Education Update: January 5, 2021

From: ASCD’s Smartbrief
January 5, 2021
Sixty percent of parents of K-12 students said they would allow their child to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — with wealthier households being more accepting — but 25% said they would not, according to a survey by the National Parents Union. Of those surveyed, 50% of parents said they would not allow their child to return to in-person learning until a vaccine is publicly available.  Full Story: K-12 Dive (1/4)
A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association showed 178,935 new pediatric COVID-19 cases for the week ending Dec. 24. Total diagnosed pediatric cases for the pandemic reached over 2 million, which is 12.4% of all reported COVID-19 cases reported by 49 states — excluding New York — as well as the District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico and Guam, the groups noted.  Full Story: Medscape (free registration) (12/30),  Healio (free registration) (12/29)
January 8, 2021
US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced her resignation, effective today, following violence that broke out Wednesday at the Capitol. In her resignation letter to President Donald Trump, DeVos praised the administration’s progress on education but said this week’s events were an “inflection point” for her.  Full Story: National Public Radio (1/7),  The New York Times (1/8),  CNN (1/8),  Bloomberg (1/7)
January 11, 2021
The outcome of last week’s runoff elections in Georgia make it likely that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., will replace Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., as chairwoman of the Senate education committee. Murray worked with Alexander to write the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Full Story: Education Week (1/7)
January 13, 2021
The college admissions experience — from submitting applications to recruiting and evaluating candidates — will look different this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some students had fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities and sports or could not take the SAT or ACT and, in some cases, did not begin thinking about their applications until recently because of stress.  Full Story: The Associated Press (1/13)
Learning losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic could cost school districts about $2,500 annually per student over the next five years to overcome, according to a study by the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies. The figure accounts for “high-dosage” tutoring and additional school staff devoted to social and emotional learning.  Full Story: The 74 (1/12)
January 15, 2021
An economic relief plan announced Thursday by President-elect Joe Biden will steer $130 billion toward public K-12 schools. The funding is intended to help schools return to in-person learning, including by reducing class sizes, hiring more nurses and counselors, and providing protective gear.  Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (1/14)
From: Smartbrief on Special Education
January 6, 2021
When coronavirus hospitalizations are already low, reopening schools to in-person learning does not result in worse health outcomes, according to a study by the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice. The study, said to be the first to address health outcomes rather than positivity rates, found no evidence that reopening schools to in-person or hybrid instruction increased hospitalizations in counties that had low rates of hospitalizations.  Full Story: U.S. News & World Report (1/5)
January 8, 2021
A number of states are suspending or altering school accountability measures this year because of pandemic-related disruptions. The National Assessment of Educational Progress has been postponed until 2022, but many states are conducting assessments — some with added flexibility or without penalties — to inform instruction and identify areas where support is needed.  Full Story: K-12 Dive (1/6)
Men and women who were born with low birth weight or were born at less than 37 weeks were more likely to have children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, compared with those who were born with healthy weight and at full term, researchers reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The researchers said the findings suggest ASD risk factors can span multiple generations.  Full Story: United Press International (1/7)
January 11, 2021
The total number of reported COVID-19 cases in the US crossed the 22 million mark on Saturday, while fatalities climbed by more than 27,000 in just the first 10 days of this year. The US has logged an average of around 247,200 infections and 2,982 deaths per day over the last week, the highest numbers yet, while hospitalizations continue to increase, with 130,777 patients with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals Saturday, pushing health care workers and facilities to their limits.  Full Story: CNN (1/11),  CNN (1/10)
January 15, 2021
The surge in coronavirus cases nationwide prompted a spike in the number of school districts adopting remote instruction — 21.2% in November, compared with 31.7% in December — according to data from the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The findings come as President-elect Joe Biden pursues a return to in-person instruction for most K-8 schools during his first 100 days in office.  Full Story: Education Week (1/14)
From: The National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators’ The NAFEPA Connection
January 7, 2021
District by District Stimulus Estimates
The president signed the COVID-19 stimulus and FY21 Appropriations bill, HR 133, on December 27. As noted in the pre-Christmas update, the $900 billion stimulus package includes:
      • $4 billion for a governors’ relief fund
      • $22 billion for higher education
      • $54 billion for public K-12 schools
Like the CARES Act, the funds are designed to support immediate academic needs, the continuity of learning during the pandemic, facilitate planning for future closures, analogous situations, and preparing for what’s ahead.
