America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (9/20)

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

In August, Congress adopted the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Resolution which included instructions for a Budget Reconciliation measure. The House has begun the process of considering different portions of the “Build Back Better” Reconciliation package in the thirteen House authorization Committees. The House Education and Labor Committee completed its mark-up in the second week of September, with a package totaling $761 billion. More information on that legislation can be found here.

The Education Committee’s proposal makes massive investments in early childhood education, child care, school personnel, child nutrition, school construction, national service, and college retention and completion initiatives, plus two years of free community college tuition. The bill also invests $77 billion in workforce development, including WIOA Title I programming, $5 billion in registered apprenticeships, and $10 billion in sector partnerships.

The House Committees will continue their mark-ups and then send the bill to the House Budget Committee. At that time, House leaders and Committee chairs will reconcile the different proposals into one package. Once voted on, the bill will be considered by the Senate.

The total reconciliation bill, which now sits at $3.5 trillion, is being met with apprehension over the price tag from moderate Senate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and met with complete disapproval from the House and Senate Republican Caucuses. Negotiations will continue between House and Senate committee leadership until moderate and progressive Democrats align with enough votes to pass the slim majorities in both chambers. That process is expected to last through the Fall.

The House of Representatives will begin work this week on a stopgap funding measure to avoid a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The House Rules Committee meets today to consider the rule on the FY’22 CR. The bill will be debated by the full House this week. In addition to extending funding for all federal agencies at current levels, the legislation is expected to include funding for disaster aid for hurricanes, wildfires, and Afghan refugees.

President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation last week in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The Proclamation from the White House recognized, “that Hispanic heritage is American heritage. We see it in every aspect of our national life: on our television and movie screens, in the music that moves our feet, and in the foods we enjoy. We benefit from the many contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country to help us fight COVID-19 and the doctors and the nurses on the front lines caring for people’s health.”

America Forward shares in celebrating and recognizing National Hispanic Heritage Month. We are proud to recognize the work and contributions of our Hispanic colleagues, Coalition members, and organizations to our collective efforts to create more equitable systems of education, workforce, and economic opportunity.

Last Week at America Forward

U.S. Department of Treasury announces second award under the Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA) following urging from the America Forward Coalition

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced its second award under the Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA), with awards totaling over $6 million for the city of Denver to expand its permanent supportive housing program for chronically homeless Denver residents. We congratulate America Forward Coalition partners the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Enterprise Community Partners on this exciting accomplishment. (Last month, America Forward and CSH jointly lifted up the impressive final outcomes of Denver’s original project, following the release of a 5 year randomized evaluation from the Urban Institute).

Earlier this year, America Forward and its partners worked with Senator Bennet (D-CO) to highlight delays in implementing SIPPRA, and sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling for the program to move forward. While it is encouraging to see this progress, a number of other strong SIPPRA finalist projects endorsed by SIPPRA’s bipartisan commission have been waiting for over 2 years, and continue to wait for an answer. We hope the Treasury Department and other federal agencies will move remaining projects forward expeditiously.

Study: The State of Democracy Entrepreneurship: Insights from New Profit’s Civic Lab

New Profit’s Civic Lab recently released a new report titled “The State of Democracy Entrepreneurship: Insights from New Profit’s Civic Lab,” and co-authored by New Profit’s Yordanos Eyoel and Rebecca Even. The report “highlights the unique set of challenges democracy entrepreneurs (particularly women of color) face and the role philanthropy can play in removing barriers for proximate leaders” and analyzes democracy organizations across five critical dimensions: demography, geography, budget size, age of organization, and strategies employed.” Read the full report here.

America Forward Supports the Introduction of the College Completion Fund Act

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the College Complete Fund Act last week, which would authorize $62 billion in critical evidence-based supports that help students across the country across the college finish line. America Forward is proud to support this legislation and to have been a part of the coalition of organizations who advocated for its introduction on the Hill, along with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Results for America, TICAS, UnidosUS, and Third Way.

Update: President Biden’s Comprehensive National Strategy for Fighting COVID-19

Earlier this month, President Biden issued a six-pronged national strategy to overcome the pandemic. The plan includes efforts to vaccinate the unvaccinated, further protect the vaccinated, keep schools open safely, increase testing and requiring masking, protect economic recovery, and improve care for those with COVID-19.

The strategy surrounding keeping schools open safely includes:

  • Requiring teachers and staff in Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools to be vaccinated;
  • Calling on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees;
  • Providing additional funding (Project SAFE) to school districts for safe school reopening, including backfilling salaries and other funding withheld by states for implementing COVID-19 safety measures;
  • Calling on all schools to regularly test students and school staff; and
  • Providing every resource to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support timely review of vaccines for individuals under the age of 12.

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 thirty-seven state plans for the use of ARP funds to support K-12 schools and students, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Additionally, ED announced the approval of Northern Mariana Islands Public School System’s implementation plan. A table tracking the status of the plans for each state that submitted them can be found here, and plans submitted under the Outlying Areas State Educational Agencies Fund can be found here.

Update: White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative

Last Monday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics through coordinated efforts between twenty-four cabinet departments and other agencies in the federal government.

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the initiative, which will be established at the U.S. Department of Education, and Secretary Cardona in turn will pick its executive director.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Announces New Grant Program to Provide Funding to School Districts Being Penalized for Implementing COVID Safety Measures

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it will launch a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have funds withheld by their state or are otherwise financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, such as universal indoor masking. The announcement is part of President Biden’s plan to combat COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of students, educators, families, and school communities.

The Department intends to release a Notice Inviting Applications for school districts to apply for the Project SAFE grant opportunity in the coming weeks and plans to make grant awards as expeditiously as possible and on an ongoing basis. The Department will make grant awards directly to local education agencies. More information is available here.

From the America Forward Coalition

Opinion: “The missing link in Biden’s jobs plan”

Per Scholas President and CEO, Plinio Ayala, writes about the need to address disproportionate rates of unemployment among communities of color in the recovery from COVID-19, and the importance of investing in evidence-based approaches, in this piece from the New York Daily News: “A complete economic recovery from the pandemic means a full recovery for all. It means an economy that not only bounces back to where it was, but emerges stronger — not just based on stock prices or jobless claims, but on the actual economic well-being of the entire population. It means all individuals have the ability to acquire well-paying jobs. Through the Expanding Pathways to Employment Act, now is the time to demand a thriving wage for all Americans, coast-to-coast, and in every community in between.” Read Plinio’s full piece here.

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