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National Rural Education News

April 22, 2019

We are going to use this article on the website to provide regular updates, news and notes and other items of interest pertaining to education at the federal level.  We will also include information from our federal lobbyists in Washington.  Dr. Allen Pratt and the good folks at NREA do an outstanding job of representing rural education at the federal level.  They provide weekly updates and lots of useful information for rural schools.  Sasha Pudelski,Noelle Ellerson and Chris Rogers, our lobbyists at AASA, also do a remarkable job of keeping our voice heard in Washington.  They too provide regular updates and usefull information for rural schools across the nation.  

SCOTUS to take up use of public funds for religious schools in Montana case

By Kimberly Hefling and Benjamin Wermund

06/28/2019 10:30 AM EDT
Updated 06/28/2019 01:14 PM EDT

School choice advocates celebrated Friday after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a closely watched Montana case that could have big implications for the use of public funds to pay for private religious schools.

Pushed by a libertarian group in Arlington, Va., the suit is intended to further chip away at the traditional wall between church and state, and will be heard by a court with an additional conservative justice since the last time the question was argued.

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, centers on whether a tax credit scholarship program in Montana violated a state constitutional provision prohibiting the legislature from appropriating public funds to aid religious schools.

The Montana Supreme Court last year ruled it did, determining that religiously affiliated private schools in the state make up the overwhelming majority of qualified education providers in Montana. It ruled that the tax credit was permitting the Legislature to "indirectly pay public funds to those schools," according to a synopsis of the ruling posted by the court.

School choice supporters see the case as a vehicle to overturn so-called Blaine amendments on the books in 39 states — state constitutional provisions that prevent public funding from going to religious education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a school choice supporter, has called such provisions "bigoted."

Tax credit scholarship programs, which are used in about 20 states, have been advocated for at the federal level by the Trump administration, with DeVos as a key salesperson. Typically, the programs give a tax credit to individuals or businesses that donate to an organization that funds private school tuition or other educational expenses.

"Finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel toward educational freedom and equity!" tweeted Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, a school choice group.

John Schilling, president of the American Federation of Children group, which DeVos used to chair, said the case "has the opportunity to definitively establish that religious schools cannot be excluded from school choice programs by virtue of their religion."

The Montana case comes just two years after the Supreme Court considered the traditional wall separating church and state in another closely watched case related to schools, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. vs. Comer.

The court ruled 7-2 in that case that Missouri had wrongly denied a church a state grant "simply because of what it is — a church." But it stopped short of addressing the constitutionality of the Blaine amendments.

While the ruling was heralded by school choice supporters, including DeVos, as an incremental win, it was narrowly framed — something that the more conservative wing of the court complained about at the time.

The Montana case could provide an opening to push the ruling further for the court, which includes yet another conservative vote in Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The suit is one of at least three pushed by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian advocacy group based in Arlington, Va., that defends school choice programs in court. The group has said the lawsuit on behalf of three Montana families is intended to "build on" the Trinity Lutheran ruling.

"We hope the Court will clarify that just as the government cannot force families participating in these programs to choose a religious school, the government also cannot ban these families from choosing a religious school," said Erica Smith, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, in a statement.

In contrast, Heather Weaver, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, wjhich has worked with a coalition of groups on the other side, said the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case was a disappointment.

Weaver said the Supreme Court could potentially rule not just that states can allow religious education programs to get public funds, but that if states open up a funding program, that they are required to fund religious schools as well.

"We hope that the Supreme Court will affirm states' long-standing interest in preventing public funding from going to religious education and religious indoctrination," Weaver said.

To view online:
https://subscriber.politicopro.com/education/whiteboard/2019/06/supreme-court-to-hear-montana-case-on-public-funds-and-religious-schools-1562775

The 111th Rural Research and Conference Symposium hosted by NREA & BFK. 

