Guest Blog Post: COVID-19 and School Funding: What to Expect and What You Can Do

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Guest Blog Post: COVID-19 and School Funding: What to Expect and What You Can Do

This post was originally published by the Learning Policy Institute.

 

The numbers are staggering. In the past 5 weeks alone, since states began to issue shelter-in-place orders, virtually all 50 states have significantly reduced economic activity in this country, and almost 22 million Americans—more than one in ten working adults—have applied for unemployment insurance. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that this will be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This downturn will impact state tax revenue and thus result in reduced state P-12 education spending. The questions are, how badly will our public education system be affected, and what can we do about it? Read the full post here

AASA Call to Action: Sign Nation Wide Letter Calling on Congress to Address Homework Gap

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AASA Call to Action: Sign Nation Wide Letter Calling on Congress to Address Homework Gap

AASA has drafted a letter, to be sent to all members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action to support all students displaced from their classrooms, and we are aiming to collect as many signatures as possible from all 50 states. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on one of the worst kept secret inequities for today’s students: the homework gap. The pandemic forced more than 55 million students into a remote learning reality, resulting in an almost immediate struggle to ensure students can access online learning. It is anticipated that 12 million students across the nation lack internet access adequate to support online learning. 

Congress must ensure the next COVID-19 funding package include $4 billion in direct funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly called the E-Rate program, to help connect millions of students to the internet so they can continue their education and planning for the possibility of interruptions to classroom teaching and learning during the 2020-2021 school year.  Please review the letter and sign your name to the list, making sure to submit your state and district name.

You can read the full letter and sign your name here

AASA Policy Priorities for Next COVID-19 Package

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AASA Policy Priorities for Next COVID-19 Package

 In a letter to Congress, AASA addresses the next COVID-19 package and specific funding issues within it. The letter address implementation of IDEA, CARES Act funding, Secure Rural Schools’ drawdown reduction and more as AASA pushes for policy flexibility. Read the full letter here

 

Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

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Annual Notice to SEAs and LEAs re: Obligations under FERPA and PPRA

Earlier this week, USED’s Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) released its annual notice to state and local education agencies detailing their obligations related to FERPA and PPRA. The notice also included links to SPPO FERPA-related information in the context of COVID-19. The communication was direct to state chiefs of education via letter, the text of which is below. 

 

 

Dear Chief State School Officers and Superintendents:

I write to you on behalf of the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO), formerly called the Family Policy Compliance Office, of the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to provide the notification required by Section 1061(c)(5)(C) of the No Child Left Behind Act (which amended Section 445 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232h(c)(5)(C)). This notification is required to inform State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs), as recipients of funds under programs administered by the Department, of their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98). FERPA protects the privacy interests and access rights of parents and students in education records maintained by educational agencies and institutions or by persons acting for such agencies or institutions. PPRA affords parents and students with rights concerning specified marketing activities, the administration or distribution of certain surveys to students, the administration of certain physical examinations or screenings to students, and parental access to certain instructional materials including ones used as part of a student’s educational curriculum. This letter serves as the cover letter to the Department’s annual notification, which has not substantively changed since it was last issued and may be accessed at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/annual-notices.

I also write to share the following SPPO resources regarding FERPA during this time of social distancing due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as educational agencies and institutions have transitioned to remote learning to educate their students:  

Finally, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions and PPRA-covered LEAs may wish to review and, if appropriate, revise their policies and procedures, and their notifications under FERPA and PPRA to provide parents and students with information about any revisions necessitated by changes to their operations during this period.  

Specifically, FERPA-covered educational agencies and institutions should review and, if appropriate, revise: (1) the criteria specified in their annual notification of FERPA rights (in accordance with 34 CFR § 99.7(a)(3)(iii)) as to who constitutes a school official and what constitutes a legitimate educational interest in order to permit the non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records to school officials who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests under the school official exception (i.e., 34 CFR § 99.31(a)(1)); and, (2) their directory information policies under FERPA (i.e., 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.37(a)). Both the directory information and school official exceptions to the general requirement of consent under FERPA are particularly important during this time of remote learning. LEAs most commonly use the school official exception to permit disclosures under FERPA for the use of video or other technology applications and tools. Provided certain conditions are met, the directory information exception permits disclosure of information contained in a student’s education records that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed, such as the student’s name, address, phone number, photo image, and email address, including in connection with remote learning.

