Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Congressional Update

Congress Remains Working at a Distance, Stalled on Additional Emergency Relief

Congress announced this week that due to COVID-19, they will not return to their offices in Washington, D.C. until at least May 4, unless an emergency vote is needed. Meanwhile, Senate and House leaders remain in a standoff over how to proceed with the next phase of emergency funding required to address the pandemic and related economic downturn. Congressional leaders are focused presently on the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funding this week. Republicans currently only want to provide additional funding for the PPP, but Democrats are also seeking additional funding for hospitals. We are continuing to urge Congress to provide additional funding for K-12 education to offset expected local revenue losses, along with dedicated funding to connect students who lack access to broadband.

Administration Update

Department of Education Publishes Application for Governor’s Relief Fund

The CARES Act provided $30 billion in education relief funds, including $3 billion for governors to provide supplemental funding for school districts and other significantly impacted education entities. Earlier this week, the Department of Education announcedthe process for releasing the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). The GEER is “designed to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations”. Governors must complete a certification before the funding will be released to each state based on formulas tied to each state’s population. The program’s statutory language tasks State Education Agencies to identify the most significantly impacted school districts, so hard hit districts should be in touch with their chief state school officer, as well as the governor, about receiving a portion of this funding. Separately, the Department said it will address the $13.5 billion in CARES Act funding for K-12 schools “in the coming days”.

Department of Education Allows CTE Programs to Donate Protective Gear 

Earlier this week, the Department of Education published guidancethat makes clear that Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) funded equipment may be donated to health providers to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the new guidance said CTE programs may “donate or loan personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies purchased with federal funds to public health agencies, private nonprofit hospitals, and other licensed health providers to support the nationwide coronavirus response effort.” Separately, the Department of Education released a second round of frequently asked questionsregarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of CTE programs and services under the Carl. D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. These questions focus on local plan requirements, consultation, and performance data submissions.

District Court Directs Agriculture Department to Reconsider Nutrition Rule Changes

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland struck down the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Final Rulethat eliminated and delayed stricter nutrition standards for school meals, which were established under the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act. The Rule was remanded to USDA for further proceedings because the rulemaking lead to the changes in regulations regarding sodium and whole grain targets. The federal court said, “[b]ecause the Interim Final Rule ‘gave no indication that the agency was considering a different approach [from delaying compliance with Sodium Target 1 or offering a hardship exemption to the whole grain requirement], and the final rule revealed that the agency had completely changed its position,’ the Interim Final Notice did not provide sufficient notice of the Final Rule.”

Department of Education Invites Public Comment on Professional Development Priority

Secretary DeVos proposeda new funding priority that would enable teachers to tailor their professional development.  Priorities are used by the Department of Education to emphasize specific policy areas within broader competitive grant programs. Thus, this priority, if approved, could appear in range of future federal grant notices. Specifically, the Department said,  “Under the proposal, teachers would be empowered, through stipends or vouchers, to select and access professional development courses and opportunities that are relevant to their personal needs or career goals instead of having one-size-fits all programming dictated” by state or local education agencies.  The Federal Register notice can be found here. Comments must be submitted by May 13, 2020.

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