President Biden Signs $550 Billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
On November 15, President Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R.3684). The new law provides $1.2 trillion in total funding over ten years, including $550 billion in new spending during the next five years. The new funding includes $284 billion for the nation’s surface-transportation network and $266 billion for other core infrastructure. The nation’s schools and students will benefit from many of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s investments, including:
- $55 billion for upgrading the nation’s water systems, including $200 million dedicated to eliminating lead contamination in schools;
- $5 billion for school districts to acquire clean-energy school buses; and
- $500 million for schools and non-profits to improve energy efficiency.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes significant funding for broadband infrastructure that will help close the “Homework Gap” including:
- $42.45 billion for a new Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program to help states close the digital divide in rural and other areas that lack sufficient broadband connectivity;
- $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act to support digital inclusion activities and promote increased broadband adoption; and
- $14.2 billion for the Broadband Benefit Program, renamed by the new law as the "Affordable Connectivity Program", to provide $30 per month broadband service subsidies (higher in some limited circumstances) to qualified low-income households.
The new infrastructure law also reauthorizes and extends, until 2023, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides supplemental assistance to schools in 700 counties that have federal forest land.
House Passes Build Back Better Act
On Friday, November 19, The House passed the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBBA, H.R. 5376) by a vote of 220-213, with all Democrats except one voting in favor, and all Republicans voting against. The BBBA includes significant investments in education, including over $400 billion over 10 years for new universal pre-K and childcare programs, $300 million of additional funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, and hundreds of millions of dollars for teacher recruitment and retention, school leadership, and more. On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published the cost estimate for the measure, which House moderates said was a requirement for lending their support to the massive spending package. Following House action on the bill, all eyes now turn to the Senate where the White House, Senate Democratic Leaders, and moderate Senate Democrats will discuss further revisions to the package. We do not expect further action on the bill until after Thanksgiving.
Appropriations Leaders Signal that a Second Continuing Resolution May be Needed
Just before the beginning of the federal fiscal year on 2021, Congress approved a temporary funding bill to continue government operations until December 3. With that deadline right around the corner, appropriators still have not completed work on the FY2022 budget. House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro signaled today that Congress may need to pass another temporary funding to keep the government’s doors open, while appropriators continue negotiating spending levels for fiscal year 2022. Unless a bipartisan deal can be reached, Congress may be forced to continue funding the government at fiscal year 2021 levels for an extended period, perhaps for the remainder of the fiscal year. As these negotiations continue, NSBA is continuing to champion district’s funding priorities including federal education formula dollars, such as ESEA Title I-A and IDEA Parts B and C.
House Ed & Labor Committee Holds Hearing on Implementation of COVID-19 Funds
U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten and Undersecretary James Kvaal testified in the House this week at a hearing titled “Examining the Implementation of COVID-19 Education Funds.” Witnesses discussed the Department of Education’s implementation of the funding provided by the CARES ACT, CRRSA Act, and the American Rescue Plan Act. Deputy Secretary Marten frequently referred members to the Department’s Transparency Portal as a resource for data regarding funds as well as the Department’s recently launched clearinghouse of resources to assist in sharing best practices nationally. Mr. Kvaal testified about the Department’s new oversight metrics, including new auditing requirements, designed to ensure taxpayer funds are spent appropriately. Committee members were particularly interested in how the Department of Education is working to ensure compliance with the pandemic relief laws as written and with how they were monitoring implementation of state implementation plans. Many members noted specific concerns regarding students with disabilities, low-income students, and underrepresented groups, and how to ensure those students receive the attention and funds needed for success post pandemic. Another key topic was that of mental health and social emotional supports to help students as they return to in person learning. Several members also asked about data collection and the Department’s plans for measuring success with these investments citing the need for metrics to ensure programs that are working well continue to receive funding moving forward. Committee members on both sides also shared their frustration with lack of responses to their inquiries at the Department. Witness testimony and an archive of the hearing can be found here.
Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Nomination of Comm. Rosenworcel
On November 17, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to consider the President’s nomination of FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel to continue serving at the agency. The hearing covered many topics including funding for broadband, broadband mapping, reviving Net Neutrality, closing the Homework Gap, spectrum management, reducing the Universal Service Fund Contribution Factor, and more. Unless the Senate approves her nomination before the end of the year, which NSBA strongly supports, Chairwoman Rosenworcel will be forced to step down from the agency no later than January 3, 2022. Members of both parties expressed support for her nomination. An archive of the hearing can be found here.
USED Office of Civil Rights Announces Public Comment Opportunity on Data Collection
On November 18, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register for public comment a proposed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Information Collection Request package for the 2021–22 school year. OCR plans to introduce new data categories by proposing the following data which were informed by listening sessions with stakeholders:
- The addition of COVID-19 data elements to learn the extent to which schools are offering remote and/or in-person instruction to students during the school year.
Revisions to the restraint and seclusion definitions.
- The restoration and expansion of data about preschool students and teachers, including data elements regarding preschool students with disabilities who receive special education and related services and those who are English Learners; the extent to which schools have teachers with one or two years of experience; and teacher certification status. And,
- The addition of a nonbinary option to male/female data categories for those schools and districts that already collect that data, to ensure the CRDC captures accurate and inclusive information about all student identities and student experiences, where the data are available.
Biden Nominates Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
President Biden announced plans to nominate Glenna Gallo to serve as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Ms. Gallo currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education for the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Prior to that, Ms. Gallo was the state director of special education for the Utah State Board of Education, and she worked as a classroom teacher and administrator.
USED Publishes FAQs for ESSER and GEER Use of Funds for Student Transportation
The Department of Education published a Frequently Asked Questions document that provides information about allowable uses of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds by SEAs and LEAs for transportation, including to “address the current regional and national challenges with hiring and retaining a sufficient number of school bus drivers.” These FAQs are intended to supplement the transportation related questions in the ESSER and GEER Use of Funds Guidance published earlier this year.
- H.R.5990 Dual Credit Innovation Act Sponsor: Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3]
- H.R.5984 IDEA Full Funding Act Sponsor: Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2]
- H.R.5959 CHOICE Act Sponsor: Rep. Miller-Meeks, Mariannette [R-IA-2]
- S.3218 A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide for a Parents' Bill of Rights. Sponsor: Sen. Hawley, Josh [R-MO]
- S.3213 A bill to amend part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide full Federal funding of such part. Sponsor: Sen. Van Hollen, Chris [D-MD]
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of November 19, 2021