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Education Update

Below is the current Education Update.  Click here for a list of other recent updates.

April 12, 2021

Budget, Funding & Finance News…
 

Proposed Federal Budget – President Biden last Friday asked Congress to authorize a massive $1.5 trillion federal spending plan later this year, seeking to invest heavily in a number of government agencies to boost education, expand affordable housing, bolster public health and confront climate change. Under Biden’s proposal, the Education Department would see a roughly 41 percent increase over its current allocation, reaching $102 billion next fiscal year, with most of the new funds targeted for the Title I program, which funds high-poverty schools. The proposal would double federal spending on Title I — the largest increase since the program was created more than 55 years ago. Under Biden’s blueprint, the country would spend $769 billion on nondefense programs. The education dollars include new boosts to Pell Grants, which offer support to low-income college students, though the $400 annual increase the president has proposed is smaller than the amount he initially endorsed on the campaign trail. The budget proposal would also expand government-supported child-care programs and add money to hire more counselors and mental health professionals at schools. Read the rest of the story: “Biden Seeks Huge Funding Increases for Education, Health Care and Environmental Protection in Frist Budget Request to Congress” (from The Washington Post, 4/9/21).
 
Guidance, Reports and Resources…
 
New Instructional Model Recommendations from PDE – Last week all school district Superintendents received a communication from PDE regarding an update in the Instructional Model Recommendations that will go into effect today (April 12). The significant change in the guidelines is that districts with moderate transmission rates are recommended to use the Full In-Person Learning Model as well as Blended, and districts with a substantial transmission rate are recommended to use the Blended Learning Model as well as Remote.  CLICK HERE to see the new recommendations.
 
USDE COVID Handbook – The U.S Department of Education has released the COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students' Needs to provide additional strategies for safely reopening all of America's schools and to promote educational equity by addressing opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Building off of Volume 1: Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools, which focused on health and safety measures that schools can use to successfully implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) K-12 Operational Strategy, Volume 2 of the Handbook focuses on research-based strategies to address the social, emotional, mental-health, and academic impacts of the pandemic on students, educators, and staff, such as how to address any potential anxiety or depression some may face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly a year of remote learning.
 
In-Person Learning Stats – Large numbers of students are not returning to the classroom even as more schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Biden administration. The findings reflect a nation that has been locked in debate over the safety of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as national COVID-19 rates continued to ebb in February, key measures around reopening schools barely budged. Nearly 46% of public schools offered five days a week of in-person to all students in February, according to the survey, but just 34% of students were learning full-time in the classroom. The gap was most pronounced among older K-12 students, with just 29% of eighth graders getting five days a week of learning at school. Overall, more than a third of students in the South and Midwest were learning entirely at school, compared with less than a quarter in the West and Northeast, according to the survey. Read the rest of the story: “Survey: Even as Schools Reopen, Many Students Learn Remotely” (from Education Week, 4/7/21).
 
Vaccines for Children – Pfizer has begun testing its Covid-19 vaccine in children under 12, a significant step in turning back the pandemic. The trial’s first participants, a pair of 9-year-old twin girls, were immunized at Duke University in North Carolina late last month. Results from the trial are expected in the second half of the year, and the company hopes to vaccinate younger children early next year, said Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the pharmaceutical company. Moderna also is beginning a trial of its vaccine in children six months to 12 years of age. Both companies have been testing their vaccines in children 12 and older, and expect those results in the next few weeks. (from The New York Times, 3/31/21)
 
PASA Resources – PASA’s web page concerning the Coronavirus and Pandemic Preparation includes links to information about COVID-related issues, along with updated guidance from the PDE, CDC and USDE, and other important updates from the state and federal levels.
 
Resources from PASA Sponsors – PASA is grateful for the ongoing support of our sponsors at all levels. Although PASA does not promote or endorse any product or service offered by our sponsors, we are pleased to share information they offer that may be helpful to school leaders, particularly concerning return-to-school issues. PASA sponsors have offered free webinars and other unique opportunities and resources to assist PASA members in planning for the school year. A recording of several of these webinars and a list of additional FREE resources and information is available on the PASA website.
 
In Legislative News…
 
Session Update – Both the House and Senate are in recess this week but will return to session on April 19.
 
Last Week’s Legislative Action –
 
* HB 335: Daylight Savings Time; passed by the House, 103-98. The bill would allow Pennsylvania to follow permanent Daylight Savings Time if the Congress of the United States permits states to do so.
 
* HB 605: Arbitration, Liability Protections; amended and passed by the House, 107-94. The bill initially concerned compulsory arbitration of civil actions alleging personal injury or death related to exposure to COVID-19 and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last month. Last week, with a vote of 111-90, HB 605 was amended on the House floor to provide COVID-19 related liability protections for schools and childcare facilities, businesses, government services and health care providers absent a showing, by clear and convincing evidence, of gross negligence, recklessness, willful misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. PASA has urged support for legislation providing limited liability for public schools and officials concerning issues related to the pandemic, and strongly supports the bill.
 
