Child nutrition, teacher preparation, and E-Rate are among the key issues that federal lawmakers are focusing on this summer. Get an update on the key issues here.
NREAC is seeking anecdotes and stories of how E-Rate is being used in schools and what E-Rate means to a school district’s connectivity. NREAC has created a google form, with a few guiding questions. NREAC will use the stories to advocate on behalf of schools and students on Capitol Hill and with the FCC. When sharing the story, NREAC will only identify the state of origin, not district or superintendent name. Share your stories.
- Major E-Rate Initiative This Summer: A recent proposal from the Federal Communications Commission – under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai (Republican) – would place limits on the amount of money the E-Rate program could make available to support school and library efforts to improve internet access. This latest proposal targets the broader umbrella program–the Universal Service Fund (USF) – that includes three other sister programs (Rural Health Care, the Connect America Fund and Lifeline). Specifically, the proposal would pair E-Rate with Rural Healthcare under a single cap. In response to the proposal, AASA partnered with our EdLiNC coalition to request an extension on the filing deadline. Moving forward, know that this is the top advocacy priority for the summer and that we will be utilizing a full member press to ensure the FCC hears loud and clear about the importance of the E-Rate program. Full details on the blog.
- AASA Supports Amendment to Financial Services Appropriations Bill Prohibiting FCC From Implementing Universal Service Fund NPRM: In late June, AASA sent a letter to the full House as it prepared to vote on the broader financial services appropriations bill, expressing our support for an amendment that would prohibit the FCC from implementing its proposed rule for the Universal Service Fund (details on that proposal are on the blog). The amendment would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using federal funds to advance a proposed rule that would harm beneficiaries of the E-Rate program.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
- The Senate will most likely be the first chamber to release bill text, mainly due to Chairman Roberts’ impending retirement in 2020.
- NREAC’s work with the Senate committee staff indicates that GOP members, in particular, remain focused on the rate of improper payments to the Federal School Meals programs. This could turn out two ways in the final Senate bill text: (1) Enhanced flexibilities around the administrative provisions of the bill, or (2) Additional reporting requirements for districts.
- The House CNR proposal is still in its infancy. Our primary concern on the House side is the rate of bills aimed at tackling School Meal Debt, which incorrectly applies a one-size-fits all approach to a myriad of state policies on this issue. To fight against the previously mentioned proposals from the House and Senate that would hurt our members, AASA and ASBO International have issued a letter to House and Senate leadership that set the following priorities for this year’s CNR.
- Return to a Five-Year Administrative Review Cycle, which would limit excessive reporting mandated under the shorter three-year Administrative Review (AR) cycle;
- Modify the Smart Snacks in Schools Rule to ensure all foods sold a la carte and in vending machines meet school nutrition standards;
- Increase USDA Foods (Commodities) Support for the School Breakfast Program to cover an expected 27-cents hike in price for school breakfast meals;
- Oppose any effort to Block Grant the School Meals Programs
Higher Education Act
- The Higher Education Act (HEA) is again up for reauthorization this year. All eyes are on Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) who are hard at work negotiating a bipartisan bill, laying out their vision for the nation’s higher education system. Negotiations over Title IX (e.g., sexual assault reporting), Title II (e.g., Public Service Loan Forgiveness [PSLF], Teacher Quality Partnership and TEACH grants), and Title IV programs (e.g., student financial aid programs) have thus far delayed the reauthorization process. To further complicate HEA reauthorization in the Senate, Chairman Alexander has been out for the past month for knee surgery, so the bottom line is its looking less likely that we will see text for the bipartisan act until shortly before the August recess, if at all.
- On the House side, now under Democratic leadership, it’s also unclear whether Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Foxx will come to a bipartisan agreement on HEA. Recall that the 115th session of Congress’ PROSPER (Republican) and AIM HIGHER (Democrat) acts were very different visions for the future of the nation’s higher education system, and neither party wants to reopen barely healed wounds. House intel suggest that the leadership on the House Education and Labor Committee is still hopeful that the Senate will move first on HEA. That said, the House has been actively running a series of HEA hearings – the fifth one focused on innovation and had a lot of discussion of college in high school programs. With those complete, attention will likely turn to negotiations.
- While we do not have a comprehensive HEA bill we can respond to, earlier this year, AASA endorsed the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act, which offers Congress a practical approach for updating Title II of HEA. Additionally, last Wednesday AASA, joined the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and a group of 26 other education organizations to issue a letter to Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, urging members to maintain funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant at $53.1 million. The TQP program, authorized under Title II of the Higher Education Act, is the only federal initiative targeted directly to higher education-based teacher preparation programs, and it is designed to help ensure that high-need schools are staffed with profession-ready teachers.
The House passed its proposal for LHHS funding for FY20, which includes funding for USED. It is a robust package, likely too rich for either the Senate or the President to support, but is an important step forward in the process, a proposal to respond to and around which House and Senate leaders may be able to ID an overall funding level for FY20 that they CAN support. AASA sent a letter of support for the bill to the Committee for Education. The bill provides just under $76b in funding to USED, an increase of nearly $4.5 b over FY19, and $12 b above the President’s proposed funding levels. See related EdWeek article.