AASA Joins 64 Organizations to Ask for Funding for Emergency Connectivity Fund

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AASA Joins 64 Organizations to Ask for Funding for Emergency Connectivity Fund

As part of our ongoing advocacy around connectivity, AASA joined 64 other organizations in a letter calling for additional funding for the emergency connectivity fund. Specific to FY23, the letter calls for $1 billion to keep the Emergency Connectivity Fund alive and available. Read the full letter here.

Dept of Energy Announces $80M in Grants for School Energy Projects

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Dept of Energy Announces $80M in Grants for School Energy Projects

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced more than $80M, the first tranche of funding in a $500M investment, to make clean energy improvements in K-12 public schools.  The funding originates from the Renew America’s Schools grant program created by the bipartisan infrastructure law to provide schools critical energy infrastructure upgrades. Through the grant program, DOE will fund energy and health improvements in public K-12 schools across the country. Additionally, a new DOE prize program will help resource 25 high-need school districts with the training and tools needed to improve how their schools consume energy.

DOE will encourage eligible applicants to consider projects that enable replicable and scalable impacts, create innovative, sustaining partnerships, leverage funding and economies of scale, target disadvantaged communities, improve student, teacher, and occupant health, enrich learning and growth, target schools that serve as community assets (e.g., neighborhood cooling centers or disaster recovery shelters), can be completed quickly, and are crafted thoughtfully within the context of public-school facilities (e.g., procurement restraints, construction windows, etc.).

Potential applicants will be considered based upon the partnering LEA’s demonstrated funding need for energy improvements; whether the school serves a high percentage of students who are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch; whether the district qualifies for REAP funding; and whether the proposal leverages private sector investment through energy-related performance contracting. The estimated period of performance for each award will be approximately 2 to 5 years in duration. 

LEAs do not have to identify a partner for this grant; the DOE is compiling a “teaming” partner list to facilitate widespread participation in this initiative. This list allows organizations with expertise in these topics to express their interest to potential districts and to explore potential partnerships.

Ed Dept Webinar: Raising the Bar: Literacy and Math Series to Address Academic Recovery

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Ed Dept Webinar: Raising the Bar: Literacy and Math Series to Address Academic Recovery

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to support the academic recovery of students from the impact of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education will host five sessions focused on strategies and programs to boost student literacy and math outcomes.

The first session will be livestreamed to the public for viewing on Wednesday, October 26 from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET.

This kickoff event is a continued call to action to education leaders and policymakers to leverage the extraordinary level of available federal resources to boost academic recovery efforts and sets the foundation for four subsequent sessions: 
  • Learning research-based practices from content experts 
  • Highlighting promising practices from SEAs and LEAs
  • Leveraging American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to implement literacy and math achievement best practices at scale 
  • Offering dedicated time and expertise to support action planning (i.e., guided working sessions and support from technical assistance providers).
You can register for this opportunity here.

Webinar Recording: Healthy Schools- An Imperative or Impossibility?

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Webinar Recording: Healthy Schools- An Imperative or Impossibility?

In case you missed it, we held our Healthy Schools: An Imperative or Impossibility? webinar this week with the American Academy of Pediatrics and Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

We had a discussion on the opportunities to sustainably integrate health and learning and transform every school into a healthy school with the Ten-Year Roadmap.

You can check out the recording here and the accompanying slides here.

18 National Organizations Sign Letter Supporting AASA Leadership on USAC

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18 National Organizations Sign Letter Supporting AASA Leadership on USAC

AASA joined 17 other national organizations in signing a letter supporting the nomination of AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech to continue to serve on the USAC board, the entity that oversees E-Rate. Dan has held this role for more than a decade, currently serves as the chair of the schools and libraries committee, and hopes to continue this work. Read the letter and bio here.

Groups signing the letter:

  • AASA, The School Superintendent Association
  • American Federation of School Administrators 
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association for School Business Officials International
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Consortium for School Networking 
  • Council of Chief State School Officers 
  • National Association for Pupil Transportation
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association

Four Cybersecurity Action Steps for K-12 Schools and Districts

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Four Cybersecurity Action Steps for K-12 Schools and Districts

In recent years, kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) educational institutions have been an increasingly frequent target for cyberattacks. These attacks can impact a school’s ability to carry out its educational obligations, protect sensitive student and staff data, and provide a safe and secure learning environment for our nation’s youth. Defending against cyber threats is a critical priority for the K-12 community that requires a whole-of-school approach. 

