Second Federal Coronavirus Emergency Response Bill Becomes Law
Following House action last week, the Senate passed, and President Trump signed a second emergency bill designed to help states and localities respond to COVID-19. The second measure provides:
- Nutrition policy flexibility and additional funding to help states and localities administer federal food assistance programs, including programs focused on low income students;
- Healthcare worker protections;
- Emergency paid leave provisions; and
- Emergency unemployment insurance provisions.
Senate and House leaders are racing to negotiate a massive third emergency response bill. The negotiations include discussions about granting Secretary DeVos sweeping waiver authority covering the full breadth of education law, except for civil rights requirements. If approved, the waiver authority would initially cover the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. The proposal also includes a pathway for the Secretary of Education to seek additional waiver authority from Congress over the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. She must submit a report with recommendations on possible additional waivers for IDEA within thirty days of passage. The House delayed plans to return to Washington, D.C. until the third stimulus package is ready for a vote to limit the time Members of Congress gathered closely together. NSBA will continue to closely monitor the process and will share information about any provisions that Congress approves that are important to school district leaders and their staff and students.
MSBA and NSBA Urges Congress to Take More Steps to Help School Districts During the Pandemic
Last week, NSBA sent a letter to Capitol Hill urging legislators to take immediate action to help school districts serve their students during COVID-19 related school closures. NSBA urged the Senate and House to provide resources to help school districts connect virtually to their displaced students; provide greater resources and flexibility to meet ESSA, IDEA, and other requirements; provide relief from grant requirements that might not be met because of school closures; and provide additional funding for homeless students and more. NSBA’s advocacy team is talking with offices on both sides of the Capitol about these recommendations and urging their inclusion in future emergency bills approved by Congress.
FCC Waives E-rate Gift Rules to Promote Collaborative Responses to COVID-19
This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waived the E-Rate programs gift rules until September 30, 2020. The waiver is designed to make it easier for broadband providers to support online learning for students displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary regulatory change will allow E-Rate program participants to “solicit and accept, improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning during the coronavirus outbreak.” While this is a helpful development and NSBA supports such efforts, much more assistance is needed to combat this problem. NSBA is continuing its efforts working with the Future Ready School initiative and other organizations on a grassroots advocacy campaignfocused on urging the FCC to use its emergency authority to help more students acquire broadband access at home so that they can continue their learning during this crisis. The grassroots letter targeted to the FCC has 6,645 signers as of Friday evening. The deadline for signing is March 24, 2020.
USDA Announces Public-Private Partnership for Serving Meals to Rural Students
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcedan important public-private nutrition partnership in response to COVID-19. According to USDA, the partnership will help deliver nearly one million meals to students in rural schools that have closed due to COVID-19. Agriculture Secretary Perdue said, “Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food. This whole of America approach to tackling the coronavirus leverages private sector ingenuity with the exact same federal financing as the Summer Food Service Program. USDA has already taken swift action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closures, and we continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across our programs.”
USDA Extends Application Deadline for School and Summer Meal Reforms
The USDA has extendedthe comment period on its proposed school and summer meal reforms. USDA is providing additional time to ensure those who wish to provide input do not miss out on the opportunity while dealing with the impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Comments are now due on April 22 (a 30-day extension from the original deadline). NSBA urges interested school districts to comment in this proceeding.
U.S. Department of Education Publishes COVID-19 Webinar and Fact Sheet
This week, the Department of Education releaseda webinar and fact sheet with regard to protecting student civil rights to ensure web accessibility for students with disabilities as many schools utilize online learning during the COVID-19 response. We expect the Department of Education to publish additional resources and guidance in the coming weeks and NSBA will share additional materials as they become available.
Department of Education released Draft ESSA Updates to Title I Part A
The U.S. Department of Education released a draft of “Within-District Allocations Under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as Amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act.” This document seeks to combine information within-district Title I, Part A allocations into one document to make the information easier for States and LEAs to access and use. The Department will accept comments on this document through April 10, 2020. The material is available here, and substantive comments about the content of the draft can be sent to OESE.Feedback@ed.gov.
Discretionary Grant Update to Ready to Learn Programming
The U.S. Department of Education invited applications for the “Ready to Learn Programming”competition. Ready to Learn Programming promotes “school readiness through the development and dissemination of accessible instructional programming for preschool and elementary school children and their families.” The initiative uses television and other mass media consumer technologies to reach children in low-income homes that may lack educationally rich learning opportunities. For fiscal year 2020, the estimated available funds total $28,750,000, contingent upon the availability of the funds. Applications are due by May 15, 2020, and further information is available here.