- Legislative and advocacy
- February 10, 2023 NSBA Weekly Update
February 10, 2023 - NSBA Weekly Update
President Biden Delivers State of the Union
On Feb. 7, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address to a joint session of Congress. The speech focused on the President and Congress’s accomplishments over the last two years, including significant investments in schools and other domestic priorities, while also reiterating a need to “finish the job” in the 118th Congress — a recurrent theme that the president returned to throughout the evening. During the speech, the president touched on a wide range of issues, including calling for the need to provide universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, raising teacher salaries, highlighting the need for further mental health investments for students and schools, and calling on Congress to provide greater resources for connectivity while also urging action on stricter privacy and online protections for minors.
While the speech included a wide range of other topics, the president consistently highlighted the centrality of education as part of America’s ability to compete within the wider global economy. Notably, he touched on recent Career and Technical Education (CTE) initiatives saying, “Let’s finish the job, and connect students to career opportunities starting in high school, provide access to two years of community college, the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree. Let’s offer every American a path to a good career, whether they go to college or not.”
Reinforcing the Biden Administration’s growing interest in CTE, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited high school career academies in Omaha, Nebraska, the following day to discuss students’ experiences in these programs. A full transcript of the SOTU address can be accessed here.
House Education Committee Hosts First Hearing
The newly renamed House Education and the Workforce Committee, Chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held its first hearing this week titled, “American Education in Crisis.” Witnesses included Virginia Gentles, Director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum; Colorado Governor Jared Polis; Scott Pulsipher, the President of Western Governors University; and Monty Sullivan, the President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System
The hearing was intended to highlight aspects of the committee’s likely agenda over the next year ranging from K-12 and postsecondary education to workforce development. During the hearing, several K-12 topics were discussed at length, including parents’ rights, the role of gender identity in the classroom, school choice, teachers unions, learning recovery from the pandemic, and an examination of how pandemic aid dollars for education were used.
See attached for a summary of the hearing. Archived video and witness testimony are available at https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=408802.
Boosting ‘Pathetically Low’ Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
Restoring respect for the nation’s teachers and boosting their pay so starting salaries aren’t “pathetically low” are top of mind for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as he prepares to take over the Senate committee that oversees education. More on Sanders’ priorities can be found here. (Subscription Required)
Congress Expands Scrutiny of Junior R.O.T.C. Programs
Congressional leaders have expanded their scrutiny of the military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, asking for information about the program’s enrollment practices, curriculum, and sponsor relationships with the National Rifle Association. Read more here.
USDA Proposes Revisions to Child Nutrition Programs
In a Federal Register notice dated February 7, 2023, Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service, proposed key regulatory revisions to the agency’s child nutrition programs.
“Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release as part of the announcement.
USDA based the changes on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and incorporated feedback from a recent stakeholder engagement campaign. According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the proposed changes put “children’s health at the forefront while also ensuring that the nutrition standards are achievable and set schools up for success.” The proposed revisions include the following:
- New added sugars standards: The rules would propose limits for leading sources of added sugars in both the school lunch and breakfast programs and would provide for a weekly limit of adding sugars to less than 10% of calories per week.
- Reducing school meal sodium: The rules would reduce the weekly school meal sodium limits gradually.
- Strengthen the Buy American provisions: These rules would clarify and strengthen the Buy American provision in school meal programs in response to complaints that the current provisions are ambiguous and lack specificity.
- Long-term milk standards: The USDA offers two proposals here — under the first, milk would be limited in grades K-8 to a variety of unflavored milk. The second would maintain the current requirements allowing all K-12 schools to offer fat-free and low-fat, flavored, and unflavored.
- Whole grain standards: The USDA also offers two proposals: (1) the USDA would maintain the current requirement specifying that 80% of grains must be whole grain-rich; or (2) require all grains to meet the whole grain-rich requirement but provide for enriched grains to be offered on one school day per week.
In addition to the proposed changes listed above, the NPRM proposed changes to school meal requirements, such as menu planning options for American Indian and Alaska Native Students; changes to afterschool snack requirements; substituting vegetables for fruits at breakfast; crediting nuts and seeds; flexibility in hiring requirements and other technical corrections; among others.
