PDE Issues CARES Act Funds Guidance in Light of USDE Rule Change (July 7, 2020)

Pennsylvania has received $523.8 million in emergency, one-time federal CARES funds to help schools respond to COVID-19 impacts. PDE recommended a calculation for distribution of funds to private schools that differs from the non-binding guidance issued by USDE in April. In issuing its own guidance, PDE noted that the federal guidance advised that funds must be reserved to provide equitable services to all private schools, regardless of income. PDE suggested this is inconsistent with the CARES Act goal of ensuring that the emergency funds reach the most vulnerable students.
With the new interim final rule now effective, PDE is looking at the next steps necessary.  PDE’s current guidance expressly challenges and disagrees with the USDE interpretation of how the CARES Act directs equitable services proportions to be calculated. However, PDE has not yet updated that guidance in response to the USDE interim final rule. School districts should watch for updated PDE guidance in the near future, which it is anticipated will explain the legal basis for any continuing disagreement with the interpretations reflected in the USDOE interim final rule. Although in the view of PSBA the interpretation reflected in PDE’s current guidance more closely tracks the text of the CARES Act, at this point it is unknown whether such disagreements will lead to legal challenges in court or how such challenges are likely to be resolved. It is advised that districts put off committing to a particular approach to calculating equitable services at least until updated PDE guidance is available.

Sincere thanks to PSBA for the information provided herein.

ASCA and NASP Release School Re-entry Considerations (June 26, 2020)

Local education agencies and individual schools planning for students and staff to return following COVID-19 closures must prioritize efforts to address social and emotional learning and mental and behavioral health needs. Equally important is ensuring staff feel their physical and mental health needs are supported. Schools should also ensure all policies or recommendations are culturally sensitive and ensure equity and access for all youth. To that end, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) have jointly released a document titled Reentry Considerations: Supporting Student Social and Emotional Learning and Mental and Behavioral Health Amidst COVID-19.

To access the document, click here or go to: https://schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/Publications/SchoolReentry.pdf

USDE Issues Rule to Ensure CARES Act Funding Serves All Students (June 26, 2020)

On June 25, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rule that would help to ensure all students whose learning was impacted by COVID-19 are served equitably by emergency funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, no matter where they attend school. The Interim Final Rule (IFR), which becomes effective immediately, outlines how local education agencies (LEAs) must calculate the emergency funds available for providing equitable services to students and teachers in private schools. According to USDE, the rule gives districts options for determining the amount of CARES Act funding for equitable services to private school students.

To view the press release, click here.

US Supreme Court DACA Decision Affects Education (June 22, 2020)

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration cannot end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which that allows individuals who came to the U.S. as children to receive two-year temporary protection from deportation, subject to renewal, and to become eligible for a work permit. It is believed that a decision to repeal the program would have impacted thousands of educators, and many more students, along with some who are working on the frontlines as schools plan to re-open. 

The Migration Policy Institute reports that, as of 2016, approximately 228,000 children age 15 and younger were unauthorized immigrants potentially eligible for the DACA program provided they stayed in school. Also, each year about 100,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high school. In 2014, 31% of the immediately eligible DACA population (about 365,000 students) was enrolled in secondary school. Further, education is one of the most common professions in which DACA recipients work. in 2019, approximately 9,000 DACA recipients were employed as teachers or in other education careers.

To read the entire Education Dive article, click here.

Supreme Court LGBTQ+ Decision will Impact Education (June 22, 2020)

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-3 decision, that federal law prohibits employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, a ruling that will have a direct impact on education. The majority opinion held that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and now avers that sexual orientation or gender identity are concepts so closely related to “sex”—meaning gender—that a prohibition of sex discrimination includes them.

This ruling will likely have other impacts on education down the road. LGBT issues beyond employment discrimination have been contentious in schools for years. While the decision today is limited to employment discrimination on the basis of sex, it opens the door to other areas, such as  participation in school sports and bathroom use.  

To read more, click here.