped over 175 million Americans ages 12 and older get vaccinated  
  • Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students   
  • Prioritized the vaccination of educators and other school staff   
  • Launched a series of Equity Summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic  
  • Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities, including homeless youth  
  • Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.  

 

 

Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

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Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Vaccinations, Screening Testing, and Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities

On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Ed. shared a letter on its most recent efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our public school communities and increase the vaccination rates amongst school staff and students. As a part of these efforts, the Department is asking the following requests listed below of superintendents.

  • First, stand up for a vaccination clinic at your school sites, and for state officials. To help in this effort, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a toolkit available here. This toolkit was developed in consultation with the White House, with recommendations on how to effectively work with your local health partners to stand up a vaccine clinic for your staff and eligible students and their families as soon as possible. To learn more about the Health Center Program, please click here
  • Second, the Department is asking superintendents to launch a campaign to encourage eligible students, parents, and staff to get vaccinated and share with them the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and why they are critical to protecting individuals from COVID-19 and lowering community transmission. Please share this information with limited English proficient parents and students by providing it in their primary languages. The Department is encouraging superintendents to use their voices and platforms to encourage students and parents to get vaccinated and to organize events in their community this summer and in the lead up to school reopening focused on vaccination and reopening. As a recommendation, USED encourages partnerships with community, faith-based organizations, labor, and others to get students and/families vaccinated. Superintendents can also collaborate with student leaders to make these efforts fun and get young people to participate.
  • As part of these efforts, The Department is also encouraging superintendents to consider implementing creative incentives and initiatives to boost excitement and vaccine participation and use these opportunities to partner with local community-based programs, including early childhood education providers. For example, Ohio has created in-state scholarship lotteries for students who get vaccinated; in Los Angeles, secondary schools that exceed a 30% vaccination rate will receive $5,000 grants, and Head Start programs have partnered with a school district and local hospital to host vaccination satellite sites; and teens in Detroit are leading virtual sessions for their classmates encouraging them to sign up for vaccines. 

The Department is also supportive of providing incentives to students and their household members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As some may recall, this activity is an allowable use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds. An FAQ on the GEER and ESSER Fund is available here. Check out this FAQ document for more information about uses funds for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to support vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for teachers, faculty, staff, and eligible students.

Finally, another important component of creating safe school environments is COVID-19 screening testing. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded funding from the American Rescue Plan to all states to support COVID-19 testing in schools. You can click here for more information on how to set up a screening testing program for a school that will ensure for safe operations in every district by the fall. 

AIR Results: National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

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AIR Results: National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

Earlier this spring, AASA was pleased to partner with the American Institutes for Research in the National Survey of Public Education's Response to COVID 19. Over the course of 2020, they asked school district and charter management organization leaders to respond to a nationally representative survey of school districts and charter management organizations—more than 2,500 in total—about the actions they have taken and the challenges they have encountered during the COVID-19-related school closures. The 2020 survey addressed how school districts and charter management organizations coped with issues related to school closures, including the timing of school closures due to COVID-19; distance learning approaches and challenges; supporting students with disabilities and English learners; district policies and requirements, such as grading and graduation; staffing and human resources; and health, well-being, and safety.

In 2021, they administered a survey focused on instructional approaches, student engagement and participation, supports for student learning, and priorities and challenges. They followed up with interviews with school district administrators on a variety of topics including the virtual options available for next school year, methods to alleviate staff shortages and teacher burnout, assessing the extent of and mitigating “loss in expected learning,” meeting the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners, providing social emotional support for students and teachers, and actions taken to ensure equity and social justice for families in the community.

The results of that work were released throughout the year, and the newest set of resources--an infographic and three research briefs--were released just this week. You can access them directly here:

 

  • Infographic: Schooling During 2020–21: Results from the National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19 (PDF)
  • District Approaches to Instruction in 2020-2021: Differences in Instructional Modes and Instruction Time Across Contexts (PDF)
  • Student Attendance and Enrollment Loss in 2020-2021 (PDF)
  • District Concerns About Academic Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF)

 

The Advocate July 2021: Emergency Connectivity Fund

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The Advocate July 2021: Emergency Connectivity Fund

Sometimes naming a phenomenon is all it takes to shift a conversation, to step towards a solution. And sometimes, not.

In February 2020, 17 long months before COVID upended everything, the term homework gap existed and was used to address the very unfortunate reality--and worst kept secret in education--that as many as 12-17 million students in the U.S. lacked internet access at home. Naming the homework gap helped us to talk about it, but getting serious response to the homework gap? That took a pandemic. 

Even before the pandemic shuttered schools and shifted our students into remote/online learning, students without connectivity were at an educational disadvantage because they could not complete homework assignments that required internet access after class. This inequity was simultaneously exacerbated and shoved to center stage when COVID shut schools. 