 

SPPO encourages LEAs to post on their websites their FERPA and PPRA notifications and policies to improve the transparency of information on student privacy. See https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/lea-website-privacy-review. If your educational institutions are conducting remote learning for your students, we also encourage you to work with your attorneys and information security specialists to review prospective technology applications and tools against FERPA requirements.

 

We are available to assist you with your student privacy questions about FERPA and PPRA. You may contact us by submitting your questions to our student privacy help desk at FERPA@ed.gov.

 

 

Sincerely,  

Kala Surprenant

Acting Director 

Student Privacy Policy Office

AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

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AASA Joins Groups in $2 Billion Push to Close the Homework Gap

In an effort to close the “homework gap” more than 50 education and related national associations are lining up behind new legislation calling for an additional $2 billion in emergency funding to help students without high speed internet access continue learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Legislation, proposed by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) would use the funds through the FCC’s E-rate Program for parents to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers, and other internet connected devices.

Schools in every state are closed with several of them announcing they will not reopen this year at all. “Time is of the essence to provide remote and distance learning support,” they wrote. “An estimated 9 to 12 million students and some of their teachers currently lack home internet access and are unable to participate in their classes that have been moved online.” This legislation would do just that.

Click here to read the letter sent to House Leadership regarding connectivity issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

AASA's Daniel Domenech Responds to Guidance to 'Reopen America'

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AASA's Daniel Domenech Responds to Guidance to 'Reopen America'

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement in response to the latest guidance from administration relating to reopening America:

“The CDC and FEMA are to be commended for their work to achieve a balanced approach in their guidance to reopening America, with the important and appropriate deference to state and local leaders, who are working day in and day out to guide their states through the pandemic and toward a post-COVID reality.

“With a goal of reopening the economy, this guidance focuses on businesses and is premised on the idea that states have the capacity to both readily test people for the highly contagious COVID and trace their contacts to monitor spread, a premise that does not match reality.

“Specific to what this guidance means for schools, it is an unfortunate continuation of information that appears to be clear and concise but when applied to the context of schools, is inconsistent and incongruous, at best. While we appreciate the deference to state and local leadership, when it comes to decisions about whether to open or close schools, state and local education leaders rely on the information and experience they have in running school districts day to day, and make any operational decisions beyond that perspective—like those necessary in the context of an unprecedented pandemic—by relying on experts.

“In this case, state and local education leaders are looking to the federal government for guidance that is clear, concise and applicable, not guidance that leaves them scratching their heads and wondering, ‘But what does that really mean for schools?’. An excellent example is the continued reliance on the recommendation to avoid social settings with more than 50 people and that large venues can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols. The average American public school will far exceed 50 people—including staff and students—every single day.

“In the same breath that the guidance highlights a path forward in opening schools, it establishes a scenario where every single school would be in direct conflict with another recommendation. We are not asking the federal government for a prescriptive mandate or script on how and when to open schools, but we are asking them to use the expertise inherent to their policy experts to ensure the guidance they draft is informative and actionable, empowering state and local leaders to implement it with minimal confusion and with confidence in the science behind it.  

“It is clear that we are all working toward the same goal, a safe return to economic and academic normalcy as soon as possible, and we call on the administration to continue to improve its guidance to be clear, concise and actionable at every level.”   

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (4 of 4)

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AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (4 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)

COVID RESOURCESblogs and webinars

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (3 of 4)

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AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (3 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  

 COVID RESOURCES info

  • AASA’s COVID Resources  HERE
  • CDC Landing page for guidance for schools/child care programs  HERE
  • US Education Department
    • COVID landing page HERE
    • FactSheet on Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs HERE
    • Guidance Documents Related to Perkins CTE: Two different Q&A documents related to Perkins CTE, here and here.
    • CARES Act information
  • Tracking COVID Waivers
  • State Level Runs of CARES Funding: The Congressional Research Service shared a report detailing approximate allocations for each state as it relates to the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund.
  • Student Privacy During the COVID-19 Pandemic PDF
  • Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs During a Pandemic: A Resource for School Superintendents WORD
  • Considerations for Special Education Administrators LINK
  • Mapping Resource Equity, Segregation, and COVID-19 Incidence Rates: EdBuild has updated its Dividing Lines dataset and mapping tool to place county-level coronavirus incidence rates in context of data on student poverty, racial demographics, and per pupil school district revenue.
  • COVID-19 State Legislative Responses: The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking all education-related legislation introduced in statehouses nationwide. This tool allows you to sort by state to see what state legislators have introduced to respond to the current crisis. The majority of state bills, to this point, deal with state education appropriations
State and Local Responses to COVID: Sharing a great resource for helping track and compare what governments are doing at the city, county, and state level to combat the coronavirus and COVID-19.

