The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) pushed pause on its return to play plans Tuesday, announcing in a news release that it does not expect to receive California Department of Public Health guidelines before January 1st. “We feel for our student-athletes and all the coaches and everyone involved that wants to get back on the field, the pool and the gym, we understand their frustration,” CIF State executive director Ron Nocetti said. “When we made the decision to set the calendar in July, we all knew there could very well be another surge, but we had to at least try. But without updated guidance, we can’t play at this time and we’re hopeful we get guidance soon so we can work with our sections and membership on a path forward.” Since August 3rd high school sports have been prohibited from competition and limited to modified conditioning and skill training workouts.

On Tuesday, the California Health and Human Services Agency published the long-awaited Master Plan for Early Learning and Care, a blueprint to remodel the state’s child-care system and dramatically expand public preschool. Its most immediate aim is to untangle some of the bureaucracy governing early-childhood care by shifting oversight for virtually all state-subsidized programs from the state’s Department of Education to the Department of Social Services. It also suggests streamlining publicly-funded programs, simplifying eligibility for low-income families and overhauling reimbursements for providers, which the report called “overly complex and inequitable.” “The Master Plan shows how one state can achieve goals that are soon to become national ones,” the authors noted. “California can use the Master Plan to signal its fitness as an early partner with the incoming Biden ad ministration,” which advocates early-education reform and better access to child care. Read More

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a coronavirus aid proposal worth about $908bn Tuesday morning, aiming to break the months-long impasse over emergency federal relief for the U.S. economy amid the ongoing pandemic. Senators and members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus held a news conference to push their proposal as a “template for legislation” that could pass Congress as the economy faces increasing pressure from the recent surges in coronavirus cases. The proposals include, among a wealth of other benefits, the provision of $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for four months, $160bn in funding for state and local governments and a temporary moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against firms and other entities. The bipartisan agreement also includes about $82bn for education, $288bn in funding for small businesses, including through the Payc heck Protection Program and other aid, $45bn for transportation agencies, $26bn in nutrition assistance and $16bn in healthcare, including to help with coronavirus testing and tracing, along with vaccine distribution. Read More

The National Center for Education Statistics announced last Wednesday (25th November) that the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress evaluations used for the Nation’s Report Card scheduled for next year are being postponed until 2022. James Woodworth, commissioner of the center for education statistics, said in the announcement that “too many students are receiving their education through distance learning or are physically attending schools in locations where outside visitors to the schools are being kept at a minimum due to COVID levels.” Therefore, Mr Woodworth said he has “determined that NCES cannot at this time conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.” Education leaders praised the decision: CEO of the Council of Chief State School Officers Carissa Moffat Miller said in a statement that th e council also supports the delay and recognizes it “was not an easy decision,” but believes “it is the right one based on what we know today about this virus and its impact on schools.” However, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the 2021 administration of assessments “a moral imperative.” They stated that without the assessments parents, educators and policymakers will have no data on the scope of learning loss. Read More

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has unveiled an online portal that shows if states and local educational agencies are actually utilizing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s $31bn Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) to maintain learning provisions amid the pandemic. The new portal, found at, captures awards and expenditures reported as of September 30, six months after enactment of the CARES Act. Of the $13.2bn Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund – which was awarded to the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. – and reveals that just $1.6bn, or 12% of the total had been spent. Eight recipients had spent less than 1% of their award. Of the $3bn allocated to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a total of $535m, or 18%, had been spent. Thirty-four governors had yet to spend more than 1% of their allocated funding. In New York state, for example, less than 0.1% of ESSER funds have been drawn down. However, New York City again shuttered its schools yesterday, despite having only a 0.19% test positivity rate among students and teachers. Kentucky, which has more than $170m dollars available, closed schools for several weeks. Meanwhile, Iowa has spent the majority of its funding while successfully re-opening most of its schools for in-person learning. “States that neglected their obligations to provide full-time education, while complaining about a lack of resources, have left significant sums of money sitting in the bank. There may be valid reasons for states to be deliberate in how they spend CARES Act resources, but these data make clear there is little to support their claims of being cash-poor,” Ms. DeVos comments. Carissa Moffat Miller, chief executive of The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), complains that the department’s data and how it is presented is “misleading” however. “The Education Department’s figures do not tell the full story of how CARES Act funds are being used. Many states and school districts have obligated funds beyond the levels described in the Department’s figures – that is, they have placed orders or entered into service contracts that must be paid in the future.” She also notes that states and districts have until September 2022 to enter into obligations to spend CARES money and adds that CCSSO estimates schools will need between $158bn and $245bn in new federal aid to cover various costs related to the pandemic. Read More

Marguerite Roza, a research professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, where she leads the Certificate in Education Finance, asserts that, like interest on debt, learning loss as a result of the pandemic will “compound” without appropriate and urgent action. If more stimulus money comes, she suggests, it needs to be deployed “differently than it was with the CARES Act,” as the challenges go “beyond access to a device and internet.” Targeted aid should come in the form of $3000 per disengaged student, Roza proposes. Assuming 10% of students are on this lower leg, the total would be roughly $15bn, about equal to the annual Title I program. Innovation should be championed too, she adds, outdoor schooling models, mobile classrooms, “pandemic pods,” and tutoring hubs are all worthy examples. Read More

Politico (12/3, Gaudiano) reports teachers unions and school officials say that educators should “be near front of the line for access to a coronavirus vaccine.” In a Monday letter to the CDC advisory committee responsible for finalizing recommendations for vaccine distribution, several education groups wrote that giving adults in school systems priority access to vaccinations will be “critical” to fully reopening school buildings for in-person learning. They also said vaccinating “trusted messengers” like teachers will generate trust in the vaccination program among the public. The groups, which included the AFT, NEA, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and others, wrote, “Our students need to come back to school safely, educators want to welcome them back, and no one should have to risk their health to make this a reality.”

 Philadelphia Superintendent Says Teachers Should Be Among First To Get COVID Vaccine. Chalkbeat (12/3) reports Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite said Thursday that educators should be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Hite said, “Right now as you know healthcare workers are the priority along with individuals in assisted living and we are trying to make the case that the next group of individuals becomes educators.” He added, “So people want to restart the economy, children need to be back in school. We are advocating on a national level to be prioritized.”

        Indiana Officials Say Teachers Likely To Be In Second Wave Of Individuals Getting COVID-19 Vaccine. The Indianapolis Star (12/3) reports during Indiana’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, “state officials said that teachers will likely be among the second wave of individuals” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, after frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said when that happens depends on how many doses Indiana receives and when the state receives them. “We are already in full planning mode to start vaccinating that critical infrastructure (group) when we have the vaccine and we’re ready to do so,” Weaver said. “I 100 percent believe that teachers getting vaccinated will help our schools.”

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Early data indicates that reopened U.S. schools have so far avoided spikes in COVID-19 cases. Over 700 primary, middle and high schools that have at least partially reopened, according to data collected by Brown University, with just 0.07% of students and 0.14% of staff having confirmed coronavirus infections in the first half of September. “There is starting to be some reassuring data that when you put in place the right measures – and have control of community spread … you can open schools safely,” says Dr. Nathaniel Beers, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ school opening guidelines. While a global study too, by Switzerland’s Insights for Education of 191 countries, found that reopening schools is not linked to an increase in COVID-19 rates, tougher days may be ahead. Attendance in the U.S. so far has been mostly voluntary and reopenings concentrated in suburbs and smaller cities. Medical experts have highlighted additional challenges for big cities, including space constraints, older buildings with painted-shut windows, inadequate air circulation, little outdoor space, and limited funding for contact-tracing efforts.

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