AASA Partners with National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) for COVID Webinar

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AASA Partners with National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) for COVID Webinar

Join us and our friends at NAPT for an advocacy update on what the latest COVID emergency supplemental means for education. Many are saying the $2+ Trillion stimulus package the president signed into law last Friday is a game-changer for a national economy decimated by the novel coronavirus.  But, how does it affect education?  Join us on Wednesday (4/1/20) at 12Noon ET for a special one-hour webinar and learn what the CARES Act includes for education, how these provisions and their related appropriations will impact school systems across the country, and when you can expect to see and feel the impact at the local level. To participate, visit https://zoom.us/j/812217675 Meeting ID: 812 217 675

Report of Initial Findings: COVID Impact on Public Schools

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Report of Initial Findings: COVID Impact on Public Schools

Earlier this month, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the nation and forcing the shutdown and response of school districts nation-wide, AASA launched a nation-wide survey of superintendents to gather real time data on how schools are responding, the information and resources they are relying on and still need, and to begin to understand what the long-term policy implications for state and federal policy makers will be as they consider how to best support school districts.  As an indication of the relevancy of this report, our survey garnered more than 1,600 responses from 48 states during the week of March 13 to March 25. The initial findings are summarized here.

USDA Offers Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents & Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

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USDA Offers Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents & Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children

Today, March 26, 2020, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a nationwide waiver that will enable districts - in a state with an approved waiver for non-congregate meal distribution - to serve meals to a parent/guardian without a child being present. 
 
This announcement comes as a welcome relief for school system leaders, as many districts have reported that current regulations are hampering efforts to feed all students. While this is a win for students, families, and public schools, AASA will continue advocating for additional flexibilities under the federal school meals programs. Check out the full details by clicking here. 

AASA Urges USDA to Issue Broad Waivers to Provide Administrative Flexibilities Under the School Meals Programs

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AASA Urges USDA to Issue Broad Waivers to Provide Administrative Flexibilities Under the School Meals Programs

Yesterday, March 25, 2020, AASA joined 51 organizations in sending a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture, requesting that the agency issue additional nationwide waivers to ensure access to meals during the COVID-19 pandemic and ease the administrative burden on school districts and state child nutrition agencies.
 
This move comes in response to USDA's failure to use newly authorized authority to waive the area eligibility requirement, reimburse all meals at the free rate, ensure parents can pick up meals without a child being present, extend the community eligibility provision deadlines, and issue-specific guidance on how school nutritional professionals can stay safe while feeding students. You can check out the letter by clicking here
 
Moving forward, AASA will continue to advocate for additional administrative flexibilities to ensure school system leaders can continue serving students nutritious meals. Stay tuned to get the latest updates on this continuously evolving issue.
 

Senate Passes $2T Stimulus Package

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Senate Passes $2T Stimulus Package

Today, on March 26, 2020, the Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. AASA will have a full analysis of the CARES Act once it passes the House (vote expected Friday). In the meantime, here is a preliminary rundown of what to expect, in terms of education, from the massive deal.The $13.5 billion earmarked for K-12 schools is included in the bill's Education Stabilization Fund, which also contains $14.25 billion for higher education and $3 billion for governors to use at their discretion to assist K-12 and higher education as they deal with the fallout from the virus. The legislation also states that any state or school district getting money from the stabilization fund "shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus." Beyond the SFSF funds, the CARES Act includes:

  • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program;
  • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to help ensure students receive meals when school is not in session;
  • $3.5 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide child-care subsidies to low-income families and can be used to augment state and local systems;
  • $750 million for Head Start early-education programs;
  • $100 million in Project SERV grants to help clean and disinfect schools, and provide support for mental health services and distance learning;
  • $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education; and
  • $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and day-care facilities. 

Other Items to Note:

