Delivered via email: March 6, 2020
FISCAL YEAR 2021 (FY21) APPROPRIATIONS
The President released his FY21 budget proposal to Congress on February 10. Some of the main points of interest regarding education are:
- A $5.6 billion cut (18% reduction) for the U.S. Department of Education (USDE)
- Block-granting 29 programs, including Title I
- A $100 million increase over FY20 enacted levels for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- A $5 billion federal tax credit program (Education Freedom Scholarships) to fund scholarships for one million students to attend private schools
- An overall cut of $1.9 trillion in spending to non-defense discretionary programs, including a 5% cut in FY21 and reductions of 2% per year thereafter
- Elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program which school districts use to attract and retain teachers
- A $1 trillion “direct federal investment” to support major infrastructure, most of which he directs towards transportation
It is not anticipated many of these ideas will be supported by either the House or Senate, which is charged with drafting the actual language of any budget. The next step in the budget process is for representatives from the USDE to present their budget to each chamber’s appropriation committees, and then for those committee members to decide what their priorities are.
In response to growing concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the globe, and potential implications for spread of the virus within the United States, the USDE announced a Coronavirus task force, to be led by Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais. The task force is designed to coordinate the Department’s response to any spread of the virus in U.S. schools. Information on the USDE’s efforts is available on their website
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has also put together information on the coronavirus. The webpage
contains information to assist school board members in preparing for the coronavirus and includes an NSBA guide that can help school districts with their preparedness efforts. The guide, “COVID-2019: Preparing for Widespread Illness in Your School Community: A Legal Guide for School Leaders,” features prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery actions; and was developed in conjunction with the National Association of School Nurses.
has released guidance for schools.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) also included information on the coronavirus in ISBE’s Weekly Message on March 3
IASB has posted helpful information
from IASB PRESS Policy Services.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC) SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY
The FCC recently invited public comment on aspects of the agency’s Net Neutrality decision, which was overturned by a recent court decision. In particular, the court decision said the agency must consider how the FCC’s decision affects public safety, lifeline service, and broadband infrastructure. The rulemaking provides an opportunity for school districts to urge the FCC to provide protections to ensure that schools and students are not harmed by carrier decisions to block websites, “throttle” services, and preference their own or their partners’ online content. Public comments must be submitted on or before March 30, 2020. Further information is available in this document
USDE ESTABLISHES SCHOOL SAFETY CLEARINGHOUSE
The USDE has launched a new School Safety Clearinghouse website, SchoolSafety.gov
. The clearinghouse is designed to serve as a “one-stop-shop of resources for K-12 administrators, educators, parents, and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security, and support in schools.” In conjunction with the announcement, Secretary Devos said, “[a]ll students deserve a safe learning environment, and the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse is an essential resource for information and best practices…because every school community has its own unique needs, SchoolSafety.gov equips decision makers with resources for developing, customizing, and implementing actionable school safety plans.” The site includes a School Safety Readiness Tool, an assessment that assists users in evaluating their respective school’s safety posture across 10 foundational elements of school safety.
USDE INVITES COMMENT ON PROPOSED SEXUAL MISCONDUCT STUDY
Section 8546 of the Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to have laws, regulations, or policies in place that prohibit all state education agencies, districts, schools, or any school employee, contractor, or agent from “assisting an individual in obtaining new employment if they know, or have probable cause to believe, that the individual has engaged in sexual misconduct with a student or minor in violation of the law.” The USDE has proposed to examine the development and implementation of such laws and policies, including evaluating the challenges states are having in implementing the requirements of Section 8546. The Federal Register notice
announcing the study indicates that it is not intended to determine compliance with this particular section of ESSA, rather it will be used to inform the Department in technical assistance efforts to states. The Department is accepting comments about the study until March 11, 2020.
USDE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION PERSONNEL GRANTS
The USDE is accepting grant applications for the following IDEA competitive grant: “Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Leadership Development Programs: Increasing the Capacity of Leaders to Improve Systems Serving Children with Disabilities
.” This discretionary grant focuses on personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children and youth with disabilities, and to ensure those personnel have the skills and knowledge to be successful serving those children. The estimated available funds for the competition are $1,600,000. Applications are due by April 13, 2020.
U.S. AIR FORCE TO EVALUATE SCHOOL DISTRICTS
The U.S. Air Force released information recently stating they plan to “evaluate public school districts’ educational aspects and ability to support transferring military children in prekindergarten through 12 grade near Air Force installations.” IASB will continue to monitor this development and will share additional information as it becomes available.
RURAL EDUCATION ACHIEVEMENT PROGRAM (REAP) PROPOSED CHANGES
The USDE recently made an administrative change to the eligibility requirements for the REAP program that could have resulted in a loss of funding for approximately 800 rural school districts. The Department made this administrative change and provided a notice only to chief state school officers. IASB was working with ISBE to determine if any Illinois school districts would be affected. When that information was received, due to strong bipartisan opposition to the change, the USDE reversed the decision to change eligibility requirements.
USDE ANNOUNCES TITLE IX ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE
The Department of Education announced a new Title IX enforcement initiative
, led by the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), to combat the rise of sexual assault in K-12 public schools. The Department said, the “initiative will enhance OCR's enforcement of Title IX in both elementary and secondary public schools and strengthen the ability of schools to respond to all incidents of sexual harassment and assault."
USDE CREATES GUIDANCE DOCUMENT PORTAL
The USDE announced the creation of a new guidance portal
aimed at making it “easy for the public and other stakeholders to locate the Department's guidance documents.” Previously, guidance materials were only accessible through the individual webpages of the various offices of the Department.
PUBLIC OPINION POLL
The National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC) commissioned a public opinion poll on education. The general results show that the public is supportive of public education. The poll results are available on the NSBAC website