E-Rate, forested counties funding, appropriations for 20-21, nutrition and higher education re-authorization are among the hot legislative and policy topics in Washington DC this summer.

Here is a look at where these key issues stand and the impact on K-12 schools from the NREAC:

ERate: E-Rate will be NREAC’s biggest advocacy effort this summer. The FCC is going to release a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) that looks to overhaul the funding structure of the broader Universal Service Fund, the pot of funding that provides for E-Rate.  The emerging proposal will put E-Rate and rural healthcare under one umbrella, one funding cap. NREAC is concerned with the idea of pitting rural health care against rural schools and libraries.

Forested Counties funding through Secure Rural Schools and Communities. View background. The NREAC strategy is two-fold: In addition to our almost annual push to secure funding for the program, we are now also engaged in a long-term strategy, one that would overhaul the program and structure it as a trust, removing it from the rough annual cycle of securing federal appropriations (S.1643).

Appropriations: You are preparing to spend FY19 dollars in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. At the federal level, all conversations about annual appropriations, shutdown and cap increases relate to FY20 dollars, funding that won’t be in your schools until the 2020-21 school year. To date, the president has introduced his budget (one that cuts and guts our slice of the pie, including severe cuts exceeding $10 billion to the U.S. Dept. of Ed.), the House adopted its budget resolution and the House LHHS subcommittee adopted its FY20 funding bill (providing for an additional $4 billion ABOVE FY19 levels, more than $12 billion above the president’s proposal).

While the question may have been ‘Will Congress raise the caps?’ the real question is ‘How much will Congress raise the caps?’  Recall that the Budget Control Act of 2011 put into place 10 years of budget caps—and triggered sequester—which put Congress on the path of raising the caps every year since then, regardless of the partisan make up of Congress. While we are all but certain Congress will raise the caps, the real work is in determining what that overall number is. [Learn more]

Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR): Child Nutrition Reauthorization (which directly impacts the School Lunch, Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs) is set for reauthorization this year.  The latest intel from Capitol Hill suggests that Senate Chairman Roberts will be releasing bill text shortly before the August recess. Fortunately, our relationships with the Senate are starting to bear fruit and we’re beginning to receive inquiries for suggestions to streamline the administrative flexibilities around the school nutrition programs.

MREA member districts with innovative school meals program, are asked to be part of an AASA/NREAC working group by contacting crogers@aasa.org.  On the House side, they are generally interested in the school lunch debt issue and ensuring quality for the federal nutrition programs, but want the Senate to go first.  To address school lunch debt, MN Senator Tina Smith and MN Rep Ilhan Omar have introduced the No Shame at School Act. [Learn more]

Higher Education Reauthorization (HEA): The Higher Education Act is also slated for reauthorization this year. Different Senate Democratic and Republican priorities on Title 9 (sexual assault guidance), 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) remain sticking points in the negotiations. It’s starting to seem more likely that we’ll get a partisan bill from both parties in the Senate. The leadership on the House Education and Labor Committee appear to be waiting for the Senate to move first on HEA.

Learn more on NREAC Platform and MREA’s Federal engagement