This October, The Department of Homeland Security is recognizing Cybersecurity Awareness Month in conjunction with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and other organizations across the county. This year’s campaign theme – “See Yourself in Cyber” – demonstrates that while cybersecurity may seem like a complex subject, ultimately, it’s really all about people.

Everyone in the school community can ‘see themselves in cyber’ by taking action to stay safe online. That means supporting basic cyber hygiene practices through four key action steps: 

1)   Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication

2)   Using Strong Passwords

3)   Recognizing and Reporting Phishing

4)   Updating Your Software

This infographic outlines additional details on these four action steps and how schools and districts can put them into practice. For additional information on cybersecurity and school safety, please visit SchoolSafety.gov or contact our team at SchoolSafety@hq.dhs.gov

Time is Running Out to Take Advantage of the PSLF

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Time is Running Out to Take Advantage of the PSLF Waiver

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program Temporary Waiver expires on October 31. Time is running out for eligible applicants to take advantage of the temporary flexibilities. Use this template to notify your staff about the program and what they must do to participate.

As a reminder, the Dept. of Education implemented the waiver to help those who qualify for get closer to forgiveness. Anyone who has federal student loans and is employed full-time by a school district qualifies for the program. 

For additional support or questions, join the PSLF.us Campaign for a free upcoming webinar:

· Thursday, October 13, 2:00pm ET — Register 

· Wednesday, October 19, 2:30pm ET — Register

 

Find additional resources here

ICYMI: AASA, FRAC and First Focus's Free and Reduced Price Meal (FRPM) Webinar Series

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ICYMI: AASA, FRAC and First Focus's Free and Reduced Price Meal (FRPM) Webinar Series

In case you missed our series on the Free and Reduced Price Meal (FRPM) program series, we've compiled each session recording and accompanying slides for you to catch up on.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Schools and Social Media: The Critical Need for Verification and Dedicated Reporting Processes

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Schools and Social Media: The Critical Need for Verification and Dedicated Reporting Processes

 AASA is proud to support Schools and Social Media: The Critical Need for Verification and Dedicated Reporting Processes, joint project led by the National School Public Relations Associations (NSPRA) and Consortium for School Network (CoSN). The project found that the lack of dedicated verification and reporting processes for federally recognized K-12 education institutions on social media platforms is causing a strain on school districts around the country.

In a survey of school communication and school technology professionals, more than 50% of respondents indicated they have dealt with fake-official or mock accounts that impersonate their district or organization, while only a third indicated they were able to get their organization verified on various social media platforms.

Additional findings include:

  • Overall, a quarter of respondents indicated that within the last two years their educational organizations have applied to be verified on social media and have been rejected (25%).
  • Respondents indicated that among their educational organizations:
    • 59% have dealt with accounts that harass, intimidate or bully students.
    • 45% have dealt with social media platforms not removing reported accounts/posts that harass, intimidate or bully their students.

Help spread the word about the importance of dedicated verification and reporting processes for K-12 education institutions on social media, using this campaign toolkit to urge social media platforms to make it easier for schools to accurately represent themselves on social media and to report accounts that harass, intimidate, bully or otherwise negatively target students.

White House Releases Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights

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White House Releases Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights

Earlier today, the White House announced its Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. This is an overarching proposal that will include education and school-related conversations. We are reviewing the proposal and will have a more detailed blog post later this week. In the meantime, here is an initial google doc with the excerpt related to student and child data; we’re paying the most attention to the Data Privacy section (starting at the bottom of page 3) as that appears to have the most relevant content. Conversations earlier this week indicated that the plan will require USED to issue related guidance on this topic in the early part of 2023 (though they were quick to define ‘early’ as anything between January and June). Stay tuned; we’ll have more updates.

New LEA Mental Health Grants: Apply by November 3!

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New LEA Mental Health Grants: Apply by November 3!

