NREA Weekly Updates July 2nd, 2021

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2021 National Forum to Advance Rural Education: 113 Years of Highlighting Rural Education
2021 NREA State Affiliates: 43 States & Counting...
NREA "The Rural Voice" Podcast Series
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Dear Colleague,
Our nation’s education system is at a critical juncture, moving from a global public health crisis and consequent education crisis to a moment of great opportunity. With over $120 billion of investment in K–12 public education, state education leaders and policymakers spent the spring making important policy decisions about school reopening, recovery policy and spending, and their vision for long-term educational change. Meeting the Moment? State Policies and Spending Decisions will be moderated by Lillian M. Lowery, Vice President of Student and Teacher Assessments at Educational Testing Service, and feature a panel of national leaders — including Jeremy Anderson, President of Education Commission of the States; Cara Candal, Ed.D., National Policy Director of ExcelinEd; Denise Forte, Interim CEO of the Education Trust; Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association; and others — to discuss the policy decisions states have made to direct school reopening educational and spending of relief dollars.
On July 6, from 3–4:30 p.m. ET, we’ll engage this panel of national education policy leaders to share the major policy shifts states have made as they transition to this new phase of schooling during the pandemic; the directives state legislatures, governors, and school chiefs are sending to local school districts about how to recover and spend recovery dollars; and their perspective on whether these policy decisions on educational recovery are showing promise or are cause for concern. Following this panel, we will be joined by additional national voices, such as Ray Hart, Ph.D., Executive Director of Council of the Great City Schools, who are leading that national charge on accelerating equitable recovery from the pandemic. I hope you will join us for this important conversation.
USED Releases American Rescue Plan IDEA FundsThe U.S. Department of Education today released more than $3 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to states to support infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. The new funding will help aid more than 7.9 million infants, toddlers, and students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and add to the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief allocation of $122 billion in state funding for K-12 schools, which the department announced in March. USED also released a fact sheet describing how IDEA funds within ARP can be used by states to support infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. Check out state allocations here

AIR Releases Infographic and Research Briefs about Teaching and Learning During the Pandemic
AASA was pleased to partner with AIR in their National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19. As school districts and states prepare for the 2021–22 school year, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has released an infographic and three research briefs from its National Survey of Public Education's Response to COVID-19 study. These briefs are intended to inform not only practices and policies for returning to in-person instruction in the post–COVID-19 era, but also decisions needed to restore essential learning and skill development for all students. Access the infographic and these briefs on their project webpage.
CEF: Updates
CEF: Updates
Huge increase for House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill – Today the House Appropriations Committee is voting on the allocations for the 12 fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding bills that include a huge increase for the Labor-HHS-Education bill! Just how huge the increase depends upon what you consider the relevant comparison to last year’s bill, and there are a number of technical issues that make that comparison opaque. Conservatively, the new House allocation represents a $40.5 billion (21%) increase over last year’s programmatic level of $197 billion; it’s a $63.4 billion (36%) increase over the bill’s actual funding under the discretionary caps last year, but that cap-level doesn’t include all sources of funding. To put this increase in perspective:
  • Last year, the bill got a $2.8 billion increase over the comparable FY 2020 level
  • This year’ a $40.5 billion increase is more than large enough to include the President’s request for a $29.8 billion increase for the Department of Education, although the total also has to include the bill’s increases for the Departments of Labor and HHS, and the other independent agencies in the bill. We won’t see the account-level detail until the draft bill is released in mid-July, and may not know all the program-level numbers until the draft Committee report is published on July 14, the day before the full Committee marks up the bill.
What does this allocation increase mean? It reflects the importance of education funding and the desire for Democrats to accommodate the President’s historic funding increase for education. Thanks to all who have advocated on behalf of increased education funding, both with the Administration and with Congress! CEF – along with its members – has been active, meeting with the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council early this year, then writing to Congress in support of the President’s education increases and meeting with congressional committee staff and staff of members on the Appropriations Committee, and writing a letter signed by almost 300 groups (including a large percentage of CEFmembers) making the case for a big allocation for this bill. I do not expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide such a large increase because it will need bipartisan support to pass a bill. Of course, the end result of any conference or compromise is what matters.
Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF):
Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF):
The FCC's Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a $7.17 billion program that will help schools and libraries provide the tools and services their communities need for remote learning during the COVID-19 emergency period. ECF will help provide relief to millions of students, school staff, and library patrons and will help close the Homework Gap for students who currently lack necessary Internet access or the devices they need to connect to classrooms.
For eligible schools and libraries, the ECF Program will cover reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.
Congress authorized the Emergency Connectivity Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Funds Through the Emergency Connectivity Fund?
Schools, libraries, and consortia of schools and libraries (e.g., regional or statewide groups of schools or libraries that apply together) that are eligible for support under the FCC's E-Rate Program and Tribal libraries eligible for support under the Library Services and Technology Act may request and receive support through the Emergency Connectivity Fund.
What Equipment and Services Are Covered?
Eligible equipment includes Wi-Fi hotspots, modems (including air cards), routers, devices that combine a modem and router, and connected devices (laptop and tablet computers). Schools and libraries can also receive funding for commercially available broadband service that provides a fixed or mobile broadband connection for off-campus use by students, school staff or library patrons. In limited instances, a school or library that can demonstrate it has no available service options sufficient to support remote learning may seek funding for the construction of new networks to provide remote learning and the equipment needed for datacasting services.
How Can Schools and Libraries Apply for Funding?
The initial ECF Program application filing window will open on June 29 and close on August 13. During the application filing window, eligible schools, libraries, and consortia of eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the administrator of the ECF Program and will review applications. Interested schools and libraries can find more information and apply at
Sign up to stay informed about the Emergency Connectivity Fund and receive invitations for future training sessions.
Review additional Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.
Tens of thousands of schools and libraries across the country already work with USAC to receive support for their on-campus broadband connectivity needs through the E-Rate Program.
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Reminder to register for the next Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative Virtual Session – Thursday, July 8h 3:00-5:00 pm ET!
The July 8 virtual session of the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative will examine the impacts of the pandemic on students, including how COVID-19 has deepened pre-pandemic disparities in access and opportunities facing students of color, multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students. We will share findings from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students and hear responses from Department leaders including strategies for how summer programs can use federal funds to address significant impacts on student learning and social-emotional wellbeing.