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (2 of 4)

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AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (2 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports)
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  

Congressional Action to Date (3 bills completed, one currently under negotiation)

  • HR 6074, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (March 6, 2020)
    • $8.3B emergency package
    • 3x request from White House.
    • Includes $2.2B to help federal, state, and local health agencies prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
  • HR 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (March 18, 2020)
    • Nutrition Provisions
      • $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to provide nutrition assistance for children and their mothers who have lost their jobs as a result of the outbreak.
      • $400 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to help local food banks meet increased need for low-income Americans.
      • $100 million for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. 
      • A provision that allows the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans to provide emergency Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price school meals in the event that their school is closed (The MEAL Act).
      • Gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to approve state waivers addressing nutrition assistance with school closures even if it increases cost to the federal government.
      • Provisions to allow child and adult care centers to serve food to go, allow the Secretary of Agriculture to waive meal pattern requirements in child nutrition programs if there is a disruption in food supply, and allow the Secretary of Agriculture to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the emergency.
      • Allows participants to be certified for WIC without being physically present at a WIC clinic.
      • Suspends work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the emergency.
      • Allows states to request waivers for emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing SNAP households up to the maximum monthly allotment.
    • Health Provisions
      • Provides free COVID-19 testing to all Americans, regardless of insurance.
      • Medicaid and CHIP, which cover over 45 million children between the two programs, will cover diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider visit to receive testing, with no cost to the patient.
      • Increases states' federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for public health programs like Medicaid and CHIP for the duration of the emergency. 
      • Increases Medicaid allotments for U.S. Territories.
      • The bill ensures that American Indians and Alaskan Natives do not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing.
    • Paid Sick Leave, Unemployment Insurance, and Family and Medical Leave Provisions
      • Provides employees of employers with under 500 employees the right to two weeks of fully-paid leave when they are sick, or two weeks of paid leave at 2/3 of their normal rate to care for a family member.
      • Provides employees of employers with under 500 employees the right to take up to 12-weeks of job-protected leave.
      • Provides $1 billion in 2020 emergency grants to states to meet the increased need for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.
      • Provides several tax breaks for employers who give their employees mandatory paid leave during the emergency.
  • S 3548 CARES Act (March 25)
    • Funding for Schools and Children (Details)
      • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program;
      • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to 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.
      • The $13.5 billion in stabilization fund money could be used to provide K-12 students internet connectivity and internet-connected devices, and a separate item in the bill for rural development provides $25 million to support "distance learning."
    • Using CARES Act Funding
      • Under the CARES Act, States and districts are set to receive $13.2 billion for K-12 in the CARES Act. The money must be spent by September 2021 although it’s not clear whether the funding can be directed at costs already incurred related to the pandemic (but that is our hope). There is an urgent push by Governors to expedite the process for moving these funds to districts which AASA supports, but it still could be at least two months before they show up in districts’ coffers. Once the funds are out here is how you can use them:
        • Any activity authorized in ESSA, IDEA and Perkins CTE
        • To coordinate with public health departments to prevent, prepare and respond to COVID-19
        • To address the unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English-learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless and foster care youth
        • PD for staff on sanitation and minimizing spread of pandemic and purchasing supplies to clean and sanitize buildings
        • Planning for and coordinating long-term closures including how to do meal services, how to provide tech/online learning, how to carry out IDEA, etc.
        • Providing mental health services/supports
        • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months, and addressing the needs of vulnerable children
        • Any other activity necessary to maintain the operation and continuity to employ existing staff 
    • Waiver Authority Under CARES
      • DeVos’ waiver authority as provided in CARES is addition to the expedited waiver process DeVos announced for assessments earlier in March. 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. 
    • Accessing CARES Funding
      • As of April 13: The U.S. Department of the Treasury launched a web portal to allow eligible State, local, and tribal governments to receive payments to help offset the costs of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Once registered through this portal, States, territories, and the District of Columbia will receive promptly half of the funds allocated to them pursuant to the CARES Act. This will fast-track the availability of $71 billion to meet immediate cash flow needs. The remaining balance of the payment amounts due to States, eligible local governments, and tribal governments will be paid no later than April 24, 2020. Read full press release here.
  • Currently being negotiated: CARES 2.0 / COVID 4
    • Top Priorities: moving forward, we are prioritizing a significant infusion of funding for schools (check out the joint letter with our priorities, signed by a dozen national organizations) as well as a call for narrow, time-limited flexibility for IDEA (Details/call to action below).
    • IDEA Call to Action: Congress Must Grant Narrow, Temporary IDEA Flexibility NOW
      • In light of the hardship districts are experiencing in trying to educate all students during a pandemic, we call on Congress to provide practical, narrow flexibility in how districts meet some of the requirements under IDEA. If your district is struggling to meet IDEA mandates, we urge you to take a moment to email the education staff on Capitol Hill and ask them to ensure the next COVID-19 relief package contains sensible flexibility for IDEA.
      • Please send an action alert to your full Congressional delegation today using AASA’s Action Alert System. You simply input your address and they will direct you to the appropriate Rep/Senators for you to email and supply a template email for you to use. Or you can download a list of all the education staffers for your Congressional delegation and email them individually here. We urge you to make your advocacy more impactful by personalizing this email and adding a paragraph describing the issues your district is specifically facing in complying with IDEA. 

AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (1 of 4)

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AASA Advocacy Round Up: All Things COVID (1 of 4)

In an effort to provide a thorough yet succinct overview of all things COVID and federal policy, AASA’s advocacy team is happy to share a series of three blog posts. The blog posts each have a different focus:

  • Blog Post One: COVID Background and Timeline
  • Blog Post Two: Congressional Action to Date (including details of education-specific funding and supports) 
  • Blog Post Three: COVID resources for district leaders (LONG list of federal guidance and Q&As, related articles, supporting documents and more)
  • Blog Post Four: COVID resources (quick list of relevant blog posts from AASA blog, link to AASA’s list of COVID-related webinars)  
  • 12/1 through 1/11: First case and death reported in Wuhan, China.
  • 1/12 through 1/31:  Cases spread across Asia ahead of/during the Lunar New Year.; US and South Korea confirm first cases; World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 an international public health emergency
  • 2/1 through 2/19: Virus spreads across Asia and Europe; US cases begin to grow.
  • 2/21 through 2/29:  Italy confirms first few cases and infection count surges to 655 within a week; US reports first death; WHO raises threat of COVID-19 global outbreak to ‘Very High’
  • 3/1 through 3/6: US cases continue to grow; Congress passes 1st emergency COVID supplemental  
  • 3/7 through 3/14: WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic; Trump declares a national emergency; Congress passes 2nd emergency COVID supplemental
  • 3/15 through 3/27: Wuhan, China reports no new cases (hits peak) as virus makes its way across Africa. Countries begin announcing widespread closure of businesses, schools, etc. and cancelling/postponing large events.  Congress passes 3rd emergency COVID supplemental (CARES Act)
  • April 16: CDC and FEMA Issue Guidance on Reopening Schools: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are creating guidance for state and local governments on how to begin reopening institutions such as schools, parks, and restaurants once the pandemic settles down. The draft document also calls for an increase in the manufacturing of testing kits and personal protective equipment, and notes that hand-washing and wearing face masks will still be essential to implement phased reopenings. According to officials, Trump wants a final plan ready in the next few days so some states can reopen May 1st. “The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized,” Trump said at a White House briefing. UPDATE: That guidance is available here. Read related EdWeek analysis

WEBINAR OPPORTUNITIES: Managing Resources Effectively in a Time of COVID-19

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WEBINAR OPPORTUNITIES: Managing Resources Effectively in a Time of COVID-19

AASA’s advocacy team is pleased to share this webinar series, focusing on how districts can manage resources in response to the COVID pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. These webinar opportunities are offered by our friends at WestEd.

 

Every day there is a new bundle of headlines about the devastating impact of the coronavirus on some aspect of American life. In recent weeks, more and more of those headlines foreshadow the economic and financial implications for the country, including public schools. And, there is truth in the growing and potentially severe consequences that this public health crisis will have on school district budgets. Precipitated by historical unemployment claims, rapidly declining consumer spending, the vast majority of the country’s economy slowed to a halt. The forecasts for state revenue availability in the upcoming fiscal year are increasingly grim with each passing day.