  • State Funding Shell Game: Brace yourselves. The bill, as currently drafted, includes language that would allow states to apply for a waiver for their maintenance of effort compliance. Meaning that while the federal funds would roll to the local level, they wouldn’t feel like relief because the state would be able to make cuts in state funding. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is; this shell game was widely documented in the 2009 ARRA package. The broad MOE waiver flexibility was not in the original senate bill and we are concerned and disappointed. This continues to double down on the fiscal burden schools face as states can pursue flexibility and LEAs are left on the hook to cover the shortfall.
  • Funding for Internet Access: The proposal misses the mark. It makes teleconnectivity and allowable use of the broader fund, and failed to instead direct funding directly through the already existing ERate program. We will look to ameliorate this in COVID 4 (already being debated). This is a nice gesture, but is not a win for students caught in the homework gap. The competing needs of those funds are so great that there is no way to ensure these students needs will be met. And, a new program will have to be created by Dept. of Ed and will DELAY any potential help. In addition, going this route, the guardrails are off and will be so broad (software, hardware, etc.) that the vendors, companies will be out in full force (a concern we always have and deal with re E-rate allowable use/tech eligibility). It is not lost on us that ALL the major national education organizations in the country have been calling for a dedicated fund via the E-rate for a while now because it is an existing program that can be adjusted quickly, our schools know it, we can ensure that schools are able to get students what they need (and not more than they need), and the E-rate program works.
  • Waiver Authority :DeVos’ waiver authority is reigned in from the sweeping language in the original proposal. This is in addition to the expedited waiver process DeVos announced for assessments in the last week. This package includes waiver flexibility for states to get waivers on accountability (related to publicly reporting various indicators under their accountability systems, as well as waivers from reporting on progress toward their long-term achievement goals, and interim goals under ESSA and waivers to freeze in place their schools identified for improvement. No schools would be added to the list, and no schools would be removed from the list for the 2020-21 school year, under this expedited waiver process. There is no additional language related to IDEA flexibility; that remains the huge, bruising conversation we are having with the hill. There are also a handful of waivers available at the state and local level re flexibility from sections of ESSA related to funding mandates. SEAs/LEAs can seek a waiver:
    • from ESSA's requirement for states to essentially maintain their education spending in order to tap federal funds. 
    • to make it easier to run schoolwide Title I programs regardless of the share of low-income students in districts and schools. 
    • from requirements governing Title IV Part A, which funds programs aimed at student well-being and well-rounded achievements. Caps on spending for different priority areas would be lifted, and schools would no longer be barred from spending more than 15 percent of their Title IV money on digital devices. 
    • to carry over as much Title I money as they want from this academic year to the next one; normally there's a 15 percent limit. 
    • from adhering to ESSA's definition of professional development. 

AASA also sent a letter of support for the legislation. To see what we said please click here.

AASA Signs Letter Urging a Halt to Title IX Changes

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AASA Signs Letter Urging a Halt to Title IX Changes

AASA joins more than 200 education, victims rights, and civil rights groups in a letter imploring the Trump administration to stop the proposed changes to Title IX. 

This letter, spearheaded by the National Women's Law Center, requests that the administration stop the changes to the law and any other non-emergency rules as over K-12 schools, colleges and universities have or will be closing or moving to an online learning platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

“Moving forward now with a new Title IX rule would only exacerbate these challenges by diverting schools’ already sharply limited resources toward creating complex new policies and training employees on implementation, at a time when schools are already working to radically shift their programs and meet student needs, even while staff operate remotely,” the groups wrote.

With the confusion of closures and shifts to online learning, many are arguing that this rule would cause to much confusion in an already tumultuous time. 

Click here to read the full letter. Click here to read the full article. (Must have access to Politico)

AASA Advocacy in Action: COVID Update

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AASA Advocacy in Action: COVID Update

The advocacy team has been working with our peers in other education associations on multiple fronts related to COVID and Congressional emergency response. Here’s a quick recap:

  • We responded with six other national organizations to a Senate proposal that included no dedicated funding for K12. That deal is still being negotiated. Read our initial and follow up letter
  • We urged the Senate to ensure their support for remote learning was channeled through E-Rate. Read our statement with EdLiNC  and our statement with the local education organizations.
  • All 49 of our state affiliates (We don’t have one in Hawaii!) signed a joint letter to Congress urging flexibility on assessment and accountability. 

7 National Organizations Urge Senate to Provide Remote Learning Support via E-Rate

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7 National Organizations Urge Senate to Provide Remote Learning Support via E-Rate

 Seven national education organizations issued a joint statement as Congress works to finalize its latest COVID emergency supplemental:

“At a time when our nation’s school leaders and educators are doing unparalleled work to bridge the learning gap while schools are closed in response to COVID, we urge Congress to ensure that any emergency funding provided to support remote and distance learning include direct funding through E-Rate program for hotspots, connection devices and mobile wireless service. As the long-standing and very effective connectivity program for schools and libraries, E-Rate is the most effective way to ensure these critical connectivity dollars reach students across the nation while utilizing and already existing infrastructure.  States and schools are familiar with how to apply for and use E-Rate funding, and as our school leaders respond to a crisis, the importance of this type of process efficiency cannot be understated. The current proposal misses this mark and instead relies on including connectivity and devices as allowable uses within a broader fund. We strongly support the Senate in passing the distance learning provisions as included in the House version of the bill.”

