Introducing the GRAD Partnership

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Introducing the GRAD Partnership

States, districts, and schools need to act to get the right supports to the right students to enable them to succeed in school. Next-generation student success systems, also known as early warning/on-track systems, should be a key part of the solution. These systems help schools rapidly identify student needs and respond in proactive and preventative ways to put all students on a path to postsecondary success.     

  

The GRAD Partnership, a collaboration of nine organizations, will work with state departments of education, school districts, and community partners to implement high-quality student success systems—moving them from a new concept to an everyday school practice.  

  

The GRAD Partnership is hosting a virtual event on May 17 at 2:00 p.m. ET to share how you can work with them to provide all students with the learning experiences, social-emotional development, and supportive environment they need to thrive. Hear from districts that are effectively using student success systems to help their students graduate ready for their next steps. Register here

 

Schools, school districts, and state departments of education either seeking to improve existing early warning/on-track systems or implement them for the first time will learn how they can get the technical assistance they need to implement next generation student support systems and participate in learning communities with others engaged in the work. Community partners will learn how they can be advocates for high quality student support systems and support schools in their implementation. 

 

GRAD Partnership is a collaboration among American Institutes for Research, BARR Center, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, Talent Development Secondary, the University of Chicago Network for College Success, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Rural Schools Collaborative, and the Schott Foundation.  

EPA Announces Details for Electric School Bus Rebates

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EPA Announces Details for Electric School Bus Rebates

Today, the EPA held a webinar on their new $5 billion electric school bus program. In case you missed the presentation, you can find the slides and content here.

EPA is opening the funding with rebates for districts because it’s the quickest way to spend the money and get districts the buses. The rebate program is designed to be straightforward. It is for bus replacement and infrastructure only. When compared to a grant proposal, it is straightforward and short and the EPA says the online application that is simple and easy to complete. The application should be posted in early May and the application window will be 3 months long. Districts that are interested in the grant process should immediately register for an account with SAM.gov so they can receive a notice when the grant process opens and other TA that will be associated with the grant. Grants will be awarded in the fall and districts will have until April 2023 to submit purchase orders for EPA to refund.

Districts are among several entities that are eligible and can also partner with eligible contractors. Private school bus fleets can’t apply directly, but districts can partner with a private fleet that owns and operates their buses to replace buses that serve a district as long as they have an active contract. The company would need to continue serving the district for a minimum of 5 years from day of delivery.

Rebates for districts will be prioritized for districts that meet one or more criteria: they are a high needs school district in low-income areas (defined as having at least 20% SAIPE data from 2020); they are rural districts with NCES locale codes 43 and 42, or they are tribal school districts. 

Buses eligible for replacement must be 2010 or older diesel-powered school buses that will be scrapped if selected for funding. If a fleet has no eligible 2010 or older diesel school buses and is requesting zero-emission school buses up for replacement the fleet can either: scrap 2010 or older buses, scrap/sell/donate 2011 or newer internal combustion engine buses.

Buses eligible for replacement must have a gross vehicle rating of 10,001 lb or more; be operational at time of application submission; be owned by fleet receiving bus and must have provided bus service for district for at least 3 days/week during SY20-21 (note: this requirement exempts COVID-related school closures).

New replacement buses must have a battery electric, CNG or propane drivetrain; be EPA certified vehicle model year 2021 or newer; have a GWR 10,001 lb or more and not be ordered prior to receiving official notification of selection for EPA funding. The replacement bus must serve school district for 5 years; must meet federal safety standards; not be funded with other federal funds and be made available for inspection by EPA.

A class 7 or higher sized electric replacement bus that serves a prioritized district would be eligible for a $375,000 rebate. Applicants for a non-prioritized district would be $250,000 rebate. Prioritized districts can get a rebate of $20k for infrastructure cost/per bus. $13,000 for non-prioritized districts. Start reaching out to your electric utility right now if you are interested in this electric school bus infrastructure piece.

AASA Joins Groups in Letter Supporting Biden Admin New Public Charge Rule

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AASA Joins Groups in Letter Supporting Biden Admin New Public Charge Rule

After the Biden Administration announced it would take steps to rectify the harm to children in immigrant families created by the Trump Administration’s previous public charge rule, AASA joined 110 children’s advocacy and child-serving organizations in support of the Biden Administration’s new proposed rule on public charge. The new proposed rule corrects the gravest errors of the 2019 rule and would be a critical step to securing the health and wellbeing of millions of children in immigrant families.

