President Biden released his FY23 budget proposal on March 28. Including, once again, significant investments in education funding. The budget includes $88.327 billion in funding for the Department of Education, an $11.9 billion or 15.6% increase over FY2022.
The largest increases in the USED budget request are proposed for the core programs –
· $36.5 billion Title I. The request proposes $20.5 billion in discretionary funding for Title I, which is an increase of $3 billion or 17.1% above FY22 and $16 billion in mandatory funding. However, mandatory funding for Title I is unlikely to advance through the annual appropriations process.
· $16.3 billion ($3.3 billion increase) for IDEA,
· $1 billion to increase specialist school staff including counselors, nurses, school psychologists
· Doubling the maximum Pell Grant
· Congress has a lot to do but is currently in recess until April 18 for the House and April 22 for the Senate.
· Supplemental COVID Package--$10 billion deal was announced by the Senate last Monday but then quickly dissolved as Senators continue to disagree on the package’s “claw-back” of other COVID relief funds.
· FY23 Appropriations—So far, so not good. The House and Senate have not made any movement toward proposals.
· Build Back Better 2.0—There are rumors that Senators are working on a reconciliation package to address Democrats’ priorities that Senator Manchin will also support. No details have yet been released.
· Child Nutrition Waivers—We continue to advocate for an extension of the waivers. Senator Stabenow and Murkowski introduced the Support Kids Not Red-Tape Act which would extend the waivers through the next school year. Reps Spanberger and Fitzpatrick introduced a similar bill back in February. This is a good sign, but we remain cautiously optimistic.
The Biden Administration announced a Joint Task Force between U.S. ED and HHS to improve the provision of health services in schools. Specifically, in the coming months, the Departments plan to provide additional technical assistance, resources, and support that will
(1) provide guidance on the federal funding available for school-based physical and behavioral health services, including how Medicaid can support the delivery of these services;
(2) help reduce the federal administrative burden for states and localities, including local educational agencies, and barriers to the provision of school-based physical and behavioral health services; and
(3) improve and strengthen access to physical and behavioral health services.
Extended the “under the hood” waiver until June 30, 2022.
EPA Clean School Bus Program
As part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law in 2021, the EPA was granted $5 billion over 5 years to encourage the electrification of school bus fleets. The EPA is in the process of beginning to roll out the $1b that is available to districts, contractors, and tribes over the next few months and they released a quick PowerPoint presentation
that details the basics of the rebate program.
First, the program funding is divided into two halves: zero-emission buses and alternative-fueled buses. Districts can apply for rebates for either program as long as they are replacing current diesel-fueled school buses. Second, the application process will prioritize bus rebates for districts in high needs school districts and rural and low-income areas. Third, they plan to open the application window in late April and districts will have 3 months to apply for rebates, but there are steps you can take now to get your application ready for the portal.
Heather highlighted some specific points to keep in mind while thinking about electric buses in rural communities including a backlog of vehicles and ensuring that districts work with community partners to get charging stations outside of schools.
Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure
On April 4, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure to upgrade our public schools with modern, clean, energy-efficient facilities and transportation—delivering health and learning benefits to children and school communities, saving school districts money and creating good union jobs. The action plan activates the entire federal government in leveraging investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan to advance solutions including energy efficiency retrofits, electric school buses, and resilient design. Of particular interest, the plan includes an amazing toolkit
listing all the financial resources in various federal agencies that districts can utilize to make improvements to school infrastructure and transportation.
The Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure will:
Invest in More Efficient, Energy-Saving School Buildings: The Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a $500 million grant program
for schools that will lower energy costs, improve air quality and prioritize schools most in need, enabling schools to focus more resources on student learning.
Improve Classroom Air Quality through the American Rescue Plan: The Administration is supporting states, school districts, and local communities in leveraging American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief resources to address school infrastructure needs—like repairing, upgrading, or replacing ventilation systems; purchasing air filters and portable air-cleaning devices; and fixing doors and windows so that schools can stay open for in-person learning.
Clean Air in Buildings Challenge
The Biden administration, in conjunction with the EPA, released a call to action titled the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,
which highlights a range of recommendations and resources available for improving ventilation and indoor air quality, which can help to better protect the health of building occupants and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. The call to action included guidance principles and best practices to assist building owners and school administrators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors.
Key actions outlined in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge include:
· Create a clean indoor air action plan,
· Optimize fresh air ventilation,
· Enhance air filtration and cleaning, and
· Conduct community engagement, communication, and education.
Last year, the Department of Education (USED) issued a Limited Time Waiver to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and help those who qualify to get closer to forgiveness. So far, more than 70,000 individuals have already received full forgiveness due to these changes. Anyone who has federal student loans and is employed full-time by a school district qualifies for the program.
However, action may be needed in order to take advantage of the waiver before it expires on October 31, 2022. AASA has created a template
for district leaders to share with their staff that explains the new changes to the program and outlines what they must do to participate.
For FY23 Appropriations, additional items to keep an eye on Title II—ensuring level funding or increases. It is especially important for rural areas since it provides so much flexibility. Additional focus on increases for REAP, not other set-asides or competitive grants.