Secretary Cardona Issues Statement Regarding the Tragedy in Texas
On Tuesday, May 24, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement in the wake of the tragic shooting that occurred at an Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He shared, in part, “My heart is aching for all the families in Uvalde, Texas who are living through every parent’s greatest fear and worst nightmare: a shooting in their children’s school . . . My team at the Department of Education is offering every available federal resource—including through our Project SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) program and on-the-ground support—to help the families, educators, staff, and greater Robb Elementary School community recover from this trauma and loss."
House Holds Teacher Shortage Hearing
On Wednesday, May 25, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing examining the persistent issue of educator shortages throughout the nation. Witnesses included representatives from think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Learning Policy Institute, as well as Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. Witnesses and lawmakers discussed the causes of teacher shortages and debated best-practice solutions to address them. These strategies included efforts to reduce certification requirements for teachers as one way to reduce barriers to entry into the classroom. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.
One of the key concerns discussed is the high proportion of teacher shortages in special education. Jane West, an education policy consultant, discussed critical data points around special education including that 48 states and the District of Columbia reported a shortage of special education teachers in 2021-22; most states identify special education as their greatest teacher shortage field; and, 98% of school districts report special education shortages.
Solutions raised to help address teacher shortages in special education and other disciplines include increased investments in the IDEA Part D grants for personnel development; more support for local grow your own programs; and increasing resources for the Teacher Quality Partnership grant program that helps facilitate teacher residencies and partnerships between teacher preparatory programs in higher education and high-need school districts.
For further information about the scope of teacher shortages and ways to help address this priority, please see the following reports from NSBA’s Center for Public Education at https://www.nsba.org/Services/Center-for-Public-Education/teacher-shortage. A related legislative alert is also available in support of S. 2244, the bipartisan PREP Act (Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals Act) at https://p2a.co/Pu4o8Lu.
Senate Advances ED Nominees
Also on Wednesday, May 25, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an executive session meeting to consider several Biden Administration nominees. These nominations included LaWanda Toney to be the next Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) as well as Nasser Paydar to be Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the Department. During the session, Senators advanced each of these nominees out of committee for further consideration by the full chamber. In addition, the Senate recently invoked cloture on Amy Loyd’s nomination to be the next Assistant Secretary for Career, Adult, and Technical Education at ED—an action that implies that Ms. Loyd will likely be confirmed soon.
Cardona Testifies on FY23 Budget
Yesterday, May 26, the House Education and Labor Committee hosted U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to testify about the Administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education. The hearing touched on a wide range of issues, including school safety in the immediate wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. Lawmakers also raised concerns about the appropriate role parents should have in K-12 education. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.
House Committee Passes Medicaid School Expansion Bill
Recently, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce consider, marked up, and unanimously passed the Keeping Incarceration Discharges Streamlined for Children and Accommodating Resources in Education (KIDS CARES) Act (H.R. 7233). If enacted, this legislation would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to reduce administrative barriers currently impeding the delivery of healthcare services via Medicaid in schools. The measure would also take into account and address reasons why small and rural local education agencies may not provide medical assistance via Medicaid, and include best practices and examples of methods that State Medicaid agencies and LEAs have used to pay for, and increase the availability of, Medicaid reimbursable health services. An archived webcast of the markup, including additional information, can be found here.
ED Hosts Virtual Mental Health Summit
On Monday, May 23, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) hosted a virtual summit titled “From Recovery to Thriving: Supporting Mental Health and Students With Disabilities.” The summit highlighted the Department’s ongoing work to robustly implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and shared resources aimed at students to support their mental health. Several state and local best practice examples were shared with attendees. More information on the summit can be found here.
FCC Announces $2.8 billion in New Funding
On Wednesday, May 25, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had received $2.8 billion in funding requests as part of its third application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. Funding for the ECF as part of the American Rescue Plan was one of NSBA’s top legislative priorities and the organization has been working with other national groups to obtain additional resources to continue the program as part of our initiative to close the “homework gap.” This latest round of funding will support 5,120,453 connected devices and 4,285,794 broadband connections for eligible schools and libraries. However, with an estimated $1.5 billion remaining in the program the FCC anticipates it will need to prioritize applicants with the greatest need first, particularly those in rural communities.
USED published notice on two discretionary grant programs for the Office of Postsecondary Education
Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program – The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program provides funds to allow low-income parents to participate in postsecondary education by providing campus-based child care services. There are two absolute priorities for this grant program, including projects designed to leverage significant local or institutional resources for certain activities; and projects that use a sliding fee scale for child care services. The estimated available funds for this program total $38,500,000. Applications are due by July 11, 2022, and further information is available here.
USED published notice on a discretionary grant program for the Institute of Education Sciences
Education Research and Special Education Research Grant Programs – The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) seeks to expand knowledge in certain specific areas including: “(1) developmental and school readiness outcomes for infants and toddlers with or at risk for a disability, (2) education outcomes for all learners from early childhood education through postsecondary and adult education, and (3) employment and wage outcomes when relevant (such as for those engaged in career and technical, postsecondary, or adult education).” This notice focuses on four research competitions through two of its centers:
- The IES National Center for Education Research has announced two competitions: Education research training and using longitudinal data to support State education policymaking; and
- The IES National Center for Special Education Research has announced two competitions: Special education research and special education research training.
The size of the awards for these programs will depend on the scope of the projects proposed and the actual funding level will depend on final congressional action. Applications for all four programs are due by September 8, 2022, and further information is available here.
ESSA State Plan Amendments
The U.S. Department of Education is now reviewing ESSA consolidated state plan amendments that are submitted using the COVID-19 State Plan Addendum for the 2021-2022 school year. The following state plan addendums have now been approved: Arizona (approval letter),
- H.Res.1141 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Expressing support for the designation of the week of May 23 through 27, 2022, as "Educator Mental Health Awareness Week". Sponsor: Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]
- H.R.7859 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To create a Council on Emergency Response Protocols to ensure the establishment of accessible, developmentally appropriate, culturally aware, and trauma-informed emergency response protocols in public schools, early child care and education settings, and institutions of higher education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]
NSBA Urges Congress to Oppose Vouchers
NSBA joined 40 other organizations in the National Coalition for Public Education in signing a letter to House and Senate appropriators urging them to oppose reauthorization or funding for the school voucher program for the District of Columbia. The letter also urged them to add language, as the House committee has done in previous years, to “require voucher schools to provide the same civil rights protections that public school students receive—including those under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—to students in the voucher program.” Read the letter.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of May 27, 2022