America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (2/16)

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.

What’s New in Washington

In Washington last week, most of the attention was focused on the Senate and the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, which ended in an acquittal for the former president on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection. While a majority of Senators voted to convict, 57 to 43, a two-thirds vote (67 votes) would have been needed to result in conviction.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, committees began their work on legislation to authorize and fund President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which would provide $1.9 trillion in federal relief and support to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee marked up its part of the American Rescue Plan, which included significant funding for K-12 and higher education, child care, nutrition, and national service priorities that America Forward has long supported. Included in the proposal is language that requires states and school districts to set aside funding to support evidence-based approaches to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students and educators, reflecting the importance of holistic efforts to support healthy learning and development – in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. America Forward released a statement in support of the legislation, which you can read here.

The bill passed the Education and Labor Committee on a party-line vote and was referred to the Budget Committee, where it will be packaged in one measure for a floor vote before the end of the month. The Senate is working on a similar measure and ultimately, the House and Senate measures will converge into a final package. We are glad to see the Committee place an intentional emphasis on evidence-based, whole-learner approaches – among their many other priorities – and we will continue to urge lawmakers to maintain that focus throughout the negotiating process.

Also last week, other Committees in the House approved bills that move other parts of the President’s plan, including extending unemployment insurance, broadband services, etc. America Forward will continue to provide relevant details as the final package comes together.

Finally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee approved the nominations of Dr. Miguel Cardona for Education Secretary and Marty Walsh for Labor Secretary. Both received bipartisan support for their nominations.

Key Themes from the Senate Hearing on the Nomination of Miguel Cardona to serve as Secretary of Education

On Wednesday, February 3, Dr. Miguel Cardona, current Connecticut Commissioner of Education and President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, appeared before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee for his confirmation hearing.

Prior to the hearing, America Forward had expressed its support for Dr. Cardona’s nomination – sending a letter to HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) about Dr. Cardona’s qualifications and his ability to bring the voices of students, teachers, school leaders, and families with him to the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, we encouraged Chair Murray and the other members of the Committee to use Dr. Cardona’s confirmation hearing as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of whole-learner approaches to education, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Cardona and the members of the HELP Committee covered a lot of ground during his hearing. Read our key takeaways from the hearing here.

Resource: Centers for Disease Control Issues Report on How to Reopen Schools

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that schools can safely open as long as a range of precautions are in place, offering a road map for a return to classrooms that have been shuttered for nearly a year in parts of the country. You can read more about the report here.

Update: Braven Releases 2021 Jobs Report

This week, Braven released its 2021 Jobs Reports, which explores whether Braven Fellows are “getting strong jobs that put them on the path to the American Dream” and whether Braven is “supporting Fellows on the path to internships and college completion,” while also understanding the impact of the pandemic and economic crisis on their community. Read the full report here.

Advancing Whole-Learner Education

America Forward’s Whole-Learner Education Insights and Action Newsletter

The February edition of America Forward’s Whole-Learner Education Insights and Action Newsletter went out last week! If you missed it, but want to receive the next one, make sure you subscribe here:

From the America Forward Coalition

Analysis: New Survey Shows Teachers Think Cleaning & Ventilation, Smaller Classes and PPE Are More Important than Vaccines for Reopening. But Unions & Districts Aren’t Listening

Educators for Excellence CEO, Evan Stone, argues the importance of centering teachers in conversations about reopening plans for schools, in this piece from The 74 Million: “Politicians and unions are negotiating reopening plans without meaningful input from the people who have to implement them or are the most impacted. Any deals these decision-makers negotiate stand to be pyrrhic victories if they don’t give teachers confidence about going back to their physical classrooms.” Read Evan’s full piece here.

Opinion: My Hope for the New Education Secretary’s Agenda

Teach for America Founder, Wendy Kopp, shares the opportunities she sees for reimagining our education system, in this piece from Education Week: “As we consider how to tackle the deep polarization of our nation, its systemic injustices, a fast-degrading environment, and growing economic inequality, we need to remember the maxim that what we foster in classrooms today is what we’ll have in the world tomorrow. There is much discussion about how education can “build back better” after the pandemic. We must resist the temptation to tinker around the edges and instead embrace a larger vision.” Read Wendy’s full piece here.

Opinion: For a more equitable recovery, corporations must stop using a college degree as a proxy for ability

Year Up founder and CEO, Gerald Chertavian, writes about the need for corporate America to address degree inflation in hiring and employment practices, in this piece from Fast Company: “By requiring a bachelor’s degree for jobs that don’t require that level of education experience, employers automatically exclude 76% of Black Americans. A study from Harvard Business School and the nonprofit Grads of Life revealed that during the Great Recession of 2008, 75% of jobs lost were those held by workers with a high school diploma or less—yet 75% of the 11.6 million jobs created in the recovery required at least a bachelor’s degree. This only exacerbated an economic landscape built to benefit the few and deny opportunity to the many.” Read Gerald’s full piece here.

Opinion: Why students can’t assume Ivy Leagues offer the best college education

AiLun Ku, President and CEO of The Opportunity Network, makes the case for rethinking the way we rank institutions of higher education, and the importance of exploring non-Ivy League colleges, in this piece from The New York Post: “Over 90 percent of OppNet’s students will be the first in their families to go to and graduate from college. So many of our students have devoted and loving families like mine — ones who are willing to take on years of financial anxiety so their children can go to the Ivy Leagues. They have bought into the myth that a degree from a prestigious institution will shield their children from hardship — the type that they have had to endure — and offer a clear pathway to prosperity. But many non-Ivies have, in fact, been shown to deliver the best outcomes.” Read AiLun’s full piece here.

Q&A: All About the Opportunity Gap

AiLun Ku, President and CEO of The Opportunity Network, discusses the opportunity gap, how it impacts student success, and what can be done to change the conditions that lead to such disparate outcomes, in this Q&A with College Xpress: “The opportunity gap is the generational consequence of historical and systemic racism, oppression, and exclusion. The long-term inequitable distribution of resources and access to educational, financial, and social opportunities have created layers upon layers of entrenched hurdles for BIPOC students… Closing the opportunity gap will require coordinated and organized systemic efforts that match the systemic cause of its existence.” Read AiLun’s full piece here.

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