AF Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (6/29)

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.


Resources: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequalities in Education, Health, and the Workforce.

On Tuesday of last week, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the ways in which COVID-19 has worsened existing inequalities, especially in the fields of education, health, and the workforce. They outlined the underlying factors that have caused COVID-19 to impact communities disproportionately; the long-standing inequities that COVID-19 has only amplified and exacerbated; and what the government can do to mitigate consequences in education, health, and the workforce. Watch the full hearing here.  

Update: National Service Legislation Introduced in Congress

Last week, S.3964, The Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (Corps Act) was introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) along with 12 other cosponsors. The Corps Act would double the number of AmeriCorps positions available this year to 150,000 and provide a total of 600,000 service opportunities nationwide over the next three years. It would also increase the AmeriCorps living stipend so that individuals regardless of financial situation can participate; double the value of the AmeriCorps education award; expand Senior Corps eligibility; develop Senior Corps tele-working technology; expand the Volunteer Generation Fund, and more. The sponsors’ goal is to get the supplemental funding and provisions from the CORPS Act included the next COVID relief package being considered by Congress.  America Forward, along with Voices for National Service, endorsed this legislation.  You can find more information on the bill here.

Criminal Justice

Update: The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and the JUSTICE Act

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 236 – 181 to pass the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. GOP Reps. Will Hurd (TX), Fred Upton (MI), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) were the only Republicans to join Democrats in supporting the legislation. The passage of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 came one day after Democrats essentially blocked consideration of the GOP-led bill in the Senate.  The Senate voted 55 to 45 to advance the measure, but fell short of the 60 votes needed. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Angus King (I-Maine) voted with Republicans to try to advance the bill.  Even with the House passing their bill, it is unknown whether the two sides will be able to come to an agreement on a final measure since the two sides have very different reform approaches.  

From the Coalition

REDF: Employment Social Enterprises on the Front Lines

Last week, REDF released a short video featuring employment social enterprise (ESE) recipients of REDF COVID-19 Relief Funding and the work they’re doing on the front lines, responding to the crisis in their communities, and helping train and employ individuals with barriers to employment in this challenging economic period. Watch it here

Opinion: Prison experience helps me lead my company through uncertainty of COVID-19

YouthBuild USA CEO John Valverde writes in USA Today about the ways in which his experience in incarceration helped prepare him for leadership during a crisis. “I was able to survive my incarceration because I trained myself to think long-term…Now as CEO, I am using that same mindset during the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure that our organization comes out the other side stronger. I’m setting realistic expectations for our team that do not rely upon outside forces.” Read his full piece here

Opinion: The Pandemic Should Be A Catalyst To Triple Public School Funding

KIPP Schools CEO Richard Barth makes the case in Forbes for significantly increasing federal education funding in order to offset state tax revenue losses due to the pandemic, and ensure schools across the country have the resources necessary to deliver quality education, during and after this crisis. “Since our country’s highest need school districts rely far more heavily on state funding than affluent districts, the impacts are all but guaranteed to hurt those with the least, the most.” Read his full piece here

Opinion: The Problem With A Volunteer Contact Tracing Army

Year Up’s Jonathan Hasak argues in Forbes that the U.S. is falling short in building a robust contact tracing workforce, and offers solutions and models for cultivating a network to both meet the needs of COVID-19 and ease unemployment for millions of Americans. “Rather than just waiting for federal funding, more states should immediately begin partnering with frontline organizations that can help co-design recruitment and placement strategies that lead to more equitable and inclusive contact tracing workforces…With more than 43 million Americans unemployed right now, a volunteer contact tracing workforce, while well-intentioned, is simply a failure of imagination.” Read his full piece here.

Opinion: Former schools chief pens letter from a black man after Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd

New Teacher Center CEO Desmond Blackburn pens a powerful letter in Florida Today from a Black man to his friend, articulating his thoughts in light of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and his own experience as a Black man. “Being a 46-year-old black man myself and the father of two black men, ages 20 and 17, I pray you can appreciate why these American realities are so menacing to me.” Read his full piece here.

Opinion: Cantor & Balfanz: Relationships Can Fuel Student Growth, Resilience and Educational Equity. Bringing Caring Adults Into Schools Can Help

Turnaround for Children’s Dr. Pamela Cantor and City Year’s Jim Balfanz write in the 74 Million about the critical importance of designing school environments in a post-COVID-19 world to be both physically and emotionally safe places for students. “As educators, community leaders and policymakers prepare for and make decisions about how best to reopen schools, they should take an approach that is responsive to academic learning loss, systems of racial injustice and the emotional trauma that many students — and educators — are experiencing.” Read their full piece here

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