Consolidated FY2019 Funding Bill Signed into Law
The President has signed the Fiscal Year 2019 consolidated appropriations bill into law, thereby providing funding for all government operations through the end of this fiscal year (September 30, 2019). While funding for the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and Defense was completed last September, full-year funding for the remaining agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers child nutrition programs, was incomplete. The Senate passed the appropriations bill (H.J. Res. 31) by a vote of 83-16. The House voted in favor of the measure by a vote of 300 to 128.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are now focused on Fiscal Year 2020, including a debate over aggregate domestic discretionary funding caps that could, if the caps are not changed, place significant pressure on the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. NSBA expects the White House to send its preliminary FY2020 budget request to Congress before the end of March. While the House and Senate Budget Committees have already begun FY2020 hearings with the Congressional Budget Office regarding 10-year economic forecasts, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin their annual series of hearings, including testimony by the Administration’s education officials, about programmatic budget allocations requested for the next fiscal year. NSBA is engaged in the appropriations debate and will continue to champion investments in Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title II funding for effective teachers and school leaders and related priorities.
House Education and Labor Committee Holds First Education-Focused Hearing
The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on February 12 examining educator pay and school infrastructure needs. Following advocacy visits by hundreds of school board members as part of NSBA’s Capitol Hill Day in January, Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) placed a special emphasis on the need to invest greater resources in special education. He noted that the Committee will soon convene hearings focused on the sufficiency of Title I and IDEA investments. Among other areas, the witnesses at the hearing emphasized that students need facilities with safe and healthy learning environments.
Witnesses also noted constraints districts face including a lack of resources – teachers, buildings, capacity, and technology – as they try to provide the best educational services to their students. Committee members sparred over one witness’ testimony about the growth of school district staff, which a number of Committee members argued came at the expense of teachers and classroom investments. The witnesses’ complete written statements can be accessed here on the Committee’s website.
Senate Commerce Committee Plans Data Privacy Hearing
The Senate Commerce Committee announced plans this week to hold a hearing on February 27, which will examine the need for additional consumer privacy protections. Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) said, “In an age of rapid innovation in technology, consumers need transparency in how their data is collected and used. It is this Committee’s responsibility and obligation to develop a federal privacy standard to protect consumers without stifling innovation, investment, or competition. As we continue to examine this critically important issue, I hope this first hearing will offer valuable insights that will help set the stage for meaningful bipartisan legislation.”
NSBA expects the hearing to include a discussion about the need for additional data protections for students. Two key Committee members, Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), worked together during the 115th Congress to champion legislation, the SAFE Kids Act, which would expand the Federal Trade Commission’s authority over student data shared with school’s third-party partners. NSBA helped inform the development of the SAFE Kids Act during the last Congress and expects this legislation to be a topic of the hearing, as the bill’s provisions could become part of the broader consumer privacy legislation mentioned by Chairman Wicker.
U.S. Department of Education Consolidates FERPA Guidance
The U.S. Department of Education released a new guidance document this week, titled “School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).” The document aims to help school leaders understand how to protect students’ personally identifiable information, while also taking steps to better promote school safety. The new material arose out of the School Safety Commission’s December 2018 recommendations, which were in turn based on NSBA’s call for the Department to provide greater clarity to school districts about federal education data privacy requirements, especially regarding complexities of sharing student data with health officials or law enforcement in an effort to avoid violence or other dangerous situations that threaten students’ health and safety.
FCC Publishes Important E-Rate Report
The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Bureau recently published a staff report about the E-Rate program’s Category 2 funding (the funding for connections within school buildings) framework. This report recommends that the FCC avoid reverting to the program’s data “two-in-five” rule and cites the overall success of the current framework. (The “two-in-five” rule previously limited Category 2 funding, on an individual school or library basis, to two out of every five years.) While NSBA believes improvements could be made to the Category 2 funding system – including increasing the per-pupil funding level and finding new ways to ensure sufficient support for small rural schools – the system put in place by the 2014 E-rate Modernization Order has generally succeeded. Along with the Education and Libraries Networks Coalition, NSBA continues advocacy to ensure the FCC’s support for the E-Rate program and to promote greater high-speed broadband connectivity for teaching and learning.
Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of February 18, 2019