Federal Legislative Report - 116-06

By Michael Jacoby posted 26 days ago

  
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A Continuing Resolution to authorize spending at FY19 levels was passed several weeks ago and is in effect until November 21.  This was necessary because the federal fiscal year began October 1, and Congress, to date, has not completed their work on the FY20 budget. 

The House passed their version of FY20 appropriations in June.  The Senate version is approximately five percent below the total provided in the House version for labor, health and human services, and education related line items.  In general, the Senate version would decrease the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) budget but level-fund the major federal education formula programs, including Titles I and II and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) State Grants programs. As mentioned in the last FLR (116-05), negotiations have stalled between the House and Senate due mainly to a proposal by the Senate Appropriations Chairman to use the funds created by the decrease for the President’s border wall expansion.

E-RATE

Due to a significant amount of opposition expressed in public comments, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has put on hold their proposal to cap the Universal Service
Fund (USF), which would likely reduce funding for the E-Rate program.  See FLR 116-04 for more information.

SCHOOL MEAL ELIGIBILITY

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently updated the analysis of its proposal to change eligibility criteria for SNAP, which would impact students participating in school meal programs.  The original proposed rule change was released in July, however, due to the revision the comment period is extended until November 1. 

"The changes in this SNAP proposed rule intersect with school meal certification in that some households with school-aged children that no longer participate in SNAP will not be categorically-eligible or directly certified for free school meals. These households would instead be required to submit a household application to determine school meal eligibility, like other SNAP non-participants," the USDA states.

The USDA's updated analysis cites that, "the number of impacted children shows that potentially as many as 982,000 children would no longer be directly certified for free school meals based on SNAP participation. Of the total number of impacted children, about 445,000 (or 45 percent) would be income eligible for free meals, and about 497,000 (or 51 percent) would be income eligible for reduced price meals. About 40,000 children (or 4 percent) would be required to pay at the "paid rate" for a school meal if they chose to participate in the NSLP and SBP."

The USDA has stated the reason for the proposed change is that “extending categorical eligibility to participants who have not been screened for eligibility compromises program integrity and reduces public confidence that benefits are being provided to eligible households.”

The USDA's updated analysis can be downloaded here.

DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published proposed new regulations to protect the public from lead and copper in drinking water. Among other changes, the agency’s proposed rules would require local utilities to conduct lead and copper testing in schools and childcare facilities.

The EPA said, “Under the proposal, a community water system would be required to take new actions, including, but not limited to:

  1. Identifying the most impacted areas by requiring water systems to prepare and update a publicly-available inventory of lead service lines and requiring water systems to “find-and-fix” sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 parts per billion (ppb).
  2. Strengthening drinking water treatment by requiring corrosion control treatment based on tap sampling results and establishing a new trigger level of 10 ppb.
  3. Replacing lead service lines by requiring water systems to replace the water system-owned portion of a lead service line (LSL) when a customer chooses to replace their portion of the line. Additionally, depending on their level above the trigger level, systems would be required to take LSL replacement actions, as described below.
  4. Increasing drinking water sampling reliability by requiring water systems to follow new, improved sampling procedures and adjust sampling sites to better target locations with higher lead levels.
  5. Improving risk communication to customers by requiring water systems to notify customers within 24 hours if a sample collected in their home is above 15 ppb. Water systems will also be required to conduct regular outreach to the homeowners with LSLs.
  6. Better protecting children in schools and childcare facilities by requiring water systems to take drinking water samples from the schools and childcare facilities served by the system.”

A law was adopted in Illinois effective January 17, 2017 (PA 99-0922) which required schools to test potable water sources.  School districts were required to report any finding over 5 parts per billion (ppb) to parent/guardians, and possibly mitigate based on rules adopted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.  As Illinois law requires more stringent standards, and the federal rules place the responsibility on the local utility, it is not anticipated adoption of this rule will be burdensome to school districts, however, IASB will continue to monitor it.

SPECIAL EDUCATION GUIDANCE

In September, the USDE published new IDEA guidance, “Increasing Postsecondary Opportunities and Success for Students and Youth with Disabilities” which describes how federal funds can be used by states and school districts to support dual enrollment, comprehensive transition, and other postsecondary education programs for students and youth with disabilities. Among other topics, the guidance discusses opportunities for students with disabilities to enroll in postsecondary education programs, while still in high school, and opportunities for students and youth with disabilities to enroll in comprehensive transition and other postsecondary programs for individuals with disabilities after leaving high school.

TITLE I EQUITABLE SERVICE GUIDANCE

The USDE recently published updated guidance regarding the use of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Title I-A funding to deliver equitable educational services to eligible private school students. Publication of the guidance represents the culmination of the process launched by the USDE earlier this year to update the material consistent with statutory changes made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), recent court decisions, and other policy changes. Among the changes are two major topics:

  • The permissibility of inter-district pooling of Title I funds to provide equitable services
  • The permissibility of religious organizations serving as third-party contractors to provide equitable services

Regarding these two areas, the USDE stated,”[p]ooling of Title I funds across districts does not change the total amount of funds generated for Title I equitable services, and it can only occur when agreed upon by private school officials and LEAs [local education agencies]. Clarifying the flexibility to allow such a practice helps ensure that the lowest-achieving students in a group of schools receive Title I services, reduces the burden on LEAs and private school officials, and promotes efficiency through the use of shared services.  The updates also clarify the permissibility of religious organizations serving as third-party contractors to provide equitable services.”

SCHOOL EMERGENCY OPERATIONS GUIDANCE

In late September, the Departments of Education, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services released a guide titled The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans”.  The departments created the guide in response to a recommendation in the Federal Commission on School Safety's final report for federal leaders to provide resources to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school plans and community partnerships.

SCHOOL REPORT CARD GUIDANCE

The USDE released a guide titled “Opportunities and Responsibilities for State and Local Report Cards” for local education leaders to “ensure parents are provided with accurate and accessible information on how schools are performing within their states.” The new guidance “is aimed at assisting education leaders with the design and implementation of state and school district report cards as required by ESSA”.

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