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Bipartisan Legislation Would Allow E-Rate Funding for School Bus Wi-Fi

bipartisan legislation would allow e rate funding for school bus wi fi
MB Ben Ray Lujan BLOG
Ben Ray Lujan

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress would make make E-Rate money available to support Wi-Fi on school buses, the latest of several recent recent efforts to expand student internet connectivity outside school hours.

Sens. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have introduced the legislation, which would require the Federal Communications Commission to issue regulations to make Wi-Fi access on school buses eligible for support under the E-Rate program no later than 180 days after enactment. Under the bill, schools would be reimbursed for equipping buses with Wi-Fi.

The E-Rate program is funded at $4 billion annually, and allows schools to receive reimbursement for certain internet services provided on campus.

If policymakers provide more financial support for off-campus wireless services, it could increase the ability of students to make use of companies’ ed-tech tools, apps, and platforms, including on long bus rides where students have access to laptops and other devices, if this bill gets enacted.

The bill is aimed, in part, at promoting digital equity for rural and tribal communities in states like New Mexico, according to Lujan’s office.

Approximately one-quarter of New Mexico’s over 350,000 students don’t have affordable internet, according to a statement by the New Mexico Homework Gap Team, which describes itself as an ad hoc group of professionals who support narrowing the digital divide for K-12 students in the state.

A December study by the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that almost 17 million students nationwide lack home internet access to complete school assignments.

“For rural and tribal students who travel hours to and from school, these commutes can be valuable time accessing the internet, completing assignments, and conducting research,” Lujan said in a statement. “Empowering our schools to equip buses with Wi-Fi is an opportunity to uplift our students, tackle the homework gap, and help alleviate the financial strain that too many families are experiencing at home.”

If passed, the legislation would give schools more flexibility in terms of figuring out how they can best use ed tech to promote equity, said Amina Fazlullah, equity policy director for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe and effective technology use for children.

“Every community has different layers of barriers to equitable access to education related to technology,” she said in an interview. “Having that flexibility ultimately in the E-Rate program will be incredibly useful for schools where students have long commutes.”

But Fazlullah suggested that the ed-tech funding expansion outlined in the Lujan-Graham bill shouldn’t substitute for other potential federal initiatives to support costs for students’ home connectivity.

It remains to be seen whether the FCC will act decisively on some lawmakers’ and education advocates’ calls for a long-term, dedicated funding source to support students’ home connectivity.

The COVID-19 stimulus package approved earlier this month allocated $7 billion to the FCC for the creation of what is being called the “Emergency Connectivity Fund,” separate from E-Rate, to pay for high-speed internet and devices used off campus.

The commission also recently announced plans for a policy that, among many other things, would allow school districts to apply for reimbursement for costs they have paid for students and teachers to access broadband at home.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in an interview with Education Week this month, said the agency remains in the “process of evaluating how we can update the current E-Rate program to meet the moment students and families find themselves in.” She spoke after the agency in February issued a request for public comments on whether E-Rate funds could be used to support remote learning during the pandemic.

In 2018, then a U.S. congressman, Lujan became familiar with how Wi-Fi operates on a school bus when he attended a “Rolling Study Halls” event. Hosted by Santa Fe Schools and funded by Google, the event took a Wi Fi-equipped bus to a Native American pueblo in New Mexico, Tom Ryan, chief information and strategy officer for the district, noted in an email.

In addition to Santa Fe, the Albuquerque district is one other school system that has outfitted school buses with mobile Wi-Fi units, installing hot spots on 80 buses across the area as of October.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has introduced legislation similar to the Lujan-Graham bill in the House.

The legislation has picked up endorsements from the National Education Association, Competitive Carriers Association, Free Press, Public Knowledge, School Superintendents Association, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Rural Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Photo: Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., is pictured on June 29, 2018, visiting the Kewa Pueblo, a Native American settlement southwest of Santa Fe, N.M.  The program was called “Rolling Study Halls” which was funded by Google.


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The FCC’s $7 Billion Fund to Address the ‘Homework Gap’: 6 Key Issues to Watch

the fccs 7 billion fund to address the homework gap 6 key issues to watch
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas, Thursday, April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Federal Communications Commission has a new $7 billion pot for schools to recoup the costs of paying for student and teacher access to broadband at home — and now the agency must figure out how to distribute the money.