 

AASA, The School Superintendents Association

American Federation of Teachers

Council of Great City Schools

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Education Association

National School Boards Association

ED Issues Guidance on FAPE During COVID-19

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ED Issues Guidance on FAPE During COVID-19

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Education issued important guidance on how to comply with IDEA during COVID-19.  This guidance was in response to legitimate concerns voiced by AASA members that they have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that it would be impossible to do so remotely for some students with disabilities. In the guidance, ED said that “schools should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.”

They write that USED “understands” that schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided…and it may be unfeasible or unsafe…to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language educational services.” That said, it’s one thing for ED to understand this but another for Courts to understand this is the case. The law is still the law, and ED’s suggestion that districts are responsible for “still meet[ing] their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students” will be an insurmountable challenge for some districts.

While the Departments lacks the authority to waive certain timelines, like those associated with IEPs, initial eligibility determinations and due process hearings, they highlight that there is current flexibility available with regard to these timelines. For example, IEPs can be reviewed through video-conferences and the parents/districts can jointly waive to hold an IEP meeting. Similarly, reevaluations can occur without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent through reviewing existing evaluation data.

 

We recommend you see this memo from the law firm of Thompson & Horton which further analyzes the steps districts can take to comply with IDEA during this national emergency in addition to this article from esteemed special education legal expert Perry Zirkel which analyzes the past guidance from ED and offers advice to practitioners. 

AASA Partners with Future Privacy Forum on COVID FERPA FAQ

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AASA Partners with Future Privacy Forum on COVID FERPA FAQ

AASA was pleased to collaborate with our friends at Future Privacy Forum on a new white paper that offers guidance to help K-12 and higher education administrators and educators protect student privacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no question that schools and institutions are struggling to manage this unprecedented situation and need as much support and information as possible to do their jobs,” said Amelia Vance, FPF’s Senior Counsel and Director of Youth and Education Privacy. “The Future of Privacy Forum is tracking the situation closely in an effort to anticipate and help address the challenges that schools may encounter as they work to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect to release additional resources in the days ahead.”

“As our nation’s public school superintendents navigate through the extraordinary set of circumstance they face in light of COVID-19, AASA remains committed to gathering, creating, and disseminating as many resources as possible to answer, to the best of our ability, the myriad questions they raise,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy & Governance. “Through our work with FPF, we are happy to provide this collection of frequently asked questions in the context of student data and privacy and FERPA. Protecting student data and privacy is just one of the many factors they need to consider, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to share this resource today.”

The white paper offers insight into how the health or safety emergency exception under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools to share students’ personally identifiable information (PII) with the community and relevant officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

According to FPF and AASA, under the FERPA health or safety emergency exception, “if a school determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals and that someone needs PII from education records to protect the student’s or other individuals’ health or safety, it may disclose that information to the people who need to know it without first gaining the student’s or parent’s consent.” Read more.

 

The white paper addresses a number of frequently asked questions, including:

  • If a student has COVID-19, what information from education records can the school share with the community?
  • If the school suspects that a student has COVID-19, what information can the school share with its community?
  • If a school suspects that a student may have COVID-19, can school officials contact the student’s primary care physician?
  • If a student has COVID-19 and the school’s health records are covered by HIPAA rather than FERPA, what information may the school disclose to its community?
  • What if the school receives a voluntary request from a local, state, or federal agency for student records to assist the agency in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What should a school do if it receives a request under a mandatory reporting law to share student health records with a public health agency?
  • Do interagency agreements with other state or local agencies allow schools to disclose education records without obtaining consent?

 

To read the white paper, click here. To learn more about the Future of Privacy Forum’s student privacy work, click here.

Joint Letter to USDA Requesting Broad Waivers to Support the Provision of Meals

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Joint Letter to USDA Requesting Broad Waivers to Support the Provision of Meals

On March 19, 2020, AASA and 20 other allied organizations sent a letter to USDA urging the administration to swiftly use new authorities granted to them by the passage of "the Family First Coronavirus Repose Act" to broadly issue waivers that support the provision of federal school meals throughout the country.
 
