E-Update for the Week of September 7, 2020
- On September 3, U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos sent a letter to chief state school officers regarding the Department’s plans to not issue waivers for federal requirements related to statewide assessments. In the letter, Secretary DeVos notes that several states have already inquired or submitted waiver requests for the 2020-2021 school year; however, the Secretary says that states “should not anticipate waivers being granted” this school year.
- On September 2, USED announced that it intends to offer waivers to State education agencies (SEAs) to allow the use of federal funding under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program to provide services during the school day for the 2020-2021 school year.
- On August 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Department would extend flexibilities related to the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through December 31, 2020. The flexibilities will allow schools to continue serving meals to students, even if a school remains closed due to the pandemic.
Coronavirus (as related to education issues):
Note that all information related to the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is up to date as of 5:00pm on September 3. Given the fast-moving nature of congressional and administrative actions to address the growing pandemic, we will do our best to update this information as quickly as possible.
Scott raises concern with private schools receiving PPP funding: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) issued a statement after a report found that private schools received as much as $4.5 billion via the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “As a result, emergency coronavirus funding for private schools has totaled $855,000 per school, while public schools have received just $134,500 per school. This funding gap will be even greater if Secretary DeVos is allowed to divert even more money to private school students through the equitable services rule, which two federal judges have now ruled to be illegal.” The full statement is here. A report from the Covid Stimulus Watch is here. A report from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is here.
September 1, 2020
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
DeVos announces that no state assessment waivers likely to be granted for 2020-2021 school year: U.S. Department of Education (USED) Secretary Betsy DeVos sent a letter to chief state school officers regarding the Department’s plans to not issue waivers for federal requirements related to statewide assessments. In the letter, Secretary DeVos notes that several states have already inquired or submitted waiver requests for the 2020-2021 school year; however, the Secretary says that states “should not anticipate waivers being granted” this school year. Instead, the Department expects that “in the interest of students,” states administer assessments, consistent with the requirements of the law and following local health official guidance. The Secretary notes that assessments have a history of bipartisan agreement and the data from assessments can help inform decisions in the best interest of a student. Further, the Secretary indicates that assessments this year may have to adapt for the circumstances caused by the pandemic and states may have to consider the use of competency- and mastery-based assessments. “I understand that presently it might be difficult to imagine the administration of statewide assessments in the same manner as they have been administered in the past. In fact, it may be that the assessments will look different,” she writes. Lastly, the Secretary notes that the Department is open to discussing how school accountability determinations may need to be adjusted given the results of assessments used this year. An Education Week article is here.
September 3, 2020
USED reopening CARES Act higher education funding applications: USED announced the reopening of the application period for the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund under the CARES Act. The Department reopened the application period to allow eligible applicants additional time to submit their applications. The new deadline to transmit an application to the Department will be September 30, 2020. The notice is here.
September 3, 2020
DeVos to parents – school choice critical during this time: USED Secretary Betsy DeVos published an open letter to parents across the country. In the letter, the Secretary discusses the back-to-school season and the impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary DeVos discusses the importance of school choice during this time so that parents can continue to do what is best for their students. “But, far too many of our nation’s parents—maybe you, or someone you know—are stuck with no options, no help, and no way out. That’s why President Donald Trump and I are fighting every day for more options for every student and every family this fall,” wrote the Secretary. Further, the Secretary notes that the federal government has provided $13 billion in “emergency Federal taxpayer funding” to supply personal protective equipment and to support cleaning, training, and coordination to ensure a safe learning environment. The full letter is here.
September 2, 2020
USED to offer waivers for afterschool, community learning centers: USED announced that it intends to offer waivers to State education agencies (SEAs) to allow the use of federal funding under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program to provide services during the school day for the 2020-2021 school year. Without a waiver of the definition of Community Learning Centers for implementation of services, services can only be provided for non-school hours or periods when school is not in session, such as before and after school. USED announced the approval of its ability to collect waiver requests from each state wishing to take advantage of the waiver through comments on an information collection published in the Federal Register. While the Department was given emergency approval of this collection, a regular clearance process was also initiated allowing individuals to comment until November 2. The notice is here.