Since the money came through, the FCC has started the process, recently announcing that it is formally requesting public comment for the new program aimed at addressing the so-called “homework gap.”

The COVID-19 stimulus package approved earlier this month allocated $7 billion to the FCC for the creation of what is being called the “Emergency Connectivity Fund” to pay for high-speed internet and devices used off campus.

The agency has 60 days from enactment of the relief measure to get final rules in place. That means school districts could start applying for money as early as mid-May or early June, said Reg Leichty, founding partner of the education consulting group Foresight Law+Policy.

School systems looking for help covering the costs of keeping students connected earned a major win with the federal funding, said Leichty, but it won’t serve as a long-term solution for remote learning since the money isn’t permanent.

“It’s not a comprehensive plan,” he said, “but it is a huge leap forward.”

The FCC’s request for comments about the new policy surfaced a number of key questions. They include how the $7 billion in funding can be distributed equitably; whether it should create broadband adoption goals, benchmark speeds and data thresholds; what type of devices qualify; if services and equipment can be used for educational purposes only; and what the bidding process should look like.

The answers to those questions have implications for companies across the ed-tech market — not only those focused directly on providing connectivity to schools and homes, but also those whose digital products would benefit from students being able to connect more easily.

Here are six critical issues that companies keeping track of the FCC program should watch for:

While some questions remain unanswered, this much is clear: Wi Fi hotspots, modems, routers, devices that combine a modem and router, along with laptop and tablet computers all qualify for funding.

What about smartphones? The FCC says nope, and has proposed that all eligible devices need to be able to support video conferencing platforms and other software necessary “to ensure full participation in remote learning activities.” And that’s where the FCC believes smartphones don’t make the cut, writing in the public notice that such devices do not sufficiently allow students, school staff, and library patrons to meaningfully participate in remote learning activities.”

And what about desktops? The FCC is asking for folks to weigh in on that one: “Although not specifically identified, should desktop computers be eligible for funding as ‘similar end-user devices’ that are capable of connecting to ‘advanced telecommunications and information services?’”

The FCC also wants to know if it should impose minimum system requirements for eligible devices, and whether it should require devices to be Wi-Fi enabled and have video and camera functions for remote learning. 

The FCC wants to know how far back it should allow applicants seeking funding to recoup costs. In its request for public comment, the agency’s Wireline Competition Bureau proposed that the full FCC allow eligibility to begin on Jan 27. 2020,  the date U.S. health officials determined coronavirus to be a public health emergency. But the agency also asked if  another date should be considered.

There has been some disagreement among school systems on a date, according to public comments the FCC received in a different remote learning inquiry. The FCC noted that it has received comments as part of that other inquiry from the New York City Department of Education advocating for a reimbursement period to begin in March 2020, when most schools switched to remote learning. But others, including the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, have made the case in public comments for a July 1, 2020 date that coincides with the beginning of the E-rate funding year.

Leicthy said this is a big question for the agency to answer since many districts have spent the last full year scrambling to find money to buy Wi Fi hotspots and devices, and don’t want to be “penalized when it comes to being able to offsetting those costs.

“You should be able to look back to cover some costs incurred and one reasonable way to do that is to look at the entire 2020 and 2021 school year,” he said.

Since many districts have already entered into contracts for broadband and devices for students to use at home, the FCC is proposing to allow some school systems to bypass the competitive bidding process for purposes of seeking reimbursement through the homework gap fund.

Instead of going through the formal bidding process, the FCC says it could allow those districts to simply certify that they have complied with state and local procurement requirements. 

And for those districts that have yet to purchase broadband or devices for off-campus use, the FCC is asking in its request for comments whether it should adopt a streamlined competitive bidding process, which could include reducing from 28 days to 14 days the time that a district must wait to enter into a contract with a service provider after posting an RFP. 

There’s also some disagreement among school systems and organizations about this. The FCC has established a benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream as adequate to support remote learning.

But the Los Angeles Unified School District told the agency in public comments in another remote learning inquiry that those speeds are “inadequate for supporting uninterrupted teaching and learning, particularly in households in densely populated urban areas where multiple students are often struggling to stay connected.” The L.A. school district did not specify speeds it thought would be suitable.

However, INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association, a D.C.-based trade organization, wrote to the FCC recommending that the benchmark speeds of at least 25/3 as the minimum service standard.

So the FCC is asking in its request for comments if what should the downstream and upstream speed targets be? And what Internet speeds are necessary for people with disabilities who use telephone relay service and video relay services?

School districts have been vocal about the need for federal funds dedicated specifically to off-campus connectivity. 

Most were expecting that money to come from an FCC change to its longstanding position that funds from the E-Rate program can’t be used to help with internet access in students’ homes. That was the expectation after the agency initiated a request for public comment on the issue back in February. The general thinking was that the FCC would roll over unused E-rate funds to create an emergency pot of money that districts could tap sometime this spring or summer. 

But Congress all but sidelined that discussion for now by approving the $7 billion as part of the latest stimulus plan.  

So now expanding E-rate to cover off-campus connectivity needs will get put on a back burner of sorts while the FCC works through delegating the $7 billion that Congress has appropriated. The FCC is going to “wait and reassess the situation before making a decision on E-rate,” said Leichty. 

FCC Interim Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, in an interview with Education Week this month, said the agency is still reviewing comments, and remains in the “process of evaluating how we can update the current E-rate program to meet the moment students and families find themselves in.”

The FCC’s public notice cites research from a nonprofit organization that estimates it would cost between $6 billion and $12 billion to cover costs for broadband and devices in the first year. So it’s not immediately clear how long Congress’ $7 billion infusion will meet the connectivity needs of schools and families.

Demand for reimbursement is expected to be high through the first funding window, according to the FCC’s notice. But if there’s leftover money, the FCC is suggesting that a new application window be opened the second quarter of every year until the money’s gone.

Once that happens, future funding remains uncertain to help curb the cost of providing mobile Wi Fi hot spots and broadband for students. 

“This emergency connectivity fund would be the driving factor for any change over time, and if the FCC decides they need more funding they could follow up and roll over unused E-rate funds at that time,” said Leichty.  

Photo: A teacher in a Dallas high school last year displays one of the Wi Fi hot spots that were being given out to students so that they could connect online during COVID-19. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)


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How New Data-Privacy Expectations Could Impact Education Companies

how new data privacy expectations could impact education companies
analystsview data privacy 03172021 GettyImages 1206983388

State laws affecting the deletion of student information and other practices can have a big impact on education companies, says Tyler Park of the Future of Privacy Forum.

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COVID 19 Slows the Tide of K-12 RFPs, But Rebound Expected in 2021 and 2022

covid 19 slows the tide of k 12 rfps but rebound expected in 2021 and 2022
RFP image

The number of published solicitations in K-12 declined sharply in 2020 — dropping to the lowest in almost a decade — but the education sector is poised to return to pre-pandemic levels for RFPs faster than many other government markets that buy products and services, according to GovWin from Deltek. 

Last year’s dip in solicitations was due primarily to a tectonic shift in school district spending and purchasing priorities as a result of COVID-19 and the mass move to remote learning.

Districts typically rely on RFPs and bids as part of the procurement process, but in many cases last year did not want to wait through the long process involved with those traditional purchasing vehicles. School systems also relied on sole-source (non-competitive) procurements or turned to cooperatives last year to purchase goods and services quickly, according to GovWin from Deltek, which tracks published solicitations. 

The company estimates that K-12 RFPs and bids fell off by 18.5 percent during 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to its recent “State and Local Procurement Snapshot – Q4 2020” report

Source: GovWin's market intelligence database, including state, local, and educational contracting activity.
Source: GovWin’s market intelligence database, including state, local, and educational contracting activity.

The report, which analyzed RFPs and bids from all public school districts with an enrollment of more than 500 students, says that K-12 solicitation volume is expected to grow by 13 percent this year and then almost another 5 percent in 2022 as spending and purchasing conditions normalize further. 

“Education overall is one of the markets that’s going to rebound most effectively through the next two years,” said Morgan Parkin, a research analyst for GovWin at Deltek. 

That rebound, said Parkin, has already started, fueled in part by several rounds of federal emergency dollars. 

She is forecasting that soft demand in a broad swath of K-12 spending categories should begin to reverse, and vendors could “start to notice those changes as early as now.” At the same time, solicitations for some “high priority purchases” have remained strong in recent months, according to the report. 

