Here’s a look at the key education issues being discussed on the federal level and what’s next. The key issues include:

  • ESSA
  • Nutrition
  • Public Charge
  • E-Rate
  • Vouchers
  • Title IX
  • Farm Bill

MREA thanks the National Rural Education Action Coalition (NRECA) for this report:

ESSA

The major issue for ESSA right now continues to be ESSA fiscal transparency. From the perspective of practitioners, while the data is important, in terms of implementation, we are most concerned with the ability of school and ed service agency administrators to effectively and clearly communicate the meaning of the data and to account for why there may be discrepancies in per pupil funding between schools.

AASA hosted a webinar on the topic last week. The recording will be available here once it is archived.

Learn more by reading the EdWeek article or EdSurge article

Nutrition Regulations

The USDA recently released a final rule for its proposed changes to school meal standards. The final rule ushers in broader flexibilities in the whole wheat, sodium and milk standards than previously suggested.

Under the final rule, the whole grain requirement will be lowered from 100 percent whole wheat to 50 percent whole wheat. Many districts have been eligible for an annual waiver from the 100 percent requirement, but under this rule, all districts will only be held to the 50 percent requirement.

The rule also holds steady the sodium limit, postponing the planned decreased allowance for four years and cancelling the final planned decrease. Phase II of the sodium restrictions will now take effect in the 2024-25 school year and will be the final stage.

The rule also allows schools to sell and to serve one percent flavored milk in addition to the nonfat milk currently allowed. This change will make it easier to buy, sell, and serve milk that is familiar to students.

Public Charge

There is an opportunity for educators to weigh in ASAP on a proposed immigration regulation that could jeopardize the ability of your immigrant students to access to healthcare, food and housing.

Specifically, the public charge regulation would amend a policy that has been on the books for decades and is intended to ensure that immigrants who have entered the U.S. legally are not granted green cards or lawful permanent resident cards if they are “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”

The Trump Administration is changing the definition of a “public charge” to anyone who receives any assistance with health care, nutrition or housing. Because of the complexity of the new regulation, it is predicted that families (not just a family member who would be considered a public charge) will refuse to participate in Medicaid/CHIP, SNAP (food stamps) and public housing programs like Section 8.

Specifically, this means that families with children who qualify for healthcare, nutrition and housing benefits will forego accessing these benefits for fear it could jeopardize a family member’s ability to stay in the U.S.

Read more about how this could impact district finances. You have until December 10 to submit comments on the proposed changes to the Public Charge rule changes. Find more information and our template for comments here.

ERate

The FY19 application window for ERate will open in January. We want to make sure school districts are accessing the full amount of ERate funding available to them in light of the 2014 funding increase.

In current years, hundreds of millions of ERate dollars have been left on the table. IN an effort to expand enrollment and help schools better access this funding for FY19, we will be doing a coordinated set of outreach with USAC administrator Radha Sekar.

Sign up for USAC and ERate webinars, including monthly ERate webinars and one on Dec 12 in preparation for the FY19 application window.

Vouchers

Last month the IRS heard arguments from school superintendents and voucher proponents about the possibility of the IRS closing down a tax shelter in 12 states that allows voucher supporters to profit from their donations to voucher tax credit programs.

Superintendents from across the country submitted comments to the IRS in October urging them to not carve-out voucher programs from this larger tax regulation impacting state tax credits. The IRS ruling is expected in January or February.

Title IX Regulations

In mid-November, Secretary DeVos released her proposed rewrite of the Title IX guidance (Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education), to replace an Obama-era civil rights directive that DeVos revoked in September 2017. While most of the debate over Title IX typically focuses on higher education, the new guidance will affect K-12 schools, too.

Farm Bill

The House and Senate have reached a compromise on a Farm Bill conference report. As a recap, the House Farm Bill included two elements that AASA opposed: stricter work requirements for SNAP that could lead to millions of students losing access to meals at home and changes to categorical eligibility, which automatically enrolls 265,000 students in school meals.

The compromise bill was released Monday night, and only includes administrative updates to nutrition—neither of the elements we were concerned about. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly and is expected to pass the House.

President Trump praised the bill and is now expected to sign it,

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