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.
Last Week in Washington
Last week, the Senate wrapped up consideration of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and passed the bill by a vote of 69-30. In addition to billions of dollars going toward infrastructure improvements like railways, roads, bridges, and more, additional significant highlights on the final bill include:
- $500 million to support energy-efficiency improvements and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities;
- $500 million to support increasing transportation energy efficiency for school buses and mass transit, in addition to other vehicles;
- $200 million to support voluntary testing or compliance monitoring for and remediation of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and child care programs;
- $75 million for the Consumer Recycling and Education Outreach Grant Program, including assistance to promote the introduction of recycling principles and best practices into public school curricula;
- $5 billion to support a Clean School Bus Program;
- $550 million to support the creation and expansion of industrial research and assessment centers at institutions of higher education (IHEs) and at trade schools, community colleges, and union training programs; and
- $1.5 billion for the establishment of the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program;
- $42.45 billion to establish a Broadband Access, Equity and Deployment program; and
- $1 billion to enable middle-mile broadband infrastructure.
A full summary of the infrastructure bill can be found here. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives where it faces differing reception among progressive Democrats, moderate Democrats, and the Republican Caucus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signaled multiple times that she will not bring the infrastructure bill to the floor for consideration until the Senate passes the Budget Reconciliation, which most progressives in the House support. Meanwhile, moderate House Democrats would like the package to be independently considered, and the bill is unlikely to garner much support from House Republicans.
The Senate, led by Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), released a budget resolution last week, which includes a plan for budget reconciliation to incorporate provisions of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan that are not in the Infrastructure Package. The budget framework instructs a number of committees to draft their pieces of the reconciliation proposal by Sept. 15. Among the programs that are under consideration are:
- College Completion Fund: a $62 billion investment over 10 years to establish a new College Completion Fund, designed to provide grants to states and tribes to support success and completion activities at both public and private 2- and 4-year colleges and universities;
- School Construction/Renovation: $100 billion in assistance to update and build new public schools;
- Community College Infrastructure: $12 billion for community college facilities and technology needs;
- Childcare Facilities: $25 billion to update childcare facilities and increase the supply of childcare in areas that have the most need;
- Broadband: Building high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage in the U.S; and
- Workforce Development and Workplace Provisions: $100 billion in proven workforce development programs including investing in evidence-based approaches, wraparound services, income supports, counseling and case management, paired with high quality training and effective partnerships between educational institutions, unions, and employees.
Debate on moving the reconciliation package forward will begin after the August recess. The current price tag sits at $3.5 trillion in spending, which moderate Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), have already signaled they are hesitant to support.
The Senate now stands to recess until September 13, while the House remains in recess until August 23.
America Forward on NECN: Education Reform on the Horizon
At the end of July, Nithya Joseph, Advocacy Director at America Forward, and Fred Jones, Policy Director at the Aurora Institute, sat down with Sue O’Connell at New England Cable News (NECN) to talk about the ways in which “new federal education funds could be used to bridge the social, racial and economic divides in public education.” Watch their full interview here.
American Rescue Plan (ARP) Updates
Update: U.S. Department of Education Approves State Plans for Use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has now announced its approval of seventeen state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Additional information about the plans for each state can be found here, and a table tracking the status of the plans for each state that submitted them can be found here.
Resource: U.S. Department of Education Releases “Return to School Roadmap” for a healthy, in-person return to the classroom this Fall
The U.S. Department of Education released its “Return to School Roadmap” last week to support teachers, administrators, parents, students, and school staff on a healthy and prepared return to in-person learning this school year. The roadmap includes three major priorities: prioritizing the health and safety of students, school personnel, and families; building school communities, and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health; and accelerating academic achievement.
As part of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released:
- A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities, detailing the three priorities.
- A guide for schools and districts to support the protection and health of students and staff, including the CDC’s most recently updated school guidance.
- A checklist for parents to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to the classroom.
Resource: U.S. Department of Education Resources on Strategies for Reengaging Students
Last week, the Department of Education held a webinar, “Lessons from the Field Webinar – Returning to School: Strategies for Reengaging Students.” The webinar highlighted best practices and strategies for how schools can reengage students this coming school year, including methods for more meaningfully inviting and including student voice in school policies and ensuring, creating dual enrollment and work-based opportunities for students, and meeting students’ social and emotional and mental health needs. Access the recording and materials from this webinar here.
From the America Forward Coalition
Resource: Encore.org and Intergenerational National Service
Phyllis N. Segal, Senior Fellow at Encore.org and former board member of the Corporation for National and Community Service, delves into ideas and recommendations on intergenerational service in her two latest articles in EJournal of Public Affairs and SSIR.
Opinion: “Comprehensive civics education should lead with equity”
Generation Citizen’s Arielle Jennings and Andrew Wilkes write about the importance of grounding civics education in equity in this piece from The Fulcrum: “Civics and history education is at an inflection point in America’s classrooms. One route forward is to sidestep the difficult aspects of our national and state legacies, opting instead to play it safe and stick to the founding documents, largely avoid the news and downplay experiential civics. Another path forward, the one we recommend, is to provide an equitable civic education that weds deep understanding of how government works to the lived experiences of all students, culturally relevant instruction and project-based learning. Our students, and our constitutional, multiracial democracy, deserve nothing less.” Read their full piece here.
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