Federal Legislative Report 115-03
Delivered via email: April 28, 2017
MEDICAID FUNDING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The previous version of the American Health Care Act, as reported in FLR 115-02, proposed major funding changes to the federal Medicaid program, including how the federal government funds its share of state Medicaid costs. The bill enacted a per capita cap on federal Medicaid payments to states, thus jeopardizing the Medicaid funding schools receive to provide healthcare services to students, including students with disabilities.
The per capita cap in the previous legislation was set at a lower level than healthcare costs are expected to grow under Medicaid in future years. This would have required states to make decisions about what services are covered due to reduced federal support. States would have likely factored cost decisions over what services to cover for children with disabilities. Additionally, schools would have been forced to compete with medical care providers such as hospitals and physicians for limited funding.
The Medicaid provisions in the amended version are mostly similar. A vote has not been scheduled as reports have indicated that House Speaker Paul Ryan will not schedule the vote until it is clear there is sufficient support for the measure to pass.
FISCAL YEAR 2017 (FY17) APPROPRIATIONS
The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30, and since no official FY17 was approved, federal operations have continued due to a Continuing Resolution (CR), which is generally flat funding at current spending levels for a set amount of time. The most recent CR for FY17 would have expired at midnight tonight, but was extended today until May 5. Reports indicate that Congress is still in negotiations to fund federal operations through the end of the fiscal year, and the intention is to finalize negotiations by then.
EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA) – ILLINOIS STATE PLAN
In mid-March, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released a draft template for states to use when submitting their ESSA State Plans. Education stakeholders expressed significant concern that the new template eliminated almost all references to meaningful consultation and stakeholder engagement, which ESSA strongly emphasized. As the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) intention throughout the process of drafting our State Plan was always to submit the Plan on April 3, they followed the spirit of the law and did have meaningful consultation and stakeholder engagement. Additional information on the issue of stakeholder engagement is discussed in the next section.
As indicated, ISBE submitted Illinois’ State Plan on April 3, to the DOE. The Plan is to then go through a peer review process for which they have a maximum of 120 days to complete. Peer review teams may consist of parents, teachers, principals, other school leaders, instructional support personnel, representatives of the business community, or local school district representatives. Although each State Plan will be peer reviewed, the ultimate decision regarding approval of a State Plan lies with the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
NEW ESSA GUIDANCE
On April 10, the DOE released the first substantive guidance regarding implementation of ESSA since the accountability and state plan regulations finalized under the Obama Administration were repealed on March 27. The “Dear Colleague” letter addresses specific issues relating to the identification of schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement for the 2017-18 school year and "meaningful consultation" requirements in ESSA.
For the 2017-2018 school year, and with the absence of federal regulations, the DOE clarifies that states without an approved ESSA State Plan must continue to provide supports and interventions to low-performing schools for the 2017-18 school year-in the same manner as in the 2016-2017 school year. The states have options regarding how to identify such schools:
- A state may continue to support and intervene in existing schools identified as priority/focus or in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring, depending on whether the state operated under a flexibility waiver; or
- A state may refresh its list using a methodology in place prior to the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
For each option, a state may remove from the list any school that has met the state's exit criteria. Additionally, the DOE is allowing states to refresh their list of schools for support and intervention using the methodology proposed in the state's new State Plan developed under ESSA.
Finally, the DOE addressed stakeholder consultation requirements included in ESSA, pertaining to the development of State Plans. As mentioned in the previous section, the draft template released by the DOE on March 13 disregarded requirements in the law for states to consult with stakeholders. While the DOE acknowledges the legal obligation of states to consult with stakeholders in the development of State Plans, it stopped short of adding a requirement that a state demonstrate how it engaged with stakeholders. In the guidance document, the DOE states that while a "state is not required to include in its consolidation plan" how it "met [those] consultation requirements, ... a state may include supplemental information such as its efforts to consult with and engage stakeholders in compliance with the requirements of the law."
The National School Boards Association joined with the American Association of School Administrators to urge the DOE to require a threshold demonstration of meaningful consultation with stakeholders and focus on continued engagement throughout the initial implementation process.
EXECUTIVE ORDER REAFFIRMING STATE
AND LOCAL AUTHORITY OVER EDUCATION
On April 26, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) aimed at eliminating top-down federal education mandates issued by the DOE, and delivering on the Administration's commitment to ensure that educational decisions are made by those closest to individual students. The EO seeks to eliminate federal requirements to ensure that state and local education leaders are free to make educational decisions, as required by law. The Administration acknowledged that education was intended to be under state and local control and expresses clear intent, through the EO, to eliminate mandates that take authority away from local leaders.
The EO directs Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to conduct a study to determine areas in which the federal government has overstepped its legal authority, usurping state and local control over education. The Regulatory Task Force previously formed by the DOE will conduct the study, and reaffirms the Secretary's authority to eliminate any burdensome regulation, policy, or guidance.
JUVENILE JUSTICE AND DELINQUENCY PREVENTION ACT
On April 4, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved H.R. 1809, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017. Introduced by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to help state and local leaders better serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. The bipartisan legislation would:
- Provide states and local leaders greater flexibility to deliver services that meet the specific needs of delinquent youth in their communities.
- Promote opportunities for juvenile offenders to acquire skills necessary to grow into productive members of society.
- Help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system by improving support for prevention services.
- Prioritize evidence-based strategies and long-term solutions for addressing juvenile delinquency.
- Improve accountability and oversight at all levels of the juvenile justice system.
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