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released Notices Inviting Applications for two grant programs to increase access to mental health services for students and young people, totaling $280 million, that were funded through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA).  AASA fought to have this funding included in BSCA and was instrumental to ensuring the $1 billion in funding over 5 years can be used to improve access to mental health personnel in schools.

School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program

The SBMH grant program provides competitive grants to State educational agencies (SEAs), Local educational agencies (LEAs), and consortia of LEAs to increase the number of credentialed school-based mental health service providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in LEAs with demonstrated need. The grant provides $144 million each year for 5 years, with an average award size of $1,750,000, ranging from $500,000 to $3,000,000 per year. The Department anticipates making up to 150 awards. Two technical assistance webinars for prospective applicants will be provided: one on October 11th, 2022, and one on October 19th, 2022 at 4 pm prior to the application deadline of November 3rd. Webinar information will be available here.  

Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program

The MHSP Demonstration grant program provides competitive grants to support and demonstrate innovative partnerships to train school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools and LEAs. The grant program aims to address a challenge facing districts and schools across the country: an insufficient supply of school-based mental health professionals to meet the needs of students. The partnerships must include (1) one or more high-need LEA or an SEA on behalf of one or more high-need LEA; and (2) one or more eligible institutions of higher education (IHE). These grants make available $143 million a year for 5 years, with an average award size of $800,000, ranging from $400,000 to $1,200,000 per year. The Department anticipates making up to 250 awards. Two technical assistance webinars for prospective applicants will be provided: one on October 12th, 2022, and one on October 19th, 2022 at 3 p.m. prior to the application deadline of November 3rd. Webinar information will be available here.  

The Advocate October 2022

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The Advocate October 2022

Last month, the Biden administration hosted the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health to “catalyze action for the millions of Americans struggling with food insecurity and diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”

Ahead of the conference, the administration released its national strategy—outlining steps necessary to reach the goal of ending hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases, while reducing related health disparities.

The strategy includes five pillars: 1) Improving food access and affordability, 2) Integrating nutrition and health, 3) Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, 4) Supporting physical activity for all, and 5) Enhancing nutrition and food security research.

Most notable for district leaders in the strategy was an explicit commitment to advance a pathway to free, healthy school meals for all. The national strategy expressed the importance of school nutrition programs and the need to fully leverage them as a core intervention to improve child health and child hunger. It calls for a “healthy meals for all” approach to reorient the school meal programs from an ancillary service to an integral component of the school day and allow schools to focus on providing the highest quality meals and engaging children around healthy food.

Essential components highlighted for this approach are expanding efforts to increase access to local and regional food systems, enabling more schools to cook meals from scratch by funding training and equipment purchases, investing in the school nutrition workforce, and expanding nutrition education for children. The Biden administration committed to working with Congress to expand access to healthy, free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.

That commitment will require buy-in from Congress, but USDA does have some flexibility to expand the Community Eligibility Provision (a top nutrition priority for AASA) on its own. While speaking to reporters, U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack mentioned this flexibility but did not provide specifics. AASA encourages USDA to use every tool at its disposal to expand CEP to allow more schools to participate in the program and ensure it is also financially viable for them to do so.

Additionally, the national strategy focuses on creating healthier food environments and a healthier food supply. As such, USDA will continue to work to reduce sodium in school meals with the goals of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the FDA’s voluntary sodium target. While AASA recognizes the importance of promoting healthy eating habits around sodium, enriched whole grains, and dairy intake, it is important to acknowledge that healthy meals are only healthy if students eat them. We continue to engage in conversations with USDA around the need for reasonable nutritional standards that provide flexibility for school nutrition programs and do not lead to unnecessary food waste and reduced participation.

Other commitments from the Biden administration to support schools in this work include:

  • The administration will continue to support the expansion of Summer EBT (another nutrition priority for AASA).  
  • USDA will provide training and resources to school meal program operators on incorporating more indigenous and traditional foods into school meals to improve access.
  • USDA will advance a new Healthy Meals Incentive initiative—supported by ARP funding—to support schools’ efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. This initiative will challenge all players within the K-12 food supply chain to increase the availability of and access to healthy offerings, recognize School Food Authorities (SFAs) that are innovating in offering nutritious school meals, and provide funding to small and/or rural SFAs to improve the nutritional content of meals offered through the Child Nutrition Programs.
  • USDA will work to strengthen and diversify suppliers that provide healthy, nutritious and local foods to schools and nutrition assistance programs by assisting small and underserved farmers and businesses to become vendors for school meals.
  • The U.S. Dept. of Education will provide guidance to states and school districts on how they can use funds under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act grants and ARP funds to support physical activity for children.
  • The U.S. Dept. of Education will, through the Engage Every Student Initiative, promote strategies for increasing participation in physical fitness programs and for incorporating physical activity in summer learning and engagement in after-school programs.