The #RuralEdForum brings together rural #edleaders from across the country to advance #21stcenturylearning. Join our community of bold, courageous educators on Oct. 24–26 in Louisville, KY! Register today to save http://bit.ly/RuralEd19-Reg 

"Career Ready, College Ready, University Ready, Digitally Ready!'

https://eduvate.biz/newbattle-high-school/?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email

How to make college accessible to students from rural communities

https://thehill.com/opinion/education/449319-how-to-make-college-accessible-to-students-from-rural-communities

School Choices for Rural America

By Frederick Hess 06/14/2019

https://www.educationnext.org/school-choices-rural-america/

Secretary DeVos Advances Higher Education Reform Forged by Historic Consensus

Comprehensive rewrite of federal regulations which seek to promote innovation, protect students, and reduce regulatory burden, are now open for public comment

https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-devos-advances-higher-education-reform-forged-historic-consensus?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

RURAL AMERICA READY FOR AN INFUSION OF INVESTMENT, PANELISTS SAY

By Charlie Zong

https://www.dailyyonder.com/rural-america-ready-infusion-investment-panelists-say/2019/06/12/32293/

25 Groups Join Connect Americans Now In Filing FCC Comments: NREA

https://connectamericansnow.com/25-groups-join-connect-americans-now-in-filing-fcc-comments/

Rural Spark podcast: How to save your rural school:

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/how-to-save-your-rural-school-the-petite-story/id1449859399?i=1000441410828

Policy Intelligence and Education News

  • House omnibus appropriations updates – House leaders decided to remove the Legislative Branch bill from the package of fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills the House will debate this week due to disagreement about whether to allow Members of Congress to have a cost of living adjustment in their pay.  The Rules Committee met last night and made in order 77 amendments to the Labor-HHS-Education bill (Division A of the omnibus).  The amendments are listed in the Rules Committee Report starting on pages 7-14 of the pdf here.  There are some amendments that do not make funding changes – they add and delete the same amount of funding, but their purpose is to provide report language to clarify what the funding can or cannot be used for.  The eight amendments that would affect the amount of education funding are listed below.  Note: these amendment numbers do not match the original amendment numbers that we shared yesterday, and also note that some of the amendments have changed.

#11, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) - Cuts Education Department management funds by $2 million and moves the funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Lyme Disease.  

#35, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) – cuts all funding for Division A programs by 4.5%.

#40, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) - Cuts Education Department management funds by $3 million and  moves the funding to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

#42, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) - cuts all funding for Division A programs by 14%.

#45, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) – adds $500,000 for American History and Civics National Activities, paid for by cutting $500,000 from Education Department Management funds.

#50, Rep. Alma Adams et al – adds $500,000 for higher education to keep open the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, paid for by cutting $500,000 from Education Department Management funds.

#61, Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) – Adds $5 million for Graduate Medical Education, paid for by cutting $5 million from Education Department Management funds.

#70, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) – adds $4 million for Education Department's Inspector General, paid for by cutting $4 million from the Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards. 

  • House is preparing the next five-bill omnibus funding package – House Rules Committee has announced that the next omnibus appropriations package could be considered next week, and has asked for all amendments to be submitted by 11am on Thursday.  That package will contain the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior and Environment, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD bills.  That leaves only Financial Services and Homeland Security – which are being marked up in the Appropriations Committee today – and the Legislative Branch bills. 
  • Senate may soon set its own discretionary levels if no budget agreement is reached – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Republican Appropriations Committee leadership are set to meet with Administration budget leaders this afternoon to pursue talks on a budget deal that would raise the discretionary spending caps.  Those talks do not involve Democrats, making it less likely that any potential agreement would be acceptable to the House.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that if there is no movement towards reaching a deal, the Senate could soon follow the House's actions in "deeming" a FY 2020 discretionary total and starting its 12-bill appropriations process based on that total.  That total is almost certain to be well below the level the House deemed.  We're hearing that the Labor-HHS-Education bill would be one of the first to be considered, but that the earliest that could happen would be the last week of June in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.  If the House and Senate go forward with different assumptions about total discretionary funding, that makes it harder – or impossible! – to conference the House and Senate versions of the spending bills, meaning that the final funding bills (a) will be likely done late and (b) could be quite different from the House and eventual Senate versions, depending on what a budget agreement sets for total discretionary funding. 