Specifically, we urged USDA to do the following:
  • Issue nationwide waivers for the requests that USDA has already received from states to ease the administrative burden for stakeholders who have been on the frontline responding to the crisis.
  • Waive the Area Eligibility Requirement that currently acts as an administrative obstacle and requires schools to identify children who have been already certified for free or reduced-price school meals. This is particularly exacerbated for students in rural areas that do not have the same concentration of poverty as other areas.
  • Waive the requirement that children be present for parents to pick up meals.
  • Push back the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Deadlines so that schools have time to meet the monitoring and reporting requirements associated with the program.
  • In coordination with CDC and other federal agencies issue specific guidance for school nutrition professionals, summer food sponsors, and volunteers’ safety during school closure meal service. 
AASA was proud to join this effort lead by FRAC. Moving forward, we will continue to advocate for administrative flexibilities and additional federal resources so districts can sustain school meal programs in the face of prolonged nationwide school closures.
 

Second Coronavirus Package Will Be Signed by Trump

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Second Coronavirus Package Will Be Signed by Trump

Today, the Senate passed House legislation known as the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” which contains provisions that will make it easier for students to access food and school employees to get paid sick leave. Unlike the first package which was directed at healthcare related costs, this second package of funding is aimed at providing relief to states and districts related to COVID-19. We are really paying attention to the next and third package as that will be the one that contains billions of dollars for schools to pay for costs associated with closures and containment of the virus. Thus far, Democrats have proposed roughly $600 million in funding for K12, but that number could increase. There will also be some major amendments to current federal programs as well. There are, however, several provisions in this second package that we want to flag for superintendents.

  • One provision waives a requirement that prevents USDA from granting waivers to states from the Child Nutrition Act if those waivers would increase costs to the federal government.
  • Another provision allows school districts to serve meals in a variety of settings through a new national waiver authority granted to USDA
  • Related, another provision would allow States to qualify students for SNAP benefits if their schools close for at least five days as long as these students qualified for FRPL already.

There are also two provisions that relate to school employees:

  • Public school employees would be entitled to an initial 10 days of unpaid sick leave if they are impacted by the coronavirus. This would be followed by paid leave equal to at least two-thirds of their normal pay. There are caps on the paid leave of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate

In addition, if a public school employee is caring for a child at home because their school or childcare provider is closed or because they are under quarantine then they are entitled to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave or, in the case of part-time workers they would receive paid leave equal to the average number of hours they work over a two-week period. There are also caps on these benefits of up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate for full-time employees and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate for part-time employees. 

AASA Affiliates Send Letter to Congress

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AASA Affiliates Send Letter to Congress

Today, all forty-nine of AASA’s state affiliates sent a letter to Capitol Hill calling on Congress to ensure the U.S. Department of Education is granted the authority to issue ESSA waivers to states related to assessment and accountability in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than three-quarters of states issuing statewide school closures—closures that are increasingly likely to last the remainder of the school year—it is clear there will be an impact on our ability to comply with assessment and accountability requirements. It is imperative the U.S. Dept. of Education is able to address this emergent need by issuing a blanket, statewide, narrow-in-scope waiver to expedite the process by which states can pursue and receive the necessary relief related to uncertainty over how assessments and accountability will play out and how/if flexibility will be granted. 

AASA Joins National Organizations to Ensure Fair Treatment of Public Schools in COVID Supplemental Letter

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AASA Joins National Organizations to Ensure Fair Treatment of Public Schools in COVID Supplemental Letter

AASA joined seven other national education organizations in a joint letter to Congress urging them to strike language that would provide preferential treatment to private schools and employers as it relates to a tax provision within the broader COVID-19 supplemental bill. You can read the letter here.

New Resource: Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic

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New Resource: Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic

On March 18, AASA and the Food Research Action Committee released a resource that is how-to-guide for superintendents looking to provide breakfast and lunch to students as districts deal with school closures.

Specifically, the one-pager provides an overview of the federal options open to school districts, (1) The Summer Food Service Program, and (2) the Seamless Summer Option. Additionally, the guide offers resources from USDA about applying for each program, and best practices of non-congregate feeding options for districts.

To check out the resource, please click here.

IMPORTANT: TAKE AASA COVID-19 RESPONSE SURVEY

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IMPORTANT: TAKE AASA COVID-19 RESPONSE SURVEY

As AASA continues to monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, today on March 13, 2020, we released a nationwide survey as part of our effort to detail and capture what this evolving crisis means to schools and communities.

The data from this survey will be used to track how school districts are responding to COVID-19, describe how ed-technology is helping or impeding districts' ability to deliver curriculum and instruction, to detail the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on nation’s our public school system, and use this information with superintendents and on Capitol Hill.

