January 4, 2018
Happy Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton, 
heroic pioneer of Catholic education in America!
Jan 17- 18th  - University of Notre Dame's ACE program strategy meeting on Catholic education with 30 Bishops, USCCB

Jan 18 - National School Choice Week (NSCW) Capitol Hill Rally

January 21-27th - National School Choice Week #schoolchoice

January 28- Feb 3rd - Catholic Schools Week #CSW18

Feb 1 - Catholic Schools Week Hill Visits

March 6-7th - Federal Assistance Advisory Commission (FAAC) Meetings, DC

Tax Reform Bill

The Tax Reform Bill was signed into law on Dec 21st and the four education provisions we followed were included:
  • Expansion of 529 Accounts:  Starting in 2018, these accounts can be used for up to $10,000 in tuition expenses annually in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Section 117(d):  Tax-free tuition reductions for the children of teachers and other employees in our schools remain intact.
  • Section 127(a):  Tax-free benefits of up to $5,250 annually for educational assistance to employees are retained.
  • Teacher Tax Deduction:  Educators can still take the $250 above-the-line deduction for expenses for classroom materials or professional development.
We were very happy for the continuation of the status quo with the last three provisions, but provision one will be a real game changer for school choice.  We will make sure to follow implementation and guidance from the IRS.  Here is a FAQ guide from the IRS to the current higher education 529 plans if you are not familiar.   It will be vital to educate our parents on how the program works and the best way to take advantage of this pre-tax savings. 

This article, " The GOP tax bill's 529 reforms are bigger than school choice,"  talks about new possibilities from expanding 529s to K12.  But this article, "A Lousy Choice," articulates why some are opposed to expanding 529s.  While I will have to agree to disagree on how he describes the benefits of the plans, his arguments are rational and well-stated.  It's important to clearly understand our opponents so we can better respond and articulate our positions. 

FY2018 Budget/ CR - Title IIA - Professional Development $$

The USCCB signed on to this letter from the Council for American Private Education requesting full funding of Title IIA in the FY2018 budget. 
You will recall that the private school community fought very hard - and successfully - in the last re-authorization to ensure that the equitable share of funds set aside for II-A services to private school teachers be based on the district's total allocation.  Now the House wants to eliminate funding for Title II-A, while the Senate (at the committee level) has approved level funding for the program at $2 billion.  We support the Senate on this. CAPE also set up  this action alert that you and your constituents can use to call on Congress to provide $2 billion for Title II-A.  
We will continue to watch this process and keep you updated.

HR 4667 Disaster Assistance

On Dec 18th H.R. 4667 was introduced to offer disaster assistance to states affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the California wildfires. $2.9B is appropriated to the Department of Education for funds to the state including tuition assistance, modeled after the Katrina Legislation of 2005. The timeline is uncertain, but we will follow this legislation closely.
Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Tuesday that houses of worship are now eligible for disaster assistance.   See the new policy guide here.   

Net Neutrality

On December 14, 2017 the Federal Communications Commission repealed "Net Neutrality" a policy regulating access to the internet.  While implications for our schools and students are yet to be determined, there could be some impact on the functioning of the ERATE program.  Here is an article from a professor at Loyola University MD, School of Education explaining what schools and students should be on the look out for in the coming months.  Still asking - What IS Net Neutrality!?  What this short video .

CAPE Outlook

Check out the latest from the Council for American Private Education, including a synopsis of the new tax bill, vouchers and ESAs.
NCSW Jan 17-18th - As we gear up for National School Choice week, consider using your phone to easily record short videos of your parents, staff and students explaining "Why I love my Catholic School!" Upload videos and pictures to the official NSCW site so they can share these testimonials in their massive digital media campaign.  Keep each video under one minute with catchy background visual and don't forget to wear your yellow scarf!  Then share all over your own social media with the hastags #schoolchoice AND #CSW18.  

Catholic Schools Week Jan 28-Feb 3 - The best way to understand how special Catholic Schools truly are is to walk through the halls and feel the love of Jesus in every classroom.  There is a feeling in our schools that envelops you - perhaps it's the Holy Spirit at work!  Consider sending a personal note inviting a public leader from the community to visit your school - the mayor, a state legislator, the local public schools chief, local council member - any political leader that would benefit from seeing your school at work.  Keep it simple - a personal walking tour with some smiling students!  Remember to share your great work!  Have a social media and outreach schedule ready to spread the good news of Catholic Schools each and every day of the big week using #CSW18!

A Shout Out...
Congratulations to Michael Schuttloffel, Kansas Catholic Conference Executive Director, for his appointment to be Executive Director of Council for American Private Education. Click here for the press release

As always, please share with me your ideas, suggestions, and experiences by emailing jdaniels@usccb.org

Happy New Year!

USCCB Secretariat of Catholic Education  | 202-541-3148  | jdaniels@usccb.org | http://tinyurl.com/CatholicEdPolicy

Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.