In response to this crisis Congress passed Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ECF is a $7.17 billion program which allows schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ECF will be distributed along the lines of the E-rate program. It will be similarly managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) through the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) portal. Any school or library that has ever applied for funding through the E-rate program will already be familiar with the eligibility requirements and application procedure for the ECF. This funding is only for purchases made beginning July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. Ed tech purchases prior to July 1 can be reimbursed by the American Rescue Plan funding and other COVID-relief packages. 

Under the ECF program eligible equipment for reimbursement includes: laptop computers, tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers  and devices that combine modems and routers. Districts cannot be reimbursed for desktop computers and mobile phones. There are price caps in place for purchases of $400 per computer and $250 per hotspot as well as distribution limits to ensure a student or school employee receives only one fixed broadband connection (or modem) per location or one computer/tablet per person. Other eligible services for reimbursement include: home internet access delivered via a commercial provider; the activation, installation and initial configuration costs for eligible equipment and services and school construction of self-provisioned networks to connect students and staff – only where there are no commercially available service options. The ECF funding cannot be used for purchasing cybersecurity tools, learning management systems, video conferencing equipment, standalone microphones and technology protection measures required by CIPA. 

The 45-day application window opened on June 29; schools and libraries have until August 13 to apply for the funding. This is a very tight turnaround on a new tranche of funding at the exact time that schools are working to plan and invest unprecedented amounts of federal funding. It is a daunting task, but also critically necessary and possible. 

 For more information and resources, check out the ECF's website or Funds for Learning's ECF Guide. Or check out the AASA webinar we did on the ECF in coordination with ASBO,  “Using Federal Funds to Get Students Connected & Fix the Homework Gap”. 

School Infrastructure Update

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School Infrastructure Update

Yesterday, President Biden endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework introduced by a group of 21 senators led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH). At this point, the exact details of the proposal have yet to be formally released. However, the plan is expected to total $579 billion in new spending to rebuild America’s roads and bridges, improve public transit systems, expand passenger rails, upgrade ports and airports, invest in broadband infrastructure, fix water systems, modernize our power sector and improve climate resilience. Additionally, the bipartisan framework includes funding to electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes to deliver clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities. You can check out the draft framework by clicking here.

The bill does not include funding for school, child care, and community college infrastructure proposed in the American Jobs Plan. That said, there is some good news here, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House would not vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a larger set of Democratic priorities through budget reconciliation. Biden also signaled that he will not sign the bipartisan G20 proposal without the Senate first passing a larger reconciliation bill with his American Job and Family Plan priorities.

Considering this, the pressure is now on Senate Democrats to craft the text for President Biden's proposal. Again, there is still time to get the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act across the finish line. That said, we need all hands on deck to accomplish our goal. Are you looking to advocate for the inclusion of school infrastructure funding in the next reconciliation package? Then please check out this blog post, which has instructions for how to contact your Senators and get $130 billion allocated for school construction efforts. 

 

Biden Admin Shares Timeline for Upcoming Regs-Guidance

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Biden Admin Shares Timeline for Upcoming Regs-Guidance

On Tuesday, the Biden Administration released its Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which reports on the actions administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term. Of note, the Administration stated they did not anticipate a new proposed Title IX regulation until May 2022. This means that the DeVos Title IX reg will be on the books for the entire 2021-2022 school year and given how long the comment period and comment review will be likely for the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, the Administration announced it would be releasing regulations on the $800 million earmarked in ARP to support homeless students. The Education Department says its rules for the program will apply to three-quarters of the funding and will focus on the formula that state education agencies use to provide subgrants to local school districts. Another regulation will seek to clarify the definition of “education records.” The rule would also attempt to clarify “provisions regarding disclosures to comply with a judicial order or subpoena” as it pertains to FERPA. 

 

AASA and NASSP Send Critique of Title IX Rule

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AASA and NASSP Send Critique of Title IX Rule

On June 11, AASA and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) responded to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for written comments on the implementation of the 2020 Title IX regulation. 

AASA and NASSP urge to the department to immediately rescind the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulations and replace them with nonbinding guidance for K–12 schools, technical assistance, and best practices to ensure the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination.

Our comments focus on three major issues with the 2020 amendments: 

• The length of the process and the ability of administrators to adequately mitigate potential and actual sexual harassment and assault of students in a timely manner, especially when compared to other similar disciplinary infractions

• Staffing burden

• Confidentiality requirements

USAC-FCC Announce American Rescue Plan Emergency Connectivity Funds

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USAC-FCC Announce American Rescue Plan Emergency Connectivity Funds

USAC and the FCC announced a series of webinars (scheduled for this week and next!) on the Emergency Connectivity Fund. While more detail on the emergency connectivity fund will be available later this week, we know that the application window for the Emergency Connectivity fund will open at the end of this month and the application window will be open for 45 days. In preparation for supporting eligible entities to apply, the four announced USAC webinars each target a specific audience, and the webinar details and registration links are below:

  • Wednesday, June 16 at 2 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview Webinar for E-rate Participants - Register
  • Thursday, June 17 at 2 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview Webinar for New (Non E-rate Participants) - Register
  • Thursday, June 17 at 4 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview for Tribal Applicants - Register
  • Wednesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. ET: Emergency Connectivity Fund Overview for Potential Applicants - Register