 

Join finance experts from WestEd for a Spring 2020 webinar series that will unpack more deeply the implications of these headlines on school district/charter budgets in the upcoming fiscal year. The series will explore the unique features of this potential economic recession, how it may impact the state and local education response, and how other funding sources such as the federal CARES Act can help. Experts will also offer concrete, practical advice for practitioners to navigate some of the vital decision-making that will be necessary to ensure that school systems are able to remain focused on supporting students and still balance their budgets.

 

Managing Resources Effectively in Response to COVID-19

Date/Time: Tuesday, April 21, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

The webinar will provide an overview of the economic and fiscal impact of COVID-19 on education budgets and of the allowable uses of CARES Act funding and highlight key fiscal considerations for education resources, including ensuring continuity of service and directing funds to those students with the greatest need. Register

 

Resource Planning for Students with Disabilities through the COVID-19 Pandemic: Balancing Legal Obligations and Available Resources to Maintain Student Progress

Date/Time: Tuesday, April 28, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

 

Maintaining the provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) through the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures has challenged many school systems. In addition, districts are faced with complex fiscal requirements attached to federal and state funding for special education including maintenance of effort and excess cost requirements. This webinar will: provide guidance on how to manage resource identification and allocation to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are appropriately addressed while balancing the need to meet legal requirements and highlight opportunities to maximize resources to improve outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities. Register

Blending and Braiding Funds to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 on the Most Vulnerable Students
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 5, 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific

 

The students most likely to experience academic slide due to COVID-19 school closures are students who are eligible for services under multiple programs including federal Title and IDEA funds, and state funds set aside for vulnerable populations. Blending and braiding these and other funding streams is a strategy to more effectively leverage multiple funding streams toward a common goal to supporting students with the greatest need. The webinar will: define and provide parameters for allowable uses of blending and braiding strategies for multiple federal, state, and local funding streams to support programs or initiatives aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and highlight key opportunities for blending and braiding recovery funding provided under the CARES Act to optimize the use of these funds to support students and close gaps created by COVID-19 school closures. Register

 

 

Please join us!  There will be opportunities for further follow-up offered, such as PLCs with WestEd finance consultation regarding response planning, facilitated peer-to-peer sharing of information and strategies.

AASA Joins 11 Groups in Joint Letter for Funding Priorities in Next COVID Supplemental

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AASA Joins 11 Groups in Joint Letter for Funding Priorities in Next COVID Supplemental

Earlier this month, AASA joined 11 other national education organizations in a letter to Congress outlining our funding priorities for COVID-4. The asks exceed more than $200 billion and call for investments in the education stabilization fund, Title I, IDEA, E-Rate, and infrastructure. Read the letter here

 

New Maps Detail District-Level Budgets for State and Federal Share

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New Maps Detail District-Level Budgets for State and Federal Share

When it comes to school district budgets, the funding that helps support the nation’s public schools comes from a combination of federal, state and local dollars. Just as no two school districts are the same, neither are their budgets, whether in terms of their funding priorities or—relevant to this blog post—the proportion of the budget covered by federal and state dollars. That is, some districts are more reliant on federal dollars than others, while still more are disproportionately reliant on local dollars. Local dollars are largely driven by property taxes, meaning that affluent communities have more local dollars, making them less reliant on state dollars. Related, because many state funding dollars are targeted to areas of need to help level the playing field, poorer areas receive a larger share of state dollars.

 

Why is this relevant now? As the COVID pandemic sweeps the nations, shuttering school districts across the nation, it is also bringing the broader economy—and the revenue it generates at the state, local and federal level—to a grinding halt. With most state revenues coming from income and sales taxes—both in rapid decline with people being laid off and people spending less—states are bracing for significant reductions in state funding levels. Including those for education.

 

States have tough decisions to make in light of these budget pressures, and there are two specific to education we want to highlight: they have to decide how much to cut from education in general (HINT: education should not be cut disproportionately; that is, when the cuts are in place, education should still represent at least the same share of the overall budget that it did before the cuts) and they have to decide which education programs to cut (that is, the age-old question of whether they should cut equity-centric programs or start with streams that are primarily in place to help level the playing field). How states answer these questions will 100% impact schools, and the intricacies were part of an article in Chalkbeat last week:

  • The major cause of the looming school budget crisis: state tax revenue is cratering.
  • Since high-poverty districts are more reliant on state funds, they’re at risk of deeper budget cuts.
  • Because state dollars are more at risk, the economic downturn could hit low-income students and their schools the hardest.

