Congress Heading Towards Recess with Reconciliation Bill Looming
The House formally began its annual August recess period this past weekend, with many lawmakers scheduled to return home to their respective districts. The Senate was previously slated to begin its recess period this weekend. However, last week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that they had reached agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. If enacted, the legislation would make investments to expand the nation’s energy production capacity and expand healthcare access. These proposals would be funded through the establishment of a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent, allowing for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and other revenue generating provisions. As a result, the legislation is also intended to reduce the federal deficit by more than $300 billion but an exact figure is still being determined.
First conceived as President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, this legislation initially proposed to invest significant new funding for K-12 education, including new investments for school construction and modernization. However, continued disagreement within the Democratic Congressional caucus forced this earlier proposal to be pared back considerably over the last year and a half. Using the reconciliation process allows Senators to advance this legislation by a simple majority in the upper chamber, thus circumventing a likely Republican filibuster of the legislation. The Senate is now expected to begin efforts to advance this legislation through the chamber this weekend. If Democratic leaders are successful, there is a possibility that lawmakers in the House may be called back to Capitol Hill later this month to complete consideration of this package.
House Lawmakers Push for USED Guidance on Recent School Safety Package
On Monday, August 1, a group of Democratic lawmakers in the House led by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (DOR) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging him and his department to issue guidance for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) that protects marginalized and underserved student populations. As a reminder, this legislation will provide over $2.35 billion in funding for a variety of school-based initiatives aimed at providing mental health services to students and staff, as well as for improving school and community conditions. The letter encourages the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to ensure that the implementation of these several sources of funding do not unduly penalize or impact historically marginalized groups of students. The letter goes on to request that USED clarify the definition of a “high-need” local school district and urges the agency to examine and produce a report regarding how states and school districts have used these new resources.
President to Sign Bill with STEM Provisions
Congress has approved a package of semiconductor manufacturing subsidies and scientific research funding known as the Chips & Science bill. The bill would create several new grant programs aimed at preparing students to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and computer science fields, while also providing significant new subsidies to semiconductor manufacturers and designers. President Biden is expected to sign the bill next week. NSBA supports the STEM provisions in the final bill. NSBA previously had written to congressional leaders urging them to preserve the Postsecondary STEM Pathways and the Improving Access to Elementary and Secondary Computer Science Education programs in the final negotiated bill.
NCES Publishes New Learning Recovery Data
Yesterday, August 4, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published encouraging new data showing that many students who lag behind by at least one grade level were able to catch up by the end of the latest school year. The findings are based on a regular survey of school leaders which also helped to shed light on other pandemic-related recovery strategies. For instance, 56 percent of those surveyed rated high-dosage tutoring to be significantly effective in helping students catch up while 75 percent shared that their schools or districts had expanded summer and out of-school time programs for this same purpose. USED recently elevated these findings and highlighted how the American Rescue Plan—passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats last year—helped support these efforts. The full set of survey data can be found here.
USED Highlights Mental Health Resources and Efforts
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that it has taken two new actions to address the ongoing youth mental health crisis. These efforts include the distribution of nearly $300 million through the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to help schools hire more school-based mental health professionals and develop a strong pipeline of school-based mental health professionals. USED has also highlighted efforts to engage with Governors, sharing a recent letter that urged states to use these funds to invest in mental health services for students as well as previewing forthcoming guidance for Medicaid intended to help states leverage this funding to provide comprehensive healthcare services for more students. A full compilation of these activities can be found here.
ESSA State Plan Amendments
The U.S. Department of Education published ESSA consolidated state plan amendments that states submitted using the COVID-19 State Plan Addendum for the 2021-2022 school year. The Department recently approved the following state plan addendums:
- S.4753 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to allow the use of unspent educational funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to address pandemic learning loss through Child Opportunity Scholarships. Sponsor: Sen. Scott, Tim [R-SC]
- S.4694 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) A bill to support the preparation and retention of outstanding educators in all fields to ensure a bright future for children and youth in under-resourced and underserved communities in the United States, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen. Smith, Tina [D-MN]
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of August 5, 2022