 

 

 

The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics. The report contains key indicators on the condition of education in the United States at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. The indicators summarize important developments and trends using the latest statistics, which are updated throughout the year as new data become available. In addition, the report's Spotlight indicators provide more in-depth analyses on selected topics. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

In The Lay of the Land, the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition employs a place-based equity lens across three content areas in rural education, offering targeted policy recommendations that correspond to the issues. TN Equity Report for Rural EducationAlso highlighted: Tennessean Report

Miami University Grad student request: Please share this survey to collect data about teachers' knowledge about culturally relevant pedagogy and use of culturally relevant strategies in their classrooms. I was wondering if you would be willing and able to forward an invitation to take the survey to teachers belong to the NREA. The survey will only take 10-15 minutes at most and is completely confidential and anonymous. Here is the link to the survey if you want to look at it before deciding if this is something teachers in your organization would be interested in participating in as well as if it is something you are able to share with your members: https://miamioh.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cvbINlAHiT7MBBH

ALL FOR MANUSCRIPTS FOR BOOK

 African American Rural Education Edited by: Crystal Renée Chambers, JD, PhD

Loni Crumb, PhD

The year 2008 marks the first in which the world's population globally was greater in urban areas than rural settings. Within the United States, 97 percent of the nation's geography is rural, with urban clusters concentrated on the boarders and coasts. Nearly 20 percent (19.3%), one-fifth, of the U.S. population is rural and African Americans comprise the largest minority in rural settings. Whereas 12.2 percent of the nation's overall population is African American, 8.2 percent of rural Americans (US) are African Americans. They are mostly concentrated in areas where they comprise one-third to the majority population, such as in the Southern Black Belt (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia) and Mississippi Delta (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) regions, areas marked by high poverty and lower educational attainments.

The purpose of this volume, part of the Emerald Press series, Advances in Race and Ethnicity in Education, is to attend to the challenges, trajectories, and opportunities of African American rural students PreK through 20, so as to provide a holistic depiction of education for African American rural students contemporarily. In so doing, we as educators, policy makers and social media influencers will garner a better sense of what it means to be African American, rural, and educated as well as better develop and convey culturally informed pedagogies/ adragogies for rural African American students in addition to improving representation and advocacy for rural African American students to our respective attentive publics. Specific topics include but are not limited to: African American Migration and the Education of Rural African Americans, Meanings of Blackness in Rural Settings, Early Childhood Educational Access and Experiences, Literacy and Numeracy, Exceptional and AIG Student Services, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for African American Rural Populations, the College Choices and Experiences of African American Rural Students. Please submit chapter proposals to chambersc@ecu.edu by June 14, 2019. Full Manuscript submissions are due August, 14, 2019.

Identifying Your Greatest Education Challenges

Digital Promise is conducting research to surface shared challenges in education. 

This survey asks questions about the challenges you witness and experience in your daily work in a school or district. Your participation will help us understand which education challenges are the greatest priorities for schools in a variety of contexts. Based on what we learn, we will create a database of research and resources that can support you in addressing these challenges so that together we can improve the learning experience for all students.  https://www.research.net/r/edchallenges

Rethinking Leadership Development for the 2019-2020 School Year

Tuesday, June 11, 2019 – 3:00 PM ET

This 40-minute webinar focuses on a fresh look at leadership development in rural and remote schools. Many administrators are committed to growing the leadership talent in their schools. What is not always clear is how to do this. What leadership skills and mindsets are needed in a first leadership role? And how do senior leaders need to lead differently to have a school wide impact?

Our 12 Leadership Shifts model identifies the leadership mindsets needed to be effective. The model is research-based and derives from our experience of coaching over 100,000 leaders on the changes and challenges they find the hardest.  We will review the 12 Leadership Shifts and show how administrators can use this model to confidently plan leadership development for staff across their school. Additionally, we will discuss the personalization of this model and the ability to implement this model through online, telephone, and video-conferencing models so that everyone can take advantage of professional leadership development.

