Who are Education Advocates Supporting on Super Tuesday?
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Who are Education Advocates Supporting on Super Tuesday?

In today’s Federal Flash, we’ll discuss
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ testimony before the House Appropriations committee,
funding for rural schools, where the unions are lending their support in the Democratic
Presidential primary, and this year’s Digital Learning Day. [Opening Music] Hi, I’m Lindsay Dworkin and I’m joined
by Anne Hyslop. Let’s begin with Secretary DeVos’ testimony. Anne? For those of you who watched our last Federal
Flash, it will come as no surprise that sparks flew between Congressional Democrats and Secretary
DeVos when she testified last week before the House education appropriations subcommittee
about the Administration’s fiscal year 2021 proposed budget. Two of the most contentious topics were:
(1) the Administration’s proposal to consolidate 29 K-12 programs into a block grant while
also cutting overall funding for the consolidated programs; and
(2) the creation of a $5 billion tax credit to fund an Education Freedom Scholarship program
for students to attend private schools. All4Ed opposes both proposals and has urged
Congress to continue providing robust, dedicated funding for the 29 programs that support the
nation’s most disadvantaged and historically underserved students. While Democrats on the subcommittee shared
our concerns, the Ranking Member, Republican Tom Cole, also raised issues with the block
grant proposal. In particular, he was concerned that the Charter
School Program would be consolidated into the new block grant, which he believes would
result in less funding for charters. On the tax credit scholarship program proposal,
as expected, the subcommittee’s comments and questions split across party lines. Republicans wanted to learn more about the
proposal and praised its potential to bring more educational options to families. Democrats raised concerns about funds being
used to send students to private or religious schools that lack nondiscrimination policies. In particular, Democrats were concerned LGBTQ
students could be denied access to schools in states that already run similar programs. While the hearing focused on proposed cuts,
some rural school districts are already facing a loss of federal funding. Under the Rural and Low-Income School Program,
or RLIS, rural districts are eligible for financial support if 20 percent or more of
their students are from low-income families. But how is low-income defined? In federal programs, eligibility for free-
and reduced-price lunch is often a proxy for poverty, and this is how some districts that
have benefited from the program in the past qualified for funds. However, that isn’t how the law defines
poverty in the RLIS Program. The Department of Education recently notified
states and districts that they must census data to determine the number of students living
in poverty, which has a stricter threshold. As a result of coming into compliance with
the law, many rural districts are at risk of losing their RLIS eligibility and funding. Congress and the administration are working
to figure out a solution. We’ll keep you posted. As we approach Super Tuesday, the nation’s
teachers’ unions are still debating where to lend their support in the Democratic Presidential
contest. While the National Education Association has
yet to endorse a candidate, the American Federation of Teachers recently passed a resolution saying
they will support three of the remaining candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie
Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. This is not the AFT’s national endorsement,
which will come later, but it sends a strong message that support for any of these candidates
in the primaries is supported by the union. However, adding more complexity to the union’s
position, AFT President Randi Weingarten announced over the weekend that she will personally
support Senator Warren in the primary. Also over the weekend, House Education Committee
Chairman Bobby Scott endorsed Joe Biden. Scott’s home state of Virginia is one of
14 states holding a Democratic primary on Tuesday. Last week marked the ninth annual Digital
Learning Day, a nationwide celebration that highlights how technology supports great student
learning experiences and outcomes. This year, states, districts, and schools
hosted more than 1,600 Digital Learning Day events showcasing how innovation occurs in
every classroom, every day, through the effective use of technology. To learn more about the incredible classrooms
that were highlighted, you can view this year’s broadcast at digitallearningday.org. You can also check out the three-minute video
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel filmed in support of Digital Learning
Day where she discusses how the FCC is closing connectivity gaps. The link to her video is below. Finally, mark your calendars for the next
Digital Learning Day on February 25, 2021! That’s all for today. For an alert when the next Federal Flash is
available, email [email protected] Thanks for watching. Federal Flash is the Alliance for Excellent
Education’s video series On important developments in education policy
in Washington, D.C. Watch online at all4ed.org/federalflash, subscribe
to our YouTube channel, or listen to Federal Flash wherever you get your podcasts.


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