Dr. Dan Bittman
Elk River Area School District
MN AASA Governing Board Member
MASA President-Elect 2020-21

Whether talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, the homework gap, inadequate funding, unfunded mandates, Title monies, various instructional models, broadband or any other topic related to current events, being an educator, and especially a superintendent, can be a challenge these days. Despite the uncertainty, however, I remain more hopeful and optimistic about the future than ever before. Think about the work we have done with our students, staff, and communities since last March! Together, we have reinvented education, provided meaningful learning opportunities through a variety of venues, created countless new partnerships and persevered. Our teams have shown resilience, grit, and determination every step of the way! For that, I could not be more proud!

While we will no doubt continue to navigate these interesting times strategically and thoughtfully, we must not lose sight of what needs to happen within Minnesota and the Nation. Let’s continue to share information, advocate for our children, staff, and communities, and look for ways to make a difference at the federal level. Below you will find a few things you might find helpful and interesting:

  • In November, AASA released its policy recommendations for president-elect Biden, A New Education Vision for a New Administration;
  • After the elections, the path forward still remains somewhat unclear. Two senate seats remain up in the air (both from Georgia, with runoffs being held January 5, 2021), and it is unlikely Democrats will win both AND control the Senate. In other words, there will be much work to do in order to bring people together and make positive change.
    • Annual Appropriations: The government is funded via a continuing resolution (CR) through December 11, 2020 at which time Congress needs to adopt another funding bill. It could be another short-term CR (level funding the government into the new year), a year-long CR (level funding the government through the end of the fiscal year, Sept 30, 2021) or an omnibus package. The Senate introduced its funding bills this week, but they are not expected to make it past the house, so we need to see if the two chambers can reach a middle ground or if this becomes a stalemate. Complicating this is the question of whether or not the appropriations work should be combined with the push for a COVID package.
    • COVID-5: Senate Majority leader McConnell has expressed an interest in getting a COVID 5 package done before the presidential transition, but it doesn’t mean the path forward is certain. On Monday, he indicated Congress should pass a limited stimulus bill before the end of 2020, in the wake of encouraging data on a Covid-19 vaccine and a slide in unemployment. His comments showcased continued Senate Republican opposition to the larger-scale aid Democrats want, risking a stalemate into next year. It appears the Senate is relying on an uptick on employment numbers and the announcement of a potential vaccine as a way to justify a smaller response package. As a result, education priorities within our national organization (AASA) will likely remain the same: $200 billion in funding for K-12, without carve out or requirement related to physically opening; at least $4 billion for E-Rate to address the homework gap; liability protection; and IDEA flexibility. There will also likely be support in continuing flexibilities through USDA related to school meals, but that was accomplished through the continuing resolution, and those flexibilities will be available for the duration of the 2020-21 school year (more here).

The Bottom Line: We need you, appreciate you, and am glad to support you during these unprecedented and exciting times. Thank you for all you do!

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