Finally, the strategy included a “Call-to-Action for a Whole-of-Society Response.” Here are the highlights related to K-12 schools:

  • States and school districts should increase investment in school food programs such as providing investments to support kitchen infrastructure and training school nutrition professionals.
  • States, localities and K-12 schools should consider incorporating culinary arts and nutrition education into schools.
  • Philanthropy should support pilots that foster collaboration between food service programs at K-12 schools and colleges or universities to synergize efforts around workforce training and food procurement.
  • The food industry should increase the availability of and access to foods that are low in sodium and added sugars—including foods meeting or exceeding FDA’s voluntary sodium reduction targets—and high in whole grains, particularly for the K-12 market.

You can watch the entire conference recording here.  

So far, reaction from Congress to the conference has been mixed and as could be expected, fairly partisan. The conference overall did not have a strong bipartisan showing—U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) was the only GOP lawmaker in attendance. Additionally, on the day of the conference, House Ed and Labor Committee Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a statement criticizing the event—claiming it did not engage key stakeholders and dismissed it as partisan. Meanwhile, support from Democratic lawmakers poured in for both the conference and its policy proposals.

The path to a bipartisan agreement to expand access to school meals is unclear, but there is hope that the Senate will take up Child Nutrition Reauthorization before the end of this year—building on the momentum of the House Democrats’ version: the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, which passed the House Ed and Labor Committee on July 28. The bill, in its current form, would permanently expand CEP, which would be a longer-term solution than any USDA action, but given the current Republican opposition to the policy it will require strong advocacy to get it included in the final bill.

AASA Joins 37 National Organizations in Letter Prioritizing IDEA Funding in FY23

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AASA Joins 37 National Organizations in Letter Prioritizing IDEA Funding in FY23

AASA is proud to co-chair the IDEA Full Funding Coalition. This week AASA joined nearly three dozen national organizations in calling on Congress to fund IDEA Part B at $16.2 billion for FY23. As Congress resumes its work on the final FY23 appropriations package, it is imperative they act to honor their long standing—yet chronically underfunded—commitment to IDEA. Read the letter here

 

Federal Funding Update

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Federal Funding Update

On Friday, September 30, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government at FY22 levels until December 16—avoiding a government shutdown that would’ve occurred at midnight.

In addition to funding the government, the package includes $12 billion in emergency military and economic funding to Ukraine in response to its war against Russia, $1 billion in low-income family heating assistance, $20 million for the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis, $2.5 billion for communities impacted by natural disasters and more than $112 million for federal court security.

The temporary funding package buys time for congressional negotiations on a broader, long-term government spending deal for FY23. 

Spread the Word About the Expanded Child Tax Credit

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Spread the Word About the Expanded Child Tax Credit

 There's still time for schools to help families claim the expanded CTC, which provides up to $3,600 per child. Recent data shows the CTC's significant role in reducing poverty and helping families meet their children's basic needs. Unfortunately, many kids are still at risk of missing out on these funds. This is an urgent time to spread the word among families, because they have until November 15th to easily claim this money on their own online at  GetCTC.org. While families can continue to claim these tax credits after November 15th, they'll need to file full tax returns to do so. 

Your district can help spread the word before November 15th, by sending text messages, emails, and/or flyers to families. Find these ready-to-use resources in 10 languages here. For full outreach resource toolkits, check out this outreach website

Want to learn more? On Thursday, October 13th at 2 pm ET, join the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Code for America, Coalition on Human Needs, and Partnership for America's Children for a refresher on how to help families claim the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) before simplified filing closes on November 15th, and to hear exciting new information on the launch of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) feature on GetCTC.org. All registrants will receive the recording and resources.  Register here.





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