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Federal agencies announce temporary CDL flexibility to address school bus driver shortage

From a U.S. Dept. of Education release: “Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education (Department), that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is giving states the option of waiving the portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test that requires applicants to identify the “under the hood” engine components. All other components of the written and road test will remain.

“This announcement aims to alleviate some of the labor shortage challenges schools are facing and is one of many resources the Department continues to provide to safely keep schools open for full-time, in-person learning.”

Feds approve release of 95% of Wisconsin’s ARPA K-12 COVID relief allocation

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) today announced it has approved the release of 95 percent (nearly $1.4 billion) of Wisconsin’s ESSER III funding allocation to school districts. ESSER III funding was provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enacted by Congress in March 2021.

However, in its approval letter, the USED disallowed the portion of  Wisconsin’s plan that allocated 5 percent (about $77 million) of the funding under conditions imposed by the Wisconsin legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) that rewarded districts that held predominately in-person instruction. (more…)

IDEA Full Funding Act reintroduced in Congress

Special education is the largest, single unfunded mandate placed on Wisconsin schools and the continual underfunding of special education costs is a vexing problem for Wisconsin school boards.  However, relief may be on the way.

Federal legislation known as the IDEA Full Funding Act was reintroduced on Nov. 16.  The bill reflects an effort to finally ensure Congress fully meets its longstanding commitment to fund special education services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bipartisan and bicameral support for the bill–i.e., support from members of both parties in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives–is raising hopes for its passage. (more…)

U.S. Ed. Dept. publishes new FAQs on use of ESSER and GEER funds for student transportation

The U.S. Department of Education recently published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that provides information and answers questions about the allowable uses of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds by state education agencies (SEAs), such as the DPI, and local education agencies (LEAs), such school districts, for transportation.

The FAQ document includes information on the uses of these funds to “address the current regional and national challenges with hiring and retaining a sufficient number of school bus drivers.”  The new FAQs are intended to supplement the transportation-related questions included in the earlier ESSER and GEER Use of Funds Guidance published in May of this year.

Bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law; Democrats’ massive policy agenda bill clears U.S. House; possible government shutdown looms

Last week was a busy week in Washington, DC.  On Monday (11/15), President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill into law and on Friday (11/19), the House passed the $1.75 Trillion “Build Back Better Act,” which now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

That being said, however, the first order of business when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break will almost certainly be the immediate need to deal with FY2022 appropriations since the stopgap measure currently funding the federal government, known as a Continuing Resolution, expires on Friday, Dec. 3. That will be followed closely by an urgent need to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid a default on interest owed on federal borrowing. (more…)

USED’s Office for Civil Rights Seeks Public Input on Civil Rights Data Collection for 2021-22 School Year

Last Thursday (11/18), the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register for public comment a proposed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Information Collection Request package for the 2021–22 school year.

From the OCR:

“The package describes key civil rights data OCR intends to collect from the nation’s public schools and districts. OCR plans to introduce new data categories, such as those relating to students’ educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and restore key data categories from previous collections. (more…)