April 29th, 2021

April 2021 Policy News Round-Up

President Biden’s budget request seeks a massive increase in education spending, the Department of Education releases guidance and requirements for states as they plan for  school reopening and spending of federal funds, and the new “American Families Plan” proposes free community college and Pre-K. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this month. 

The Biden Administration’s $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan” Proposes Free Community College, Increase in Funding for Pell Grants, and Universal Pre-K 

On April 28th, President Biden laid out a massive spending package with a significant focus on education. Proposals include:

  • $200 billion for universal Pre-K
  • $109 billion for free community colleges
  • $85 billion increase for expanding Pell Grants
  • $46 billion increase for historically Black colleges and universities

Additionally, the Plan aims to strengthen the educator workforce by increasing scholarships for pre-service teachers, which includes: 

  • $900 million in special education teacher development 
  • $1.6 billion to support current teachers in earning credentials for special education, bilingual education, and other high-demand areas

For more information on the American Families Plan, see our blog post: What is Included in President Biden’s American Families Plan for Education? 

President Biden’s FY 2022 Education Budget Request Aims to More than Double Funding for Our Nation’s Most Under-Resourced Schools

The President released initial topline details of his FY22 budget request, but a fuller budget request is expected in May. The request aims to give schools sufficient resources to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students, especially students impacted by poverty. In fact, it would be a 41% increase over current spending. The request includes the following:

  • $20 billion increase to Title I under the Every Student Succeeds Act for a total of $36.5 billion
  • Approx. $3 billion increase to special education for a total of $15.5 billion
  • An additional $1 billion in increased funding for counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals 

Read more about this request and NCLD’s statement on these efforts to address funding inequities here.

U.S. Department of Education Issues New State Requirements for Spending Stimulus Funds

In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act which sent $123 billion to states for education. While two thirds of funds have been released to States, ED developed an application to release the remaining one third ($41 billion) of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency relief funds to States. The application requires states to submit plans to provide the Department and the public with information about how they will use these resources. In developing their plans, States must seek input through consultation with students, families, administrators, disability rights organizations, and other stakeholder groups to ensure that the needs of students and communities are reflected. Local education agencies (LEAs) also must create plans to submit to their State education agencies, detailing how they will address lost instructional time, respond to students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs, and make their plans publicly available. Read the ED press release here

In an effort to ensure that States and LEAs develop plans that meaningfully include and meet the needs of students with disabilities, NCLD’s president and CEO, Lindsey Jones, co-authored an article in the 74 million. Read Analysis: Stimulus Funds Alone Won’t Help Underserved Students. States Must Make Sure They Reach Students Who Are Homeless, Living With Disabilities & English Learners here

U.S. Department of Education releases “COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2” to Support School Reopening

On April 9th, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released Volume 2 of their COVID-19 Handbook, which is a “Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs.” This Handbook Volume focuses on research-based strategies to address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic impacts of the pandemic on students, educators, and other staff. In order to achieve President Biden’s school reopening goals, the Handbook identifies strategies that states, districts, and schools can use when implementing the $130 billion of funding from the American Rescue Plan dedicated to safely reopening schools. 

Since Volume 1 of the Handbook was released in February, the ED and the Centers for Disease Control have met with state and local elected officials, state boards of education, and other stakeholders and many strategies and resources from these conversations have informed Volume 2. Read more information and access Volume 2 of the Handbook here

In case you missed it: NCLD released a COVID-19 timeline which paints a chronological picture of major federal policy events, relevant research, and new NCLD resources since March 2020. 

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