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Federal Legislative Report 116-04

Delivered via email: July 18, 2019

E-RATE

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that could lead to the adoption of an aggregate cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF) and a combined program level cap for the E-Rate and Rural Health Care programs. These administrative changes could force E-Rate and the three other USF programs to compete with each other for annual funding. This could not only diminish E-Rate funding, but also disrupt cooperation among USF stakeholders working to address broadband gaps across the country. E-Rate is a crucial program in aiding schools to connect to high-speed broadband that is important for learning in today’s modern world.

Comments to the FCC for the NPRM are due on July 29, 2019, and reply comments are due on August 26, 2019. Click here for more detailed information about E-Rate, and here for a simple “how to” instruction one-pager on the process for submitting comments to the FCC, both documents were prepared by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

NSBA also worked with a coalition to secure House language in the FCC’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) appropriation that would prevent the agency from completing the rulemaking. It is unknown if the Senate will adopt the same language.

Additional FCC Action: The FCC also released a new and additional NPRM last week concerning E-Rate, separate from the one calling for an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund. This NPRM seeks comments on how to continue the “category two” funding approach adopted in earlier reforms when E-Rate was expanded and modernized. The date for comments and reply comments has not been determined at this time.

FISCAL YEAR 2020 (FY20) APPROPRIATIONS

In late June, the House passed (226-203) a “minibus” spending package that includes substantial funding increases for education, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) major programs, see more information in the last report (FLR 116-03). The Senate appropriations process has remained stalled. Senate Republican leaders had indicated a desire to agree on overall spending levels with the White House before beginning the appropriations process.

Last week, however, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the U.S. may hit the debt ceiling as early as the week of September 9, only a couple of days after the House and Senate return from August recess. That announcement is anticipated to put significant pressure on negotiators to come to an agreement so something can be passed prior to the August recess.

HOUSE PASSES DACA BILL

At the beginning of June, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) by a vote of 237-187-9. H.R. 6 is a comprehensive immigration bill that includes the provisions in H.R. 2820, the Dream Act of 2019, which was reported on in last Federal Legislative Report (FLR 116-03).

The American Dream and Promise Act would establish a “special procedure for applicants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” and states that the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security “shall establish a streamlined procedure for aliens who have been granted DACA and who meet the requirements for renewal (under the terms of the program in effect on January 1, 2017) to apply for cancellation of removal and adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis …”

Although the Administration implemented an executive order that terminated DACA in September 2017, the legality of the order was challenged in several federal courts, resulting in two nationwide injunctions staying the order pending the outcome of litigation, and two decisions by the U.S. Courts of Appeals finding the order invalid. The Administration must continue to process renewal applications of eligible individuals until the courts reach a conclusion in the matter. In January, the Supreme Court rejected the Administration’s request to expedite a review of three pending DACA cases. On May 24, the Administration again asked the High Court to expedite review of the pending cases, now numbering four.

USDE GUIDANCE ON TITLE I SUPPLEMENT NOT SUPPLANT

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a non-regulatory informational document for Supplement Not Supplant under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The document is designed to help states and school districts understand the intent of Title I’s supplement not supplant requirement and how to comply with it. The USDE also released a summary response to the comments that were submitted as part of the public comment period for the draft informational document.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IDEA RULE

The USDE has told states that they must comply with an Obama Administration calculation of significant disproportionality; school districts that have high rates of students from certain demographic groups with disabilities who are placed in restrictive settings or subject to disciplinary measures. States have historically used different methods to calculate significant disproportionality and are now struggling to comply with the USDE’s directive quickly, which includes this school year.

The rule, which would create one national calculation for significant disproportionality, was finalized by the Obama Administration in 2016, but the Trump Administration had attempted to delay implementation. However, a challenge to the delay in court was upheld, and a judge determined that the rule should be implemented immediately. The USDE has filed an appeal to the ruling, but in the meantime is complying with the court’s decision.

GRANT OPPORTUNITIES

  • Trauma Recovery Demonstration Grant Program – These competitive grants seek to support “model programs that enable a student from a low-income family who has experienced trauma that negatively affects the student’s educational experience to access the trauma-specific mental-health services from the provider that best meets the student’s needs.” The estimated funds available for this program total $5,000,000. Applications for this grant program are available on August 14, 2019 and further information is available here .
  • Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities - Model Demonstration Projects for Early Identification of Students with Dyslexia in Elementary School – The purpose of this grant program is to support professionals to collaborate with parents and establish high expectations for students with, or at risk for, dyslexia. The estimated available funds for this program total $1,200,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by August 5, 2019 and further information is available here .
  • Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program – The grants support innovative partnerships that will train school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools and local education agencies (LEAs). The goal is to expand the number of high-quality, trained providers in schools served by high-need LEAs. The estimated available funds for this program total $15,000,000 and are contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by August 5, 2019 and further information is available here .
  • Education Research and Special Education Research Grant Programs –The Institute of Education Sciences seeks to expand knowledge and understanding of: (1) Developmental and school readiness outcomes for infants and toddlers with or at risk for a disability; (2) Education outcomes for all learners from early childhood education through postsecondary and adult education; and (3) Employment and wage outcomes when relevant. The Institute will conduct eight research competitions in fiscal year 2020 through two of its centers: the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research. These competitions will focus on: education research, education research training, education research and development centers, statistical and research methodology in education, systematic replication in education, special education research, special education research training, and systematic replication in special education. Further information, including when each of the applications are due, is available here .  
  • School Climate Transformation Grant Program – School districts may seek funding for implementing a multi-tiered system of support for improving school climate. The USDE will prioritize support for certain communities that will benefit from implementation of this system, including rural communities, Tribal communities, and LEAs that are in Qualified Opportunity Zones. This discretionary competitive grant program has a total of $40,000,000 in estimated available funds, contingent upon the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by July 22, 2019, and further information is available here with an updated notice available here.
  • Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities,   Doctoral Training Consortia Associated with High-Intensity Needs – The program seeks to: “help address State-identified needs for personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children, including infants and toddlers, with disabilities; and ensure that those personnel have the necessary skills and knowledge, derived from practices that have been determined through scientifically based research and experience, to be successful in serving those children.” The estimated available funds for this competitive grant program total $3,900,000. Applications are due July 29, 2019, and further information is available here.

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