September 2, 2020
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
USDA extends school meals flexibilities through end of 2020, notes funding could run out sooner: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Department would extend flexibilities related to the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through December 31, 2020. The flexibilities will allow schools to continue serving meals to students, even if a school remains closed due to the pandemic. “As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” stated USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The Department notes that flexibilities will continue through the end of the calendar year or “until available funding runs out.” The full statement is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) is here. A statement from House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is here.
August 31, 2020
Hoyer outlines September vote schedule, notes need to complete FY2021 appropriations bills: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sent a Dear Colleague letter to the House Democratic Caucus in which he outlined key legislative priorities that will be addressed in the September floor schedule. The Majority Leader notes that during the week of September 14, when the House returns from their August Recess, they will consider H.R.2639, the Strength in Diversity Act, which would provide competitive grant funding to address racial and socioeconomic segregation in K-12 schools, and H.R.2574, the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, which restores a private right of action to disparate impact violations based on race, color, or national origin. Further, the Majority Leader noted that Congress must act by September 30 to address fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bill before a forced government shutdown. The full letter is here.
August 31, 2020
Upcoming Events (Congressional and Administration):
- On September 9 at 11:00 am, the House Science, Space, and Technology Research and Technology Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on University Research.” The hearing will feature testimony from Dr. Joseph Walsh of the University of Illinois; Dr. David Stone of Oakland University; Dr. Theresa Mayer of Purdue University; and Mr. Ryan Muzzio of Carnegie Mellon University. More information is here.
- On September 10 at 12:00 pm, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a full Committee hearing titled, “The Need for Financial Aid to America’s States and Territories During the Pandemic: Supporting First Responders, Assisting Schools in the Their Efforts to Safely Educate, and Preventing Mass Layoffs.” No witnesses have yet been announced. More information will be here.
- On September 10 at 2:00 pm, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Office of Postsecondary Education will hold an event titled, “Predictive Analytics to Improve Student Outcomes.” The webinar will discuss how colleges and universities are using data, particularly predictive analytics, to improve student outcomes and to preemptively identify areas where students may struggle so they can be provided the appropriate resources. More information and registration are here.
- On September 23 at 10:00 am, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a full Committee hearing titled, “COVID-19: An Update on the Federal Response.” The hearing will feature testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Brett Giroir of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and Dr. Stephen Hahn of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More information is here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On September 8 at 10:00 am, the Brookings Institute will hold an event titled, “Accountability in higher education: Using evidence to inform regulatory policy.” The webinar will discuss new research on regulation and accountability in higher education and outline new evidence related to predicting college closures, measuring outcomes of GI Bill beneficiaries, assessing the success of postsecondary programs, and helping students make better choices. More information and registration are here.
- On September 8 at 4:00 pm, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the National Center on Education and the Economy will hold an event titled, “Education at a Glance 2020: Implications for the U.S.” The webinar will focus on the release of OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report, which examines the quality of learning outcomes, the policy levers and contextual factors that shape these outcomes, and the broader private and social returns that accrue to investments in education. More information and registration are here.
- On September 14 at 9:00 am, the Brookings Institute will hold an event titled, “Beyond reopening: A leapfrog moment to transform education?” The webinar will focus on how the coronavirus pandemic has upended education and what this may mean for the future of education systems. More information and registration are here.
Publications (Congressional and Administration):
- On September 1, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report titled, “Adult Numeracy in the United States.” The report summarizes a review of data gathered from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PAAC). Key findings of the report include identifying that 63 million adults possess low numeracy skills in English; that 76 percent of adults with low numeracy skills are U.S.-born; and that white adults make up 39 percent of U.S. adults with low numeracy levels compared to 28 percent of Hispanic adults and 26 percent of Black adults. The full report is here.
A bill to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a study with respect to safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL)