Federal Legislative Report 116-13

Deliverd via email: May 4, 2020


In the third stimulus package passed March 27, the CARES Act, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was given the authority to examine federal education laws and determine where she felt other waivers were needed to help states and school districts navigate the pandemic. IASB advocated for specific flexibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

Last week, Secretary DeVos submitted her report to Congress and disappointingly stated she did not recommend that Congress pass any additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements under IDEA.  She did recommend additional waiver authority from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s provisions on unexpended funds and professional development, and from certain provisions of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act. The request seeks only two waivers from IDEA; allowing a delay of Part B initial evaluations and a continuation of Part C services until that time, and a waiver from the service or repayment obligations from IDEA personnel preparation grants if a recipient’s employment was interrupted because of the health crisis.


As reported in the last Federal Legislative Report (116-12), Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) is leading an effort in the House to make state and local governments eligible for the payroll tax credits for emergency paid sick and family leave included in the second stimulus package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Last week, Senator Durbin’s office reached out to IASB to let us know he is introducing companion legislation in the Senate, and leading the effort there to make that change. Please reach out to our senators and your congressmen and let them know you support of these efforts.


As reported in the last Federal Legislative Report (116-12), the House recently introduced H.R. 6563, which would set $2 billion additional dollars for E-Rate that could be used to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, and internet-connected devices. Last week, some senators announced they would introduce companion legislation that would request $4 billion for E-Rate with the same provisions. The senators noted several developments that lead them to decide more funding was needed. Specifically, the original request in the House did not contemplate what has now turned into a much longer absence from school buildings and the now expected summer online learning that will take place in many places across the nation. Additionally, it still remains unclear what will happen next fall in terms of scheduling and possible future social distancing if new outbreaks emerge. Please reach out to our senators and your congressmen and let them know you support these efforts.


Last week, Secretary DeVos announced more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds that states can use to “create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.” This grant will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund authorized under the CARES Act; $180 million will be used for the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant. The Rethink K-12 Schools Models Grant is designed to open new, innovative ways for students to access education and will allow for students’ needs to be met. State education agencies can apply for funds in one of three categories:
  • Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning.
  • Statewide virtual learning and course access programs so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting.
  • New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives.


The Senate is scheduled to return on Monday, May 4. The House is not scheduled to return to Washington, D.C. until the week of May 11. However, despite the differing schedules, both bodies are continuing to work on their legislative priorities.
This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.