America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (3/15)

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

Last week in Washington, Congress completed legislative action on the American Rescue Plan (H.R. 1319). The Senate passed their bill last weekend and sent it back to the House of Representatives which had a vote on the final version last Wednesday. President Biden signed the bill later that day. The $1.9 trillion recovery and relief package funds a number of programs and policies of importance to America Forward and those we serve. See below for more details.

America Forward Statement on the Signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Last week, America Forward issued the following statement in response to President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion package in response to the COVID-19 crisis, on March 11, 2021:

“The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 delivers urgently needed support to communities across the country, and sets the stage for a more equitable, inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The final legislation signed today by President Biden reflects a number of priorities championed by America Forward throughout the negotiation process. Of the more than $122 billion allocated for K-12 schools, both Congress and the President have ensured that a significant percentage will be directed to evidence-based, whole-learner approaches that address the academic, social, and emotional impact of the pandemic on students. In addition, the legislation includes billions to support postsecondary students and institutions of higher education, strengthens child care providers, provides an additional $1 billion to expand national service programs, and devotes $100 million to the Institute of Educational Sciences specifically for research related to addressing student learning loss as a result of the pandemic, all of which will be essential to a robust, sustainable recovery.

The legislation also addresses structural inequities that have been worsened by COVID-19. In addition to extended unemployment benefits and critical food assistance for families, a dramatic expansion of the federal child tax credit will significantly reduce child poverty and help break persistent cycles of trauma that, today, impede the ability to learn for millions of children.

Now, our attention turns to implementation. We must ensure that the resources promised by this legislation reach our communities and are utilized effectively to meet the needs of those most impacted. America Forward and the 120+ organizations that make up the America Forward Coalition have been working to support communities across the country since the start of the pandemic, and we stand ready to work alongside the federal government, state and local education agencies, and community partners to identify and expand best practices, effectively target funding, and ensure that this legislation leads to more equitable, positive outcomes for all students, educators, workers, and families.”

America Forward Supports Civic Education Legislation

Last Thursday, bipartisan members in the House of Representatives and Senate introduced the Civics Serves Democracy Act, a $1 billion initiative to give youth in our country the civic education they need to become knowledgeable and skilled protectors of our constitutional democracy. America Forward joins other members of the CivXNow Coalition in support of this bill.

Resource: F.A.Q. on Stimulus, Unemployment and Tax Rebates

The New York Times put together this piece breaking down the provisions of the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden last week, including key updates and additional details on:

  • Unemployment insurance
  • Student loan debt
  • Paid sick and family leave

Read the full resource here.

Resource: The Learning Accelerator and Bellwether Education Partners Release Real-Time Redesign Toolkit to Help Schools Improve Equity and Resiliency

Last week, The Learning Accelerator and Bellwether Education Partners released Real-Time Redesign, “a practical toolkit that provides school and district leaders with an actionable, inclusive, and rapid process for making targeted improvement towards more equitable and resilient teaching and learning. The toolkit draws on work conducted with school systems across the country as they urgently responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrates that, even during crisis and disruption, schools can make practical and positive change.” Explore the full toolkit here.

Resource: The Turnaround for Children Toolbox

Last week, Turnaround for Children launched their Turnaround for Children Toolbox, “an online hub for science-grounded ideas and resources that empower educators—including teachers, school and district leaders, student support staff, and many others—to embed an equitable whole-child purpose into our education system. Through this approach, educators can prioritize relationships as the active ingredient in learning; meet students’ needs in authentically-personalized ways; tap into students’ strengths, interests, and talents; and facilitate academic progress.”

Five key concepts:

  1. It starts with the science on how kids learn and develop: We’ve distilled the science into the most important headlines for educators to know and apply to their work.
  2. It honors the experience and expertise of educators: We believe that people are experts in their contexts and can solve their own problems—we include tools to inspire new ways of thinking.
  3. It encourages thinking by doing and learning from experience: We know learning is not a linear process and there is not “one right way” to solve complex problems. Our tools are designed to balance quick action with thoughtful reflection and to iterate, iterate, iterate!
  4. It is anchored in inclusivity and collaboration: We recognize the “village” of co-educators that are influential in children’s lives and want to set up all stakeholders in the school community to share and learn from each other.
  5. It is designed to be a resource you can come back to over and over: Wherever you are in your journey, or whether you are an individual teacher looking for inspiration or a school group ready to engage collectively, our resources are flexible to support the redesign you imagine now and as you evolve.

Advancing Whole-Learner Education

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

The March 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 to subscribe here:

In the meantime, here are 5 things you can do today to keep up the momentum around whole-learner approaches to education:

  1. Visit our Whole-Learner website to read our Whole-Learner Policy Roadmap;
  2. Test your whole-learner knowledge by taking our interactive quiz;
  3. Register for the March 26 Congressional briefing focused on SEL (detailed below);
  4. Share key whole-learner content on social media, like this Medium post from America Forward Executive Director Deborah Smolover (and be sure to use #wholelearner);
  5. Send us highlights of the whole-learner work your organization is doing at;

From the America Forward Coalition

Opinion: How Schools Can Help with the Vaccination Rollout

KIPP Foundation CEO, Richard Barth, offers recommendations for including public schools as vaccination sites in the nationwide rollout effort and ensuring teachers, students, and communities are inoculated against the virus, in this piece from Education Next: “These are steps that will benefit not only our teachers and the students they teach, but also entire communities. I know that this is just the beginning, and that there are many competing priorities in the push to vaccinate all Americans against Covid-19. But it’s also clear how urgently important it is to get students and teachers back in the classroom safely. That means getting teachers vaccinated widely and quickly, and getting schools involved.” Read Richard’s full piece here.

Save the Date

March 26, 2021: Congressional Briefing: SEL Policy to Foster Connection after Trauma

How can federal policy support state efforts to foster positive youth skill development and overall mental health? The pre-K to Grade 12 education system has been tested in unprecedented ways over the past year, and educators, leaders, students, and their families have stepped up to the challenge in unique and innovative ways. One key lesson is the importance of centering social and emotional development and well-being to help students and adults navigate virtual and in-person learning, especially while working through trauma. In this briefing, students, members of Congress, and experts in child development will discuss the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) concepts and how they can be advanced through federal policy.

To register for this briefing – organized by America Forward, Committee for Children, Harmony SEL at National University, Learning Policy Institute, and Urban Assembly – click here.

America Forward Coalition and Network Job Opportunities

America Forward: Advocacy Associate

America Forward is currently searching for an Advocacy Associate, who will be responsible for supporting America Forward’s full policy agenda, from early learning to K-12 education, to post-secondary education, to workforce development, to pay for success/evidence-based policy, to national service, to criminal justice reform. Specifically, the Advocacy Associate will assist with the America Forward Coalition’s federal collective advocacy efforts, America Forward Advocacy Institute training offerings, and America Forward’s field engagement efforts.

As a skilled communicator, adept writer, researcher, and self-starter with strong organizational and execution skills, the Advocacy Associate will synthesize complex ideas, research policy issues, and plan and support the execution of internal and external events.

Based in Washington DC (preferred) or Boston, the Advocacy Associate will be supervised by the America Forward Government Affairs Director and report to the America Forward Executive Director. Additionally, the Advocacy Associate will meaningfully engage with the entire America Forward team and external policy and political consultants and play a vital role in ensuring America Forward achieves its ambitious advocacy goals.

For more information on America Forward, the Advocacy Associate position, and to share and/or apply, please see the job description here.

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