MREA has been following federal action that affects Greater Minnesota schools and shares this update with some good news and somewhat tempered news on four key issues, including:
- Secure Rural Schools (SRS)
Secure Rural Schools (SRS)
For MREA’s northern districts with significant U.S. Forest lands, the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act was reauthorized by section 524 of P.L. 114-10 and signed into law by the President on April 16, 2015. Payments for fiscal year 2014 will be made no later than 45 days after enactment. That’s the good news.
The tempered news is that SRS retains the annual decrease in the full funding amount currently provided in section 3(11)(C) of the SRS Act, which provides that for FY 2012 and each fiscal year thereafter. The full funding amount shall be 95 percent of the full funding amount for the preceding fiscal year. Accordingly, the full funding amount for FY 2014 (FY 2015 payment year) would be 95 percent of the amount for FY 2013, and the full funding amount for FY 2015 (FY 2016 payment year) would be 95 percent of the amount for FY 2014. Read more.
The ESEA reauthorization received unanimous approval by the Senate HELP committee, of which Senator Franken is a member, and is expected to go the Senate floor in June. Expect floor amendments that may break up this bipartisan approach, but the fact that we may have an ESEA reauthorization on the floor of one body is good news.
The House is a different matter. HR5, authored by Rep. Kline, is running into difficulty from his Republican colleagues. MREA’s federal lobbying partner, NREAC is tracking down representatives who supported HR5 last year, but not now, and then asking, “Why?” There is a possibility that HR5 may fall apart, and the House would simply take up the Senate bill after it is sent over. That would take a lot of leadership in Congress, something that has been in short supply recently, but would move reauthorization more quickly and smoothly, especially in conference.
Two bills have been introduced at the federal level to ensure students receive healthy, nutritious school meals while offering school districts relief in meeting some of the most onerous requirements of the existing law, specifically the whole grain products and lower sodium content requirements. The first, S. 1146, came from Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Angus King (I-ME). Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) introduced similar legislation – H.R. 1504, the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunches Act.
Privacy is a hot topic at the state and federal levels following recent high-profile controversy over the accumulation use of student achievement data. This discussion is focused on amendments to FERPA. which is the legislation dealing with all aspects of student data. Watch for topics of the collection, use and storage of student data related to internet- and app-based services and supports, and student data privacy in general to get much more congressional attention in the second half of 2015. NREAC will be monitoring and working this issue for rural education.