America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (1/25)

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 New in Washington

Last week in Washington was highlighted by the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday, January 20. A joint statement by America Forward and New Profit on this historic inauguration can be found below.

Since assuming office, the President has made combatting the COVID-19 pandemic his top priority. Prior to his inauguration, he sent to Congress his America Rescue Plan (in his words) “to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that the House of Representatives will take up the Plan the first week of February. You can read America Forward’s statement on the Plan here.

Also last week, three new Democrat Senators were sworn in — Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and California Senator Alex Padilla (who was appointed to fill Vice President Harris’ seat) — thus creating a 50-50 split in the Senate. While the Vice President, in her role as the President of the Senate, will be able to cast tie-breaking votes on the Senate floor, Senate leadership is currently working on a power-sharing agreement between the two parties so that the work of the Senate can move forward.

Today, the House of Representatives is expected to send over the article of impeachment to the Senate. Senators have, however, agreed to delay the trial of former President Donald Trump until the week of February 8th, which will allow time for the Senate to consider President Biden’s nominees for key Administration positions, as well as key initial legislation around COVID-19 relief. While action on the President’s nominees for the Departments of Education and Labor has not occurred, the Senate has confirmed the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. We expect to see even more action on nominees in the coming weeks, especially with the impeachment trial delay.

New Profit and America Forward Statement on the Inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris

New Profit and America Forward released a joint statement following the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last Wednesday:

“New Profit and America Forward celebrate the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. President Biden not only brings with him more than four decades of experience serving the country in the Senate and White House, he also enters office with the most diverse Cabinet in American history. Vice President Harris also makes history as the first woman, as well as the first Black woman and first person of South Asian heritage, to reach the White House.

Thanks not only to the diversity of this new administration, but also to the unprecedented civic engagement of organizers, activists, and social and democracy entrepreneurs across the country over the past year, we are hopeful that, together, we will uplift new voices and new policy approaches that unflinchingly address and uproot systemic inequities that have afflicted far too many communities for far too long.”

Our full statement can be read here.

Update: Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) Program Introduced in House

Introduced today by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Fred Upton (R-MI), the RESET for America’s Future Act will make our federal workforce development system more inclusive, more innovative, more coordinated with other relevant programs, and more focused on measurably improving equitable outcomes for families and communities across the country. By increasing funding tied directly to evidence and outcomes, while simultaneously improving coordination with related Federal programs and giving local officials the flexibility to use these funds to continue paying for services that work for a longer period of time, the bill will not only strengthen the SNAP Employment and Training program but will create a powerful model for other programs across the Federal government.

We encourage members of the America Forward Coalition to voice their support for this bill by signing this letter by 11 am Wednesday, January 27th, encouraging Congress to take up this critical legislation.

More specific details about the bill can be found below:

  • This bill allocates an additional $100 million through SNAP E&T and substantially increases federal reimbursement (waiving the required state/local match) for programs and services that are proven, rigorously evaluated for the first time, or include a contract that ties at least 20 percent of funds to positive outcomes, such as improved future earnings.
  • The legislation includes additional provisions to better coordinate SNAP E&T with other federal workforce development programs, to fully fund supportive services (such as transportation, or other expenses) associated with these types of effective programs, to fund the associated data costs necessary to rigorously track these program outcomes and to ensure participants benefitting from these effective programs are not penalized by being kicked off of services the moment the programs work, and the participant starts to earn a paycheck.
  • The bill does not create any new requirements for any states, local governments, providers or communities unless they choose to opt into the optional benefits provided under this legislation.

A draft summary of the bill is available here.

Update: New Profit Invests $1M Each in Four Breakthrough Organizations: 4.0, Saga Education, Pivot Learning, Equal Opportunity Schools

We are excited to announce that New Profit has made new investments in four organizations led by breakthrough social entrepreneurs:

  • 4.0: Led by Hassan Hassan, 4.0 shifts both the distribution of resources and innovation in the education system closer to the communities the system is currently failing to serve.
  • Saga Education: Led by Alan Safran and AJ Gutierrez, Saga Education enables schools to embed evidence-based personalized learning interventions, like rigorous tutoring, into their regular school day.
  • Pivot Learning: Led by Dr. Arun Ramanathan, Pivot Learning addresses gaps in educator understanding and practice, pairing collaborative support with high expectations and excellent instruction so all students have every opportunity to learn.
  • Equal Opportunity Schools: Led by Byron V. Garrett, Equal Opportunity Schools improves the accessibility of advanced learning classes to students of color and low-income students.

Over the next four years, these organizations will each receive $1 million in unrestricted philanthropic funding. In addition, an experienced New Profit partner will join the organizations’ board of directors and serve as a trusted advisor to the social entrepreneur/leader on the leadership team and board development, as well as strategic planning for growth and impact. To learn more about these amazing organizations and their leaders, why New Profit invested in them, and what support they will receive in the coming years, check out the links above.

Advancing Whole-Learning Education

Whole-Learner Approaches are Key to Student Success

America Forward Executive Director Deborah Smolover writes about the critical importance of whole-learner approaches to addressing the impact of COVID-19 and creating a more equitable, dynamic education system in the long run, in this Medium piece: “COVID-19 has laid bare the deep inequities in our education system — and across our communities. It has created challenges unprecedented in their scope, complexity, and urgency. But in responding to this crisis, we also have the opportunity to embrace a more holistic, whole-learner approach to education that not only helps students weather the academic, social, and emotional impacts of the crisis, but creates a more equitable, dynamic education system that prepares every learner to thrive — in school and in life.”

If you haven’t already, you can read her full piece here. We encourage you to share it on your social channels, as well as with your personal and professional networks.

From the America Forward Coalition

Q&A: Internship and Career Prep Advice for Students of Color

The Opportunity Network’s President and CEO, AiLun Ku, shares tips about “internships and career planning for students of color,” in this piece from CollegeXpress: “There’s an unfortunate history (and continued issue) in the US of people of color getting passed over for jobs or promotions in the workplace simply because of the color of their skin. And thousands of people across the country face another disturbing issue that happens much too often: workplace discrimination. These injustices and barriers in the workplace make it difficult for people of color to succeed in their careers—something that can also be extremely discouraging to students who will soon be entering the workforce.” Read AiLun’s full piece here.

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