#PTALegCon: 2021 Advocacy Overview
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
At the central core of the PTA mission is advocacy for every child. The LegCon event each year represents a national effort to get PTAs, and a central set of issue, in front of legislators in DC. This year's event, being held virtually, is focused on advocating for five issues. Tomorrow (March 10th), various PTA members will select one or two issues and meet with members of the legislature to ask for their support on these topics and/or specific bills. Given the importance of these issues, we wanted to share each one and give some additional details.
Ask 1: Make meaningful, robust investments in education in the next COVID relief package.
The PTA has appreciated the prior relief in the education space, however, schools are facing unprecedented budget deficits and more investment is needed. This ask is around addressing five areas:
Funding to reopen schools safely for in-person instruction and ensure the health of all students and educators;
Increased support for Title I and dedicated IDEA funding;
Dedicated funding for remote learning;
Additional resources for family engagement in education; and
Increased funding for child nutrition programs.
Ask 2: Increase funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) to $20 million in FY 2022.
Due to COVID-19, effective engagement between families and their schools and teachers is more challenging but is more important than ever. The PTA wants to make sure these programs receive additional funding to ensuring families are meaningfully engaged. The ask is for support for a bipartisan program providing federal grants to statewide entities to promote and implement evidence-based family engagement strategies.
Ask 3: Include schools in any comprehensive infrastructure package.
The average school building is 44 years old. Aside from general building updates, many schools also need funding to update facilities to meet the new CDC standards. The Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act of 2021 would form a grant program that would provide funding to schools. Priority would be given for school infrastructure needs around the CDC guidelines and for schools in low income communities. RASA would also establish a public database that would include the status of school infrastructure by state. Finally, a requirement in the bill states that any school receiving grant funding would be required to consult with teachers and families as they are planning their infrastructure.
Ask 4: Improve the federal school meal program through Child Nutrition Reauthorization and extending the current child nutrition waivers beyond 2021.
Healthy students miss fewer days of school and academic success is associated with positive health and well being. There are two parts the PTA ask. The first part is COVID-related. In the pandemic, Congress granted the USDA waiver authority through 2021 to allow child nutrition programs to meet the needs of struggling families. PTA wants this extended beyond 2021. The second part of the ask is about child nutrition reauthorization. Over the last few years, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 has been eroded and it is time for this to be a legislative priority.
Ask 5: Support policies which protect all students, including students from historically marginalized populations and communities.
This ask is all about a more limited use of restraints and corporal punishment. From the National PTA Fact Sheet on Keeping All Students Safe Act: "A 2009 investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found hundreds of incidents of child abuse, some resulting in death, due to the use of seclusion and restraint practices in school. The most current data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) continues to confirm this with 101,990 students subjected to seclusion or restraint during the 2017-18 school year. Of the students restrained or secluded, 78 percent were students with disabilities who were disproportionately students who identified as Black/African American and boys. The Keeping All Students Safe Act...would make it illegal for any school receiving federal funds to seclude a child or use dangerous restraint practices that restrict breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. Lastly, the bill would better equip school personnel with the training they need to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based proactive strategies." This ask also supports a second bill, The Protecting our Students in Schools Act. This bill would ban the use of corporal punishment in schools.