AASA COVID Priorities and YOU: Engage on IDEA, E-Rate, Equitable Services and More

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AASA COVID Priorities and YOU: Engage on IDEA, E-Rate, Equitable Services and More

As Congress continues to negotiate the details of the next COVID package—one that could include significant funding to support state and local governments, including school districts—it is important we keep the pressure on Congress to act and to help them understand what the needs are and the specific type of policy relief—funding and flexibility—that would be most helpful. In an effort to streamline your work on this, we have aggregated five areas of action into this one blog post. Collectively, they represent an opportunity for you to weigh in on our biggest COVID response priorities, including funding, support for E-Rate and remote learning, equitable services, IDEA flexibility and details related to reopening. Each of the five are bulleted below, and we welcome anything you can do to engage on as many as possible: one is as quick as signing your name to a group letter, another is a brief survey to inform our work on the hill, one is a fast cut-and-paste/fill-in-the-blank communication with the hill, and two are template letters that you can personalize.

Thank you in advance for your continued advocacy on these important issues, for the time and communication you have already completed, and for anything you may do from the list below. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, including contact information for your representatives and senators on the hill.

 

  • IDEA Flexibility: 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. 
  • E-Rate and Homework Gap Letter
    • 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.
  • Equitable Services
    • AASA is deeply concerned with USED’s flawed interpretation of the CARES Act’s equitable services requirements. We are calling on our members to weigh in with Congress to highlight how USED’s guidance undermines Congress’s goal of targeting CARES Act funds to high-poverty communities. Briefly, USED’s guidance advises local educational agencies to calculate the proportionate share for CARES Act equitable services based on overall enrollment rather than poverty rates. This significantly expands the share of funding available to private schools beyond what they would have gotten under the CARES Act’s plain language. A fuller summary of the current issue is available on the blog. We have created a quick and concise template you can use to let your members of Congress see how the flawed interpretation’s failure to calculate the private school share based on poverty results in a significant increase in private school allocation. All you need to complete the template email is your name, district name, and the percentage of your district’s FY19 (2019-20 school year) Title I and Title II set asides for equitable services. To submit your comments to Congress, please reach out to either your state association or Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org. 
  • AASA COVID Impact Survey
    • As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts specific to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AASA has released the second iteration of our nationwide survey, which will provide data that better illustrates the impact of COVID-19 in schools in terms of the effect of the pandemic itself and the resulting economic downturn. The data from this survey will be used to track how districts are responding to federal and state pressures to re-open schools and deliver equity-based services during the crisis. Moreover, the survey will help detail the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on our nation's public schools. Because of wide members engagement, AASA's last COVID-19 survey received more than 1,600 responses from 48 states and produced valuable data that has been integral in our advocacy efforts on IDEA, the homework gap, and the federal Coronavirus emergency relief legislative packages. You can access the survey here.
  • COVID Federal Funding Priorities Letter
    • You’ll recall that last month we coordinated a sign on letter for the seven local education groups (NEA AFT NSBA NASSP NAESP and the Great City Schools) outlining our funding priorities for the next COVID package. Given the level of engagement individual districts are demonstrating, and requests we have received to support superintendents, we have a draft template letter related to funding priorities for the next COVID-19 package for your use. You can use it for your district, or reach out to other districts in your state/region to get a group sign on, and send the letter to your Congressional delegation. As is always the case, the document is in word format and you can edit/personalize as you see fit for your work and association. 

 


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