The Secretary will award the $54 billion to each state educational agency with an approved application within 30 calendar days of the date of the Act’s enactment (which was December 27). Each state shall allocate not less than 90 percent to districts. The state may retain up to 10 percent. Funds are available through Sept. 30, 2022.
Georgia Senate Run-off Implications
The now-concluded run-off Senate elections in Georgia resulted in a Democratic sweep of both seats, flipping control of the upper chamber to the Democrats thanks to the tie-breaking role of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Democrats now control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be the new majority leader, and control of the various committees will shift to the Democrats. This means that the Senate HELP Committee will be chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who will also chair the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In other words, in charge of education policy and funding in the Senate. Her focus will likely center on higher education issues and early learning/childcare. On K-12, Sen. Murray has been an unapologetic supporter of assessment and accountability, though she has not been a fan of the way out-going Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has implemented the law. You can also expect Sen. Murray to push for significant new funding for education. However, given the extremely narrow Senate majority for the Democrats, getting anything done will require bipartisanship, and Republicans are likely to stymie many of the Democrats’ initiatives.
Executive Order on “Emergency Scholarships” from HHS
On December 28, the president issued an executive order on expanding educational opportunity through school choice. You can stop reading right now. This is not going anywhere. But if you’re interested, the order (which you can read here) is made of three sections. Section one makes the pitch for “emergency scholarships” by clarifying that all children should be able to access the educational resources they need to obtain high-quality education and to improve safety and well-being. Section two directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to figure out how to make funds available from the Community Services Block Grant for these scholarships. Section three clarifies that the executive order does not change the law or impose requirements outside of existing law. It only directs the Secretary to seek to repurpose CSBG for the scholarships.
From: Education Week’s EdWeek Update
January 8, 2021
One of the president’s longest-serving cabinet members, DeVos had previously denounced the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington.
Education leaders hoping for another round of coronavirus relief might get their wish from a new Congress.
The Washington senator, a former preschool teacher, is about to become the top U.S. senator for education policy.
January 11, 2021
The department says schools may refuse to let transgender students use restrooms or play sports consistent with their gender identity.
The justices will hear the appeal of a school district whose discipline of a student for her vulgar message on Snapchat was overturned.
January 15, 2021
President-elect Joe Biden proposed new aid for schools as part of a broader COVID-19 relief plan, which will require congressional approval.
Both Catherine Lhamon and Carmel Martin will serve on President-elect Joe Biden’s Domestic Policy Council.
From: Whiteboard Advisors WHITEBOARDNOTES
January 8, 2021
DeVos Resigns: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation to President Donald Trump on Thursday night. “That behavior [of rioters] was unconscionable for our country,” DeVos wrote in her resignation letter. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is an inflection point for me.” [Education Week; Politico]
Biden Picks Connecticut Schools Chief Miguel Cardona As Education Secretary: President-elect Joe Biden selected Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be his Education secretary. Cardona’s selection fulfills Biden’s campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience as his nominee for the post. He has spent his entire career in Connecticut, working as an elementary school teacher, principal, district administrator, and assistant superintendent, as well as adjunct professor before being named Connecticut’s state chief last year by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. “As a lifelong champion of public education, he understands that our children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft — and that everything that will be possible for our country tomorrow will be thanks to the investments we make and the care that our educators and our schools deliver today,” Biden said. [NPR]
Education Sees $82 Billion in Emergency COVID-19 Relief: On December 27, President Trump signed a new federal stimulus bill that provides $82 billion for education, including about $54 billion for K-12 schools and $23 billion for colleges and universities. The $54 billion in direct K-12 relief is more than four times what school districts received under the CARES Act that the federal government enacted in March, which provided $13.2 billion to districts. Yet it is less than what was included in previous relief bills introduced by Democrats and Republicans over the last several months. Though the $23 billion for colleges in relief is greater than the $14 billion colleges received in the CARES Act, higher education advocates said it is not enough to cover the financial hit institutions have suffered during the pandemic. [Washington Post, subscription required]
January 15, 2021
Biden Seeks $170 Billion in COVID-19 Relief for Education: President-elect Joe Biden will ask Congress to pass an additional $170 billion in pandemic relief funding for education, according to a $1.9 trillion proposal released on Thursday. The proposal, titled the American Rescue Plan, seeks $130 billion to help K-12 schools address disruptions caused by the pandemic, $35 billion for higher education, and $5 billion that would be at the discretion of governors to use to address the educational needs in their state as a result of the pandemic. [Washington Post, subscription required; Education Week, subscription required; U.S. News]
From: ASCD’s Educator Advocates Capitol Connections
January 8, 2021
DeVos Resigns as Secretary
      • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned as Secretary of Education effective today.
