Comments and Letters to Federal Policymakers
NSBA regularly offers input to federal agencies, elected officials, and staff, on issues of importance to public schools. Through our member state school board associations, NSBA offers federal decision-makers practical implications of proposed or current policies on school district operations. Key NSBA comments and letters are posted below.
On Jan. 29, NSBA filed comments with eleven national partners in response to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposal to establish a schools and libraries cybersecurity pilot program. The comments expressed strong support for the pilot while also urging the FCC to follow-through on the agency’s 2023 firewall rulemaking. Specifically, NSBA and its partners asked the FCC to immediately add advanced firewalls to the E-rate Category Two eligible services list, while also creating an 18-month pilot program to gather additional information about the fields cybersecurity needs.
NSBA Comments on FCC Home Wi-Fi for Students
On Jan. 16, NSBA joined other members of the Education and Libraries Network Coalition in filing comments responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to expand the E-rate program to include mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and related services for students and teachers at home. NSBA and our partners urged the FCC to allow E-rate funds to be used for this purpose, so that all students and instructional staff have access to broadband for digital teaching and learning.
June 23: NSBA Joins National Organizations Urging Congress to Extend Temporary Reimbursement Increases for School Meals
On June 30, 2023, the Keep Kids Fed Act (KKFA) will expire, meaning schools will no longer receive additional funding for school breakfast, lunch, and other meals unless Congress takes action to address this issue. Joined by 17 other national organizations, NSBA urged Congress to extend the KKFA’s temporary school meal reimbursement increases for an additional year to help local communities continue to feed the millions of students served by these programs over the summer and during the 2023-2024 school year. The letter recognizes that the KKFA was passed to assist communities with recovering from the pandemic, but notes that many of the same economic challenges remain, including high inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and rising food insecurity.
June 16: NSBA Joins Group Letter to ED and FTC Regarding Education Technology and Student Privacy
NSBA joined several organizations representing school superintendents, educational service agencies, school principals, teachers, and rural educators in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding a provision in the proposed settlement order with ed tech provider Edmodo. The settlement agreement’s definition of “school” could make it more difficult for school districts to adequately provide education technology to students and vet that technology to protect student privacy.
May 15: NSBA Requests Clarity on Proposed Department of Education Rule on Athletic Eligibility Criteria under Title IX
In public comments, NSBA asks the Department of Education to clarify several areas of concern as it finalizes its proposed rule on athletic eligibility criteria under Title IX. NSBA focuses on several key issues school boards will face as they attempt to operationalize the rule while maintaining discrimination-free, safe environments for all students.
NSBA asks the Department to consider these operational concerns, to clarify how the rule will be applied in these areas, and to grant additional time for schools to develop well-considered policy in light of these issues:
(1) Federal and state law conflicts;
(2) Definition of “important educational objectives” in the specific context of extra-curricular activities;
(3) Analysis of each eligibility criteria for each “sport, level of competition, and age/level;”
(4) Role of athletic associations; and
(5) Practical application of the “minimize harm” requirement.
February 13: NSBA Urges FCC to Allow Schools and Libraries to Use E-rate Funds to Combat Cyberattacks
NSBA joined ten other organizations in filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Wireline Competition Bureau’s request for public input regarding the use of E-rate program funds to enable schools and libraries to combat cyberattacks.
“Schools and libraries are falling into a cybersecurity gap that threatens students’ and library patrons’ private data and prevents them from fully realizing the learning, workforce, and other benefits that broadband connectivity conveys," reads the filing.
The organizations, which represent schools, school districts, state education agencies, libraries, and other institutions responsible for delivering secure broadband access to schools and libraries, urge the Wireline Competition Bureau to:
- Make advanced or next generation firewalls and related features eligible for E-rate Category 2 support beginning in 2024;
- Increase Category 2 funding levels, within the E-rate program’s existing aggregate cap, to cover modern firewalls; and
- Provide this limited E-rate cybersecurity support in a manner that is minimally burdensome to applicants and permits schools and libraries to select the modern firewall technology most aligned to their needs.
December 7: NSBA Urges U.S. Department of Education to Streamline Section 504 Regulations
In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for written suggestions from the public regarding future proposed amendments to the Department’s regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NSBA submitted comments urging it to issue streamlined requirements in keeping with Section 504’s anti-discrimination goal. The Department has a historic opportunity, NSBA explained, to issue clear guidelines reflecting the current operational challenges faced by public school leaders, staff, students, and their families due to the overlapping, sometimes competing, requirements of Section 504 vis a vis the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). NSBA urged the Department to streamline its Section 504 regulations to make clear that the statute’s nondiscrimination mandate is different substantively from IDEA’s individual entitlement, and to provide brief, practical guidance for school personnel attempting to serve students with disabilities under the two statutes. NSBA called attention to particular areas of challenge for schools, given overlapping standards and unclear requirements of both statutes: service animals used by students in schools, student health plans, parent consent, and the current mental health crisis.
October 27: NSBA Asks Congress for $1 Billion in Additional Emergency Connectivity Funds
NSBA joined 65 education and related national organizations in a letter to congressional leaders asking for $1 billion in additional funds for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The letter notes that the FCC received requests for $2.8 billion in ECF funds during its final application window, which was more than double the amount remaining in the program. “Without additional funding, many of these requests will not be met, leaving millions of students disconnected at a time when learning loss and teacher shortages are leading concerns,” the letter reads. The letter also includes examples of how the program is addressing the critical needs of schools and libraries across the country who are struggling to keep students, teachers, and library patrons connected in an increasingly digital world.
