Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Federal Legislative Report 116-01

HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BILL

The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor passed the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 865) last week by a vote of 26 to 20. The Act would invest $100 billion through grants and tax-exempt municipal bond programs to states and school districts for school infrastructure repairs, modernization, and new construction. H.R. 865 would reinstate tax credit bonds for school infrastructure projects (such as the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program) that was rescinded as part of a cost-savings measure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The legislation would also support enhanced broadband for school buildings and would increase funding for infrastructure in Impact Aid districts. Specifically, H.R. 865 would authorize $70 billion in appropriations for grants to school districts from Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) to FY29 and would authorize $30 billion in bond authority to states and school districts for calendar years 2020-2022.

IASB supports the proposal, but opposes the provision regarding wage and labor rates (Davis Bacon) that would impact local school board governance and authority over contracts with service providers. Local school boards should retain all necessary decision-making authority when contracting with private companies and IASB urges an exemption of the Davis Bacon provisions applicable to the school bond programs.

House Democratic leaders would like H.R. 865 to be a component of a broader federal infrastructure package that may be considered later in the year. A similar bill is being crafted in the Senate.

HIRING FLEXIBILITY FOR NUTRITION DIRECTORS

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule that “adds four flexibilities to the hiring standards for new school nutrition program directors in small local educational agencies (LEAs) and new state directors of school nutrition programs under the professional standards regulations for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.” The final rule will take effect in 60 days.

E-RATE SPECIAL CONSTRUCTION DEADLINE EXTENSION

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended a key deadline for some E-rate special construction applicants. During March 2018, some E-rate special construction applicants, for funding year 2016 and 2017, received incorrect program information from the Universal Service Administrative Company. That information caused those applicants to miss key implementation deadlines. The Wireline Bureau’s action this week protects the integrity of the funding provided to program participants affected by the error. School districts with 2016 or 2017 E-rate special construction applications should review the Wireline Bureau’s decision, which can be accessed here.

Click here to read the full Federal Legislative Report 116-01, including information on FERPA guidance, school nutrition flexibility, the elimination of school discipline guidance, and more.