September 27, 2019
Senate Passes Spending Bill to Extend Federal Funding
Facing a government shut down on October 1, this week the Senate passed (82-15) a stopgap spending bill (H.R.4378) to continue funding federal programs at fiscal year 2019 levels, until November 21. Congress has not yet completed work on the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2020 budget, but this step will ensure, assuming the president signs the bill, that federal education programs will remain funded even as federal leaders continue negotiating a final long-term spending package. As we reported last week, there are significant differences between how the House and Senate propose to address MSBA’s fiscal year 2020 priorities, including for ESSA Title I, ESSA Title II, and the IDEA State Grants program. The House bill is significantly better for school districts and NSBA along with MSBA plans to urge Senators to move close to the House adopted amounts.
Senator Alexander Proposes Scaled-Back Higher Education Reauthorization Plan
With bipartisan higher education policy negotiations dragging, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) proposed a scaled-back plan for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Alexander’s plan, titled The Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019, focuses on FAFSA simplification and other financial aid streamlining, expanding Pell Grants for short-term training programs and providing aid to incarcerated students. He is also reportedly planning to include the College Transparency Act, which would improve higher education data use. The proposal does not include the HEA Title II educator recruitment, preparation, and retention provisions fought for by MSBA, NSBA and our national K-12 association partners, but it would at least preserve the existing HEA Title II programs. Chairman Alexander’s proposal is not expected to move through the Senate, given Democratic opposition to considering an HEA bill that does not comprehensively update the federal higher education law.
Federal Agencies Release School Emergency Operations Guidance
The Departments of Education, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services released a guide titled “The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans”. The departments created the guide in response to a recommendation in the Federal Commission on School Safety’s final report for federal leaders to provide resources to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school plans and community partnerships. NSBA participated extensively in the Commission’s proceedings, with a focus on improving the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’s emergency data sharing provision, and we intend to closely review this new guidance from the school district perspective.