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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS


Federal Legislative Report 115-09

Delivered via email: June 8, 2018

NET NEUTRALITY

In mid-May, the Senate voted 52-47 to approve a resolution (S.J. Res. 52) that would overturn the Federal Communications Commissions’ December 2017 decision to eliminate the agency’s Net Neutrality regulations.   That decision ends net neutrality protections on June 11. Three Republican Senators joined all Democrats in voting to reverse the FCC’s decision.

The elimination of the net neutrality regulations raises several concerns for school districts and other education stakeholders. First, broadband companies may begin charging content providers new fees to deliver digital learning content -- and those costs may be passed on to schools. Second, new entrants into the education technology market may be blocked or have their services slowed by broadband providers that want to feature their own services or applications, or the services of other companies willing to pay for preferential treatment. Third, districts that lack market power -- especially rural and low-income communities served by a single broadband provider -- may be exposed to higher costs and degraded service.

The debate now moves to the House where 166 members are cosponsoring a similar resolution, H.J. Res. 129.   See FLR 115-07 for additional information on this issue.

SCHOOL SAFETY GRANTS

There continues to be no guidance, or additional information, available regarding the Title IV money designated in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations for school safety grants. Information will be disseminated as soon as it is available.

OPIOID CRISES RESPONSE ACT

In late April, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously voted to approve the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. The bill (S.2680) includes a focus on preventing substance abuse by children, adolescents, and youth. Among other provisions, the measure establishes two grant programs focused on helping school districts and other eligible applicants.

Youth Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery

The bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), to extend grants to school districts that may be used in three areas: prevention of substance abuse and misuse by children, adolescents, and young adults

  • recovery support services for children, adolescents, and young adults, which may include counseling, job training, linkages to community-based services, family support groups, and recovery coaching; and
  • treatment or referrals for treatment of substance use disorders, as appropriate.

Trauma Support and Mental Health Care for Children and Youth in Educational Settings

The bill also authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to offer grants designed to expand student access to “evidence-based” trauma support services and mental health care by developing “innovative initiatives, activities, or programs to link local school systems with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems….”

The HELP Committee’s vote represents only the first step in the process. It is unclear when the measure will be considered by the full Senate, and if the House will also act on it or similar legislation. Congress does appear poised, however, to pass at least some legislation prior to the election that addresses the opioid epidemic. It is believed that these programs could be among the solutions that ultimately win bipartisan support.

ARTS EDUCATION GRANT PROGRAM

The USDOE invites applicants to seek funding through the “Assistance for Arts Education – Assistance for Arts Education Development and Dissemination” grants program. The initiative supports the development and dissemination of accessible instructional materials and arts-based educational programming, including online resources, in multiple arts disciplines. The USDOE estimates that $14 million will be available for the next grant cycle, but the amount is contingent on the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Additional awards may be made in subsequent years from the list of unfunded applications from this competition. The deadline for applications is July 2, 2018.

 

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