January 9, 2024
While by no means an exhaustive list, this is an attempt to peer into our cloudy crystal ball and share what we expect to happen in year four of the Biden Administration and to ask what could happen in any increasingly polarizing, chaotic Congress.
What we anticipate from the Biden Administration in 2024:
- Late Liquidation Template for American Rescue Plan funding, so districts that need additional time to liquidate funding for projects and services paid for by ARP funds can apply to the State to request additional time.
- IDEA Medicaid Final Rule to be released by ED changing the requirements to obtain parental consent before billing for Medicaid reimbursable services for students with disabilities.
- Title IX Final Rule is expected in March--this would touch on both sexual harassment/discrimination and as well as athletics.
- Final EPA regulations require Community Water Systems to test for lead in elementary schools at least once every five years.
- New FTC regulations on the Children Online Privacy Protection Act.
- FCC implementation of the “Learn Without Limits” Initiative. Wifi on buses through e-rate will be allowed starting in the 2024 application window. A proposal to expand E-rate for hotspots for students is out and will likely be finalized this year.
- Department of Labor’s Final Rule on the Fair Labor Standards Act to increase the salary threshold for employees who are overtime exempt.
- USDA Final Rule on Updates to Child Nutrition Standards expected in the first quarter of 2024.
- Initial implementation of Summer EBT - The January 1 deadline for participation has passed and 33 states have opted in. This is the first time the program will be implemented on a large scale. Schools will play a role in supporting enrollment in the program but USDA is working to place the majority of the responsibility on states.
Although Congress didn’t make a lot of progress on appropriations, there was considerable committee action before Congress left for the holidays.
- Will Congress decide funding levels for FY24? Will they decide before the February 2 deadline? Will we be operating under a yearlong Continuing Resolution resulting in an across-the-board 1% cut to all ED programs?
- Will bipartisan student data privacy legislation such as the Kids Online Safety Act move forward in the Senate?
- Will the bipartisan reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) move out of the House and will the Senate start from scratch or begin to work off the House legislation? On December 12, the House Education and the Workforce Committee moved their bipartisan proposal of WIOA, A Stronger Workforce for America Act(H.R. 6585). It is unclear how or if the Senate will move on this bill if the House can successfully pass it.
- Will the House begin to work on a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act? The Senate HELP Committee passed its reauthorized version out of the Committee, known as the Advancing Research in Education Act(S. 3392).
- Will the Secure Rural Schools Program be reauthorized? On December 14, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources moved a bill forward that would extend the program through FY26, a critical first step.
- How will the 2024 election impact Congressional priorities and the FY25 appropriations process?
We look forward to what will be another interesting year in Washington D.C. We will continue to keep you updated on any actions that will impact ESAs and the school districts you serve. Stay tuned for opportunities to engage with your members of Congress and various agencies on issues important to K-12 education.
USDA Releases Interim Final Rule on Summer EBT and Non-Congregate Meal Service in Rural Areas
On December 29, 2023, USDA released an Interim Final Rule on two new(ish) programs aimed to address summer hunger: 1) Summer EBT - which provides $40/a month during the summer months to eligible students and 2) Non-Congregate Option for Summer Meal Service in Rural Areas. The two programs were created by Congress at the end of 2022. The non-congregate option was first implemented last summer while Summer EBT will begin this Summer EBT. In 2024, 33 states will participate in Summer EBT - see the full list here.
Most relevant for educational leaders, is the rule:
- For Summer EBT: Reiterates that students will be "streamlined certified", meaning that students who receive Free and Reduced Priced Lunch or are categorically eligible are automatically enrolled in the program. Additionally, the program does not require matching with school records, reducing the burden on districts. For students who cannot be streamlined certified, a Summer EBT application must be created by the agency. For 2024 only, the state may compel school districts to process applications for Summer EBT but must fully reimburse districts for any costs incurred. Starting in 2025, states may not delegate the responsibility of the application process to districts.
- For non-congregate meal service: the most notable change is an expansion of the definition of rural to include more communities that may technically fall into a "Metropolitan Statistical Area" but could still be considered rural. (See 90236)