The 2019 rule’s harm on children was largely due to its inclusion of non-cash benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing and health insurance, all of which can significantly improve children’s health and ability to learn, and we support DHS removing these benefits from a public charge consideration. We support the proposed rule’s narrow definition of what constitutes “receipt” of countable public benefits, which explicitly excludes adults who have applied for benefits on behalf of their children or whose children are currently receiving benefits. Making it clear that it is safe to apply for and receive health care, nutrition assistance and other assistance on behalf of children without public charge consequences, will help DHS achieve its goal of establishing a rule that does not cause undue fear or confusion and that mitigates the documented chilling effect that has harmed millions of children.

Finally, we recommend that DHS establish a presumption that children are not a public charge and that the use of benefits by a child does not indicate their likelihood to be a future public charge.

 

AASA Asks Congress to Invest in $3 Billion Title II, Part A

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AASA Asks Congress to Invest in $3 Billion Title II, Part A

On April 21, AASA joined 51 education organizations in asking Congress to invest in retaining and recruiting teachers, principals and other school leaders by providing $3 billion in FY23 appropriations for the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program – Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

These investments help bolster the infrastructure districts rely on to recruit high-quality educators and provide them with job-embedded practice, mentoring, and coaching opportunities that sustain them in their careers.

Title II, Part A is a critical support for the growth and development of educators’ instructional practice to improve their teaching and ultimately boost student learning. Unfortunately, the program remains severely underfunded and demand for services provided by it has only increased. A larger investment in Title II, Part A will help accelerate student learning, provide support through professional learning to keep educators in the profession, and recruit new individuals into the educator workforce. Read the full letter here

President Biden, USDA Forest Service Announce more than $238 Million to Support Rural Schools, Roads, Other Services

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President Biden, USDA Forest Service Announce more than $238 Million to Support Rural Schools, Roads, Other Services

President Biden and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service announced the SRS funding to invest more than $238 million to support public schools, roads, and other municipal services through the Secure Rural Schools Program, which will deliver SRS payments to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The program was reauthorized for fiscal years 2021 through 2023 by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The bill was signed by President Biden and became Public Law 117-58 on November 15, 2021. USDA National Forest Service has completed all necessary reviews and is releasing the FY 2021 funds.

“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways USDA supports rural communities and provides a consistent source of funding in areas near national forests,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said. “In addition to funding for schools and counties, the program also reimburses counties for emergency services on national forests and is instrumental in the development of community wildfire protection plans.”

Section 41202: Extension of Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act:

The bipartisan Infrastructure bill includes a 3-year, FY 2021, FY 2022, FY2023, extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS). SRS is authorized and funded for FY 2021, 2022, and 2023. The infrastructure bill, P.L. 117-58, provides that for Fiscal Year 2021 and each fiscal year thereafter the amount is equal to the full funding amount of FY 2017. Five percent reductions are not continued. The bill’s SRS provisions also includes regional pilots for Montana and Arizona.

You can read the full announcement from the USDA National Forest Service, including a list of states receiving funding, here.

Webinar Series on the Community Eligibility Provision

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Webinar Series on the Community Eligibility Provision

AASA is co-hosting a series of webinars with Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and 12 education organizations to support districts interested in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows high-poverty schools and districts to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): Overcoming the Loss of School Meal Application Data

Thursday, April 21, 3 pm ET

Community eligibility eliminates the need to collect school meal applications, which have long been used for a wide range of education and funding purposes. Join us for this webinar to learn how schools across the country have been able to successfully overcome the loss of this data in order to offer free meals to all of their students. Register here.

Making CEP Work with Low ISPs and Partial District Implementation

Thursday, May 5, 3pm ET

The pandemic has highlighted the value of offering school meals at no charge to all students. Community Eligibility provides an excellent opportunity for high poverty schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students beyond the 2021-2022 school year. The community eligibility reimbursement formula determines what percent of meals are reimbursed at the free and paid rates. Thousands of schools and districts across the country have experienced the benefits of community eligibility by participating with ISPs below 60 percent and by having individual schools participate within a district. Join this webinar to learn about the strategies and resources available for making community eligibility work with low ISPs and/or partial district implementation. Register here.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): Implementing in States that Require Alternative Forms

Thursday, May 19, 3pm ET

Community eligibility eliminates the need to collect school meal applications, but there are some states that require schools to collect alternative forms to receive state education funding. Join us for this webinar to learn about successful strategies to collect the forms and implement community eligibility. Register here.

Get Your CEP Questions Answered

Thursday, June 9, 3pm ET

More details to come. We will update this post with more information as it is available. 

