ERNed Media – Vol 4 – May 2020


May 4, 2020

Education Reform Now’s monthly policy newsletter
As we continue this long fight together, we hope this finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

While things across the country have shifted quickly in response to the pandemic, one thing has become startlingly clear: the vast inequities that already plague our educational system are only being exacerbated by COVID-19. As such, our work to ensure fair access to equitable education for all students couldn’t be more necessary—now more than ever.


Statement on the HEROES Act

In response to Congress announcing the facets of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, Chief Policy Officer Charles Barone and Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy Michael Dannenberg released a statement that commends the Act’s proposal for more than $100 billion in dedicated funding for K-16—including, consistent with ERN recommendations, funds to boost state and local budgets, provide internet connectivity to K-12 families, and establish minimum quality standards for on-line higher education. Charles and Michael recommend Congress go further in the next round of negotiations to increase education funding to meet reported need levels and ensure it’s well-targeted on students attending schools and colleges with high percentages of students from low-income families.

In anticipation of a Phase IV bill, a few weeks ago we co-authored a letter with Education Trust, the American Federation of Teachers, the Center for American Progress, and the National Education Association, and signed by more than 70 organizations, urging Congress to allocate $500 billion in state stabilization funding, with at least half of that dedicated to K-12 education, higher education and support programs for students from marginalized communities, among other stipulations. It echoed a series of recommendations ERN-pulled together from education reform groups on resources and policy items that should be included in a Phase IV bill.


Making the Case for Diagnostic Assessments
When Schools Reopen

Last week, Chief Policy Officer Charles Barone and Policy Analyst Nicholas Munyan-Penney released a brief with their recommendations on how best to address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ learning. In short, they align with various other education leaders—such as the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and the Louisiana Department of Education—who support diagnostic assessments to best garner data on where students stand entering the new school year this fall after the prolonged disruption to learning. Read more about how diagnostic assessments can support individual remediation and empower educators.

Analyzing States’ CARES Act Education Spending Priorities

Charles Barone and Nicholas Munyan-Penney also released a blog detailing their analysis of states’ spending priorities with regard to the $16.2 billion in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In their findings, Charles and Nicholas noted:

  • Of the states that have applied for funds, only six have published their applications online: Kentucky has posted its GEER application; Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania have published their ESSER applications.
  • Another 16 states have released information on priorities or suggestions for uses of CARES Act funds.
  • 13 other states have released guidance or FAQs, but these documents are much broader and largely reiterate provisions and allowable uses as stated in the CARES Act.
  • 26 states have released estimated LEA allocations (which are simply equal to each district’s current share of Title I funds), to allow districts to start planning how they will use funds.

The blog includes an interactive chart with specific details on states’ actions thus far, and an in-depth look at their priorities. Charles and Nicholas will continue to update their work as new information is released, so make sure to check back for changes.

Successfully Urging for E-Rate Legislation

In last month’s edition, we shared with you the work we did with Future Ready and other organizations—now totaling more than 50—in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the Federal E-Rate Program to support home internet access. After the letter was sent to FCC Chairman Pai on Tuesday, March 24, we are happy to report that, in direct response to this push, legislation—H.R. 6563 (116)—was brought forward by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) for Congressional consideration as part of a fourth coronavirus relief package. We are additionally pleased to see expanded internet connectivity was incorporated into the HEROES Act.


Pushing for More Meaningful Online Learning

ERN’s Michael Dannenberg and Senior Policy Analyst James Murphy published a blog post outlining concerns with higher ed distance learning and offering recommendations for improvement. They note before COVID-19, studies found fully online coursework increases socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps and that graduation rates for students who attend exclusively online lag their peers by 20 to 30 percentage points. A series of PowerPoint slides and e-bulletin board does not a college course make. What was already evident underperformance in the equitable provision of quality higher education services has been made worse by COVID-19.