America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (11/22)

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 Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its report that showed the Build Back Better Act (i.e., budget reconciliation package) would add $159 billion to the deficit over ten years. On Friday morning, following the release of this score, which many moderate Democrats were waiting on before voting for the bill, the House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act by a vote of 220-213. The bill now heads to the Senate, where changes are expected to be made before the Senate passes it and then sends it back to the House for a final vote.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer said on Friday after the House vote, “the Senate will take up this legislation. We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk and deliver help for middle-class families.” The Senate and House stand in recess for Thanksgiving this week.

Read America Forward’s statement on the House’s passage of the Build Back Better Act here. The White House Fact Sheet on the Build Back Better Framework can be found here and a section-by-section summary from the House Rules committee can be found here.

President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act last Monday, November 15th, in a ceremony with both Democrats and Republicans. The bill was passed by the Senate with strong bipartisan support in August, and was passed by the House on Friday, November 5th, with 13 Republicans joining most of the Democratic Caucus. The $1.2 trillion bill includes massive investments in transportation, broadband, water and wastewater, electric grids, and other physical infrastructure priorities.

Update: House Education and Labor Joint Subcommittee hearing on “Examining the Implementation of COVID-19 Education Funds.”

On November 17, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and House Education and Labor Subcommittee on High Education and Workforce Investment hosted a hearing on COVID-19 education funds, regarding “how schools and universities are using COVID-19 relief funds to support their students.” A recording of the hearing can be viewed here.

Update: U.S. Departments of the Interior, Education, and Health & Human Services Launch Multi-Agency Initiative to Protect and Preserve Native Languages

The U.S. Departments of the Interior, Education, and Health and Human Services launched a new interagency initiative today to preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native languages.

The announcement was made as part of the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, which brings government officials and leaders from federally recognized Tribes together to discuss ways the federal government can invest in and continue to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come.

The memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by the three departments agrees to further the Native American Languages Act of 1990 by establishing new goals and programs that support the protection and preservation of Native languages spoken by federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other Native American groups in the United States. The MOA reaffirms the establishment of an annual national summit on Native languages, which will take place this year on November 18-19, 2021.

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-eight state and territory plans, including Washington, D.C., for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, except in Florida, Mississippi, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Additionally, the Department announced the approval of the 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.

Update: Pennsylvania School Funding Case Heads to Trial, Years After Low-Income Districts Sued to Over the State’s Lack of “Thorough and Efficient System of Education”

Beginning last Friday and available via Livestream, the trial centers on a state funding system that relies heavily on local property taxes that plaintiffs allege provides inequitable state money to districts in areas with low property values and less personal wealth in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s equal-protection provision. The current system fails to meet the commonwealth’s obligation to provide students with a “thorough and efficient system of education,” their attorneys argue.

The six districts who are suing will ask the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg to declare Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional and order lawmakers to create a new one that directs more money to low-wealth districts. The non-jury trial of William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al., will include as many as 50 witnesses, who will present a dizzying array of statistics on school finance and its effects on student outcomes that could extend into January.

USA Today: “Schools in crisis. Here’s how we can fix education in America and ensure our kids succeed”

Transcend, an America Forward Coalition member, penned an op-ed in USA Today focused on three levers to transform schools: educating the whole child; empowering students to lead their own learning; and thinking outside the “(classroom) box.” To accelerate learning, schools must recommit to fostering emotionally healthy students and deep relationships. As the authors state, “Social-emotional learning is more than a buzz phrase — it is imperative for learning and development.”

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