Please take a few moments to complete the survey, helping us to illustrate COVID-19’s impact on public schools. We will make the results of the survey available to all members, information you may find useful, will use the data to power and inform our work on Capitol Hill—as it relates to emergency fiscal and policy relief—and share it with our state affiliates who can use it in state policy discussions. We hope to get responses from our members in 49 states, and appreciate the time you can take to submit your response.

You can access the survey by contacting Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org or Noelle Ellerson Ng at  nellerson@aasa.org.

USDA Offers 25 States and DC Waivers to Serve Federal Meals while Schools are Closed

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USDA Offers 25 States and DC Waivers to Serve Federal Meals While Schools are Closed

Today, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) eased rules so that 25 states and the District of Columbia can provide meals as part of the school lunch and breakfast programs to students outside of group settings. Consequently, marking a decision by the agency that will make it easier for schools to feed low-income children even while some districts are closed.

Specifically, USDA's decision will allow states to request waivers so that schools can switch to summer feeding models and offer meals to students in various locations. For our members, this action will enable school system leaders to implement innovative programs like "grab-and-go" breakfast and lunch programs to better enable districts to comply with social distancing recommendations from public health officials. 

To see the details on what your state should do to request a waiver, click here.

CDC Offers Recommendations on School Closures

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CDC Offers Recommendations on School Closures

As schools continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on school system operations, this week the CDC offered recommendations on school closure procedures for districts.

To check out the CDC’s recommendations click here. 

As you comb through the document, please look to see what this research says is the impact of closing schools, for short or long periods of time, on containing the spread of COVID-19.  

 

 

School Meals Assistance Proposals to be Included in Broader House Corona Legislative Package

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School Meals Assistance Proposals to be included in Broader House Corona Legislative Package

As the House votes as early as today on another funding and policy package related to COVID-19, we wanted to flag that the package of legislation to provide relief to states and localities will contain two bills aimed at offering school districts increased flexibilities in administering the federal school meal programs

The first bill is a bipartisan proposal led by Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and James Komer (R-KY ) - dubbed the COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act - and would enable the Department of Ed to offer school officials waivers to distribute food in any number of settings across all nutrition programs, and allow for flexibilities around the nutritional provisions of the national school lunch and breakfast programs. The second piece of legislation led by Ilhan Omar (D-MN) - titled the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students (MEALS) Act - would wave existing requirement that prevents the Department of Agriculture from approving state waiver requests that result in increased costs to the federal government. Check out the full details here.

AASA will keep you abreast of this evolving issue and continue advocating for additional federal support to schools as they're impacted by the Coronavirus.

 

Higher Education Reauthorization

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Higher Education Reauthorization

From our discussions with congressional staff, we've once again heard rumors that Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray are working towards writing a bi-partisan comprehensive Higher Education Act. The impetus for this decision comes from (1) the simple fact that the law is 7-years overdue for an update, and (2) Alexander is chasing one last win before leaving Capitol Hill for good. 

Theoretically, the path toward reauthorizing HEA should be more straightforward than last year since Alexander was able to pass the Future Act, which reduced the FASFA form by 20 plus questions, extended pell grants to short-term programs and incarcerated individuals, and increased the transparency of the costs associated with post-secondary programs.

That said, we've heard this story before, and given (1) the fact that it’s an election year; as well as (2)  the outstanding disagreements between Senate Republicans and Democrats over Titles IV and II of HEA, it's unlikely Congress will be able to update HEA before the end of this year's legislative session. Regardless, AASA will keep you updated on any developments, and continue advocating for additional resources to address the ongoing teacher shortage issue.

NEW STOP Funding Webinar (updated March 9, 2020)

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NEW STOP Funding Webinar

On Wednesday, March 25th at 1 pm AASA is proud to partner with Sandy Hook Promise, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to offer an important webinar on the STOP School Violence Act grant program.


After the tragedy at Parkland, Congress acted quickly to create a new funding stream to support state and local efforts to deter school violence. The passage of the STOP School Violence Act authorizes $100 million in funding for schools to improve school safety in 2019. This webinar will explain how to apply for the funding and how the dollars can further school safety efforts and mental health programs in your district.

Hear from Merv Daugherty, superintendent, Chesterfield County Schools, Va., who received a STOP grant in 2019, as he shares his experience applying for the grant and how his district will be using this funding to improve the mental health of his students. 

