America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (1/20)

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.

Last Week in Washington

Negotiations on President Biden’s Build Back Better Act have carried over into the new year with the White House, Senate Leadership, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) continuing to work to find common ground on the legislation. While the House and Senate await the outcome of these negotiations, the two chambers are considering action and legislation on a myriad of issues from Russian sanctions, Voting Rights, and Senate Rules regarding the filibuster.

Separately, the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Appropriations talks continued in both chambers of Congress last week. Talks between House and Senate Appropriations leaders are focused on a possible omnibus agreement as the current Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires on Friday, February 18. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have also floated the possibility of including another round of pandemic aid for COVID-19 health care funding. A bipartisan group of Senators is also discussing additional pandemic aid for the restaurant industry. Finally, President Biden’s State of the Union Address will take place on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. The release of his Fiscal Year 2023 Budget request is expected shortly after. While the State of the Union typically takes place in February, the stalemate over the FY22 Appropriations bills and the budget reconciliation process have prompted the delay of the address until further action occurs.

Update: Student Loan Repayment Delayed to May 2022

Last month, the President and Department of Education announced a 90-day extension in the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collection, through May 1, 2022. The extension will allow the Administration to assess the impacts of the Omicron variant on student borrowers and provide additional time for borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Will Award $5 Million to Support Parents and Families Informing Student Development and Academic Recovery

On December 21, the Department released an application for Statewide Family Engagement Centers. This program will award $5 million in grants to organizations that offer technical assistance and training to states and districts in the implementation of effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvement in student development and academic achievement. As students and families continue to be impacted by the pandemic, it is critical that states and districts work in partnership with parents and families to help address these impacts (press release). Applications are due on February 17, 2022.

Resource: White House Releases Fact Sheet on COVID Testing in Schools and Keeping Schools Open

Last week, the Biden Administration released a fact sheet titled, “Biden-⁠Harris Administration Increases COVID-⁠19 Testing in Schools to Keep Students Safe and Schools Open.” The fact sheet includes details on the Administration’s plan to send 5 million no-cost tests per month to schools; deploying federal surge testing units to support free testing access for students, school staff, and families at community testing sites; and new training, resources, and materials for implementing tests in order to keep schools open. Read the full fact sheet here.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Approves All State Plans for Use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students

The U.S. Department of Education has now announced its approval of all state and territory plans, including Washington, D.C., for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students. A table of the plans for each state that submitted them can be found here, and plans submitted under the Outlying Areas State Educational Agencies Fund can be found here.

Update: U.S. Treasury Department Issues Final Rule for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department issued its final rule for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan, which delivers $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanding on the interim final rule from May 2021, this rule clarifies that communities can use the funds for a broader set of uses, including affordable housing, childcare, early learning, and services to address learning loss during the pandemic. In addition, the Treasury has clarified that communities can use these funds to improve the effectiveness of service delivery, such as for technical assistance to support the use of data and evidence, program evaluation, and community outreach and engagement.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Emphasizes Importance of Full-Service Community Schools Through Competitive Grant Program

On Jan. 11, the Department released the Notice of Proposed Priorities, definitions, and requirements for the Full-Service Community Schools competitive grant program and is launching a 30-day public comment period for the program. The proposed priorities are intended to encourage quality implementation of the four pillars of community schools: integrated student supports that address out-of-school barriers to learning through partnerships with social and health service agencies and providers; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; active family and community engagement; and collaborative leadership and practices. For more information about these priorities, the definitions, and requirements, and to submit comments, access the Federal Register.

Update: Deadline Extended for Good Jobs Challenge

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has extended the deadline for applications to the Good Jobs Challenge from January 26, 2022 to February 10, 2022. Funded by the American Rescue Plan, the Good Jobs Challenge is a $500 million initiative aimed to develop and strengthen regional systems to develop and execute sectoral partnerships that will lead to well-paying jobs. EDA particularly encourages efforts to reach historically underserved populations and areas, communities of color, women, and other groups facing labor market barriers. EDA will make awards to either the System Lead Entity of a regional workforce system or the Backbone Organization of a sectoral partnership as the lead applicant.

Springboard Collective CEO, Alejandro Gibes de Gac, Pens Op-Ed on Parent Power in the Education Post

“Behind the shouting matches and clenched fists at school board meetings are impassioned parents desperately seeking any and every measure to give their kids a better life,” writes America Forward Coalition member Springboard Collaborative CEO, Alejandro Gibes de Gac. Read Gibes de Gac’s piece in Education Post here.

Year Up Senior Director, Jonathan Hasak, Writes About Closing the Racial Opportunity Gap in the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Jonathan Hasak, a Senior Director with Coalition member Year Up, makes recommendations to the Biden Administration on how to help close the racial opportunity gap in his new op-ed in the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. “In order to combat racial inequality without congressional action, it behooves the Biden administration to launch a national campaign encouraging employers to expand and adopt inclusive talent management practices,” suggests Hasak. Read the full op-ed here.

Saga Education Co-Founders, Alan Safran and Antonio Gutierrez, Publish Article on Tutoring Programs in Real Clear Education

Cofounders of Saga Education Alan Safran and Antonio Gutierrez, America Forward’s newest Coalition organization, published an article titled, “High Dosage Tutoring Can Help Ease Teacher Shortages” in Real Clear Education. “Here’s an idea for patching holes in the teacher talent pipeline: invest in “high-dosage” tutoring programs – those involving intensive one-on-one or small-group tutoring,” the two write in their article.

Third Sector Capital Partners Wins SIPPRA Grant

On December 17, the U.S. Treasury Department announced nearly $3.9 million in new federal commitments to a team including Coalition organization Third Sector Capital Partners. These awards are part of Treasury’s Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA), the landmark program that the America Forward Coalition was instrumental in achieving, and will support an Oklahoma project providing alternatives to incarceration for women with substance abuse disorders.

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