AF Weekly Tip Sheet: COVID Policy and Advocacy (5/4/2020)

Below is the latest America Forward “Tip Sheet,” a weekly update related to COVID-19 relief and recovery legislation.

Education Stabilization Fund Grants

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced $307.5 million in discretionary grants funds through the Education Stabilization Fund created under the CARES Act. ED is dividing the funds into two grant competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant competition, the Notice Inviting Applications of which can be found here; and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant competition, the Notice Inviting Applications of which can be found here

Our partners at Penn Hill Group provided the following summary of the programs: the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant competition is open to State educational agencies (SEAs) with the highest COVID-19 burden. SEAs must address one of three priorities:

  • Providing funding through “microgrants” focused on meeting the educational needs of school-age children through increased access to remote learning;
  • Development or expansion of high-quality course-access programs (selecting from courses provided by any public school in the State or third-party providers) or Statewide virtual schools; or
  • An applicant-proposed strategy to address specific remote learning needs in a State.

Awards are expected to average $15 million each with a total of 13 to 14 awards, and ED, based on sufficient application quality, will make at least 4 awards under each priority. A table from ED documenting how impacted States are by certain COVID-19 related factors (that will be used in determining the States with the highest COVID-19 burden) can be found here.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant competition is intended to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs. ED expects more information to be out on this grant opportunity within two weeks, in a supplemental notice, which will include applicant eligibility requirements (ED indicates it will be workforce and State economic agencies that will be eligible to apply). ED cautions that applicants should not seek to apply until the actual application is posted here.

As SEAs prepare applications for these grant programs and seek to identify strategies for meeting the listed priorities, we suggest actively engaging SEAs and identifying opportunities to leverage high-quality partnerships as part of the application and implementation of these grant funds.

Additional Funding for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) 

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the availability of $1.04 billion in funding for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and $349 million for institutions of higher education (IHEs) with the greatest unmet need through the Education Stabilization Fund created by the CARES Act.

The funding for MSIs will be distributed through MSI programs in the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the same proportion as funding was provided for those programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bill.  The funding for IHEs with the greatest unmet need will be distributed to public and nonprofit IHEs (ED is not making this funding available to for-profit IHEs) that received less than $500,000 in other Education Stabilization Funds so that such IHEs receive $500,000. The allocations for IHEs can be found here, and the methodology for calculating allocations can be found here. More information on applying can be found by clicking here.

Civic Education Funding 

Last week, America Forward signed onto a letter led by CivXNow, a project of iCivics, calling on federal lawmakers to include $40 million in emergency funding for competitive grants to support “nonprofit civic education program providers with a track record of successfully providing effective civic education programming to schools.” 

As the letter states, “Civic education has never been more important to the health of our constitutional democracy. Overstressed schools, teachers, and parents need help providing students with the essential civic knowledge and skills that help them develop a disposition to be civically engaged. The nonprofit supplemental civic education community stands ready to offer high quality, engaging, and effective curriculum but needs assistance to help parents and teachers successfully provide civic education in the virtual learning environment.”

What’s Next

This week, the Senate is expected to reconvene in Washington, while members of the House of Representatives remain in their districts. High-level discussions are ongoing around what will be included in the next large COVID-related relief bill. We anticipate that the debate over such issues as additional funding for state and local governments, schools and colleges, worker benefits for the unemployed, etc. could last for several weeks.

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