America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (8/9)

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

Last week, the House of Representatives began its August recess, leaving the Senate to continue negotiations and debate on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Consideration of the bill was planned to wrap up last Thursday; however, following the release of a nonpartisan budget analysis from the Congressional Budget Office that estimated the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit, there were multiple objections from Republican Senators on the final list of amendments to the bill and final passage was stalled. The Senate reconvened on Saturday afternoon and voted 67-27 to end debate on the bill, and set the stage to move forward on a final vote this week.

The Senate Budget Committee, led by Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), released a budget resolution this week which includes a plan for budget reconciliation to incorporate provisions of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan that are not in the Infrastructure Package. The Administration’s proposals that we expect to be in the reconciliation bill include:

  • College Completion Fund: A $62 billion investment over 10 years to establish a new College Completion Fund, designed to provide grants to States and Tribes to support success and completion activities at both public and private 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.
  • School Construction/Renovation: $100 billion in assistance to update and build new public schools.
  • Community College Infrastructure: $12 billion for community college facilities and technology needs.
  • Childcare Facilities: $25 billion to update childcare facilities and increase the supply of childcare in areas that have the most need.
  • Broadband: Building high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage in the U.S.
  • Workforce Development and Workplace Provisions: $100 billion in proven workforce development programs including investing in evidence-based approaches, wraparound services, income supports, counseling and case management, paired with high quality training and effective partnerships between educational institutions, unions and employees.

Debate on the Budget Resolution is expected this week before the Senate leaves for its August recess. Congress will move pieces of the reconciliation package forward after the recess. The current price tag sits at $3.5 trillion in spending, which moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have already signaled they are hesitant to support.

Last Week at America Forward

Expanding Pathways to Employment Act

Last week, Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s (D-NJ) office released a statement highlighting the letter that America Forward, New Profit, and members of the America Forward Coalition joined in authoring to endorse the Expanding Pathways to Employment Act. The letter of support for the legislation was delivered to the bill sponsors, House Leadership, and the House Problem Solvers Caucus. All together, the letter includes over 80 signatories from over 70 organizations.

The release reads, “The Expanding Pathways to Employment Act, introduced by Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Republican Representative David McKinley (WV-01) last month, was endorsed by a coalition of over 70 workforce, education, and community advocacy organizations led by America Forward.”

The legislation would assist Americans who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic in finding new, good-paying employment by providing grant funding for the operation and expansion of evidence-based workforce development and post-secondary education programs and for the further evaluation of these programs.

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).

American Rescue Plan (ARP) Updates

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) has now announced its approval of seventeen state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including: Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, 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.

Resource: U.S. Department of Education Releases “Return to School Roadmap” for a healthy, in-person return to the classroom this Fall

The U.S. Department of Education released its “Return to School Roadmap” this week to support teachers, administrators, parents, students, and school staff on a healthy and prepared return to in-person learning this school year. The roadmap includes three major priorities: prioritizing the health and safety of students, school personnel, and families; building school communities, and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health; and accelerating academic achievement.

As part of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released:

  • A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities, detailing the three priorities.
  • A guide for schools and districts to support the protection and health of students and staff, including the CDC’s most recently updated school guidance.
  • A checklist for parents to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to the classroom.

Update: U.S. Department of Education announces the expansion of Second Chance Pell Experiment for 2022-23 award year

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will expand the Experimental Site Initiative to allow an additional 200 colleges and universities to offer prison education programs, bringing the total number of institutions offering this program under the federal Pell Grant program to 331. The pilot program has already offered thousands of justice-involved students with educational opportunities, and to date, 7,000 credentials have been awarded to students in the program.

Resource: U.S. Department of Education is accepting applications for new awards under the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program – Early-phase Grants

The U.S. Department of Education is accepting applications for new awards under EIR, which was established to provide funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field initiated innovations to improve student achievement. For more information on the funding opportunity, visit the Federal Register website. The deadline for notice of intent to apply is August 17, 2021; and the deadline to transmit applications is August 27, 2021.

Resource: Department of Commerce Funding Opportunities through the Economic Development Administration (EDA)

At the end of July, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) released a series of six funding opportunities.

Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was awarded $3 billion in supplemental funding, allowing it to make large, transformational investments with an emphasis on equity. Much of the $3 billion will be distributed through competitive grant processes under six new programs: Build Back Better Regional Challenge; Good Jobs Challenge; Economic Adjustment Assistance; Indigenous Communities; Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation; and Statewide Planning, Research and Networks.

In addition to state, local and tribal governments, most of the funding opportunities are also open to “Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher educations,” and “Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State.” Deadlines vary based on program, though most of the opportunities will be open for at least several months. We think some of our Coalition members may be interested in pursuing this opportunity, especially in partnership with other state and local stakeholders.

Learn more at

From the America Forward Coalition

Opinion: “Schools Must Connect Learning to Real-World Experience. Service Learning Can Help.”

CASEL’s ​​Justina Schlund and Civic’s Matthew Atwell write about the importance of supporting SEL and service-learning, in this piece from EdSurge: “In a new Civic report, Ready to Engage, both parents and teachers overwhelmingly demand a holistic view of education that prepares students for life, via both social and emotional learning (SEL) and service-learning, defined by the Corporation for National and Community Service as a form of experiential education in which students learn through service.” Read their full piece here.

Resource: Transcend’s Mental Health Primer and Toolkit

School leaders and educators know that supporting students’ and families’ mental health needs is a critical component of the effort to reopen effectively and safely this year. Transcend has put together a Comprehensive Mental Health Primer, which offers “information about mental health, resources to address student needs, and examples of schools who are already doing advanced work implementing comprehensive mental health practices.” Additional support for school efforts to support students’ wellbeing comes with Transcend’s Mental Health Practices Toolkit, which provides information on eight practices for schools to use to support and monitor student mental health and wellness.

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