America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (7/21)

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

President Biden made a homecoming to the Senate last week to gauge support from the Senate Democrats on the major pieces of legislation and policy he is pushing forward. The President, Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Democratic Leadership struck a deal on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that is expected to move on partisan lines by reconciliation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also agreed to the framework that would extend child tax credits, fund clean energy infrastructure, and provide investments in universal Pre-K, paid leave, expanded childcare, and affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan infrastructure package made little progress last week. Republican support for the infrastructure deal has become progressively unstable, but the bill is still in play, with enough support to still pass the Senate. Negotiations are ongoing as the bipartisan group of Senators continues to look for more ways to pay for the bill.

The House Appropriations Committee continued work last week and approved the FY22 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Funding Bill. The bill provides for $253.8 billion, an increase of $55.2 billion from FY21. The legislation includes historical investments in workforce innovation, job training and apprenticeships, programming for students with disabilities, Head Start, mental health programs, and social and emotional learning initiatives. The plan also includes a significant expansion of Medicare, funds climate change initiatives, and immigration policies, including pathways to citizenship. The text of the bill can be found here, and a summary of the bill can be found here.

Last Week at America Forward

America Forward is continuing to collect signatures for our letter in support of the bipartisan Expanding Pathways to Employment Act through this Friday 7/23. As we previously shared, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) recently introduced a transformational new bill in the House that links government-funded programs to measurable results by providing grants for the expansion of job-training and post-secondary education programs, via a new $700 million mandatory appropriation.

Please sign onto our support letter here, by the end of this week (Friday 7/23). The draft of the letter is here. We’d love a strong showing from across the America Forward Coalition and our broader network!

More on the bill:

  • The legislation sets aside dedicated funding for programs that (based on rigorous evaluations) have proven to work for their participants. Eligible programs will include those with statistically significant positive outcomes on earnings, student achievement, or degree completion.
  • A program’s eligibility will depend on its impact relative to its cost, the quality of the evidence supporting it, and how intensively it focuses on promoting equity for those in historically underserved communities.
  • A match, which can be satisfied with other federal formula funds, is a strategic incentive to steer dollars from long-standing federal programs toward these proven approaches. The match can be waived.
  • The bill also sets aside funding to prove the efficacy of a new cohort of innovative, promising approaches via funding for pilots combined with rigorous evaluations. (These do not have a match requirement).

You can view a one-page summary of the proposal here.

Update: Results from the Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative (Denver SIB)

Last week, the Urban Institute, with partners from The Evaluation Center at the University of Colorado Denver, released their final report on the outcomes of the Denver Supportive Housing Pay for Success Financing Initiative, an innovative partnership between the City of Denver, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and the Mental Health Center of Denver focused on moving residents from chronic homelessness into stable housing using a “Pay for Success” (PFS) approach. The Corporation for Supportive Housing and Enterprise Community Partners (both America Forward Coalition members) served as co-intermediaries, providing overall project management and fiscal services.

The exciting results of the project offer critical lessons for how policymakers everywhere might collaborate to more effectively address homelessness, and achieve better outcomes at scale for their communities. Among the 330+ people enrolled in the program, participants experienced:

  • Increased number of days spent in stable housing;
  • Decreased number of days spent in jail;
  • Fewer arrests, visits to local shelters, and visits to local detox centers;
  • Less utilization of emergency care; and,
  • Significant financial offsets, including more than half of the total annual per-person cost with reductions in other public services, primarily jail, ambulance, and court costs.

You can read the full final report here, and a number of related supplementary reports with more detail here. We think this evaluation and these final results have important implications for Pay for Success, evidence-based policy, and supportive housing/housing first approaches moving forward. A big congratulations to all involved in a project that clearly, demonstrably improved the lives of hundreds of Coloradans.

