America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (10/25)

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 Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda continued in Congress last week. Leadership from both chambers remain hopeful that they can agree to a bill that would be around $2 trillion by the end of this week; in order to proceed with a vote before the end of the month on both the reconciliation bill and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act.

President Biden held a CNN town hall last week and gave the American public an update on the negotiations. He highlighted significant changes that he expects to see from his original proposal. Twelve weeks of federal paid family leave will likely be cut down to four weeks, tuition-free community college will likely be stripped altogether, a work requirement may be included for the enhanced Child Tax Credit, and the proposal to include dental, vision, and hearing under Medicare coverage is likely out of the package.

Senate Democrats released their versions of the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) appropriations bills last week. None of the bills are expected to receive a mark-up in committee. However, they do provide insight into the funding priorities of the Committee Leadership as we move towards negotiations with Republican Senate colleagues and ultimately to a conference committee with House appropriators on the final bills. Just as a reminder, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution through December 3. You can find the bill text of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill here and the text of the explanatory statement here.

Update: U.S. Senate Confirms Catherine Lhamon as Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Catherine Lhamon to lead the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued the following statement:

“With this confirmation, our nation has once again gained a champion who will work each day to ensure that our public schools and institutions of higher education become ever fairer and more just. I am thrilled that Catherine will reprise her role at the U.S. Department of Education as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights. In this role, she will lead the Department’s vital efforts to ensure our schools and college campuses are free from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and disability and to protect all students’ civil rights in education. Catherine is one of the strongest civil rights leaders in America and has a robust record of fighting for communities that are historically and presently underserved. Catherine will continue fighting for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students, and I cannot wait for her to join the team.”

Resource: U.S. Department of Education Releases New Resource on Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health Through COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Education released a new resource last week: Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students. This resource highlights seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K–12 schools, and higher education settings, and presents seven corresponding recommendations. This resource includes many real-world examples of how the recommendations are being put into action by schools, communities, and states across the country.

State Education Agencies and local school districts can use the resources in the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program (ARP ESSER), as well as previous rounds of ESSER funds, to implement these recommendations and ensure students receive the support they need. Through ARP ESSER alone, state and local education leaders have $122 billion available to them to ensure the mental health, social, emotional and academic needs of our students are met.

Resource: New Report from Brown University Highlights New Evidence of School-based Policing in U.S. Schools

Researchers found that the harms of school policing may outweigh its benefits. In a new report, researchers found that school policing can lead to exclusionary discipline, such as suspension and expulsion, students are chronically absent more when campuses are staffed by cops, with researchers identifying a marked spike in missed school days among youth with disabilities.

The results, researchers note, suggest that school-based police could hinder students’ academic outcomes, increase their long-term involvement with the criminal justice system and appear to “seriously exacerbate existing opportunity gaps in education.” The effects of school police on discipline and arrests were “consistently over two times larger for Black students” than their white classmates, the study found.

Resource: 100 Black Teachers’ Suggestions For Creating Culturally Affirming Schools

Recruiting a diverse staff and building a “family-like” school culture are among the key steps more than 100 Black educators recommend for building culturally affirming schools. The suggestions, compiled in a report from Teach Plus and the Center for Black Educator Development, come at a crucial time, as Black teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than many other groups due to issues including professional isolation and burnout. Currently, about 7 percent of teachers nationwide are Black, compared with 15 percent of students.

Resource: ​​District Boundaries Leave Quality Schools Out Of Reach For Many Low-Income Families

The affordable housing shortage in many metro areas affects not only where low-income families live, but where their children go to school. In hundreds of districts across the country, families concentrated in low-income housing brush up against districts with more resources and better schools, but few affordable rental units. These are what the researchers at Bellwether Education Partners call “barrier borders” in their new report, “Priced Out of Public Schools.” California, Illinois and Texas are among the states where metro areas are carved up into multiple, smaller districts. Whether intentional or not, this “educational gerrymandering,” as the authors label it, results in smaller, exclusive districts that cater to higher-income, less racially diverse student populations.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Approves 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 forty-four state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Additionally, the Department announced the approval of Northern Mariana Islands Public School System’s implementation plan. A table tracking the status 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.

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