USDA Responds to AASA's Request to Expand Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

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USDA Responds to AASA's Request to Expand Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

On June 11, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) submitted a response to AASA's allied coalition letter requesting that the department extend and expand opportunities for states to participate in the Direct Certification with Medicaid (DC-M) Demonstration Project, which currently enables 19 states to use Medicaid data to directly certify students for free or reduced-price school meals, under the authority provided in Sections 9(b)(15) and 18(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Specifically, U.S. Secretary of Vilsack stated that "USDA is actively working to identify possible options for building upon our existing DC-M demonstrations, and we look forward to offering expanded opportunities in the near future." 

You can check out AASA's initial letter here. Access the USDA's response by clicking here.

IDEA Full Funding Coalition: FY22 Approps Letter

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IDEA Full Funding Coalition: FY22 Approps Letter

The IDEA Full Funding Coalition – which AASA chairs – submitted a letter with its funding request for the FY22 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriation levels to Congress. Specifically, the 33 allied organizations of the coalition called for $15.5B to be allocated to IDEA Part B. The full letter is available here.

 

Guest Post: Two Ways for States to Support More Thoughtful School District Recovery Plans

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Guest Post: Two Ways for States to Support More Thoughtful School District Recovery Plans

This blog post is reposted with permission of EducationCounsel. AASA was pleased to partner with our Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium (facilitated by EducationCounsel) on a joint letter to USED regarding two concerns with the ARP LEA recovery plan timeline and approach to continuous improvement. You can access the original blog post here.

"In public school districts across the nation we see the familiar June images of high school seniors celebrating, teachers grading projects and final exams, and superintendents…drafting plans to spend billions of new dollars?!?

Yes, strategic planning is ramping up just as the school year is winding down. To help districts meet this critical moment, there are two small but important things state education agencies (SEAs) can do in their soon-to-be-submitted American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) plans. These opportunities arise from recent clarifications by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) about how SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs) can approach figuring out how best to use new federal resources to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the big new pot of ARP funds.

  1. USED has clarified that SEAs have the discretion to establish their own deadlines for LEAs to submit ARP plans, so long as their timeline is “reasonable.” Importantly, a reasonable timeline can be more than 90 days after LEAs’ receipt of ARP funding.
  2. USED also clarified that LEAs may periodically review and revise these plans through a SEA-designed and -managed process. 

Together, these clarifications allow SEAs’ plans to include a more reasonable timeline for LEA plans and to establish an expectation and process for periodic review, learning, and continuous improvement of those plans over time. Even with SEA plans due to USED on June 7, there is time to adjust LEA plan timelines. Additionally, many states will likely be submitting some or all of their plans after next week, and a state could submit a revised plan or amendment (before or after receiving USED approval).

The remainder of this post provides more details about the planning challenge facing school districts and how states can leverage the recent clarifications from USED to help their districts tackle it:

The Challenge

Given all of the challenges created by the pandemic, our public school students, staff, families, and communities need their school districts to develop recovery plans that both meet immediate needs and help make important shifts to address long standing inequities and “build back better.” But it takes significant time and effort to develop a high-quality multi-year strategic plan that advances excellence and equity for each and every student, both as a matter of best practices and according to requirements in ARP itself. Such a plan must be rooted in a particular community’s needs and assets and address the holistic needs of all students. It must be informed by what evidence shows is most likely to work for whom and under what circumstances. A wide variety of stakeholders must have multiple opportunities to provide meaningful input and inform decisions in ongoing ways.

Under the best of circumstances, this type of planning would pose a big challenge for any school district. Needless to say, these are not the best of circumstances. Districts are still managing through the widespread disruption from the global pandemic; launching unprecedented summer engagement, support, and recovery efforts; planning for another unique school year ahead; and continuing to navigate changing information and challenging realities.

The Clarifications

As noted above, under ARP, states have the authority to set reasonable timelines for district plans and to establish processes that encourage continuous improvement. (For more about why these two clarifications are so important for districts to plan well, see this joint letter by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium in response to USED’s original ARP interim final requirements (IFR).)

LEA Deadlines: USED has further clarified that SEAs have the discretion to establish their own deadlines for their LEAs to submit ESSER use of funds plans so long as the timelines are “reasonable.” Importantly, a reasonable timeline can be more than 90 days after receipt of ARP funding.

  • USED’s IFR reflects this, requiring only that SEAs require LEA ARP plans to be submitted “on a reasonable timeline determined by the SEA.” In the commentary for that rule and in USED’s SEA plan template (page 13), however, USED noted that the timeline “should be within no later than 90 days after receiving its ARP ESSER allocation.” This has raised some questions regarding state authority to set timelines that may extend beyond 90 days (or from when the 90 days would even begin).
  • Last week, however, USED twice clarified that the only rule is what is in the IFR itself – the SEA’s timeline must be reasonable. On 5/26, the Department published a FAQ (A-4 on page 14) that omitted any reference to a 90-day deadline while affirming that the timeline is “determined by the SEA.” Then, in a 5/27 “Office Hours” presentation (slide 21), USED reiterated its suggestion of a 90-day timeline, but noted that ultimately “this decision is left to each SEA.”