Two big areas Parkin said she’s noticing an uptick  for published solicitations is STEM curriculum and career-technical education programs. 

She also expects to see an increase in school districts issuing bids for assessment programs. Moving forward, districts could be issuing solicitations for a broader mix of assessment tools “coming from all types of vendors, large and small,” to better understand achievement gaps caused by the pandemic,” according to the report. 

“A major contract might get split up into smaller ones so more vendors can get in on it,” Parkin said, noting that districts might be less willing to sign with a big assessment provider for multiple years. “There’s going to be more work in assessments, but it will look a little different going in 2021 and 2022.”  

Demand should also stay steady for digital textbooks, small-scale remote learning tools, and computer equipment — all tools needed in case of another move back to distance learning. 

Rising Interest in PD, and Consulting

The report notes that vendors should “continue to watch for opportunities across all aspects of education, as this market involves a vast amount of services, supplies, systems, software, construction and maintenance. “ Districts not only have more money at their disposal now than at some points in 2020, as a result of a new federal stimulus, but more time and increased flexibility in how they use those funds. 

“Spending has returned already at the start of 2021,” Parkin said. 

Bids and RFPs issued by independent school districts rose from about 45,000 in 2014 up to 53,864 in 2019, for a compounded annual growth rate of 3.6 percent.

In 2020, the total was 43,903, which was the lowest since 2012, according to data from GovWin from Deltek. 

GovWin from Deltek provides business customers with market intelligence and leads on federal, state, local, and education government contracting. A recent analysis by the organization of contracting in the K-12 and higher education markets can be found here. (EdWeek Market Brief partners with GovWin from Deltek’s searches as a source for Purchasing Alerts, our twice-weekly breakdowns of education-focused RFPs from around the country.)

Through 2020, schools showed a strong interest in procuring supplies and safety products. But as the year progressed, so did district needs, as more schools issued bids for COVID testing services and there was a stronger focus on consulting and professional development, according to GovWin from Deltek.

Parkin said she expects the trend from 2020 of districts using cooperative purchasing to continue, but that school systems will likely rely on sole-source procurements with less frequency since they have more money and are no longer facing do-or-die timelines for purchases. 

Also, Parkin anticipates that a trend in districts making more contract opportunities available to minority and women-owned businesses will continue. 

And she has a message for vendors: Virtual sales pitches and demonstrations are still in demand, based on RFPs in 2021 that Parkin has analyzed, even as the pandemic subsides.

“Schools will be more willing to entertain the option of a virtual presentation,” she said. “I’ve seen more bids and RFPs that list it as an option, so that won’t be gone completely even as the world returns to normal in terms of spending.” 

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Inside New Guidelines for How Districts Will Judge Social-Emotional Learning Products

inside new guidelines for how districts will judge social emotional learning products
MB Anayst View Mar 4

Guidelines released by the influential group CASEL place an emphasis on programs and products supporting equity, and whether materials are developmentally appropriate for students.

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Testing Providers Could Be Forced to Pivot Quickly as Result of Biden’s State Testing Policy

testing providers could be forced to pivot quickly as result of bidens state testing policy
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Cropped view of a multiracial group of young men and women sitting in a row at a table, writing with pencils on paper. They are taking a test or filling out an application. Focus is on the hand of the young man in the middle in the gray shirt.

The Biden administration’s recent guidance for how states should carry out federally mandated tests is likely to have implications for the testing industry, potentially affecting everything from the work required to design the exams to scheduling them to companies’ bottom lines.

In a letter to states, the U.S. Department of Education this week informed states that they won’t be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year — unlike last spring, when they were given the right to shelve end-of-year exams.

But the agency gave states the right to propose shortened versions of state exams in English/language arts, math, and science, and is allowing them to delay the assessments, potentially even until next school year.

Typically, test scoring is done over a three-week time period, but a longer testing window increases the chances that the process becomes less efficient, which could raise test providers’ costs, said Barry Topol, managing partner of Assessment Solutions Group. His organization provides assessment cost, management and state accountability systems analysis and consulting to states and other entities.

“The big costs of scoring are the variable costs of monitoring those [test] raters and readers, and training them and having them score,” he said in an interview with EdWeek Market Brief.

