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Aurora Institute

Federal and State Policy Updates Published August 2021

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Alexis Chambers, Fred Jones

Issue(s): Federal Policy, State Policy, Develop Educator Capacity, Modernize and Diversify the Educator-Leader Workforce, Fund Innovation

Federal Updates

  • U.S. Department of Education Approves State Plans for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students – The U.S. Department of Education continues to announce the approval of state American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plans. As of August 3rd, the Education Department has approved 17 ESSER plans, including: AR, DE, DC, GA, IA, KS, MA, NM, OH, OK, OR, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, and WV. Learn more about state submission and approval status here.
  • U.S. Department of Education Announces New Education Innovation and Research Grant Application –The U.S. Department of Education has opened its grant application process for inviting applicants to apply for a new round of funding for the EIR program. Read More
  • The Aurora Institute Responds to the U.S. Department of Education’s Request for Public Comments on Discretionary Grant Priorities and Definitions – The Aurora Institute submitted public comments in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s request to receive feedback on the Secretary’s six proposed priorities and related definitions to inform the Education Department’s management of discretionary grant programs. Click here to read the Aurora Institute’s official public comments.

State Updates


  • Alabama Virtual Academy has highest re-enrollment numbers since founded – Online school is the new normal for a lot of families after they had to adapt during the pandemic. Some families even say they’re sticking with it through graduation. (WAFF) Read More


  • Colorado agrees to fully fund emerging online learning but wants proof that programs are succeeding – The State Board of Education passed new rules this summer that give Colorado districts full funding this year and next for students enrolled in any type of online program. In exchange, districts must share data showing that those students are learning. (Chalkbeat) Read More


  • The Power of Remote Community: How Florida Virtual School Served as a Resource for the Nation – Florida Virtual School expected many families to seek their help directly, and they were right. FLVS saw a significant increase in its in-state enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, with a 57% increase in course requests for our FLVS Flex option and a 98% increase in the number of students for FLVS Full Time. (ELearningInside) Read More


  • Op-Ed by the Aurora Institute: Time to revolutionize our education system – As the state moves toward recovery, communities — especially historically underserved communities — are reckoning with the full economic, health, and social impact of the pandemic. While the effects of the pandemic will endure for years to come, the time to revolutionize our education system is now. (CommonWealth Magazine) Read More


  • Full-time Virtual schools expand in Michigan in wake of COVID – There will be at least 18 new, full-time virtual school options available to Michigan students this coming school year, most operated by traditional school districts that also will offer in-person instruction. The growth in virtual school options comes while questions remain about online education, from inequities in access to poor academic results. (Bridge Michigan) Read More

New Mexico

  • N.M. schools budget only 9 percent of federal relief funds to address learning loss – According to recently collected data, many students may have lost up to a year of learning. Instead of devoting federal relief money to blunting the pandemic’s effects in the classroom, many school districts in the state plan to spend a large portion of the stimulus funds they’ve received so far on technology and building improvements, according to a report presented to the Legislative Finance Committee. (Santa Fe New Mexican) Read More

North Dakota

  • Grand Forks EDC spearheads effort to compete for funds to increase career and tech education – The 2021 North Dakota Legislature approved $70 million, a portion of federal CARES Act funding, for career and technical education, or CTE. Each community may apply for a minimum of $500,000 and a maximum of $10 million, and must match that amount with cash or in-kind contributions from the private and public sectors. The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation is rallying area leaders in education, business, and industry to work together on a grant application to create a CTE workforce center that would allow students to enter a career path “more quickly and affordably,” (Grand Forks Herald) Read More


  • Legislative watchdog office to evaluate Oklahoma teacher pay, K-12 education funding – A state legislative watchdog office will evaluate Oklahoma teacher pay in comparison to neighboring states and take a comprehensive look at state funding for K-12 education. The plan puts a priority on examining state education funding and looking at outcomes tied to those dollars. (The Oklahoman) Read More


  • Trial could force school funding overhaul – Advocates hope a landmark school funding lawsuit seven years in the making will prompt the state Supreme Court to order the General Assembly to come up with a plan to confront long-standing inequities that short-change students in districts too poor to overcome inadequate state funding. The lawsuit was first filed in 2014 on behalf of seven school districts, including the Greater Johnstown Area School District, and parents of students in those districts. (The Herald) Read More