 

The decisions made by policymakers will have real impacts on communities, a reality that is true for both federal and state policy. Specific to funding, it is both the overall amount of what is cut as well as the specifics of which program are cut that will ultimately reveal the full impact to individual communities.

 

In 2013, as the federal government acted to implement the blunt budget cuts of sequestration, AASA shared a map detailing the hugely inequitable impact of a cut that prioritized so-called ‘fairness’ by virtue of being ‘equal’ by being one flat rate for all programs. The reality of the ‘across the board’ cuts was that some states and districts felt the cuts much more acutely than others. Sure, the idea of ‘everyone take a 5% cut’ seems fair, but the reality is far different: a 5% cut to federal funding when federal dollars are just 10% of your budget is very different than a 5% cut to federal funding when federal dollars are 50% of your budget. As I wrote in 2013: “…it must be noted that the so‐called ‘across‐the‐board’ nature of sequestration is anything but in schools. Each district has its own operating budget which includes a share of federal education dollars. Through a combination of factors including poverty, local/state budget capacity, and state/local investment in education, the federal dollars represent a varying ‘share’ of the overall budget1 such that some districts will feel to allegedly ‘flat’ cut of 5.2 percent much more aggressively than other districts. That is, relatively robust districts—where federal dollars represent less than 8 percent of the overall budget—will be applying the sequester cuts to a smaller portion of the overall budget than their higher‐ poverty districts, where federal dollars can represent upwards of 50, 60 or 70 percent of the operating budget. Five percent of 8 percent, while damaging, is much less harmful than 5 percent of 60 percent. Low‐ wealth (higher‐poverty) districts generally have a larger share of their funding coming from the federal level. The sequester cuts will disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable students in the most vulnerable districts, anything but ‘across‐the‐board.” Check out the map in that report; it shows, at the district level, the share of each district’s budget that came from federal dollars; it is a clear illustration of how cuts will disproportionately impact different communities.

 

Which brings us to today’s post: We’ve updated the maps to reflect each school district’s budget in terms of its reliance on state dollars, as well as on federal dollars. Why? Well, we’ve already seen a significant investment in schools via the CARES Act and can reasonably expect additional investment via subsequent emergency funding packages. While the statutes are very clear that large portions of the education funds are intended for the local level—and we know that states will pass those dollars through to the local level—we are very concerned that ultimately, states will make cuts to state education funding, rendering the federal emergency dollars as back-stops to state cuts, leaving school districts to feel no discernable difference from the federal dollars. This shell game is not a case of crying wolf; it was a well-documented reality under ARRA that state cuts to budgets in response to the economic downturn resulted in local school districts feeling little to no relief from the federal dollars intended to provide help.

 

Any federal emergency funding for school districts must both include and enforce policy related to state maintenance of effort and state ‘supplement, not supplant’. This is NOT to say that states should be prohibited from making budget cuts. To the contrary: unlike the federal government, state and local budgets are often required to ‘balance’, meaning that in light of precipitously declining revenues, they need to reduce expenditures (ie, make cuts). What MUST happen, though, is that states must ensure that they do not cut education disproportionately. That is, after the cuts are in place, education funding must represent at least the same overall share of the state budget that it did before the cuts were in place. The idea that states should ‘get a pass’ on investing in education because of significant funding pressures is naïve, and a slap in the face to local schools: the same fiscal pressures slowing state economies will also slow local economies. Giving states cart blanche when it comes to education cuts leaves local school districts holding the purse: states use the federal dollars to keep their budgets closer to ‘whole’ while locals are left grappling with both state and local cuts.  In addition to including and enforcing maintenance of effort and supplement/supplant provisions, there are other considerations the federal government could include (Scroll to the last section).