U.S. Dept of Education Announces ARP Summit on April 27

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U.S. Dept of Education Announces ARP Summit on April 27

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, we’d like to invite you to join us at the From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students summit. We will host this virtual event on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Department, in partnership with the National Public Education Support Fund, will bring together education leaders, advocates and philanthropic partners to discuss how to help students and schools recover from the pandemic. The opening panel and learning sessions will create opportunities to support school districts and states in utilizing their federal funds to deepen and scale strategies to address learning recovery, mental health support and labor shortages beyond the three years of ARP funding so students can recover and thrive in the future.

  • 4:00 p.m.: Opening Panel: “From Recovery to Thriving: How the Education Ecosystem Can Support America’s Students”
  • 5:00 p.m.: Learning Recovery Concurrent Sessions
  • 6:00 p.m.: Labor Shortages Concurrent Sessions
  • 7:00 p.m.: Mental Health and Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning Concurrent Sessions

If you are interested in joining the summit, please register here. Upon completing your registration, you will receive an email with your registration details from Special.Events@ed.gov.

AASA-Endorsed HERE Act Introduced

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AASA-Endorsed HERE Act Introduced

On Thursday, April 7, Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act. The bipartisan, bicameral bill creates a new grant program to support partnerships and collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and school districts with high enrollments of Hispanic and Latino students. Among the activities allowed for the partnerships is the creation of Grow Your Own programs to encourage students to pursue careers in education and provide pathways into the teacher workforce.

The inclusion of Grow Your Own programs in the HERE Act will not only help to address the overall teacher shortages but also increase diversity among the teacher workforce by investing in Hispanic-serving institutions. AASA is excited to endorse the HERE Act and support programs aimed at building a diverse, high-quality pipeline of future educators. Read the full press release here

The Advocate April 2022: Child Nutrition Waivers

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The Advocate April 2022: Child Nutrition Waivers

At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress granted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to provide waivers for child nutrition programs to allow critical flexibilities for program operators to continue operations and feed children despite school closures and supply chain challenges.

Without Congressional action, these waivers are set to expire on June 30, 2022. Although schools remain open, districts continue to need these flexibilities to ensure students receive the healthy meals they need as programs face challenges caused by the pandemic.

Advocates were hopeful that Congress would include an extension of the USDA waiver authority in the FY22 omnibus bill but that did not come to fruition. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was the greatest opponent to the inclusion of the waivers, with the position that they were meant as pandemic relief and no longer necessary. Additionally, the Biden Administration was not adamant that having the waivers extended was a priority while Congressional Democrats were willing to sacrifice the waivers to get the omnibus passed.

However, standalone bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would extend the waivers through SY22-23 and we continue to urge Congress to do the right thing and take action on this important issue. In the House, the Keeping School Meals Flexible Act (H.R. 6613) was introduced by Reps. Spanberger (D-VA) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA). In the Senate, the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act (S.3979) was introduced by Sens. Stabenow (D-MI) and Murkowski (R-AK).

The expiration of the waivers on June 30, 2022, will be detrimental to school meal programs and their ability to serve students. Here’s what the end of waivers means:  

One of the most significant impacts for school meal programs will be financial. The current Summer Food Service Reimbursement Rates waiver allows schools to be reimbursed with the Summer Food Service Program rate which is higher than the normal rate. When this waiver expires on June 30, 2022, school meal programs will receive substantially less reimbursements while the cost of food, labor and supplies continues to increase. Returning to the normal reimbursement rate will increase meal program losses and cut into education budgets, impeding efforts to meet the needs of students.

Additionally, in recognition of the significant challenges that school meal programs were facing to get the necessary food to meet the meal pattern requirements of the NSLP and SBP, USDA provided flexibility around these requirements, including sodium, whole-grain, milk variety, vegetable subgroups and planned menus for specific age/grade groups. When these waivers end, schools must meet all of these requirements in order to receive reimbursement from the Federal government despite ongoing challenges of getting the foods necessary to be in compliance. Food companies and distributors have streamlined offerings and reduced the geographic areas they serve, leaving many meal programs without access to foods that meet highly specialized meal pattern requirements.

The waivers also provided flexibilities to the requirement that meals be served in a congregate setting and allowed parents and guardians to pick up meals. Districts were granted the ability to quickly pivot programs and ensure students were still receiving meals even when schools were closed, or students had to quarantine. Across the country we saw schools jump into action to ensure their students continued to be fed even when they couldn’t come to school. Districts delivered meals to families or provided to-go meals that could be picked up by guardians. When this waiver ends, schools will no longer be able to provide meals to students outside of school, even if schools close or a student must quarantine due to COVID-19. Meal programs will no longer have the regulatory flexibility they need to serve all their students safely and quickly adapt operations.

