Recent actions on ESSA, funding, and E-Rate in Washington DC affect Greater Minnesota schools and students. Of immediate concern is the zero funding in Safe Forests, which provide some funding for northern school districts due to the large swaths of federal forest land not the property tax rolls.
Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening at the nation’s Capitol from Noelle Ellerson of NREAC:
The program remains zero funded and we need to keep the pressure on Congress to provide emergency two-year funding. Even this solution is actually only one year of funding, because the first year of funding would be retro-funded for the current school year (where the program is currently at zero).
Forty states benefit from Forest Counties program, and it is baffling to see so little traction on providing funding (though we can more readily appreciate the broader political pressure of forestry management that bog down the overall reauthorization).
Any funding for this program will have to be tied to another piece of legislation, and the most likely vehicle will be the aforementioned FY17 budget package. Keep the pressure on your delegation to support this critical funding.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA explained) included the ESSA accountability regulations and the teacher preparation regs. The House passed the CRA and the Senate is expected to do the same the week of Feb 27.
Once adopted, it means both the ESSA and Teacher Preparation regulations will be fully rescinded. Secretary DeVos issued a letter to states indicating ‘full steam ahead’ on ESSA implementation.
With the ESSA regulations off the books, states would be bound only to what is in the law. To the extent they need additional clarification, they can and should work with their members of Congress and USED to get those questions answered.
Funding considerations affecting schools for 2017-18 have to be understood in the broader context of Congress: The time to do the work on FY17 will be March and early April.
Congress has limited floor time for all of its work, and FY17 will be competing with normal business, continued confirmation hearings, the Congressional Review Act AND the start of FY18 efforts. These time constraints increase the odds of a yearlong Continuing Resolution (CR)—level funding, because that is the path of least resistance.
For 2018-19 we will have to see how the new administration will approach the budgeting process and for the specific education proposals.
The new FCC Chairman, Commissioner Ajit Pai, took two recent actions that warrant concern. Last year, the Lifeline Program (which provides phone access to low income homes) was updated—much like E-Rate was in 2014—to include broadband connectivity as an allowable use. This modernization is critical to supporting the closing of the homework gap (students can’t do homework if they aren’t connected at home).
Chairman Pai rescinded the permissions for 9 telco providers who had previously been approved to do the work of providing broadband to these homes through this program.
Pai also rescinded an E-Rate modernization progress report. The report provided an update on the status of the E-Rate program, and was issued in the last week of the Obama administration. It’s an odd move, given that the report was out, widely received, and we all have the data from it.
The big takeaway from both of these actions is that we need to be proactive and diligent in our advocacy around E-Rate. As you talk with your Congressional delegation, make sure to let them know that you use E-Rate, why it’s effective, what it means to your district, what is allows your district to do, and what would happen if the E-Rate program funding were to be cut or the program to be changed.