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Federal Legislative Report 116-20

Delivered via email: September 22, 2020
 

FISCAL YEAR 2021 (FY21) APPROPRIATIONS

Congressional leaders from both Chambers, along with representatives from the Trump Administration, have signaled a plan to pass a “clean” CR, which means the legislation will not contain additional elements beyond simply extending current funding. Time is running out, though, with the end of the fiscal year just days away on September 30. Lawmakers must pass legislation, before this date, to avoid a lapse in funding and a shutdown of federal government operations. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have largely agreed, at least informally, to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid this scenario. Negotiations on this forthcoming legislation are taking place behind closed doors and primarily hinge on the length of the CR. Republicans have favored a CR lasting through December 18, while Democrats would like it to run through February 26 of next year.

On September 21, the House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced H.R. 8319, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act. The legislation would extend funding for the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies through December 11, 2020. House leaders have yet to schedule a day/time for floor consideration.
 

FOURTH STIMULUS PACKAGE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been working to craft a legislative proposal to address the ongoing pandemic that could garner the support of his caucus. Two weeks ago, the majority leader unveiled the Senate Republicans' formal pandemic proposal - a counteroffer in response to the House-passed HEROES Act in May, which totals over $3 trillion in emergency aid. The Republican's proposed relief package is considerably scaled back from previous proposals floated over the summer and aims to provide approximately $105 billion in education related aid, in addition to a slew of other relief measures totaling just over $500 billion, to address the ongoing pandemic. The proposal also contained provisions that would divert taxpayer funds to private education and away from public schools.

On September 10, the Senate failed to advance this legislation by a 52-47 margin vote. All Senate Republicans, except for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), voted in favor of this procedural motion, while all Senate Democrats opposed the move. This failed vote is yet another setback for pandemic relief negotiations in Congress that have been stalled since the summer. Given that Congressional leaders largely appear committed to passing a "clean" CR, and with the November elections quickly approaching, the likelihood of additional pandemic relief legislation, at least in the near term, is increasingly unlikely.
 

CARES ACT FUNDS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS UPDATE

On Friday, September 4, a U.S. District court in Washington, D.C., struck down the proposed interim final rule from the U.S Department of Education (USDE) that aimed to shift a greater share of CARES Act resources to non-public K-12 schools. The USDE has confirmed that, in light of this ruling, this proposed rule is no longer in effect.
 
For more information on this issue, see Federal Legislative Reports:  116-14, 116-15, 116-16, 116-17, and 116-19.
 

E-RATE FUNDING OPPORTUNITY

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC's) Wireline Bureau announced a second E-Rate application window for funding year 2020. Schools will be able to purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address higher than expected digital learning demand associated with instructional changes caused by the pandemic. Applicants may only seek support for on-campus category one Internet access and/or data transmission services. The second filing window for the Order runs now through October 16.


ESSA TITLE IV-A WAIVERS

On Thursday, September 17, USDE published a notice indicating that it plans to provide states waivers for various requirements of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (Title IV-A of ESSA). As part of USDE's response to the ongoing pandemic, these waivers would cover the current 2020-21 school year and would allow states to provide comparable flexibility for school districts related to the Title IV-A needs assessment, content-area spending requirements for the grant program, and allow for a greater share of these funds to be used for technology infrastructure.
 

PER-PUPIL EXPENDITURE DATA EXPLORER

On Wednesday, September 16, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) launched a new website that publishes how much money each school spends per student. Known as a Per Pupil Expenditure (PPE), these data are a reporting requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but there is not currently a centralized place where this information is available. USED's new website seeks to address this issue and increase transparency of PPE data moving forward. The related data explorer on this website provides a breakdown of federal, state, and local funds that compose PPE for each school and district beginning in the 2018-19 school year. The tool only has data from 20 states currently but USED anticipates more being added as additional data is made available for this purpose in the future.
 
This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.
Susan Hilton
Director, Governmental Relations
217/528-9688, ext. 1135
shilton@iasb.com