Accordingly, references to a 90-day timeline must be taken as a non-binding suggestion (“should”) and not a requirement (“must”). SEAs can set an earlier or a later deadline, taking into account their own contexts and their determination of what is a reasonable amount of time for their LEAs to meaningfully engage with stakeholders and develop a thoughtful, multi-year plan that makes strategic and equitable use of ARP funds to meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. (Note there is a shorter timeline required by ARP for LEAs’ to submit plans on return to in-person instruction, which is not affected by these clarifications.)

Continuous Improvement: USED also clarified that LEAs may periodically review and revise these ARP ESSER plans and that SEAs have authority to design their amendment process.

  • The IFR specifically requires periodic review and improvement for the return to in-person instruction plans, but it did not explicitly address the need for continuously improving the LEA use of funds plans.
  • Yet, in the same 5/27 “Office Hours” presentation (slide 22), USED noted: “As with ARP ESSER State Plans, the Department believes that ARP ESSER LEA use of funds plans are living documents. It is the Department’s expectation that these plans may need to be reviewed and revised periodically.”
  • Further, “SEAs have discretion to determine the amendment process for their LEAs as long as the amended plans continue to meet statutory and regulatory requirements for such plans.” States can design processes that maintain ARP’s guardrails (e.g., using evidence-based approaches to meet students’ holistic needs) while avoiding onerous procedures that might discourage continuous improvement.

Given all the challenges facing districts and the importance of developing thoughtful ARP plans, we encourage SEAS to maximize their further clarified authority and flexibility. Doing so will provide LEAs with the time they need to develop thoughtful and equitable recovery plans, as well as prepare to adjust those plans in response to new information, data, and feedback."

The Advocate June 2021: Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education

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The Advocate June 2021: Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education

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 June 2021 edition.

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, the Biden administration released its Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education. We knew to expect a big increase in the overall top-line funding level for USED based on the discretionary budget released by the Administration in April. The proposal includes a record increase for USED of $29.8 billion (41%) over the FY 2022 level, and big increases for education programs in Health and Human Services (HHS). Some of our top takeaways:

  • LOTS of New Programs: Some of the biggest funding increases are for new programs. While we are pleased to see President hold true to his push for increased funding for Title I, we are following this proposal closely because detail in this budget indicates that the $20 billion increase for Title I is for a new Equity Grant, not the existing state grant program. Another new program of note? $1 billion for a School-Based Health Professionals program, an initial down payment on a 10-year campaign to double the number of counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in schools.
  • Outside of these new programs, the remaining increases are concentrated in a handful of programs. The biggest winners in the discretionary side of the budget? Special education, with IDEA seeing a $3.1 billion increase; Pell Grants, with a $3 billion increase; Community Schools, with a $413 million increase; and career and technical education, with a $128 million increase, among others.
  • Lots of Level Funding: In spite of an unprecedented increase in total funding, funding levels for a number of discretionary USED programs—including Title IV-A and most of the Title I programs—remain frozen, with no proposed increase.
  • Of particular importance to AASA, the Administration proposes a $2.7 billion increase for IDEA. This aligns with the increased IDEA funding that was allotted in the American Rescue Plan. We support this increase as it would allow districts to not have to initially worry about IDEA maintenance of effort requirements since the funding would be level for two years.
  • The proposal is also recommending a major increase in Title III grants for ELLs with a proposed increase of $917 million from $797 million in FY21.
  • The proposal provides a $5 million increase to the Rural Education Achievement Program.
  • The proposal would continue funding the DC voucher program at the same level as the prior Administration.

In terms of annual appropriations process, the next step lies within Congress, and we wait to see the extent to which House and Senate Democrats use the Biden proposal as the starting point for their FY22 work, or instead move in a different direction. As a reminder, FY22 starts on October 1, and these federal dollars would be in schools for the 2022-23 school year. FY22 is the first year in over a decade where federal funding is not bound by spending caps in the Budget Control Act. 

 

Call-to-Action: Schools Belong in Upcoming Infrastructure Package

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Call-to-Action: Schools Belong in Upcoming Infrastructure Package

Negotiations on an infrastructure package are rapidly progressing in the Senate, as last week Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion counterproposal to the recently released $1.7 trillion scaled-back infrastructure proposal from the Biden-Harris administration. The Republican proposal does not contain funding for school construction, remediating lead in schools or electrifying school buses while the Democratic proposals do.

In light of the possibility that schools could be left out of the forthcoming infrastructure proposal, AASA needs your help to ensure that public schools receive the funding they need to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. To join us in advocating for public schools to be included in the forthcoming infrastructure package, please follow the directions below. 