To register for this webinar, send your name, school name, and note NREA in the subject line of your email to spark.america@bts.com or Marcia.Wratcher@bts.com  Upon receipt of your email, your registration will be confirmed and will be sent access information for the webinar via zoom.  You may access the webinar via the following link: https://bts.zoom.us/j/168772998  You may also dial in to the webinar using the following number and meeting id:

    +1 646 876 9923    Meeting ID: 168 772 998

 

NREAC Legislative Updates: (5/15/2019)

Appropriations:

  • Right now, you are spending FY18 dollars, living under FY19 dollars, and we are lobbying for FY20 dollars (FY20 dollars will be in the schools in the 2020-21 school year). The president's budget is a dead-on-arrival nonstarter, one that cuts USED by nearly $9 billion (11%) and eliminates 29 programs. We are relying on Congress to pass a bipartisan deal that raises the caps. Our bet is that the question is NOT if they will raise the caps, but how much they will raise the caps by. The House dropped their LHHS bill last week and it funds USED $4.4 b above FY19 levels making it nearly $12 b above the president's budget. It includes $1 b increases for Title I and IDEA, no specifics on REAP, and no money for Secure Rural Schools (That we can see) for either FY19 or FY20. The bottom line when talking to your members now about appropriations is that we support a cap increase, FY20 conversations need to start at FY19 levels, at least, and that we continue to prioritize investment in critical federal formula programs.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

  • Next up on the docket is a status update on this year's Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Since our last update, Congress still hasn't made much progress on setting priorities or timelines for introducing bill text that reauthorizes the Russel Brand Child Nutrition act. However, we do know that the process is moving much faster in the Senate than in the House due to Sen. Roberts' recent retirement announcement. Consequently, this means that we should see legislation before the August recess.
  • Also, noteworthy, AASA has received data inquiries from House committee staffers on how states are handling lunch shaming (e.g., cheese sandwiches and debt shaming students), and from the Senate side on how states are keeping track of Free and Reduced Price Lunch data once schools meet the community eligibility provision. Therefore, if any you have information on this, feel free to reach out directly via email.

Higher Education Reauthorization (HEA)

  • The Higher Education Act is also up for reauthorization this year. Unfortunately, however, Chairman Alexander's and Ranking Member Murray's diverging priorities on Title 9 (sexual assault guidance), Title II (e.g., Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), Teacher Quality Partnership grants (TQP),  and TEACH grants), and Title IV programs (e.g., Pell grants and student finical aid programs) remain sticking points in the negotiations on the Senate.
    • The in the weed's analysis here is that Senate Dems have proposed expanding PSLF through the What Can You Do for Your Country Act. Specifically the bill would (1) allow borrowers with Direct and Federal Family Education Loans to be eligible for PSLF; (2) allow all federal repayment plans to qualify; (3) require U.S. ED to provide clearer guidance for applying to the program; (4) allow borrower to see partial forgiveness after 5-years; and (5) simplify the application and certification. AASA chose not to support this Act because it had the potential to hurt efforts to preserve PSLF in the House. In contrast, Senate Republicans want to cap PSLF at $39,000 or eliminate the program altogether.
  • Looking at the House, it's unclear whether Chairman Bobby Scott and Ranking member Virginia Foxx will come to a bipartisan agreement on HEA, especially considering that the 115th session of Congress PROSPER and AIM HIGHER acts were very different visions for the future of the nation's higher education system.
  • Thus, the big takeaway here is that the House is waiting for the Senate to move on HEA. That said, if negotiations fail in the Senate, DEMs and REPs will most likely produce their own partisan versions of the bill of HEA and hold off reauthorization of the law until after 2020.

