Delivered via email: March 30, 2020
STIMULUS IIIThe third stimulus package (H.R. 748, CARES Act), passed on Friday, March 27, to address the still unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and included many provisions for education. The $2 trillion CARES Act includes a $30.750 billion direct investment in education, including $3 billion to be allocated to governors and used at their discretion to address the emergency, $13.5 billion for K-12 education, and $14.25 billion for postsecondary institutions. The bill also makes sizable investments in childcare, nutrition, homeless youth, and more. It is also providing new waiver authority to the Secretary of Education, including for assessment and accountability waivers for states and other ESSA waivers for states and school districts; but specifically does not include waiver authority for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provisions.
School districts will be able to use their share of the $13.5 billion K-12 allocation – which will be allocated based on the proportion of Title I funding for the most recent fiscal year – for any purposes authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), IDEA, Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE), and other specified uses. Districts especially hard hit by the emergency should also contact the governor about securing potential additional funding out of the governor’s share of the $3 billion in flexible funding.
The legislation also did not include additional funding for the E-Rate program for schools to expand broadband. A detailed review of all three stimulus packages is available in a document developed by the National School Boards Association.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the rules on Thursday, March 26, to allow parents to pick up school meals without children present. The new waiver also allows states to waive meal pattern requirements to let local operators prepare foods with the supplies they have available. Additionally, it delays administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provision to relax burdens on schools closed by the pandemic.
NEW USDA FLEXIBILITY
USDE IDEA GUIDANCEThe USDE released guidance on Saturday, March 21, from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) concerning distance learning and IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A fourth stimulus package is expected, and as neither chamber nor party could agree on flexibilities for school districts in the previous stimulus packages regarding IDEA, there is an opportunity to advocate for flexibilities needed now. Please send any issues your district may be having with timeline or service provisions of IDEA to Susan Hilton, director of Governmental Relations, at email@example.com by Friday, April 3.
E-RATE GIFT RULES WAIVERThe week of March 17, 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 COVID-19 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.”
GRANT OPPORTUNITYThe USDE 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. Further information is available on the Federal Register website.
NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION (NSBA)
NSBA hosted a webinar a few weeks ago on cybersecurity and best practices for school districts to use to protect themselves. It was recorded and is available. It is necessary to enter your name and register for the webinar to play. One notable piece of information is that the Department of Homeland Security provides free cybersecurity audits to school districts. Information on how to access this service has been requested and will be reported once received.
Several weeks ago, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a bipartisan bill called the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act (H.R. 4217) to “make grants to states to address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to information systems of state, local, Tribal, or territorial governments, and for other purposes.” This would be good news except for funds to be available the legislation would also have to pass the full House, pass the Senate, be signed by the President, and funded. It is positive, however, that this issue is being discussed and that concern for this issue appears to be bipartisan.
CONGRESS ADJOURNING FOR THREE WEEKSThe Senate is adjourned until April 20. It is expected that the House will announce a similar schedule soon.
This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.