Federal Legislative Report 116-15

Delivered via email: June 8, 2020


Several school boards have recently adopted resolutions encouraging Congress to approve funds for school districts in the next stimulus package to help offset increased costs due to the pandemic and expected losses in state and local revenues due to the economic downturn.

Your district may wish to consider adopting a resolution as well. The following are possible points to include:
  • Investing in public education is as essential and valuable as investments in the nation's physical and digital infrastructure.
  • Public education is overwhelmingly funded from state and local revenues.
  • Due to the pandemic and economic downturns, districts, cities, and states face significant reductions in revenue, and can borrow far less easily than the federal government.
  • Federal funding to date has been disproportionately less for public entities than support for private-sector businesses — about six-tenths of a percent of the CARES Act.
  • Without federal action, there will be cuts to school funding that will impact children's lives and futures.
  • Federal funding is essential for education so student learning can continue to advance — especially for students who most rely on education as a ladder to opportunity.


As reported in the last Federal Legislative Report (116-14), in mid-May, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) published Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act guidance that took an expansive view of the law's equitable services requirements language. Under the Department's interpretation, school districts are required to use a portion of their K-12 Emergency Relief Funds to provide all private school students with equitable services, not just those students who are disadvantaged or at risk. After learning that some states planned to ignore the non-binding guidance, Secretary DeVos announced plans to adopt regulations forcing states and school districts to follow her interpretation of the law. Congressional leaders, including the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), publicly disagree with the Secretary's interpretation, but it is expected that the Department will publish proposed regulations for public comment later this month.


A letter, dated May 15, from the USDE Office of Civil Rights was made public on May 28, and states that allowing transgender girls to compete in girls' sports leagues is illegal, specifically a violation of Title IX, and schools allowing the practice could lose federal funding. The letter adds that any school policies allowing such "violates federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education for women."


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners published a letter to build public awareness of the FCC's Lifeline program. Like E-Rate, the Lifeline initiative is part of the federal Universal Service Fund. The program provides subsidies for low income households to connect to broadband. The letter highlights resources that community leaders, including school board members, can use to help qualified families learn about the program. School board members may wish to share these resources as a strategy for connecting students to the broadband services they need to participate in online learning.


The Illinois State Board of Education announced in a press release on June 3, "Illinois' plan for Career and Technical Education (CTE) is among the first in the nation to receive federal approval. The U.S. Department of Education signed off on the Illinois plan May 22 in its first round of approvals, which included six states. The Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Community College Board jointly developed the plan in collaboration with educators, students, and businesses. The plan raises the bar for CTE in Illinois and sets up students for success in the post-pandemic economy."


The application process is open for the "School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program." The program provides funding to increase the number of qualified mental health service providers available to students in districts with demonstrated need. Congress provided $10 million for the program, which aims to increase the number of counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other service providers. The USDE estimates that five awards will be given, at $2 million each. Applications are due by July 13, 2020.

This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.