Last week, House Democratic leadership introduced the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521) — legislation intended to increase the nation’s global competitiveness by making targeted investments in the nation’s technology, research, and manufacturing capacity among other efforts. Of interest to the K-12 community, the proposal would create several new competitive grant programs aimed at expanded student access to STEM and computer science courses. The legislation also includes the House’s proposal to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) which, if enacted, would provide significant new resources for pre- and youth-apprenticeship programs typically aimed at high school students.
Throughout the week, lawmakers offered amendments to this legislation and debated various aspects of the proposal. Earlier today, the full House chamber passed this legislation by a margin of 222-210. The passage of H.R. 4521 will tee up conference negotiations between the House and the Senate, allowing lawmakers to reconcile the differences between this legislation and a narrower version passed by the Senate last year. A factsheet for the House bill can be found here and section-by-section summary can be accessed here.
USDA adopts Final Rules for milk, whole grains, and sodium
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) adopted a Final Rule that imposes slightly stricter limits on sodium, requires more whole grain-rich items to be served as part of school meal programs and allows schools to continue serving 1 percent flavored milk. This new regulation reverses a less rigorous set of school lunch requirements adopted by the previous administration. The rule is set to go into effect July 1, 2022.
USED releases new ARP guidance to address teacher and staff shortages
On Monday, January 31, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released new guidance resources to state and local K-12 stakeholders aimed at helping school districts leverage federal pandemic aid to address critical teacher and staff shortages. Nearly every community in the country is facing shortages of qualified teachers and staff and these are felt even more acutely within harder-to-fill positions such as special education and paraprofessionals. The Department’s new guidance outlines ways schools, districts, and states can make use of federal pandemic aid funding-made available via the American Rescue Plan- to address these shortages. These new resources can be accessed here and here. In addition, this week the Department also launched a new peer-to-peer learning network, encouraging recipients of the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to share innovative use cases and best practices for using these resources. The new tool can be found here.
OCTAE hosts equity in career-connected education summit
On Wednesday, February 1, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted a summit focused on efforts to advance equity within Career and Technical Education (CTE). The convening was part of the Department and OCTAE’s ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Executive Order 13985, which seeks to advance racial equity and provide support to underserved communities through federal efforts and initiatives. The event also coincided with the beginning of “CTE Month” which lasts throughout February. Secretary Cardona provided opening remarks as part of the summit saying, in part, that access to “high-quality CTE is life-changing” for students. More on the event can be found here.