Following the opening plenary, participants can choose to participate in Tabletop Discussions on one of these topics:

  • Engaging families in summer learning with support from special education parent centers
  • Designing culturally responsive summer programs for Native American students
  • Coordinating multiple community agencies to serve the most vulnerable families
  • Developing parent leadership in high-needs communities
  • Serving students with moderate or severe disabilities in summer programs
  • Supporting LGTBQ+ students in summer and out-of-school programs
AAEE's recently-released 2020-2021 Educator Supply and Demand Report
  • Rural school districts responding to the survey reported 13% of the teachers hired in the past year had non-traditional preparation. By comparison, urban districts reported 18% and suburban districts reported 8%.
  • Rural school districts reported a higher percentage of emergency hires (5%) as compared to urban (4%) and suburban (3%) districts.
  • When asked "approximately what percentage of teachers hired in the past year would be considered teachers of color?", the responses totals were:
  • Urban - 28%
  • Suburban - 13%
  • Rural - 8%
  • When asked about challenges of "decreases in the funding your district receives" on finding qualified candidates for open teaching positions (with 5.00 indicating "big challenge" and 1.00 indicating "not a challenge"), the response totals were:
  • Urban - 2.06
  • Suburban - 1.85
  • Rural - 2.23
  • When asked about the challenges of "having enough candidates for open positions" on finding qualified candidates for open teaching positions (with 5.00 indicating "big challenge" and 1.00 indicating "not a challenge"), the responses totals were:
  • Urban - 2.57
  • Suburban - 2.37
  • Rural - 2.51
  • When asked about the challenges of "recruiting teachers of color" on finding qualified candidates for open teaching positions (with 5.00 indicating "big challenge" and 1.00 indicating "not a challenge"), the responses totals were:
  • Urban - 2.43
  • Suburban - 2.48
  • Rural - 2.23
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Reflections on Starbucks and rural teaching shortages
Reflections on Starbucks and rural teaching shortages
Those among us who invested a lot of time and energy to fix the staffing problems in the nation's urban schools might feel a tad sheepish in the wake of a study of California's schools. In groundbreaking work, we are dispelled of the long-held notion that urban and rural schools share roughly comparable challenges when it comes to their ability to recruit and retain teachers.
At least in California (though there's no reason to think that the state is somehow unique), rural districts post 12 more vacancies for every 100 teachers than their urban counterparts. They also end up having to hire twice as many emergency certified teachers in their classrooms. And, in fact, urban schools look way more like the relatively stable suburban schools than most of us might have guessed, reporting only two more vacancies per 100 teachers than the nearby suburbs.
While both rural and urban schools have a more difficult time attracting teachers to their poorer schools, rural areas have higher poverty rates, as well as higher persistent child poverty. The Economic Research Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 524 out of the 664 counties suffering from extreme poverty in the nation are rural.
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Rural Summit on School Infrastructure
Rural Summit on School Infrastructure

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who played a role in making our Summit on School Infrastructure a success, especially our sponsors (see image below for a full list). I would also like to thank our Legislators who participated in the highly regarded Panel Discussion (Senator McClellan, Senator Dunnavant, Delegate O'Quinn, and Delegate Hurst). Over160 folks participated in the event and I believe it was a tremendous learning opportunity for all. In addition, the Summit was an excellent springboard for the upcoming General Assembly Special Session that will include a discussion of funding school infrastructure. If the Summit left doubt in anyone's minds about the tremendous amount of need that Virginia's school facilities have, the Crumbling Schools Tour (see attached) will serve as further evidence of why Virginia must take advantage of this moonshot moment (see attached). We are thrilled to partner with VASS, VSBA, VACo, VML. Virginia First Cities and Fund Our Schools on this statewide tour. We hope you will attend the tour in your area and invite other decision-makers to join you.

If you were unable to attend all of the Infrastructure Summit sessions or are interested in reviewing any of the sessions, you will find the links below. Feel free to share the links with anyone who may be interested.

School Construction and Modernization Legislative Panel - Senator McClellan, Senator Dunnavant, Delegate O'Quinn, and Delegate Hurst Moderated by Carol Cash

Impact of School Design on Student Learning - Pete Gretz and Stephan Halsey

Flexible Financing and Federal Funding - Chad Stewart and D.R. Dugan

Impact on New School Facility on Rural Communities Panel Discussion - Haydee Robinson, Dashan Turner, Paul Nichols, and Kevin Siers Moderated by Kristy Midgette
NREA Foundation & Research Awards Announcements
The Rural Educator


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