With help from Lauraine Genota
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BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ESCALATES FIGHT WITH GOP GOVERNORS OVER BANS ON MASKS IN SCHOOLS: The Biden administration is stepping up its criticism of Republican governors in states like Texas and Florida for bucking federal public health guidance, as classes resume in much of the country — and as coronavirus case counts continue to swell.
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both recommended that students wear masks on campus in to mitigate the spread of the Delta variant of Covid. And administration officials, including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, have for weeks been critical of states that have prohibited school districts from requiring students to wear masks in the classroom.
— Now, the administration is now taking a more muscular approach. The Education Department on Friday announced it would allow federal resources to help school teachers and school boards that defy statewide prohibitions on masking.
And over the weekend, the White House said President Joe Biden had personally called school officials in Arizona and Florida who chose to defy their respective governors by implementing indoor mask mandates in their classrooms.
— In separate calls, Biden praised Phoenix Union High School District superintendent Chad Gestson and Broward County Schools interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright for their “leadership and courage to do the right thing,” a White House official said.
— In a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Cardona wrote that he was “deeply concerned” by the state’s efforts to prevent schools from requiring masks. He said federal Covid relief dollars are available to pay the salaries of educators, school board members and superintendents at schools that choose to require masks if the state revokes funding, as DeSantis has threatened. Andrew Atterbury has more.
— Cardona over the weekend tweeted out his letter to Florida officials, adding: “We. Must. Protect. Children.”
— In a similar missive to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Cardona said that state’s prohibition on mask mandates “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.” He added that federal relief dollars could be used by school districts “for contact tracing, implementing indoor masking policies, or other policies aligned with CDC guidance.”
— The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday sided with Abbott, temporarily halting two lower court rulings that had tossed out his statewide ban on mask mandates. The orders stop two counties — Dallas County and Bexar County, where San Antonio is located — from imposing mask mandates in schools.
—“The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks,” Abbott tweeted on Sunday. “Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools.”
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HOUSE PLOTS PATH FORWARD ON BUDGET RESOLUTION: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi detailed on Sunday how she plans to move ahead on her party’s $3.5 trillion partisan budget resolution, as moderate Democrats threaten to to sink it unless the House first passes the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
— Pelosi suggested that the House would take a single procedural vote next week to advance both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the budget resolution. The budget resolution unlocks the reconciliation tool that Democrats are planning to use to pass large swaths of Biden’s domestic agenda, including his major education priorities, without needing GOP votes.
— “Our goal is to pass the budget resolution the week of August 23 so that we may pass Democrats’ Build Back Better agenda via reconciliation as soon as possible,” Pelosi said in a letter.
— But passing the budget resolution is the easy part, relatively speaking. In the coming weeks, the various congressional committees will race to flesh out the Democratic spending bill’s details. As part of that, they’ll need to hash out the minutia behind sweeping new education policies, such as free community college, universal pre-K, and new programs to support historically Black and other minority-serving institutions.
— The Senate-passed budget resolution last week directs the Senate HELP Committee to come up with legislative proposals that cost $726 billion over the next decade. The House education committee, under the resolution, would be charged with coming up with policies that cost $779.5 billion.
— Expect some major negotiating in the coming weeks over how much funding Democrats’ education priorities should get, and for how many years. The budget resolution sets a non-binding Sept. 15 deadline for the committees to complete their work.
ADVOCACY GROUPS NUDGE CARDONA ON TITLE IX RULES: A coalition of sexual assault survivor advocacy groups this morning is calling on the Biden administration to speed up its plans to get rid of the Title IX rules finalized by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
— The Education Department has said it plans to overhaul those Trump-era regulations, something Biden pledged to do on the campaign trail. But department officials have estimated that they don’t expect to formally propose changes to the existing rules until May. In the meantime, the department has issued guidance about how schools and colleges must comply with the DeVos-era rules that are currently on the books.
— The groups — End Rape on Campus, It’s On Us, Know Your IX, National Women’s Law Center, Equal Rights Advocates, and Girls Inc. — are demanding that Cardona stop enforcing key parts of the DeVos-era Title IX rule, which governs how schools and colleges must respond to sexual harassment and assault. They’re also urging Cardona to issue proposed changes to the rules by Oct. 1.
— “It’s time to undo this harmful policy,” the petition being circulated by the groups says. “Student survivors don’t have the luxury of waiting for this administration to take their safety and rights seriously while they are denied the most basic protections because they weren’t assaulted or harassed at the right place, by the right person, or at the right time.”
— Conservatives have defended the Trump-era Title IX policies as providing important due-process protections to students accused of sexual misconduct. Senate Republicans have pushed back on Biden’s pick to run the Office for Civil Rights, Catherine Lhamon, who will be in charge of rewriting the DeVos rules. The Senate HELP Committee deadlocked over her nomination earlier this month.
— Flashback: House Democrats last month passed legislation to fund the Education Department that includes an amendment blocking key provisions of the DeVos-era Title IX rules. But that policy rider is likely to face resistance in the evenly-divided Senate, which has not yet begun work on an education funding bill for the coming fiscal year.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO BOOST COLLECTION OF CIVIL RIGHTS DATA AMID PANDEMIC: The Education Department announced on Friday that it would take the unprecedented step of collecting civil rights data from the nation’s schools for two years in a row to better gauge the impact the pandemic is having on education.
— The department said it would conduct the massive civil rights survey of school districts for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. (Data collection for the 2019-20 school year was postponed because of the pandemic.)
— “The significant changes in our educational landscape, along with the substantially increased resources available to schools to meet the needs of your students, educators, and staff, make this year’s data collection all the more important,” Suzanne Goldberg, the acting assistant Education secretary for civil rights, said in a letter to school superintendents on Friday.
REPORT FINDS NO EVIDENCE OF K-12 PANDEMIC STAFFING CRISIS: Overall teacher turnover didn’t appear to spike at the end of the 2020-21 school year, according to a RAND report published today. District leaders reported that 6 percent of their teachers and 6 percent of their principals retired or resigned at the end of the school year, numbers that are on par with typical turnover rates, according to the report.
— Educators, policymakers and researchers have been concerned about higher-than-normal attrition rates at the end of the 2020-21 school year because of the high level of job-related stress teachers said they experienced as they switched to remote learning.
—There isn’t a national database that tracks current teacher turnover and vacancies, and each state tracks those numbers differently. The Education Department’s Teacher Shortage Areas website doesn’t provide the number of open positions, just that shortages exist generally or in certain subject areas.
—The Education Department’s application for American Rescue Plan money asks state education agencies to describe the extent of teacher shortages in their state and how they will support and stabilize their educators.
—The Institute for College Access & Success has named Sameer Gadkaree as its new president and chief executive officer, starting Oct. 1.
— Doubts, anger and anxiety: What it’s like to go to school amid covid-19: The New York Times.
— With coronavirus cases rising, D.C. schools prepare to outline safety protocols for new academic year: The Washington Post.
— Biden administration makes record increase to food stamp benefits: POLITICO Pro.