E-Rate:

  • The FCC will be releasing a rule that proposes changes to ERate that could reverse and impact the ERate funding cap, and pit rural school broadband against rural health care. We won't know the specifics of the proposal until we can read the plan, but we are deeply concerned with the direction of this proposal and will be relying on a full member mobilization over the summer, both with your members of Congress AND in submitting written comments to the FCC (We'll provide a template. Draft). Stay tuned, this will be one of our biggest priorities this summer.

Fully Fund IDEA

  • As you may recall, AASA chairs the IDEA Funding Coalitions – which is a group of 24 organizations focused on getting Congress to honor its commitment to fund 40% of the additional cost associated with educating students with disabilities. This year we are pleased to share that the coalition's efforts resulted in bipartisan legislation – that outlines a 10-year path for Congress to realize its commitment - being introduced in the Senate (S.866) and House (H.R.1878).

 

The Rural Educator has new editorial leaders. A huge thank-you goes out to Drs. Anastasia Elder and Dana Franz who helped usher in a new era for the journal.  During their tenure as editors, The Rural Educator began being published online and saw great growth in the number and quality of submissions.  We also welcome Catherine Biddle and Erin McHenry-Sorber as new editors of The Rural Educator. Drs. Biddle and McHenry-Sorber have served as members of the Editorial Advisory Board for several years and will work with continuing editor Devon Brenner to continue creating a journal that is relevant, rigorous and engaging.  The journal is available online at ruraleducator.info and print copies of The Rural Educator are a benefit of membership of NREA. Questions? Contact the editors at theruraleducator@gmail.com.

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today unveiled a groundbreaking report, A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies(PDF, 2.5 MB). The report finds that deployment of both broadband e-Connectivity and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technology on farms and ranches throughout the U.S. could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year.

“Broadband and Next Generation Precision Agriculture are critical components for creating vital access to world-class resources, tools and opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers,” Secretary Perdue said. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to doing our part to clear the way for nationwide broadband connectivity that will allow the next generation of precision agriculture technologies to thrive and expand.”

Download A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB). To see how Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies can work on farm and ranching operations, view the Connected Technologies infographic (PDF, 910 KB).

The report also finds that if broadband infrastructure and digital technologies at scale were available at a level that meets estimated producer demand, the U.S. economy could realize benefits equivalent to nearly 18 percent of total agriculture production. Of that 18 percent, more than one-third is dependent on broadband e-Connectivity, equivalent to at least $18 billion in annual economic benefits that only high-speed, reliable internet can provide.

For many years, USDA and the American agriculture industry have been actively researching the feasibility, usage and potential upside of Next Generation Precision Agriculture technologies. Until now though, the interdependency of these technologies and broadband e-Connectivity has not been evaluated. The report released today explores this symbiotic relationship and quantifies the potential economic benefit of broadband buildout and the complementary adoption of connected agriculture technologies. Going forward, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be engaged in multiple facets of infrastructure and technology deployment, including financing rural capital investments and supporting producers who are exploring which Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies are best suited to improve their operations and serve their customers.

In April 2017, President Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. The Report identified Achieving e-Connectivity in Rural America as a cornerstone recommendation. The Administration has been executing this priority call to action through the American Broadband Initiative (ABI) (PDF, 647 KB), which reflects rural broadband build-out as one of President Trump’s directives to the Federal government.A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB) opens the next chapter in the USDA’s response to this call to action.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

 

Dear Rural Stakeholder,

 

The Department is now accepting applications for the Innovation & Modernization discretionary grant program. This program, authorized by Perkins V, is designed to identify, support and rigorously evaluate evidence-based and innovative strategies and activities to improve and modernize career and technical education (CTE) and align workforce skills with labor market needs. Not less than 25% of the funds available for grants must be awarded to recipients in rural areas, if a sufficient number of applications of sufficient quality are received from applicants serving rural communities. A pre-application webinar has been scheduled for April 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm ET and registration for the webinar is now available. Applications will be accepted through June 14, 2019.

 

Thank you,

Office of Rural and Community Engagement

U.S. Department of Education

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