America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (10/6)

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

Last week, Democrats on the Hill continued to struggle with a path forward on the President’s Build Back Better Agenda, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act, funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. Moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), maintained a firm position that $3.5 trillion for the Build Back Better Act was too high of a price tag. Progressive House Democrats remained firm in their position that they would not vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act which was scheduled for a vote this week without a deal on the reconciliation process. The House leadership and the President remain in negotiations with lawmakers on the Hill for a path forward on these two major priorities.

Early last week, Senate Republicans rejected a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government beyond the end of the fiscal year (which begins today) because of a provision that would have raised the debt ceiling. In response, House and Senate leadership moved forward on Thursday with a CR that omitted the debt ceiling provision, just hours before the government would have gone into a shutdown. The Continuing Resolution funds the government for 9 weeks until December 3 while Congress negotiates final funding numbers.

Secretary of Treasury, Janet Yellen, warned lawmakers last week that the government would default on October 18th, when debt measures are exhausted. Secretary Yellen urged lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling or abolish it altogether, because defaulting would cause “irreparable damage” to the economy. We expect congressional leaders will look for other legislative avenues to raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks.

Last Week at America Forward

America Forward’s Coalition Briefing on Budget and Appropriations

On Thursday, September 30th, members of the America Forward team briefed Coalition members on the current landscape in Congress. We reviewed details on the Budget Reconciliation Process, Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations, legislative priorities, and the politics at play on the Hill. A recording of the briefing can be found here.

America Forward Sends Letter to House Education and Labor Committee Leadership

On September 24th, America Forward sent a letter to Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Education and Labor Committee to convey support over a number of priorities in the Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act. America Forward highlighted key priorities including:

  • Strengthening our child care system and secure universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds;
  • Providing strong supports for postsecondary students by funding two years of tuition-free community college, increasing the value of Pell Grants, investing in minority serving institutions, and ensuring DREAMERS are eligible for federal student aid;
  • Helping school districts repair, modernize, or rebuild crumbling and outdated school buildings;
  • Supporting our nation’s teachers and school leaders through targeted investments in educator preparation programs like the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program;
  • Supporting post secondary evidence-based student services by investing in a transformative $9 billion College Retention and Completion Grant program;
  • Bolstering and improving critical job training programs, including funds for apprenticeship programs and YouthBuild; and
  • Expanding our most effective child nutrition programs.

The letter also advocates for strengthening and bolstering several provisions including:

  • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant to better match the needs of today’s postsecondary students;
  • Including meaningful provisions in the workforce programs to require that grants funds be used on evidence-based, rigorously proven approaches, including a set aside that aligns with the outcomes-driven structure of the bipartisan Expanding Pathways for Employment Act; and
  • Providing direct funding to Americorps for establishment and support of the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) and other Americorps participants, and ensuring that those that serve in the CCC can do so through a community service as well as a workforce development approach.

Medium: In Lieu of Flowers, Please Help

While National Suicide Prevention Month has come to a close, the work and conversations around mental health and the policies to support mental health must continue. Last week, America Forward Associate, Anthony Covell shares his personal story about his experience with suicide loss and how policymakers can support students’ wellbeing in this powerful Medium piece. You can read Anthony’s full article here.

Opinion: We need a ‘no results, no funding’ workforce policy

Last week, Work Shift News, a nonprofit newsroom reporting on the connections between education and work, published a new article from Dr. Angela Jackson, who leads New Profit’s Economic Mobility portfolio. The article, We need a ‘no results, no funding’ workforce policy, underscores the importance of tracking the employment outcomes of workforce training programs and prominently features the work of Year up and Project Quest. The piece also introduces the Expanding Pathways to Employment Act, a bipartisan bill that puts a stake in the ground for proven, results-oriented approaches to economic mobility.

If you’d like to share the piece with your networks, please see the sample tweet below (or re-share from Twitter or LinkedIn). We’d be grateful for any visibility you can provide!

  • Less than 1% of government funding is tied to results-oriented #workforce training programs. New Profit’s @angjack’s new piece for @workshiftnews explores how a new bipartisan bill puts a stake in the ground for proven approaches to #EconomicMobility:

Update: U.S. Department of Agriculture to Pump $1.5 Billion Extra Toward Schools to Address Cafeteria Food Shortage

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last Wednesday that $1.5 billion in emergency funds will help schools more easily acquire U.S.-grown food supplies they need to serve healthy meals on a daily basis. The funds will also “enhance the toolbox for school nutrition professionals working hard to make sure students have reliable access to healthy meals,” according to the department’s news release.

Update: New Data Finds that Absenteeism Surged Among English Learners During the Pandemic

Across the country, the obstacles posed by remote learning may have triggered a disproportionate jump in absenteeism among English learners, new adata indicate, despite the student group traditionally having the highest rates of attendance nationwide before the pandemic.

Many English learners over the past 18 months have lacked devices, juggled child care duties and struggled to navigate English-only instructions on virtual learning platforms, according to reports through the pandemic. COVID-19’s full impact on this vulnerable population remains blurry, as finalized nationwide counts of chronic absenteeism from last year are not expected for up to three months. However, these new figures offer a sneak peak into long-awaited data that helps bring the picture into clearer focus.

Update: American Rescue Plan (ARP)

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 (ED) has now announced its approval of thirty-seven state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, 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, and West Virginia.

Additionally, ED 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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