- Coronavirus Stimulus Funding Update: As of September 18, Congress has not passed additional stimulus legislation. The House Problems Solvers Caucus drafted a $1.5 Trillion plan, the “March to Common Ground,” with the purpose of reinitiating stalled negotiation efforts before members return to their home states for elections. The bill includes a second round of stimulus funding, inclusive of $100 billion for K-12 school, irrespective of whether a virtual, in-person or hybrid learning model was adopted.
- Title IX Update: Transgender Rights in Schools, OCR Letters: The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued two letters addressing the impact the landmark Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County on Title IX. In Bostock, the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and transgender status. OCR has consistently maintained that Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and only covered complaints of harassment rooted in the failure to comply with gender norms. In a Notice of Investigation (NOI) dated August 31, OCR established that while Title IX still does not reference sexual orientation, complaints based on LGBT status would be allowed. However, in an update to a Letter of Impending Enforcement Action, OCR declined to extend Bostock to transgender-student access to facilities and sports teams. Specifically, it noted that Bostock does not alter its regulations or enforcement of Title IX “… regarding schools that separate students by biological sex in the context of intimate facilities- such as locker rooms and bathrooms- or sports teams, athletic opportunities or other substantive areas for which Title IX includes specific statutory or regulatory exemptions…”
- The Strength in Diversity Act passed the house on September 15 and will now move to the Senate for consideration. The bill directs the Department of Education to award grants to specific educational agencies (e.g. LEAs) to develop or implement plans to improve diversity and reduce or eliminate racial or socioeconomic isolation in publicly funded early childhood education programs, public elementary schools, or public secondary schools.
- Education Discrimination Lawsuits: The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (HR 2574) passed the House and was referred to the Senate for review. The bill allows private individuals to file civil lawsuits in court claiming that a policy or practice is discriminatory under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Right Act because of the disparate impact caused by the policy, and it requires that a Title VI compliance official be established in the Education Department and in all local school districts and colleges that receive federal funding. The measure is expected to be considered under a closed rule that prohibits amendments. The White House threatened a veto of the bill, saying it would expand bureaucracy, encourage burdensome litigation and impose costs on recipients of federal financial assistance. The administration also said that the measure “[advances] an ideological mission and [enriches] favored special interests like trial lawyers at the expense of students, educators, and taxpayers.”
- Anti-Bullying: Danny’s Law (HR3659) passed the house and was referred to the Senate. The law would establish an Anti-Bullying Roundtable to study bullying in elementary and secondary schools in the United States, and for other purposes. The Roundtable would be required to submit a report about best practices concerning bullying, including recommendations for (1) combating bullying, (2) educating school officials to recognize bullying, and (3) helping parents to address the early warning signs of bullying with their children.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act (HR 8162): On Sept. 3, the Education Department published in the Federal Register a request for public comment on a proposal to waive the requirement that 21st Century Community Learning Centers operate only during non-school hours or when school is not in session — which would allow state educational agencies to offer services at the centers during school hours. Specifically, it would allow for low-income students to access much-needed virtual learning tools such as computers, wifi internet access, and adult help.
- Rural STEM Education Act (HR 4979): Passed the house and was received in the Senate. This bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to undertake several programs to promote science, technology, engineering and math education in rural areas, and authorizes NSF grant programs to fund research into methods of improving the quality of and access to STEM education in rural schools.
- Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 2694): Passed house, received in Senate. To eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
New York State
- NYS S8617B/A10832 was signed into law, amending both labor and education laws. The law requires public employers to adopt a plan for operations in the event of a declared public health emergency involving communicable disease which includes identification of essential personnel, needed personal protective equipment, staggering work shifts and providing necessary technology for telecommuting.
- S8854/A10617 the proposed bill relates to establishing the failure to refund school-related educational trips, tours or excursions during a declared state of emergency as an illegal act. The proposed bill would impose a civil penalty of up top $5,000.00.
- S8623/A10834 the bill passed the Senate and relates to special act school districts and special education; authorizes boards of education of special act school districts to establish fiscal stabilization reserve funds.