Public comments must be received by April 10, 2023. Instructions for submitting comments are available here. If you have any questions about the proposed policy changes or rulemaking process, please contact Andrea Johnson (Aunie.Johnson@FLPAdvisors.com). USDA estimates that the final rule will be issued prior to the 2024-2025 school year.
Education Secretary Asks Education Leaders to Help “Raise the Bar”
On Feb. 6, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letter to education leaders outlining his priorities for the Education Department and asking education leaders to “join forces” to raise the bar for students across the country.
The letter repeats the three priorities Cardona shared during his “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” speech on Jan. 24: achieving academic excellence for all children; boldly improving learning conditions; and creating pathways for global engagement.
Cardona said he would follow up “in the coming weeks” with links to specific strategies and available grant funding streams. He wrote that the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act “provided a significant down payment on transformational change in education,” but he also acknowledged that those funds alone are insufficient. Read the attached letter, which includes contact information for education leaders seeking additional information or follow-up meetings.
Special Education Discretionary Grants Now Available
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services invited applications for the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Center on Dispute Resolution. This program seeks to promote academic achievement and improve results for children with disabilities. The absolute priority for this program will fund an agreement to establish and operate a Center on Dispute Resolution, which will provide technical assistance to support dispute resolution options, including methods of dispute resolution required under IDEA and early resolution practices. The estimated available funds for this project total $750,000, contingent on the availability of funds and quality of applications. Applications are due by April 4, 2023, and further information is available here.
Education Leaders Laud Federal Funding for Ed Research
According to a blog post from the American Educational Research Association, legislation signed by the President late last year adds $70 million in annual funding for the Institute of Education Sciences, the Department of Education’s nonpartisan arm for statistics, research, and evaluation, as part of the $1.7 trillion government funding bill known as the omnibus package. Of the additional $70 million, $40 million is devoted to researching instructional methods and tools to address challenges like K-12 learning loss that occurred during COVID-19. More on the funding can be found here.
FRAC Receives $2 Million Grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture to Support Equitable Access to Child Nutrition Programs
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has announced it has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct and support research on expanding equitable access to federally funded child nutrition programs. More on the funding can be found here.
Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards for SFAs
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working together with Action for Healthy Kids to provide Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards for School Food Authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP). More on the awards can be found here.
Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced
- H.R.863 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a publishing house from knowingly furnishing sexually explicit material to a school or an educational agency, to prohibit Federal funds from being provided to a school that obtains or an educational agency that distributes sexually explicit material, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Mills, Cory [Rep.-R-FL-7]
- S.301 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for qualified elementary and secondary education tuition. Sponsor: Rubio, Marco [Sen.-R-FL]
- S.275 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to establish a vetting process for prospective applicants for high-cost universal service program funding. Sponsor: Capito, Shelley Moore [Sen.-R-WV]
- H.R.845 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to create a demonstration project to fund additional secondary school counselors in troubled title I schools to reduce the dropout rate. Sponsor: Sánchez, Linda T. [Rep.-D-CA-38]
- H.J.Res.28 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) Expressing support for designation of the week of February 6, 2023, through February 10, 2023, as "National School Counseling Week". Sponsor: Sánchez, Linda T. [Rep.-D-CA-38]
- H.R.821 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To require providers of social media platforms to prohibit children under the age of 16 from accessing such social media platforms, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stewart, Chris [Rep.-R-UT-2]
- H.R.819 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act with respect to the types of milk offered under the school lunch program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stefanik, Elise M. [Rep.-R-NY-21]
NSBA Joins 50+ Organizations in Recognizing Importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE)
On Feb. 8, U.S. Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), co-chairs of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced a resolution with 71 of their colleagues recognizing National CTE Month, which is observed every February. NSBA joined more than 50 organizations, including AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and National Education Association, in supporting the resolution.
“Historically, career and technical education has been wrongly viewed as a secondary choice for students, yet these programs are the key to bridging our nation’s skills gap,” Thompson said. “CTE prepares students with the technical skills needed to obtain high-paying, high-demand jobs. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution that recognizes the contributions CTE programs make to the American economy along with the important work being done by CTE professionals and teachers.”
Read Thompson’s press release to learn more.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of February 10, 2023