America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (5/3)

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 marked President Biden’s 100th Day in office and his first address to a joint session of Congress. During his address, the President outlined key components of his American Families Plan (linked below) and urged Congress to advance those and other priorities from the American Jobs Plan and his Fiscal Year 2022 budget request.

Additionally, the Administration continues to move forward with the implementation of the American Rescue Plan, including several important announcements by the U.S. Department of Education, which are detailed below.

This Week at America Forward

Blog: Key Policies in President Biden’s Address to Congress

During his first address to Congress last Wednesday, President Joe Biden outlined plans for historic federal investment in students, workers, families, and communities across the country. Together, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan represent more than $4 trillion in new funding intended to speed recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and fulfill the President’s commitment to turn “peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

In a new blog post, Key Policies in President Biden’s Address to Congress, America Forward identifies some of the most impactful investments, which have the potential to meaningfully complement, expand, and deepen the work being done by many of the 120+ organizations nationwide that make up the America Forward Coalition. Read more about America Forward’s key policy takeaways here.

Update: 100 Days of the Biden Administration: How the Department of Education Has Helped More Schools Safely Reopen and Meet Students Needs

“During the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, the Department of Education’s (ED) top priority has been to ensure students can return to schools safely, and has taken significant actions to help schools safely reopen for in-person instruction, address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, and support the needs of all students, teachers, and staff.” Read a recap of the first 100 days here.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Launches Best Practices Clearinghouse to Highlight Innovative Practices for Reopening Schools and Campuses

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse), “a website that highlights the innovative work underway nationwide in continuing to reopen K-12 schools, early childhood centers and postsecondary institutions. Through the Clearinghouse, the Department is providing examples of how schools and other educational institutions can safely reopen as communities continue recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Additional information can be found here.

Update: USDA to Provide Critical Nutrition Assistance to 30M+ Kids Over the Summer

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “announced a new effort funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits.” This summer, USDA will “offer P-EBT benefits to all low-income children of all ages, helping families put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Additional information about this effort can be found here.

Update: Senate HELP Committee Hearing on Supporting Children, Workers and Families by Strengthening America’s Child Care Sector

Last Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on Supporting Children, Workers and Families by Strengthening America’s Child Care Sector. The hearing covered “ways to increase compensation for child care educators while also reducing the cost of child care for families; the importance of the Federal government in helping to stabilize the child care system and the need for a sustained Federal funding stream to ensure the system does not collapse; and necessary flexibilities for parents, families and children, including those who have low incomes, families of color, children with disabilities and rural families.” To view additional information about the hearing and watch a recording of the hearing here.

Update: U.S. Department of Education publishes Interim Final Rule on ESSER Fund under American Rescue Plan Act

On April 22, the U.S. Department of Education published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, effective immediately. However, the Department is taking public comments, with the potential to amend the IFR in response to those comments. The deadline for comments is May 24.

The Department also released a template “for States to share their plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds with the public. The Department must approve a State educational agency’s (“SEA’s”) plan in order to make the State’s remaining ARP ESSER allocation available for use.”

Resource: Fact Sheet: The American Families Plan

Last week, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, “an investment in our children and our families—helping families cover the basic expenses that so many struggle with now, lowering health insurance premiums, and continuing the American Rescue Plan’s historic reductions in child poverty.” This fact sheet from the White House breaks down the components of the plan and its efforts to “grow the middle class, expand the benefits of economic growth to all Americans, and leave the United States more competitive.”

Resource: The Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education launched The Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative (“The Collaborative”),“providing support to 46 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Bureau of Indian Education, and three territories working together to use American Rescue Plan and other federal pandemic relief funding to support as many students as possible through enriching and educational summer programming.”

The Collaborative—a partnership between ED, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and other national partners—follows President Joe Biden’s call to action at ED’s National Safe School Reopening Summit to, “work together to ensure that all children have access to high quality summer learning and enrichment opportunities this summer and beyond.” Additional information about how The Collaborative will support states and school districts can be found here.

Resource: Lessons from the Field: Family & Community Engagement and Returning to In-Person Instruction

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education hosted Lessons from the Field: Family & Community Engagement and Returning to In-Person Instruction, a webinar featuring “practitioners with notable success in effective strategies for engaging families and communities while reopening schools following the pandemic,” as part of a webinar series “to support educational settings in safely sustaining or returning to in-person instruction.” The webinar slides can be found here and a recording of the webinar can be found here.

