USED Issues Guidance on Participation of Religious Organizations in Federal Education Grants

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USED Issues Guidance on Participation of Religious Organizations in Federal Education Grants

On August 7, Secretary DeVos released new guidance suggesting state and local governments must consider religious and nonreligious organizations equally when reviewing applications for subgrants of federal education funding programs. The guidance also creates a federal process for individuals and organizations to file discrimination complaints if they feel they have missed out on education benefits because of religious affiliation. This move by USED is one of the first to cite the recent Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue as basis for potentially extending public education benefits to religious schools. (The guidance document is here; a Department press release is here; read EdWeek coverage here.)

 

Understanding District Costs in a Remote-Learning School Year

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Understanding District Costs in a Remote-Learning School Year

Leaders on Capitol Hill, as well as leaders in every state capital, are trying to determine what additional funding districts need for the school year. One of the major questions continues to be why districts need additional resources if school buildings are not physically re-opening and so much of the original funding that was requested was for PPE/face shields, cleaning supplies and equipment, extra custodial workers, signage, plexiglass barriers and other expenses related to offering in-person instruction to students. 
 
Utilizing our membership on the COVID Reopening Task Force as well as our Governing and Executive Committee members, AASA sought to share examples of how districts are still expecting dramatic increases in spending even as they plan to temporarily close school buildings to students and staff in the fall. 
 
We found the two most costly expenses of educating students in a virtual environment are related to technology and staffing. We hope that the examples below illustrate the critical need for immediate school district funding at the federal and state level.
 
Technology Costs:
 
Districts are spending a substantial amount of money on technology to adequately prepare for remote learning. Many are hiring additional tech specialist who can assist teachers and other educators as well as students during the school day with remote learning. In addition to increasing school districts’ technology staff and personnel, AASA members anticipate having to perform more maintenance on computers and technology to upgrade and update software, platforms and other devices for both students and staff.
 
Districts are also spending more on professional development and training for staff like paraeducators, who previously did not need devices or professional development on device use. 
 
Some districts are training parents who need assistance in supporting their children at home during periods of remote learning. 
 
Finally, every district is subsidizing hot spots or paying for internet at a student’s home if they cannot afford it. 
 
Staffing Costs:
 
Some AASA members are hiring the same number of teachers regardless of the number of students who are attending virtually or in-person. In addition, districts are investing in virtual curriculum that students and educators can use for the upcoming school year. These districts are also paying for costs associated with the need to train our educators on how to use the new technology and online platforms. 
 
Others are hiring additional teachers to ensure that when schools physically re-open they do not have educators delivering simultaneous instruction to in-person and virtual students. Others are also hiring teacher-facilitators to assist with hybrid learning, so students can receive help outside the virtual school-day including evenings. 
 
Due to teacher shortages, few AASA members have a substantial number of teachers who are going to be paid overtime due to teaching multiple classes online and in-person.
 
Many school leaders indicated that they cannot furlough any staff due to contracts or shortages. For example, bus drivers must be kept on payroll because there is already a shortage of these professionals and when districts resume on-site instruction there would not be enough time to advertise, interview, select, train and certify drivers. There are also classified employee contracts that  are year-long and already in place, which means we still have to pay bus drivers, bus monitors, bus managers, bus technicians as well as food service staff, custodial staff, secretaries, instructional aides, across the district even when our schools are physically closed. 
 
If you are an AASA member and have additional thoughts and feedback on the expenses you are incurring as a result of providing virtual instruction please email Sasha Pudelski at spudelski@aasa.org so we can include your feedback in this post.