Friday, March 27, 2020

NEA Tele-Town Hall with Lily Eskelsen García on COVID-19   - NEA Today

NEA Tele-Town Hall with Lily Eskelsen García on COVID-19   - NEA Today

NEA Tele-Town Hall with Lily Eskelsen García on COVID-19

Understanding the need for clear and accurate information during a time that’s filled with fear and uncertainty led NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to host a tele-town hall meeting on March 25 with more than a thousand association leaders around the country.
While there was much to celebrate on the call—from the valiant efforts of educators who are continuing to teach and support students to the announcement of NEA’s 2020 ESP of the Year—there was also business to conduct.

“The NEA building is closed during this national emergency, but…we’re working by phone, email, and any way to maintain connections [and] we’ve been working day and night to protect our members, students, and our communities,” says Eskelsen García, who was hunkered in place in her home.
The hour-long call focused on policy, advocacy, and legislation, including the $2 trillion stimulus plan out of Congress. Here are some key takeaways:

Policy: Testing, Students with Disabilities, Student Loans, and Meals.

  • Testing: The U.S. Department of Education has offered some flexibility, specifically for K-12 (higher education to come), on testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires annual testing as an accountability measure of student and school performance. However, states can apply for a waiver and bypass standardized testing. So far, well over half of the states have received a waiver—and every state is eligible to apply.
  • Students with disabilities: Additionally, the education department released guidance around supporting students with disabilities and underscored that schools “should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities.” Schools must provide a free and appropriate public education to those with disabilities, the fact sheet states, but the way that’s achieved during a coronavirus-related closure might be different. Educators and parents should work together to find ways to meet students’ needs through digital platforms, over the phone as well as through low-tech options like instructional packets and projects.
  • English language learners: While the department of education has yet to release guidance on how to support English language learners, NEA is urging school officials to include this population as part of their planning.
  • Student loans: All borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. Plus, each of these borrowers can apply to postpone their payments for at least two months, temporarily stopping their payments without worrying about accruing interest. This is retroactive to March 13, when the national emergency was declared. Lastly, wage garnishments and collection actions will be held for any borrowers who were moving into a default status.
  • Meals: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made it easier for all 50 states and U.S. territories to ensure students have meals. The implementation of how students will get fed has now moved to state, district, and school level decision makers.

Advocacy: Keep Pressure on Congress.

Members of Congress have seen first-hand how educators quickly work to make sure students are supported—even during a national emergency—as well as how public schools are the economic drivers for employment and the economic vitality of communities CONTINUE READING: NEA Tele-Town Hall with Lily Eskelsen García on COVID-19   - NEA Today