 

These maps highlight—and allow us to predict with some accuracy—which districts will be most impacted by state cuts, especially if Congress fails to protect its COVID emergency response dollars for education by holding states accountable for not disproportionately cutting education within their budgets. Landing Page: School District Revenue & Expenditure Patterns, FY 2017

 

About the map maker: Warren Glimpse/ProximityOne (wglimpse@proximityone.com) has developed several national scope map views showing patterns of school district FY 2017 (latest available on a national scale) revenues by source (federal, state, local). These maps show the percent of state and federal revenue for FY 2017 by school district.  The Web page http://proximityone.com/sdfa17.htm features the map views with more detail.  That page also includes an interactive table where sources and uses of funds may be viewed/analyzed by individual district, groups of districts or all districts.  Data are based on an annual survey of public elementary and secondary education systems, mostly school districts, conducted by the Census Bureau under sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Education. The survey covers all U.S. school districts. These data are reported by school districts. They are not estimates subject to estimation error. However, financial data reporting and categorization differs from state to state. As a result, some data cells show as zero while in fact the data for that cell is included in another category, such as "Other." Data shown in these table were developed by merging the Census-sourced "F-33" data with the Census-sourced 2017-18 school year school district geographic reference/boundary file using the Federal school district code. There is not a 1-to-1 match between these codes. Where total revenue shows as 0 (228 districts) the F-33 financial data are not available.

New Tool: USDA Summer Food Service Rural Designation Map

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New Tool: USDA Summer Food Service Rural Designation Map

As more districts continue to face challenges in delivering school meals because of COVID-19, USDA has launched a new tool to help state agencies, local program operators,  and sponsors to determine if a proposed site may be designated as rural to receive additional funding under the Summer Food Service Program. You can access the tool by clicking here.  
 
To use the map, enter the address of the proposed site in the “Find Address or Place” box located on the right side of the screen. By pressing enter, the map will zoom to the location specified, where a location colored purple indicates a non-rural area and a location unshaded, meaning not colored purple, indicates it is rural.

AASA Responds to OMB Proposal on Poverty Measure

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AASA Responds to OMB Proposal on Poverty Measure

AASA submitted formal comments in opposition to the Administration’s recent proposal to change the poverty measure by submitting comments against the proposal. Any changes to how we define poverty have particularly significant implications for children, who disproportionately experience poverty in our society. Changes to the poverty measure will inform and impact policy and budget choices, including standards to determine eligibility for benefits that are critical to children’s healthy development, such food assistance, housing vouchers, health benefits, and more. You can read AASA’s comments here

ED Releases New Factsheet On Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs

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ED Releases New Factsheet On Compensation, Travel and Conference Costs

The Department will be releasing a series of factsheets related to how federal expenditures will be addressed during COVID-19. This factsheet focuses on how to pay for employees whose positions are funded by federal funding as well as how travel and events that are non-refundable and paid for with federal funding should be addressed.

 

Unpacking the CARES Act Funding

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Unpacking the CARES Act Funding

Under the CARES Act, States and districts are set to receive $13.2 billion for K-12 in the CARES Act. The money must be spent by September 2021 although it’s not clear whether the funding can be directed at costs already incurred related to the pandemic (but that is our hope). There is an urgent push by Governors to expedite the process for moving these funds to districts which AASA supports, but it still could be at least two months before they show up in districts’ coffers.

Once the funds are out here is how you can use them:

  1. Any activity authorized in ESSA, IDEA and Perkins CTE
  2. To coordinate with public health departments to prevent, prepare and respond to COVID-19
  3. To address the unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English-learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless and foster care youth
  4. PD for staff on sanitation and minimizing spread of pandemic and purchasing supplies to clean and sanitize buildings
  5. Planning for and coordinating long-term closures including how to do meal services, how to provide tech/online learning, how to carry out IDEA, etc.
  6. Providing mental health services/supports
  7. Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months, and addressing the needs of vulnerable children
  8. Any other activity necessary to maintain the operation and continuity to employ existing staff 

ED has developed a streamline waiver that provides even more flexibility to States to waive how they spend their existing money, which could allow schools to spend more of the federal dollars on technology for distance learning. That said, we would prefer the funding for ed-tech to come from the E-Rate program and are requesting $2 billion in additional E-Rate funding in the next stimulus package to ensure districts can attempt to close the homework gap. 

Two AASA and ASBO Webinars: FRAC (April 7) and USDA (April 16)

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Two AASA/ASBO Webinars: FRAC (April 7) and USDA (April 16)

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on district food service operations, AASA and the Association of School Business Officials, are holding two webinars that will help Educational leaders impacted by COVID-19 provide students with access to healthy and nutritious meals.
  • The first webinar on April 7 – Feeding Students During COVID-19 – will focus on best practices, tools, and resources school districts are currently leveraging to feed children, and feature presentations from nutritional experts from the Food Research Action Committee. You can register by clicking here.
  • The second webinar on April 16 – USDA COVID-19 School Waivers – featured a presentation from USDA Food Nutritional Service Child Nutrition Branch Chief for School Meals, Tina Namian, and focused on the Department’s latest round of federal school meal waivers available to districts closed because of COVID-19. Check out a recording of the conversation by clicking here. Also, you can view the slide deck for the webinar by clicking here.
 

