Biden Budget Released Today

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Biden Budget Released Today

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

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

 

Other things to note:

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

How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

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How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

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ED ESSER-GEER Use Of Funds Guidance Is Out!

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

A few highlights to be aware of:

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

AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

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AASA-LCSC Requests More Flexibility re ARP Timelines

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

 

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

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2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference

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

Sessions include: 

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

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

AASA Priorities For CNR

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AASA Priorities For CNR

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

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

Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

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Use of Funds and Upcoming Deadlines for ARP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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

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

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

FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

(E-RATE) Permanent link

FCC to Launch Connectivity Fund Program

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

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

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

 

 

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

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

barberk@santarosa.k12.fl.us

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

marilyn.king@bsd7.org

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

patricia@schoolhouseconnection.org

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

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

Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

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Reinvesting and Rebounding: Where the Evidence Points for Accelerating Learning

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

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

 You can download the report by clicking here.

 

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