NREA Weekly Updates: July 23rd, 2021

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2021 National Forum to Advance Rural Education: 113 Years of Highlighting Rural Education
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Compeer Financial Awards 22 Rural Schools Innovation Grants
Compeer Financial Awards 22 Rural Schools Innovation Grants
The Rural Schools Innovation Grants allowed schools to share what they started doing during the pandemic, and how it worked. The funding will continue to advance these vital programs so more students can benefit from outside-the-box thinking.
“Even when faced with the unprecedented hardships of COVID-19, rural schools and communities persevered and turned their innovative ideas into reality,” said John Monson, chief missions and marketing officer at Compeer Financial. “By awarding the top innovations with funding, we’re ensuring longevity for these programs and promoting new ways of thinking.”

Grants of up to $10,000 per school district were available through this one-time program. Rural public schools in Compeer Financial’s 144-county territory in parts of Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were eligible to apply.
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NREAC Updates
School Infrastructure Update
The timeline for a deal has moved up as Senate Majority Leader Schumer has set a deadline of Wednesday for the release of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Schools are not expected to be funded through it, although there may be some money for electrifying school buses and removing lead service lines.

It is still unknown as to whether school infrastructure (meaning direct funding to school districts for new infrastructure) will be included in the Democrat Reconcilliation package. We are privately hearing that instead of the $100-130 billion we have been asking for over the past 4 years, the number may be closer to 10 billion. There is still time to pressure Democrats to include schools in the reconciliation package, so if you haven’t reached out recently to your Senators about this, please do!
Bills on K-12 Funding and Discrimination Move Forward
Thursday was a busy day on Capitol Hill, as two committees held contentious mark-ups on K-12 issues and funding. The House Education and Labor Committee voted to pass a bill that would create a competitive grant program to incentivize districts to de-segregate schools. This bill, the Strength in Diversity Act, is one that AASA supports.
The second bill would give students and parents the right to bring Title VI discrimination claims based on the disparate impact of school policies as if those policies had been written to be intentionally discriminatory. It would also require each district to have a Title VI coordinator. AASA does not support this bill.
A Republican substitute amendment to the Title VI bill would have barred federal funding from supporting instruction that made assumptions, assigned characteristics, or separated students or teachers based on race, color, or national origin. This vote focused on Critical Race Theory is the first vote on this contentious topic on Capitol Hill and was defeated by Democrats and supported by Republicans.

The House Appropriations Committee also met to deliberate on the House Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The bill passed only with Democrats voting in favor of it and would represent a huge increase in annual federal spending on schools, as it more than doubles the size of the Title I program and provides a substantial increase to IDEA. This Education Week story provides a good outline of the funding. House Leadership has indicated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will be on the floor of the House of Representatives in two weeks.
It is critical that we have support for this unprecedented funding jump for education. Make sure to reach out to your members of Congress using the AASA Advocacy App and let them know you support this critical increase in Title I and IDEA.

USED Releases New Title IX Guidance on 2020 Regulations

On July 20, OCR released a Questions and Answers resource explaining how OCR interprets schools’ obligations under the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulation.

The 2020 amendments remain in effect while OCR’s comprehensive review of Title IX actions is ongoing, and the Q&A aims to assist schools, students, and others by highlighting areas in which schools may have discretion in their procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment.

The Q&A includes an appendix that responds to schools’ requests for examples of Title IX procedures that may be adaptable to their own circumstances and helpful in implementing the 2020 amendments. In addition, the guidance clarifies the steps that districts can take to address and remediate harassment that does not meet the new “severe, pervasive and objective” standard.
USED Releases Application for Remaining ARP Funds for Homeless Students
USED published the application for states to receive ARP funding related to supporting students experiencing homelessness. The ARP included $800 million in supplemental funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Fund (EHCY), of which $200 million was previously released to states in April. Once received, states will award funds to districts through formula grants based on a combination of the district's Title I allocation and the number of identified homeless children and youth. The funds are intended to support the identification and re-engagement of students in advance of SY21-22.

