House Education Committee Hearing Features Testimony from Secretary DeVos
On May 22, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified for the first time before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. For more than four hours, the hearing covered a range of issues important to school boards, including the Department of Education’s ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Secretary’s plans for reorganizing the Department, school safety, educating immigrant students, and the future of the Impact Aid program.
School Safety: Secretary DeVos said the Department plans to publish more information soon about the Commission on School Safety, including the process for stakeholder engagement. NSBA is working closely with the Department to inform the Commission’s work. The Secretary noted that the Commission plans to make recommendations to Congress by the end of the year. Impact Aid/Voucher Opposition: Committee members inquired about the Secretary’s position on the Impact Aid program that provides funding to school districts with non-taxable federal properties within their jurisdictions. (Along with our state associations and other education groups, NSBA is advocating against proposals introduced during the House and Senate deliberations for the pending National Defense Authorization Act that would redirect more than $400 million from the Impact Aid program to education savings accounts for private school tuition. Currently, the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee have rejected such measures.) Secretary DeVos stated that the Administration is committed to the Impact Aid program, and that she does not support the measure, which would authorize the use Impact Aid funding for private school tuition.
Immigration: A poignant moment of the hearing emerged during a discussion about schools’ obligation to serve undocumented immigrant students. The Secretary said it was up to schools to decide if they should report undocumented students to immigration authorities. She subsequently issued a statement re-confirming the agency’s recognition of schools’ obligations to serve all children, regardless of immigration status, under the Supreme Court’s Plyer decision.
Net Neutrality Debate Continues
As a follow-up to our report last week regarding our collective advocacy that helped influence the Senate’s vote to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s December 2017 decision to eliminate net neutrality regulations, we received a letter of support from Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).
“Internet policies should protect consumers and serve as an engine of innovation, investment and growth for our economy,” Senator Kaine wrote. “I will continue to oppose the policies … to reverse the Open Internet Order. I hope Congress can work together on a proposal to preserve Internet freedom.”
In NSBA’s communications to the Senate, we conveyed concerns regarding broadband connectivity for school districts, including those in rural communities and economically distressed areas. For example, the FCC ruling could affect access and affordability, thereby impacting classroom instruction and curriculum content; and, could exacerbate the homework gap affecting millions of students without Internet access at home. The debate is now in the House where members are cosponsoring a similar resolution, H.J.Res. 129. We will continue to advocate for Congress’ final passage of this legislation, and will keep you apprised.
House and Senate Appropriations Committees Approve Fiscal Year 2019 Subcommittee Allocations
This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved, along party lines, the overall final budgetary levels that each subcommittee – including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee – may use to make funding decisions for the next fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved its subcommittees’ budget allocations this week, providing over $2.1 billion more for the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee than the House. Despite this higher Senate allocation, NSBA remains concerned that Fiscal Year 2019 education investments for Title I grants, special education and related programs could be level funded, or may decrease for some accounts, given priorities to allocate additional resources to the National Institutes of Health.
Although we expect June and July to be busy months for House and Senate appropriators, Congress may not complete work on the U.S. Department of Education’s budget until after the midterm elections. Therefore, please continue to educate your members of Congress about the importance of federal education investments in your school districts and communities, noting successes in student achievement. We are continuing our engagement with Appropriations Committees to help reinforce your priorities for education funding.
Senate Armed Services Committee Approves Defense Bill without Voucher Provision
This week the Senate Armed Services Committee approved its recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The measure authorizes $40 million in supplemental Impact Aid funding to school districts educating military dependent children and $10 million in Impact Aid funding for schools educating military dependent students with severe disabilities.
The bill does not, however, include proposals to redirect Impact Aid funds to a voucher/education savings accounts (ESAs) program for military families. The House Rules Committee also rejected this amendment in its respective version of the NDAA, as noted above regarding Secretary DeVos’ comments.
“The Impact Aid program has garnered broad bipartisan support over the years, such that Members of Congress and the Administration continue to work together to understand the specific needs of these schools so we can ensure they are receiving the appropriate amount of Impact Aid to provide a high-quality education for military children,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director & CEO. “Federally impacted school districts are in a unique situation, and NSBA will continue to work with lawmakers and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, as well as other education advocates, to champion this important source of funding for our school districts and students.”
Over the past few months, NSBA’s Federal Advocacy Team has worked closely with Members of Congress and their staff, particularly those on the House Armed Services Committee and Committee on Education and the Workforce to express strong opposition for the inclusion of H.R. 5199 or any school voucher or privatization amendment in the NDAA. Specifically, we advocated to exclude H.R. 5199 because this legislation would divert public dollars away from public schools serving military families, circumvent state and local oversight of education service providers, and fail to require private schools that would receive these Impact Aid dollars to adhere to federal civil rights laws and public accountability standards that all public schools must meet to protect students and advanceacademic achievement.
