AF Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (7/27)

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.


Announcement: “Advancing Whole-Learner Education” Initiative 

Last week, America Forward launched Advancing Whole-Learner Education — a new initiative aimed at deepening public engagement and expanding federal support for whole-learner approaches to education. As the first step in the new initiative, America Forward released Whole-Learner Education: A Policy Roadmap to Student Success, a detailed framework for evidence-based, whole-learner approaches to education that includes specific policy recommendations for federal policymakers.

Developed in partnership with several members of the America Forward Coalition, along with experts, practitioners, and leaders across the country; and with deep support from the LEGO Foundation, Whole-Learner Education: A Policy Roadmap to Student Success lays out a vision for how federal policy can create a foundation for the expansion of innovative educational approaches that advance equity and improve outcomes for all students. Whole-learner approaches prioritize a range of learning experiences that support the development of the critical, interconnected skills that all learners need to thrive – both in school and in life.

Through the Advancing Whole-Learner Education Initiative, America Forward aims to work closely with policymakers, educators, advocates, families, and our Coalition partners to ensure that educational approaches focus on the needs of the whole child.


Webinar: Advocacy Strategies to Advance the Whole Learner

To kick off the release of Whole-Learner Education: A Policy Roadmap to Student Success, America Forward held a webinar, Advocacy Strategies to Advance the Whole Learner.

The training (1) provided an overview of the whole learner policy roadmap and how it can be leveraged for use in advocacy efforts at this time; (2) boosted the skills of participants in engaging in advocacy with Federal, State and local leaders; and (3) provided an opportunity for America Forward Coalition members to cross-share and exchange ideas around engaging in advocacy to further our goals.

A recording of the webinar can be found here, and the slide deck here.


Letter: Concern Regarding Delayed Implementation of SIPPRA

On Friday, America Forward sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought, and federal interagency staff charged with implementing the Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA) of 2018, which created a breakthrough new federal outcomes fund. 

In the letter, we expressed our growing concern regarding the delayed implementation of SIPPRA, given that the federal government is eight months past its statutory deadline for making the first round of awards. We write that “as federal agencies grapple with formidable challenges during the current pandemic, supporting evidence-based approaches that offer solutions in our most vulnerable communities is more important than ever. The current delay is particularly concerning, given that each SIPPRA finalist project would serve those who are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, including those who are homeless or living in poverty . . . It is critically important that the federal government proceed with awards for a first cohort of SIPPRA projects as soon as possible.”

America Forward has been deeply involved in the creation and passage of SIPPRA, predating the initial introduction of legislation creating SIPPRA in 2014. Many of our members have used Pay for Success strategies to scale their services; and several are directly involved in one or more of the eight finalists reviewed and endorsed by SIPPRA’s bipartisan Commission.


Letter: Support for the CORPS Act 

National service members and organizations across the country continue to work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, providing critical services to help communities respond to and recover from the pandemic. Recently, America Forward signed onto a letter led by Voices for National Service urging congressional leaders to support the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act, which was introduced in the Senate over a month ago and aims “to expand AmeriCorps and Senior Corps in the next COVID-19 relief package.”

“The CORPS Act invests in the strong and capable national service infrastructure that can respond to specific local needs. In addition to expanding AmeriCorps and strengthening Senior Corps to help communities with food distribution, supporting students, ensuring that medically vulnerable people continue to receive their medications and supporting public health needs, it will give young people experience, skills, a living stipend, and post-service education scholarship at a time when employment opportunities are scarce and the needs of our communities are great. It also prioritizes expanding programs in rural and high poverty communities.”

Read the full letter here.


Letter: Inclusion of Undocumented Workers and Mixed-Status Families in Future COVID-19 Relief Efforts 

Last week, America Forward signed onto a letter being circulated by Aliento, urging congressional leaders Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) to include cash assistance for mixed-status families battling the current COVID-19 pandemic in the next stimulus package.

“Currently, there are over 16.7 million people in the United States living in a mixed status family. Undocumented workers are the backbone of our society, as they disproportionately occupy essential jobs such as those in the agricultural and service industry. Each year, the IRS estimates that about 6 million undocumented immigrants who serve our friends, neighbors, businesses, and communities file individual income tax returns and other organizations believe that number is higher. According to New American Economy, annually undocumented immigrants pay more than $20 billion in federal taxes, and in state and local taxes by filing tax returns with their Individual Tax Identification Numbers.” Read the full letter here.


Update: Main Street Lending Program

Over the past couple of weeks, the Federal Reserve modified its Main Street Lending Program to permit nonprofits to borrow through the program. To qualify, nonprofits must have at least 10 employees, and qualify for IRS tax-exempt status. You can read the Federal Reserve’s announcement here, and learn more about this development from Market Watch here. America Forward has previously worked with other partners to advocate for this expansion so nonprofits can qualify.

