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Congressional News

Fiscal Year 2019 Education Spending Discussions Beginning on Capitol Hill

Congress returns from a brief recess next Monday and the Senate and House appropriations committees will resume work on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Department of Education and other agencies. MACUL is advocating for Congress to maintain a strong commitment to the Title IV program, following the significant increase secured for the program for fiscal year 2018. We do not expect Congress to approve the Department’s budget until after the midterm elections, but the coming weeks will be very busy at the committee level as staff prepare the bills and members make decision about key accounts, such as Title IV.

23 Senators Call for Additional Open Educational Resources Funding

Related to the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations process, we want to share that Senators Durbin (D-IL), King (I-ME), and Smith (D-MN) recently led 23 senators in sending a letter urging Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee leaders Blunt (R-MO) and Murray (D-WA) to provide $10 million for the Open Textbooks Pilot in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. Congress first funded the Open Textbooks Pilot, providing $5 million, as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending bill signed into law in March. Although this open educational resource investment is higher education focused, it is notable as the first dedicated OER investment approved at the federal level. We hope the pilot will serve as a model for a similar K12 focused investment in the future.

Senate Net Neutrality Vote Expected in May

Last December, the FCC voted (3-2) to eliminate the agency’s Net Neutrality regulations. The FCC’s decision could adversely impact school district’s broadband costs, including by raising digital content and direct broadband service rates. An effort is underway on Capitol Hill to overturn the FCC’s decision using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Senator Markey (D-MA) and 48 cosponsors recently introduced a CRA resolution (S.J.Res.52) designed to restore the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. Senator Markey plans to file a discharge petition on May 9 that will force a Senate vote on the resolution later in the month, perhaps as early as the week of May 14. MACUL is working closely with a coalition of public interest organizations to support the resolution’s passage.

Federal Communications Commission News

FCC Provides Guidance to USAC Regarding E-rate Form 470

On May 1, the FCC sent a letter to USAC directing them to permit consideration of E-rate applications that were non-compliant because of a confusing change to the Form 470 drop-down menu. The FCC also directed USAC to improve the Form 470 drop-down options, and related program guidance, for funding year 2019. Read the FCC’s letter to USAC by clicking here.

FCC to Consider Educational Broadcast NPRM

The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rule Making, during the agency’s May Open Meeting, that will set the stage for changes to the Educational Broadcast System. If approved, the NRPM will later be published in the Federal Register to invite public comment about the EBS’s future. MACUL plans to carefully review the NPRM and will make a decision later this month about filing comments in the proceeding. 

E-rate Funding to be Held by U.S. Treasury

USAC announced that it is transferring the Universal Service Fund, including the E-rate, to the U.S. Treasury, effective May 1, 2018. This change will result in the annual loss of approximately $54 million in interest that was generated through the USF’s investment in a private bank account, but will not otherwise alter the program’s operations.

Department of Education News

Department of Education Seeks Input on Statewide Family Engagement Centers Program

The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress in March, provided first time funding, $10 million, for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers Program authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act. As a result, the Department of Education recently requested public input regarding the program’s implementation. Although the program is not expressly and education technology initiative, technology’s capacity to enhance interactions with families may make this an important forum. Interested ed tech leaders can read more about the program and leave comments by clicking here. Feedback may be provided through Friday, May 11 at 5:00 PM (EDT).