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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.  

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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