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America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (8/24)

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

While the House and Senate remain on August Recess, the attention in Washington has turned to Afghanistan and the United States’ strategy for withdrawing American interests and partners from the region. It is likely that, upon their return, legislators will turn their attention to Afghanistan, refugee resettlement, and coordinating a legislative response to the President’s strategy.

The House returns from recess this week for votes on the Budget Resolution which passed the Senate on August 11th. Members of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus issued a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week to signal that they would not vote on a Budget Reconciliation without the House passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate on August 10th. The letter was signed by nine House Democrats, which is enough to block the passage of any motions by the Democratic Caucus. At the same time, many progressive Members of the House have indicated that they will not vote on the infrastructure package until the House considers and passes the budget bill. As the process unfolds, we will keep you updated.

Save the Date

September 23, 2021 & October 5, 2021: America Forward’s “State Insights” Advocacy Institute Series

We are pleased to announce our upcoming “State Insights” Advocacy Institute Series. This training series includes two separate hour-long discussions, listed below:

  • Thursday, September 23 – Leveraging Issue & Polling Data to Inform State Advocacy Efforts: In partnership with Murmuration, America Forward will offer Coalition members a data-driven look at issues shaping education politics in states and districts across the country.
  • Tuesday, October 5 – Whole-Learner State Policy Landscape & ESSER Funding Insights: In partnership with Whiteboard Advisors, America Forward will share with its network the results of a 50-state policy scan related to whole-learner approaches in K-12 and attendees will have the opportunity to discuss their first-hand experience and management of the influx of federal ESSER funds.

Our upcoming trainings are free to all America Forward Coalition members. Not a member? This is just one benefit of America Forward Coalition membership, so join today! Please reach out to America_Forward@newprofit.org to learn more about membership in the America Forward Coalition.

Last Week at America Forward

America Forward Joins Wyman for Annual National Network Learning Exchange

Recently, America Forward joined our Coalition member, Wyman, for their annual National Network Learning Exchange, a conversation that brought together over 60 partners and stakeholders to discuss best practices and updates from the education field. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge conventional approaches to learning – highlighting and exacerbating deeply rooted inequities and impacting the ways in which all our students are able to learn and develop – we are grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with our Coalition members, like Wyman, in order to learn from one another and explore innovative solutions to meet this moment.

During the Learning Exchange, America Forward shared information around two key pieces of our education advocacy work: federal policy and whole-learner approaches to education. Read more here.

Opinion: “Women of Color: The undercapitalized warriors of American democracy”

In a recent op-ed published in The Hill, New Profit’s Yordanos Eyoel and She the People’s Aimee Allison write: “Even during the height of political giving, women of color are shortchanged — despite the monumental role they have and continue to play. Women of color are not only reforming the existing broken and discriminatory practices in our democracy, they are also entrepreneurs who are building and growing new institutions that, if effectively resourced, can help us realize a truly multi-racial democracy.” Read their full piece 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 twenty-eight 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. Additionally, ED announced the approval of Northern Mariana Islands Public School System’s implementation plan. This plan was submitted under the American Rescue Plan Outlying Areas State Educational Agencies Fund, an $850 million fund directed toward American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. on the basis of their respective needs. A table tracking the status of the plans for each state that submitted them can be found here, and plans submitted under the Outlying Areas State Educational Agencies Fund can be found here.

Resource: President Biden issues a memorandum to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on ensuring a safe return to in-person school for the Nation’s children

On August 18, President Biden issued a memorandum to Secretary Cardona directing him to use all available tools to ensure that governors and other leaders are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children. This memorandum comes in response to many state governments issuing mask-mandate bans, vaccination requirement bans, and other bans on COVID-19 mitigation methods that are now impacting the ways school districts are able to implement policies to protect student and staff health.

Update: U.S. Department of Education, Labor Renew Efforts to Help Unemployed Americans Pursue Postsecondary Education

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, launched an initiative to help connect millions of unemployed Americans to postsecondary education, especially those displaced from their employment during the pandemic. The Departments will alert institutions of higher education and state workforce agencies about ways to help unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries access postsecondary education opportunities.

The Biden Administration began this outreach with a series of actions:

  • The Department of Education updated prior guidance to financial aid administrators at institutions of higher education about their authority to exercise “professional judgment” for individual financial aid applicants and adjust recently unemployed applicants’ income to zero. This action has helped ensure that students receive the maximum benefit to which they are entitled toward their postsecondary education.
  • The Department of Labor will alert state workforce agencies that UI recipients, in many cases, are eligible for postsecondary education funding like federal student aid at institutions of higher education.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issues letter to school superintendents that it will administer Civil Rights Data Collection

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced in a letter to local school superintendents that it will duly administer a 2021-22 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), marking the first time that it has conducted a CRDC — including all public school districts and their schools — two years in a row (for 2020-21 and 2021-22). This added collection will help advance equity at a time when the nation’s educational landscape has been impacted by the pandemic and schools are receiving substantial new federal funding to address both new and long-standing challenges. Data from the CRDC will inform ongoing decisions regarding further support that students, educators, and schools need to truly succeed and will assist OCR in meeting its mission to ensure schools and districts are complying with civil rights laws.

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