America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (3/23)

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, the Administration moved forward on implementing the American Rescue Plan. See below for information on announcements from the U.S. Department of Education including a virtual National Safe School Reopening Summit tomorrow, March 24.

Congress was in session last week. Among notable legislative action in the House of Representatives was the passage of two immigration-related bills; one, to provide a pathway to citizenship for those who arrived in the United States as children, and the other, to establish a system for agricultural workers to earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident. In the Senate, Labor Secretary nominee, Marty Walsh, moved closer to a final vote on his nomination; he was confirmed as Labor Secretary yesterday, Monday, March 22.

Additionally, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta, Georgia on Friday to visit the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, following the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan. While in Atlanta, the President and Vice President also met with local community leaders to discuss the murders of eight people – including six Asian women – that took place in the Atlanta area early last week. In response to the violence, the President expressed his support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

Save the Date

March 24, 2021: Department of Education Hosts National Safe School Reopening Summit

Following the passage of the American Rescue Plan, recently signed by President Biden, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will host a virtual National Safe School Reopening Summit tomorrow, March 24, 2021, at 12 pm EDT. Speakers at the Summit will include First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Rochelle Walensky. The summit will also include three panels featuring health experts, educators and education leaders, and students. Additional details about the Summit can be found here.

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.

Medium: What It Means to Have A Former ‘English Learner’ as Secretary of Education

Last week, America Forward Advocacy Manager Melina Kiper – who immigrated to the United States with her family 22 years ago – wrote on Medium about her perspective on what it means that Dr. Miguel Cardona, a former ‘English learner,’ was recently confirmed to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. You can read Melina’s full piece here.

Update: Department of Education Announces American Rescue Plan Funds for All 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to Help Schools Reopen

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the amount each State Education Agency (SEA) will receive under the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. The Department will begin to make these funds available this month so that they [SEAs] “may act to fund health and safety measures consistent with CDC guidance, address the disruptions to teaching and learning resulting from the pandemic—especially for students hardest hit by the pandemic—and get students back in the classroom quickly and safely.”

Included among the ways ARP ESSER funds may be used to address the impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K through 12 education are:

  • Investing in resources to implement CDC’s K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe; improving ventilation; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms;
  • Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing;
  • Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools;
  • Funding crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs;
  • Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy;
  • Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology.

Please see below for additional information about ARP ESSER funding:

  • A press release from the Department can be read here;
  • A state-by-state breakdown of ARP ESSER funding can be found here;
  • An ARP ESSER fact sheet can be found here; and
  • Additional information about ESSER can be found here.

Resource: The U.S. Department of Education’s Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse

In January, President Biden issued Executive Order (E.O.) 14000, which directed the U.S. Department of Education to create the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse “will be a place to highlight lessons from the field in support of students, teachers, faculty, and staff, as schools and campuses continue to reopen following closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” This will “include a collection of lessons learned and best practices submitted by teachers, faculty, staff, schools, districts, institutions of higher education, early childhood education providers, other places of educational instruction, and states describing approaches to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic that the submitters believe to have worked well in their contexts.”

In particular, the Clearinghouse will address these three major topics:

  1. Safe and Healthy Environments: School and campus approaches to implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended mitigation strategies and preparing for and sustaining in-person operations safely. This includes recommendations across all grade and age levels of students served, with a focus both on reopening buildings for the first time as well as keeping them open safely.
  2. Providing Supports to Students: School and campus strategies to meet student social, emotional, mental health, academic, financial, and other needs, including access to food and other basic needs. This includes a specific focus on the most vulnerable learners and ensuring that resources provided by schools and campuses will be able to connect with and meet the needs of those disconnected from learning.
  3. Teacher, Faculty, and Staff Well-Being, Professional Development, and Supports: School and campus strategies to address the social, emotional, health, and other needs of teachers, faculty, and staff.

Additional information about the Clearinghouse can be found here.

Update: Senators Wyden, Baldwin, Van Hollen, Bennet, and Booker Introduce Bill to Jumpstart Economic Recovery, Fund Six Months of Wages

Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael F. Bennet, (D-CO), and Cory A. Booker, (D-NJ), introduced The Jobs for Economic Recovery Act (JERA), which would “provide immediate funding for states, tribes, and local governments to create or expand employment programs through a new Social Security Act jobs program, which would finance six months of wages for public, private or nonprofit jobs. Funds could also be used for job training and services like child care to help workers succeed upon completion of their job placement.”