Though the department’s letter to states said it won’t invite state requests for blanket waivers of assessments akin to the broad waivers issued by the department last spring, the agency did say it will allow states to seek waivers from federal requirements for school accountability, which would include a waiver from the requirement that states test 95 percent of eligible students, as my Education Week colleagues reported Monday.

And despite the department’s decision to not invite applications for broad assessment waivers, states could still seek them.

For instance, Pennsylvania state lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Biden administration to waive assessment requirements this year because of the pandemic.

Reworking State Contracts

If states take advantage of the administration’s permission to delay this year’s assessments, that could increase logistical and hiring costs for assessment providers.

Asked whether longer testing windows would make it more difficult to efficiently hire test scorers for this cycle, Cambium Assessment President Steve Kromer said the scenario is one that the company can adapt to meet. Scorers are generally receptive, he said, to offers to extend their contracts if necessary.

Cambium Assessment currently has 27 different contracts with states for summative types of assessments, and provides mostly computer-based tests, he said.

As there were last year, there could be contract renegotiations between Cambium and its customers as these states explore the possibilities of delaying or modifying aspects of this year’s tests, Kromer said.

“We would need to understand what the impact of a change would be, in terms of how we adjust our capacity based on our anticipated volumes of helpdesk calls and volumes of computer-based tests,” Kromer said. “We’re going to — as any business — look at adjustments to our capacity.”

If assessment providers are administering tests remotely, an extended test window could place additional cost burdens by requiring extensions of leases for test facilities and computers, Topol said.

On the other hand, if states desire shorter assessments, it could challenge companies to quickly compress the length of these exams while still ensuring the tests are still robust, Topol said.

“One way to do it would be to eliminate those constructed response items, but then you’ve got some issues with are you providing adequate content coverage?” he said. “The later in the school year… that you do that, the faster the vendors have to respond, the more expensive it is, and the more you introduce more chances for human error somewhere in the process.”

Cambium Assessment’s revenue took a hit when standardized tests were canceled last year. The company could sustain some revenue impacts this cycle as well, potentially associated with longer testing windows and modifying test structures, Kromer said.

But other costs could fall, Kromer said.

“You may not have to pay the cost to have [physical test books] taken to one of the states and have all those test books delivered and pick them back up,” he said. “There are costs that would go away.”

Follow EdWeek Market Brief on Twitter @EdMarketBrief or connect with us on LinkedIn.


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What’s Next for School Budgets? Districts Lay Out Their Priorities

whats next for school budgets districts lay out their priorities
MB Market Trends Feb 4

Last summer, as California’s economy was hammered by COVID-19 and Gov. Gavin Newsom floated the prospect of deep cuts to K-12 funding, schools across the nation’s most populous state started preparing for the grimmest scenarios.

In the Wasco Union Elementary School District, about two hours north of Los Angeles, that meant putting together initial budget…

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Inside One District’s Effort to Bring Internet to Disconnected Students

inside one districts effort to bring internet to disconnected students
MB K 12 Insider Feb 4

One of the biggest challenges facing school districts during the pandemic is also one of those most fundamental — they have many students who don’t have reliable internet access.

The Killeen Independent School District in central Texas has taken a multifaceted approach to solving that problem.John Hocking is director of network and…

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States’ Education Budget Proposals for Next Year Not as Bleak as Many Predicted

states education budget proposals for next year not as bleak as many predicted
FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2021 file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom sent president-elect Joe Biden a letter on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, outlining shared priorities and areas where the state can work together with the new Democratic administration. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

Governors in several states are proposing increases in funding for education next year, buoyed by confidence that state revenues will improve from the deep recession caused by the pandemic.

As of this week, governors in 28 states had released budget blueprints for fiscal year 2022, which in states typically begins in July. It is up to state legislatures to approve budgets before they can become law.

Some states enact funding on a per-year basis, while others approve spending for two-year periods.

The funding picture for next fiscal may not be as dire as some had predicted, with several states proposing education funding increases, despite worries about falling tax revenues after deep economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic started being felt sharply in March.

“The additional federal aid to states that’s included in that last coronavirus relief bill will be helpful,” said Brian Sigritz, the director of state fiscal studies for the National Association of State Budget Officers, told EdWeek Market Brief.  That legislation, signed into law last month by former President Donald Trump, provided $54 billion in dedicated aid to K-12 schools.

