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AF Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (10/26)

Below is the latest America Forward “Tip Sheet,” a weekly update on Federal activity related to education, workforce development, and other priorities of the America Forward Coalition.

What’s Next in Washington

Last week, action in Washington was focused on campaigns and especially on last Thursday’s presidential debate. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in support of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court on a party-line vote after Democrat members of the Committee boycotted the meeting; a vote on her confirmation from the full Senate is expected today. Regarding a COVID-19 relief package, talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are continuing with the hope of getting to an agreement; however, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that he does not have the votes to move a package before the election.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Support For Earn-and-Learn Opportunities to Prepare Postsecondary Students for Career Success

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education “announced additional funding for the Federal Work Study (FWS) Experimental Sites, an initiative which expands earn-and-learn opportunities for students by removing barriers to off-campus jobs, allowing students to work more hours, and permitting institutions to pay students for work-based learning such as apprenticeships, externships, and clinical rotations.” Initiated in February 2020, the FWS Experimental Sites at 190 institutions have incentivized student work opportunities that provide not only a paycheck but meaningful skills training that aligns with students’ future career goals.

The new funding “will be used both to supplement FWS wages and to create and grow Job Location and Development (JLD) programs,” according to the Department.
More information can be found here.

Update: Ohio Solicits Applications for Pay for Success Projects

The Ohio Treasurer’s office recently released a Notice of Application for Pay for Success (PFS) projects to be screened and evaluated through ResultsOHIO.
According to the announcement: “Established and administered by OhioTreasurer Robert Sprague, ResultsOHIO provides an infrastructure and application process for assessing prospective PFS projects and shepherding their eventual launch and implementation . . . The ResultsOHIO application is not an application for funding, but rather the first step for projects interested in pursuing a Pay for Success project. The application evaluates whether a project would be a good fit for the PFS project delivery and financing structure. Projects determined to be ‘Pay for Success Appropriate and Ready’ will be issued a ResultsOHIO “Feasibility Report” which contains an analysis of the project from the Treasurer’s office that can be utilized to advocate for funding.The application is intended for projects that can demonstrate measurable outcomes. While there is no specific policy area, Pay for Success projects typically address issues in the areas of health and human services, criminal justice, water quality, workforce development, and education.”

We encourage members of our Coalition with a presence in Ohio interested in applying to pursue this opportunity, via the above link! The initial pre-screen for the application process is incredibly streamlined, quite open-ended, and could easily take less than an hour to complete. America Forward Policy Director Roger Low is in contact with the Ohio Treasurer’s Office on this process – feel free to reach out to Roger with any questions on the Ohio opportunity at Roger_low@newprofit.org.

Advancing Whole-Learner Education

America Forward Hosts National Conversation on Whole-Learner Approaches to Education

Last Wednesday, America Forward hosted the first in a series of conversations with policymakers and education leaders about the importance of whole-learner approaches to education. Wednesday’s conversation featured Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), along with Dr. Desmond K. Blackburn, CEO of New Teacher Center, and Dr. Robert Jagers, Vice President of Research at CASEL.

During her conversation with America Forward Executive Director Deborah Smolover, Congresswoman Pressley focused on the ways in which elected officials, key partners, school leaders, and communities can work together to transform our country’s education system. She discussed how Federal policy can help ensure that every young person has equitable access to the comprehensive resources and support to develop the breadth of skills that they need to thrive, both in school and in life.

“The reality is that no one lives in a silo,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “We live in intersectionality, we live in nuance, we live in complexity, so I really strive to make sure that I’m never single-issuing a constituency or a community, but that we are looking [at the issue] holistically. And the way we seek to develop responsive legislation that’s intersectional and that is effective is by centering the voices of those closest to the issue. To make sure that we are seeing the issue in totality.”

Many of the points made by Congresswoman Pressley were echoed during the panel discussion with Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Jagers, who also discussed how whole-learner approaches are reflected in their organizations.

