Lawmakers Struggle to Find Agreement on FY23 Funding
This week, Congress continued to work on a number of important agenda items lawmakers hope to complete during the current lame duck session of Congress. Topping this list, is the need to fund the federal government and related programs beyond December 16—when current, stopgap funding legislation is set to expire. This legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), has provided level-funding for federal operations and programs, like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), at last year’s (FY22) levels for this period of time. At this time, lawmakers are still negotiating topline spending totals for the major components of the federal budget. As a reminder, discretionary spending is split between defense and non-defense funding. Democrats broadly favor additional non-defense spending, while Republicans are supportive of larger amounts of funding for the military.
This disagreement—over how much to allot for both of these spending categories—has remained the primary obstacle for Congress to advance full-year spending legislation needed to avert a government shutdown and lapse in appropriations for programs like ESSA. As this disagreement persists, lawmakers will likely be forced to pass another short-term extension of existing FY22 funding levels to provide themselves more time to negotiate a final deal. As these efforts continue, NSBA’s advocacy team will continue to engage with partners on Capitol Hill to impress upon lawmakers the importance of full-year funding and to encourage greater investments in K-12 education for the coming year.
Democrats Solidify New Senate Majority While Leadership Continues to Take Shape
As shared previously, the long-awaited midterm elections took place last month which resulted in Republicans retaking control of the House. While nearly all of these electoral races had been resolved, the Senate race in Georgia between Sen. Warnock (D-GA) and challenger Herschel Walker went to a runoff this week. Sen. Warnock (D-GA) has been declared the winner of this election, meaning Democrats will have a 51-49 majority in the Senate as part of the upcoming 118th Congress. This majority will further solidify Democrats’ control of legislative and nomination processes, which were slowed down during the last two years because the chamber was evenly divided between the two parties.
Elsewhere Congressional leaders are continuing to make decisions regarding who will lead committees of jurisdiction in the coming Congress, including those that will oversee K-12 education policy next year. Of note, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was granted a waiver by House Republican leadership recently to run to lead the House Education and Labor Committee next Congress. This waiver will allow Foxx to run for chair, but she is likely to be challenged by one or more other members vying for the position. NSBA will continue to monitor this and other developments as the 118th Congress continues to take shape.
Lawmakers work to give students more access to mental health resources
Senators say there is a mental health crisis among our nation’s children. Lawmakers heard directly from students who say the problem is only going to get worse unless Congress steps in to provide students with the support they need. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy called on his colleagues to step up and pass the Mental Health Reform Authorization Act of 2022, which expired in September. More on the announcement can be found here.
Tech firms call on Congress to approve $1.9B in STEM ed funds
Fifty prominent chip companies and education institutions sent a letter urging Congress to fully fund STEM workforce and education provisions contained in the CHIPS and Science Act signed into law earlier this year. The letter, signed by Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Micron, Texas Instruments, Analog Devices and others as well as the Semiconductor Industry Association, supports full funding of National Science Foundation STEM programs for fiscal 2023 at a previously authorized total of $1.93 billion. That $1.93 billion is roughly a $700 million increase over current appropriations proposals. More on the letter can be found here.
USED Issues New STEM Guidance
On Wednesday, December 6, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) sent a Dear Colleague letter to state educational agencies, local educational agencies, and other stakeholders providing information on how existing federal funds can be used to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The letter aims to provide guidance on using funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), as well as other relevant funding streams and legislation, to support innovative, equity-focused K-12 STEM education and related strategies. It also provides suggested examples and best practices for how to maximize the use of these resources. The letter goes on to emphasize the importance of STEM education in helping students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare them for a rapidly evolving labor market.
GAO Report on School Meals
Recently the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) examining existing federal efforts around this program and providing recommendations for its improvement. Specifically, the report notes that federal dietary guidance recommends that children eat at least 4-10 ounces of seafood per week. Despite this recommendation, seafood only represents 1-2 percent of all animal proteins provided through the NSLP program in recent years. The report goes on to provide several recommendations for agencies to increase student access to seafood in a feasible manner. Read the report here.
Biden Administration makes $80M available to lower energy consumption of public schools
Applications are now open for local education agencies to apply for $80 million in energy improvement grants, the U.S. Department of Energy announced. The funding will focus on schools that qualify as rural and/or high poverty, the agency said. The funds can be used for energy efficiency projects such as building envelope improvements or HVAC system upgrades, renewable energy installations, alternative vehicles, and alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure improvements. More on the grant can be found here.
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah to Receive Nearly $1 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funds to Increase Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the approval of broadband projects in an additional six states under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah. Together, these states will use their funding to connect more than 180,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed internet. The Affordable Connectivity Program helps ensure that households can afford the high-speed internet they need for work, school, healthcare, and more by providing a discount of up to $30 per month (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands). More on the funding can be found here.
Department of Education, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services Release First Report to Congress as Part of the Interagency Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education
The Interagency Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education (Task Force), created by the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022 Reauthorization), presented its first report to Congress. As required by the VAWA 2022 Reauthorization, the report focuses on recruiting, retaining, and training the Department of Education's highly qualified workforce who investigate complaints and enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and section 485(f) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Clery Act). More on the report can be found here.
Deputy Education Secretary's Statement on Selection of Chief Information Officer Luis R. Lopez
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten issued the following statement on the selection of Luis R. Lopez as Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Education, effective December 18, 2022: "I am very pleased to congratulate Luis R. Lopez on his appointment as Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Education. He brings deep experience and proven skill in delivering information technology services in large and complex government organizations – and leading IT transformations that ensure those organizations continue to adapt effectively for the people they serve.…” More on Sec. Cardona’s statement can be found here.
Ed Department disbands National Parents and Families Engagement Council
The U.S. Department of Education announced it had “immediately and permanently” disbanded its newly formed National Parents and Families Engagement Council — just months after a group of conservative activists filed a lawsuit against the department claiming the council lacked “balanced” perspectives. The lawsuit, filed in July, has now been dropped. More pressure mounted against the Education Department over its council last week after five Republican U.S. senators sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona agreeing with points made in the lawsuit. More on the announcement can be found here.
Federal Investigation Finds Students With Disabilities Denied FAPE During Pandemic
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said last week that it has come to a resolution with the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia after the district fell short in meeting its obligations to provide a free appropriate public education, or FAPE, to thousands of students with disabilities when schools shifted to remote learning as COVID-19 emerged. In particular, the federal agency’s investigation found that Fairfax County schools reduced or limited services to students with disabilities for reasons other than their individual educational needs. More on the investigation can be found here.
US Dept. of Agriculture: Seeks grant applications for distance learning and telemedicine program
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small announced that USDA is accepting grant applications for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program to help people in rural and tribal communities access remote education and health care resources. The DLT program helps fund real-time, interactive distance learning and telemedicine services in rural and tribal areas to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable. More on applications can be found here.
U.S. Department of Education Launches New Initiative to Enhance STEM Education for All Students
The U.S. Department of Education (Department) will host the YOU Belong in STEM National Coordinating Conference in Washington, D.C. as a key initiative for the Biden-Harris Administration. The Raise the Bar: STEM Excellence for All Students initiative is designed to strengthen Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education nationwide. This new Biden-Harris Administration initiative will help implement and scale equitable, high-quality STEM education for all students from PreK to higher education—regardless of background— to ensure their 21st century career readiness and global competitiveness. More on the initiative can be found here.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of December 9, 2022