The money will ease the burden on states “as they start to consider governors’ budget requests for overall and for K-12, specifically,” Sigritz said.

Here are a few highlights of how governors’ spending proposals address education.

California: In the country’s largest K-12 public school system, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a one-time $2 billion allocation to “augment” resources for schools to offer in-person instruction safely, according to the proposal.

The money may be used for purchasing personal protective equipment, expanding COVID-19 testing, improving ventilation and safety of indoor and outdoor learning spaces, teacher salaries, and social and mental health services, according to the budget.

In total, the government is proposing $85.8 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges over two years, a $14.9 billion increase and the highest level of funding for schools and community colleges ever in the state.

Newsom’s proposal predicts that increased revenues will come to the state as a result of a less severe economic downturn than anticipated, relatively low income losses among high-wage segments of the population, and a stronger stock market than expected.

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget says the state’s education funding formula will decrease by $389 million, but proposes fully compensating for that using coronavirus relief money.

The state is projecting the decrease largely because of lower-than-expected attendance in the beginning of the school year. The governor’s office is proposing to allocate what will amount to a total of $1.9 billion in stimulus grants toward K-12 public and charter schools

Ducey proposes increasing spending on expanded early literacy, intervention programs, professional development, social-emotional learning, expanding the pipeline of teachers in low-income schools, statewide assessments.

The Republican is also calling for $40 million in additional money to expand broadband in rural communities and help bridge the digital divide.

Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan is proposing $7.5 billion for K-12 schools, about $213 million more than required by state funding formulas.

The state’s funding formula was set to reduce aid for fiscal year 2022 because of declining enrollment. But the governor’s office is holding local jurisdictions harmless for the decline. Specifically, Hogan is proposing $151.6 million for targeted tutoring grants in every local jurisdiction, $65.5 million for special education grants, $54.7 million for the expansion of early childhood initiatives, $53.7 million for pre-K supplemental grants, and $4.5 million for out-of-school programs.

South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster is proposing $35.2 million to maintain state aid to K-12 classrooms at the current level, and another $100 million in supplemental funding for instructional materials, as the state looks to replace all Common Core textbooks.

Notably, McMaster is calling the state’s general assembly to fund charter schools through a dedicated, recurring funding source. Such schools are currently funded through annual supplemental appropriations. McMaster has been a strong proponent of charter schools. Other proposed major investment areas include teacher training, placing nurses in schools, computer science and coding instruction, and school mental health counselors.

New York: In one of the nation’s largest K-12 markets, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing an $848.8 million increase in formula-based school aid over its fiscal year 2021 funding amount of $25.9 billion.

But the state is proposing a $393 million reduction in a $3.7 billion aid package that includes funding for state boards of cooperative educational services, which procure educational materials for school districts. For at least next fiscal year, that reduction would be fully offset by federal coronavirus relief funds. The budget highlights afterschool programs, early college high schools, and smart schools innovation as major proposed investments.

State revenue forecasts have somewhat improved since last spring, when many states projected very significant declines at the outset of the pandemic, Sigritz said.

Though improved budget conditions will help states avert severe spending reductions, policymakers may be forced to defer certain costs, such as increasing teacher pay and planning increases in state funding formulas, he said.

“In most instances, states are still projecting less revenue than what they were before the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said. “It’s just that for many states, the revenue declines aren’t as sharp as what they were originally anticipating.”

If state budgets rebound significantly, it would represent a major turnaround from much of last year. Data released last fall by NASBO showed for the first time in roughly a decade — since the last recession —  the majority of states closed their fiscal year 2020 books with a decline in general revenue funds.

Forty-six states begin their fiscal year on July 1, with Alabama and Michigan starting theirs on Oct. 1, Texas starting its fiscal year on Sept. 1, and New York starting its fiscal year on April 1.

Photo: California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal  this month during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)


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Tracking State and District Policies for Remote, Hybrid, and In-Person Instruction

tracking state and district policies for remote hybrid and in person instruction
Lisa DiRenzo gives her students instructions as they sit in desks spaced for proper social distance at the Post Road Elementary School, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in White Plains, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A pair of online databases give education companies and other organizations insights on the school reopening policies in individual states and school districts.

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