September 12: Comment on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance (Title IX)
NSBA emphasized its dedication to assisting school districts as they develop and implement policies to address discrimination and to promote student rights and offered specific recommendations on the Department of Education’s new proposed rule addressing nondiscrimination on the basis of sex. NSBA noted that the Department’s new proposed rule is the second in two years, appearing as schools return to relatively normal operations in the wake of the pandemic. NSBA urged the Department consider the overarching realities school districts now face, such as unprecedented staff shortages and student mental health challenges, as it considers regulatory changes including the definition of sexual harassment and the “actual knowledge” standard.
July 12: NSBA Urges Congress to Keep STEM Provisions in Competitiveness Bill
NSBA sent a letter to congressional leaders urging they “preserve the Postsecondary STEM Pathways and the Improving Access to Elementary and Secondary Computer Science Education programs as the Senate and House work to resolve differences between the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (H.R.4521) and the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S.1260).” The letter notes that increasing funding for postsecondary STEM Pathways and Computer Science grants will "make a meaningful difference for students, schools, communities, and the nation’s economy" while ensuring that students have access to greater opportunities and advancement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
NSBA joined 40 other organizations in the National Coalition for Public Education in signing a letter to House and Senate appropriators urging them to oppose reauthorization or funding for the school voucher program for the District of Columbia. The letter also urged them to add language, as the House committee has done in previous years, to “require voucher schools to provide the same civil rights protections that public school students receive—including those under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—to students in the voucher program.”
April 28: NSBA Advocates for Mental Health Funding
NSBA joined over 90 organizations in a letter led by the National Association of School Psychologists advocating for investments in mental health grants. The letter urges congressional appropriators to “...address the severe shortages of school-based mental health professionals by providing $1 billion to be divided between the School Based Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grant and the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program.”
April 21: NSBA Advocates for "Robust" Funding for Title II
NSBA joined a coalition of education organizations in asking congressional appropriators to provide robust funding for Title II. The letter encouraged appropriators to invest in retaining and recruiting teachers, principals, and other school leaders, as well as improving their practice by providing $3 billion for the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, Title II, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
February 8: NSBA Advocates for Increased IDEA Funding
As Congress negotiates a spending bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 22, NSBA and several education groups conveyed strong support for a significant increase in the federal investment in special education programs in a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders. This action supports NSBA’s resolution to fully fund IDEA.
February 4: NSBA Advocates for Continued Flexibility for Child Nutrition Programs
NSBA joined the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and nearly 2,000 national, state, and local organizations from every state across the country, in a letter urging Congress to swiftly extend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) authority to issue nationwide waivers for the Child Nutrition Programs beyond the current waivers’ expiration date of June 30, 2022.
Extensions will ensure schools, youth-serving and community-based organizations, and child care providers have the resources needed to effectively provide meals—no matter what the school day looks like—to close the childhood hunger gap; improve child nutrition and wellness; enhance child development and school readiness; and improve learning, attendance, and behavior.
As congressional leaders engage in negotiations on a national infrastructure package, NSBA urged them to prioritize an investment of at least $130 billion in school facilities to accommodate new school construction, science and technology laboratories, career and technical education facilities, and further repairs and upgrades to building systems, such as HVAC and water systems. NSBA believes that a much-needed investment to help sustain and improve our schools and communities can be achieved by making our students and future generations the priority for the infrastructure package Congress is currently considering.
June 9: Letter to U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights providing insight, input, and examples from school districts on a number of issues at the forefront of schools’ civil rights effort including the new Title IX regulations, the Civil Rights Data Collection, district-wide compliance reviews, and transgender student rights.
NSBA urged the Department to consider operational realities in K-12 school buildings as it weighs changes to the extensive procedural requirements provided in the new Title IX regulations. NSBA explained that schools are bound by existing sexual harassment procedures required by state and local law and policy, which they must apply in tandem with new federal requirements, that educators need flexibility to address student behavior, taking into account the age, maturity, and developmental stage of the students themselves, and that school officials are concerned about maintaining student confidentiality during investigations. NSBA also provided insights on the Civil Rights Data Collection and district-wide compliance reviews as an enforcement approach, and noted the need for clarity on school officials’ responsibilities to transgender students, especially in the contexts of bathroom/locker room use and athletics.May 25: Letter to U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs Re: Pandemic-Related Recovery Services for Students with Disabilities.
NSBA urged the Department to inform states of their ability to use state ARP funds to innovate and create programs at the state level that fund prompt services to children while at the same time preventing prospective litigation.
May 20: Comment on U.S. Census Bureau’s proposed changes to how urban and rural areas are designated.
NSBA urged the Bureau to reconsider proposed changes to the thresholds for the number of housing units and the population count for a community as the changes could result in some communities receiving less resources and losing certain designations that are critical to local economies and services for children and other residents.
April 23: Comment on the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to implement the Emergency Connectivity Fund provisions and funding included in the American Rescue Act.
NSBA urged the Commission to quickly distribute funds from the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to help close the digital divide in education and give school districts flexibility to distribute them based on local needs.