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 (ED) recently announced its approval of twelve state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including Arkansas, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Additional information about the plans for each state can be found here, and a table tracking the status of the plans for each state that submitted them can be found here.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Invites States and School Districts to Apply for Additional $600 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Students Experiencing Homelessness

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently invited states to “complete the application for their share of the second disbursement of $800 million in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY),” in an effort to support and meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness. “In April, the Department released the first $200 million of the $800 million in ARP-HCY funds to states. The distribution of the additional $600 million will give states and school districts access to funding before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.” Additional information can be found here.

Update: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) President Offers her Perspective on Ongoing Budget Process

In a recent tweet thread, CBPP president Sharon Parrott shares her perspective on the ongoing budget process, including the importance of subsidized employment programs and priorities such as “transformative Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansions; robust investment in rental assistance; a pathway to coverage for millions in states that refuse to expand Medicaid under the ACA; more food assistance for children; investing in paid leave, child care and preschool, home and community-based services for older people and people with disabilities, workforce development and subsidized jobs, and community college.”

Resource: U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is “a federally-funded, state-administered program” that “reimburses program operators who serve free healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas.” To help young people and families find an SFSP site this summer, the USDA has launched a Summer Meal Site Finder mapping tool, “to ensure that children who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school are able to get the nutrition they need.” While children and teens are typically required to eat meals on-site, the USDA has made temporary changes “so that meals may be taken home, and parents or guardians may pick meals for their children if the state allows. Families can use this tool to find directions to nearby sites as well as hours of operation and contact information.” Additional information can be found here.

Resource: American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) State Plan Application Technical Assistance

ARP ESSER resources from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), including a recording of an April ARP ESSER State Plan webinar, slides from several ARP ESSER State Plan Office Hours, and a Use of Funds FAQ document “intended to answer Frequently Asked Questions about how funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, including the American Rescue Plan ESSER (ARP ESSER) program, and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund may be used in response to the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on students in pre-K–12 education” are available here.

Resource: Applications for Selection as a Performance Partnership Pilot; Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently issued a notice inviting applications for selection as a performance partnership pilot for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) under the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth authority, which “offer a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth.” The deadline for applications is August 23, 2021, and additional information can be found here.

From the America Forward Coalition

The Traditional School Model: A Barrier to Educational Equity

New Classrooms recently began a campaign for the creation of a new federal funding stream for research and development (R&D) in education. The campaign’s R&D focus is rooted in the creation of new Innovative Learning Models, models that create “an approach to learning that looks beyond the age-based classroom, and instead, emphasize mastery in a subject through personalized learning.” Read more about New Classrooms’s R&D advocacy for Innovative Learning Models here.

Opinion: “Forgiving student loans isn’t enough — Congress must double Pell Grants”

The KIPP Foundation’s Adzua Agyapon writes about breaking down financial barriers to college access by expanding Pell Grant funding, in this piece from The Hill: “We must make higher education more affordable if we want to undo some of the damage the pandemic wrought on college access and degree attainment. Forgiving existing student loan debt, while an important step, is not enough. College-bound students shouldn’t be forced to take on onerous financial burdens in the first place. That’s why Congress should double the Pell Grant in 2021.” Read Adzua’s full piece here.

Opinion: National service can heal our partisan divides

City Year’s AnnMaura Connolly and With Honor’s Rye Barcott write about the importance of engaging in national service in this piece from the Dallas Morning News: “As our communities work to recover from a pandemic that has disproportionately battered lower-income rural and urban areas, the time has never been better to urge all Americans to each dedicate a year to serving our great nation. Making national service a common American experience, whether through military or civilian service, can help us heal our partisan divides and develop new generations of leaders for our country.” Read their full piece here.

Letter: An Open Letter to the Incoming Biden Administration

Earlier this year, students from Eye to Eye shared, in a letter to the Biden Administration and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, what an education system that serves students who learn differently looks like. Recently, the organization received a response from Secretary Cardona’s office with a promise to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) within 10 years, a major step toward creating and strengthening education systems that support all our learners.

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