E-Update for the Week of October 18, 2021

E-Update for the Week of October 18, 2021

Highlights:

  • On October 14, USED’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the 2020 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) “Nation’s Report Card,” which reported declines in math and reading scores for 13-year-olds compared to 2012, marking the first time there had been a drop in approximately 50 years.
  • On October 13, the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) outlining principles that should guide the caucus’ legislative strategy as negotiations continue regarding the development of a final spending package.
  • On October 11, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) published a Dear Colleague letter in which she began to address how she plans to approach the multiple difficult decisions related to the budget reconciliation bill that “must be made very soon.”

Budget:

House progressives outline principles for ongoing budget reconciliation negotiations: The Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) outlining principles that should guide the caucus’ legislative strategy as negotiations continue regarding the development of a final spending package. In the letter, the Members note, “If given a choice between legislating narrowly or broadly, we strongly encourage you to choose the latter, and make robust investments over a shorter window.” The Members argued that reducing the programs’ length will “establish a track record of success that will pave the way for a long-term extension of benefits.” “It is important to remember that different strategies affect different populations of people,” the Members wrote. “We are fighting for [our constituents] on a multitude of issues…[and] we cannot pit child care against housing, or paid leave against home- and community-based care.” Additionally, the Members called for universal benefits to ensure lasting change, stating, “We strongly believe that this is the moment to demonstrate to the American people that regardless of geography, race, gender, or class, Democrats believe that everyone has a right to affordable child care, pre-K, clean water, and a community college education.” The full letter is here.
October 13, 2021

Pelosi suggests budget reconciliation could include all programs, but would be limited in length: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) published a Dear Colleague letter in which she began to address how she plans to approach the multiple difficult decisions related to the budget reconciliation bill that “must be made very soon.” In the letter, Speaker Pelosi wrote, “Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis: a Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet For The Children!” The letter is here.

Relatedly, during a press conference Speaker Pelosi said that Democrats would need to make critical decisions “in the next few days” about how to reduce the cost of the proposed reconciliation package if they plan to meet their self-imposed end-of-month deadline. When asked which programs would be the first to be dropped to lower the cost, Speaker Pelosi answered, “You must be kidding. That’s a negotiation.  That is not something that I would be announcing here, and I don’t even know what that would be.” Instead of offering which programs would be cut, Speaker Pelosi said Democrats would consider shortening the duration of the proposed programs, but only “in such a way that does not undermine the transformative nature of [the bill].” A transcript of the Speaker’s remarks is here.
October 11 & 12, 2021

Coronavirus Updates (as related to education):

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED approves three more state ARP ESSER plans bringing approved total to 44: USED announced the approval of Maryland, Nebraska and Virginia’s plans detailing each states’ proposed use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding.  With this most recent approval, 44 states, including the District of Columbia, have now received both tranches of their ARP ESSER fund allocations. The remaining states will receive their additional funds once the Department approves their state plan.  A list of approved state plans is here.
October 14, 2021

USED, DOJ issue guidance on supporting students’ mental health: USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Justice jointly issued a fact sheet to support students with mental health disabilities, their families, and their schools in the era of COVID-19. Along with the fact sheet, OCR released a letter to educators highlighting the civil rights obligations of schools and postsecondary institutions to students with mental health disabilities. The fact sheet provides information about federal civil rights laws that protect students with mental health disabilities. It includes scenarios that illustrate when the Department might investigate a potential violation; gives schools and postsecondary institutions a list of action steps to create an environment that is responsive to students with mental health disabilities; and provides educational and crisis resources for students, families, and educators. The fact sheet is here, and a press release is here.
October 13, 2021

USED publishes updated FAQs on ARP maintenance of equity provisions: USED released an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) related to the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) maintenance of equity provisions. The updated guidance document includes a new question that provides clarity and flexibility for how states with very small districts can maintain equity. The updated document is here.
October 1, 2021

Non-Coronavirus Updates:

Administration:

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

New contract terms issued for student loan servicers, Department attempts to improve performance, transparency: USED announced new contract terms for its student loan servicers related to performance, transparency, and accountability that aim to protect borrowers by holding the companies to “higher standards starting early next year.” The new standards give USED’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office greater ability to “monitor and address servicing issues as they arise; require compliance with federal, state, and local laws relating to loan servicing; and hold servicers accountable for their performance, including withholding new loans and associated revenue for poor performance.” According to the Department, the changes will be “critical” as FSA works with the companies to implement student loan servicing reform while ensuring a “smooth transition” for borrowers out of the student loan pause currently set to end on January 31, 2022. A press release is here.
October 15, 2021