Resource: New York Times Guest Essay on Using ARP Funds to Drive Evidence

Last week, the New York Times ran a piece co-written by Michele Jolin, CEO of our partner Results for America, and Robert Gordon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a senior official at OMB under President Obama, and also a long-time partner of New Profit. The “guest essay” focuses on how state and local governments can and should leverage relatively flexible American Rescue Plan dollars to “fund initiatives with strong evidence,” “address racial and economic inequity,” “measure success,” and advance other related evidence-based, equity-focused ambitious policy goals. We thought the piece was a good quick read and wanted to share it.

From the America Forward Coalition

Report: Reimagining National Service: A Roadmap to a Service Presidency

Service Year released a new white paper, Reimagining National Service: A Roadmap to a Service Presidency, “offering a roadmap for how President Biden can reimagine national service to meet his Administration’s priorities. It highlights opportunities for expanding national service, outlines the gaps, and offers solutions to improve and expand upon the existing national service infrastructure. It offers six steps that would allow President Biden to make national service a foundational part of his Administration building off the principles and ideals that have shaped his career.” Read the full report here.

Announcement: Executive Fellowship Opportunities

“As FUSE Executive Fellows, executives passionate about leveraging their leadership and technical skills for social good can help ensure a just and resilient recovery from this pandemic. FUSE fellowship projects are yearlong, full-time, opportunities to work alongside government and community leaders on important topics that are pivotal to tackling issues of systemic and institutionalized racism in our country.” Check out FUSE Corps’ full list of fellowship openings here.

Resource: Remote-Friendly Assessments: How can I build assessments that are accessible for students in remote and hybrid learning environments?

In a new resource, Remote-Friendly Assessments: How can I build assessments that are accessible for students in remote and hybrid learning environments?, The Learning Accelerator breaks down the challenges to and offers solutions and best practices for effectively assessing students who are working in a fully remote or hybrid environment. Read more here.

Opinion: Analysis: Stimulus Funds Alone Won’t Help Underserved Students. States Must Make Sure They Reach Students Who Are Homeless, Living With Disabilities & English Learners

NCLD’s Lindsay Jones, SchoolHouse Connection’s Barbara Duffield, and UnidosUS’s Janet Murguía write about the importance of ensuring that stimulus funding reaches those students with the greatest needs, in this piece from The 74 Million: “Even before the pandemic, public schools reported a record 1.5 million children and youth experiencing homelessness nationwide — a population that is disproportionately students of color, students with disabilities and English learners. The national high school graduation rate for English learners was 68 percent in the 2017-18 school year, compared with 85 percent for all students. We can only expect more troubling trends, as COVID-19 has compounded the trauma and barriers facing underserved students. But equitable state-level implementation of stimulus funds can make the critical difference in whether they recover from this crisis.” Read their full piece here.

Opinion: How a new generation of students are responding to Black America’s echoes

New Leaders’ Hal Harris writes about the importance of teaching about race in the classroom, and how to empower students to create change, in this piece from The Hechinger Report: “With only 11% of our nation’s schools led by Black principals, such as I used to be, the task is to train and support more instructional leaders who will teach about the singularity…Providing instruction not just on history, but on the urgency of the political moment we live in, will ultimately empower students to change the world on their own terms.” Read Hal’s full piece here.

Opinion: The devastating messages we send Black children about their worth

Education Leaders of Color’s Sharhonda Bossier shares a powerful essay in response to the murder of Ma’Khia Bryant in The Los Angeles Times: “I am devastated by the messages we send Black children in this country about their worth, our belief in the potential and power of redemption and how willing we are to disappear them from our communities and society. I cannot help but think of my angry, traumatized, but no less deserving, teenage self. I think about the adults who loved me enough to stick with me through the hard years. My grandfather could have given up on me when I became more rebellious than he wanted to handle in my teenage years. But he didn’t. My teachers could have focused on my bullying behavior in the hallways. Instead, they encouraged me, created opportunities for me to express myself and nurtured the budding activist within me.” Read Sharhonda’s full piece here.

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