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Dept. of Education Sends Aid to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

This week, the House Appropriations Committee has been busy marking up the first 6 of 12 government funding bills for FY2023. The process is expected to be almost, if not completely, partisan. In the upper chamber, the Senate Appropriations has not reached an agreement on how much to spend on defending and non-defense discretionary funding, ultimately delaying forward movement. 

U.S. Department of Education sends $1.5 Million in Aid to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District

This week, following the senseless act of gun violence that left 19 students and 2 teachers dead and several others wounded, the Department of Education announced that they have disbursed $1.5 million in aid to the Uvalde Consolidated independent School District (UCISD) via School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grant. Project SERV funds are authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and may be used for activities that help restore a sense of safety and security for the district’s students, teachers, staff, and families, and that address specific needs of those individuals directly affected by the shooting. Such activities include mental health services for staff and students, and overtime pay for teachers, counselors, and security staff, and may take place over the summer in the form of additional summer programming. Secretary Cardona initiated the emergency funding through a letter to the district superintendent that outlines key assurances around the federal funding.

“No community should have to experience a tragedy like this alone. While in Texas, I saw the Uvalde community come together in deep and meaningful ways to support one another and all the families who lost loved ones; and it is our turn to support them,” said Secretary Cardona. “In the hours and days since that tragic day, we have committed to providing the Uvalde community with every available resource they may require from the Department. Today’s release of these emergency funds is an initial step that will be followed by technical assistance and on-the-ground supports in the months and years to come.” 

For more information about the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitments to the Uvalde community, see the letter on the disbursed funds and Secretary Cardona’s statement immediately following the tragic event.

IBM and Others Urge Congress to Allow Students Enrolled in Online Education Programs to Access Short-Term Pell Grants 

On Monday, more than a dozen tech, community college, and online university leaders sent a letter to congressional leadership urging lawmakers to drop a proposal in the final Bipartisan Innovation Act that would exclude students enrolled in online education programs from accessing short-term Pell grants.  The letter, led by IBM argues that the exclusion of online educational programs would largely block adult students from accessing the financial aid for programs as short as eight weeks. The groups cited barriers to education for working adult students, including inadequate child care and time constraints.

Under the House-passed America COMPETES Act, online-only programs and for-profit institutions are ineligible for short-term Pell.

U.S. Department of Education Announces Introduction of National Parents and Families Engagement Council

This week, the Department of Education announced the introduction of the National Parents and Families Engagement Council (the Council) to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and caregivers.

“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. “The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families and caregivers, education advocates and their school communities. The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.”

In a press release, the Department notes that The Council will consist of parent, family, or caregiver representatives from national organizations that will work with the Department to identify constructive ways to help families engage at the local level. The primary intention of the newly developed initiative is to serve as a channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education by helping them understand the rights they have, create a feedback loop with schools to shape how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds are deployed to meet students’ needs, and identify summer learning and enrichment opportunities for children in their communities. Organization representatives will reflect the diversity of the education system, including, but not limited to, families of students in public schools, charters, private schools, and homeschool.

In the coming months, the Department and the Council will hold local listening sessions with parents, families, principals, educators, and school community members to better understand the needs of students as they start the 2022-23 school year.

Supreme Court Denies Appeal From Student with Disabilities Put in Chokehold by Teacher

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal on behalf of Texas parents who allege that a teacher placed their son, a 1st grader diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, in a chokehold until he reportedly foamed at the mouth. According to court papers, the student was removed from the classroom to calm down, once in the hallway another teacher passing by yelled at the child who then attempted to reenter the classroom. The child’s classroom teacher then reportedly grabbed the student by the neck and threw him on the ground holding him in a chokehold. The student’s parents sued the school district under federal disabilities laws and the teacher under the Fourth Amendment’s clause against unreasonable seizures and the 14th Amendment’s due-process clause.

A magistrate judge granted qualified immunity to the teacher due to a separate state remedy for excessive corporal punishment and dismissed claims against the school district. Under precedents of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, no federal due-process claim may be brought by a student when such a state remedy exists and the punishment was carried out for disciplinary or pedagogical purposes.

As reported in Education Week, the Supreme Court’s denial of review is not a decision on the merits of the family’s claim.

In the States: Ohio Governor Signs Bill into Law which Allows Ohio School Districts to Begin Arming District Employees

On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that allows Ohio school districts to begin arming district employees as soon as this fall. The law, as enacted, requires up to 24 hours of training before an employee can go armed, and up to eight hours of annual training. Governor DeWine  outlined several other school safety measures he and lawmakers have promoted, including $100 million for school security upgrades in schools and $5 million for upgrades at colleges.

Several Ohio mayors criticized the legislation and the failure of Republicans in the state legislature to consider any gun control proposals. The group of mayors are seeking universal background checks, red flag laws to take firearms away from anyone who is perceived a threat, raising the legal age for gun purchases to 21, and a ban on assault rifles.

“All of these things are common sense,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. “We’re in a situation where we can’t pass legislation that 95% of our citizens support.”

New Resources for Educators

  • RAND Corporation released a new analysis examining educator statements about their well-being during the January surge of Covid-19 cases across the nation. More teachers and principals reported symptoms of depression, burnout and not coping well with job-related stress compared to other working adults. Teachers of color were also more likely than white teachers to report experiencing symptoms of depression.

  • National Association of Boards of Education issued a report which notes that only 16 states have policies that require educator professional development for trauma.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Moira Szilagyi penned an op-ed encouraging lawmakers to act on early childhood investments on behalf of families and businesses.

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Do you have a question about Washington Update? Want more information? Want to talk education policy? Email me, let’s have a virtual coffee: kaitlynbrennan88@gmail.com.

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