Federal Legislative Report 117-02

Delivered via email: February 14, 2021

Congressional Update

House Committees Advance Key Pandemic Funding Measures for K-12 Schools

This week, lawmakers in the House took the first steps to pass major components of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan—a $1.9 trillion proposal that seeks to comprehensively respond to the ongoing pandemic.

On Tuesday, February 9, the House Education and Labor Committee marked up legislation that would provide nearly $130 billion in additional emergency aid for the K-12 community. These funds would be distributed via the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding stream. All the existing allowable uses of funds and related requirements for the ESSER fund would apply except that:

  • States would be required to set-aside at least five percent of their ESSER allocation to support evidence-based interventions that address learning loss and
  • School districts receiving funds would be required to use at least 20 percent of their local allocation for similar activities to address student learning loss.
  • The bill would also explicitly tie the treatment of these funds to existing requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) delineating how to share resources with nonpublic schools.
  • The bill would also require states and local school districts to adhere to requirements that would compel states and districts to maintain previous spending levels and prevent additional reductions of funding to fall on districts serving students most in need in exchange for this funding.

The legislation was passed along party lines, 27-21, and was sent back to the House Budget committee to be included in a single legislative package at a later date.

Late Friday evening, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed COVID-19 relief budget reconciliation legislation that will provide 7.6 billion to expand internet connectivity for students and teachers without internet access.

Senate Education Committee Moves Cardona Nomination Forward

On Thursday, February 11, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 17-5 to approve Miguel Cardona’s nomination to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

Controversial Lawmaker Removed from House Education Committee

Recently, inflammatory remarks and public statements made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have emerged. In response to these and other actions, the House of Representatives voted 230-199 to remove Greene from her committee assignments which included the Education and Labor committee. It remains unclear currently if House Republican leadership plan to fill this newly created vacancy.

Administration Update

CDC/U.S. Department of Education Release Guidance on Reopening Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its science-based recommendations on reopening schools. This update is a data-driven effort to expand on old recommendations and advise school leaders on how to "layer" the most effective safety precautions: masking, physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, ventilation and building cleaning, and contact tracing. The U.S. Department of Education released its ED COVID-19 Handbook to support the education community with implementation guidance, strategies, and considerations to help reopen schools safely. 

Education Groups Submit E-Rate Petition FCC on Cybersecurity

A recent petition to the FCC, supported by NSBA and several other organizations, is calling on the agency to allow these funds to be used “off campus” to support remote learning during the pandemic. If granted, this temporary rule change could help an estimated 16 million students who lack internet connectivity at home connect to the internet and close the homework gap.

Also, several education groups submitted a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling on them to expand the allowable uses of E-rate funding to include the costs associated with hardening digital security protections for K-12 schools and districts. The petitioners argue that the FCC must make these changes because, “Cyberattacks [on K-12 schools] have become so pronounced that they represent a material threat to the educational broadband access that Congress intended to facilitate through the E-rate program.

Advocacy Update

Public Schools Week and Digital Learning Day

This is a reminder that two major national advocacy events are occurring later in February. Public Schools Week runs from Monday, February 22 through Friday, February 26, 2021. During that same week, on Thursday, February 25, 2021, Digital Learning Day (#DLDay) will take place. #DLDay is an opportunity for educators to share great ideas, amazing stories, and promising practices through social media and within their own schools and communities.

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