Action Steps: 

  1. See if your Senators support S.96, the Rebuild and Reopen America Schools Act (RRASA). You can access a list of cosponsors by clicking here. If they are not on the list, then ask them to support public school infrastructure needs by cosponsoring the bill. If they are already a cosponsor of the legislation, then thank those who have signed on in support and urge them to tell leadership that they must include Rebuild America’s Schools Act in the nation’s infrastructure package and keep advocating for public school facilities infrastructure funding. 
  2. If you prefer to connect with your senators via phone, you can either (1) lookup their numbers located on your senators’ websites, or (2) call the Capitol Switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121, so they can directly connect you with your Senate office. We have created a brief message you can leave with your senators in this document.
  3. Alternatively, if you prefer to contact your congressional member via email, here is a template your school district or association can edit and send to advocate for public schools. 

We need all-hands-on-deck to ensure schools are not left out from the upcoming infrastructure proposal. Infrastructure is a non-partisan issue on the local level, and our students' and communities' needs should not become a partisan compromise in the upcoming negotiation. As always, we are grateful for your continued support and look forward to getting RRASA across the finish line! 

New U.S. Dept. of Ed. & FCC Resources, Plus a Webinar on Sustainable Wireless Strategies for Rural School Districts

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New U.S. Dept. of Ed. & FCC Resources, Plus a Webinar on Sustainable Wireless Strategies for Rural School Districts

Schools, districts and states have taken a variety of approaches throughout the past year to address the homework gap for students. To help superintendents in these efforts, the U.S. Dept. of Ed. has released a host of new resources and opportunities to provide district leaders with strategies and guidance addressing how to close the digital divide.

The first resource is the Department’s new guide that focuses on digital equity. Specifically, the guide highlights one new long-term solution that may be particularly helpful for rural LEA’s trying to increase access to connectivity. (Hint: It concerns deploying off-campus wireless networks.) You can access the full guide here

 

The second resource provides answers to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. Specifically, this document was designed in close coordination between the U.S. Dept. of Ed. and the FCC outlining what the EBB program is, what it covers, how long it lasts and the eligibility requirements for qualified students. Moreover, the Department has issued an Outreach Toolkit that includes a Sample Consent form and Template FRPL Verification Letter for the EBB program (additional language is coming soon, so be on the lookout for the updated resources). You can access all these resources by clicking here

 

Last but not least, we encourage you to join the U.S. Dept of Ed., June 9, from 4-5 p.m. (ET), to engage with the state and district technology leaders that are referenced in the Department's newly released guide as they share the diverse approaches taken to build off-campus wireless networks. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during the session and are invited to share their questions in advance of the webinar using #EDWirelessBrief. You can register by clicking here

Biden Budget Released Today

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Biden Budget Released Today

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education. As expected, the budget proposal for Education greatly exceeds past budget requests by past Administrations in its request for an additional $29.8 billion over the funding included in FY 2021. The almost $30 billion increase is more than three times the education increase ever requested by any President. This request would put FY 2022 about $20 billion above the level of a decade ago in real dollars, allowing for meaningful investments rather than just struggling to cover costs.

Two-thirds of the Education Department’s increase is for Title I, whose funding is more than doubled with a $20 billion increase; President Biden campaigned on a pledge to triple Title I funding, and this investment goes more than two thirds of the way toward that goal in one year. Specifically, the Administration will be using the Title I increase $ for what they are calling “Title I equity grants.” The goal of this standalone Title I funding will help address long-standing funding disparities between under-resourced school districts and their wealthier counterparts and provide critical new support to advance the President's commitments to ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, ensure equitable access to rigorous curriculum, expand access to pre-kindergarten and provide meaningful incentives to examine and address inequalities in school funding systems.” It is unclear how the Title I equity grants could be leveraged to urge states to examine and address state financing disparities of low-income schools, but clearly there’s an attempt to achieve that goal with this additional pot of funding.

 

Other things to note:

  • The Administration proposes a $2.7 billion increase for IDEA. This aligns with the increased IDEA funding that was allotted in the American Rescue Plan. We support this increase as it would allow districts to not have to initially worry about IDEA maintenance of effort requirements since the funding would be level for two years.
  • The Administration is also recommending a major increase in Title III grants for ELLs with a proposed increase of $917 million from $797 million in FY21.
  • The Administration is also recommending the creation of 2 new grant programs. The $1 billion “School-based health professionals fund” would provide formula grants to State educational agencies, which would then make competitive grants to high-need local educational agencies to support the goal of doubling the number of health professionals, including school counselors, nurses, school psychologists, and social workers, in our Nation's schools. $25 million is allocated to building climate resilient schools, which would allow States to award competitive grants to districts to renovate schools, so they are safe, eco-friendly, and climate resilient, and to support projects that address health risks such as poor air quality and ventilation and lack of access to clean water.
  • The Administration is recommending a $5 million increase to the Rural Education Achievement Program.
  • The Administration proposed to continue funding the DC voucher program at the same level as the prior Administration.

