A Stimulus Package and a New Secretary of Education, Oh My!

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NACSA is committed to sharing regular updates on the latest federal COVID-19 information available in an effort to highlight education policies taking place during the pandemic. Primarily, these updates will focus on the latest packages Congress is considering and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

A Stimulus Package and a New Secretary of Education, Oh My!

When it rains, it pours. After very little education news coming from the Hill or the White House over the last couple of months, we now likely have a new and desperately needed stimulus package from Congress on the way, as well as word of Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education! 

Secretary Pick 

President-Elect Joe Biden looks ready to tap Miguel Cardona to be the next Secretary of Education. Currently, Cardona is the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut. Of Puerto Rican decent, if confirmed, he will become the second Latino to be U.S. Education Secretary. He has been in the news recently in Connecticut for pushing to re-open schools, mostly driven by his concern that Black, brown, and low-income students are falling further behind.  

 Previously, he was a teacher and then a school principal. The American Federation of Teachers has called him a “very, very solid candidate”.  

 What Would This Mean for Charters? 

Because of the governance structure in Connecticut, Cardona was functionally a charter school authorizer. Connecticut did not approve any new charters to open during his tenure, but it has renewed several.  

Asked about charter schools in the past, Cardona said he would rather focus his energy making sure neighborhood public schools are viable options. Charter school advocates and public school officials say they see him as even-keeled when it comes to school choice“I haven’t found him to be pro-charter or anti-charter. It doesn’t seem like he’s focused on governance and structure. What he is focused on are great schools for kids. And I think just more broadly, I haven’t found him to be driven by ideology and politics,” said Dacia Toll, the chief executive officer of Achievement First, which operates the largest network of charter schools in Connecticut and also has schools in Rhode Island and New York. “He is more focused on making sure every kid gets an excellent education than the type of school they go to.” 

New Stimulus Package 

Last night, Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package. The headlines focused on the $600 checks many Americans will receive, but there’s also $82 billion in emergency education funding. Additionally, Congress passed a $1.4 trillion appropriations bill that included more money for K-12 education than in 2020.  

Some highlights include (see Politico for full summary):  

  • K-12 in the spending bill: $16.5 billion for Education for the Disadvantaged Grants to Local Educational Agencies, an increase of $227 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level, and $12.9 billion for IDEA Special Education Grants to States, an increase of $173 million above the fiscal 2020 enacted level. 
  • In the stimulus bill: The nearly $900 billion emergency relief deal doles out $81.8 billion for education that’s to remain available through Sept. 30, 2022. The stimulus cash is broken down into three pots of money: $54.3 billion for K-12, $22.7 billion for higher education and $4.05 billion for governors. Private K-12 schools will receive $2.75 billion for services. About $819 million was made available to the Bureau of Indian Education and Tribal Colleges and Universities. The deal also includes $10 billion for child care and $7 billion for broadband. 
  • NAEP delay: The bill postpones upcoming national tests that gauge student achievement in reading and math, a decision that’s already backed by a bipartisan coalition including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She has said it would be impractical to conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress, originally slated for January, during the pandemic because “too few schools will be providing in-school instruction or welcoming outside test administrators this winter to ensure a sufficiently large sample.” 

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