America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (9/28)

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

Negotiations on budget reconciliation (the Build Back Better Act), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act and raising the debt limit all continued last week as deadlines approach. Moderate Senate Democrats, like Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-AZ) have concerns over the price tag of the Build Back Better Act, which currently sits at $3.5 Trillion. At the same time, moderate House Democrats are raising pressure on leadership to bring up the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act for a vote on September 27, as was agreed on back in August. However, Progressive Democrats in the House and Senate are calling for a delay in the Infrastructure bill until the Reconciliation bill moves forward.

President Joe Biden hosted a number of meetings last week with Democratic leadership, leaders of the Moderate Democrats, and leaders of the Progressive Democrats to find compromise and agreement on the path forward on the different priorities. Following the President’s meetings last Wednesday, Democratic participants seemed optimistic about a path forward for the different processes moving through Congress.

Meanwhile, the fiscal year ends on September 30th, leaving Congress just days to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government or risk a shutdown. Lastly, Congress faces a mid-October deadline to raise the debt ceiling or the United States could default. Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a CR which would fund the government through December 3; that included a provision to raise the debt ceiling along with funds to respond to recent natural disasters; however, the Senate still needs to consider the bill, and it is unclear if there will be enough votes to pass it before September 30th.

Last Week at America Forward

America Forward Joins the Service Community Asking for Additional Funding for the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC)

America Forward signed on to a letter, supported by 68 House members, to Speaker Pelosi, urging congressional leaders to dedicate $30 billion in the final reconciliation package for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps. The letter was widely supported by the national service community and underscored that by providing this investment for the CCC, we can ensure that this program is equitable, accessible to all, and established at the size and scale we need to respond to the crisis we face. Please see the accompanying press release here.

America Forward Signs Letter Recognizing September as “National Student Parent Month”

America Forward signed on to a letter (here) with our partners from Higher Learning Advocates and other postsecondary groups to Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) to thank them for their leadership in passing a resolution to designate September 2021 as “National Student Parent Month”. With student parents making up 22 percent of our nation’s undergraduate population, the passage of this resolution provides an opportunity to celebrate the successes of student parents.

America Forward Hosted “State Insights” Advocacy Institute: Leveraging Issue & Polling Data to Inform State Advocacy Efforts

Last week, America Forward hosted part one of our “State Insights” Advocacy Institute series in partnership with Murmuration, a multi-partisan political strategy organization. The briefing (here) shared a deep-dive analysis of data about education-related issues and provided tools on how to leverage that information to help shape your messaging to influence decision-makers at the state and local levels. Topics ranged from how to frame conversations about equity to funding. For those interested in more information, please contact Melina Kiper or Brian Reich, the Vice President of Communications at Murmuration directly.

Afghan Refugees Are Bound for U.S. Schools. Fugees Family, an Organization focused on Refugee Youth, is Leading the Way.

In August 2021, the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, prompting tens of thousands of Afghans to flee the country. It is estimated that at least 60,000 Afghan refugees will resettle in the United States — the largest influx of refugees from one ethnic group since Vietnam — and many are school-aged children. Ensuring equitable access to high-quality education will be a critical tool for holistically and comprehensively supporting these young people and their families.

Fugees Family, an organization that recognizes the invaluable assets in our immigrant and refugee communities and works to empower minds and rebuild lives for young refugees, can help complement the vital work of resettlement agencies to successfully welcome Afghan students and families into schools your organization works with or leads. It is more important than ever to ensure that new members of our communities are greeted with the right tools and provide the holistic support they need to grow into confident, caring, and engaged members of society. Read more about Fugees Family’s supports here.

Update: U.S. Department of Education Awards Project SAFE Funds to Florida School District Following State-Imposed Penalty for Implementing COVID-19 Safety Measures

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded its first Project to Support America’s Families and Educators (Project SAFE) grant to the School Board of Alachua County with $147,719 in funding under the new program.

​​The Project SAFE program promotes student safety and well-being by providing funding to school districts that were financially penalized by an entity in their state for implementing the CDC’s science-based strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funding will help districts keep these measures in place and maintain district and school stability despite the financial penalty. Prior to the creation of the Project SAFE program, President Biden announced that if a state cuts the funding to a local school district for implementing CDC-recommended prevention strategies like universal masking, the school district may use funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to fill those gaps. School districts can begin spending their ARP funds right away, including to reimburse for any allowable cost dating back to when the national emergency for COVID-19 was declared.

Update: 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 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.

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