September 6, 2016(1)


Back to School Advocacy Wrap Up: Of Appropriations, Epi Pens, ESSA Regulations and Secure Rural Schools

Recess is over, for the kids and the adults, and that means Congress is back in town and back to session. In an effort to provide a one-stop succinct overview of what happened during recess, this blog post is a wrap up of the topics AASA advocacy was monitoring this summer. You can access an related preview in the first part of our ‘Back to School’ editions of Legislative Corps, AASA’s weekly advocacy update here. (And email Leslie Finnan to subscribe to the newsletter:

Appropriations: We provided a one pager with talking points as it relates to AASA’s legislative priorities for federal funding in fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which starts October 1. FY17 dollars will be in schools for the 2017-18 school year, the first year of ESSA implementation. Congress will not complete its appropriations work on time. When they are unable to complete the appropriations process (consideration and adoption of the 12 stand alone appropriations bills that collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), they can either pass short term funding solution (called a continuing resolution, or CR) or there is a shutdown. There will NOT be a shutdown this year (it’s a presidential election year!), so we are looking at a CR scenario.

Time wise, the House could vote on an initial version of a CR as early as the week of September 19, giving the Senate one week to work through the details before adjourning for another recess. How this CR process plays out is a factor of length, internal republican politics, and riders:

  • Length: Will it be a short term CR that kicks into December, post-election but before the new administration? Will it be six months, into the new administration? Or will they pass a long-term continuing resolution, freezing funding for FY17? (Hint: the long-term CR is less likely. It removes discretion over cuts and increases, and from an education point of view, would be concerning both for funding levels AND ESSA construct. FY16 was allocated for NCLB program construct; FY17 is an ESSA year, and the programs and funding are structured differently).
  • Internal Republican Politics: Will Speaker Ryan be able to harness his caucus for a unifying vote? Will the House Freedom Caucus hold the line on its budget priority (a six month CR), and in doing so, play nicely with House Leadership or drive a wedge and force Speaker Ryan to work with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Dems to avoid a shutdown? In terms of what to expect for Democratic funding priorities within this negotiation, look for anti-Zika money, gun violence, lead poisoning, and support for opioid abuse programs. 
  • Riders: Policy riders are a hiccup in appropriations. It blends two usually distinct entities: appropriations language (paying for a program) and authorizing language (the policy behind a program). Policy riders end up on appropriations bills when Congress needs to move a policy that they can’t move through normal order. It also is increasingly used when a policy may not move on its own, but doesn’t warrant enough opposition to force an overall ‘no vote’ on a larger appropriations bill (which would shut down the government). AASA typically opposes policy riders and supports clean appropriations bills.

Epinephrine Pens: At the end of August, the exponential rise in the cost of epinephrine pens (epi pens) garnered a lot of media and Congressional attention. In a nutshell, the company that owns the brand name medicine within Epi Pen (Mylan) raised the price of the pens by more than 400 percent since 2007. EpiPen is a $1 billion business per year for Mylan. Mylan controls about 98% of the epi pen market. The CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). There was no action on Capitol Hill related to policy that would impact schools, but it did bring up the 2013 federal policy that incentivizes states to have policies that require schools to stock epi pens and train staff in the administration of Epi Pens. There is not an effort to repeal that provision, but AASA did have a lot of outreach to press and the hill as they followed up on our earlier opposition to the proposal, citing both policy and cost implications. Read our related AASA blog post from 2013. In a quick outreach to our advocacy network, we received nearly 100 detailed responses outlining what your states and districts currently do related to epi pens, including stocking, training, and cost. Thank you to everyone who responded. Want to join the AASA advocacy network ? Email Noelle Ellerson ( 

ESSA Regulations: USED is knee-deep in its efforts to issue guidance, regulations and technical assistance to support ESSA implementation at the state and local level. You can check out the AASA ESSA Resources Library for our set of support materials, including links to all of the related ESSA material from USED. 

  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Accountability
  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Assessment forthcoming
  • Still to come: AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations for Supplement/Supplant

USED Regulations and Guidance: The Department has been on a roll when it comes to releasing guidance and regulations for a number of federal programs. The list below captures those that have been released since July 15:

Forest Counties: A bulk of time on the hill in August was dedicated to maintaining awareness of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Program (Forest Counties). This program provides federal funding to those counties who have a large presence of federal land (national parks or forests). As a result of the federally managed land which is not subject to property taxes, local counties and schools receive funding through this program in recognition of the federal policy that hinders local ability to generate funds for local county and school needs. You can check out our August Call to Action on the program, including our one-pager. We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded 




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