      • In her resignation letter, she touted expanded school choice and “education freedom” in the states as major accomplishments. But she cited the violent overrunning of the Capitol and “the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me” in her decision to step down with less than two weeks to go in her tenure.
      • Read the resignation letter here.
$54 Billion for K-12 Schools in Emergency Covid Funding
      • Congress passed an emergency Covid relief funding package that includes $54 billion for K-12 schools.
      • The money is available immediately to states, which are required to provide at least 90% to local school districts. Funding allocations within states is based on a district’s share of Title I funds.
      • See how much your state is receiving.
      • There are maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements for states and districts.
      • Districts are not required to provide equitable services to private schools with these funds because Congress created a separate funding program for non-public schools.
      • Allowable uses of funds include any activity under ESEA, IDEA, Perkins Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, or subtitle B of Title VII of McKinney-Vento.
      • Other allowable activities for these funds include addressing learning loss, re-opening schools, education technology, and facility and HVAC renovations to reduce transmission or improve air quality.
Did You Know
If confirmed by the Senate, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, will be the second Hispanic to lead the Department. The first, Lauro Cavazos (1988-1990), was also the first Hispanic in Cabinet history.
From: The Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Today
January 8, 2021
Maine Public Radio
For students with disabilities, it’s important that needed services be provided as early as possible. But schools and state officials acknowledge that low wages and teacher shortages have left many families waiting for those services, with the pandemic only making the problem worse.
From: The National Superintendents’ Roundtable’s Round Table News
January 15, 2021
Schools grapple with substitute teacher shortages
One of the side effects of the pandemic is that schools around the country are dealing with teacher and substitute teacher shortages. Education Week’s Holly Kurtz provides the details about a recent survey conducted by the publication.
According to respondents, nearly three-quarters of school administrators are having trouble finding substitutes and the quality of substitute applicants has likewise declined. While full-time teachers have not left the profession in numbers that some feared, the demand for substitutes has increased as medical leave has risen significantly during the pandemic.
Children’s share of total federal spending declined from 2016-2020
Childrens’s share of total federal spending has declined significantly in the last four or five years, according to data analyzed by First Focus on Children. That is one major reason why the Roundtable has encouraged President-elect Joe Biden to call for a White House Conference on Children to address the welfare of children in the United States. According to a recent UNICEF report, in terms of children’s wellbeing the United States ranks 36th out of 38 wealthy nations.
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27% of teachers consider quitting because of COVID
Although the number of teachers leaving the profession has not increased, the pressure on educators is still significant enough that many are contemplating another career. A recent poll finds that more than a quarter of teachers—27%—have considered quitting over fears of the coronavirus, reports Abigail Johnson Hess for CNBC.
For a reaction, Johnson Hess interviewed Vanderbilt professor of education Richard Milner, who said the numbers don’t surprise him. “Many teachers are barely keeping their heads above water and we don’t know how much longer we’re going to be in this space . . . Teachers are grappling with and working through the same things that their students are . . . Many teachers are grappling with the loss of loved ones and teachers of color, in particular, are grappling with these issues.”