NSBA’s full statement regarding the House Rules Committee’s decision to exclude the voucher/education savings accounts (ESAs) amendment is below.
House Immigration Debate
House Members interested in convening an open debate on the House floor regarding immigration policies and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are moving closer to securing the 218 members required through a bipartisan discharge petition filed on May 9. Currently, 213 representatives have signed the discharge petition. NSBA is continuing to urge Congress’ passage of a well-designed solution for DACA. If the House passes an immigration measure in June or July, it could revive the debate in the Senate. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other representatives have acknowledged the work of our state associations and NSBA regarding support for this priority. If you have not contacted your representative(s), please call (202-224-3121) or email their offices. NSBA’s letter on DACA is posted here.
Our school districts are impacted as both education service providers and employers of educators who are DACA recipients. The loss of DACA would disrupt classrooms and destabilize school districts, with effects reverberating throughout the nation. For example, the loss of DACA educators will worsen already-serious teacher shortages, deprive students of mentors and role models, and deplete the teaching corps of much-needed diversity. NSBA urges Congress to amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to authorize the cancellation of removal, resolve immigration status, and work toward United States citizenship of undocumented students who are long-term United States residents. Further, NSBA urges the Administration to provide all of the support possible, as permitted by local and federal law, to serve all students, including undocumented students.
U.S. Department of Education News
Pending ESSA Consolidated Plans Updated and Resubmitted
This week, Nebraska and North Carolina updated and resubmitted their Every Student Succeeds Act consolidated plans. The states are among the final six jurisdictions that have not yet secured approval of their consolidated plans. Based on discussions with the Department of Education, we expect the remaining states to be approved in June. Additional information about state ESSA plans is available here on the Department’s website.
Department Hosts School Safety Meeting
As we reported last week, the U.S. Department of Education hosted a closed-door school safety meeting on May 17 for violence survivors and family members, as well as with NSBA and other organizations working to improve school safety. Following the session, the Department posted a video of the meeting and released written statements from participants (readout and video). NSBA is closely involved with the Department’s efforts to address this national problem.
“It’s imperative that we as a nation join together to ensure every student attends school in a safe and nurturing learning environment, and this meeting will lay the foundation for the critical work that lies ahead,” Secretary DeVos stated.
NSBA STATEMENT ON HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE DECISION TO EXCLUDE VOTE ON H.R. 5199
The National School Boards Association applauds the U.S. House of Representatives leadership and Rules Committee’s decision to oppose H.R. 5199, the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act, from being voted upon as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA), currently being considered on the House Floor. This decision reflects a spirit of bipartisanship and recognition of the importance of the Impact Aid program, which provides federal funding to our nation’s more than 1,100 school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property or that educate federally connected children.
“The Impact Aid program has garnered broad bipartisan support over the years, such that Members of Congress and the Administration continue to work together to understand the specific needs of these schools so we can ensure they are receiving the appropriate amount of Impact Aid to provide a highquality education for military children,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director & CEO. “Federally impacted school districts are in a unique situation, and NSBA will continue to work with lawmakers and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, as well as other education advocates, to champion this important source of funding for our school districts and students.”
Over the past few months, NSBA’s Federal Advocacy Team has worked closely with Members of Congress and their staff, particularly those on the House Armed Services Committee and Committee on Education and the Workforce to express strong opposition for the inclusion of H.R. 5199 or any school voucher or privatization amendment in the NDAA. Specifically, we advocated to exclude H.R. 5199 because this legislation would divert public dollars away from public schools serving military families, circumvent state and local oversight of education service providers, and fail to require private schools that would receive these Impact Aid dollars to adhere to federal civil rights laws and public accountability standards that all public schools must meet to protect students and advance academic achievement.
If passed into law, H.R. 5199 would redirect more than $400 million in federal funding designated for our public-school districts through the Impact Aid program to education savings accounts for private school tuition. Therefore, we are pleased with the House Rules Committee’s decision, as this is a significant step toward curtailing federal efforts to use public education dollars to fund mechanisms to support private entities.
Moving forward, NSBA will shift our advocacy and outreach to the U.S. Senate to oppose the companion bill, S. 2517, the Military Education Savings Account Act. We will continue to inform the national education debate and urge lawmakers to support the existing range of choices that are offered by our nation’s public school districts, which educate more than fifty million students.
Courtesy NSBA Federal Update - Week of May 24, 2018