America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (2/1)

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 

In Washington last week, discussions continued among lawmakers on the next steps for President Biden’s COVID-19 relief measure, the American Rescue Plan, which includes an additional $170 billion in pandemic relief funding for education. It is not clear now when the proposal might move; however, both Senate Majority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi have said they want a bill completed by March.  At the same time, now that the Senate leaders have come to an agreement on how they will govern a Senate that is split 50-50, leaders are moving forward to organize the new Congress, including naming leaders to the various Committees and assigning congressional members to the different committees.   

President Biden has continued to sign a number of executive actions, on topics ranging from the COVID-19 response to immigration to climate change. 

Three executive orders to highlight, in particular are: 

  • An order to extend the pause on repayment of Federal student loans until at least September 30, 2021; 
  • A wide-ranging order aimed at “Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers,” which directed the Secretaries of both Education and Health and Human Services to provide support for high-quality learning during the pandemic – in remote, hybrid, or in-person settings – and devote significant resources towards the safe reopening of schools; and,
  • An order directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider issuing new guidance to allow states to increase emergency benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that Congress has approved but have not yet been made available. President Biden is also calling on Congress to extend a 15 percent increase to SNAP benefits. The order also asks the USDA to issue guidance on increasing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments by 15 percent. The executive order was intended to address food insecurity heightened by a lack of available in-school meals for children.


Update: America Forward Letter in Support of Dr. Miguel Cardona, Nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education

Last week, America Forward sent a letter to Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and the members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in support of the nomination of Dr. Miguel Cardona to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. 

The letter cites Dr. Cardona’s personal and professional experience, including his work as a public educator, and urges lawmakers to “quickly consider and confirm” Dr. Cardona. You can read the full letter here.  

Incoming Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that the Committee will hold Miguel Cardona’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, February 3.  She also announced that she will hold a confirmation hearing for Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor on February 4.


Update: Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) Introduce Revitalize and Expand SNAP Education and Training (RESET) For America’s Future Act in the U.S. House

America Forward worked closely with U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) on legislation to strengthen workforce development programs, making them more evidence-based, more outcomes-oriented, more flexible, and better positioned to provide American workers with new skills to secure long-term employment. Last week, Rep. Spanberger and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the bill in the U.S. House, the Revitalize and Expand SNAP Education and Training (RESET) For America’s Future Act.

Click here to view Rep. Spanberger’s press release, which summarizes key elements of the bill, and lifts up quotes from America Forward Executive Director Deborah Smolover and from Coalition member Third Sector’s CEO Caroline Whistler, reflecting the close partnership between America Forward, several Coalition members, Results for America, and the bill sponsors in drafting and introducing this legislation.

You can find America Forward’s statement in support of the legislation here

Following the bill’s introduction, America Forward helped coordinate a sign-on letter in support of the legislation to leadership and key members in the House of Representatives, which was signed by more than 50 organizations across the country. We sent copies of our support letter to the bill sponsors, as well as House leadership and key House committee leadership. The final support letter to House leadership is available here

On Thursday, February 4 between 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, America Forward will be leading a “Tweetstorm” to keep building on the momentum and showing widespread support for this important legislation. Participation is quick and easy, and we’ve compiled a toolkit with everything you’ll need to join in, including background on the legislation, sample social media posts, graphics, and more.


Resource: FY 2021 FSCS Competition for New Awards Now Open

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the application for new grants under the full-service community schools program for FY 2021 is now available. The deadline to apply is March 1st, 2021, and more details and application information can be found here


Resource: Reconciliation 101

As Congress raises the possibility of passing a COVID-19 relief bill through a reconciliation process, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has put together this Reconciliation 101 resource, to answer any and all questions about the process, how it works, the history of its use, and more. Access the full guide here.  


Resource: Serve America & Change Research Poll Results 

The Serve America Coalition recently published a press release on a poll they completed in early January with Change Research. Some of the toplines include:

  • 77% of Americans, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, support an expansion of national service;
  • 67% of Americans believe the Biden-Harris administration should prioritize programs that can help to heal divides in the country;
  • And, 63% of Americans feel national service is a program that can do just that.

More highlights from the poll can be found here


Update: Ohio Pay for Success

Last week, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced the first five project proposals deemed “Pay-for-Success Appropriate and Ready” through the ResultsOHIO program. The five projects have received ResultsOHIO Feasibility Reports based on the initial round of screening. Via this announcement, the Ohio Treasurer’s office announced its intention to pursue a range of projects via Pay for Success strategies to link public funding to improved outcomes, including projects in the workforce, higher education, early child home visiting, substance abuse treatment and economic mobility spaces. Learn more and read the released feasibility reports here.


Advancing Whole-Learning Education


Blog Post: From 7 Superintendents: What 2020 Taught Us About Leading 

In this blog post from Transcend, seven superintendents from around the country reflect on their experience as the inaugural cohort of the Learner-Centered Leadership Lab, what 2020 taught them about leadership, and the importance of whole-learner approaches that put learners at the center of our education systems. Read the full blog post here


Policy-makers’ School Climate Playbook

ExcelinEd and Aspen Education co-published the recent report, Creating Conditions for Student Success: A Policymakers’ School Climate Playbook. Creating school climates that foster safety, a sense of belonging, and positive relationships is a key aspect of advancing whole-learner approaches to education. As this report outlines, it is time for state-level leaders to take an active role in helping schools create a positive learning environment for all students and teachers, both in-person and virtually, as schools and communities seek to “reinvent and recover in the midst of an active intersecting medical, economic, and racial crises.”

View a recent panel conversation on proven school climate strategies, moderated by Aspen Education’s Danielle Gonzales and ExcelinEd’s Lizzette Reynolds, which included perspectives from Krupa Hedge, a highschool student from Kentucky, Carmen Ayala, the state superintendent of education in Illinois, and LeeAnne Cornyn, from the office of the governor in Ohio, here.


From the America Forward Coalition 


Letter: How Nonprofits & Social Entrepreneurs Can Answer the President’s Call to Action

Social Impact Architects Founder Suzanne Smith pens a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to “become the nonprofit sector’s ‘champion-in-chief’: “Help us harness the collective power of the government and individual citizens to create and sustain the changes needed to tackle the challenges ahead and formulate collective solutions. The good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch. Brilliant minds from across the country – both before and during the pandemic – have started the conversations and just need leadership to build consensus and take ideas to scale. To that end, here are what I would call bright spots that are being driven by an army of ‘better angels’ across the country. Read Suzanne’s full letter here


Can You Provide a Quality Preschool Education Over Zoom?

AppleTree Institute teacher Aria Jones shares her perspective on providing virtual quality preschool education in this piece from EdSurge: “Each student might only be getting an hour’s worth of screen time,” says Jones, who teaches at AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School in the southeast corner of D.C. “I don’t think that’s a lot in a day to be in school, but the learning is truly there.” Read the full piece here


An Update from Reading PartnersReading Partners shared two new resources highlighting their work: a brief on how they are combatting COVID-19 learning loss through national service, in partnership with AmeriCorps; and an overview of recent programming changes they’ve made to better serve all learners.

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