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
As the second session of the 116th Congress winds down, House and Senate members are working to wrap up legislative business for the year. The previous funding resolution expired at midnight on Friday, 12/11. Both the House and Senate last week passed a bill to extend the continuing funding resolution (CR) through this Friday, December 18th, which the President signed before the weekend, allowing negotiations on a final Fiscal Year 21 (FY’21) omnibus package to continue this week.
In regards to COVID-19 relief, Republicans and Democrats are continuing to negotiate a stimulus package with a price tag of roughly $900 billion, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that he sees no path to an agreement on aid for state and local governments and on liability protections that would be acceptable to the Senate Republican membership. Senator McConnell is calling for dropping both of those provisions. That plan continues to be rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other top Democrats who instead are open to a pause in liability lawsuits in exchange for the $160 billion in state aid floated by a bipartisan group of negotiators. The bipartisan group trying to forge a compromise was able to agree to a formula for distributing state and local aid, but talks have bogged down on liability protections. Members in the House of Representative were sent home last Thursday and told votes on the FY’21 omnibus package and COVID-19 relief deal wouldn’t be ready for a vote until at least this Tuesday.
Letter: Support for Today’s Students
Last week, America Forward signed onto a letter led by The Today’s Student Coalition urging congressional leaders to pass policies that support today’s postsecondary students, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause academic and financial destabilization.
The letter reads: “Today’s students—of whom 34 percent are older than 25, a quarter parents, and 60 percent working while in college—have not simply lost access to campuses and lecture halls. They have lost access to stable and secure housing, affordable and nutritious meals, on-campus child care, and other supports that enable them to succeed in postsecondary education. New reports of enrollment and retention rates in decline are especially troublesome. At a time when higher education can be a meaningful engine of economic growth, today’s students and their families face insurmountable barriers to entry and success. Congress has a critical chance to support student success during the lame duck session.”
Read the full letter, including the proposed policy changes, here.
Update: Department of Education Announces Extension of Federal Loan Forbearance
In response to the COVID-19 national emergency, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the extension of the federal student loan administrative forbearance period, the pause in interest accrual, and the suspension of collections activity through January 31, 2021. Federal student loan borrowers will not be expected to make any payments through January of next year, although they will continue to be able to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate as they pay down principal. Non-payments will continue to count toward the number of payments required under an income-driven repayment plan, a loan rehabilitation agreement, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Update: 2021 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Postponed
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on school attendance patterns, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has determined that it cannot conduct the 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law. Too many students are receiving their education through distance learning or are physically attending schools in locations where outside visitors to the schools are being kept at a minimum. NCES is postponing the next NAEP collection to 2022. National Assessment Governing Board [NAGB] statement.
Update: COVID-19-Related News from the Administration
On December 8, the White House hosted state and local leaders and private sector partners for the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit, featuring remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence and panel discussions on the development, testing, and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine (fact sheet).
One day earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an updated COVID-19 Toolkit for K-12 Schools with guidance and tools to help school administrators make decisions, protect their students and staff, and communicate with their communities (partner call video).
Last month, the Department issued an updated fact sheet for procuring, donating, or loaning personal protective equipment and other medical supplies and equipment purchased with federal funding.
Update: Maycomb Capital’s Community Outcomes Fund: Update on Tennessee Pay for Success Early Childhood Project
Maycomb Capital’s Community Outcomes Fund helped lead the way last year to launch a multi-million dollar Pay for Success (PFS) project to expand and develop quality, evidence-based pre-K education programs in Shelby County in Memphis, Tennessee, with the support of a coalition of community partners, including First 8 Memphis, Seeding Success, and the Urban Child Institute, along with substantial funding from United Health Care. In Memphis, as the program enters year two, the project is already meeting early benchmarks: nearly 80% of students met or exceeded the consistent attendance benchmark established by the project, considered a leading indicator of subsequent educational success.
The PFS model is empowering local organizations and helping support these critical services for young children. Read more about the project here.
Resource: Tech Goes Home 2020 Impact Report
Last week, Tech Goes Home (TGH) released their 2020 Impact Report, examining the impact of their critical work to address deep digital inequity and close the digital divide over the past year. The report reads: “The pandemic underscored just how significant a burden digital exclusion continues to place on the many families who remain without the internet access, digital devices, or digital skills necessary to access critical resources like education, work and healthcare from home. These tools are essential to helping adults find jobs, empowering students to achieve, seniors to access critical health services and connect with loved ones, and people of all ages to participate in civic life.”
The report highlights that, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, “[TGH] worked in collaboration with over 150 community-based partner sites and 300 instructors throughout the city [of Boston] to build out an entirely virtual learning model,” and that after completing the TGH program:
- 3,000+ graduates use their technology and skills to communicate with others via email or videochat
- 2,400+ have been able to access telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 1,150+ students are better able to do schoolwork online
- 560+ graduates who were unemployed at the beginning of the TGH course found jobs or became full-time students after taking the course
Read TGH’s full 2020 Impact Report here.
Advancing Whole-Learner Education: America Forward’s Whole-Learner Education Insights and Action Newsletter
Last week, America Forward launched a new newsletter focused on insights and action steps to advance whole-learner approaches to education, as part of a Whole-Learner Education initiative launched earlier this year with generous support from the LEGO Foundation and with the goal of increasing public and policymaker support for evidence-based whole-learner approaches to education that advance all students’ success – both in school and in life.
The monthly newsletter will serve as a way for America Forward to capture and share important news and updates from the Whole-Learner Education initiative, including thought leadership, virtual events, and targeted trainings; continue to connect Coalition organizations, partners, and education leaders across the country; increase our impact by amplifying key content and growing our collective voice.
To sign up to receive the whole-learner newsletter, follow this link and find the “Subscribe to America Forward’s Whole-Learner Education Insights & Action Newsletter” box at the bottom of the page!
From the America Forward Coalition
Opinion: Opportunities in Wellness: A Key to Learning
Beth Rabbitt, CEO of The Learning Accelerator (TLA), writes about the importance of supporting student wellness in this piece from Getting Smart: “The relationship between learner wellbeing and academic success has long been both intuitively obvious and well documented in scientific research. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has thrown this relationship into even starker relief, forcing education systems to confront the complicated interplay between the ‘wellness’ of individuals and their communities with their ability to achieve their academic missions head-on.” Read Beth’s full piece here.
Q&A: Why Teach For America Wants To Expand Access To Computer Science Education
Alison Griffin, Senior Vice President with Whiteboard Advisors, spoke with Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach For America (TFA), about the importance of delivering quality and equitable computer science education to all students, in this Q&A from Forbes.
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