AASA COVID-19 School Response Study

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AASA COVID-19 School Response Study

Today, April 6, 2020, AASA, published its full COVID-19 School Response Study. While the report was not experimental and didn't employ random sampling, the survey garnered a total of 1,608 responses from a sample of AASA members from 48 states, which consisted of superintendents, associate superintendents, aspiring superintendents, and other school system leaders.  
 
Specifically, the studies' data show preliminary findings from the 32-question survey instrument and categorizes responses by (1) district and respondent characteristics (i.e. state, size, geographic location, etc.), (2) school districts’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and (3) the fiscal impact of COVID-19. We hope this resource will serve as a data source that informs our members, state and federal policymakers, and others looking to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s schools and communities. Click here to read the full report. 
 

CMS Guidance for Billing Medicaid During COVID-19

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CMS Guidance for Billing Medicaid During COVID-19

We just received an official bulletin from CMS that contains some very important information for districts that are billing Medicaid during the pandemic. Specifically, the bulletin answers questions about RMTS, which I have excerpted below.

Overall, we understand that States are getting considerable flexibility from CMS with regards to the delivery and reimbursement for school-based Medicaid services. For example, States are getting permission to use RMTS data averaged over two quarters for this quarter or are being allowed to use last quarter’s RMTS data for this quarter. Some are still requiring time studies, but doing so on a much more limited basis.

Beyond waivers, several states have passed emergency rules that clarify that the provision of Medicaid reimbursable special education services can be done via any modality for reimbursement except text or email. This is also very helpful and allows districts to continue maximizing their reimbursement.

On the whole, it appears CMS is granting whatever flexibility States are asking for, so if districts in your state require additional flexibility for Medicaid reimbursement they should be talking with their SEAs and State Medicaid offices and asking for it.

 

Third Party Questions and CMS Responses

If school is in session but being conducted remotely, for the purposes of the Random Moment Time Study (RMTS) used in allocating Medicaid administrative cost, please confirm that eligible RMTS school staff may continue to respond to their sampled RMTS moment indicating their activity for their sampled date and time (even if they were working remotely).

Yes, even though the participant is working remotely, he or she may respond to the sampled RMTS moment.

For those individuals sampled for the RMTS who are not working, please confirm that the state or school district can report the time as paid or unpaid time not working.

For those individuals who are sampled, but are not working, the sample moment should be coded to paid time not working if they are salaried, or unpaid time if they are furloughed without pay or in some other unpaid status at the time of the sample moment.  The moments that are coded to paid time not working should be reallocated across the other activity codes and a portion of the costs recognized.

The current Medicaid Administrative Claiming (MAC) Plan provides guidance for a situation when 85% percent RMTS compliance isn’t reached, by allowing moments to be coded as non-Medicaid until compliance is reached.  However, the plan also requires individual districts to reach 85 percent RMTS participation or potentially incur penalties and/or non-participation in claiming. Would CMS be willing to NOT impose individual district penalties while the school districts are working remotely during the pandemic?

We recognize that RMTS overall staff participation may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the timeframe of the declared Public Health Emergency, CMS would not ask states to impose any individual district penalties for districts that do not reach 85 percent RMTS participation.  States could modify the MAC Plan to temporarily suspend this requirement during the public health emergency.

Important Resources on Student Data Privacy during COVID-19

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Important Resources on Student Data Privacy during COVID-19

Our friends at the Future of Privacy Forum wanted us to flag the following resources for school leaders on student data privacy that may be helpful to be aware of right now.

 

FPF published a wiki of COVID-19 privacy resources that includes official guidance from government agencies around the world, best practices, and emerging solutions (including links with tips on employees working remotely).

The Department of Education released several excellent resources:

FERPA and Virtual Learning (1-page list of resources)

FERPA and Virtual Learning webinar slides and recording

FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019

CoSN released this resource on cybersecurity in the COVID-19 era for their members.  

MS Global webinar this Friday: Considerations when Using Virtual Meetings for K-12 Remote Learning