So far, unfortunately, early indications show limited take-up of the initiative. With interest rates above 3 percent and loans limited to five years, many nonprofits are reportedly not initiating borrowing, and relatively few banks are signing up for the program. We will continue to monitor this effort and provide further updates if the Main Street Lending Program undergoes additional changes that are relevant to our Coalition members.


Report: AmeriCorps and Senior Corps: Quantifying the Impact

Last week, Voices for National Services released a new report confirming what many who work in and advocate for national service programs already know — that AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs generate a substantial return on investment. A July 2020 report by economists at ICF found that “found that every $1 that Congress appropriates for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps returns over $17 to society, program members, and the government.”

This research can be found on the Voices for National Service website, here. A summary can be found here, and the full report here.


From The Coalition


Opinion: Reality Check: What Will It Take to Reopen Schools Amid the Pandemic? 5 Experts Weigh In on What New Roles Teachers Should Play

Evan Stone, co-chief executive officer and co-founder of Educators for Excellence, makes the case for policy changes and adjustments to teacher contracts that allow for flexibility and advance equity, in this piece from The 74 Million: “Contracts should also provide clear opportunities for teachers to increase their compensation for taking on additional work, serving vulnerable populations of students and helping to lead necessary shifts in their schools. A one-size-fits-all contract that dictates how teachers spend their day and limits flexibility won’t allow for the constant innovation that is required.” Read more here.


Commentary: Let’s ‘Deploy This Army Of Goodwill’: Congress Must Expand National Service In Response To The Pandemic

Jim Balfanz, CEO of City Year, and AnnMaura Connolly, City Year’s chief strategy officer, advocate for the passage of The CORPS Act, in this piece from WBUR: “The CORPS Act could be a lifeline for communities struggling to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, care for the sick, help families put food on the table and support schools that face formidable challenges this fall. It can open doors for young adults facing an abysmal job market and provide an alternative for students considering a gap year in the hope of returning to college once campus life normalizes.” Read their full piece here


Opinion: New York City needs online voter registration now

Denora Getachew, New York Executive Director of Generation Citizen, and Ayanna Henry, high school-aged alumna of Generation Citizen’s programming, argue the need for online voter registration in New York City, to increase voter turnout and improve civic engagement, in this piece from the New York Daily News: “The challenge is that many New Yorkers — as many as 700,000, to be exact — do not have a DMV-issued ID. This could bar thousands of eligible voters from participating in this election. In New York City alone, more than 90,000 young people will turn 18 this year and an estimated 500,000 under the age of 30 are eligible to vote, but are not registered. The solution is clear: New Yorkers need a robust online voter registration system that all New Yorkers can access. And the good news is that the City’s Campaign Finance Board has already built an online voter registration system in June of 2019 through a local ordinance. They just need state authorization to launch the system.” Read their full piece here.


Q&A: YouthBuild aims to open a school designed to build up young men of color

Anthony Hubbard, CEO of the YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, joins the Boston Globe’s Edward Fitzpatrick for a Q&A interview about the YouthBuild Preparatory Academy. “‘We’re disruptors and innovators,’ CEO Anthony Hubbard says. ‘We’ve decided to call ourselves a prep school because we want to take over this term.’ Read the full interview here.


Opinion: When We Do Our Homework and Put Resources in Place, Students Can Do Their Homework, Too

Shalinee Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Zearn, writes about education data Zearn has collected during COVID-19, the implications it holds for future distance learning, and how best to equip school leaders, teachers, and students for a return to learning this fall, in this piece from Education Post: “One good we hope can come out of this crisis is a renewed focus on our obligation to ensure every student across the country, regardless of their ZIP code or race, can access programs to help them thrive. As is evident from the OI Zearn dataset, Washington D.C. schools are taking important steps and leading the way. It is vital that we pay attention to this bright spot and others around the country. Because when we do our homework and offer everyone the opportunities they deserve, students can do theirs.” Read her full piece here.


Opinion: Here’s Why ‘Work Hard, Be Nice’ Isn’t Enough

Nathan D. Woods, M.Ed., senior manager of community relations and advocacy at KIPP D.C., writes about KIPP’s decision to retire it’s motto, “Work Hard, Be Nice,” in this piece from Education Post: “On its surface, the slogan is seemingly benign. But the reality for many of my fellow KIPP students across the country is this term fails to address the systemic inequities and injustices that many of us face. As a member of the KIPP family for more than 15 years, I have a fervent and firsthand understanding of the intentions behind the motto, but I also understand the unintended, harmful impact of it.” Read his full piece here.

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