And finally, the Seamless Summer Option allowed schools to provide free meals to all students. Schools will now have to gather Free and Reduced Priced Lunch applications for the first time in two years. We have already heard from our members that they are experiencing difficulties in getting this paperwork, meaning students may lose access to meals unnecessarily.  

We urge Congress to extend the waiver authority through SY22-23 and provide schools and community-based organizations with the security necessary to plan for the summer and following school year. Without the extension, millions of children will lose access to the healthy meals they need to learn and grow. If you would like to take action on this and tell your Members of Congress to support the extension of waivers, draft language and contact information can be found on the AASA Advocacy App (see how here). While we remain hopeful that the waivers will be extended, districts should prepare for a SY22-23 without the flexibilities that were provided over the past two years. 

White House Announces Actions for Bolstering Clean School Infrastructure and Transportation to Support Student Learning and Health

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White House Announces Actions for Bolstering Clean School Infrastructure and Transportation to Support Student Learning and Health

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure to upgrade our public schools with modern, clean, energy efficient facilities and transportation—delivering health and learning benefits to children and school communities, saving school districts money and creating good union jobs. The action plan activates the entire federal government in leveraging investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan to advance solutions including energy efficiency retrofits, electric school buses and resilient design. Of particular interest, the plan includes an amazing toolkit listing all the financial resources in various federal agencies that districts can utilize to make improvements to school infrastructure and transportation.

The Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure will:

  • Invest in More Efficient, Energy-Saving School Buildings: The Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a $500 million grant program for schools that will lower energy costs, improve air quality and prioritize schools most in need, enabling schools to focus more resources on student learning.
  • Improve Classroom Air Quality through the American Rescue Plan: The Administration is supporting states, school districts and local communities in leveraging American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief resources to address school infrastructure needs—like repairing, upgrading or replacing of ventilation systems; purchasing air filters and portable air cleaning devices; and fixing doors and windows so that schools can stay open for in-person learning.

Expand Clean and Safe School Transportation: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with support from the Department of Energy (DOE), is releasing new online resources to help school districts and other eligible recipients prepare for the $5 billion Clean School Bus Program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—with the first opportunity to fund clean and electric buses opening later this spring.

  • Help Schools Access Resources and Best Practices: The new toolkit will further support school participation in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, which the Administration recently launched to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and improve indoor air quality in buildings of all kinds, including schools. The Department of Energy is also announcing the inaugural honorees of the Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign, which provides technical assistance to school districts seeking to implement high-impact indoor air quality and efficiency improvements that will reduce energy bills and improve student and teacher health.

Spread the Word about Changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

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Spread the Word about Changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Last year, the Department of Education (USED) issued a Limited Time Waiver to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and help those who qualify get closer to forgiveness. So far, more than 70,000 individuals have already received full forgiveness due to these changes. Anyone who has federal student loans and is employed full-time by a school district qualifies for the program.

However, action may be needed in order to take advantage of the waiver before it expires on October 31, 2022. AASA has created a template for district leaders to share with their staff that explains the new changes to the program and outlines what they must do to participate.

The PSLF program provides full forgiveness to those employed in public service careers after 10 years of service and 120 qualifying payments. According to a 2021 NEA report, nearly half of all educators have student loans averaging $58,000. PSLF is a great opportunity to relieve educators of a significant financial burden and show appreciation for their service to students across the country. 

AASA Leads Amicus in Key School Prayer Case Before SCOTUS

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AASA Leads Amicus in Key School Prayer Case Before SCOTUS

AASA, along with our friends at the National Associations of Elementary and Secondary School Principals, filed an amicus brief in a pivotal Supreme Court case that will be heard later this month called Kennedy v Bremerton.

For more than seven years, Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, delivered prayers to students on the 50-yard line immediately after games. When the Bremerton School District learned what Kennedy was doing, it sought to accommodate his religious beliefs by offering him time and space to pray before and after games where students would not feel coerced to participate. But Kennedy refused, insisting instead that he must be allowed to continue having the midfield prayers with students at games. After he announced to the media his plan to continue having the prayers, community members stormed the field to join him after the game, knocking over some students in the process. The School District was thus left with no choice but to place him on paid administrative leave. And instead of reapplying to be a coach the next year, Kennedy sued the School District in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Kennedy lost at the district and appellate levels and the case is being heard in a few weeks by the Supreme Court, which surprised many by taking up the case.

The decision to hear the case has led many to speculate that the Court will side with the Kennedy, which would open the door to numerous first amendment issues for district leaders relating to when prayer is and is not acceptable by a school employee and how to draw a line that protects the employee’s religious freedom but protects students from religious coercion and proselytizing. As soon as the case is argued, we will provide an update as well as when a decision is made.




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