USED Seeking Input on ESSER Reporting Requirements
A newly published notice from USED requests comments by August 31 on annual ESSER reporting requirements, specifically related to how SEAs and LEAs are spending their funds. The Department set an initial reporting deadline of February 10, 2022, for the period of October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021, and asks SEAs to report how much funding they allocated for various activities, including implementation of evidence-based interventions aimed specifically at addressing lost instructional time; mental health services and supports; and early childhood education program expansion or enhancement.
  • The notice is available here
  • Reporting requirements are here

USED Releases ARP Supplemental Special Education Funding
On July 1, USED announced the release of more than $3 billion in ARP funding to states to support IDEA grant programs for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. This tranche of funds was allocated to supplement IDEA’s three major formula grant programs, including $2.6 billion for IDEA Part B Grants to States for children and youth with disabilities aged 3 through 21; $200 million for IDEA Part B Preschool Grants for children with disabilities aged 3 through 5; and $250 million for IDEA Part C Grants for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Read the press release.
Rural Infrastructure
Crumbling Schools Tour stops by Radford High
Crumbling Schools Tour stops by Radford High
Rob Graham led a group of just over a dozen visitors Wednesday into a gym where the air was a little warmer than in some other places throughout the school.
Graham, the superintendent of Radford City Schools, immediately pointed to the numerous banners commemorating the city high school’s athletic past, but then acknowledged the obvious wrinkle. The gym currently has no air conditioning, an issue the district’s chief administrator doesn’t anticipate to be fixed this upcoming school year.
Graham said the absence of air conditioning is an issue for several reasons, with an obvious one being the health of the athletes who compete in the gym. He said the school tries to temper the problem by keeping the gym’s doors open during games to aid with airflow, but that can also lead to some security issues.
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Rural Educator Weekly Spotlight:
The Rural RISE (Rural Initiatives Supporting Excellence)
The Rural RISE (Rural Initiatives Supporting Excellence)
University-Rural K-12 Collaboration Programs for College and Career Readiness for Rural Students

Matthew A. Ohlson, University of North Florida
Shane C. Shope, Morehead State University
Jerry D. Johnson, Kansas State University

Faculty from two universities in Florida and Ohio designed, developed, and implemented programs to work with youth from their respective service regions to support college and career readiness initiatives. Both programs were directed by university faculty and utilized university resources to support K-12 students’ career development skills. In this paper, we examine the programs’ design, implementation, and results, including feedback from students, school personnel, and local stakeholders. Attentive to results and the relevant literature, we hope to ignite a long-term discussion on how universities can create effective outreach programs that help support transitions from high school to college or directly into a career.
Rural Broadband: Emergency Connectivity Fund August 13th, 2021 Deadline
Emergency Connectivity Fund
Passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, this $7.1 billion pot of funding is designed to help schools get and keep staff and students connected at home.

What do you need to know?
  • The 45-day application window opened June 29, 2021, and runs through August 13, 2021.
  • Funds can be used for expenses incurred between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
  • While the funds do flow through the E-Rate program, unlike traditional E-Rate, this program offers a 100% discount, meaning eligible entities do not have to contribute any local dollars toward approved costs; the federal pot of funding will fully cover these costs.
  • Eligible equipment includes laptop computers; tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers, and devices that combine modems and routers.
  • Eligible services include home internet access delivered via a commercial provider; activation, installation, and initial configuration costs for eligible equipment and services; taxes and fees; and school construction of self-provisioned networks to connect students and staff (only where there are no commercially available service options).
  • Ineligible services include cybersecurity tools; learning management systems; video conferencing equipment; standalone microphones; and technology protection measures required by CIPA.
  • There are some very reasonable restrictions: the program will only support $400 per computer and $250 per hotspot, and distribution is limited to one fixed broadband connection (or modem) per location and/or one computer per student or staff member.
NREA Foundation & Research Awards Announcements
The Rural Educator


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