National report card shows decline in student learning, pre-pandemic: USED’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the 2020 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) “Nation’s Report Card,” which reported  declines in math and reading scores for 13-year-olds compared to 2012, marking the first time there had been a drop in approximately 50 years. Specifically, the data showed that students who struggled the most with the exam have fallen further behind. According to the data, math scores fell furthest among students whose performance ranked in the 10th and 25th percentiles, and the achievement gap between white and Black students also widened. Of note, the test was administered between October and December 2019 prior to the pandemic. The full report is here.
October 14, 2021

Secretary Cardona appoints five new members to National Assessment Governing Board: USED Secretary Miguel Cardona announced new appointments to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees and sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP provides objective information on student performance in various subjects and for different student groups and reports on student achievement across the nation, in states, and in large urban districts. The Governing Board is responsible for deciding which subjects NAEP assesses, determining the assessments’ content, setting achievement levels that describe student performance, and pursuing new ways to make NAEP results useful and meaningful to the public. The members recently appointed by Secretary Cardona include: Dana Boyd, Elementary School Principal; Tyler Cramer, General Public Representative; Viola Garcia, Local School Board Member; Scott Marion, Testing and Measurement Expert; and Beverly Perdue, Former Governor. A press release is here.
October 13, 2021

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

HHS urges states, communities to use ARP funds to support early childhood workforce: Leadership from HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published a Dear Colleague letter urging states, communities, and local programs to “take bold action now” to invest ARP funds and other sources of COVID-19 relief funding to address the current early care and education (ECE) workforce shortage. In the letter, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Early Childhood and Development Katie Hamm, Director of the Office of Head Start Dr. Bernadine Futrell, and Director of the Office of Child Care Dr. Ruth Friedman list certain strategies that can be used to support the ECE workforce in the short-term. Specific strategies cited include improving child care subsidy payment rates to providers; increasing staff wages or providing one-time incentives; providing benefits including paid leave and health insurance; and expanding shared services models, amongst others. The letter also encouraged states and territories to leverage their Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five grants, in keeping with their early childhood care and education system building plans, to address the current shortage. The letter is here.
October 13, 2021

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 18 through 20, the Milken Institute will hold its virtual Global Conference, which will include a session at 10:00 am titled, “Reimagining K-12 Education.” The event will feature a discussion on how to reimagine an education system that prioritizes equity, innovation, and resilience now and for generations to come. More information and registration are here.
  • On October 20 at 8:00 am, the Brookings Institution will hold an event titled, “How Should We Assess Children’s Learning in the COVID Era?” The event will feature a discussion on the assessment goals that are most helpful in supporting high-quality learning for all children, and particularly for children in low- and middle-income countries. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On October 15, the Education Commission of the States released a resource titled, “K-12 and Special Education Funding: State Profiles.” The site analyzes each state’s K-12 funding model and includes allocation amounts for special education, English learners, and low-income students when available. Key findings include identifying that there are at least 33 states and the District of Columbia that use a student-based foundation; that at least 30 states provide a base amount allocated through the foundation formula to each district per student; and that at least 22 states that use a membership average when counting students. The resource is here.
  • On October 15, Third Way published a policy brief titled, “Unforced Errors: How One Simple Fix Could Improve Student Loan Repayment.” The brief examines federal income driven repayment (IDR) plans and how to ease borrowers’ debt burden, reduce defaults and increase repayment rates. Key recommendations in the report include making IDR the only plan, with an option for borrowers to pre-pay; and making repayment automatic using withholdings that link loan information from USED and the Treasury Department. According to the report, evidence suggests that these policy shifts would cause student loan defaults to decline. The full report is here.
  • On October 14, EducationCounsel and FutureEd released a report titled, “In Demand: The Real Teacher Shortages and How to Solve Them.” In the report, EducationCounsel analyzed pre-pandemic teacher supply and demand trends, identified new staffing questions raised by the COVID-19 crisis, and offered policy recommendations to help states and school districts address schools’ “true human capital needs” to ensure that all students are taught by effective educators. Key findings include identifying that because the teacher-production pipeline has always been “leaky,” current fears of teacher shortages “don’t accurately reflect teacher supply and demand.” Instead, the report recommends that states and districts gain a more nuanced understanding of teacher supply and demand in order to pursue policies targeted at true shortage areas. The full report is here.

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