Dr. Blackburn spoke about addressing systemic educational inequities with a combination of “high-quality curriculum and instruction, social-emotional learning and support for children, and a focus on the entire child within the context of his or her environment…The way we show up here at New Teacher Center is bringing those three pieces [together] and getting rid of this whole notion of ‘Monday is curriculum workshop day for the teacher, Tuesday is whole child workshop day for the teacher, Thursday is SEL’ — no. Separate but equal is not only a failed governance strategy, it’s also a failed professional development strategy,” he said.

Mr. Jagers explained CASEL’s approach: “We at CASEL have been advocating for this more holistic approach to human development, more generally, since our inception…we imagine, and want to imagine with others, ways in which we can provide the types of educational opportunities that address the holistic needs of young people. We approach it via social-emotional learning, and understand that social-emotional learning is not an add-on or a separate enterprise…but has to be integrated into the entire educational experience that we attempt to foster and provide for our young people.”

You can find a recording of the full conversation here.

On Friday of last week, America Forward hosted a second conversation focused specifically on whole-learner approaches in Pennsylvania, featuring Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA); Miles Wilson, President & CEO, EducationWorks; Dr. Crystal Loose, Founder, Plant the Seed of Learning; and Virgil Sheppard, National School Partnerships Senior Director, City Year, Inc. You can find a recording of that conversation here.

From the America Forward Coalition

New Resource from NCLD: Significant Disproportionality in Special Education

Last week, the National Center for Learning Disabilities announced a new report, Significant Disproportionality In Special Education, a resource to help education leaders and policymakers better understand “the widespread trend of students of certain racial and ethnic groups being identified for special education, placed in more restrictive educational settings, and disciplined at higher rates than their peers.” The “comprehensive white paper and six accompanying briefs share data showing how students from certain communities are impacted,” part of an effort to help inform solutions to correct and prevent these patterns.

New Project from Generation Citizen: 50×2026

Last week, Generation Citizen announced the launch of 50×2026, “an urgent plan to build and restore generational trust in government, communities, and neighbors through revitalizing civics education by state and federal action in all 50 states by 2026.”

“In this intertwined moment of racial reckoning, a public health crisis, and a presidential election cycle, strengthening our civics education is essential to stewarding our democracy. To do that work, we’re launching 50×2026,” said Andrew Wilkes, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy at Generation Citizen. “Our ambitious goal is to implement civics education requirements in all 50 states through legislative or executive action by 2026. We’ve built a broad coalition of organizations and a diverse, bipartisan advisory board to help us get it done.”

For more information about the campaign and how to get involved, visit www.50×2026.org.

USDA Grant: REDF, Seattle Jobs Initiative, and Center for Employment Opportunities Receive $1.2M to Train Employment Social Enterprises to Serve SNAP Participants

Last week, “REDF received a $1.2 million grant from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to create an innovative new program that expands employment social enterprises’ capacity to provide on-the-job training and work experience to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. REDF and partners Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) and Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) will provide technical assistance to up to 400 employment social enterprises on offering SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) services.

REDF President and CEO, Carla Javits, said, “With this funding, employment social enterprises (ESEs) across the country will be able to provide jobs and support to thousands of SNAP participants striving for a better life who face real barriers to entering the workforce. SNAP resources will allow the ESE sector to expand its impact, reaching more people when it’s needed most.”

Read the full press release here.

New Classrooms Announces a New Partnership with NWEA

Last week, New Classrooms announced a new partnership with NWEA, “to help more students achieve grade level proficiency in middle school math. The collaboration allows schools to access a suite of digital tools that includes interim and diagnostic assessments, best-in-class content, and personalized learning roadmaps developed by Teach to One. When used together, the tools help students achieve grade-level proficiency by providing them with a tailored, precise roadmap to focus on.”

More information about the partnership can be found here.

Opinion: KIPP Students Know What They Need to Thrive in Remote Learning

Andhra Lutz, Managing Director of Secondary Schools at KIPP DC, offers advice for what’s needed in order to help students thrive during virtual learning and beyond, in this piece from Education Post: “To truly understand what children are experiencing right now, we must take it upon ourselves to ask them. Directly. With empathy and kindness. With an open mind and the willingness to put our adult preconceptions aside. They will tell us the truth, but we do need to ask. The act of asking and listening deeply to their expertise and their experience can only compel us to listen, reflect and respond.” Read Andhra’s full piece here.

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