- Legislative and advocacy
- February 17, 2023 NSBA Weekly Update
February 17, 2023 - NSBA Weekly Update
Senate HELP Committee Organizes and Considers Nominations
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee — the committee responsible for K-12 education policymaking in the Senate — met for the first time last week to formally organize and adopt rules for the start of the 118th Congress.
New HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) emphasized his desire to focus on a wide range of domestic policy issues, including a focus on critical workforce shortages within the teaching profession and healthcare sector. Sanders attributed teacher workforce shortages primarily to low wages and poor working conditions. The organizational meeting also featured high-level remarks from other committee members, including new HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) who highlighted many other priorities for the coming Congress. As part of the meeting, members adopted rules for the committee unanimously, as well as a budget, before adjourning. An archived webcast of the meeting can be found here.
Following this organizational meeting, the HELP Committee reconvened this week to consider several Biden Administration nominees for roles within the U.S. Department of Education (USED), including Glenna Wright-Gallo as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) — a role vacant since 2019. In addition, the committee also considered the nomination of LaWanda Toney to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for USED. Both nominees had previously been approved by the panel last year but were not advanced further.
Senate HELP Committee Chair Sanders Hosts Teacher Pay Townhall
Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a town hall with leaders of the two largest teacher unions, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and several teachers to raise awareness about teacher pay and tout forthcoming legislation that would create a nationwide minimum salary for K-12 teachers.
“Raising teacher salaries to at least $60,000 a year and ensuring competitive pay for all of our teachers is one of the most important steps we can take to address the teacher shortage in America and to improve the quality of our public school system in America,” Sanders said during the event.
An archived webcast of the town hall is here.
Florida Congresswoman Wilson Proposes Minimum $60K Salary for Teachers in New Bill
Another person pushing for a $60,000 minimum teacher salary is former school board member Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), Ranking Member of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee. In December 2022, she introduced the American Teacher Act, which was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, but fell short of making it to the House floor for a vote. Wilson and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) reintroduced the legislation in the House following President Biden’s call for public school teacher raises in his State of the Union Address. Forty-seven other members of Congress are co-sponsoring the bill (HR 9566). Read more about the reintroduced bill here.
Ending ‘Government-Run Monopoly’ on Schools Is Top Priority for Rep. Virginia Foxx
Republican lawmakers, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC), have made parental rights in education a top priority after assuming control of the U.S. House. Foxx plans to support school choice policies that send public funds to private schools and bills that promote parental rights. Read more about Foxx’s K-12 priorities in Education Week. (Subscription required)
Senate Judiciary Committee Examines Children’s Online Safety
On Feb. 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Protecting Our Children Online.” The hearing examined the impact of large technology and social media companies’ products on school-aged children. Notably, concern over this issue was bipartisan, with Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with their colleagues, emphasizing their shared concerns regarding these issues. Witnesses testified about the impact that social media platforms, in particular, are having on children and encouraged lawmakers to consider legislation to address the negative impacts on young people.
See the attached PDF for a summary of the hearing. A video archive of the hearing is here.
Biden Signs Order to Enhance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities
A recent Executive Order from President Biden stated the administration’s priorities on enhancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, including provisions for advancing educational priorities. Read more here.
USED Announces Over $188 Million for Mental Health and Wellness
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced awards of more than $188 million across grantees in over 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-needs districts. With funding provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), these investments help advance President Biden’s Mental Health Strategy. Read more about the grant and student mental health priorities here.
USED Announces Grants to Enhance Diversity and Address Teacher Shortage
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced its first-ever awards, totaling over $18 million, for the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program grants to increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen the diversity of our teacher pipeline, and address teacher shortages. Read more about the grant program and its awardees here.
USED Hosts Raise the Bar Convening
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) hosted its fifth and final “Raise the Bar” convening to engage with the education community regarding ways to advance the Department’s vision for education this year. The virtual convening featured work underway in Minnesota to develop public-facing dashboards to track learning recovery and related pandemic spending. The convening also included discussions on how states, districts, and schools have approached learning recovery and how to recover from other impacts of the pandemic.
Family Engagement Partnership Announced
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recently announced a new partnership initiative with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Overdeck Family Foundation to expand and support family engagement efforts. As part of the new engagement, the partnership will deliver a learning series aimed at helping education leaders and other stakeholders implement best practices related to family engagement that are evidence-based and support wider student success.
Grants Available to Improve Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is now accepting applications for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2023 for Development of Innovative Technology Tools or Approaches to Improve Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities.
The program focuses on “(1) promoting the development, demonstration, and use of technology; (2) supporting educational activities designed to be of educational value in the classroom for children with disabilities; (3) providing support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom; and (4) providing accessible educational materials to children with disabilities in a timely manner.” The estimated available funds for this program total $2,000,000, contingent upon the availability of funds and the quality of applications. Applications are due by April 14, 2023, and further information is available here.
U.S. Teen Girls Experiencing Increased Sadness and Violence
Released Feb. 13, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that nearly 3 in 5 (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 — double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.
“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma. These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., CDC’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director for Program and Science. “Proven school prevention programs can offer teens a vital lifeline in these growing waves of trauma.”
Selected Education-Related Bills Recently Introduced
- H.R.1050 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) To direct the Secretary of Education to make grants for the purpose of increasing access to data literacy education, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Stevens, Haley M. [Rep.-D-MI-11]
- S.410 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to authorize a Federal report and longitudinal study regarding the effects of social media on users under age 18. Sponsor: Hawley, Josh [Sen.-R-MO]
- S.395 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to amend the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to give Americans the option to delete personal information collected by internet operators as a result of the person's internet activity prior to age 13. Sponsor: Durbin, Richard J. [Sen.-D-IL]
- S.394 — 118th Congress (2023-2024) A bill to promote digital citizenship and media literacy. Sponsor: Klobuchar, Amy [Sen.-D-MN]
NSBA Urges FCC to Allow Schools and Libraries to Use E-rate Funds to Combat Cyberattacks
On Feb. 13, NSBA joined 10 other organizations in filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Wireline Competition Bureau’s request for public input regarding the use of E-rate program funds to enable schools and libraries to combat cyberattacks.
“Congress established the E-rate a quarter century ago because leaders recognized that without expanded universal service investments the emerging digital economy would leave many schools and libraries behind,” the organizations write in the filing. “Today, the same community anchor institutions that Congress helped in 1996 are once again on the wrong side of a national digital divide. This time, community anchors — namely our schools and libraries — are falling into a cybersecurity gap that threatens students’ and library patrons’ private data and prevents them from fully realizing the learning, workforce, and other benefits that broadband connectivity conveys.”
Read the organization’s recommendations to the FCC.
- Courtesy of NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of February 17, 2023