Upcoming Appropriations Hearings on the Proposed Budget – Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on the proposed state budget are wrapping up. The April 22 hearings will focus on the Department of Health, the Budget Secretary/Governor's Executive Office and the Department of General Services.
 
Other Upcoming Committee Meetings –
 
Monday, April 12
Senate Education Committee
10:00 a.m., Senate Chamber
Public hearing on “Pursuing Excellence: Needed Education Reforms in Central PA”
 
Tuesday, April 13
Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee
1:00 p.m. in Philadelphia
Public hearing on the reliability of PA’s technology infrastructure
 
Monday, April 19
Senate Education Committee
9:00 a.m., Senate Chamber
Public hearing on “Pursuing Excellence: Needed Education Reforms in Eastern PA”
 
Friday, April 23
Senate Education Committee
10:00 a.m., Senate Chamber
Public hearing on “Pursuing Excellence: Needed Education Reforms in Western PA”
 
In State News…
 
Extension of Type 01 Emergency Permits – Act 136 of 2020 amended the School Code to permit the Secretary of Education to extend an emergency permit issued during the 2020-21 school year at the request of an employing school entity when the employee is unable to complete the requirements associated with the permit because the program credits or assessment could not be completed or scheduled. The extension provides qualified permit holders one additional year on the Type 01 permit to comply with the credit or assessment requirements of the Type 01 permit.
 
Educators who have been issued a Type 01 emergency permit during the 2020-21 school year must be working to become permanently certified and be unable to meet the specific criteria associated with the Type 01 permit to obtain an extension. Educators apply for a Type 01 emergency permit at the request of the employing school entity indicating they are eligible for the extension because they were unable to complete the credit requirements or assessment(s). Applicants must complete the verification form attesting to their inability to complete the credits or assessment requirements. The form can be found on the Department’s website at Fees and Forms.
 
For additional resources and guidance, click here. Questions should be directed to ra-edcertquestions@pa.gov or call 717 PA TEACH for additional information.
 
In National News…
 
Assessment Waivers – The U.S. Department of Education granted its first broad waiver from testing requirements— to the District of Columbia for this school year, citing the large share of students learning remotely and concerns about safely administering exams. In a series of response letters to states that had sought flexibility from the assessment requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act Tuesday, the agency rejected a request from New York state to cancel assessments. And it turned down proposals from Michigan and Montana to substitute local tests for state ones. The Education Department also approved a request from Oregon to reduce the number of statewide tests it will give this year. Last month, the department rejected requests from Georgia and South Carolina to call off their state exams. (from Education Week, 4/7/21)
 
SCOTUS: Student Free-Speech Case – A group of nearly 200 current and former student school board members have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court case over students’ free-speech rights—the first major demonstration of organizing power for a constituency that often goes unnoticed in K-12 decisionmaking. In their brief, the student board members side firmly with the student, B.L., who was disciplined by her school district over a vulgar Snapchat message she sent after failing to make her district’s varsity cheerleading team. The case is the first the high court has taken that tackles students’ free-speech rights in the era of social media, a complex issue that engages with all of the benefits and downsides that that technology entails. Read the rest of the story: “Student School Board Members Flex Their Civic Muscle in Supreme Court Free-Speech Case” (from Education Week, 4/7/21).
 
Across the Nation…
 
Title IX Issues –
 
* Transgender Students and Title IX: Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, President Joe Biden’s Justice Department said in a recent memo to federal agencies. That long-expected directive—a reversal of the Trump administration’s position—comes as states around the country consider bills that would restrict transgender students’ ability to do things like using pronouns and playing on teams that align with their gender identity. It sets the stage for possible state-federal legal battles over interpretations of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Read the rest of the story: “Justice Department Memo Could Stoke State-Federal Fights Over Transgender Students’ Rights” (from Education Week, 4/5/21).
 
* Sex Discrimination and Title IX: The U.S. Department of Education will review its regulations and policies related to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in K-12 schools, colleges, and university. The review, which follows an executive order by President Joe Biden, could lead to revisions of a Trump-era rule on how schools must address reports of sexual assault and harassment. The process could also help determine how the agency defines unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in K-12 education. The process will include a public hearing to collect oral and written comments from educators, students, and members of the public, the letter says. The date for that hearing has not been announced. Later, the agency intends to post notice of any planned revisions to the existing Title IX regulations in the Federal Register, going through a formal review process that allows for public feedback. Until it is formally replaced or revised, the Title IX rule announced by former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in May 2020 remains in place. But the agency plans to release a question-and-answer document to detail how its office for civil rights “interprets schools’ existing obligations under the 2020 amendments, including the areas in which schools have discretion in their procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment.” (from Education Week, 4/6/21)
 
On the PASA Calendar…
 
April 14……..Winter Webinar Series #4
April 15……..Advocacy Committee, Board of Governors meetings
April 20……..Webinar for Superintendents: Crisis Communications
April 26……..Leadership Team Advocacy Day (virtual)

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