Senate Nears Agreement on Guns and School Safety
Earlier this week a bipartisan group of Senators led by Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) announced that they had reached agreement on a high-level framework in response to the latest mass shooting in a K-12 school. The framework includes a series of provisions aimed at enhancing school security, improving access to mental health services, while making modest changes to gun safety measures. Senators are currently working to translate this agreement into legislative text. While Senators were optimistic text would emerge this week, Republicans have voiced opposition regarding how the forthcoming package would implement so-called “red flag law” incentive grants as well as the “boyfriend loophole”—provisions that are intended to preemptively prevent certain individuals from obtaining firearms. This opposition has slowed progress, likely meaning a proposed bill will emerge sometime next week.
House Examines Data Privacy and Security
On Tuesday, June 14, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (EC) convened a hearing titled “Protecting America’s Consumers: Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Data Privacy and Security.” The hearing centered on the recent bipartisan and bicameral release of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA)—discussion draft legislation that is broadly intended to develop a comprehensive federal framework to protect consumer data privacy and security. The hearing provided perspectives on this proposal and a platform to discuss these issues in greater detail. This included discussions regarding raising the covered age of data protections for children and minors from 13 to 17 years of age. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be accessed here.
USED Launches Parent and Family Engagement Council
On Tuesday, June 14, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the creation of a National Parents and Families Engagement Council—a new advisory entity that will help guide the Department’s ongoing work with parents, families, and caregivers. According to a USED press release, “The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.” More information can be found here.
FCC Announces New Funding Commitments
Late last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the first wave of funding commitments from its most recent third filing window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). Created as part of the American Rescue Plan, the ECF Program allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Securing initial funding for the ECF was one of NSBA’s top legislative priorities during the pandemic. This new wave of funding includes over $244 million in funds to support 259 schools, 24 libraries and 1 consortium. The total funding approved to date is $5.1 billion including previous windows 1 and 2.
Departments Issue Recommendations to Improve Young Children’s Social-Emotional Development, Mental Health
On June 14, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services issued a “Dear Colleague” Letter with the following four recommendations to equitably support the social-emotional development and mental health of young children:
- Implement evidence-based practices that support positive social-emotional development and mental health for all children and wellness for every caregiver;
- Prioritize workforce wellness and enhance workforce capacity to identify and respond to children’s and families’ social-emotional and mental health needs;
- Leverage policy and funding to increase access to social-emotional and mental health support and reduce barriers to access; and
- Use data to promote equitable implementation and outcomes.
These recommendations are accompanied by suggested action steps, references to local examples, and a series of videos to be released throughout the summer. The recommendations and videos are available online at:
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the following program:
State Personnel Development Grants – The State Personnel Development Grant program ensures that state educational agencies are able to improve their systems to better prepare personnel and provide professional development in early intervention, educational, and transition services, with a goal of improving results for children with disabilities. The estimated available funds for this program total $21,666,664. Applications are due by July 25, 2022, and further information is available here.
- H.R.8086 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to provide direct hire authority for Job Corps graduates, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. O'Halleran, Tom [D-AZ-1]
- H.R.8064 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) To amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to establish demonstration and pilot projects to facilitate education and training programs in the field of advanced manufacturing. Sponsor: Rep. Torres, Norma J. [D-CA-35]
- H.R.8055 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Strengthening School Security for Students Act Sponsor: Rep. Garcia, Mike [R-CA-25]
- H.R.8037 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Nonprofit and School Security Grant Program Act Sponsor: Rep. Issa, Darrell E. [R-CA-50]
- S.4410 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for comprehensive student achievement information. Sponsor: Sen. Romney, Mitt [R-UT]
- S.4384 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to support educational programs in civics and history, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE]
NSBA Urges Congress to Sustain Investments in the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)
NSBA and other groups representing elementary and secondary education and libraries are urging Congress to continue investments in the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) that was established in March 2021 to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services families and communities need, especially during the COVID- 19. In total, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that the ECF has connected more than 12.5 million students to the internet since its inception. Before this program was established through the American Rescue Plan Act, more than 16 million students were affected by the homework gap.
Currently, the demand for ECF resources far exceeds the amount of funds available to cover reasonable costs for laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers, and related broadband connectivity purchases to help keep students, school staff, and library patrons connected to classroom instruction and other vital services. Schools and libraries have requested $2.8 billion in ECF funding for the next school year. However, only an estimated $1.5 billion remains, thereby leaving the ECF without enough resources to meet that demand.
NSBA urges Congress and the FCC to close the education technology gap, commonly called the homework gap, for children in rural and low-income communities who lack access to or cannot afford the out-of-school technology and digital connectivity needed for academic success and innovative instruction options such as personalized learning that promotes 21st century life and work skills. More details about the ECF are available at https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund.
NSBA Urges Congress to Protect Direct Subsidy Bonds to School Districts and Other Public Entities
Along with other organizations representing state and local governments, NSBA urged Congress to protect direct subsidy bond payments to school districts, public utilities, healthcare systems, and other public entities. Through bond programs established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009-10 – such as Build America Bonds (BABs), Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs), Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB), New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (New CREBs), and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) – the U.S. Treasury provides a type of rebate, or direct subsidy, to school districts, counties, and other issuers quarterly that is equal to 35 percent of the interest paid to the bondholders. Without Congress intervening, the direct subsidy payments could be eliminated under budget sequestration. Specifically, the organizations are urging Congress to adopt a measure that will waive the Pay as You Go Act (PAYGO) provisions impacting the direct subsidies, and thereby protect payments to issuers of these special purpose bonds that were already reduced under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Otherwise, thousands of state and local entities will not receive any payments guaranteed to them under the law.
These bonds, issued for long-term infrastructure obligations, have supported the construction, rehabilitation, and repair of public school facilities. School districts and other state and local governments issued up to $22 billion of QSCBs, including $11 billion allocated in 2009 and another $11 billion in 2010. Indian tribal governments were given authority to issue an additional $200 million annually in 2009 and 2010. QSCBs were allocated to local education authorities (LEAs) with the largest populations of school-age students in under-resourced communities;
to LEAs determined to be "in-need" by the Secretary of Education; and to states based on their proportion of Title I grant funding for disadvantaged students. Eliminating payments to issuers of QSCBs would hurt hardest the schools and states serving some of the nation's most disadvantaged students.
NSBA supports the utilization of tax-exempt bonds for construction and other capital improvement projects approved by traditional local school boards. Further, NSBA opposes any efforts to limit the issuance, tax-exempt status, and advance refunding of such bonds through changes in the federal tax code.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of June 17, 2022