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AF Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (11/23)

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 in Washington, there were no breakthroughs in talks on either a new COVID relief package or finalizing the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The House of Representatives did move forward on preparing for the upcoming new Congress by holding elections for each party’s leaders. House Democrats reelected Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. In addition, Rep. Katherine Clark won her race for Assistant Speaker. For the Republicans, the top three highest-ranking House Republicans will remain in their leadership posts. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was reelected as Minority leader, while his deputies — GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming — were also reelected. We do not expect any substantive legislative action this week during the Thanksgiving break.

The Biden-Harris team announced a number of key administration appointments, including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, and Presidential Personnel Director Cathy Russell. You can find more information on these and other appointments here.

New Release from America Forward, MDRC, New America, Results for America

A Guide for the Biden-Harris Administration to Ensure Student Success in Higher Education

Last week, New America released a set of higher education proposals for the Biden-Harris Transition Team, which include a new paper America Forward co-authored, along with Kate Tromble, Vice President for Federal Policy at Results for America, proposing a new $800 million tiered evidence innovation fund at the U.S. Department of Education to build evidence for and scale post-secondary approaches that successfully increase access to economic opportunity, improve graduation and completion rates, and increase equity across our higher education system.

“Thirty-one percent [of today’s college students] are at or below the poverty line, only 46 percent live on campus, and nearly 30 percent have children of their own. Furthermore, these students are increasingly likely to come from Black and brown communities, and often face systemic barriers that make it harder to complete their postsecondary degrees, compared with many of their peers,” the proposal reads.

The proposed fund would provide critical assistance to students across the country – who are not well served by the current system – by catalyzing innovation, improving outcomes, and leveraging public and private funding to build evidence for and scale a number of the services and interventions offered by the members of our Coalition.

You can read more about this new release on the America Forward website.

Inside Higher Ed: Biden Administration Urged to Back Equity Programs

Inside Higher Ed covered the release of New America’s higher education proposals for the Biden-Harris administration, including America Forward’s contribution, writing: “While a number of innovative programs like the City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs offer promise in increasing the number of students graduating from college and having economic success, they are not being implemented in many places around the country, write researchers from America Forward and Results for America.” Read their full piece here.

Advancing Whole-Learner Education: Transcend in RealVail

America Forward Coalition member, Transcend, was featured in an article highlighting the critical importance of a whole-learner approach to education in this “unprecedented time of COVID-19 and a national reckoning around social inequity in America.” In this article, Transcend’s Ryan Hall spoke in depth about the impact of one of Transcend’s earliest school partners, Valor Collegiate Academies, and how a whole-learner approach to school design can and has addressed inequities in Colorado and elsewhere across the country.

From the America Forward Coalition

Opinion: We need to close digital divide in Boston

Tech Goes Home CEOs Daniel Noyes and Theodora Hanna co-authored this piece in CommonWealth Magazine, with Boston City Councilors Julia Mejia and Ed Flynn, about the need to address digital inequity in Boston: “Deep digital inequity in our communities threatens to lead to a dramatic undercounting of residents – particularly those in traditionally hard-to-count communities – which devalues the lives of those residents in the eyes of the federal government; threatens funding for education, transportation, public health, food access, and more; and underscores the far-reaching impact of digital exclusion.” Read their full piece here.

Opinion: COVID-19 isn’t going away — here’s how schools need to reopen

Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE)’s founder and executive director Maya Martin Cadogan and HSC Health Care System’s president Dr. Nathaniel Beers write about what it will take to safely and equitably reopen schools in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this piece from The Hill: “While no family should be forced to send their student to in-person learning, every family should have the safe option to do so. Failing to provide that option will only compound educational inequities. Failing to provide that option will mean failing our children who already face the greatest barriers to success, likely for years to come. We must not resign any of our children to that diminished future. It will take planning, leadership and trust. But it is possible if we work together.” Read their full piece here.

Opinion: Here’s Why Independent Reading Matters in a Pandemic

KIPP’s Daniel Sonnier, Senior Director, Literacy Achievement K-8 Academics, writes about learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in this piece from Education Post: “I know that these issues of systemic inequity will not be resolved overnight, or even by the end of this school year. But there’s one crucial learning activity that every child—no matter their circumstances—can do right now, at home: reading.” Read Daniel’s full piece here.

Opinion: COVID-19 pandemic gives us opportunity to refocus education in America

Transcend Education board member Gerard Robinson writes about the opportunity COVID-19 has created to reassess and reimagine our education system, and what must be done to seize it, in this piece from USA Today: “Disruptive and traumatic events like the COVID-19 pandemic give us an opportunity to take stock in ourselves, our institutions and our values. But that reflection does not make change inevitable or productive — only possible. With most of the nation’s 70 million school children kept out of the classroom, the public discussion has centered on where and how are our children learning — not what, why and to what end?” Read Gerard’s full piece here.

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