How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

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How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

The COVID-19 pandemic required us to limit in-person services to protect our customers and employees.  Among the most vulnerable populations affected, are children with disabilities and their families.  We are asking school leaders to help us spread the word to parents, guardians, and caregivers about potential financial assistance for children with disabilities.

Our Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash payments to children and teenagers with mental and/or physical disabilities whose families have little or no income and resources.  In most states, a child who receives SSI payments is automatically eligible for Medicaid.  School systems in many states participate in Medicaid to help provide services included in children’s individualized education plans like physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  You can read more about children’s benefits in our publication, Benefits for Children with Disabilities.

With the decline in SSI applications due to the pandemic, it is important that we help children and their families get the financial support they need.  School leaders can assist by:

Learning the process to certify school attendance for students using our For School Officials page.

Referring parents or caregivers to our SSI for Children page—and the SSI Child Disability Starter Kit.

Discussing Social Security’s programs during Individualized Education Program and 504 Plan meetings.

Spreading the word to other school leaders using our SSI Kids Toolkit.

Families of children with disabilities often have higher out-of-pocket costs—leading to financial instability.  Receiving monthly payments can help reduce the struggles families go through and provide the crucial financial support their children need.

We recognize the important role America’s educators play in supporting children and their families.  In this environment, your support is more important than ever.  Please share this information with the school leaders you know.  

ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

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ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

At last the U.S. Department of Education has released its FAQ on how ESSER funding in CARES, CCRSA and most importantly in ARP. Please take time to read the guidance. In particular, the procurement and school construction sections are quite nuanced and require a careful review.

A few highlights to be aware of:

  • An SEA or a State legislature may not limit an LEA’s use of ESSER formula funds
  • An SEA/State may not require that CARES Act funds need to be obligated prior to obligating CRRSA Act and ARP Act funds.
  • ESSER funding can be used for new school construction, but ED cautions districts to be careful with this major investment and to make sure that it is somehow tied to preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19.
  • Federal funds can be used to pay for student/staff vaccinations.
  • ESSER funds can be used for pre-K and early childhood education programs.
  • State and local education officials can't use federal pandemic relief money to shore up their "rainy day" accounts.

AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

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AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

Today, AASA in partnership with the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, wrote to the U.S. Department of Education in response to the ARP interim final requirements to encourage the Department to clarify two important aspects of ARP implementation: (1) the timeline for submitting local education agency (LEA) recovery plans and (2) LEAs’ flexibility to periodically review and improve those plans over time. The letter can be accessed here

 

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

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2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

Join us IN PERSON for the 2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC July 13-15. 

Sessions include: 

  • Infrastructure and School Construction: What School Leaders Need to Know
  • Feeding Children in School: A Look at Current and Future Funding and Policy Opportunities
  • ARP, Procurement and Spending Obstacles
  • The Emergency Connectivity Fund, E-Rate and the Funding Ed-Tech in Schools
  • Important Updates on Litigation, Regulations and Guidance for School Leaders 

Registration is now open. Click here to access registration, housing information, and the agenda. We cannot wait to see you again! 

AASA Priorities For CNR

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AASA Priorities For CNR

 AASA’s Advocacy Team has created two new resources for Congressional stakeholders working to reauthorize the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The first document includes an overview of AASA’s policy recommendations for this year's child nutrition reauthorization effort. The second document provides anecdotes from AASA members regarding the harm that increased federal school meal nutritional standards would have on superintendents' ability to operate NSLP and SBP.

You can access AASA CNR priorities here. Our member anecdotes are available here.

Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

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Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

Our colleagues at The Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) have released two documents that outline the upcoming due dates and use of funds requirements for state and local education agencies in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). You can access the ESSER III deadline document here and the criterion concerning the use of ARP funds here.

New Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment

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New Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment 

Today, May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released: Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment. The Q&A provides answers to common questions about schools’ responsibilities under the civil rights laws and is designed to help students, families, schools and the public support all students’ rights in educational environments, including in elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary institutions.

In AASA’s view, this Q&A Document is straightforward and doesn’t contain any unexpected guidance on reopening practices. Of note, the document does mention that OCR will be releasing a standalone guidance document on compensatory education in the near future.

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

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

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

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

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

AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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

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

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

FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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

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

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

 

 

The Advocate May 2021: Bring On the Broadband: Connectivity Post-COVID

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The Advocate May 2021: Bring On the Broadband: Connectivity Post-COVID

The homework gap is/was perhaps one of education’s worst-kept secrets, a phenomenon by which nearly 12 million students were routinely unable to complete school assignments at home because of inadequate or non-existent access to broadband. The issue was blown wide open in the wake of the COVID pandemic: as schools shuttered and moved online, millions of students were unable to even access—let alone engage in—remote learning.

As the pandemic wore on and Congress negotiated a flurry of emergency supplemental bills, a bipartisan agreement on support for the homework gap quickly emerged, but wasn’t able to get over the finish line until the 6th and most recent package, the American Relief Plan (ARP). We’ll use this month’s article to talk about that funding, and a related program in the December 2020 package (CARES II) that provides support to families, helping them afford internet in their homes.

The Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund is a $3.2 billion fund that will be administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC will use the fund to establish an Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, that will help low income families receive a discount off the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices. Details on the EBB started to roll out the first week of May, and eligible households will be able to enroll in the EBB to receive a monthly discount off the cost of broadband service provided by an approved provider. USA Today has a good write up on who qualifies, and you can visit the Get Emergency Broadband website for more information on how to get the benefit. More details here.

The big win, though, was final inclusion of the funding dedicated to school and student access, the more than $7 billion in funding to address the homework gap within the ARP. The $7 billion will go to the FCC for the creation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which can be used to be for high-speed internet and devices used off campus. The funding will be distributed through the FCC’s E-Rate program, which has helped schools and libraries access affordable internet access for more than 20 years. Schools will be able to purchase wi-fi hotspots, modems and routers for students, and to fund the internet service those devices use. The FCC has released its proposed rules on how the program will be structured, and at this point it is anticipated school districts will be able to start applying as early as late May, but more likely in June. Districts can expect to receive funds for approved applications slightly ahead of the start of the 2021-22 school year (in late August). 

In terms of what to expect in accessing the funds, the initial rule from the FCC includes many of the things AASA was supporting, including:

  • Distribute support from the ECF via an application--based program where school and library applicants submit eligible service and equipment requests to support connecting to the Internet those students and patrons that lack any or sufficient Internet access in their homes or dwelling places, a device suitable for remote learning, or both;
  • (If demand outpaces available funding) Use the existing E-Rate discount matrix to rank funding requests, with applicants possessing the highest E-Rate discount rate receiving priority; 
  • Adopt program metrics and goals focused on progress towards ensuring that all students and educators are: a) able to connect at internet speeds sufficient to engage in remote learning; 
  • Allow schools, libraries, states, and consortia of schools and libraries eligible for support under the E-Rate program to be eligible to receive funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund; it does NOT expand eligibility to other non-profit entities that serve homeless, transitory and migrant students;
  • Allow the ECF to only support: eligible services and equipment “that are needed to provide the connectivity required to enable and support remote learning for students, school staff, and library patrons,” and devices suitable for remote learning and video conferencing platforms; 
  • Provide reimbursements for eligible equipment and services back July 1, 2020; and 
  • Waive the competitive bidding process rules but not establish an alternative streamlined competitive bidding process.

AASA is closely tracking the homework gap fund and application process and will continue to provide updates.

 

How to Best Meet the Needs of Homeless Students with ARP Funds

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How to Best Meet the Needs of Homeless Students with ARP Funds

Karen Barber, Superintendent of Schools, Santa Rosa County Public Schools, FL

barberk@santarosa.k12.fl.us

Marilyn King, Deputy Superintendent Instruction, Bozeman Public Schools, MT

marilyn.king@bsd7.org

Patricia Julianelle, Senior Strategist for Program Advancement and Legal Affairs, SchoolHouse Connection

patricia@schoolhouseconnection.org

The upheaval of the pandemic has been devastating for students experiencing homelessness. Many have simply disappeared from school, while others have struggled to attend and achieve academically. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) creates a unique opportunity for school districts to reframe and refresh their services for students experiencing homelessness, from identification to attendance to success. For the first time in the history of the McKinney-Vento program, local educational agencies will have significant new funding and be able to engage in creative, big-picture thinking to support children and youth experiencing homelessness and their families. In this webinar, two superintendents will share their bold ideas for how to use ESSER funds and targeted ARP-Homeless Children and Youth funds to assess and meet both immediate and long-term needs.

Join us on May 20 at 3:00 PM EST. Click here to register for this webinar. 

Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

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Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

AASA, The Association of Education Service Agencies (AESA) and Corwin have released a new white paper, Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning. Specifically, the paper covers how in the age of post-pandemic teaching and learning, educators can leverage their expertise to accelerate student learning and achievement by meticulously deciding what ideas, content, and skills are crucial for our students to understand and practice. The brief provides dive into tips, tools, and data-driven evidence from education experts that will aid readers in the following areas:

  • Assessing where to invest funds to maximize learning recovery;
  • What action items to implement immediately to support acceleration;
  • How best to support the nurturing of teacher morale and student engagement; 
  • Understanding how the investments we make today will have a lasting impact on the future of education;

 You can download the report by clicking here.

 

Education Funding and Policy Details in American Families Plan

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Education Funding and Policy Details in American Families Plan

On Wednesday, President Biden detailed the major investments he hopes Congress will make in education in what he is calling the American Families Plan. Biden believes that “investing in education is a down payment on the future of America” and wants to “make transformational investments from early childhood to postsecondary education so that all children and young people are able to grow, learn, and gain the skills they need to succeed.”

AASA Executive Director, Dan Domenech, issued the following response to the American Families Plan. 

