ERNed Media – Vol 3 – April 2020


April 12, 2020

We hope this finds you and your families well during this difficult time. Thank you to all those leading on the frontlines—our healthcare workers, first responders, essential workers, Legislators and teachers—who are working tirelessly to protect our health and well-being.

While the policy landscape has dramatically changed over the past month, our mission remains the same: to advance policies that will support our nation’s students—particularly historically underserved students.



 Join Us: Thursday 4/9 @ 2pm ET

Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy Michael Dannenberg and Chief Policy Officer Charles Barone are hosting a Q&A on Twitter at @EdReformNowUSA. Be a part of the conversation as they touch on topics such as:

  • Current needs not addressed under existing CARES Act
  • Lessons for policymakers from past crises
  • The size, scope & nature of education finance support in Phase IV
  • How legislation can support an equitable, quality education quality education amidst & after the COVID-19 pandemic
Breaking Down the CARES Act
Last week, our team circulated a breakdown of state funding within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as an overview of the policy provisions within the Act. 

$30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund

  • $14 billion – Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, provides that:
    • Up to 50% may be used to offset costs associated with “significant changes to the delivery of instruction” at the postsecondary level. At least 50% of institution of higher education received funds must be distributed as emergency student grant aid for costs associated with COVID-19 response/displacement (e.g. housing, technology, transportation, food, child care, health care) 
  • $13.2 billion – Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund, supports funding for:
    • Activities to address the needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth
    • Planning and coordinating during long-term closures, including how to provide meals to eligible students, technology for online learning, and IDEA guidance
    • Purchasing educational technology, including hardware; software; connectivity; assistive technology; or, adaptive equipment
    • Planning and implementing summer learning and supplemental after school programs
    • Mental health services
    • Coordinating with the public health department
    • Training/PD on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
    • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean Local Education Agency (LEA) facilities 
  • $3 billion – Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, will give:
    • Grants to school districts, public charter schools, and institutions of higher education “most significantly impacted” by COVID-19 to support continued educational services and ongoing functionality
    • Grants may be issued to any other “education related entity” for emergency educational services, which can include child care and early education, social/emotional support, and protection of education-related jobs 
  • $307.5 million – States with the highest coronavirus burden  
  • $153.75 million – Bureau of Indian Education: allocates funding for American Indians, Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives 
  • $153.75 million – funding for outlying areas: Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands

You can read more about the specific breakdowns here.

Watchdog Work
Our team pushed back hard on Senator McConnell’s original COVID-19 Phase III response bill that did not go far enough to provide financial assistance to public schools and colleges, support heightened demands of education equity, and guardrail against abuse and pet ideological agendas.

Following changes in the bill, ERN Chief Policy Officer Charles Barone and Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy Michael Dannenberg released a statement applauding the final legislation while continuing to highlight unmet needs. Read more here.

While the CARES Act is an important step toward supporting students during this pandemic, it’s critical that we continue to provide districts, colleges, and states with the guidance, resources, and innovative approaches necessary to adapt to these unprecedented times.


Ensuring the CARES Act Supports Students 
In an op-ed for The Hill, posted this morning, Charles Barone outlines several key areas where state and local leaders will need to step up to ensure CARES Act funding supports student achievement, and where stakeholders will need to be vigilant that officials do the right thing. This includes providing equitable access to homeschooling resources, assessing student achievement when students return to school and exploring options for summer school to reduce lost instructional time. You can read more here.
Advocating for Expanded Internet Access 
Yesterday, Senior Associate for Policy and Advocacy Dana Laurens published an op-ed in The 74 calling for changes to increase home internet connectivity for students—including expanding the Federal E-Rate program. Dana discusses current advocacy efforts underway and underscores the critical need to address the digital divide as our nation’s schools remain closed. You can read the full piece here.
Analyzing Guidance on Distance Learning
In the wake of school closures across the country, we’ve compiled an analysis of all 50 states—plus New York City and the District of Columbia—to see how quickly states are moving to provide guidance, and what that guidance has looked like. We found 43 of the states analyzed were moving quickly to provide clear guidance or necessary updates to earlier guidelines, while only Maryland is lagging behind in providing progressive parameters. You can view the analysis here.
Supporting the Push for Internet Access for All Students

We joined forces with Future Ready and 15 other organizations in calling on the FCC to allow the Federal E-Rate Program to support home internet access. The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Pai on Tuesday, March 24. The “Digital Divide” is a huge problem facing many schools, including charters—many of which have meal programs up and running but are struggling to provide educational services to their students. You can continue to help advocate for changes to the E-Rate program here.


“The Federal Government is a Predatory Lender” 

In response to an article by Insider Higher Ed on the divide among progressives and liberals on student loan debt cancellation, Education Reform Now Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy Michael Dannenberg laid out a tweet storm critique of the CARES Act student loan provisions and delineated our view. In short, we think a Phase IV bill needs to address student loan payment moratorium “gaps left by the CARES Act” and either it or another vehicle should ensure there is 100% federal education debt forgiveness for students taken advantage of by shoddy for-profit schools and other colleges with unconscionably high dropout rates. Check out included polling data on the idea—broken down by party and race—retweet, comment and like to help expand on this important conversation.
Comparing the Higher-Ed Plans of Biden and Sanders

Last month, Michael Dannenberg took a look at the similarities and differences in the higher education plans of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The big picture main difference between the two plans is size and cost, but there are many more nuanced differences that go to implementation and ideology. Learn more about how these plans compare here.