Manie Grewal, Head of Policy at REDF, an America Forward Coalition member, stated: “As an intermediary that invests in and advises employment social enterprises, we believe that individuals who have faced great adversity deserve the opportunity to work and contribute their skills and talents to our country and economy. The Jobs for Economic Recovery Act will ensure that individuals who are overcoming structural barriers to employment are included in subsidized employment programs and shows how an employment social enterprise could be the first step in an individual’s career pathway. This legislation will help to build a more equitable and inclusive workforce and restore the dignity of work for over 30 million people who are on the sidelines of the economy due to circumstances including previous incarceration, youth disenfranchisement, periods of homelessness, addiction, or mental health disorders – many of whose economic exclusion has only worsened amid COVID-19.”

Read more about the introduction of the bill here. The full text of the bill can be read here.

Update: Civics Secures Democracy Act Introduced in Congress

On March 12, 2021, the bipartisan Civics Secures Democracy Act (formerly known as the Educating for Democracy Act) was introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in the U.S. House; and by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in the U.S. Senate.

The bill “creates grants for states and districts to support and expand access to American history and civics to meet the needs of today’s students and our constitutional democracy.” It also:

  • Protects the health of our constitutional democracy by prioritizing American history and civics in our nation’s schools
  • Reverses chronic underinvestment by providing funding to states and school districts to support quality history and civic education that informs and empowers students to participate in our constitutional democracy
  • Encourages more frequent and robust administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in history and civics, providing rich data on student outcomes for teachers, school districts, and states

Additional information about the bill can be found here.

Update: House Passes American Dream and Promise Act

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act by a vote of 228 to 197. If signed into law, “the bill will place 2.3 million ’Dreamers,’ unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US as minors, on a path to citizenship,” allowing “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and other unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of 18 to apply, if they meet the requirements, for a 10-year conditional permanent residency.” The Biden Administration has expressed support for the legislation. The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

From the America Forward Coalition

Strategic Action Playbook: Community-rooted economic inclusion

LISC’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development, William Taft, and Director of Economic Development, Elizabeth Demetriou, along with the Metropolitan Policy Program’s Hanna Love and Jennifer S., co-authored this strategic action playbook, which “provides local leaders with an actionable set of tools to create more just landscapes of neighborhood opportunity through community-rooted economic inclusion—a new, multidisciplinary and systems-level approach to building community wealth within underinvested places, while driving city and regional economic growth and development that centers equity at its core.”

Read the full playbook here.

Resource: Springboard Collaborative and Cadence Learning Partner to Offer K-8 Summer Learning Solution

Thanks to the recent passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, K-12 schools will receive approximately $130 billion – 20% of which must be spent addressing COVID-19 learning loss. To help this effort, Springboard Collaborative and Cadence Learning are teaming up to offer a comprehensive K-8 summer learning solution.

With the goal of providing “a holistic, scalable learning recovery solution for 50,000 K-8 students across the nation,” Springboard will “continue to build a solid literacy foundation for PreK- through 2nd-grade students by coaching teachers to deliver high-quality instruction and training parents as literacy coaches, while Cadence will equip teachers with strategies and curricula to lead effective math and literature lessons (supplemented by SEL and enrichment activities) for 3rd- through 8th-grade students.” Additional information about the program and ways to get involved can be found here.

Opinion: Overcoming Age Segregation’s Marc Freedman and The Eisner Foundation’s Trent Stamp make the case for ending generational separation in the United States, in this piece from Stanford Social Innovation Review: “This separation by age has left us ill-equipped for today’s world, where people are living longer and society is increasingly multigenerational. It has contributed to widespread social issues like ageism, generational enmity, and loneliness. Just as troubling, we’re missing out on the many opportunities for individuals to support one another, and bring the talents of young and old to the task of improving life for all. With more Americans over 60 than under 18 for the first time in US history, it’s time to reverse this situation in ways that both blunt the ills of age segregation and better realize the benefits of intergenerational interdependence.” Read their full piece here.

Opinion: Sure, political activism is good for the system. It’s also good for your health

Generation Citizen’s Julie Hudman and Scott Warren argue that democracy is critical for public health, in this piece from The Fulcrum: “In a moment when the future of our country’s health and democracy are both at risk, the solution is to actually get more political. Rather than turning away from politics, our cumulative health may be dependent on us working to build a better democracy in itself. Political participation is good for our health, and our health care system may be dependent on a healthier democracy.” Read their full piece here.

Q&A: We Asked 7 Of The Most Common Questions About Puberty That Are Asked In Classrooms To An Expert, And Here’s What She Said

Peer Health Exchange’s Ashwini Deshpande spoke with BuzzFeed News to answer the most common questions young people have about puberty and sexual education. Read the full interview here.

Q&A: 2+2 Where Are They Now Spotlight: Smitha Das (MBA 2018)

Social Finance’s Smitha Das spoke with Harvard Business School about her experience as an MBA student and her work since graduating. Read the full interview here

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