South Carolina

  • SC school districts have billions to catch students up. Here’s how they say they’ll do it – Summer learning. After-school programs. Saturday academies. Lower class sizes. Those are among school districts’ strategies for getting South Carolina students back on track, as per what they told the state Department of Education. However, 21 of the state’s 79 traditional districts are still working on their plans. (Post & Courier) Read More
  • State Board of Education approves virtual learning programs at 33 school districts – During a special meeting, the State Board of Education approved virtual learning programs for 33 school districts. The approval applies to the 2021-2022 academic year. In the 2021–22 General Appropriations Bill, the General Assembly also capped traditional school district enrollment at 5 percent of the district’s total student population. (ABC News) Read More
  • Proposal would give SC parents money to pay for after-school, summer tutoring – South Carolina could provide parents up to $1,000 per child for tutoring outside school hours as a way of helping struggling students get back on track academically. This idea was discussed back on July 22nd by a task force making recommendations to Gov. Henry McMaster for spending $2.5 billion in federal aid. The proposal would spend $50 million on a grant program similar to ones created in Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio. (The Post and Courier) Read More
  • Worsened by pandemic, broadband access gap means problems for many in SC – Connectivity will come too late for many South Carolina students, especially those living in rural communities where easy and affordable internet access is limited or unavailable. These students, in particular, struggled disproportionately during the pandemic-imposed lockdown when remote and virtual learning became all the rage. (The Post and Courier) Read More


  • More Tennesseans of color walk away from teaching profession if they fail first licensure test, report shows – About a fourth of Tennessee elementary school teacher candidates who fail their licensure test on their first attempt don’t try again, with an even higher “walkaway rate” for aspiring teachers of color, says national data released Wednesday. For Tennesseans of color who failed their first exam, about a third didn’t retest for licensure, according to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, or NCTQ. (Chalkbeat) Read More


  • STAAR test scores are alarming, but they can help us improve Texas schools. Here’s how – Recently, the Texas Education Agency released the 2021 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, results, which confirmed that the pandemic resulted in a substantial setback in student learning. (Star Telegram) Read More


  • Virginia Gov. Northam announces $700 million plan for universal broadband by 2024 – Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, announced that the commonwealth will invest $700 million of federal funds to provide universal broadband to its residents by 2024. Virginia will use funds from the more than $4 billion Virginia was allocated through the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress. (CNBC) Read More

Washington State

  • SBE to Host Profile of a Graduate Listening Sessions – The Washington State Board of Education will host listening sessions to help develop and inform the state’s upcoming profile of a graduate. (EIN Presswire) Read More

West Virginia

  • W.Va. school board signs off on allowing fully online charter schools – The West Virginia Board of Education approved policy changes that allow for fully online charter schools, enable an unelected board to circumvent county boards of education to open charters, and open the door to 10 new charters every three years, where previously it was three every three years. The school board also said public school children don’t need at least a 2.0 grade point average to currently start extracurricular practices, including sports practices and conditioning (Putnam News) Read More
  • Teachers asked to help revise state education codes – A series of Town Hall meetings will be held in the county during the next few months to get the help of area teachers in making revisions to West Virginia codes 18 and 18-A, which govern education issues in the state. (Spirit of Jefferson) Read More


  • Virtual education grows by 300% – Before the pandemic, just over 1,000 students statewide were enrolled in a virtual education program, but in the past year the number of virtual students enrolled grew by more than 300% with more than 5,400 enrolled for the 21-22 school year. Before, only three districts had statewide virtual programs, and five districts had local options. For the 2020-2021 school year, four districts offered statewide programming and 10 had their own local offerings. The dramatic increase in participation led lawmakers to question how accurately the programs are funded. Committee members said the issue could eventually warrant a new piece of legislation. (Rocket Miner) Read More
  • Ed committee prefers ‘incremental’ steps to K-12 funding crisis – Lawmakers last week, bolstered by an improving revenue forecast, said they continue to favor spending cuts and tapping Wyoming’s “rainy day fund” to temporarily address an estimated $270 million education-funding deficit. Forecasters had previously predicted a $300 million deficit. There is a divide in how lawmakers prefer to deal with the deficit. Some prefer more cuts in K-12 spending while others want to avoid major cuts and say the only long-term solution is to find new revenues from non-mineral sources. (Wyo File) Read More

Legislation We are Watching

  • MA S. 308 – This legislation supports equitable workforce development policies. (Introduced)
  • MA H 3865 – This legislation allows students negatively impacted by Covid-19 to be eligible for an additional academic year of support. (Introduced)


For questions, comments, or technical assistance, contact:
Fred A. Jones, Jr.
Policy Director, Aurora Institute
[email protected]

Alexis Chambers
Policy Associate, Aurora Institute
[email protected]