 

“AASA applauds this comprehensive investment on behalf of all of our nation’s young learners. Our public K-12 schools rely on and work in coordination with early education and post-secondary institutions, including preschools and community colleges.

 

“By strengthening the connections to and from our elementary and secondary schools, as well as building the pipeline for our teachers while making it easier and less expensive for schools to feed all kids, we will strengthen our schools, communities and our country’s workforce.”

 

The specific details of the plan pertinent for AASA members to know are as follows:

  • $200 billion to create a national partnership with states to offer free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-old children. The partnership will prioritize high-need areas and enable communities and families to choose the settings that work best for them. The President’s plan will also ensure that all publicly funded preschools are high-quality, with low student-to-teacher ratios, high-quality and developmentally appropriate curriculum, and supportive classroom environments that are inclusive for all students. All employees in participating pre-K programs and Head Start will earn at least $15 per hour, and those with comparable qualifications will receive compensation commensurate with that of kindergarten teachers.
  • $1.6 billion to provide educators with opportunities to obtain additional certifications in high-demand areas like special education, bilingual education, and certifications that improve teacher performance. This funding will support more than 100,000 educators, with priority for public school teachers with at least two years’ experience at schools with a significant portion of low-income students or significant teacher shortages.
  • $2 billion for teacher-leadership programs.
  • Double TEACH Act grants from $4,000 to $8,000 per year while earning their degree, strengthening the program, and expanding it to early childhood educators.
  • $2.8 billion fund in Grow Your Own programs and year-long, paid teacher residency programs.
  • $400 million for teacher preparation programs at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs.
  • $900 million to expand the pipeline of special education teachers.
  • $25 billion to expand summer EBT to all eligible children nationwide. 
  • Lower CEP threshold for elementary schools to 25% of students participating in SNAP.
  • $25 billion to expand summer EBT and make permanent.
  • $17 billion to expand free meals for children in the highest poverty districts (those with at least 40 percent of students participating in SNAP) by reimbursing a higher percentage of meals at the free reimbursement rate through CEP. Additionally, the plan will expand free meals for children in elementary schools by reimbursing an even higher percentage of meals at the free reimbursement through CEP and lowering the threshold for CEP eligibility for elementary schools to 25 percent of students participating in SNAP. 
  • $109 billion to offer two years of free community college to all Americans, including DREAMers. 
  • A $62 billion grant program to invest in completion and retention activities at colleges and universities that serve high numbers of low-income students, particularly community colleges.
  • Provide two years of subsidized tuition and expand programs in high-demand fields at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSI.
  • $225 billion for a national paid leave program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers. 

AASA Comments on EANS Program Implementation

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AASA Comments on EANS Program Implementation

On April 23, AASA led a letter signed by 15 other national education, disability and secular organizations to the U.S. Department of Education on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program. Our comments were premised on two driving realities: First, a student in poverty is a student in poverty, whether they are enrolled in a public or non-public school. Second, to the extent federal policy appropriately supports and prioritizes federal funding for the neediest of students, the mechanisms of identifying, counting and reporting students in poverty should look the same for both public and non-public schools. You can read the comments here.

 

School Construction, Air Quality and Federal Funding: What Supts Need to Know

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School Construction, Air Quality and Federal Funding: What Supts Need to Know

Deferred maintenance and indoor air quality concerns in school buildings are not new, but the global pandemic has heightened awareness of challenges related to both. When thoughtfully implemented, strategies to mitigate risk associated with airborne pathogens can also achieve benefits such as general improvements in indoor air quality, occupant comfort, and energy efficiency. The new influx of federal funding now positions districts to address deferred maintenance, but how are federal funds best spent to do so and what construction and maintenance projects would be better addressed with future funding?

On May 12, 2021, join AASA’s Chris Rogers, Mary Filardo, Executive Director of 21st Century School Fund and Corey Metzger, Lead of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force Schools Team as they share their advice on how to use federal funds on school construction and facility maintenance and in particular share best practices on what districts can do to improve ventilation, filtration and air cleaning strategies. Register for this webinar by clicking here.

American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study Now Available

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American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study Now Available

Copies of the American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study, which examines historical and contemporary perspectives of our nation’s school system leaders, are now available through AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and Rowman & Littlefield, the organization’s co-publishing partner. The latest edition is an extension of national decennial studies of the American school superintendent that began in 1923, and can be purchased here. Check out our press release to get an overview of the Study's major findings.

AASA and PDK have also partnered in a series of podcasts to coincide with the availability of the 2020 published edition. The first episode features Starr, Gregory Hutchings, superintendent of Alexandria (Va.) Public Schools, and Jennifer Cheatham, senior lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a conversation about race and equity in K-12 public schools. The second episode features Starr, Almudena (Almi) G. Abeyta, superintendent, Chelsea (Mass.) Public Schools, Deb Kerr, retired superintendent and AASA immediate past president, and, Carol Kelley, superintendent, Oak Park Elementary (Ill.) School District 97, in a conversation about women in school leadership. 

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