Congress was on recess this week but will reconvene on Monday, June 6. Following the tragic events in Uvalde, TX, we expect the Senate and House to debate school safety and gun control legislation, even as legislators continue work on the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process and other June priorities. The Senate and House education committees have not yet published hearing schedules for early June, but NSBA will closely monitor and report on the committee’s activities.
NCES Publishes Annual Condition of Education Report
The National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute for Education Sciences published its annual report, mandated by Congress, the Condition of Education 2022. The report found that enrollment rates fell overall from preschool age through undergraduate programs, with the exception of for-profit undergraduate institutions, which rose by 4% in 2020 when compared to 2019. The report includes, for the first time, interactive figures which will help viewers to manipulate the data more easily than past reports.
GAO Publishes Broadband Report on Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report earlier this week titled “Broadband: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide.” The GAO was asked to review federal broadband efforts and examine the fragmentation and overlap among federal programs as well as the extent to which interagency coordination efforts are guided by a strategy or other objectives.
GAO found that federal broadband spans over more than 100 programs and is administered by fifteen agencies, noting that efforts are very fragmented and overlapping however, many Americans still lack broadband access and communities with limited resources may be the most affected by these fragments. The report provides three recommendations:
- NTIA should identify key statutory limitations to program alignment and develop legislative proposals as necessary,
- the NTIA Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth should regularly seek and incorporate user feedback when updating the Broadband USA Federal Funding Guide, and
- the Office of the President should develop and implement a national broadband strategy with clear roles, goals, objectives, and performance measures to support better management of the fragmentation of programs and synchronize coordination efforts.
The full report can be found here. On a related note, NSBA is continuing to collaborate with other national organizations to seek additional funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund for the next school year so that all students and instructional staff have access to home broadband for learning.
CDC Updates Guidance for K-12 Schools for In-Person Learning
Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its “Operational Guidance for K- 12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning.” The update notes that if a school experiences a COVID-19 outbreak, they should consider additional mitigation strategies regardless of community level transmission rates to keep students safe while learning in person. Education Secretary Cardona commented that it is imperative to provide a healthy environment for communities and by “working with local health officials and using layered prevention strategies we can allow our students to continue down the road to recovery this summer and beyond”. The updated guidance can be found here.
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education invited eligible national nonprofit organizations to apply for a grant through the Assistance for Arts Education Program. Applicants must propose to use the funds for, “[o]ne or more high-quality arts education projects that (1) support community and national outreach activities that strengthen and expand partnerships among schools, LEAs, communities, or centers for the arts, including national centers for the arts; (2) are designed to implement, or expand, initiatives in arts education and arts integration; and (3) have a special emphasis on serving children from low-income families and children with disabilities.” And through the competitive priority, the Department will prioritize eligible national nonprofit organizations that have previously implemented a large-scale AENP project. The estimated available funds for this program total $8,000,000. Applications are due by June 30, 2022, and further information is available here.
NSBA Submits Comments to FCC on Proposed E-rate Changes
NSBA submitted reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed changes to the schools and libraries universal service program’s (“E-rate”) competitive bidding requirements. While we support measures to improve the competitiveness of the market and to reduce or eliminate potential fraud, the proposed competitive bidding proposal would be overly burdensome on E-rate applicants and would conflict with state and local procurement laws.
NSBA’s reply comments included the following points:
- We are concerned that the Commission’s proposal to establish a national bidding portal may make the E-rate application process significantly more complicated without providing offsetting
fraud-prevention benefits to program participants and the public.
- The Commission’s past reliance on state and local procurement requirements, as a mechanism to protect the E-rate’s funds from misappropriation, has been a success.
- We urge the Commission to forgo creating any national rules that might conflict with existing laws and regulations and instead seek ways to help applicants better satisfy existing record retention and related requirements at issue in this proceeding.
- Rather than creating a national bidding portal and an additional layer of possibly complex requirements, NSBA encourages the Commission to explore ways that the Universal Service
Administrative Company could help applicants avoid mistakes and misunderstandings of the rules, including through improved E-rate guidance, professional development, and ongoing technical assistance.
Labor/Management Partnership Releases Toolkit on Collaboration
NSBA is a member of the National Labor-Management Partnership (NLMP), which includes several national organizations representing a diverse contingent of education stakeholders, including teachers, principals, superintendents, and many more. A few weeks ago the NLMP released the newest edition of Collaborating for Student Success: A Comprehensive Guide for Increasing Shared Decision-Making Through Lasting Partnerships.
This week, NLMP released the companion toolkit that provides a roadmap to help with implementation. The toolkit contains two types of activities: Consider & Discuss and Tools. The Consider & Discuss activities are prompts intended to help practitioners—either in a group or as an individual—reflect on and internalize how the guidebook and course learning connects to their unique situation.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of June 3, 2022