Hear from Terri Bennett of Sandy Hook Promise who is an expert on federal grantwriting and provides considerable technical assistance to STOP grantees. 

This webinar is free to AASA members. 


New survey opportunity for the Gates Foundation (updated March 6, 2020)

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Survey Opportunity

Background: AASA is pleased to share an opportunity for you to provide feedback to the Gates Foundation on the important issue of daily practice. It is a brief 3-5 minute survey, and the intent is to identify the top animating questions teachers, principals, and district leaders/staff  wish they could answer to improve their daily practice. This perspective is critical to the Foundation in understanding the lived experience in the classroom and at the district, particularly as they support researchers on answering the most relevant questions for practitioners.

The Survey: No one knows your school community like you do, superintendents – and our friends at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation want to learn from you! You and your fellow educators have shared that encouraging and inspiring all of your students matters so much to you. To shape their work supporting educators like you, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to know about the challenges that school leaders face as they work to support every student, every day. Take just a moment to share your insights in this quick survey: Click here to share your thoughts! (Or copy and paste the link below into your browser: https://rc1user6wywr4khjm3t5.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9N6vqD7NqRGB6kt?partner=AASA) This survey should only take a few minutes to complete. Thank you for your generosity with your time and expertise – and for all the care you bring to the powerful work you do, every day.

To sweeten the deal, there are $15 Amazon cards available to the first 1500 district respondents. 

Public Schools Week 2020 A Resounding Success (updated March 3, 2020)

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Public Schools Week 2020 A Resounding Success

In case you missed it, Public Schools Week was held February 24-28th and we had a great time on and off Capitol Hill celebrating the great things happening in our public schools.

Our bipartisan House Resolution received 120 cosponsors and our bipartisan Senate resolution received 45 co-sponsors. 

In addition, the following states issued resolutions during Public Schools Week modeled after the federal one: Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

I hope you joined your superintendent colleagues on social media who shared why they are #PublicSchoolProud. There were some great videos and posts from superintendents, school board members, state and federal lawmakers, state chiefs, and even Governors.

 

 

March Advocate: Rural Education Achievement Program Funding Cut (updated March 3, 2020)

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March Advocate: Rural Education Achievement Program Funding Cut

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 2020 edition.

A Big Win for Rural School Districts

In the late 1990s, AASA along with the National Education Association and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition worked together to ensure that No Child Left Behind contained a new funding stream dedicated to small and poor rural school districts. Realizing that rural districts struggled to leverage the formula funding in Title I, Title II, IDEA and other federal programs, we created a formula funding stream, known as the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) that was intended to help offset low federal funding and the diseconomies of scale these districts experience.  

Since 2002, rural districts across the nation have relied on REAP funds to purchase supplies and make technology upgrades; expand curricular offerings; provide distance learning opportunities; fund transportation; and, support professional development activities. Given the bipartisan support for rural districts, the REAP program was incorporated into ESSA in 2015.  

REAP is divided into two sub-programs, the Small and Rural Schools Program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program. The Department has chosen to target the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program (RLIS) Program. 

Issue: In early February, the Department quietly sent letters out to states notifying them that they are no longer able to deem certain districts as “high poverty” if they do not meet the 20 percent Census Bureau definition of poverty. Since 2002, the Department permitted states to qualify districts for RLIS based on an alternative poverty calculation such as a high rate of free-and-reduced priced lunch. States opted for this flexibility because census poverty data is often a poor metric for measuring poverty in large, rural areas and felt these districts should be eligible for RLIS funding. 

After sending notices to States that they were cutting funding to hundreds of rural districts, the Department faced considerable political backlash, which AASA helped to organize. Consequently, the Department announced States would be allowed to distribute funding to districts in using FRLP data for FY20, avoiding an immediate and arbitrary funding cut to rural districts. The Department’s reversal came about as a result of a New York Times story on February 28 that highlighted the issue as well as a letter on March 3 sent by 21 Senators, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging Secretary DeVos to reverse course and allow the funding to go out as planned in FY20. In addition, President Trump tweeted his concern from the fall-out of cuts to rural districts. 

Next Steps: This victory for rural districts was a result of behind-the-scenes advocacy by our team and we plan to proactively work with Congress to address any outstanding policy issues with RLIS funding. As a result of Congressional and political scrutiny, the Department revised the list of districts that would have lost funding if the Secretary did not rescind her initial decision. The list is available here. We will continue to fight to ensure these rural districts receive the funding they need in 2021 and beyond.